Former Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley took to the Wall Street Journal’s op ed pages last week to try to make the case that the Iraq war was worth fighting.
The particulars of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny are familiar:
two wars against his neighbors resulting in about a million deaths; brutalization of his own people killing tens if not hundreds of thousands; use of poison gas against Iraqi Kurds; lifelong support for terrorism; open defiance of the U.N. Security Council….
Leaving Saddam in power would have badly undermined the credibility of the U.N. and the U.S. As Iran—Saddam’s mortal enemy—restarted its nuclear program after 2005, Saddam would have resuscitated his own, igniting a nuclear-arms race. Saddam would likely have intervened in the uprising against Syria’s Bashar Assad, fanning the sectarian conflict that now threatens much of the Middle East.
The removal of Saddam opened up a very different possibility: an Iraq in which Sunni, Shiites, Kurds, Christians and other minorities would work together to build a democratic and peaceful future…
Notably, Hadley does not repeat all of the claims made by others in the Bush administration in the run-up to the war.
For example, he does not allege that Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaeda terrorists, including those individuals directly involved in the 9/11 attacks (recall Dick Cheney’s assertion that Mohamed Atta had met with “a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service” in Prague; Cheney subsequently denied making any such connections between Iraq and 9/11). Instead, Hadley explains that al Qaeda took advantage of the chaos that ensued in Iraq after the invasion and overthrow of Hussein.
Hadley does not contend that Hussein had a functioning nuclear weapons program (in contrast to Condoleezza Rice’s warning that “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”; or Bush’s famous “sixteen words” about Iraqi yellowcake), and Hadley’s prediction that Hussein would have restarted one after 2005 is purely speculative, and ignores the possibility that Iran restarted its program in response to the U.S. invasion.
Hadley’s bottom line, however, is the same as Cheney, Rice, and Bush’s: the war was worth fighting.