Joe Lieberman and John Kerry have been lambasting Howard Dean for saying that the capture of Saddam Hussein “did not make America safer.” Their attacks are shameless, but, in politics, shame takes a back seat to survival.
Why “shameless”? Because, given the information that is now part of the public record, Dean’s comment is so obviously true.
Look at it logically. America would be safer if three conditions were in effect. The first would be if Iraq had actually possessed chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them. But Iraq had neither the weapons nor the means. After eight months as masters of Iraq, the U.S. has nothing to show of either. The evidence—or lack of it—is indisputable.
America would be safer if Iraq had networked with al-Qaeda in launching the September 11 attack. But there was no such connection. Saddam Hussein was not involved in that attack. Even Mr. Bush now admits that.
America would be safer if Saddam Hussein had, from his hiding places, exerted command control over forces bent on attacking the United States. Instead, he was on the defense, running from hidey-hole to hidey-hole, without so much as a cell phone.
This whole bloody, expensive, disastrous war was built on lies, and on
demonizing Saddam. Saddam Hussein was a cruel despot, yes. One armed and supported for years, in fact by the U.S. government and the CIA. Like Noriega and Osama bin Laden (earlier demons), Saddam Hussein was one of our guys, even when he was torturing and assassinating people, gassing Kurds, and all the rest of it. But a menace to the U.S. at this point? No way.
If Saddam was not a real threat, removing him makes us no safer than we were before. That’s elementary logic.
Except when your campaign is in desperate straits.
So Lieberman and Kerry are willing to lend the administration’s lies some credibility, surrender on a central issue in the unlikely event either wins the nomination; and hand Republicans a club to use on the likely Democratic nominee—all in order to gain ground in the polls. Dean’s comment, they claim, shows he “lacks the experience” to lead the country in foreign affairs. For many voters, however, their responses only underline that they have been tainted by their own Washington experience.
Lieberman may believe what he says, which isn’t necessarily a virtue. Kerry clearly knows better. He has been busy explaining to reporters that he authorized the President to go to war because the President deceived him. The President lied about his willingness to consult with others, Kerry has said, as well as about using war only as a last resort. And he has said that he and other senators were briefed by the administration with intelligence—later proven to be concocted—which seemed to document the immediate threat posed by Saddam Hussein. I took the high-minded, bipartisan route of loyalty, he says in effect, and was used like a fool.
But Kerry can’t have it both ways. He can’t excuse his vote authorizing the President to go to war against Iraq by claiming he was deceived, and then attack Howard Dean by acting as if those lies were all true. And if he or Senator Lieberman should win the Democratic nomination, what would they have left to run on? In their search for a way to wound Dean, they will have already conceded the most contentious issue of the campaign to Mr. Bush.
© Tony Russell, 2004