David Horowitz: Jeb Bush Is Right About Iraq

In July 2003, four months after American troops had entered Iraq in a war Democrats authorized and supported, the leadership of the Democratic Party turned its back on the young men and women it had just sent into harm’s way and began a campaign of lies to discredit the war and sabotage America’s efforts to defeat the terrorists who had rallied to the defense of its monster regime. This was the greatest betrayal of our country in its wartime history, yet Republicans and conservatives have not only allowed the Democrats to get away with their treachery but have joined them in obscuring the facts of the war and taking the wrong lessons from it.


The latest case of this travesty is an article by Byron York in the Washington Examiner criticizing Jeb Bush for defending the decision to go to war in 2003 – a war that ended in the defeat of the terrorists and the establishment of a massive military base whose 20,000 troops would have stopped ISIS before it got started if Barack Obama had not decided to abandon the country altogether.

In making his case against Bush York repeats the principal lies that have been used in this “anti-war” campaign, which has done incalculable damage to America’s interests in the war on terror and to Americans’ security at home. The first lie is that the war was about weapons of mass destruction alleged to be in Saddam Hussein’s possession at the time. It is true that without this claim, Democrats who had shown no appetite for fighting the war on terror for the previous ten years would probably not have supported the decision to invade Iraq. But the war was not about stockpiles of WMDs. It was about 17 UN Resolutions that the Iraq regime had defied in violation of the Gulf War Truce, and that were designed to prevent Saddam from building weapons of mass destruction, which he had already shown his determination to do.

The only reason Saddam had allowed any UN inspections was because George Bush had put 200,000 troops on the Iraqi border. These troops could not be kept there indefinitely. When Saddam defied a final Security Council ultimatum that expired on December 7, 2002, there was really no choice but to go to war.

The second lie is that there were no such weapons in Saddam’s possession at the time. There were. In the last year news reports have featured the discovery by ISIS of chemical weapons storage tanks in Iraq along with 2200 rockets filled with deadly Sarin gas. These are weapons of mass destruction that Saddam created and that were in Saddam’s possession on the day American troops entered Iraq, despite the lies told by the leadership of the Democratic Party and the confusion of Byron York, Megyn Kelly and many other well-meaning conservatives (including both George and Jeb Bush). The intelligence on Iraq may have been faulty, but the reasons for going to war as laid out in the Authorization for the Use of Force resolution that both parties supported and that president Obama relies on to this day are not.[1]

The lies successfully promulgated by Democrats about the Iraq War have made it an albatross around the neck of the Republican Party, and also the American people who because of them lies now face a daunting threat in the form of the Islamic State, which our “anti-war” president refuses to recognize as Islamic or a state. One could add, as well, the threat posed by the Hitlerite regime in Iran as it seeks to acquire nuclear weapons with the connivance of the “anti-war” Democrats, Obama, Kerry and Co. The time to begin refuting these lies and correct the record is now. This is not merely a matter of establishing historical truth. It is a matter of regaining our ability to prosecute the war against the Islamist enemy, about regaining confidence in American power and purpose. It is a matter of being able to defend ourselves.

Consequently we are reposting an article I wrote in 2004, which explains why we were in Iraq at the time, and what really happened to get us there. This article is a chapter in the third volume of The Black Book of the American Left which deals with the Iraq War and which I have called The Great Betrayal.

Why We Are in Iraq

Just before American and British troops entered Iraq to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein, a videotape of Osama bin Laden was aired on Al Jazeera TV. In that tape, broadcast on February 12, 2003, bin Laden said: “The interests of Muslims and the interests of the socialists coincide in the war against the crusaders.”[2] Bin Laden was referring to the fact that, four weeks earlier, millions of leftists had poured into the streets of European capitals and of Washington, San Francisco and New York to protest the removal of Saddam Hussein. Their goal was to prevent the United States and Britain from toppling Saddam and ending one of the cruelest, most repressive regimes in modern times. The protesters chanted “no blood for oil;” they labeled the United States “the world's greatest terrorist state;” they called America’s democratic government an “axis of evil;” and they compared America’s president to Adolph Hitler.[3]

In America, two groups organized the demonstrations against the war. One was International ANSWER, a Marxist-Leninist sect aligned with the Communist dictatorship in North Korea. The other was United for Peace and Justice, an organization led by Leslie Cagan, a veteran 1960’s leftist and member of the Communist Party until after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Coalition welcomed all factions of the left; it was composed of organizations that ranged from the Communist Party to the National Council of Churches to Muslim supporters of the terrorist jihad.

The global protests failed to stop the British and American military effort or save Saddam’s regime, which fell six weeks after the initial assault. This victory put an end to the filling of mass graves by the regime; it shut down the torture chambers and closed the prison that Saddam had built for four to twelve-year-olds whose parents had earned his disapproval. But Saddam’s forces were not entirely defeated. They regrouped to fight a rearguard guerilla campaign against the American “occupiers.” At the same time, the organizers of the anti-war protests continued their efforts, this time in the arena of electoral politics. Their activists marched into the Democratic presidential primary campaigns to support the candidacies of anti-war Democrats Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean.

The enormous resources in money and manpower that the activists mobilized against the war transformed the campaign of an obscure governor of Vermont into the Democratic frontrunner. Dean condemned America’s war in Iraq; he hinted that as president he would make peace at the earliest possible opportunity and withdraw American forces from the Gulf. Electoral politics thus became the left’s rearguard attempt to produce the result their pre-war protests had failed to achieve: an American defeat in Iraq.

With the resources of the left providing his tailwinds, Howard Dean soared to the top of the presidential pack. In the spring of 2003, just prior to the Iowa caucuses, Dean’s nomination appeared so inevitable that he was endorsed by the titular heads of the Democratic Party and by its chief defectors from the war, Jimmy Carter and Al Gore. But other Democrats collectively flinched. Verbal gaffes by the candidate who opined that the world was not safer because of the capture of Saddam, and erupted in a hyper-emotional outburst in Iowa caused many Democrats to wonder if a nominee so overtly radical could carry the party to victory in the national campaign in November. Within a few weeks, this question was decided as John Kerry and John Edwards responded to the polls by turning 180 degrees against his previous positions and announcing his opposition to the war. And the Democratic Party followed suit….

Baghdad fell in mid-April 2003. In June, Democratic leaders began assaulting the president as a cynical liar. Their claim was initially based on 16 reasonable words he uttered in a State of the Union address, whose veracity has since been confirmed by a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee.[4] As Senator John Edwards, one of the leaders of the attacks, observed, a president’s credibility is his most important asset. If that is so, why attack a wartime president for saying British intelligence had reported that Saddam was seeking bomb-making uranium in Niger, when the British had said just that? The vitriolic attacks on the president’s integrity while the war was only months old went beyond legitimate criticism and amounted to an effort to sabotage the American war effort, in hopes that a failed war would lead to a Republican defeat in the November elections.

One aspect of this sabotage was the outcry over the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison. Such incidents, deplorable in themselves, are common to all wars, but as war crimes go –as the crimes committed by our enemies in this war go – the incidents at Abu Ghraib were both minor and isolated, and committed by low-level military personnel. Still, we hold ourselves as a nation to higher standards than our enemies (and most of our friends), and a certain degree of public concern was in order. But when Abu Ghraib is inflated into a major atrocity and appears on the front page of The New York Times for more than 60 days (32 of them straight) and is compared by a leading senator to Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers, something else is going on.[5] It may have originated as an atrociously irresponsible effort to replace a sitting president. But its clear effect was to wage psychological warfare against one’s own country by undermining the moral authority of the commander-in-chief. The New York Times and Senator Kennedy expressed more outrage about Abu Ghraib in one day than Imam al-Sistani, the leader of Iraq’s Shi’ite population, did throughout the entire episode, about which he said exactly nothing.[6]

During the first year of the Iraq War, the focus of the Democratic attacks was on the rationale for the invasion itself. Democrats claimed that the premise of the war was wrong, and therefore the war was wrong. But this logic makes no sense. If we were to discover that Abraham Lincoln had contrived to send a secret Union force to attack Fort Sumter and blame it on the Confederacy, would that change our view of whether the Civil War was worth fighting? Yet that seems to be the logic of the opponents of the Iraq War, for whom “missing WMDs” have been construed as a reason for rejecting the war itself. Yet this is a war whose aims and purposes make it very hard to understand how anyone who is a supporter of human rights, or who believes in individual freedom, could be against it. In four years, George Bush has liberated nearly 50 million people in two Islamic countries. He has stopped the filling of mass graves and closed down the torture chambers of an oppressive regime. He has encouraged the Iraqis and the people of Afghanistan to begin a political process that would give them rights they have not enjoyed in 5,000 years. How can one not support this war?

The reason critics of the war give for not supporting it is that the president’s justification for the invasion was that Saddam possessed WMDs and that turned out not to be the case. In addressing this issue, it is important first to remember that the Democrats who are now in full-throated opposition to the war, and who accuse Bush of “dividing the nation,” joined him in authorizing it in the first place. Bush requested and secured a resolution for using force in Iraq from both political parties, which is more than his Democratic predecessor did in launching the war in the Balkans. Clinton neither sought nor obtained a congressional resolution to use force.[7] In gauging the sincerity of the Democratic attacks on Bush’s war decisions as and “unilateral,” and “illegal” it is worth remembering that Bill Clinton’s failure to seek authorization from Congress didn’t seem to bother Democrats at the time.

The “Authorization for the Use of Force” that Bush obtained in October 2002 contains 23 clauses that spell out the rationale for the war.[8] Of the 23 there are only two that even mention stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. If this was the principal argument for the war, the authorization didn’t make much of it. What the authorization did stress – in 12 separate clauses – were the16 UN resolutions that Saddam had ignored or defied. The first three of these, 687, 688 and 689, constituted the terms of the truce in the first Gulf War, whose violation was a legal justification for the war that followed.[9] The other 14 were failed attempts to enforce them. This is why we went to war: to enforce the UN resolutions and uphold international law.

Saddam Hussein had invaded two countries – Iran and then Kuwait – and used chemical weapons against his own people. We went to war with Saddam Hussein in 1991 to force him out of Kuwait, which his invading armies had swallowed. At the end of the war there was no peace treaty, merely a truce that established the conditions by which the allied coalition would allow him to remain in power. They instructed Saddam to disarm and to stop his programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. How do we know he had programs for developing weapons of mass destruction? Because he had used chemical weapons against the Kurds. Because his own brother-in-law, who was in charge of his nuclear weapons program, defected and revealed that he did. Because, under the UN resolutions, inspectors were sent into Iraq, located his weapons of mass destruction and destroyed the ones they found. The UN resolutions – backed by the armed power of the United States – partially worked. But only partially, and only for a while. Saddam was forced to stop the programs the UN inspectors discovered, and was forced to stop repressing the ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq, as the UN resolutions required. But without an occupying army in Iraq, the UN proved unable to hold him to the terms he had agreed to, and he remained an internationally recognized menace. With the help of his allies on the UN Security Council – France, Russia and China – Saddam circumvented the sanctions placed on him, obstructed the inspectors and evaded the terms of the resolutions until finally, in 1998, he expelled the UN inspectors from Iraq altogether.

This broke the truce and resumed the war, though the Clinton administration did not have the ability or will to prosecute it with a ground army. Instead the president fired 450 missiles into Iraq, more than his predecessor had launched during the entire Gulf War. He also got Congress to authorize an Iraqi Liberation Act, which called for the removal of the Saddam regime by force and was passed by an overwhelming majority in both parties. The act only authorized military help to Iraqis trying to overthrow Saddam, since Clinton could not conduct a serious war while he was mired in the Lewinsky scandal. In 1998, at least, Bill Clinton understood, as John Kerry and Tom Daschle and Al Gore also did at the time, that Saddam Hussein had violated the truce and was a threat to the peace. He was an aggressor twice over. He had shown that he was determined to circumvent the UN inspections and the arms control agreements he had signed. Intelligence agencies all over the world believed that Saddam was determined to break the UN sanctions and develop weapons of mass destruction. Why would he expel the UN inspectors if it were not his intention to build weapons of mass destruction and use them? The 2004 Duelfer report found enough evidence to conclude that it was.[10]

Saddam was a self-declared enemy of the United States who expressed his loathing for America in numerous ways – for example, by trying to assassinate an American president and by being the only head of state to celebrate the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Despite leftist claims to the contrary, there were in fact major links between international terrorists, including al-Qaeda, and the Saddam regime. These are documented in Stephen Hayes’s The Connection, which describes the relations between the government of Iraq, al-Qaeda, and the major world terrorist organizations.[11] Among other gestures to the jihad, the secularist Saddam had the proclamation “Allahu Akbar” inserted into the Iraqi flag. He did not adopt this mantra of Islamic martyrs from any religious revelation. He adopted it because Islamic terrorists had made the slogan their war cry and Saddam wanted to join their side.


[1] “Authorization For Use Of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution Of 2002,” – Public Law 107-243 – Joint Resolution, 107th Congress, October 16, 2002, p. 1497,http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-107publ243/html/PLAW-107publ243.htm


[2] “Bin Laden's Message to Muslims in Iraq: Fight the ‘Crusaders’,” The New York Times, February 15, 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/15/world/threats-and-responses-bin-laden-...

[3] “Anti-war Demonstrators Rally Around the World,” CNN.com, January 19, 2003,http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/01/18/sproject.irq.us.protests/. The war of course was not about oil. In the end China, which had opposed the war, reaped the benefits of what became Iraq’s oil boom when the United States left.

[4] “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” George Bush, State of the Union speech, January 28, 2003, http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/01/28/sotu.transcript/

[5] Adam L. Penenberg, “Searching for The New York Times,” Wired.com, July 14, 2004;
New York Times Streak of Page One Stories on Abu Ghraib Ends at 32 Days!,” June 2, 2004, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1145998/posts

[6] Jeff Jacoby, “Ted Kennedy's Anti-American Slander,” Boston.com, May 25, 2004,http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2004/05...

[7] John C. Yoo, Professor of Law, University of California at Berkeley School of Law, “Kosovo, War Powers, And The Multilateral Future,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 148, No. 5, May 2000; also available at:http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/facpubs/156

[8] “Authorization For Use Of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution Of 2002,” – Public Law 107-243 – Joint Resolution, 107th Congress, October 16, 2002, p. 1497,http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-107publ243/html/PLAW-107publ243.htm

[10] Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD, with Addendums (Duelfer Report), September 2004, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-DUELFERREPORT/content-detail.html

[11] Stephen Hayes, The Connection: How al-Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America, Harper, 2004