It was not so long ago -- only four years -- that a significant number of Democrats in the U.S. Congress evaluated the available evidence and voted to authorize war with Iraq. Eighty-one Democrats in the House, including a fair number of liberals like Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., endorsed a "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq."
It's instructive to glance at that document now -- particularly since so many Democrats are adopting the pose of Poor Misled Legislators. Here is some of what those Democrats signed on to:
"Whereas the United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq's ongoing support for international terrorist groups combined with its development of weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire and other United Nations Security Council resolutions make clear that it is in the national security interests of the United States and in furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions be enforced, including through the use of force if necessary. . .
"Whereas Iraq, in direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and development capabilities, which finally resulted in the withdrawal of inspectors from Iraq . . .
"Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people . . .
"Whereas members of Al Qaeda, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq . . . "
The resolution is exhaustive, listing all of Iraq's sins, and also all of the legal, moral and strategic arguments for military action.
No one forced those 81 Democrats to support the resolution. But since they chose to do so, one would expect that before utterly contradicting themselves, they would at least offer some explanation beyond the pathetic cry that they were duped. Last week, 29 Democrats who voted in favor of authorizing force in Iraq voted to set a timetable for withdrawal. As the Monty Python knights proclaim in the face of French taunting in "Spamalot," "Run Away! Run Away! It seems like a helpful solution."
Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., offered the most reasoned argument (and that is faint praise) for this switcheroo, claiming that "Two major failures led us to war . . . First was a massive intelligence failure in assessing Saddam's WMD capability. The second -- equally grave -- was the politicization of intelligence by the President . . ." No, it is the Democrats who have politicized the issue of intelligence. During the Clinton administration and during the long run-up to the Iraq War, every leading Democrat in the nation, including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Tom Daschle and Ted Kennedy, endorsed the view that Saddam was building WMDs. (For direct quotes see Snopes.com.) Only after the Iraq War dragged on did liberals begin to suggest that George Bush had invented the entire threat.
The Harmans and Murthas and Kerrys are now urging retreat -- which they perfume with the term "redeployment." But it fools only themselves. Certainly the enemy would be in no doubt about what withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq now would signify. Al Qaeda would claim victory (and they'd be right). Iran would accelerate its violence in pursuit of a Shiite Islamic Iraq subservient to Tehran and might well succeed. Muslim moderates from Egypt to Lebanon to Jordan to Pakistan to Afghanistan would be routed. Islamists in countries friendly to the United States, like Turkey and Indonesia, as well as Islamists in nastier corners, would feel a rush unlike anything they've experienced since the USSR left Afghanistan. It would be gasoline on a fire.
John Kerry, in his Senate floor speech, predicted that an American withdrawal would improve our reputation among the Europeans. Liberals worry a great deal about what the French think of us. They ought to spare some worry about what the Islamists think -- because as brutal as they are today, they will be even more ferocious when they smell blood in the water.