Victor Davis Hanson

So who lost Iraq?

The blame game mostly fingers incompetent Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Or is Barack Obama culpable for pulling out all American troops monitoring the success of the 2007-08 surge?

Some still blame George W. Bush for going into Iraq in 2003 in the first place to remove Saddam Hussein.

One can blame almost anyone, but one must not invent facts to support an argument.

Do we remember that Bill Clinton signed into law the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 that supported regime change in Iraq? He gave an eloquent speech on the dangers of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

In 2002, both houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution authorizing the removal of Saddam Hussein by force. Senators such as Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Harry Reid offered moving arguments on the Senate floor why we should depose Saddam in a post-9/11 climate.

Democratic stalwarts such as Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Nancy Pelosi lectured us about the dangers of Saddam's stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. They drew on the same classified domestic and foreign intelligence reports that had led Bush to call for Saddam's forcible removal.

The Bush administration, like members of Congress, underestimated the costs of the war and erred in focusing almost exclusively on Saddam's supposed stockpiles of weapons. But otherwise, the war was legally authorized on 23 writs. Most of them had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction and were unaffected by the later mysterious absence of such weapons -- which is all the more mysterious given that troves of WMD have turned up in nearby Syria and more recently in Iraqi bunkers overrun by Islamic militants.

Legally, the U.S. went to war against Saddam because he had done things such as commit genocide against the Kurds, Shiites and the Marsh Arabs, and attacked four of his neighbors. He had tried to arrange the assassination of a former U.S. president, George H.W. Bush. He had paid bounties for suicide bombers on the West Bank and was harboring the worst of global terrorists. Saddam also offered refuge to at least one of the architects of the first World Trade Center Bombing in 1993, and violated U.N.-authorized no-fly zones.

A number of prominent columnists, right and left -- from George Will, David Brooks and William F. Buckley to Fareed Zakaria, David Ignatius and Thomas Friedman -- supported Saddam's forcible removal. When his statue fell in 2003, most polls showed that over 70 percent of Americans agreed with the war.


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.