Why the Democratic betrayal on Iraq leaves Obama stuck in Syria.
History is filled with ticking time bombs. The time bombs can be ignored, but they never go away. The rhetoric of even the most talented politicians can reshape whether people hear the ticking, but not whether the bombs will explode.
Saddam was a ticking time bomb.
In 1992, Al Gore accused President George Bush of “a dangerous blindness to the murderous ambitions of a despot.” Eight years later, the Democratic Party platform proclaimed, “As President, Al Gore will not hesitate to use America's military might against Iraq.”
Three years later, the Democratic Party, which had initiated the most aggressive military action against Iraq since the Gulf War and whose leading lights had repeatedly pledged to get tough on Saddam, had reinvented themselves as the anti-war party.
In 2002, Gore had told the Council on Foreign Relations that Iraq was “a virulent threat in a class by itself.” A year later he was talking that way about George W. Bush.
But did Iraq stop being a virulent threat in a class by itself because Al Gore changed his mind?
When President Clinton called Iraq “a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction,” did that change once his party decided that their political advantage lay in pretending that one of the few countries whose use of chemical weapons against civilians was explicitly documented never had any WMDs?
History marched on. The Democrats used their wartime sabotage to catapult themselves into Congress and the White House and became, as they had been before, the war party. And Saddam’s WMDs that they had joked about in the heady days when Bush was a chimp and Michael Moore was a cinematic genius had not gone away.
A decade after the worm had turned, it turned again. And Saddam’s WMDs were used again. This time in Syria. And the Democrats found themselves scrambling to explain why they didn’t want to go to the United Nations or give Assad a chance to disarm.
The Democrats had turned a bipartisan position on Iraq, a position that they had actually attacked Republicans for being too soft on, into a partisan position. And now they find themselves haunted by the legacy of that betrayal.
Their pretense that Bush’s case for war in Iraq was bad, but that their case for war in Syria is good, rings hollow. Bush’s case for war was also Clinton and Gore’s case for war. It was not some innovative notion cooked up by Dick Cheney in a bunker, but a widely held consensus.
The Democrats had undermined American foreign policy to get to Bush. Now getting Bush may cost them Assad. Each action is a choice and each choice has consequences further down the road.
Their actions cost the lives of American soldiers and made it impossible to move against Syria. And now that they have finally decided that they want to move against Syria, they are burdened by the weight of the Post-American policy order that they put into place. The limitations on their freedom of action come from their attacks on the Iraq War.
It was widely known that Saddam’s WMDs had been moved to Syria. The reports had come down from everyone from top Saddam loyalists to James Clapper, now the Director of National Intelligence. The Democrats had refused to give credence to those reports and their media allies had refused to take them seriously for purely political reasons.
Now they watch while the United Nations does what it does best, nothing, and the reports come in that Assad is moving his WMDs back to Iraq.
The irony would be quite toxic if the Democrats were capable of admitting what they had done.
Saddam’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction was one of those ticking time bombs of history and while the mad dictator may be dead, his bombs are still ticking. The rhetoric of the left succeeded in reshaping the political landscape, but it could not banish the actual weapons from the page.
Now the Democratic Party is forced to operate within the confines of a deep suspicion about American intervention over WMDs that it cultivated when it was to its political advantage while struggling to cope with a problem that its unwillingness to recognize Syria’s role in the Iraq War helped create.
During the Iraq War, Syria had become the receptacle for Saddam’s WMDs and the pathway for the waves of suicide bombers coming to kill Americans. Today the two countries have changed places with Syrian WMDs allegedly headed into Iraq and Iraqi suicide bombers headed into Syria.
Had President Bush been free to act against Syria, the insurgency might never have taken off and Saddam’s WMDs would not have turned into a regional traveling sideshow. But the same men who had warned about the threat of Saddam had decided that the threat of George W. Bush was even greater.
They made their choice and now they are being forced to live with it.
Had the Democrats not refused to act against Syria, Iraq might not have collapsed into an Iranian puppet and would not have become part of a Shiite axis. Had they not made it clear that they would not under any circumstances act against Iran, the Saudis and the rest of the GCC might not have decided to back a Muslim Brotherhood caliphate as a counterweight leading to the Arab Spring. And had the Democrats not then decided to back the Arab Spring, Assad would not be using Saddam’s WMDs against his people.
This is a crisis that the Democrats created at every turn.
The Democrats are spearheading their Syria campaign under a man who was for the Iraq War before he was against it and who was for Assad before he was against him and who is now for stopping Saddam’s WMDs after he was against it and after he was for it.
With moral clarity like that, it’s not too surprising that no one takes us seriously. And why would they?
The Democratic Party and the liberal establishment put all its weight into attacking the prospect of a president going to war without the approval of the United Nations and ridiculed the idea of WMDs. They turned opposition to war into the highest moral value of their party only to discover that they actually do believe in unilaterally invading places over WMDs.
Now they are trapped in their own web.
The Democratic betrayal on Iraq has left them stuck in Syria as the time bombs of history tick on.
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