This is a tale of three men, all prominent figures on the world stage. Two of them – Saddam Hussein and former President Gerald Ford – have died in recent days; the third, President George W. Bush, is struggling for his political life. How successful Mr. Bush is in recasting and reinvigorating his wartime presidency will depend, in part, on the lessons he draws publicly from the two lately departed.
Of course, the former Iraqi despot and the one-time American president lived very different lives and, appropriately, came to very different ends. Saddam’s was dancing from a gallows, in the company of hangmen and witnesses who expressed the sentiment of millions of Iraqis and other freedom-loving peoples in damning him to hellfire. Mr. Ford’s demise came quietly in his sleep, surrounded by his loved ones and remembered fondly by the nation he served for decades in war and peace.
Still, the two men constitute bookends of a sort for a Mr. Bush finalizing the strategy he will shortly present for winning the War for the Free World – a war that did not begin and will not end in Iraq, especially if the United States were to be seen as losing there.
There is but one reason that the late “Butcher of Baghdad” and his tyrannical regime are no more, and with them the threat they once posed to Saddam’s people, their neighbors – and, yes – to us: Civilized nations, led forcefully by President Bush, acted to remove him from power and thereby enabled free Iraqis to bring him to justice.
By contrast, a year after the liberation of Iraq, Mr. Ford told the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward (in an interview embargoed until after the former president’s death), “I don't think I would have gone to war [with Iraq].” According to Woodward, his ninety-two-year-old subject declared: “Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people....I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.”
Of course, Mr. Bush and those of us who supported his efforts to free the Iraqi people would argue that doing so was indeed “directly related to our national security.” The fact-finding Iraq Survey Group determined Saddam was continuing to produce small quantities of chemical and biological agent right up to the end and intended to ship them “in aerosol cans and perfume sprayers” to the U.S. and Europe. The death toll created by such a state-sponsored acts of terror could have been horrific.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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