We went to war at such breakneck speed after 9/11, that, before the invasion, I was able to write approximately 30 columns about it, give five dozen speeches on it, discuss it on TV a hundred times and read 1,089 New York Times editorials denouncing the "rush to war."
So I remember the arguments.
Contrary to the fairy tale the left has told itself since Obama truculently gave away America's victory in Iraq, our argument wasn't that we had to invade Iraq because of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. And the left's argument certainly was not: "He doesn't have any WMDs!"
Our argument was: There were lots of reasons to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and none to keep him.
Indeed, after Bush's State of the Union address laying out the case for war with Iraq, The New York Times complained that he had given too many reasons: "Even the rationale for war seems to change from day to day. Mr. Bush ticked off a litany of accusations against Iraq in his State of the Union address ..." (New York Times, Feb. 2, 2003)
Among the reasons we invaded Iraq were:
(1) Saddam had given shelter to terrorists who killed Americans. After 9/11, it was time for him to pay the price:
-- The mastermind of the Achille Lauro hijacking, Abu Abbas, who murdered a wheelchair-bound American citizen, Leon Klinghoffer, then forced the passengers to throw his body overboard, was living happily in Iraq. (Captured by U.S. forces in Baghdad less than a month after our invasion.)
-- The terrorist who orchestrated the murder of American diplomat Laurence Foley in October 2002, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also took refuge in Saddam's Iraq. (Killed by U.S. forces in Iraq on June 7, 2006.)
-- The one terrorist behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who got away, Abdul Rahman Yasin, fled to Iraq, where he was given money and lived without fear of being extradited to the United States. (Whereabouts unknown. Possibly being groomed for a prime-time show on MSNBC.)
-- Czech intelligence reported that Mohammed Atta, 9/11 mastermind, met with Iraqi agents in Prague shortly before the attack.
We're not supposed to mention the Prague meeting on penalty of liberals yelling at us. Apparently, our CIA discounts that report. On the other hand, the CIA didn't see the 1993 World Trade Center bombing coming, didn't see 9/11 coming, didn't see the Fort Hood massacre coming and didn't see the Times Square bombing coming. No one tell liberals, but our CIA knows NOTHING -- although they're pretty sure something bad happened at Pearl Harbor a while back.
(2) Saddam had attempted to assassinate a former president of the United States. Liberals complained that it was a family feud because that president happened to be Bush's father, but, again, he was also a FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. (Does being a relative of the president make you fair game for assassination attempts?
Bill Clinton, please pick up the white courtesy phone.)
(3) Saddam not only had WMDs, he had used them -- far more prodigiously than Syria's Bashar al-Assad did when Obama masterfully backed down from his "red line" threat if Assad ever used chemical weapons. (Assad's WMDs killed about a thousand civilians -- 350 according to French intelligence, which is a lot better than ours. Saddam's WMDs killed an estimated 100,000 civilians. That's according to everyone -- the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Clinton-era ambassador Peter Galbraith.)
(4) We needed to smash some Muslim strongman after the 9/11 attack, and Saddam was as good as any other -- at least as good as the Taliban primitives who had allowed Osama bin Laden to pitch his tent in their godforsaken country.
It worked: Moammar Gadhafi, terrified that Bush would attack Libya next, invited U.N. inspectors in, gave up his WMDs, and paid the families of his Lockerbie bombing victims $8 million apiece.
(5) Saddam had committed atrocities on a far greater scale than our current bogeyman, ISIS. He tortured and murdered tens of thousands of Iraqis -- removing their teeth with pliers, applying electric shocks to men's genitals, drilling holes in their ankles and forcing them to watch as their wives were raped -- as reported by USA Today, among others. There was no risk that we were accidentally taking out the Arab George Washington.
(6) Saddam was a dangerous and disruptive force in a crucial oil-producing region of the world. We need oil. Why not go to war for oil?
(7) The Iraqi people were a relatively sane, civilized and educated populace with a monstrous ruler. Removing that leader would provide a golden opportunity for an actual functioning Arab democracy -- an Arab Israel.
That worked, too. In under two years, Iraqis were waving their purple fingers to symbolize having voted in their first democratic election. A few years after that, young Iranians were demanding their own democracy in another good people/bad rulers country.
But then an innocent 26-year-old girl, Neda, was gunned down in Tehran by the Iranian military. President Obama responded forcefully by going out for an ice cream cone. And thus ended the democratic movement in the Muslim world.
The least important reason to invade Iraq -- the one that was tacked on for the sole purpose of taunting liberals over their goofy reverence for the United Nations -- was that Saddam had refused to allow U.N. weapons inspectors in, leaving the strong impression that Iraq was chock-a-block with WMDs. It was the equivalent of asking where the feminists were when we invaded Afghanistan -- although technically, we didn't invade because the Taliban were mean to women.
In fact, the only time The New York Times got testy with Saddam was after the "powerful case" made by Secretary of State Colin Powell, "that Saddam Hussein stands in defiance of Security Council resolutions." (Who cares?)
Liberals didn't mind Saddam's sheltering terrorists, using poison gas, invading his neighbors or attempting to assassinate a former U.S. president. But Saddam had disrespected the U.N.!
Far from claiming that estimates of Saddam's WMDs were overblown, liberals cited those very WMDs to warn America that any invasion would result in catastrophe for the Great Satan. Thus, for example:
-- The New York Times cautioned in an editorial that an invasion might create chaotic conditions, allowing "terrorists to grab biological or chemical weapons." (New York Times, Feb. 2, 2003)
-- Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg predicted that Saddam would "use poison gas against U.S. troops." (Jane Sutton, "Pentagon Papers' Ellsberg Sees Deja Vu in Iraq," Reuters, Nov. 25, 2002)
-- In the Chicago Tribune, Steve Chapman warned: "Once American troops set foot on Iraqi soil, they may be bombarded with poison gas." (Steve Chapman, "What Could Go Wrong in the War With Iraq," Chicago Tribune, Nov. 17, 2002)
-- The Times' Nicholas Kristof wrote that if we invaded Iraq, "Saddam may well launch missiles with chemical warheads at Tel Aviv." (Nicholas Kristof, "Flirting With Disaster," Feb. 14, 2003)
This is why all six of Jeb Bush's answers to Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly -- as well as Marco Rubio's premeditated answer a week later -- were ridiculous. It's annoying enough having liberals invent these historical fantasies. Do our fearsome Republicans have to keep retelling them, too? If they don't follow the news, can't they read?
Kelly asked Bush: "Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?"
The correct answer is:
Now that we know that a half-century of Teddy Kennedy's 1965 Immigration Act would result in a country where a man like Barack Obama could be elected president, and then, purely out of antipathy to America, would withdraw every last troop from Iraq, nullifying America's victory and plunging the entire region into chaos, no, I would not bother removing dangerous despots in order to make America safer.
Instead, I would dedicate myself to overturning our immigration laws, ending the anchor-baby scam and building a triple-layer fence on the border, so that some future Republican president could invade Iraq without worrying about a foreign-elected president like Obama coming in and giving it away.