Rewriting Hillary's History

It has become rhetorically automatic to equate the successful invasion of Iraq with the failed occupation of Iraq; as if the one followed the other as surely as night follows day. That's insane.
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Although I have never been hired as a speechwriter for the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, I have magnanimously gone ahead and drafted the remarks that she can and should give to Democratic primary voters by way of explaining herself on Iraq.

"Good morning.

As you are all too aware, I voted for the war in Iraq. As a result, I have been under tremendous pressure to tell many of my might-be supporters what they demand to hear: 'Sorry, I was wrong to vote for the war, and if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't.' But, David Geffen be damned, I just don't lie that easily. The truth is that even now, my fellow Americans, I'm not so sure I did the wrong thing. There are two parts to my reasoning why.

Part one has to do with the scenario that was in place before the war, and part two has to do with scenario that has unfolded since.

For part one, let's look at what I was looking at when I cast my vote in October 2002. I was concerned, it has since developed mistakenly, about Saddam Hussein's possible possession and use of Weapons of Mass Destruction. But I wasn't only concerned about that. I was concerned about his possible (in light, of course, of his historical) use of biological and chemical weapons -- as, by the way, were some of the experts most scathingly skeptical of the WMD charge. I was concerned about mounting international pressure on the United States and Britain to join France in abandoning the northern no-fly zone, also known as the only thing between the Iraqi Kurds and all-too-plausible annihilation. I was concerned that Saddam was a mass murderer of varied and voracious appetite; those who crow about the WMD that weren't found in Iraq might take a moment to contemplate the mass graves that were.

Now, I know this prompts cries of hypocrisy; 'why, look at all the other brutal dictators whom the U.S. not only doesn't bring down, but props up.' I find that thinking equal parts foolish and fetid, but never mind: It so happens that at the moment in question, there was a context that legitimately set Saddam apart in the sovereignty department. After all, the man had lost a war in 1991, and in return for not being ousted at that time, he had agreed to do many things, as enshrined in United Nations sanctions addressing not only his disposal of his weapons, but his disposal toward his people. Newsflash: Saddam was not doing these things. In fact, he was glorying in his refusal to do them. Thus, I was concerned that even as those U.N. sanctions were blighting the Iraqi people, they were serving only to enhance the power and prestige of the Iraqi dictator. I could go on. But WMD or no WMD, I believed that the world community had the means, the motive, the opportunity -- and most important, given his post-Desert Storm behavior, the absolute right -- to go after Saddam.

Now, I will grant you that this does not necessarily mean that we had to exercise that right. I will grant you that the WMD thread was an unacceptably thin one on which to hang the war, and the alleged Iraq-Al Qaeda post-9/11 connection was even thinner. And I will grant you that there were intelligent, moral people who gave great consideration to everything I've just mentioned and still came down against the invasion. But for them, as for me, this was a terrible question. So if Senator Obama or anyone else wants to sell himself to the American public as someone who would have skipped to the Senate on the day of that vote and easily proclaimed 'nay!', I'd wonder how much smarter than our current President he really is.

This brings me to part two, the current scenario. It has become rhetorically automatic to equate the successful invasion of Iraq with the failed occupation of Iraq; as if the one followed the other as surely as night follows day. That's insane. Simply put, I don't think that having voted for the war automatically puts me on the hook for everything that has gone wrong since.

I voted for the war. I didn't vote to torch the peace. I didn't vote to go in with such super-lite troop levels, and worse to maintain those levels, once it became obvious (within, like, fifteen seconds) that this was never going to be enough manpower to keep utter and terrifying chaos at bay.

I voted for the war. I didn't vote to leave Iraq's borders more open than the Dalai Lama's mind.

I voted for the war. I didn't vote for a series of Iraqi-employment efforts so short-sighted, sluggish and slapdash as to cause the great Shi'ite majority to go, more slowly than we deserved, from hailing the Americans to hating us.

I voted for the war, knowing that the transition from dictatorship to democracy would, under the very best of circumstances, require the best and the brightest of American talent, including that of Democrats and "Powell Republicans". I didn't vote to staff the civil administration of that transition overwhelmingly with G.O.P. flunkies who wouldn't know Iraq from a rock.

I voted for the war. I didn't vote to limit the bidding on lucrative postwar contracts to coalition partners, thus narrowing rather than broadening the field of nations with a stake in Iraq's success.

Again, I could go on. My point is this: I voted for the war. I did not vote for this."

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