Kathleen Parker

ORANGEBURG, S.C. -- Of all the words spilled during the recent Democratic presidential debate, the most interesting were 27 of Hillary Clinton's in response to a question about the candidates' biggest mistakes.

Clinton began self-effacingly, saying that her mistakes were too numerous to list, but offered a couple: that whole health care thing. ``And, you know, believing the president when he said he would go to the United Nations and put inspectors into Iraq to determine whether they had WMD.''

Say what? While we're pulling deflections out of the memory hole, what about believing the international community that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons?

Or, to bring it closer to home, what about believing her husband, who told Larry King on July 22, 2003, that ``it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons''?

What Hillary Clinton was trying to say, it seems, was anything to avoid suggesting that she had made a mistake in voting for the 2002 joint resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

Admitting error regarding Iraq has become the litmus test for Democratic candidates. Among the top tier, John Edwards has repeatedly declared his vote a mistake. Barack Obama, though not yet in Congress at the time of the vote, was always opposed to the war and says he predicted what has come to pass. Clinton had admirably resisted joining the mea culpa chorus, but finally succumbed. If she had known then what she knows now, she began saying relatively recently, she wouldn't have voted the way she did.

Quick show of hands: How many would have supported invading Iraq had they known there were no WMD? Doubtless, not many, even though overthrowing Saddam Hussein had been a standing U.S. policy since the late 1990s.

Kenneth Pollack, author of ``The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq,'' said in a 2004 interview that he shared the Bush administration's belief that ``it would eventually be necessary to go to war to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear weapons.''

Pollack, who was an Iran-Iraq military analyst for the CIA, differed with the Bush administration about when and how to tackle Iraq. Though highly critical of pre- and post-war planning, he, too, believed that Saddam was a threat.

``I can't think of anyone who did not believe that the Iraqis had a weapons of mass destruction program,'' he said. ``There was simply no one.''

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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