One big disappointment with this 2008 election campaign is the lack of debate on the Iraq war, so far. Maybe that will change now that we are headed into the general election. We can hope. So far, the media narrative has managed to drown out opposing views, and the media and Democratic party narrative is that the war was a mistake, that Saddam Hussein did not pose an "imminent threat" as argued by the Bush administration. But the Bush administration did not argue that Saddam posed an imminent threat.
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late.
A welcome voice in the debate is Douglas Feith's War and Decision. As Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2001 to 2005, Feith was intimately involved in shaping our strategy for the war on terror.
Feith makes several points about the decision to invade Iraq that have not survived the mainstream press news filter. Among those points are:
- The Bush administration focus was on protecting the American people, and doing that meant preventing the next terrorist attack which, at the time, almost everyone thought would follow pretty quickly on the heels of 9/11.
- The decision to treat the attacks of 9/11 as acts of war rather than criminal acts meant that we would hold states that support terrorists accountable as well as the terrorists themselves.
- George Bush was determined to protect our way of life, which meant protecting our civil liberties. By waging war on terrorism the Bush administration was determined to take the fight to the terrorists, making them change the way they live. Adopting a law enforcement defense against terrorist attack would change the way we live, reducing our freedom of movement and privacy, and therefore reducing our civil liberties.
- Saddam Hussein remained an inevitable threat in spite of our failure to find those stockpiles of WMD. He had never accepted UN sanctions, having gotten around them with the Oil for Food bribery scheme. Because he was still in power at the end of the 1991 Gulf War, he believed he had won it. While the stockpiles of weapons never materialized, Saddam's weapons programs remained intact and ready for restart once UN sanctions were lifted.
- It was not a question of whether to go to war against Saddam or not. The evidence put forth in War and Decision argues that war was inevitable. The decision was whether it be at a time of our choosing or a time chosen by Saddam Hussein.
Richard Fernandez of the Belmont Club put it well when he likened Saddam Hussein to a venture capitalist for terrorism.
But since terrorism was a typical tool in the region, as much in use by other countries as himself, a large measure of Saddam's efforts were devoted to using his terrorists to infiltrate other power's terrorists or to keep tabs on powerful independents. The IDA [Institute for Defense Analyses]notes that nearly all the terror outfits in the region, including al-Qaeda, were essentially bidding for the same demographic pool of rootless, violent young men.
As one of the bigger players in the region, Hussein often functioned as a terror venture capitalist. He had the equivalent of business development consultants on the lookout for promising startups.
Saddam's intelligence services were always watchful for emerging movements. In December 1998, the IIS developed a new resource in the form of a small, radical Kurdish-based Islamic movement. In a series of memoranda, the IIS reported being impressed with the new terrorist organization's "readiness to target foreign organizations.. .Iranian border posts, and Kurdish parties ..."
New talent would be encouraged, and when suitable, offered a lucrative contract or promised support. Although Hamas is now associated with Iran, in the early 1990s it was a major supplier of services to Saddam; and Iraq's intelligence chiefs reported Hamas' fulsome declarations of loyalty to President Hussein. In the end, practical considerations were less important than ideology. Despite the fact that Saddam was characterized as being a secular socialist who was antipathetic to al-Qaeda, in fact Hussein dealt and built relationships with very same groups which al-Qaeda dealt with. The Islamic Scholars Group of Pakistan, Islamic Jihad, the Jam'iyat Ulama Pakistan were all listed by Saddam's intelligence agencies as groups with which they had warm relationships and cooperation.
War with Saddam was inevitable. Because it came at a time of our choosing, when we had taken the stance that we were in fact at war, there has not been a subsequent 9/11 style attack on U.S. soil. Still we have liberal commenters arguing that we are no safer for having invaded Iraq. There is a track record that says we have actually been safer. War and Decision sets the record straight.