A Cautious Man
January 24, 2007
 
Looking For Something To Blame
Everybody has their own take on the State of the Union address from last night. This is mine.

The President is still trying to blame everyone else for his unwise invasion of Iraq. After pressing the claim that failure to follow his plan will result in terrorists attacking the U.S. again, he made this statement –
This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now. I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you've made. We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way.

That’s still the line he’s taking - “It’s everybody’s fault.” The facts show that we were not united in believing that a precipitous invasion of Iraq was the best way to protect the United States, or even the best way to deal with Iraq. Here are two extended excerpts from speeches by two senators, one a Democrat and one a Republican, from 2002 (when the vote to authorize the use of force was taken) and from 2003, just before the invasion.

This is what Senator Kerry said, on the floor of the Senate, at the time of that vote:
By beginning its public discourse with talk of invasion and regime change, the administration raised doubts about their bona fides on the most legitimate justification for war--that in the post-September 11 world the unrestrained threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein is unacceptable, and his refusal to allow U.N. inspectors to return was in blatant violation of the 1991 cease-fire agreement that left him in power. By casting about in an unfocused, undisciplined, overly public, internal debate for a rationale for war, the administration complicated their case, confused the American public, and compromised America's credibility in the eyes of the world community. By engaging in hasty war talk rather than focusing on the central issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the administration placed doubts in the minds of potential allies, particularly in the Middle East, where managing the Arab street is difficult at best.
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The reason for going to war, if we must fight, is not because Saddam Hussein has failed to deliver gulf war prisoners or Kuwaiti property. As much as we decry the way he has treated his people, regime change alone is not a sufficient reason for going to war, as desirable as it is to change the regime.

Regime change has been an American policy under the Clinton administration, and it is the current policy. I support the policy. But regime change in and of itself is not sufficient justification for going to war--particularly unilaterally--unless regime change is the only way to disarm Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction pursuant to the United Nations resolution.
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And the administration, I believe, is now committed to a recognition that war must be the last option to address this threat, not the first, and that we must act in concert with allies around the globe to make the world's case against Saddam Hussein.

As the President made clear earlier this week, "Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable." It means "America speaks with one voice."

Let me be clear, the vote I will give to the President is for one reason and one reason only: To disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, if we cannot accomplish that objective through new, tough weapons inspections in joint concert with our allies.
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If we do wind up going to war with Iraq , it is imperative that we do so with others in the international community, unless there is a showing of a grave, imminent--and I emphasize "imminent" -- threat to this country which requires the President to respond in a way that protects our immediate national security needs.
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Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him by force, if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible under any circumstances.

Clearly, the Senator was mistaken about the President using the authority to invade as a last resort. Remember, in the months after the vote, Saddam Hussein allowed the weapons inspectors to return to Iraq. They only left on the eve of the invasion, when the President (that’s Bush, not Hussein) told them to leave the country.

And this is not a Republican vs. Democrat thing, either. This is what Senator Hagel had to say, on the eve of the invasion:
Today, America stands nearly alone in proclaiming the urgency of the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein. In Europe and in many corners of the globe, America is perceived as determined to use force in Iraq to the exclusion of world opinion or the interests of our allies, even those allies who share our concerns about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. America must balance its determination with patience and not be seen as in a rush to war. As David Ignatius wrote in a recent Washington Post column, "A nation heading into war needs prudence and good judgment. America's best generals, people such as Grant and Marshall and Eisenhower, were at once cautious and decisive. Their greatness lay in the fact that they never lost sight of the long-term interests of the United States."

America must steer away from actions that could produce the unintended results of fracturing those very institutions that have helped keep peace since World War II. Allowing a rush to war in Iraq to create divisions in those institutions and alliances that will help sustain American security and world stability is a short-sighted and dangerous course of action.
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We should put aside the mistaken delusion that democracy is just around the corner. Or that by force of arms we can remove Saddam and simultaneously place Iraq on the path to democracy by overlaying a blueprint for democracy on the region ... a so-called "Democratic Domino Effect." The spade work of building a free Iraq will take time. General Anthony Zinni, special adviser to the Secretary of State and former Commanding General, U.S. Central Command, reminded the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that, with regard to Iraq, "there will not be a spontaneous democracy so the reconstruction of the country will be a long, hard course regardless of whether a modest vision of the end state is sought or a more ambitious one is chosen." The end of Saddam Hussein's regime will be all to the good, but building nations and democracy in the Middle East or anywhere is complicated and difficult, and success is never assured. We can try to help create the conditions for democratic change. But we must assume that it will not come quickly or easily.

Clearly, there was there was a bipartisan unease with the President’s eagerness to initiate an invasion. “Everybody” may have been worried about Saddam Hussein, but not “everybody” felt that an immediate invasion was necessarily the right cure.

The President’s continued attempts to claim that "it’s everybody’s fault”, and refusal to be honest about how the war began, is reason enough to not rely on his judgment regarding how to end the war.

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