Democrats and liberal opinion makers are simultaneously arguing that Bush was trigger-happy in Iraq (presumably he should have waited for more dots). Some go further and suggest that he duped the American people into an unnecessary war. But as the two reports released last week by the House of Commons and the Senate Intelligence Committee make clear, Bush and Blair acted in good faith on the basis of the available intelligence. Bush did not, the bipartisan Intelligence Committee report stressed, attempt to pressure the CIA to produce intelligence that pointed only one way.
So what would the chastened Kerry, who now believes the Iraq war to have been a mistake, have done in 2003? While Saddam was in power, the United States spent a fortune maintaining the "no-fly zones." Iraq was a known aggressor in the Middle East that had attacked three of its neighbors and had used chemical weapons on its enemies as well as on its own citizens.
The sanctions regime, which everyone acknowledges hindered Saddam's pursuit of advanced weapons, was breaking down. France, Jordan, Russia, Syria and others were violating it pretty openly. The U.N. "oil for food" program was keeping Saddam's ruling class well fortified while doing nothing for the suffering Iraqi people. Saddam was defying the U.N.'s demand that he account for missing WMDs. Terrorists and other international outlaws were finding a haven in Baghdad. Iraqi intelligence agents were implicated in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Saddam's government had attempted to assassinate a former president of the United States, and openly cheered the 9-11 attack. There were reports that members of Al Qaeda were forging more cordial relations with the Iraqi government than they had enjoyed in the past.
All of this had to be evaluated while the smoking ruin in lower Manhattan was still fresh. Is Kerry now saying that Bush was wrong to go to war and that he himself was wrong to vote in favor? If so, he should be forced to say so clearly. I want a president who will err, if he errs at all, on the side of caution -- on the side of safety. What would Kerry do?