The Iraq war is behind us, at least our military participation. Some pundits still believe that our involvement was right, necessary, and appropriate, and that whether there was WMD is just tired talking points. I couldn’t disagree more. There were any number of prominent conservatives who opposed going to war, George Will and William F. Buckley among them. Marine General Anthony Zinni was a prominent opponent, a man who served with distinction in Vietnam and who was intimately familiar with the politics of the Middle East. Both supporters and opponents of the war can cite any number of reputable people for their side, and I only mention these three because there are those who will name well known liberals who supported the war. It doesn’t matter.
The WMD was the main reason for invading Iraq. Two sources in particular were relied on: Ahmed Chalabi and a German asset known as Curve Ball. Chalabi, an Iraqi national, had been in exile in London for many years and on the CIA payroll. He had a very clear personal agenda, and that was to replace Saddam Hussein as the new Iraq leader. Some of our own intelligence agencies warned against taking Chalabi seriously, but the White House and Defense Department weren’t interested in hearing anything but what they wanted to hear. The Germans said that Curve Ball was not a reliable source and a known liar. But let’s look at other evidence. The NSA (National Security Agency) had Iraq saturated with electronic vacuum sweepers and monitored virtually every communication into and out of that country. Yet the NSA never picked up any serious evidence that Saddam had the WMD. (One of the colossal failures of intelligence was that the CIA did not know that Saddam’s WMD bluff was directed at his more immediate enemy, Iran.) Consider too that our satellites covered all of Iraq and then some, and there is no evidence that they detected movement of WMD to Syria as some have alleged. The other reason for going to war was based on a photograph purportedly showing Mohammed Atta (911 hijacker leader) meeting with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in the spring of 2001. The FBI conclusively proved, before the invasion of Iraq, that the meeting had not occurred. Again, those hell bent on war ignored the evidence and proceeded. Some still believe that we also went into Iraq to pursue al-Qaeda. Saddam and al-Qaeda had common enemies---Israel and the United States---but Saddam was a secularist, something that was at complete odds with Osama bin Laden. Had Saddam armed al-Qaeda he knew that they would turn those same weapons back on him at the right time. Al-Qaeda only became a force in Iraq after the U.S. invasion and overthrow of Saddam.
Years after the war began George Bush said that no evidence of the WMD had turned up. He justified the war instead by claiming that it was worth the price to rid the world of a tyrant who used chemical and biological warfare against his own people, and that the Iraqi people were now free. No doubt Saddam used those horrific weapons against fellow Iraqis, but to ignore that he never used them against Israel or the United States is to ignore the reality of Saddam who was a survivor; he knew that his country would be annihilated if he had. The same apologists who believe that getting rid of the dictator was worth the price never, ever mention Kim Jong Il, the then dictator of North Korea. And North Korea had the bomb, had committed genocide, had starved its people, had blown up commercial airplanes, and was/is an immediate threat to South Korea and Japan. Yet for some reason North Korea didn’t make the cut to go to war with to rid the world of this horrible human being and to liberate their people. The reasons should be self evident.
It won’t be that many years from now when the parades and accolades for our Iraq veterans will be a memory. Older generations will want to forget and younger ones won’t care. Those of us who experienced Vietnam never really went through it to the extent these warriors will. And that’s because we knew it was a hated war, a war that divided the country, and we didn’t expect anything when we came home. (Ronald Reagan made being a Vietnam Veteran an honor, something I will always be grateful for.) The cost in lives, destruction of families, lifetime physical and mental wounds, and the staggering VA costs over the next 60 years must be factored into whether a war fought for all the wrong reasons was worth the price.