Posted: March 15, 2004
n the wake of the single worst attack on our nation in her long history, it is a sad fact that one of our two major political parties has proven itself untrustworthy to govern. The single most important issue of our day is fighting terrorists and defeating the threats and acts of terrorism. And on this question, the Democratic Party cannot speak coherently. The candidates who support, or supported, the war in Iraq pulled out of the race early. The candidates who raged against the war and President Bush's prosecution of it, including those who voted for it in 2002, advanced, and one of them, John Kerry, will be the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party.
Time magazine honored itself and our country by naming the American Soldier the Person of the Year for 2003. In politics, however, there can be no doubt who deserves the mantle of 2003's Personality of the Year—not for achievement and discharge of duty, but for moving from obscurity to presumptive presidential nominee. That person—or personality—was Howard Dean. A relatively unknown former Governor of Vermont (with a population of 600,000 people), Dr. Dean dominateed the Democratic debates and nomination fight throughout the year. At one point, a frustrated John Kerry walked away from a pre-debate interview muttering, "Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean." Indeed, Howard Dean was the touchstone of the campaign in 2003—at each debate, the other candidates (save Joseph Lieberman) attempted to mimic his anti-war rhetoric, and to point out where they agreed and disagreed with him. Dean was their point of reference. Dean was the Democratic Party's point of reference.
Dr. Dean's calling card was his anger, which delighted a Democratic base that hates President George W. Bush. I do not use the word "hate" loosely. Allow me to provide two measurements of my claim: In a December 3, 2003 column in The Hill, respected Democratic pollster and strategist Mark Mellman wrote, "Democrats hate George Bush." Mellman went on to quantify the hatred: "The level of animosity Bush arouses in Democrats appears unprecedented. The data are not strictly comparable, but in 1998, 75 percent of Republicans said Bill Clinton made them angry. Bush's father could arouse the ire of only 64 percent of Democrats. Today, Bush enrages nearly 90 percent of Democrats."
After the first Super Tuesday in early February, David von Drehle of the Washington Post wrote, "A significant slice of yesterday's voters went beyond dissatisfaction to 'anger' at the administration—half of the Democratic voters in Delaware, four in 10 in Missouri and one in three in Bush strongholds such as Oklahoma and South Carolina." Although Dean imploded after Iowa and eventually resigned from the race, his message lives on. His playbook remains the centerpiece of the Democratic campaign for the presidency. Dean was surely right when, the day before his final collapse in Wisconsin, he said, "Because of your work, we have already written the Democratic Party platform."
In the 1990s, Bill Clinton kept his distance from Democrats who had been decisively repudiated by the voters—George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Walter Mondale. This year, there is no such distancing. Dean left Iowa one day before the caucus to rub shoulders with Jimmy Carter in Georgia. Wesley Clark boasted of his endorsement by George McGovern. Kerry was pleased to announce his endorsement from Walter Mondale just days before the New Hampshire primary. In other words, this year's Democrats are running not only to reverse the party's loss in 2000, but to redeem its ancient defeats by Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan as well. This year, the Democrats mean it when they say they want to take back the country from the "right-wing Republicans," whose generation-long ascendancy they regard as deeply illegitimate.
John Kerry picked up where Dean left off. Kerry likes to repeat his own bombastic declaration: President Bush has run "the most arrogant, inept, reckless, and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of our country."
To explain his complicity in that foreign policy—Kerry voted for the 2002 congressional authorization "for the use of military force against Iraq"—he argues that the war President Bush waged against Iraq was not the war Kerry voted to authorize. In Iowa, for example, he said: "This administration. . .misled the American people, abused the power that they were given, and has run an ineffective war on terror." This is now the official Democratic Party line, embraced by all who are, or were, candidates, again with the exception of Lieberman. At various points, Kerry, Dean, John Edwards, and Clark asserted that the United States acted "unilaterally," or with a "fraudulent coalition," and thereby "squandered its international good will." No one except Lieberman ever took strong exception to Dean's line that "the capture of Saddam has not made America safer."
But facts are stubborn things—and the facts disprove all of these charges.
Truth and Consequences
Has our war on terror actually been "ineffective"? Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, experts and pundits predicted we would be hit again—and soon. We have not been. This is due to two things: We have taken domestic security measures to investigate, disrupt, and imprison terrorists in our country—notwithstanding Democratic attempts to smear the Attorney General who has directed most of these internal security measures. And we have disrupted terrorists abroad, from Afghanistan to the Middle East, including in Iraq.
Because of President Bush—and no president before him—Osama bin Laden is either dead or on the run; and when terrorists are on the run, they cannot easily plan attacks. We have killed or captured two-thirds of the al-Qaeda leadership and, for the first time in over a decade, marginalized the modern world's Ur-terrorist, Yasser Arafat. It was Arafat who taught the world the use of hijacking airliners for political purposes. During the Clinton Administration it was he who visited the White House more than any other foreign leader. Arafat has not been offered one meeting, handshake, or embrace by President Bush.
Have we "squandered" our international good will? In the first place, we've rarely had much to squander. When Daniel Patrick Moynihan (an honorable Democrat) brought the term "tyranny of the majority" back into common parlance, he was describing the United Nations throughout the 1970s. Neither did we have a lot of international support in the 1980s, when we were deploying missiles in Europe in order to face down the Soviet Union. If the Clinton Administration was the supposed new era of international good will, we need to ask what that "good will" resulted in. During those years, bin Laden built al-Qaeda, declared war on America, and watched us do nothing about terrorism; we appeased North Korea; and we coddled Arafat.
It is not "good will" to buy silence from tyrants and sit idly by while they plan our—and our allies'—demise. It is worth noting that our so-called "bad will" has brought down not only the Ba'athist regime in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan, but for the first time in over 30 years has coerced an international surrender from Moammar Khaddafi. And in Iran, despite the recent setbacks, for the first time since the fall of the Shah the forces of liberalization are stirring. Not a bad record for such a squandering of "good will." Not a bad record for being so "ineffective."
The most curious charge the Democrats have leveled against our "unilateral" action in Iraq was John Kerry's on "Meet the Press" last summer. Kerry said, "I believe the United States deserved to have the broadest coalition, just like his father built, which we didn't build this time." It is worth remembering that John Kerry voted against the 1991 use of force, around which Bush's father built a coalition. Nonetheless, the Kerry charge falls flat. The liberation of Iraq last year took place with a much smaller force than the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. We used over 500,000 U.S. troops then, as compared to about 145,000 U.S. troops this time. In 1991, 34 countries participated in the coalition to oust Hussein from Kuwait. Under President George W. Bush, the coalition consisted of 31 countries. Kerry's and the Democrats' complaint rests on a disagreement over three countries in a campaign that needed far fewer troops to begin with.
Besides, if one truly cared about international good will, one would not discount the contribution to the war efforts by countries like the United Kingdom, Poland, and Italy. Their citizens' deaths, in one of the great humanitarian efforts of all time, should not be so cavalierly overlooked. There is no better way to squander international good will than to denigrate other nations' efforts in the liberation of Iraq, and call our actions "unilateral" while labeling the coalition "fraudulent."
The charges that we are no safer today or that the Bush Administration misled us into war are, in the one case, absurd and, in the other case, false. How can Americans be no safer with one of the greatest dictators of our time out of power? Let's recall that Saddam Hussein not only invaded one of our allies (Kuwait) and threatened the world's oil supply, but he launched missile attacks on Israel. He tried to assassinate a former U.S. President. He paid the families of suicide bombers in Israel $25,000 per detonation. And he harbored terrorists, from master-terrorists Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas to al-Qaeda leader Abu al-Zarqawi.
President Bush made clear from the outset that there were numerous reasons to oust Hussein. It was the Left that wanted only one reason, or that tried to pin one reason on President Bush. If in diplomatic circles the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) charge took on greater currency than other arguments it was for the reason that the U.N. never cared much about human rights violations or Arab "aggression." Nonetheless, President Bush began his indictment of the Iraqi regime at the U.N. in September 2002 with Hussein's human rights violations. In his 2003 State of the Union Address, President Bush emphasized: "International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape. If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning."
Neither Bush nor the "neoconservatives" nor anyone else misled the American people—not even the ostensibly gullible Kerry—about Hussein and the nature of his regime. As someone considered by many to be a "neoconservative," I continually highlighted the case for war based on human rights (see Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism[Regnery, 2003]). Conservatives and non-conservatives alike advanced the human rights case as well—fromVanity Fair's Christopher Hitchens to The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, from The New Republic's Lawrence Kaplan toNational Review's David Frum.
But what of the weapons of mass destruction? If Bush "lied," then so did many, many others. Herewith then-President Bill Clinton:
What if Saddam Hussein fails to comply, and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route which gives him yet more opportunities to develop his program of weapons of mass destruction and continue to press for the release of the sanctions and continue to ignore the solemn commitments that he made? Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow. Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal.
It was President Clinton who signed the Iraqi Liberation Act calling for regime change in Iraq. Among the findings in that Act: Iraq "has persisted in a pattern of deception and concealment regarding the history of its weapons of mass destruction programs." Two other "lies" were vouchsafed at a forum at Ohio State University led by Clinton Administration officials in February 1998:
Iraq is a long way from Ohio, but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks 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. (Clinton Secretary of State Madeline Albright)
He [Hussein] will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10times since 1983. (Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger)
Brevity prevents a full accounting, but other examples of these "lies" pervade the Senate and House Record when Bill Clinton was president, and when he launched a missile attack on Iraq in Operation Desert Fox—without U.N. permission.
The point is this: claims about Hussein's weapons programs from the Clinton Administration—as much as from the Bush Administration—were not lies, and they are not lies. Intelligence reports are not absolute proof. Hussein had thwarted inspections ever since the Gulf War concluded in 1991, and inspectors had not even been in Iraq for the past five years. The U.N. had found Iraq in violation of weapons inspections; and various foreign governments, from Germany to Great Britain, had concluded as we had—that Hussein had a weapons program. What Hussein did with those weapons is, to this day, anybody's guess.
* * *
David Kay, former U.N. Weapons Inspector and chairman of the Iraq Survey Group, was assigned to find the WMDs that so many intelligence sources and agencies had predicted. When he stepped down from his post, he gave several brief interviews that have added to the confusion. Still, he said the following to the London Telegraph: "But we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD program. Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved." And Kay told the New York Times, "There was evidence that the Iraqis continued research and development 'right up until the end' to improve their ability to produce ricin." We are far from a final judgment about the WMDs. Nonetheless, Kay testified to Congress, "I think the world is far safer with the disappearance and the removal of Saddam Hussein."
One acts on the best knowledge possible, knowledge gained from previous inspections, previous admissions, and contemporary intelligence. That WMDs may have been sold, hidden, or destroyed—that they may not easily, if ever, be found—does not mean President Bush (or, for that matter, President Clinton, Madeleine Albright, or Sandy Berger) lied. Kay's latest claim, that Hussein himself may have been misled by his generals into thinking he had WMDs, forces us to ask: If Hussein thought he had WMDs, and acted as if he had them—why should President Bush be faulted for thinking Hussein had them as well?
One more point about Iraq. The Left teems with anti-nuclear and pro-environmental policies and agendas—and much of the Hollywood Left boasts numerous arrests for protesting on behalf of these causes. Blinded by their hatred of President Bush, the Left seems not to care that, besides his other offenses, Hussein may very well have been the world's worst environmental depredator.
Hussein's torching of oil fields in the Gulf War was an environmental tragedy so enormous it could be seen from outer space. CNN reported the following about Hussein's 1991 actions: "Day vanished into night, black rain fell from the sky, and a vast network of lakes was born. . . lakes of oil as deep as six feet. . . . Saddam also poured 10 million barrels of oil into the sea. Thousands of birds perished, and the people of the Persian Gulf became familiar with new diseases." Jonathan Lash of the World Resources Institute said, "The oil that did not burn in the fires traveled on the wind in the form of nearly invisible droplets resulting in an oil mist or fog that poisoned trees and grazing sheep, contaminated fresh water supplies, and found refuge in the lungs of people and animals throughout the Gulf."
More recently, in the mid-1990s, Hussein drained the Iraqi Marshlands and killed off or scattered its inhabitants, some several hundred thousand Arabs, according to various human rights monitoring estimates. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz described the Iraqi Marshlands to an audience at Georgetown University:
It is a man-made desert, created by Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of the Gulf War. For thousands of years it had been a lush marsh. The marsh Arabs are one of the oldest continuous human civilizations. They had figured out how to get milk out of water buffalo by breeding a new kind of water buffalo. It's not a small achievement. They produced some very large percentage of the vegetables for the entire country. They were peaceful people, but they also provided the refuge for the rebels that Saddam Hussein feared. So, in the true traditions of Nebuchadnezzar he simply proceeded to wipe them out by drying them out, by creating an environmental catastrophe.
Kerry, Edwards, and the rest of the Democratic spokesmen of note prate about President Bush's environmental record; they say nothing about his ousting of the world's worst environmental offender.
Many leaders in the world are evil, and a handful possess weapons of mass destruction. But a toxic confluence of factors—malevolence, aggression, a fondness for terrorists, hatred for America and of course Israel, and an insatiable appetite for weapons of mass murder—made Saddam Hussein unique. In what Churchill once called "the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime," Saddam's monstrous tyranny has been surpassed by few other dictators'. By 1991, for example, Hussein had killed more Muslims than any other person in modern history. Seeing this evil, Howard Dean recommended inaction, and John Kerry resents the action he voted to approve.
The Democrats' Shame
The Democratic Party apparently has no higher or more urgent purpose in 2004 than to protest and repudiate this exceedingly just war. One sees all this and concludes, regretfully, that it is time to declare the latter-day Democratic Party dead to its legacy. Happy warriors such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Hubert Humphrey would not recognize today's Democratic Party—which has turned its back on the muscular defense of America and the promotion of democratic principles abroad. Henry "Scoop" Jackson would recognize this party, alas, as the McGovernite aberration he fought so hard against in the 1970s.
The liberation of Iraq—and the attendant war on terrorism—is the most crucial issue facing this country, and, indeed, the world. Democrats today don't recognize that. They don't get it. Byron York of The Hill was one of the few reporters who seized on a little-noticed survey sponsored by Stanley Greenberg's and James Carville's Democracy Corps last October:
In Iowa, 1 percent of those polled—1 percent!—said they worried about fighting terrorism. It was dead last on the list. Two percent said they worried about homeland security—next to last. In New Hampshire, 2 percent worried about fighting terrorism and 2 percent worried about homeland security.In South Carolina—somewhat surprising because of its military heritage—the results were the same.
In a recent interview on "60 Minutes," John Kerry rattled off his check-list of issues in the coming election:
I disagree with President Bush on, number one, his economic policy, which is driving the country into debt and not creating jobs, giving tax cuts to wealthy Americans at the expense of the average American; the energy bill which has been transformed into $50 billion of oil and gas subsidies. Almost every policy in the environment is going backwards. I disagree with his approach to health care, which is no approach at all, and I disagree deeply, profoundly, with the way he is conducting his war on terror that is breaking our relationships around the planet, isolating the United States. That's what I disagree with, for starters.
The war ranked last. After the first Super Tuesday, York revealed, again, that "Democratic voters placed national security/terrorism at the bottom of the list" of concerns. Furthermore, York pointed out that John Edwards's most famous stump speech, "Two Americas," mentioned terrorism not at all. Edwards, even when he was the last credible challenger to Kerry, practically ignored the war, as if it did not exist.
Why is this? Why has the Democratic Party sunk into the depths of a leftist pacifism that shuns confrontation with cruel despots and Islamo-fascists? To this day, I do not fully comprehend the reasons. The Democratic Party I grew up in (and belonged to for 23 years) was the same party my fellow erstwhile Democrat Jeane Kirkpatrick invoked when she spoke at her first Republican convention, in 1984. She began by quoting Harry Truman on "the dignity of man." And then she said that the leaders of her Democratic Party were men who
[D]eveloped NATO, who developed the Marshall Plan, who devised the Alliance for Progress. They were not afraid to be resolute nor ashamed to speak of America as a great nation. They didn't doubt that we must be strong enough to protect ourselves and to help others. They didn't imagine that America should depend for its very survival on the promises of its adversaries. They happily assumed the responsibilities of freedom.
Kirkpatrick lamented that the Democratic Party at that moment, in its desperation to beat Ronald Reagan, was sinking into a position of "always blaming America first," condemning not the Communists nor the terrorists who struck at us then, but America and her policies. Ambassador Kirkpatrick was on to something, especially as she concluded: "The American people know that it's dangerous to blame ourselves for terrible problems that we did not cause."
The Democratic Party did not represent American sentiment then—and it went on to lose 49 states. I wonder if it represents more of the American people now.
The Kerry Democrats
With McGovern, Carter, and Mondale back, we've seen a change in the Democratic Party, which many of us thought had learned from its past mistakes. Bill Clinton, after all, won by working from the center out. But Kerry brags, "Now, I've fought all my life for peace. I fought against the war in Vietnam when I came home. I fought against Ronald Reagan's illegal war in Central America."
No one can impugn John Kerry's military service and heroism. It is to be honored and respected. We can, however, argue with his political service. Although Kerry explains away his vote to authorize President Bush to oust Hussein from power—mostly by arguing that force was not what he had in mind—he cannot extenuate his subsequent vote to deny $87 billion in support for U.S. troops and Iraqi rebuilding efforts. There are, indeed, many debatable "lessons of Vietnam." Most Americans would argue that one undeniable lesson is that if you send troops, support them. On this key test, Kerry failed. Having voted to support the use of force, he then voted against sending aid to our troops and to Iraq.
As for Kerry's claim that he fought against Ronald Reagan's "illegal war in Central America," he means Nicaragua. President Reagan funded counter-insurgents to thwart the Soviet-backed Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Due to Reagan's unwavering commitment to ending the Communist Sandinista regime, free elections took place, and continue to take place in Nicaragua—elections that Sandinistas, incidentally, do not and cannot win.
The pattern is clear: the Democrats don't believe in war when it is waged by the U.S.—even when waged successfully, for the liberation of others. One cannot divine a consistent national security posture from the Democratic contenders for president. And one cannot divine a compelling reason, ever, to deploy force—unless, presumably, we are attacked first. But waiting to be attacked is a breaking of faith with the entire concept of "national security," a surrender of such vast proportions that it could prove suicidal. In passing, it is worth asking: What action would the party of Kerry, Dean, Clark, and Edwards ever have taken against the Third Reich, which, after all, did not attack Pearl Harbor? How would they justify our entire European theater of operations in World War II, considering that Japan was the country responsible for the day that lived in infamy? We do not really need to ask these questions—the answers are clear from their contemporary philosophy of appeasement.
The Democratic Party of old, however, would proudly have accepted a war that ended one of the deadliest regimes in the modern world, that brought about the great challenge of fostering the first democracy in the Arab world, and that liberated tens of millions of Muslims. But which of the present Democratic candidates has said anything remotely like John F. Kennedy's clear, and stirring, words: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
It is the American experience that when we liberate a country, we leave that country better than we found it. This was demonstrably true in Germany, Japan, and Italy after World War II, just as it was true of our efforts during and after the Cold War. Recall the letter, signed by the leaders of Spain, Portugal, Italy, the U.K., Hungary, Poland, Denmark, and the Czech Republic, supporting our efforts in the current war:
Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and farsightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and communism. Thanks, too, to the continued cooperation between Europe and the U.S. we have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent. The trans-Atlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime's persistent attempts to threaten world security.
As the letter implies, Afghanistan and Iraq will be left better off by their liberation, too.
We are already seeing the truth of this: Iraq no longer officially harbors terrorists (as it did Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, and Abu Al-Zarqawi); it no longer exports terrorism outside its borders; it no longer threatens to purchase or use weapons of mass destruction from outside nations like North Korea or China; it no longer keeps hospitals and schools closed; it no longer fills ditches with bodies; and it no longer subsidizes suicide bombers against Israelis. In short, the Middle East has one fewer thug leading one fewer thuggish state. We are helping to create the first democracy in the Arab world—and someday, some way, we may even receive a letter from Muslim nations, thanking us for defeating their tyranny, even as we received a letter from the European Eight.
By contrast, the contemporary Democratic Party's message seems to be that they will let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay no price, bear no burden, meet no hardship, support no friend, oppose no foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This ignoble vision of America has its roots in Charles Lindbergh and Joseph Kennedy, and it finds current succor from Pat Buchanan and Michael Moore. It does not, however, resemble anything Ronald Reagan fought for—or, for that matter, anything Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, or John F. Kennedy fought for.
The enduring responsibilities of our day—to "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity"—sustain us as Americans, define who we are, who we will be, and if we will be. Today's Democratic Party, alas, seems unwilling or unable to shoulder these democratic duties, without evasion and equivocation.
For these reasons and more, many more, today's Democratic Party cannot be trusted to lead our country in this, its most dangerous hour.