The bad faith of the war opponents
President Bush has made errors, as all humans do, but one thing he has not been guilty of is bad faith. The same cannot be said of his critics.
One thinks of those liberals and Democrats who accused President Bush of "lying" about weapons of mass destruction and about ties between al Qaeda and Iraq particularly now, because two weeks ago, after an unaccountable delay of three years, the administration declassified and released thousands of documents captured from Saddam Hussein's regime. They offer more proof of what we've already learned from other sources: that Saddam was in collusion with al Qaeda; that he did instruct his people on hiding evidence of WMDs; and that he did support worldwide terror.
Before turning to the documents, though, it is worth pausing for a moment to dwell on the bad faith of Mr. Bush's opponents. The whole world knew that Saddam had used chemical weapons at least twice: once against the Iranians and once against the Kurds within Iraq. (He had also threatened to use them against Israel.) The whole world further knew that Saddam engaged in a protracted game of cat and mouse with United Nations weapons inspectors, first throwing roadblocks in their path and finally expelling them from the country (a violation of the cease-fire agreement that followed the 1991 Gulf War, which required Iraq to account for its weapons and prove that they had been dismantled and destroyed).
The entire world also knew that the U.S. and Britain had not rushed to war with Iraq. To the contrary, the build-up to the 2003 invasion was lengthy and deliberate, giving ample time to the Iraqi dictator to hide or destroy his WMDs.
And yet when coalition forces failed to find caches of weapons, the cry on the left was "Bush lied." It doesn't even make logical sense. Why would Mr. Bush want to launch a war on false pretenses? Would he purposely create a political problem for himself? Why? To enrich Halliburton? This is fever swamp talk. Yet it was heard among leading members of the Democratic Party, not just in the MoveOn.org milieu.
Nor was it correct to claim, as so many on the left did, that Mr. Bush altered the rationale for war after he failed to find WMDs. In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in February 2003, on the eve of the invasion, the president sketched his vision of a democratic Iraq that he hoped would begin the transformation of the despotic and violent Middle East into something more enlightened and free. He mentioned "disarming" Iraq by force, but it was far from the sole rationale for war.
Three years in, we are hearing from the summer soldiers....