Imagine we had known in summer 2001 that al Qaeda was planning a strike on American soil that would claim the lives of thousands of innocents. Imagine that our pleas for cooperation to the Taliban, the government harboring Osama bin Laden?s terrorist network, were rebuffed.
Without certain knowledge, but knowing nonetheless that a massive attack was likely?and that the likely date was in September?would the president have been justified in launching a strike at the Taliban to prevent a possible al Qaeda attack?
What would the reaction among peaceniks have been had we taken out Mullah Omar and his merry band of thugs before al Qaeda had the chance to hijack four planes and murder 3,000 Americans? Probably not that much different than they?re reacting to the war in Iraq.
Think about it: had the Taliban and al Qaeda been eliminated in, say, August 2001, 9/11 would not have happened. Not only would we have crippled the terrorist network operationally, but at least one of those leaders captured alive surely would have spilled the beans on the pending strike.
Before September 11, 2001, any attack on the Taliban would have been, by definition, pre-emptive?something that the left maintains, even after 9/11, is impermissible. So even if we had known before 9/11 the depths of al Qaeda?s evil and the extent of its operational capability, the critics sniping at Bush?s decision to take out Saddam would not have favored any strike in Afghanistan until after 3,000 Americans had perished.
With perfect hindsight, peaceniks would nitpick the analogy above. Saddam was contained, they argue. He had no weapons of mass destruction, they add. Though they made these arguments before the war, there is no way they could have known that. Peaceniks? pre-war contentions, in fact, were nothing more than guesses wrapped in wishful thinking.
All available intelligence before the Iraq war pointed to Saddam having a WMD arsenal, and history showed that he had a disturbing willingness to use WMDs. And as his increasingly delusional novels made clear?including one he wrote literally as the world was readying for war?Saddam was drifting further and further from any connection to reality.
Despite all this evidence, the president never labeled Saddam an ?imminent? threat. His argument, in fact, was that the world needed to act before the danger posed by Saddam became ?imminent.?
Yet every war critic?and, of course, the New York Times?has pretended as if ?imminent? was the only word Bush actually used.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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