- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 12, 2004

The past two weeks have brought to mind a lot of history — from the dedication of the World War II Memorial on Memorial Day weekend in Washington to the 60th anniversary of D-Day observed on the beaches at Normandy.

President Bush has invoked the history and example of World War II as he wages war against terrorism, which to him includes establishing a stable, elected government in Iraq.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, is joined by most congressional Democrats and other party partisans in asserting President Bush acted illegally, immorally and imprecisely in toppling Saddam Hussein from power and rescuing the Iraqi people from his reign of terror. They’re glad he’s gone, understand. They just would have done it differently. It apparently has not occurred to them that had they “done it differently” Saddam would probably still be in power.

The president’s critics would do well to recall an event of recent history. On Oct. 31, 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act. Mr. Clinton said he wanted “to be clear on what the U.S. objectives are: The United States wants Iraq to rejoin the family of nations as a freedom-loving and law-abiding member. This is in our interest and that of our allies within the region.”

Mr. Clinton said his administration had pursued and would continue to pursue these objectives through “active application of all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. The evidence is overwhelming that such changes will not happen under the current Iraq leadership” (emphasis mine). Mr. Clinton also referred to “Iraq’s weapons and missile programs,” which he said he wanted to eliminate.

The language of the resolution is even tougher and more detailed than Mr. Clinton’s statement. It lays out, like a criminal indictment, “findings” about Iraq’s behavior since 1980 when it invaded Iran and used chemical weapons in an eight-year war that killed hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions.

Section 3 of the resolution says: “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.” President Bush turned those words into action.

A number of Democrats who voted for the Iraq Liberation Act, including Mr. Kerry, now criticize President Bush for doing precisely what they then said they wished the Clinton administration to do.

Mr. Bush got a major boost from Iraq’s new prime minister, Ayad Alawi, who June 5 formally asked U.S. and British forces to stay in Iraq after the official transfer of “sovereignty” July 1. Mr. Alawi warned if they leave a “major disaster” might ensue.

The president has been right to warn of stepped-up violence before, during and after the transition. Terrorists are not about to surrender their future in Iraq or anywhere else. They must be defeated and their host countries and financial backers convinced that harboring such people will bring on them the fate of Saddam Hussein.

The president should continue reminding the public victory will not be easy, just as success in World War II was not easy. That victory six decades ago destroyed the twin evils that had gripped Germany and Japan. But one evil is always replaced by another. We are being tested at least as much as we were in World War II. Then, Adolf Hitler thought America weak and bet his Third Reich on it. He lost.

Now it’s Osama bin Laden’s turn to test a new generation of Americans to see if it has the will and the strength to vanquish him and his “evildoers,” as the president likes to call them.

Those who support how Mr. Bush liberated Iraq might wish to make copies of the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act and distribute it widely. It would remind people what even many Democrats, including Mr. Kerry, favored in the recent past.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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