Ted Kennedy weighs in

Ted Kennedy has an op-ed piece in the Washington Post proclaiming the campaign that toppled Saddam Hussein “a dishonest war.” But if the war is dishonest, then President Bush must have lied about it; yet Kennedy fails to present any evidence that Bush did so. The closest he comes is this statement: “There was no imminent threat. Hussein had no nuclear weapons, no arsenals of chemical or biological weapons, no connection to Sept. 11 and no plausible link to al Qaeda.” Kennedy overlooks the fact that the president never tried to justify the war based on claims of an imminent threat, a connection between Saddam and 9/11 (of which there is some evidence), or a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda (of which there is substantial evidence). Nor did Bush claim that Iraq had nuclear weapons. He did contend that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons. However, for this claim to be dishonest, it must be (1) false and (2) something that Bush did not believe to be true. Kennedy does not show that either of these conditions is satisfied.
As one reads Kennedy’s piece, it becomes clear that the Senator’s real outrage stems not from his unsubstantiated claim that Bush lied, but from the fact that the Democrats were outflanked politically on the issue. Kennedy devotes only the two sentences quoted above to his allegation of dishonesty, but spends about one-fourth of his piece moaning about the politics of the run-up to war, including the obligatory reference to Karl Rove.
Kennedy, of course, fails to grasp the contradiction between his claim that Bush lied about the existence of WMD and his claim that the war was “driven by politics.” If Bush was driven by politics, he would never have gone to war on the stated ground that Iraq had WMD unless he thought Iraq really had such weapons. Bush knew that we would win the war, and he knew that once we did he would become politically vulnerable if WMD were not found. Thus, if Bush did not think Iraq had WMD, the only reasonable moves politically were (1) to refrain from going to war or (2) to justify the war based on reasons other than WMD (or at least to offer additional major reasons prior to commencing the war).
Critics of the administration can argue (albeit without good evidence) that Bush lied about WMD in order to wage a war he thought, for ideological reasons, needed to be fought. Alternatively, they can argue (again without good evidence) that Bush waged war to advance his political fortunes and those of his party. But they can’t argue both. To do so is not only dishonest; it is stupid.


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