Other than the lies that the administration told linking Iraq and Hussein to Al-Qaeda and 9/11, the administration's policy toward Iraq, and Democratic support thereof was correct right up until March 7, 2003. The prevailing wisdom up until that time was that there was good reason to fear that Iraq may have had Weapons of Mass Destruction.
The Clinton administration believed that Iraq had them. The UN and its Weapons inspectors suspected the same and were eager to get into the country to check. Iraq had agreed to various resolutions that indicated it must destroy its weapons of mass destruction and it had to agree not to resume production of WMD as well as to agree to independent verification by the appropriate UN groups.
For a number of years, Saddam Hussein had not been allowing UN Weapons Inspectors into the country to do their jobs. One of the two events that reversed that was the Iraq War Resolution http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021002-2.html passed by congress on October 2, 2002. Among other things, the Resolution said:
SEC. 2. SUPPORT FOR UNITED STATES DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS
The Congress of the United States supports the efforts by the President to-
(a) strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions applicable to Iraq and encourages him in those efforts; and
(b) obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions.
In addition to this join congressional resolution, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1441 on November 8, 2002 whose intent was to give Iraq one last chance to come clean on its WMD programs.
Faced with the US Congressional and UN Security Council Resolutions, Iraq relented and allowed UN Weapons Inspectors back into the country on November 13, 2002.
Several reports were submitted by Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei, the two heads of the UN Weapons Inspector teams culminating in their final reports on March 7, 2003. Hans Blix' report which can be seen at http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/03/07/sprj.irq.un.transcript.blix/ and El Baradei's report can be seen here http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/03/07/sprj.irq.un.transcript.elbaradei/ . Anyone intending to have a good understanding of the events that led to the Iraq war and also intending to know who may have made mistakes or acted inappropriately should read the entirety of these reports.
On their findings, El Baradei's report was unequivocal as this part makes clear:
At this stage, the following can be stated:
One, there is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.
Second, there is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import uranium since 1990.
Three, there is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminum tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuge out of the aluminum tubes in question.
Fourth, although we are still reviewing issues related to magnets and magnet-production, there is no indication to date that Iraq imported magnets for use in centrifuge enrichment program.
As I stated above, the IAEA will naturally continue further to scrutinize and investigate all of the above issues.
After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq.
Hans Blix' report was less decisive, but still he noted increased cooperation by the Iraqis and the fact that in almost five months of extensive on the ground inspections, not a single Iraqi WMD weapons system had been found, nor had any indications been found that any such systems still existed.
This was a tremendous victory for US policy up to this point. We had peacefully ascertained that there was no Iraqi WMD threat. Blix wanted to inspect more to be sure, this is true, and UN Resolutions called for a continuing inspection regime, but in terms of what the US and the World wanted out of all of this, we had it. Inspectors were in and there were no WMD found.
History of course records and in fact current events make it hard to ignore that the Bush administration snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by electing to invade Iraq less than three weeks after these Weapons Inspector's reports. We may never know why he did. We know that Weapons of Mass Destruction were never found, much as you would guess from reading the March 7 2003 reports. It is the day of these reports and when I learned that Bush intended to go to war anyway that I switched from being mildly against the idea of going to war in Iraq, to a vigorous anti Iraq war activist attending rallies, demonstrations, protests, you name it.
But I was never angry at Democrats for voting in favor of the Iraq War Resolution nor do I hold them responsible for going to war or the war itself in any way. They did their jobs. Their actions got the weapons inspectors into Iraq and they got us to March 7th 2003. I firmly believe that neither Gore, nor Kerry nor any other contemporary Democratic leader, congressperson, etc. would have gone to war after the reports of March 7th. Unfortunately, spin from all positions of the ideological spectrum took over after we went to war.
The Conservative Right has said that the Democrats would not do what is necessary to protect the country. Well, that is what the Iraq War Resolution was for and it led to the knowledge that, yes, in terms of the threat from Iraq, we were safe. One particularly bizarre area of conservative conspiracy theory is that somehow, the Iraqis did have massive amounts of WMD but that it all was shipped to Syria.
The problems with the "Shipped to Syria" theory are several. In general, there are two possibilities, one, that Iraq had very little WMD and this small amount could be easily shipped to Syria. This is not what people like the Freepers are contending and would hardly have justified the war in any case. Option 2 is that the Iraqis had quite a lot of WMD and were able to overnight ship these WMD to Syria once the US invaded. This strains credibility for a number of reasons. Let's first examine what WMD the CIA posited that the Iraqis had, from https://www.cia.gov/cia/reports/iraq_wmd/Iraq_Oct_2002.htm
- Iraq probably has concealed precursors, production equipment, documentation, and other items necessary for continuing its CW effort. Baghdad never supplied adequate evidence to support its claims that it destroyed all of its CW agents and munitions. Thousands of tons of chemical precursors and tens of thousands of unfilled munitions, including Scud-variant missile warheads, remain unaccounted for.
- UNSCOM discovered a document at Iraqi Air Force headquarters in July 1998 showing that Iraq overstated by at least 6,000 the number of chemical bombs it told the UN it had used during the Iran-Iraq War-bombs that remain are unaccounted for.
- Iraq has not accounted for 15,000 artillery rockets that in the past were its preferred means for delivering nerve agents, nor has it accounted for about 550 artillery shells filled with mustard agent.
- Iraq probably has stocked at least 100 metric tons (MT) and possibly as much as 500 MT of CW agents.
- Of the 15 million kg of chlorine imported under the UN Oil-for-Food Program since 1997, Baghdad used only 10 million kg and has 5 million kg in stock, suggesting that some domestically produced chlorine has been diverted to such proscribed activities as CW agent production.
First of all, WMD in these quantities would have easily been discovered by the UN Weapons Inspection Team. Second, moving this quantity of materials around to avoid the inspectors or overnight to Syria in the middle of invasion is just impossible to believe. Thousands of bombs weighing one quarter of a ton to a ton each, hundreds or thousands of metric tons of materials not including the supposed millions of kilograms of chlorine. The Freepers and other Conservative groups have weaved a completely impossible to believe fairy tale to attempt to make true the allegations of Iraqi WMD, justify the war and prevent their President from receiving recriminations from it.
The Progressive Left believes that those Democrats who voted for the Iraq War Resolution are responsible for the Iraq war. I disagree, and I will repeat, they did their jobs. Their actions got the weapons inspectors into Iraq and they got us to March 7th 2003. I firmly believe that neither Gore, nor Kerry nor would any other contemporary Democratic leader, congressperson, etc. have gone to war after the reports of March 7th.
I do not think anything was wrong with voting for the Iraq War Resolution. If you read it, its intent is clear, to ensure Iraq follows the UN Resolutions regarding its WMD programs or else. Well, we found out that Iraq was in compliance or that there was a strong possibility that they were, but the President went to war anyway. In my estimation, the Presidents actions in going to war were criminal.
Congress cannot assume that a President will act criminally, particularly when it is important to give a President the ability to protect us or to enforce UN Resolutions designed to protect us.
Incidentally, there is one important Democrat, a Senator who was a candidate for President in 2004 who did vote against the Iraq War Resolution. Former Senator Bob Graham from Florida, member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said plainly that he voted against the Iraq War Resolution because of information he had because of his Intelligence Committee membership that he could not share with us because it was classified. The incoming Democratic congress, at least those conducting investigations need to get clearance and talk to him.
The President and his administrations actions post March 7, 2003 up until the final decision to go to war should be a prime candidate for vigorous congressional investigations. We know he didn't go to war to protect us, so why did he? That is the question Democrats in congress need to ask.
March 7, 2003, that is the date everyone should have in their minds. That is the date the President should have called off the war. If he had been smart, he would have initiated a huge victory celebration. His policies, supported by the Democrats, had, after all, resulted in the resumption of inspections that determined we were safe. No lives had been lost. It would have been masterful. But that is not what he did.
What Do We Do Now?
Conservative pundits and those who frequent the conservative blogosphere believe that for our troops to leave Iraq soon or quickly would be tantamount to surrender. They believe victory is possible. They do not define what victory is, but they believe it is possible. These same folks believe that the Vietnam War was winnable if only Johnson and Nixon had really wanted to win it.
We can win every battle in Iraq, I know that. The question is, what can our troops do to make the various Sunni factions want to have peace with the Shiites and vice versa? What can our troops do to make the various warlords want to give up control of their neighborhoods? Is the achieving of all of that what is defined as victory? If so, this is not what our troops are trained to do and it is beyond them, additional troops will not make a difference in this. It is beyond anyone other than Iraqis to do. They have to sort this out amongst themselves.
Our troops need to leave as soon as possible so that Iraqis can sort out what is to become of their country without anymore outside interference. A three month phased withdrawal should begin immediately. Our troops have been asked to do much more already than we should have asked of them. We have sent them on multiple long deployments into situations where it was not clear who was enemy and who was friend. Many of them broke under that strain.
Speaking of which, all troops who broke and committed what we would consider to be crimes against Iraqi citizens should be pardoned and sent home along with all of the soldiers sent to Vietnam. I cannot imagine being in a city in a foreign land wearing a uniform clearly denoting one as a member of a foreign military and thus subject to being attacked at any time from any angle without really any ability to tell friend from foe. Over time, many months and years in fact, these troops have watched improvised explosives and bullets ripping into their friends with no warning and if that isn't a scenario ripe for making one go violently insane, I don't know what is. I am former military, and the thought of what our troops endured in Iraq or Vietnam is heartbreaking.
It is time to bring the troops home. I beg the Democrats in congress not to go along with any plan to increase troop strength in Iraq. All you need to do is bring members of the Joint Chiefs into your office one at a time and ask them in private if they think that is a good idea. They will tell you. You could send another one hundred thousand troops into Iraq and it would not achieve anything substantial. Close the chapter on this unfortunate part of American and Iraqi history and bring the troops home.