President Bush dropped by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Monday and once again explained the case for war taking on Saddam Hussein. Here are a few highlights:
“Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq…We removed a declared enemy of America who had the capability of producing weapons of mass murder and could have passed that capability to terrorists bent on acquiring them. In the world after September 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take.”
He concluded: “So I had a choice to make: either take the word of a madman or defend America. Given that choice, I will defend America.”
As I’ll be noting in broadcasts over the coming weeks, the president has called the bluff of the Bush-is-a-liar crowd.
Here are some key points:
•There was an Al Qaeda-Saddam connection.
Some of the president’s most vehement critics have insisted that because Saddam didn’t play an obvious role in planning the September 11th attacks, there must not have been any direct link between the networks. Now, a swelling tide of information from Iraq makes it obvious that Al Qaeda and the Saddam regime spent considerable time trying to figure out how to work together. Saddam rolled out the carpet for bin Laden’s killers, telling them to drop by anytime.
•Saddam was subsidizing other terror networks.
No one has raised serious doubts about this fact. Saddam made a point of paying off Hamas homicide bombers, among others.
• The White House was right to declare in the 2003 State of the Union address that Saddam had tried to procure uranium from Africa.
Skittish and green White House aides panicked last year, after reading newspaper columns written by former Ambassador Joe Wilson. Wilson alleged that he had traveled to Niger to investigate rumors of uranium sales, had sipped spiced tea with key government officials, had examined some documents, and had reported to the Bush administration that claims of uranium sales were a fraud.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has just blown that account to smithereens. Wilson, an affable and capable diplomat, but also an adviser to John Kerry, not only didn’t disprove the possibility of uranium sales, his report made it seem more likely that such sales had taken place.
Now comes word from London’s Financial Times that Niger did conduct a brisk trade in uranium to Iraq and other would-be terrorist states — and that the White House was wrong to retract the now-infamous “16 words” in the State of the Union Address.
• The president didn’t abuse intelligence information.
Although some Democrats want to hold separate hearings to inquire into possible intelligence abuse, the inquiry could backfire. Many of these same politicians declared in 2002 that existing intelligence strongly supported the case for war. Most of them not only voted to authorize action against Saddam, some (including the now-dovish Sen. Jay Rockefeller) tried to sound more bellicose than the president himself.
• The war has changed the region for the better.
Let me sketch out a quick roster of modest triumphs: Libya has laid down its arms and has thrown open its doors to weapons inspectors. Egypt has laid down the law to the Palestinian Authority, warning that it will walk away from Yasser Arafat and Co. if they don’t stop acting like thugs with their own people, and don’t start trying to create a society based on law and order. Israel has demonstrated that firmness in the face of attack can reduce terror and make peace thinkable. Saudi Arabia has taken its most serious steps in decades to squelch the hate-mongering that thrives in some of its mosques and on its street corners. And Iraqi officials themselves have assumed responsibility for crushing terrorists in their midst. The new government has offered amnesty to bad guys, warning that those who don’t lay down arms will face “the sword.”
There is more, but you get the idea.
Here’s today’s point to ponder: This year’s election throws into competition two models for dealing with global problems. John Kerry prefers diplomacy as an alternative to pre-emption; the president views diplomacy as a pre-requisite to preemption. When talk fails, one must act. I’ll have more on this important theme later — as I tackle the questions: Is the president trigger-happy? Is John Kerry an appeaser? And are we still at war?
Share your thoughts with Tony. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.