Victor Davis Hanson

"This war is lost," Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid recently proclaimed.

That pessimism about Iraq is now widely shared by his Democratic colleagues. But many of these converted doves aren't being quite honest about why they've radically changed their views of the war. Most of the serious Democratic presidential candidates -- Sens. Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd, and former Sen. Jonathan Edwards -- once voted, along with Reid, to authorize the war. Sen. Barack Obama didn't. But, then, he wasn't in the Senate at the time.

Now these former supporters of Iraq find themselves under assault by a Democratic base that demands apologies. Only Edwards has said he is sorry for his vote of support.

But if the Democratic Party is now almost uniformly anti-war, it is also understandable why it can't field a single major presidential candidate who was in Congress when it counted and tried to stop the invasion.

After all, responsible Democrats in national office had been convinced by Bill Clinton for eight years and then George W. Bush for two that Saddam's Iraq was both a conventional and terrorist threat to the United States and its regional allies.

Most in Congress accepted that Saddam was a genocidal mass murderer. They knew he used his petrodollars to acquire dangerous weapons. And they felt his savagery was intolerable in a post-9/11 world. There was no debate that Saddam gave money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers or offered sanctuary to terrorists like Abu Abbas and Abu Nidal. And few Democrats questioned whether the al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist group Ansar al-Islam was in Kurdistan.

In other words, Democrats, like most others, wanted Saddam taken out for a variety of reasons beyond fears of WMD. Moreover, it was the Clinton-appointed CIA director George Tenet who supplied both Democrats and Republicans in Congress with much of the intelligence they would later cite in deciding to attack Saddam.

When both congressional Democrats and Republicans cast their votes to go along with President Bush, they even crafted 23 formal causes for war. So far only the writ concerning the fear of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction has in hindsight proven false.

But we no longer hear much about these various reasons why the Democrats understandably supported the removal of Saddam Hussein. Instead, they now most often plead they were hoodwinked by sneaky warmongering neocons or sexed-up partisan intelligence reports.

There is nothing wrong with changing your mind, especially in matters as serious as war -- but the public at least deserves a sincere explanation for this radical about-face.

So why not come clean about their changes of heart?


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.