October 19, 2004 | Commentary on National Security and Defense

Getting the Facts Straight on Iraq

When it comes to Iraq, Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards just don't get it.

If a neutral observer simply listened to the Kerry campaign, he probably would think coalition forces were losing in Iraq. For example, during one of the presidential debates, Sen. Kerry said, "the president made a mistake in invading Iraq."

Sen. Edwards' argument against the Iraq invasion rests on the fact that Saddam Hussein wasn't the one who attacked us on 9/11. This is consistent with Kerry's previous remark that we "traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure."

The facts tell a different story. The war in Iraq has achieved three national security objectives. Coalition forces ended Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program, ended his support for terrorism and ended his dangerous regime -- a dictatorship that threatened the world.

Iraq maintained the ability to produce weapons of mass destruction. And it wasn't just the CIA that said so. So did the United Nations. So did every foreign intelligence agency, including the Germans and the French.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, which gave Saddam one last chance to disarm or prove he had disarmed. He didn't.

The Duelfer Report notes that Saddam had retained the capability to produce WMDs. "[Saddam] wanted to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction when sanctions were lifted," the report says.

It is true Saddam didn't have the large stockpiles the world thought he did. Nevertheless, he had the ability to produce such weapons. With hindsight we can see Saddam's plan was to continue the process of eroding sanctions until they were lifted. Once this happened, Saddam would have had a free hand to re-arm as he saw fit. By removing the regime from power, the U.S. achieved one of its primary goals: Eliminating the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

As to the second goal, it's clear Saddam Hussein supported terrorism.

Ansar-al-Islam was a terrorist organization set up by Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda. In "Hunting Down Saddam, The Inside Story of the Search and Capture," best-selling author Robin Moore explains how in the opening days of the war, U.S. Special Forces -- along with Kurdish fighters -- attacked and shut down the world's largest known terrorist base, Ansar al-Islam's facility in Iraq.

The Abu Nidal network, which was responsible for the attack on the Achille Lauro, also found sanctuary in Iraq. And it's well known that Saddam gave cash rewards to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. When U.S. forces chased Abu Musab al-Zarqawi out of Afghanistan, he found safe haven in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi's terrorist network began training well before the U.S. invasion.

It's not difficult to connect the dots and predict that one day Saddam would have used his terrorist networks to carry out attacks abroad. Recently, we also have learned from Russian intelligence that Iraqi agents were planning terrorist attacks in the U.S. By removing Saddam's regime from power, we eliminated his ability to export terrorism.

Finally, Saddam Hussein was a threat to the region. He fought Iran for nearly a decade, invaded Kuwait, launched missiles at Israel, used chemical weapons on his own people, continually defied the 1991 cease-fire agreement, shot at U.S. planes patrolling the no-fly zone and consistently undermined the credibility of the United States and the international community.

No one can doubt that this madman, with his history of aggression, was a source of instability in the region. The status quo simply would not do.

When the president's critics speak of arbitrary timetables and artificial deadlines, remember what the president said when visiting American forces last Thanksgiving. "We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost in casualties, defeat a brutal dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins."

Saddam used WMD, maintained the capability to produce them until his last day in power, supported terrorism, and posed a serious threat. Kerry and Edwards don't seem to understand any of this. When it comes to the global war on terrorism, they just don't get it.

Jack Spencer is a senior policy analyst for defense and national security at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Jack Spencer Vice President, the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity

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