Nearly a decade ago, on October 10, 2002, a number of prominent Democrats including West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller and then US Senator from New York Hillary Clinton, delivered speeches asserting that the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, had used them in the past, likely would again, and should be deposed.
Other Democrats, politicians and bureaucrats alike, made similar statements in the months and years before - going back deep into the Clinton Administration - and after that date. Their comments were used to bolster then President George Bush's argument that having routed Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, we should turn our attention to Iraq where terrorists were regrouping.
You can see some of the comments in the video below and then I'll tell you why they didn't matter to me then and don't matter to me now.
I never cared about the weapons Saddam Hussein had in his arsenal because the weapons possessed by a potential enemy should not be the reasons used in deciding whether to fight; they may be a major factor in deciding how to fight, but not whether.
I supported Bush's position on Iraq because members of Al Qaeda, fresh from their defeats on Afghanistan's battlefields, including Abu Al-Zarqawi, one of Osama bin Laden's top inner circle strategists, were moving into Iraq to reestablish terrorist training camps from which to launch further attacks against our country. This was done with the full knowledge and approval of Saddam Hussein.
Bush had promised to hunt down and "smoke out" any terrorists who harbored ill will against our country after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and made it clear that any country aiding or sheltering them was our enemy. Regardless of the previous history between Saddam and the US it was abundantly clear that he was now our enemy, was harboring terrorists, and aiding them in their efforts to reestablish their bases and infrastructure.
The rest is history. Congress gave Bush overwhelming, bi-partisan approval to invade Iraq, we did, Saddam's army was destroyed in weeks, and the instant that it was reported - somewhat inaccurately it turned out - that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction couldn't be located, and thus supposedly never existed, the previous purrs of approval turned into brays of betrayal.
You can see more of Hillary Clinton's comments supporting a Congressional resolution on Iraq here.
She obviously waffled all over the place, but in the end she supported Bush.
Fast forward to yesterday, when after more than 8 years of war, the Obama Administration declared that our military presence in Iraq is officially over. A ceremony was held, representatives of the Iraqi government refused to attend, and the battle flags were furled. Yet, we still have troops in Iraq, and may send more back.
The New York Times reported that: Although Thursday’s ceremony represented the official end of the war, the military still has two bases in Iraq and roughly 4,000 troops, including several hundred who attended the ceremony. At the height of the war in 2007, there were 505 bases and more than 170,000 troops.
Those troops that remain are still being attacked daily, mainly by artillery or mortar fire on the bases, and roadside bombs aimed at convoys heading south toward Kuwait.
Even after the last two bases are closed and the final American combat troops withdraw from Iraq by Dec. 31, a few hundred military personnel and Pentagon civilians will remain, working within the American Embassy as part of an Office of Security Cooperation to assist in arms sales and training to the Iraqis.
But negotiations could resume next year on whether additional American military personnel can return to assist their Iraqi counterparts further.
So are we out of Iraq or not? Has our mission been accomplished or not? I guess it depends on who you ask and how the word "mission" is defined.
That is the irony of what obviously was a political decision made in the White House with little to no support from the military commanders. The decision to leave, especially the way it was done, accomplished little except to give President Barack Hussein Obama a semblance of plausibility when he tries to convince one-time supporters in coming months that he really kept his campaign promises of four years ago.
FOX News Pentagon reporter Jennifer Griffin covered the ceremony on scene with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and when the ceremony was over asked him a question that had to be asked, but which he struggled to answer. "Was it worth it?" she asked.
It was noted during this segment that America lost nearly 4,500 troops killed and more than 30,000 wounded, in addition to more than 100,000 Iraqi deaths. What was not spelled out was whether those Iraqi deaths were civilians, terrorists or a combination.
Panetta gave Griffin a "bub-buh-bub-buh" response and I stopped listening to him.
I think the answer to her question is simple: "It was necessary."
Let there be no doubt that our military once again performed magnificently, and accomplished the mission they were given in 2003, which was to overthrow Hussein and eliminate the terrorist threat from Iraq.
It seemed for a time that every Muslim jihadist in the world who could scape together the travel fare made his way to Iraq to die in battle and take his place in the Muslim version of paradise. Waiting in Iraq were America's armed forces, who obliged each and every jihadist and gladly helped them meet their maker.
A few years ago I received some information indicating that prior to "The Surge" in which our troop strength was greatly increased and our battlefield presence proved to be overwhelming, our troops had sent more than 50,000 terrorists on the path to paradise. Presumably, with the intense fighting during the Surge and the continuing mop-up operations since, that number went considerably higher.
When all was said and done the terrorists were crushed, Iraqi citizens began forming their own government, held their own elections, and are in the process of continuing on as an independent Democratic country. Challenges abound of course, including interference from Iran, but Al Qaeda in Iraq was crushed and never did launch another major attack against the US.
But the little of Panetta's speech that I caught did not sound like a victory speech, and in fact when Camp Victory was handed over to the Iraqi government on Dec. 2, Vice President Joe Biden refused to use the word "victory" in his remarks there. I heard stupid comments along the lines of "our military can leave with their chins up," or in a similar vein "we can march out with our heads held high."
Why isn't Hillary Clinton standing on the border with Kuwait, tousling our little soldiers' hair and handing out lollipops as they go by? That is the image the Obama Administration is trying to portray, isn't it?
I am getting a very bad feeling of deja vous, akin to the situation in Vietnam in 1973 when the US and its allies had decisively defeated the communist army of North Vietnam and had annihilated its Viet Cong guerrilla puppets in the south.
Even though they had been handed the conditions to declare a full victory and insist on a total surrender, at the cost of 58,000 Americans killed and more than 100,000 wounded, America's politicians and bureaucrats, some of whom it was later revealed were little more than traitors and communist plants, instead crafted a wholly insufficient cease fire and peace accord. The Paris Peace Accord was remarkable only in that it allowed the US Congress to abandon an ally who was totally dependant on our support.
Two years later, alone and defenseless, the south fell to the resurgent communists who erupted in an orgy of butchery and slaughter, ultimately murdering nearly 3 million people, imprisoning hundreds of thousands in concentration camps, and sending more than a million fleeing on the South China Sea where some 300,000 disappeared.
The ruthlessness of the communist atrocities in Southeast Asia in the mid-1970s was on a par with that of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung. But the US stood by while it happened, lifting not one finger to help our fallen allies, and sucking up to China in the meantime.
The likelihood of a similar outcome for Iraq is unfortunately, all too real. Iran is licking its chops over the opportunity to renew its war with its western neighbor, and has been sending operatives into Iraq for years to recruit new jihadists and spread terrorism.
The decision to simply leave and let the chips fall where they may is as cowardly an act by the Obama administration as was his response to Iran capturing one of our unmanned spy drones. "Can we please have it back? Pretty please? With sugar on top?"
That was pathetic, as was duly noted by every single Republican candidate for president in the FOX News debate last night. Oh, except for Ron Paul who thinks Iran is just a misunderstood kid who needs some positive reinforcement and time to contemplate its future.
Paul was ranting at one point in the debate and I'm pretty sure I heard him say that every war the US has fought since WWII has been unnecessary! Ron Paul may have some popular positions on domestic and constitutional issues but he is clueless, a babe in the woods, on international matters and he is dangerous to the future of America. There isn't room here to go into the reasons so I'll save it for another column.
But I will say this. I have friends and family members who fought in Iraq, and I consider them heroes of the highest order, who did their duty, helped the citizens of Iraq rise above both the terrorists and the terrors of living under a cruel dictatorship. They went to Iraq on more than one occasion, took on the jihadists face to face, defeated them convincingly and kept our country free from attack.
For that every American can be, and should be grateful!
I will not tolerate any effort by any bureaucrats or politicians or their stooges to denigrate or undermine the efforts, performance and accomplishments of the military in Iraq. They went, they won, and they came home in victory, period.
There was no Internet in 1975 - except in Al Gore's mind - and there were few people who had sufficient facts about Vietnam to counter the media version of events. That is no longer the case. And this time, attempts to do to today's veterans what was done to Vietnam veterans will be met with robust opposition to put it mildly.
What was it the actor Tom Berenger said in the movie Platoon? "I'll take a personal interest in seeing him suffer." Worth considering.
Friday, December 16, 2011