- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2005

It’s easy to blame President Bush for insufficiently articulating his case for the war against Iraq, but he has a nation to lead and a war to fight. Plus, he already made the case for attacking Iraq when it mattered — before we attacked.

He convinced Congress — overwhelmingly — and the American people. Instead of our insisting he spend all his time responding to the left’s distractions over this, more of us should do a better job coming to his aid on the issue.

The antiwar left has finally turned public opinion against the war in Iraq with their endless assaults and distortions. The war’s supporters have defensively, unintentionally taken on a greater burden of proof than, by rights, we should bear.

We were morally and strategically justified in attacking Iraq, based on the information available at the time. Conversely, the wisdom and propriety of our decision to remain until our mission is complete — which we must — and the president’s conduct of the war, depend on facts now in existence. But by all means, let’s keep the issues separate.

That is, even if we conclude we were wrong to have attacked Iraq — which we certainly were not — our decision is done and can’t be retracted, even by withdrawing. Our decision to remain or withdraw must be based on what is happening now and the likely consequences of remaining or withdrawing.

The problem is the antiwar left has conflated these issues. They have been so obsessed with establishing (through monomaniacal repetition) their fraudulent case that President Bush lied us into this war that they have literally paralyzed themselves from contributing anything constructive to any issues in the ongoing war. Stripping the issue to its bare essentials, my simple contention is we were justified in attacking Iraq, among other reasons, because:

• We believed, based on the best intelligence available to us, that Saddam represented a threat to our security because of his lust to acquire and reacquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD), his prior use of them on his own people, and his willingness to use them against us and our allies.

• His abiding hatred for the U.S. and his harboring and supporting terrorists (from Palestinian suicide bombers to al Qaeda) exacerbated the dangerous he posed to the U.S. Our inability to find WMD stockpiles in Iraq doesn’t mean President Bush lied about their existence, nor does it change the propriety of our decision based on what we knew at the time. The fact Democrat leaders have conveniently denied they assessed Saddam’s threat to be at least as grave as Mr. Bush did, both at the time of the attack and years before (during the Clinton administration), does not erase from history their well-documented and forcefully expressed opinion to that effect. The only difference between Republican and Democratic leaders is Democrats just talked about it. Republicans acted.

• Saddam repeatedly violated the post-Gulf war treaty and U.N. resolutions and defiantly refused to honor his agreements or comply with international law, making a mockery of the first Gulf war and the American lives lost in it.

• Saddam played games with weapons inspectors, and, despite his burden of proving his compliance with the agreement to divest his WMD, he filed a fraudulent 12,000-page document. Both led us to believe our intelligence assessments about his WMD. If he had no WMD or wasn’t trying to produce them, why on earth did he do those things?

• He violated the no-fly zone, often firing on our planes.

To be sure, magnificent consequences have resulted and continue flowing from our liberation of Iraq — from Libya’s abandonment of WMD, to the end of real torture and massacre of Iraqi citizens by Saddam, to development of a constitutional republic in the heart of the Middle East (and much more).

But war supporters don’t need to cite these developments to justify invading Iraq: The attack was justified, largely independent of these issues, by our reasonable assessment of the threat Saddam posed and his lawless behavior.

Yes, let’s meet head-on the left’s charge that our mission in Iraq is neither part of, nor contributory to, our war on terror — which it emphatically is. But let’s do so in the context of how the war should be prosecuted now that we’re there, instead of dwelling on whether we should have attacked in the first place.

Truth be told, the left doesn’t want to focus on the here and now because that would forfeit the delicious political mileage they continue to accumulate by confusing the issues.

Besides, with the exception of a few of their extremists, they (including all their legitimate presidential hopefuls) know we can’t legitimately talk of withdrawing, which is why they don’t offer — or even pretend to offer — any alternative plans.

Let’s debate all the left’s spurious allegations. But, for the sake of our mission and our troops, let’s try to keep the issues separate and discrete at least in making prudent decisions from this point forward.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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