George W. Bush's Decision to Invade Iraq Was Correct
Surely, to all but Donald Trump's ardent supporters – which, sadly, probably is all of them – there can be no doubt, after Saturday's Republican debate, that except on the sole issue of immigration, Trump is a Democrat. Space and the need to stay on point preclude listing all of the Democratic talking points Trump parroted in South Carolina, so this essay focuses on the most egregious one – the "Bush lied, people died" libel – and on Trump's view, unfortunately shared by many Republicans, that, the Iraq war was, in Trump's words, a "big mistake" and that "we got nothing out of it."
First, as Powerline's Paul Mirengoff writes, there is no evidence that Trump opposed the Iraq pre-invasion (emphases added):
Last night, Donald Trump repeated his claim that "I'm the only one on the stage that said we should not go into Iraq." As I've pointed out before, however, there is no credible evidence that Trump said any such thing.
Trump voiced public opposition to the war for the first time… in the summer of 2004… [by which time] he was following a fairly large pack.
[O]pposing our actions in Iraq once they went pear-shaped is just Monday morning quarterbacking — a Trump specialty.
Second, the Democrats' (and Trump's, but the writer repeats himself) accusation that Bush ordered the Iraq invasion knowing that there were no WMD is flat-out false. In fact, Bush was skeptical until then-CIA director George Tenet assured Bush that, based on CIA intelligence, Saddam's possession of WMD was "a slam dunk."
As to Trump's criticism that Bush "failed to prevent 9/11" (and was therefore responsible for 9/11?), here is Tenet again (emphasis added):
As Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hammers away at former President George W. Bush for not stopping the September 11 attacks, another factor could be added to the debate: Mr. Bush inherited from Bill Clinton an intelligence community in terrible shape.
This fact comes not from a Republican partisan but from George Tenet, President Clinton's CIA director…
Mr. Tenet wrote in his memoirs… that Mr. Clinton left Mr. Bush with a CIA that was in "Chapter 11." The eavesdropping National Security Agency was "crumbling" and "going deaf," he said.
Third, though the facts came out only years later, the world now knows that Tenet – and Bush – had it right. There were, in fact, WMD in Iraq, as unclassified documents released by WikiLeaks in 2010 show. As Larry Elder wrote at the time (emphases added):
Bush claimed that Iraq sought uranium, specifically "yellowcake[,]" "the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment" [that] can be enriched for use in… nuclear weapons…"
Wired Magazine's contributing editor Noah Shachtman… researched the 400,000 WikiLeaked documents released in October [2010 and found]…. WikiLeaks' newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction[.]
In 2008, our military shipped out of Iraq – on 37 flights in 3,500 barrels – what even The Associated Press called "the last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program": 550 metric tons of the supposedly nonexistent yellowcake. The New York Sun editorialized: "[B]ecause Iraq, sitting on vast oil reserves, has no peaceful need for nuclear power. ... To leave this nuclear material sitting around the Middle East in the hands of Saddam... would have been too big a risk."
A risk that invading Iraq and toppling Saddam averted. And on October 14, 2004, The New York Times reported (emphases added):
Five years after President George W. Bush sent troops into Iraq,… [f]rom 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein's rule.
In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs[.]
In fairness, the Times characterized the buried WMD as remnants of a "long abandoned program." Nevertheless, the chemical weapons were there and were, as the injuries to the soldiers in the article attest, still effective – and, presumably, potentially available for discovery, unearthing, and use, had we not uncovered and removed them before the jihadis could. Ditto for the additional chemical weapons the CIA bought and destroyed (emphases added):
The Central Intelligence Agency… repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups[.] ...
Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States' acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein's Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
As for "what we got" from the Iraq war, we got, between the time Bush left office and President Obama squandered our hard won victory, a stable Iraq.
And make no mistake: Iraq would not have been stable when Bush left office had we not invaded and would still be stable today had Obama not pulled out. The fallacy of those who call the Iraq war a mistake is their own erroneous belief that Saddam Hussein had Iraq's disgruntled and restive population firmly under control and that the situation would not, could not, change.
Proof of the folly of that view can be found right next door, in Syria.
Like his father Hafez and like Saddam Hussein, Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad is a ruthless and brutal dictator. Saddam Hussein headed the fascist Ba'ath Party in Iraq; Bashar Assad heads the Ba'ath Party in Syria. Saddam was a minority (Sunni) dictator ruling a majority Shiite population; Assad is a minority (Alawite) dictator ruling a majority Sunni population.
Given these similarities between Bashar Assad and Saddam Hussein and the socioeconomic and sociopolitical situations in their respective countries, on what basis does one posit that the flames of the so-called Arab Spring, which began when a Tunisian fruit seller set himself afire after a municipal inspector confiscated his cart and quickly spread to Egypt; Libya; Yemen; and, yes, Syria, would somehow bypass Iraq?
There is no reason not to believe, and every reason to believe, that, had we not gone into Iraq, everything that is happening today in Syria, would be happening in Iraq, too. No reason to believe that had we not invaded Iraq and destroyed the WMD that we incontestably know were there, these would not have fallen into jihadist hands in a post-Saddam Iraq.
For those who disagree: wanna bet a chemical attack inside Grand Central Station or Times Square (which doesn't need New Year's Eve, when police are out in force, to draw a crowd) on that?
Invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein gave us a stable Iraq that would still be stable had Barack Obama not cut and run. It denied jihadists a fertile recruiting and training ground, not to mention a cache of deadly chemical weapons. It also nipped a nascent nuclear program, sparing us the doubly sordid spectacle of Barack Obama and John Kerry giving away the store to two hostile countries on the verge of developing a nuclear capability.
And it gave us an ideal staging area, with hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and associated materiel already in place, from which to invade Iran, remove the mad mullahs, and destroy the Revolutionary Guard and Iran's nuclear and missile capabilities along with them, a mission that – and this is the real lesson of the Iraq War – our experience in Iraq taught us could have been accomplished in three weeks.
One of George W. Bush's most positive personality traits is that he is humble. One of his most negative traits is that he is, sometimes, too humble. An arrogant president, such as the one we're stuck with for another ten months, would have shouted his vindication from the rooftops. Sadly, George W. Bush has chosen silence. But that neither excuses nor forgives his detractors, including, especially including, the pseudo-Republican Donald Trump, who, onstage at a Republican debate, shamelessly parroted the Democratic "Bush lied, people died" meme.
And it especially does not justify a red-faced, bloviating cry-bully telling our Iraq veterans and the parents of all too many who did not return, at a Republican debate, that the soldiers who fought and died there fought and died in vain – at least, before Barack Obama took the Oath of Office.
Bush did not lie, and his decision to invade Iraq was right. Hell, it was prescient.