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September 12, 2005

Down The Memory Hole

I love it:

If you read even respectable journals these days, including this one, you would think that no more than six or seven people ever supported going to war in Iraq. A recent piece in The Post's Style section suggested that the war was an "idea" that President Bush "dusted off" five years after Bill Kristol and I came up with it in the Weekly Standard.

That's not the way I recall it. I recall support for removing Saddam Hussein by force being pretty widespread from the late 1990s through the spring of 2003, among Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, as well as neoconservatives. We all had the same information, and we got it from the same sources. I certainly had never based my judgment on American intelligence, faulty or otherwise, much less on the intelligence produced by the Bush administration before the war. I don't think anyone else did either. I had formed my impressions during the 1990s entirely on the basis of what I regarded as two fairly reliable sources: the U.N. weapons inspectors, led first by Rolf Ekeus and then by Richard Butler; and senior Clinton administration officials, especially President Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, William Cohen and Al Gore.

A big turning point for me was the confrontation between Hussein and the Clinton administration that began in 1997 and ended in the bombing of Iraq at the end of 1998. The crisis began when Hussein blocked U.N. inspectors' access to a huge number of suspect sites (I'm still wondering why he did that if he had nothing to hide). The Clinton administration responded by launching a campaign to prepare the nation for war. I remember listening to Albright compare Hussein to Hitler and warn that if not stopped, "he could in fact somehow use his weapons of mass destruction" or "could kind of become the salesman for weapons of mass destruction." I remember Cohen appearing on television with a five-pound bag of sugar and explaining that that amount of anthrax "would destroy at least half the population" of Washington, D.C. Even as late as September 2002, Gore gave a speech insisting that Hussein "has stored away secret supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons throughout his country."

In his second term Clinton and his top advisers concluded that Hussein's continued rule was dangerous, if not intolerable. Albright called explicitly for his ouster as a precondition for lifting sanctions. And it was in the midst of that big confrontation, in December 1997, that Kristol and I argued what the Clinton administration was already arguing: that containment was no longer an adequate policy for dealing with Saddam Hussein. In January 1998 I joined several others in a letter to the president insisting that "the only acceptable strategy" was one that eliminated "the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction." That meant "a willingness to undertake military action" and eventually "removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power." The signatories included Francis Fukuyama, Richard Armitage and Robert Zoellick.

About a year later, the Senate passed a resolution, co-sponsored by Joseph Lieberman and John McCain, providing $100 million for the forcible overthrow of Hussein. It passed with 98 votes. On Sept. 20, 2001, I signed a letter to President Bush in which we endorsed then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's statement that Hussein was "one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth." We argued that "any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq." That letter, too, was signed by Fukuyama, Eliot Cohen, Stephen Solarz, Martin Peretz and many others.

I recall broad bipartisan support for removing Hussein right up to the eve of the war. In March 2003, just before the invasion, I signed a letter in support of the war along with a number of former Clinton officials, including deputy national security adviser James Steinberg, ambassador Peter Galbraith, ambassador Dennis Ross, ambassador Martin Indyk, Ivo Daalder, Ronald Asmus and ambassador Robert Gelbard.

I recall a column on this page by my colleague Richard Cohen on March 11, 2003, shortly before the invasion. He argued that "in the run-up to this war, the Bush administration has slipped, stumbled and fallen on its face. It has advanced untenable, unproven arguments. It has oscillated from disarmament to regime change to bringing democracy to the Arab world. It has linked Hussein with al Qaeda when no such link has been established. It has warned of an imminent Iraqi nuclear program when, it seems, that's not the case. And it has managed, in a tour de force of inept diplomacy, to alienate much of the world, including some of our traditional allies."

Despite all that, however, and despite acknowledging that "war is bad -- very, very bad," Cohen argued that it was necessary to go to war anyway. "[S]ometimes peace is no better, especially if all it does is postpone a worse war," and that "is what would happen if the United States now pulled back. . . . Hussein would wait us out. . . . If, at the moment, he does not have nuclear weapons, it's not for lack of trying. He had such a program once and he will have one again -- just as soon as the world loses interest and the pressure on him is relaxed." In the meantime, Cohen wrote, Hussein would "stay in power -- a thug in control of a crucial Middle Eastern nation. He will remain what he is, a despot who runs a criminal regime. He will continue to oppress and murder his own people . . . and resume support of terrorism abroad. He is who he is. He deserves no second chance." I agreed with that judgment then. I still do today.

Read it. Read it all.

And then take a little stroll down Memory Lane with me:

Stop Lying About The Case For War:

Senator Jay Rockafeller and the Congressional Resolution approving the use of force, on the connections between Iraq and al Qaeda

John Kerry, in 2002, was excoriating Bush for not taking action, given the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

There is an awful lot of historical revisionism going on in Washington.

A lot of people who relied on exactly the same information George Bush did. The same information the Senate Select Intelligence Committee ruled was not improperly manipulated by the White House.

A lot of people who, before George Bush was ever elected, were calling for the removal of Hussein from office, by force if necessary, for reasons that included far more than weapons of mass destruction.

These same people are now claiming that they were "deceived" by George Bush.

How, pray tell, did W "deceive" them while he was still Governor of Texas and Bill Clinton was President? This is a question the mainstream media never seems to ask. And with all their resources, the media never seem to be able to contrast the statements of these pundits and politicians with their stances just a few years back.

Why is that, I wonder? Who's lying now?

Posted by Cassandra at September 12, 2005 10:38 AM

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» Powell On Iraq from UNCoRRELATED
I am not sure why Greg thought Powell was "breaking his silence". Virtually everything he said in the interview he has said before, publicly and otherwise. The question not being asked is why Powell is granting high-profile interviews like this... [Read More]

Tracked on September 13, 2005 01:46 AM

» The Role Of Cassandra Will Also Be Played By...Herself from Ed Driscoll.com
Of course, the Blogosphere has its own Cassandra--the nom de blog of the hostess of Villainous Company, who links to this Washington Post op-ed by Robert Kagan on a topic we've looked at a few times as well--the recent "forgetfulness"... [Read More]

Tracked on September 15, 2005 04:02 AM

Comments

I've always heard it was the mind that was first to go.

Posted by: David M at September 12, 2005 11:06 AM

Bush lied! People died!

NO BLOOD FOR OIL!

HALIBUTON! HAL - I - BUR - TON!!

There. You are refuted.

Posted by: Jimmie at September 12, 2005 12:06 PM

Yes Jimmie, and on the whole Halliburton meme, I'm getting ready to bang that drum bigtime.

Have you ever noticed there is a huge tension between getting things done quickly and efficiently, and getting them done with proper oversight and without any possibility of risk or corruption?

The press will always criticize.

If government is too bureaucratic and slow to react, they go hermitile: "Oh God! Federal bureaucracy again! Inefficiency! Waste! Too much paperwork! Why can't they just cut the crap and get things done! Why all these rules?"

But then, if the administration tries to do what *they* advocated and react quickly to an emergency:

"Oh God! Did you *see* who they gave the job to? Their fat cat cronies! (who the hell *else* are they going to give the job to - a complete stranger? After a rigorous 10-month competitive bidding process, perhaps? I thought the point was to TAKE QUICK ACTION! To CUT THROUGH THE CRAP!)

Oh God! It's Blackwell and their sinister connections! Oh God! It's Halliburton again!

Well you know what, you can't have it both ways.

If you want a rigorous process with lots of federal oversight and chances for Section 31b-alpha whatever minority contractors to bid, it's going to take fricking FOREVER. So QUIT BITCHING about government inefficiency because quite frankly IT'S NEVER CONSERVATIVES WHO PUT ALL THESE DAMN OBSTACLES THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE!

We're sure as hell not the ones saying, "You have to widen the applicant pool to include native Inuit applicants with only one leg and a sneaking fondness for seal blubber liquor." Oh, and make sure there are PLENTY of OSHA regs in place. And worker's comp! And they have to take sexual harassment classes before they can start work too.

Accept the slowness that comes with federal bureaucracy. You asked for it. It's what YOU wanted. Conservatives don't want that crap.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 12, 2005 12:20 PM

Well, the obvious crux of the matter is, that when the WMD were not found in the quantities expected, it gave the left the opportunity to begin their blame game. That has been the most disingenuous part of this whole Iraq war hype. The fact that all these liberal politicians, who said the SAME thing President Bush did, about the WMD, are now accusing him of misleading/lying, and GETTING AWAY WITH IT!

The second most disingenuous thing about the Iraq war hype, is the prevailing notion, which has been crammed down our throats by our media and the libs, that the war was all about the WMD, and when none were found, the focus shifted. Simply not true, but made into, "fact," by the spinning of the pols and the media. Disgusting....

Posted by: JannyMae at September 12, 2005 01:09 PM

Simply not true, but made into, "fact," by the spinning of the pols and the media.

Exactly why I hate their guts. The truth is, "Leftards Lied, People Died," because with their bald-faced LIES they demoralize the military and just might make us lose the war right here at home.
They're just as guilty as the terrorists we fight in Iraq--if not more so, because the terrorists can't win without the Left's propaganda.

Posted by: Beth at September 12, 2005 01:38 PM

You can poke through archives and come up with lots of bad things said about Hussein. He's certainly been a pig. That doesn't mean that everyone was gung-ho about invading Iraq. I remember quite clearly that it was a contentious issue, Most of our allies thought it was a terrible idea. Brent Scowcroft thought it was a bad idea. I suspect Bush Sr thought it was a bad idea. Richard Clarke, possibly the best informed of the bunch, thought it was a bad idea. Many in the intelligence community had serious doubts about the justiciations presented.
I certainly wasn't persuaded by the pre-war presentations and I'm nobody. Condaleeza Rice, in one of the Sunday talked shows was asked if there was anything they knew that we all didn't know and she candidly replied "no".
Trying to say that everyone's now changing their tune is simply not accurate.

Posted by: GreaspaintGhost [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2005 02:14 PM

I don't believe he said that "everybody" was changing their tune.

He (and I) have listed a very long list of people who HAVE changed their tune and are denying it.

Those are two very different things.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 12, 2005 02:22 PM

"A lot of people" is hardly "everybody".

Posted by: Cassandra at September 12, 2005 02:23 PM

Yes it is. You have to validate their feelings.
We are legion, you know. But then, along comes some reasonable, logical debate supported by the facts, and legion gets exorcised and then causes madness in animals.

Posted by: Snark Princess at September 12, 2005 03:39 PM

Yes, that's right, try and spin this, by saying, "some," were against the war from the beginning. That's not who we were talking about, as Cass pointed out. We were talking about those who have OBVIOUSLY changed their tune.

I sure do get tired of people who can't--or WON'T--comprehend the main POINT of a post, and go off in a totally irrelevent direction.

Posted by: JannyMae at September 12, 2005 04:32 PM

Posted by: MathMom at September 12, 2005 05:15 PM

Hey, I am agreeing with Cass...just being a mean spirited poopyhead because that is the way the left wins arguments...they 'feel' and that is their most current information at the time.

Posted by: Snark Princess at September 12, 2005 07:32 PM

And the thing is, it matters not one whit. The President fumbled this ball over and over and over again.

I agree that we should have deposed Hussein. I think we should have done it before 9/11. But folks like me, and Cassandra, shouldn't have to be the ones continually stating and restating the reasons why we had to go.

The President should be doing that and, save for a couple stirring speeches, he hasn't. His administration has been weak as water in their defense of topping a murderous bastard and it's cost them. This past election should not have been close. The President should have trounced John Kerry in a landslide but still we sat by the television chewing our fingernails and hoping against hope that Massachusetts' Sane Senator wouldn't take Ohio.

Why? Because the President and his people couldn't quite muster enough ire to say pointedly "Is it worth it? You're a simpleminded fool for even asking the question" and then knocking down the reasons why it's worth it decisively and devastatingly.

Instead it's left to us down here in the trenches who have to do that work. That's sad and I'm fairly sure it's going to cost us a lot of lives in the future.

Posted by: Jimmie at September 12, 2005 10:14 PM

I share your frustration, Jimmie, and I definitely think there is more Bush could have and should be doing, but I just don't know how well it would get through the MSM wall. I certainly agree that Bush won re-election pretty much in spite of what he did, but the deck was clearly stacked against him in the media. The way they promoted Kerry and discredited Bush was something I've never seen in my lifetime.

Posted by: JannyMae at September 12, 2005 11:28 PM

Nor I Janny, but how many times before the election did we see Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheyney, and even the President on television being interviewed, or giving live speeeches? I know all of them took a turn on Meet the Press at the very least. MSM blanket or not, the President has the biggest Bully Pulpit in the world, and Bush just hasn't been using his.

Posted by: Jimmie at September 13, 2005 08:07 AM

I agree he hasn't been using it enough, Jimmie, and I'd like to see him at least TRY to get his message out. I'm just questioning what good it would do, in this day and age where they are critiquing what he has said, before he even says it....

Posted by: JannyMae at September 14, 2005 12:36 PM

Posted by: JannyMae at September 15, 2005 05:40 PM

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