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In some circles, it’s pretty much taken for granted that the war in Iraq is an unmitigated disaster with no possible gain for all the pain, and that you can make this observation over and over with no one objecting. Only someone is. Rudolph Giuliani.
“Do I think the mission overall in Iraq is the correct one?” he asked the other day, following up with a quick answer. “I think without a doubt it is.”
According to the Associated Press, the Republican presidential candidate then went on to say “the Democrats are going to change their minds about it again.” He noted that Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards both voted in the Senate to allow military action in Iraq, although Clinton now says she wouldn’t do it if she had all the information then that she has now, and Edwards has apologized.
“Suppose Hillary Clinton and John Edwards’ new position was their position back then, that it was a mistake to take him (Saddam Hussein) out,” Giuliani is quoted as saying. “Wouldn’t we be dealing with Saddam Hussein becoming nuclear right now? If Iran was becoming nuclear, what would he be doing? Sitting there letting his arch-enemy gain nuclear power over him? Or would we now be dealing with two countries seeking to become nuclear powers?”
The answer of some is, oh heavens no — Saddam was hemmed in by U.N. weapons inspectors right before we went to war with him, and that’s where he would have stayed, scared to return to his genocidal, super-aggressive, endlessly reckless, weapons-adoring ambitions.
The only thing forgotten in this response is everything, that, for instance, Saddam was bribing his way out of sanctions and was once again refusing to cooperate with inspectors. If he had bluffed his way out of this U.N. resolution as he had done with better than a dozen others in the past, he would have won. He would have shown that paper tigers seldom grow very sharp teeth. He could have gotten on with his bad, old ways.
The members of the Senate who voted for the war-authorizing resolution themselves had access to U.S. intelligence reports that had found evidence overall that Saddam still had weapons of mass destruction — they weren’t dependent simply on pronouncements from the White House. For that matter, intelligence agencies in other nations, even including France, had come to the same conclusion. No weapons of mass destruction have been located, as everyone knows, but we also know Saddam could have reconstituted programs developing biological and chemical weapons with relative ease and had at least made inquiries indicating an interest in once more aiming to construct nuclear weapons.
Some of the arguments against this war are certainly powerful, including one that came from the first President Bush. He said in a book that defeating Iraq would leave you with an unholy mess to try to manage, and, of course, that is what happened. The most grievous difficulty is dealing with an enemy whose chief mode of combat is to send out suicide bombers to slaughter civilian members of its own population. Finding a way to make the Iraqi government work in a land of tribes that have hated each other for centuries is an enormous hurdle, and instituting a system that will be self-sustaining, reasonable and decent over the long haul is a job so perplexing as to sometimes seem impossible. Meanwhile, people are being killed, including U.S. troops, and the financial cost to the United States is huge.
There is the other side, though, namely that the worst fears voiced by the Bush administration could have materialized — that without this war, an emboldened Saddam might stealthily have put powerful weapons in the hands of terrorists and once more pursued nuclear goals leading to even more danger of terrible catastrophe in the world. Despite how badly the occupation by the United States and its allies has gone, it’s possible now that Iraq will emerge into a responsible, humane nation helping to promote peace and stability in the Middle East.
“I think the verdict of history is going to be that it was the right decision,” Giuliani said.
(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)