National Security

Trump Lies, History Dies

The latest politician eager to rewrite the history of the Iraq war.

Arnold Ahlert · Feb. 17, 2016

Donald Trump has become the latest politician eager to rewrite the history of the Iraq war — a “Republican” who failed to get Iraq right. So let’s look at what actually happened.

First, the vote on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq. On Oct. 10, 2002, the House voted 296-133 with three abstentions in favor of H.J.Res. 114. Eighty-one Democrats supported the measure. A day later, the Senate followed suit with a 77-23 margin of approval and 29 Democrats on board, including Sens. Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Joe Biden and John Edwards. Former Obama Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also voted in favor of the resolution.

Those votes were amplified by the unanimous passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 on Nov. 8, 2002. It gave Saddam Hussein’s Iraq “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations” that had been set out in 10 previous resolutions. On March 23, 2003, four days after the war began, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll revealed a whopping 72% of the American public favored the war.

In June 2003, just three months after the war began, the Democrat National Committee launched its first ad accusing George W. Bush of lying about Hussein’s determination to build WMDs. The ad focused on 16 words Bush included in his State of the Union address in reference to the accurate British report that Hussein had attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium in Niger. The allegations of lies came courtesy of Joe Wilson IV, former U.S. ambassador to Gabon, whose wife was CIA case officer Valerie Plame. Unsurprisingly, Democrats demanded a hearing into those allegations, as well as the allegations the Bush administration had “cherry-picked” intel to justify the invasion.

Democrats got two hearings: In 2004, the Robb-Silberman Commission concluded that no one in the Bush administration had sought to pressure the intelligence community into its findings. Moreover, as report co-author Laurence H. Silberman explained last year, “presidential daily briefs from the CIA dating back to the Clinton administration were, if anything, more alarmist about Iraq’s WMD than the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate” of Saddam’s capabilities. In 2005, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously concluded Wilson lied when he said Vice President Dick Cheney had sent him on the mission to Niger in 2002 to determine if Saddam had tried to buy uranium there, lied when he denied his wife had recommended him for the job, and lied when he said he’d found no evidence Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Niger.

To this day, most Americans remain unaware that 550 metric tons of yellowcake was discovered in Iraq, or the reality that the Islamic State controls the Al Muthanna Chemicals Weapons Complex, which the CIA characterized as “a wasteland full of destroyed chemical munitions, razed structures, and unusable war-ravaged facilities.” (By the way, ISIL used those weapons — the weapons “Iraq didn’t have” — just last year.)

Americans also remain largely unaware of why Democrats worked so feverishly to turn the nation against the war. It was “because an anti-war activist named Howard Dean was poised to win the Democrat presidential primary — which happened to coincide with the invasion — by a wide margin,” explains author David Horowitz. “It was Dean’s surge in the polls that caused John Kerry and John Edwards who eventually became the Democratic standard bearers to do an about face, repudiate their previous support of the war, and turn on the president as the chief culprit in the conflict rather than the sadistic tyrant Saddam Hussein.”

In short, Democrats put party before country even as American soldiers remained in harm’s way. And when Bush decided to pursue the 2007 surge that turned the tide of the war in America’s favor, the despicable Harry Reid declared the conflict “lost” — before the surge was fully realized.

The Bush administration’s reaction? “It’s disturbing that some on Capitol Hill believe they know more than the commanders on the ground,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Disturbing? How about a defining moment completely squandered by a president whose determination to maintain a tone of civility with Democrats allowed them to turn the public against the war? Bush should have hammered Reid with the simplest of statements:

“How dare you give aid and comfort to our enemies and undermine American men and women who remain in harm’s way, Mr. Reid? Have you no decency, no honor and no shame?”

Some other “inconvenient” facts about the war:

  • Despite Democrats' continuing insistence Iraq was “Bush’s war,” 49 countries took part in a “coalition of the willing,” providing as many as 25,300 troops on the ground in addition to American fighting forces.

  • If Iraq was the failure Democrats believe it to be, how do they explain Barack Obama’s assertion that al-Qaida was “decimated,” “on the path to defeat” or some other variation at least 32 times during the 2012 presidential campaign? Or CIA director John Brennan’s assertion that ISIL was “pretty much decimated when U.S. forces were there in Iraq. It had maybe 700 or so adherents left”? Moreover, according to U.S. military statistics released in 2007, coalition forces killed 18,832 suspected insurgents, wounded another 5,196, and arrested 119,752. If permanently taking out nearly 19,000 people determined to kill Americans at every opportunity constitutes failure, one is hard-pressed to imagine what constitutes success.

  • How do Democrats reconcile their other smear, as in Iraq was a “war for oil” with the reality that U.S. companies were completely shut out of oil contracts by the Iraqi government while Russia and China got the lion’s share? Maybe that’s why Trump repeatedly insists we should just “take the oil.”

  • Democrats like to point out that France, Germany and Russia were opposed to the war. What they fail to add to that equation is that all three nations were involved in the massive, U.N.-based Oil for Food scandal involving billions of dollars in bribes between those nations and the late Butcher of Baghdad.

Make no mistake: It wasn’t the removal of Saddam Hussein that precipitated the rise of the Islamic State, the resurgence of al-Qaida and the ascendance of Iran in that war-torn nation. It was the feckless political machinations of Barack Obama, who decided to completely remove American troops from Iraq in 2011, ignoring the advice of his military experts. It was Obama who told the nation he left behind “an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant,” and Joe Biden who characterized that withdrawal as “one of the great achievements of this administration.” It was Obama who thoroughly underestimated ISIL, labeling them a “JV team.” It was Obama who threw away the sacrifices of American troops, even as he has been forced to put at least 3,500 of them back in country, despite 16 separate pronouncements assuring Americans there would be no more “boots on the ground” in that nation.

As for those who insist the attempt to build a democracy in that nation was a fatal mistake, maybe it was. On the other hand, some of the brightest minds the world has ever produced took from 1776 until 1789 to establish the United States of America. We will never know if 13 years of shepherding a far more fractious populace in Iraq would have succeeded, much as did Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s seven-year democratic reformation of Japan — backed by 430,000 American troops.

What we do know is this: No one with an ounce of integrity can assert that, even if we had killed bin Laden during our initial foray into the “good” war in Afghanistan (or if Bill Clinton had done the job when he had the chances), the war on terror would have been over. Thus the real argument about prosecuting a war on terror in the Middle East — as opposed to Lower Manhattan or Washington, DC again — is about location. If not Iraq, where? If not at all, how does one prevent the procurement of nuclear bombs or other WMDs by terrorists with no qualms whatsoever about sacrificing a few jihadist lives in exchange for millions of innocent Western ones?

Democrats knew the answer to those questions once. Here is a damning list of quotes by leading members of that party about the pressing need to remove Saddam Hussein from power that only underscore their subsequent hypocrisy with regard to the war. If Donald Trump wishes to embrace the political viewpoints of Code Pink and the despicable Democrat disinformation campaign aimed at undermining a wartime president for political gain, he is free to do so. Republican voters should also be free to support someone else.

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