Thursday, November 17, 2005

Someone Gets It

From Real Clear Politics:

An excerpt from the "Floor Statement of Senator Joe Lieberman on Iraq Amendments to the FY06 Defense Authorization Bill":

It is no surprise to my colleagues that I strongly supported the war in Iraq. I was privileged to be the Democratic cosponsor, with the Senator from Virginia, of the authorizing resolution which received overwhelming bipartisan support. As I look back on it and as I follow the debates about prewar intelligence, I have no regrets about having sponsored and supported that resolution because of all the other reasons we had in our national security interest to remove Saddam Hussein from power – a brutal, murdering dictator, an aggressive invader of his neighbors, a supporter of terrorism, a hater of the United States of America. He was, for us, a ticking time bomb that, if we did not remove him, I am convinced would have blown up, metaphorically speaking, in America's face.

We will come to another day to debate the past of prewar intelligence. But let me say briefly the questions raised in our time are important. The international intelligence community believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Probably most significant, and I guess historically puzzling, is that Saddam Hussein acted in a way to send a message that he had a program of weapons of mass destruction. He would not, in response to one of the 17 U.N. Security Council resolutions that he violated, declare he had eliminated the inventory of weapons of mass destruction that he reported to the U.N. after the end of the gulf war in 1991.

If we withdraw prematurely from Iraq, there will be civil war, and there is a great probability that others in the neighborhood will come in. The Iranians will be tempted to come in on the side of the Shia Muslims in the south. The Turks will be tempted to come in against the Kurds in the north. The other Sunni nations, such as the Saudis and the Jordanians, will be sorely tempted, if not to come in at least to aggressively support the Sunni Muslim population. There will be instability in the Middle East, and the hope of creating a different model for a better life in the Middle East in this historic center of the Arab world, Iraq, will be gone.

If we successfully complete our mission, we will have left a country that is self-governing with an open economy, with an opportunity for the people of Iraq to do what they clearly want to do, which is to live a better life, to get a job, to have their kids get a decent education, to live a better life. There seems to be broad consensus on that, and yet the partisanship that characterizes our time here gets in the way of realizing those broadly expressed and shared goals.

The questions raised about prewar intelligence are not irrelevant, they are not unimportant, but they are nowhere near as important and relevant as how we successfully complete our mission in Iraq and protect the 150,000 men and women in uniform who are fighting for us there.

The danger is that by spending so much attention on the past here, we contribute to a drop in public support among the American people for the war, and that is consequential. Terrorists know they cannot defeat us in Iraq, but they also know they can defeat us in America by breaking the will and steadfast support of the American people for this cause.

There is a wonderful phrase from the Bible that I have quoted before, “If the sound of the trumpet be uncertain, who will follow into battle?” In our time, I am afraid that the trumpet has been replaced by public opinion polls, and if the public opinion polls are uncertain, if support for the war seems to be dropping, who will follow into battle and when will our brave and brilliant men and women in uniform in Iraq begin to wonder whether they have the support of the American people? When will that begin to affect their morale?

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