As Hayes is careful to note, some of the evidence of Iraq-Al Qaeda ties is questionable. Intelligence evidence often is. But it is interesting that many who criticize Bush for not "connecting the dots" before Sept. 11 are also criticizing those who connect the dots on Iraq-Al Qaeda ties. These critics seem to believe that Saddam Hussein's regime should have been considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But foreign policy is not bound by the rules of a criminal court, and Saddam's previous behavior entitled us to regard him as guilty until proven innocent beyond a reasonable doubt.
So put yourself in the position of George W. Bush in late 2002 and early 2003. You must assume that Hussein has or can produce weapons of mass destruction. And you know that Iraqi agents have met with Al Qaeda operatives. You know that both Iraq and Al Qaeda want to inflict maximum damage on the United States. You have had great success in eliminating Al Qaeda operatives, but you know that you haven't got them all. So the only way to protect the United States is to eliminate the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was, as Hayes said at an American Enterprise Institute panel last week, a "no brainer."
It is interesting to ponder what those who continue to insist that "BUSH LIED" and that there was no danger from collusion between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein would have said if Bill Clinton had done what George W. Bush did in Iraq -- which is consistent with much of Clinton's rhetoric. Almost certainly they would have agreed, as some of them did in the Clinton years, that there was a danger from Iraqi WMDs and Iraqi collaboration with Al Qaeda. That they take the opposite view now is evidence not that they are right but that they are filled with partisan venom.