One of the big problems the Left has with the right wing’s jubilation at the success of the Iraqi elections is the “after the fact” justification for the war. Lefties like to claim that building up democracy in Iraq was never a primary objective for the administration nor its supporters, and that “current justifications” now make a lie of the “original” justifications for going into Iraq; ie., the presence of WMD in Iraq.
This is wrong on two counts. First, the WMD argument is incomplete when viewed next to the more general consensus (from both Republicans and Democrats alike) that Saddam had not and was not going to disarm. Under the eyes of the UN’s own chemical, biological, and atomic weapons inspectors, it was generally believed that Saddam was bluffing and stalling for time, that he had hidden weapons not yet discovered by the UN, and that he would, at a later date once sanctions were removed, reopen weapons development programs and explore nuclear options. This is borne out by documented quotes from UN officials and US politicians, both Republican and Democrat.
Further, the evidence that Saddam was not going to disarm led to the more specific claim that Weapons of Mass Destruction were indeed present inside Iraq borders, hidden by Saddam for use at a later, less restrictive time. This was one of the many justifications made by the Administration to support war action, but is a point of contention for the Left. However, since this claim was only one of many claims made on behalf of the argument in favour of going to war, assertions made by the Left, that the President’s sole justification for attacking Iraq was rooted and vested in the specific WMD claims, is in fact a straw man. In fact, it was only one of the given justifications over the course of the months preceding and during the war in Iraq, from January through August of 2003.
Finally, the Administration made it clear that the war on Iraq was in fact not its own war, but was part of the larger War on Terror. Ideological semantics aside, the Administration saw Iraq as the first domino that needed to fall for a free Middle East.
This brings many on the Left to their current beef with right wingers who proudly tout the success of the Iraqi elections. Is it true, as the Left will claim, that democratization of Iraq was never an original objective? Or is it true, as the Left also will claim, that democratization of Iraq was, at best, a minor footnote in the pantheon of reasons the Administration trotted out?
Here is another credibility flaw in the Left’s complaints – they seem to believe that the President offered only one or two false justifications (“Bush Lied, People Died”) and that he offered a plethora of excuses, none of which warranted action. In other words, in their eyes, nothing Bush said warranted or justified the war.
Be that as it may, the straw men Lefties set up to complicate the issue can be knocked down easily.
It is a fact that the President never posited the WMD claim as the sole reason that disarming Saddam and taking him out. And as the following links to speeches and press conferences Bush gave demonstrate, promoting a free and democratic Iraq was always in the cards, and indeed was one of the major justifications for going in.
From a March 2003 speech:
“Action to remove the threat from Iraq would also allow the Iraqi people to build a better future for their society. And Iraq’s liberation would be the beginning, not the end, of our commitment to its people. We will supply humanitarian relief, bring economic sanctions to a swift close, and work for the long-term recovery of Iraq’s economy. We’ll make sure that Iraq’s natural resources are used for the benefit of their owners, the Iraqi people.
Iraq has the potential to be a great nation. Iraq’s people are skilled and educated. We’ll push as quickly as possible for an Iraqi interim authority to draw upon the talents of Iraq’s people to rebuild their nation. We’re committed to the goal of a unified Iraq, with democratic institutions of which members of all ethnic and religious groups are treated with dignity and respect.
To achieve this vision, we will work closely with the international community, including the United Nations and our coalition partners. If military force is required, we’ll quickly seek new Security Council resolutions to encourage broad participation in the process of helping the Iraqi people to build a free Iraq.
From a February 2003 speech:
The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.(Applause.)
Not to mention this April 2003 speech in which Bush discusses democracy in Iraq as the ultimate goal.
The Left may hem and haw about the illegitimacy of the Right’s jubilation, calling it a false “told-you-so” mentality, but the evidence simply doesn’t support that conclusion. Threat of force was the initial response to concerns over Saddam and his growing belligerence, supported by UN Resolutions 1441 and 687; intelligence suggested Saddam’s weapons and weapons programs were in stasis, and could be used to threaten the United States and the free world; in weighing the factors, democracy and the benefits of a free Iraq, along with the threat of an armed Saddam and historical precedent, were touted as reasons justifying military action in Iraq.
That minds and memories are short is not surprising. That the Left would spin the elections this way is.