One of our readers sent an email today, suggesting we look at an editorial by former Senator Bob Kerrey in Opinion Journal last week. Given the responses today in our comments section to Nibras Kazimi’s essay on the war in his home country, Iraq, Mr. Kerrey’s thoughts bear partial repeating here:
Let me restate the case for this Iraq war from the U.S. point of view.
The U.S. led an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein because Iraq was rightly seen as a threat following Sept. 11, 2001. For two decades we had suffered attacks by radical Islamic groups but were lulled into a false sense of complacency because all previous attacks were “over there.”
As for Saddam…[h]e could have complied with the Security Council resolutions with the greatest of ease. He chose not to because he was stealing and extorting billions of dollars from the U.N. Oil for Food program.
Not to mention the cynical EU nations who were in cahoots with his massive extortion. France, anyone?
No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before…
The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart. [my emphasis]
These are the people who want to have it both ways. “Out of Iraq, and clean up Darfur.” We “should have intervened in the Rwanda massacre.” Etc., ad nauseam. Whatever we do, we should have been doing something else instead.
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Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn’t you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.
You can make up the headlines yourself: “Bush is a Do-Nothing President”; there’s one likely part of the litany. “‘Bush Spineless,’ Claim Democrats” would be another favorite antiphon. With the Dems the outcome is set beforehand: whatever Bush does is illegitimate because his time in office was “stolen.” It’s only legitimate when the Dems dig up dead votes, as they did by the hundred score in Illinois for Kennedy. Or is the Camelot media myth off limits?
American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq’s middle class has fled the country in fear.
With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy. [my emphasis]
Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn’t have lasted a week.
And if we had set another dictator in place, the screaming from the left side of the aisle would have been ear-shattering.