The Authorization for the Use of Force bill – passed by majorities of both parties in both Houses – is the legal basis for the president’s war, which Democrats have since betrayed along with the troops they sent to the battlefield. The Authorization bill begins with 23 “whereas” clauses justifying the war. Contrary to Gore and the Democratic critics of the Bush administration, only two of these clauses refer to stockpiles of WMD. On the other hand, twelve of the reasons for going to war refer to UN resolutions violated by Saddam Hussein.
Even if these indisputable facts were not staring Gore in the face, the destruction of WMD could not have been the “first rationale” for the war in Iraq for this simple reason: On the very eve of the war, the president gave Iraq an option to avoid a conflict with American forces. On March 17, two days before the invasion, Bush issued an eleventh-hour ultimatum to Saddam: leave the country or face war. In other words, if Saddam had agreed to leave Iraq, there would have been no American invasion. It is one of the most revealing features of the Democrats’ crusade against George Bush that they blame the war on him instead of Saddam.
The argument that Bush manipulated the facts about Iraqi WMD to pursue a war policy that was aggressive and unfounded is demonstrably false. Bush acted on the consensus of every major intelligence agency – including the British, the French, the Russian, the German and the Jordanian – all of whom believed that Saddam had WMD.
In other words, he cannot reasonably be accused of inventing the existence of Saddam’s WMD, although that is precisely what Gore and other demagogues on the Left do on an almost daily basis. Since every Democratic senator who voted for the war was provided by the administration with a copy of the intelligence data on Saddam’s WMD, the charge made by Gore and other Democratic senators that they were deceived is both cynical and hypocritical, as well as false.
Gore’s charges continue: “We were told by the president that war was his last choice, when it was his first preference.”
Was it? That depends on what one means by “first preference.” If what Gore means is that the president prepared for war with Saddam long before the war began, well, of course he did. It was his responsibility to do so. It is the Pentagon’s motto – and a fundamental doctrine of every strategist from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz – that if you want peace, prepare for war. By 2001, when Bush took up residence in the Oval Office, Saddam had already broken the Gulf War truce many times over. American pilots were engaged in a low-intensity armed conflict with the Iraqi military over the “no-fly zones” the truce had created.
In 1998, Saddam expelled the UN inspectors from Iraq. Why would he do so if it was not his intention to do mischief as well? Specifically, why would he do so if it was not his intention to develop the weapons programs – the WMD programs – that the Gulf truce outlawed and that the UN inspectors were there to stop? The terrorist attacks of 9/11 showed that Saddam’s mischief could have serious consequences – not because Saddam had a role in 9/11 but because Saddam celebrated and endorsed the attacks, had attempted to assassinate an American president and had hosted terrorist organizations and gatherings engaged in a holy war against the West.
The only reason Saddam allowed the UN inspectors to return to Iraq in the fall of 2002 was because Bush placed 200,000 U.S. troops on its border. It would have been irresponsible of Bush to put those troops on the border of a country that was violating international law unless he meant to enforce the law. But the troops were there to go to war only if Saddam Hussein failed to honor the 1991 truce, not to slake the aggressive appetites of the president of the United States, as America’s enemies – and Al Gore – maintain.
Saddam’s offer to allow the UN inspectors to return to Iraq coincided with Bush’s appearance at the UN in September 2002. His message to the UN was that it needed to enforce its resolutions or become irrelevant. If UN did not enforce the resolutions that Saddam had violated, the United States would do so in its stead. Jimmy Carter and Al Gore marked the occasion by publicly attacking their own president for putting such pressure on Saddam Hussein. This was the beginning of the Democratic campaign to sabotage an American war in progress, which has continued without letup ever since.