In the case of the Iraq war, even hindsight is less than 20/20. No doubt, as the nation moves closer to a national election, the question of whether President George W. Bush was right to lead a coalition of nations against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s government will loom ever larger. Presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry already is issuing harsh criticisms of the Bush administration, blaming it for causing America to lose respect in the world because of the war.
The problem, in the height of an election year, is that both sides are looking for partisan advantage. That’s the nature of a democratic system, and being shocked by that fact is like being shocked that there are no virgins in the house of ill repute. Nevertheless, it’s the worst time to learn valuable lessons about a military endeavor when partisanship is at its zenith.
The Clovis News Journal’s editorial page was against the Iraq war from the start, arguing that the Bush administration never provided strong enough proof of Saddam’s ill intent or his weapons stockpile to justify a preventive war. We didn’t see any substantive connections between Iraq and al-Qaida. Our analysis seems correct, in retrospect. Many of the Democrats who now criticize the war, however, were not voicing similar concerns when it counted. That’s the problem with war debated as politics.
Other voices are even more shrill than the candidates and the official party organs. Many leftists are trading in conspiratorial theories about why the administration “lied us into war.” Many supporters of the war continue to act as if legitimate criticisms of it, or questions about the effectiveness of the ongoing peacekeeping efforts, amount to being soft on terror. Fortunately, there are some reasonable voices to be heard, but readers might need to search carefully to find them.
Hans Blix, the former chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq who has released a new book, “Disarming Iraq,” might be one such voice. We’ve read excerpts and heard Blix give an extensive interview to National Public Radio. He certainly is not without his biases, but Blix at least advances the debate in a calm and productive manner.
Blix admits the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein leading Iraq, but he doubts the war was justified based on international law and the lack of evidence assembled against Saddam at the time of the invasion. “Although the inspection organization was now operating at full strength and Iraq seemed as determined to give it prompt access everywhere, the United States appeared determined to replace our inspection force with an invasion army,” he writes in Chapter 1.
So why was the administration so intent on this war?
We suppose it will take a long time — well after the end of the 2004 presidential election — to find the right answer to that question. But it’s nice to have someone knowledgeable about the Iraq inspections advance the debate in a reasonable way.