Howard Dean must have been ecstatic as he read the headlines on Oct. 7: “Report Discounts Iraqi Arms Threat” affirmed the Washington Post, while The New York Times, not to be outdone, jubilantly proclaimed that “sanctions worked.” The Yale dining halls were abuzz with liberal energy: I could scarcely walk to my table without hearing about “how we had contained Saddam” or how “we never should have invaded Iraq.” Democrats were vindicated, Republicans were doomed; with this newfound evidence, John Kerry could “finish Bush off” while the current administration would “lose all remaining credibility.” Naturally, I was a bit taken aback (I had thought “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern” was the only drama playing at Yale last weekend): With these supposed “facts,” could the Democrats have finally turned the tables on Bush?
Actually, no. The reality presented by the Duelfer report is that Saddam Hussein was working to undermine the regime of sanctions, had the clear intent to develop weapons of mass destruction, and remained a great threat to the United States during his supposed “containment.” Duelfer describes a situation where “prohibited goods and weapons were being shipped into Iraq with virtually no problem”: Sanctions had failed to neutralize Hussein, and any diplomatic resolution by the international community was tainted by widespread corruption among Iraq, France, Russia and China.
While many liberal activists accuse the president of being “out of touch with reality,” I find too many Democrats living in a fantasyland where Bush can do no right. With the election only three weeks away, students must see the facts for what they are. Despite what one may find on moveon.org (the George Soros spin-room) or on the Kerry election site, Iraq was a critical component of the greater war on terror. Hussein had grown increasingly dangerous as our alleged allies in Europe turned a blind eye (corruption can work in mysterious ways). While Kerry would have waited for their blessing before acting (his lovely “global test” criterion), President Bush refused to let a nuclear threat materialize.
The Duelfer report refutes those who believed that we could have sought a peaceful and international solution to the Saddam Hussein quagmire. During the years in which Kerry argues Saddam was contained, WMD scientists were contacted in Russia and Bulgaria, funding for nuclear programs increased multifold, the number of WMD research projects expanded from 40 to 3,200, more than $11 billion was acquired through illegal trading, and the budget for related military expenditures grew 40 times larger.
The real “coalition of the bribed” was our favorite Security Council triumvirate of France, Russia and China (France clearly being Lepidus within this context), who pushed for the regime of “unjust” sanctions to be lifted. Yet, even though these nations were willing to forgive Hussein in the mid-1990s as he defied the resolutions of the UN, John Kerry believes we could have achieved a global consensus and acted together. John Kerry believes our allies — who, according to the report, treated the Iraqi oil minister like a “rock star” when he visited their capitals — would have been willing to forego billions in special-interest money to put pressure on Saddam to capitulate. The facts presented by Duelfer show an impotent United Nations, a reticent global community and a maniacal dictator in Iraq expanding the scope of his WMD programs.
I’ll be the first to admit that the president is not beyond criticism. I found his allusion to the Dred Scott case during the last debate puzzling, while his comment about “wanting wood” perplexed me for some time. In rebuilding Iraq, many difficulties have been encountered. Neither this president nor the American people believed in 2003 that rebel terrorists would fight so vociferously against our military forces as we attempted to win the peace; few, if any, predicted that these insurgents, so blinded by their cult of hate, would turn against fellow Iraqis and decimate their country at all costs. The ideology of radical Islam professed by these terrorists is incompatible with our own democratic sensibilities; we cannot reason with these forces of evil. The strength and normative connotation of this word have not been lost on me. To see the world purely in terms of black and white is to be dogmatic and inflexible; to pretend that right and wrong simply do not exist is to commit an egregious mistake.
As shown by the Duelfer Report, our “forward policy of freedom” in Iraq has eliminated a significant global threat, and for this reason, we should not attack the president for making the right decision. We have deposed of a dictator who had the clear intent and technical capabilities to create WMD — Saddam Hussein was simply biding his time to acquire the necessary material. Had we not liberated Iraq, we would be mired in a North Korea-like conundrum. Had we responded to international pressure and heeded the advice of our allies, we would have permitted Saddam Hussein to become an imminent threat.
By not completing our mission in 1991, we created a situation in 2003 that demanded action. John Kerry made his first mistake by voting against the Persian Gulf War. He made his second mistake by declaring that our current action was “the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.” His third mistake was to believe the international community would have acted against Saddam, when instead, it appeared content to enjoy the spoils of his corruption-laced regime. Mistakes such as these are unacceptable for any U.S. president; fortunately, I believe Kerry will never have the opportunity to make them as such.
Al Jiwa is a junior in Pierson College. He is president of the Yale College Republicans.