Mona Charen

 "They were wrong, and soldiers died because they were wrong." Thus spoke Sen. John Kerry last week about the administration's decision to topple the Saddam Hussein regime.

 There are a number of problems with Kerry's formulation. Let's begin with the fact that Kerry voted for the war. Oh yes, he has since attempted to weasel out of responsibility for that vote by saying that he meant only to give the president negotiating room. He memorably added that he didn't know that Bush was going "to f--- it up."

 But that's nonsense. Everyone knew at the time that the congressional vote was an authorization for war. It permitted the president to "use the armed forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq." If Kerry had not wanted to authorize armed force, he could have voted with Rep. Barbara Lee, who proposed a resolution that would have urged the president to use diplomacy and work through the United Nations rather than use the U.S. military.

 But at the time, Kerry agreed with Democratic Rep. Howard Berman, who said: "Confront Saddam Hussein now or pay a much heavier price later. The idea of Saddam Hussein with a nuclear weapon is too horrifying to contemplate, too terrifying to contemplate."

 Sen. John Edwards, who also voted in favor of the war resolution, was emphatic about the threat Saddam posed. "We know," Edwards declared in 2002, "that for at least 20 years Saddam Hussein has obsessively sought weapons of mass destruction through every means available. ... Each day he inches closer to his longtime goal of nuclear capability -- a capability that could be less than a year away."

 So if Bush was wrong, so were Kerry and Edwards. But -- despite all the hyperventilating by the Democrats, Michael Moore, "60 Minutes" and the Los Angeles Times, Bush was not wrong. And the press should demand to know how Kerry would have handled things differently.

 In their anti-Bush zealotry, the liberals are saying two contradictory things. On the one hand, they claim that Bush failed to "connect the dots" before Sept. 11. Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that Bush had connected the dots and urged forceful action against the Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. How many Democrats would have voted for military action against Afghanistan on Sept. 10?

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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