I wonder how many voters in 2004 thought they were casting ballots for a Democrat named Kerrey who lost a leg in Vietnam and won the Congressional Medal of Honor before being elected to the U.S. Senate instead of the actual Democratic candidate named Kerry who earned three Purple Hearts for superficial wounds during a three month rotation in Vietnam and then threw those medals away (actually someone else’s) in a dramatic protest against the war before being elected to the U.S. Senate?
Well, the difference became even more stark this week when genuine war hero Kerrey wrote the kind of non-partisan, intelligent and perceptive rationale for the Long War that (single e) Kerry would never write and our current Commander in Chief should have written months ago.
Hero Kerrey asks why his fellow Democrats (such as Kerry no e) are advocating a policy that would be anathema to them if it were not for the existence of George Bush:
“Supposed we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn’t you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end the carnage?”
This is an excellent point and not entirely hypothetical since President Clinton made regime change in Iraq the official policy of the United States in 1998.
According to the frothing cable TV gladiator news corps, the claim that regime change originated in the Clinton Administration is yet another “BUSH LIE®.”
But the text of the Iraq Liberation Act is explicit:
“It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.”
And when President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act on October 31, 1998 he offered this reasoning:
“The United States favors and Iraq that offers its people freedom at home. I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq’s history or its ethnic or sectarian makeup. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else. The United States looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life.”
And this policy was supported fervantly by many politicians who now claim that it was a Bush creation based on fraudulent information.
So if regime change in Iraq is not some neo-con plot hatched by the Bush Administration in the aftermath of 9/11, what is it?
Well, the simplest answer is usually the right one: a fascist dictatorship fueled by petrodollars in the heart of an unstable and strategically important part of the world posed a recognizable threat to regional and therefore global security. The 9/11 attacks made that threat less tolerable for the United States and transition to a democratically supported regime in Iraq more attractive.
Changing the regime was relatively simple. Securing a democratic government has been more difficult but no less important.
But the hard part has already been accomplished. Millions of Iraqis voted for a new government without acrimony or charges of fraud.
Today the violence in Iraq is over who will control that government, not over the U.S. involvement in bringing it about.
President Clinton’s intentions are still valid:
“The United States wants Iraq to rejoin the family of nations as a freedom-loving and law-abiding member.”
Had the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 succeeded in overthrowing Saddam, it’s very likely the same dynamic would have taken place then as now with Islamofascists attempting to undermine the nascent democracy by provoking sectarian violence.
The goal of self determination for Iraqis is an admirable one. You can debate whether it is worth American lives or not. But it’s incorrect to say it is a policy conjured by the Bush Administration. And it’s tragic that the struggle is being exploited for parochial partisan gain here in the United States.
Hero Kerrey reminds us that this struggle will not go away by itself. Zero Kerry reminds us why he wasn’t entrusted with presidential power in 2004.
Given enough time, reason will always prevail. So at least there’s hope.