The Iraq Survey Group
headed by Charles Duelfer has released its report on the status of Iraqi weapons
programs and the results confirm what many had long suspected: When the United
States invaded, Iraq did not posses weapons of mass destruction, was hardly
engaged in serious efforts to produce them and Saddam Hussein’s nuclear
capabilities were actually deteriorating rather than advancing.
contradict prewar statements by President Bush and top administration officials,
and seriously undercut the rationale for the Iraq war.
In an essay appearing in the New
York Times on Sunday, Franklin Foer observed that even many conservative
intellectuals and journalists are now entertaining second thoughts about the
war, in some cases reaching conclusions more consistent with the old right’s
But these doubts are
not necessarily reverberating among the conservative grassroots.
In fact, an October 6 CNN/USA Today/Gallup
poll found that 62 percent of self-described Republicans, a fair if imperfect
proxy for the rank-and-file right, believed that Saddam Hussein was personally
involved in the 9/11 attacks against America.
Fully 50 percent believed that the Iraqi dictator was personally involved
in planning the attacks.
These are claims that
the administration does not make and did not even endorse prior to the war,
although the campaign may not mind collecting votes based on these
misperceptions. Indeed, Steve Sailer has expressed
concern that Karl Rove’s strategy may be to rely on the “dumbing down of
Republicans” on these issues.
My readers are
decent, thoughtful, patriotic Americans (and, of course, friends of America in
other countries). Many of you supported the Iraq war, out of loyalty to the
president and a sincere desire to keep the U.S. safe from WMDs in the hands of
madmen. Although I was skeptical of
an Iraq campaign from the beginning, I found persuasive many of the same
arguments that convinced you to support to the war – so much so that I
tempered my opposition shortly before the invasion and declared myself undecided
on the question. More than the
arguments, however, I softened my position because I trusted and wanted to
believed pro-war figures in the administration I held in particularly high
regard. But experience is sometimes
kinder to our doubts than our hopes.
The evidence is in
and it has been gathering since Baghdad fell.
According to the Duelfer report, there were “no credible indications
that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions" after 1991, and
“no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW [biological
weapons] program.” Contrary to
warnings that Saddam had reconstituted his nuclear program and was perhaps a
year away from having weapons, the Iraqi nuclear weapons program had been
stopped in 1991 and the survey group found "no evidence to suggest
concerted efforts to restart” it.
It’s tempting to
respond that virtually all the players, including leading Democrats from Bill
Clinton to John Kerry and every major Western intelligence agency, believed that
Iraq possessed WMDs. But some
experts did have doubts. And while
there was a broad, if inaccurate, government consensus on Iraqi WMDs, the notion
that this constituted a risk serious enough to justify immediate, preemptive war
was a minority viewpoint. There
were also many uncertainties in the intelligence, partly as a result of limited
Western knowledge of the facts on the ground in Iraq after the first Gulf War,
and political assertions made on the basis of disputed intelligence estimates.
In short, long before we received the conclusive evidence we have today
there were sufficient doubts to call into question the wisdom of war.
Without the weapons,
there remain two primary conservative justifications for the war.
The first is the neoconservative dogma that democracy in Iraq will
promote democracy throughout the Middle East, altering the political conditions
that currently breed terror. But
even if true, this does not mean that the U.S. can necessarily effect this
transformation militarily through democratic nation-building.
The second – which appears to be Duelfer’s own position – is that
the sanctions regime was eroding and would have eventually ended, at which point
Saddam would have been likely to resume WMD production.
Yet it is difficult to see why this much more speculative threat would
have required drastic, immediate and unilateral action by the U.S. during a
global war on terror with numerous other threats.
And the existence of
myriad threats highlights the real problem: there are opportunity costs in this
dangerous world to being bogged down in a WMD-free Iraq.
Yes, presidents sometimes have to make decisions based on imperfect
intelligence. But there were
substantial prewar doubts. We
conservatives have too often allowed this president to soft-pedal those doubts
and, worse, conflate the war aims with its actual results.
have been too slow to grapple with new data unfolding on the ground in Iraq,
preferring the comfort of familiar talking points.
But it is not disloyal to our brave troops, a thousand of whom have
already made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, to question the war. Nor is this presidential campaign the wrong time to raise
such questions, for fear of helping Kerry, whose position on the war is
indecipherable and is otherwise banally liberal. In additional to the election, something else is at stake:
the credibility of conservatism as the guarantor of responsible national
William F. Buckley, Jr., who more recently confessed that the case for the Iraq war was inaccurate and that in hindsight he would have opposed it, once described conservatism as the “politics of reality.” If liberals are seen by the American people as more realistic on Iraq, conservatives will come to regret it – eventually, if not on November 2.
expressed do not necessarily reflect those of PoliticalUSA.com.