1) In 2011, President Barack Obama pronounced Iraq “self-reliant and democratic,” and “a country in which people from different religious sects and ethnicities can resolve their differences peacefully through the democratic process.” In 2010, Vice President Joe Biden called Iraq “one of the great achievements of this administration.” Obama ignored pleas by top generals who advised against pulling out without leaving a residual force.
2) Nearly everybody assumed Saddam Hussein possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Of the newspaper editorials that opposed the war, not one challenged the assumption that Iraq possessed stockpiles of WMD.
President George W. Bush relied on the same intelligence — and on the same CIA director — as did President Bill Clinton. Kenneth Pollack, Clinton’s Persian Gulf adviser, said not one government intelligence analyst disagreed with the assumption that Iraq possessed stockpiles of WMD.
“The intelligence community,” said Pollack, “convinced me and the rest of the Clinton Administration that Saddam had reconstituted his WMD programs following the withdrawal of the U.N. inspectors in 1998, and was only a matter of years away from having a nuclear weapon. … The U.S. intelligence community’s belief that Saddam was aggressively pursuing weapons of mass destruction predated Bush’s inauguration, and therefore cannot be attributed to political pressure. … Germany … Israel, Russia, Britain, China and even France held positions similar to that of the United States. … In sum, no one doubted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.”
3) Saddam Hussein did possess stockpiles of WMD. James Clapper, the current director of National Intelligence, said in 2003 that materials for WMD had “unquestionably” been moved out of Iraq, to Syria or perhaps other countries, in an effort to “destroy and disperse” evidence just before the war began.
One of Saddam’s top generals, Georges Sada, in his book called “Saddam’s Secrets,” said truck convoys and 56 airplane flights moved tons of WMD into Syria.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in December, 2002, said, “Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria.”
4) Had we not invaded, Saddam Hussein would have soon restarted his chemical and biological program — and resumed his pursuit for a nuclear capability. After the war started, Bush sent David Kay, a weapons hunter, to locate the assumed stockpiles of WMD. Kay found no stockpiles, but he did find that Saddam had the intent and the ability to restart his WMD program as soon as the heat was off.
5) George Bush did not “rush” America into the war. He obtained a consensus — a resolution from the House, a resolution from the Senate and a resolution from the United Nations. There was a 15-month run-up before the war, during which time Saddam could have declared what he did or did not do with the WMD.
6) Americans supported the Iraq War, overwhelmingly at least at first. Gallup found 76 percent of Americans supported the Iraq war when the military action began, about the same percentage that supported the first Persian Gulf War.
7) Obama wanted out of Iraq, and ran in 2008 with a promise to do just that. A year after the troop pullout, during a 2012 debate, Mitt Romney said he wanted a residual force to remain. Obama pointedly disagreed, saying that leaving “10,000 troops in Iraq … would tie us down.”
Incredibly, Obama now blames the Iraqis for his refusal to leave any troops. Obama says he wanted legal protection for the soldiers left behind and that Iraq’s parliament would not provide it. So Obama happily walked away, blaming it on “a decision made by the Iraqi government” to reject the offer of “a modest residual force.” Obama sure had no difficulty in quickly working out an agreement — via diplomatic notes, without the approval of Iraq’s parliament — for the recently promised 300 “advisers.”
8) We were greeted as liberators in Iraq. The New York Times Iraq reporter John Burns said: “The American troops were greeted as liberators. We saw it.” In April, 2003, the New York Daily News reported, “Jubilant crowds chanted, ‘Thank you, Bush’ and showered troops with yellow and pink flowers, exactly as administration hawks had promised.”
9). There were legitimate, good-faith reasons why we sent “too few troops.” The Times’ Burns said, “I think that to be fair to the United States, when I speak as a citizen of the United Kingdom, I think that the instincts that led to much that went wrong were good American instincts: the desire not to have too heavy of a footprint, the desire to empower Iraqis.”
10) The men and women who served in Iraq deserve better. They achieved great things under harsh and unforgiving circumstances. That the succeeding commander-in-chief did not preserve their hard-fought gains ought not devalue what they accomplished. Perhaps the returning soldiers might more readily adjust to civilian life if Americans truly understood and appreciated what they achieved in Iraq. They did their jobs — and their mission was just, important and noble.
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host.
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