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Did Bush 'fail' in Iraq?
Larry Elder< Washington Times
In his final press conference, President George W.
Bush called failing to find weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) in Iraq a "disappointment."
For many historians - not allowing a little history
to pass before rendering judgment - this makes him a
"failed president." In a 2006 survey of 744 history
professors, 82 percent rated Mr. Bush either below
average or a failure. Last April, in an informal
poll of 109 historians by George Mason University,
98 percent considered him a failed president, and 61
percent judged him one of the worst in American
history. His "crime"? For most of these historians,
he led the country into an "unnecessary war."
Return to the bad old days immediately following
Sept. 11, 2001, when terror attacks killed 3,000 on
American soil. Eighty to 90 percent of Americans
expected another attack - on American soil - within
six months to a year. Critics called Mr. Bush asleep
at the wheel, that he failed to "connect the dots."
Never mind that the Sept. 11 Commission said former
President Bill Clinton blew several opportunities to
kill or capture Osama bin Laden.
Let us recall Saddam Hussein, the "Butcher of
Baghdad." Under President Clinton, Congress voted
for - and he signed - the Iraq Liberation Act,
calling for "regime change." Saddam Hussein stood in
defiance of several United Nations resolutions
calling for him to fully account for his weapons of
mass destruction. He certainly possessed WMD, having
used them against his enemies and his own people. He
continually fired at the American and British planes
patrolling the southern and northern "no-fly zones"
set up to prevent genocide against fellow Iraqis.
In addition to stealing billions from the
"oil-for-food" program (to what end?), he sent
$25,000 apiece to families of homicide bombers who
Following Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the
U.S.-led coalition's subsequent expulsion of him, we
found Saddam much closer to developing a nuclear
weapon than our intelligence community assumed. He
later attempted to assassinate former President
George H.W. Bush. Estimates vary, but Saddam killed,
during his 25-year reign, between 300,000 and 1
In the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate,
all 16 U.S. intelligence departments concluded -
with the highest possible level of certainty - that
Saddam still possessed stockpiles of chemical and
biological WMD. British intel reached the same
conclusion. According to former CENTCOM commander
Gen. Tommy Franks, officials in Egypt and Jordan
told him that they believed the dictator still
Mr. Bush retained the same CIA director, George
Tenet, who served under Mr. Clinton. Mr. Tenet
described the case for assuming the dictator
possessed WMD a "slam-dunk." After the invasion of
Iraq, Mr. Clinton publicly said he thought Saddam
still had the weapons. A few months after the Iraq
invasion, the former president visited Portuguese
Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, who later
said, "When Clinton was here recently, he told me he
was absolutely convinced, given his years in the
White House and the access to privileged information
which he had, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass
destruction until the end of the Saddam regime."
True, "weapons hunter" David Kay, sent to Iraq to
find the stockpiles, found no WMD. But Mr. Kay said
Saddam retained the capacity and the intent to
restart his program.
Now let's play suppose. Mr. Bush ignores the nearly
unanimous intelligence community. He takes no action
against Saddam. The dictator remains in power. The
sanctions end. He restarts his WMD program. We
experience another Sept. 11 or worse on American
soil. Our intel traces the attack back to Saddam.
Congress demands investigations for Mr. Bush's
"failure to heed the clear consensus of the
intelligence community and to take appropriate
action." Democrats and many Republicans push for
impeachment, based on negligence and malfeasance.
Angry members of Congress quote the February 1998
words of the secretary of state under Bill Clinton,
Madeleine Albright: "Iraq is a long way from [here],
but what happens there matters a great deal here.
For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will
use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against
us or our allies is the greatest security threat we
What if we had known before we got there that he
possessed no stockpiles of WMD? Would we have
invaded? A better question is, given what the
president reasonably thought and the consequences of
doing nothing, did he do the right thing?
Osama bin Laden called Iraq the "central front in
the war" against the infidels. Gen. Franks said:
"The global war on terrorism will be a long fight.
But make no mistake about it. We are going to fight
the terrorists. The question is, do we fight them
over there, or do we fight them here?"
Support for homicide bombing has fallen dramatically
from 2002 to 2007 in seven of eight Muslim countries
surveyed - as much as 74 to 34 percent in Lebanon,
and 33 to 9 percent in Pakistan. And support for the
extreme "Islamist" parties in Muslim countries, with
some exceptions, has also declined. Iraq - alone
among Muslim Middle Eastern countries - now has a
One more thing. We haven't been attacked on American
soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
Larry Elder is a nationally syndicated columnist, a
radio talk show host and a best-selling author.
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