Set the Record Straight on Iraq

Posted: Nov 29, 2005 12:05 AM

This month, the president finally began to fight back against the Democrats’ claims that he lied about pre-war intelligence and misled the country into war in Iraq.

The issues that the president has addressed--the accusation that he lied about pre-war intelligence and that Democrats lied when they accused him of lying--needed to be dealt with, and his excellent performance already appears to be showing some good results. There is a related issue, though, that is screaming to be addressed, and it needs to be done before the next election. The administration and Republicans at all levels next need to explain to the public how the actions of the Democrats over the past three years have exposed them as incapable of governing in today’s world of global Islamic terrorism.

One lesson learned over the past three years is that intelligence collected and interpreted by humans always contains an element of subjectivity and even what might appear a “slam dunk” can be found to be wrong. 

In light of this, voters have to ask on which side of the decision-making equation they want their leaders to err in this post-9/11 world. When it is pointed out that President Clinton was on-record saying the same things said by President Bush about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, many Democrats respond by saying, “Yes, but he didn’t take us to war over it.” That is exactly the point Republicans need to make. Someone needs to ask if Democrats would not take action knowing what they did about Saddam, and what would it take for them ever to decide to act against a known threat.

A few months ago, I wrote that the president should be making the argument Dick Cheney made in a brilliant speech in July 2003 to the AEI. He said that knowing what we knew then, prior to invading Iraq, and looking at it in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks, it would have been irresponsible NOT to take action to remove Saddam Hussein:

"Now the regime of Saddam Hussein is gone forever. And at a safe remove from the danger, some are now trying to cast doubt upon the decision to liberate Iraq. The ability to criticize is one of the great strengths of our democracy. But those who do so have an obligation to answer this question: How could any responsible leader have ignored the Iraqi threat?"

In that 2003 Cheney speech, which I argue is the perfect model for the effort I propose here, he recited point-by-point what we believed to be true about Saddam Hussein. He cited four examples from the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's Continuing Programs of Weapons of Mass Destruction. After reading each example, the Vice President made the point that “President Bush faced that information, and acted to remove the danger.”

After 9/11, we all asked why the dots were not connected. We vowed that never again would our refusal to take action against known threats result in the slaughter of innocent Americans. The points made by Vice President Cheney in 2003 are ones that Republicans must make now. It is necessary, first, to lay the foundation by reminding the American public of what was known in 2002 and 2003, and refuting the big lie that has taken hold as a result of Democrat mantras parroted by a liberal media that Bush "lied" and "misled" the country into war. The administration has made a good start in that effort.  

After the record has been set straight, it must be pointed out that Democrats are not to be trusted with the nation’s security. They have shown that not only will they endlessly debate until it is possibly too late but that after a military action has been initiated, in the face of difficulties and waning public support, many will back out and abandon the mission and the troops. The approach of the Democrats to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein as outlined in all of the intelligence reports available prior to the war in Iraq stands in stark contrast to that of the Bush administration.

The vice president said in that same speech, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is some of what we knew. Knowing these things, how could we, I ask, have allowed that threat to stand? These judgments were not lightly arrived at -- and all who were aware of them bore a heavy responsibility for the security of America. When the decision fell to him, President Bush was not willing to place the future of our security, and the lives of our citizens, at the mercy of Saddam Hussein. And so the President acted."

We not only know now that many Democrats, faced with the same information, failed to act, but many of those who supported the president’s decision to act, have now withdrawn that support. That is a set of facts that should not be ignored by voters in 2006 and 2008.