- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

True to their foreign-policy heritage, 40 of 45 Democratic senators voted last week to demand a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. As in every conflict since Vietnam, Democrats hope not to succeed but skedaddle.

Imagine if the Democrats had a majority in the Congress. The cut-and-run impulse — can you call it anything else? — would become law. Well, the Democrats protest, we cannot condone this war for another minute because we were deceived into supporting it in the first place.

We’ll return to that risible claim. But first let’s assume for the sake of argument it is true. Democrats were given faulty intelligence by President Bush and voted for the war based entirely on those misrepresentations. OK. But now we are in Iraq. The full prestige and credibility of the United States are on the line. Iraq has been liberated from Saddam, yet remains under assault from jihadists, dispossessed Tikritis, and various other assassins and terrorists.

Al Qaeda’s Iraq ringleader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has a network of suicide bombers and saboteurs who blow up our people when they can and decapitate hostage for added amusement.

Were we to withdraw in the face of this onslaught, the message to al Qaeda and to the world would be obvious: defeat. Osama took credit for chasing the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan and gloated that his forces had frightened the U.S. out of Somalia. How much more decisive would it appear if the jihadists were able to chase the U.S. out of Iraq? And not just to them, but to any potential adversary on the globe? Don’t Democrats ever consider these matters? If they do not, can they really be considered mature or responsible?

Were Democrats tricked into supporting the Iraq war? The New York Times, lead soloist in the left-wing chorus, claims Democrats were deceived because the president’s daily brief (PDB) was so much more comprehensive than the intelligence provided to the Congress in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). A number of Democratic senators have made the same claim, and it seems superficially plausible as everyone knows the president gets the best intelligence available.

But the bipartisan Robb-Silberman commission reported the intelligence in the PDB was, if anything, more alarmist than that in the NIE. In other words, if the NIE said, “Saddam may be reconstituting his nuclear weapons program,” the PDB would have said, “Saddam is almost certainly reconstituting his nuclear program.” So if the Congress had seen the same reports as the president, it would only have strengthened, not weakened, the case for war.

Nor did the commission find any evidence intelligence was manipulated, distorted, or, as the left-wing Brits alleged against Tony Blair, “sexed up.” The report noted the intelligence proved faulty, but added: “These errors stem from poor tradecraft and poor management. The commission found no evidence of political pressure to influence the intelligence community’s prewar assessments of Iraq’s weapons programs.”

Poor tradecraft? Could that mean the CIA fouled up royally? Why do the liberals avoid this obvious conclusion and substitute fantasies of Bush lies and distortion?

The Clinton administration was as adamant as the Bush administration that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. In 1998, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declared: “What happens there matters a great deal here. For the risk that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.” [Emphasis added.]

Liberals acknowledge the Clinton position but hasten to remind us that “Clinton didn’t go to war.” No. Because the Democrats are the party of talk, endless negotiations and U.N. resolutions. Even facing potential catastrophes, they will not act militarily.

And now, amidst a grave conflict, they stoop to any lie to discredit a president who did not lack the courage to act.

Mona Charen, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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