Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman said Tuesday he believed the war in Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 eventually led to the democratic uprisings of the Arab Spring because it provided proof that dictators can be overpowered.
During a recent visit to the region, Mr. Lieberman, a onetime Democrat-turned-independent from Connecticut, said he met a parliamentarian who talked about the role of the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in sparking the series of anti-government protests and revolts throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa.
“He said that was a direct cause of the uprising, but it really began when people saw the Iraqi people pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein … because it said that these tyrants are not forever,” Mr. Lieberman told a group of reporters at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor.
Mr. Lieberman, a strong backer of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, said he would prefer to keep “some troops” in Iraq to help solidify the country’s security, despite President Obama’s plan to withdraw all U.S. forces by year’s end. Mr. Lieberman stressed that he still believed that the war in Iraq was the right thing to do, despite the 4,500 Americans deaths and the nine-year mission’s $1 trillion cost.
“I still believe very strongly that going into Iraq was the right thing to do,” he said. “We are more secure as a result of our successes with the Iraqi people in Iraq. … However, there is no question that mistakes were made in carrying out the war, and it cost much more in American life and treasure than I ever thought it would.”
“It is not a perfect situation that we’ve ended up with, but it’s a lot better than having Saddam Hussein there,” he added.
With some caveats, Mr. Lieberman also agreed with former Vice President Dick Cheney’s comments Monday night on CNN that President Obama should have ordered an airstrike to destroy a downed U.S. surveillance drone that subsequently fell into the hands of Iranian officials. Mr. Cheney said at the time that he has sources who say Mr. Obama rejected a recommendation to take out the U.S. spy plane before it hit the ground.
“I wished that we had found a way to go in and destroy it … so that Iranians or anyone they might share it with wouldn’t have the benefit of this technology,” Mr. Lieberman said, noting that he wasn’t in the Situation Room at the time and hasn’t been fully briefed on the subject.