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In 2008, authors David Horowitz and Ben Johnson released their book, “Party of Defeat.” It chronicled the Democratic Party’s duplicitous efforts regarding its initial support for the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war in Iraq, followed by their attempts to undermine it — for nothing more than crass political considerations. In a his new book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” former defense secretary Robert M. Gates, who served in both the Bush and Obama administrations, delivers a devastating confirmation of Horowitz’s and Johnson’s arguments.
In one of the book’s most trenchant passages, Gates notes a “remarkable” exchange he witnessed between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, in which both the current president and former secretary of state admitted their opposition to Iraq was all about gaining an edge in the 2008 presidential campaign. “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the  surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary,” writes Gates. As for Obama, he also “conceded vaguely that [his] opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying,” he adds.
Dismaying perhaps, but hardly surprising. As Party of Defeat chronicles, in October 2002, a majority of Senate Democrats and 40 percent of House Democrats supported Bush’s congressional resolution on Iraq in the fall of 2002. Many of them spoke passionately about the need to remove Saddam Hussein from power, including former Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Joe Biden (D-DE). “It is clear, however that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capability to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons,” Clinton asserted. “Saddam is dangerous. The world would be a better place without him,” said Biden.
Sen. John Kerry who ran against Bush in 2004, was equally supportive at the time. “I will be voting to give the president of the United States the authority to use force–if necessary–to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”
At that time, the public was also squarely behind the administration’s intentions. Contingent upon United Nations approval, obtained by the Bush administration when the U.N. Security Council unanimously authorized Resolution 1441 ordering Hussein to comply with the Gulf War truce or face “serious consequences,” a full two-thirds of the American public favored troops invading Iran to remove Hussein from power.
Yet only four months after the invasion began, Democrats did a complete about-face. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) began a media campaign, with funding help from billionaire George Soros and other assorted leftists, claiming Bush lied about the reasons for going to war. The campaign was orchestrated by high-level Democrats in a effort to turn the public against the administration. It led to the endlessly repeated slogan, “Bush lied, people died.”
Yet the campaign itself was based on a subsequently discredited series of lies perpetrated by Amb. Joe Wilson, who falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein had not been seeking to purchase uranium from Niger. Those lies were debunked by a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee on July 9, 2004, but by then the dynamics under which Democrats were operating had changed completely. The change was precipitated in large part by the emergence of radical anti-war leftist Howard Dean as the frontrunner for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, based on a MoveOn.org online primary vote in which Dean garnered 44 percent of the total.
Dean’s victory was not lost on eventual frontrunners John Kerry and John Edwards, who quickly abandoned their former support for the Iraq invasion. Other former war supporting Democrats fell into line as well, including Ted Kennedy (D-MA) who declared the war a “fraud,” and former Vice President Al Gore who screamed from a MoveOn.org platform that Bush “betrayed us! He betrayed America!”
Thus, even as the war was proceeding and American men and women remained in harm’s way, Democrats hoping that their newfound stance would gain them the White House in 2004, cravenly elevated their political ambitions above keeping the nation united in time of war.
In 2008, Clinton and Obama squared off against each other in their own efforts to burnish their anti-war credentials. Hillary accused Obama of being “inconsistent” on Iraq, while husband Bill called Obama’s characterization of his own Iraq record “the biggest fairytale I’ve ever seen.”
Prior to his election to the Senate in 2004, Obama demonstrated far more consistency in his opposition to the invasion than Hillary Clinton did. But by 2004, his position had become more nuanced. He talked about sending more troops into the country to stabilize it and facilitate withdrawal. In 2006, both he and Clinton voted against a resolution introduced by Kerry, requiring the redeployment of troops out of Iraq, as a means of forcing a political solution on the new government. Clinton had already embraced her own refutation of the war a year earlier, telling her supporters she had been duped by Bush and wouldn’t have authorized the use of force “based on what we now know.” By Dec. 2007, in the midst of presidential campaigning, both senators sponsored a resolution demanding a troop withdrawal and a cutoff of funding. They remained on the campaign trail when it was defeated by 71-24 margin.
That vote came almost a year after Bush initiated the hugely successful “surge,” deploying an additional 20,000 troops to crush the terrorist insurgency. The despicable Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) continued to poison the well of public opinion, declaring the war “lost” four months later, while the then-Democratically-controlled House voted 215-199 for a scheduled troop withdrawal from Iraq the following year.
Again, that was the same surge opposed by both Clinton and Obama for self-admitted political reasons.
Once Obama was elected, it was only a matter of time before withdrawal would become a reality. According to the New York Times, Obama decided to retain Gates to give his national security team “a respected professional and veteran of decades at the center of American foreign policy,” as well as a “bipartisan aura.” Yet that inner circle quickly became disenchanted with Gates, who describes his ongoing battles with the president’s security advisors, including Joe Biden. Gates describes the Vice President as a “man of integrity,” but that he “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” He also opposed Biden’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. “Whac-A-Mole hits on Taliban leaders weren’t a long term strategy,” he explains.
Gates was highly suspicious of the president’s effort to maintain tight control on national security operations, to the point where he considered resigning during a meeting in 2011. “I never confronted Obama directly over what I (as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta and others) saw as his determination that the White House tightly control every aspect of national security policy and even operations,” Gates insists. “His White House was by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ruled the roost” in the 1970s. He also illuminated Obama’s determination to “take credit for every good thing that happened while giving none to the career folks in the trenches who had actually done the work,” which “offended Secretary Clinton as much as it did me,” he reveals.
With regard to Iraq, Gates writes that he was hopeful he could “stabilize the country so that when U.S. forces departed, the war wouldn’t be viewed as a strategic defeat for the U.S. or a failure with global consequences… Fortunately, I believe my minimalist goals were achieved in Iraq.”
It was a temporary achievement that has been completely undone by President Obama. His disdain for re-negotiating a reasonable Status of Forces Agreement, including his August 2011 decision to commit only 3,000 to 5,000 troops to a post-war Iraq–in spite of being advised that 10,000-20,000 troops were necessary–killed the deal, and paved the way for the current chaos in that nation. Al Qaeda has re-emerged in several Iraqi cities, including Fallujah, where 1,300 Americans payed the ultimate price to drive the terrorists out. Moreover 8,000 Iraqis were killed in 2013, marking the bloodiest era since the worst years of the war.
Gates offers an indirect explanation regarding the roots of that debacle. Noting that Obama was a “president determined to change course—and equally determined from day one to win re-election,” he reveals that domestic political considerations “would therefore be a factor, though I believe never a decisive one, in virtually every major national security problem we tackled,” he explains. “The White House staff–including Chiefs of Staff Rahm Emanuel and then Bill Daley as well as such core political advisers as Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs–would have a role in national security decision making that I had not previously experienced (but which, I’m sure, had precedents).”
Bob Woodward, who reviewed the memoir, notes that Gates further reveals the president as someone who “doesn’t want to fight in Afghanistan or Iraq, but he won’t pay the political price for pulling out, so he leaves American troops stuck in a quagmire with straitjacket rules of engagement and no victorious objectives to work for.”
Gates’ most scathing description of Obama focuses on his questionable leadership ability, and his lack of commitment to the war in Afghanistan. That would be the same war in Afghanistan Obama and his fellow Democrats characterized as the “good war” for nearly a decade, if only to make the comparison between it and the “bad war” in Iraq. According to the former Defense Secretary, Obama no longer embraces his own contentions. “For him, it’s all about getting out,” writes Gates. He further reveals that by 2010, he reached the conclusion that Obama “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” even going so far as to say that the president was “outright convinced it would fail.”
Gates attempts to mitigate some of the criticism he levels at both Obama and Clinton, calling the president “a man of personal integrity” and insisting that “Obama was right in each of these decisions” regarding his primary Afghan policies. He describes Clinton as “smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world.” (One suspects that families of the four Americans killed in Benghazi, even as Clinton wondered what difference would it make to learn the details of why that atrocity occurred, might disagree).
Gates levels some well-deserved criticism at Congress as well, describing most of the legislative branch as ” uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country.” He was equally incised by the “bureaucratic inertia of the Pentagon” that made getting anything “consequential” done “damnably difficult—even in the midst of two wars.”
Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer called Gates’ revelation about Obama’s lack of faith in prosecuting the Afghan war and his own troop surge into that theater “shocking.” “Obama doesn’t believe in the surge or in the war, or in his own actions,” he noted. “He doesn’t believe in [General] Petraeus, he hates [Afghan President] Karzai, he thinks the war isn’t his. How can a commander-in-chief do that?” he wondered. Krauthammer further contended that Gates’ confirmation of Obama’s outlook is “an indictment of the president that rises above everything else he’s done in his presidency.”
It is far more than that. It is the culmination, painstakingly assembled by David Horowitz and Ben Johnson, of the American left’s effort to divide the nation for political gain, even if it puts America’s national security interests at risk in the process. Moreover, they received ample help from the same media that assiduously detailed every mistake, horror and draped coffin during the Bush administration, even as coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan virtually evaporated when Obama was elected. In the process, both entities have thoroughly alienated the American public against war. Thus, it remains very possible our nation will allow Islamofascism, as well as other national security threats, to proceed virtually unchecked, because a majority of Americans now believe no foreign entanglements whatsoever are worth pursuing.
“The war with Islamofascism cannot be won if its religious roots are denied or its global reach is ignored,” concluded Horowitz and Johnson six years ago:
“It cannot be won if Americans deny themselves the means necessary to fight the war–whether these involve strategies to strike first, or to spy on our enemies before they attack us, or to deny terrorist the rights of American citizens–thereby turning the Constitution into a suicide pact. It cannot be won if we allow a disloyal and hostile Left to dictate the parameters of our political debate. It can only be won if Americans put their differences aside to come together as a people, and unite as a nation, and mobilize the powers of our extraordinary civilization to confront the enemy who has attacked us.”
The current state of Iraq, and the willingness of a majority of Americans who once understood the need to forcefully confront Islamofascism–but are now seemingly resigned to allowing defeat to be snatched from the jaws of victory–epitomizes a nation divided by leftist fecklessness. It is understandable that Americans are quite weary of the war against Islamic terror. Unfortunately, they are far from weary of pursuing war against us. That is the bottom line, all the leftist political machinations in the world notwithstanding.
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