Starting on Veterans
Day, Bush, Dick Cheney and others in the administration embarked
on a "pushback," arguing that Bush -- and many leading
Democrats, including some now part of the Big Lie campaign --
accurately characterized the intelligence at the time.
Bush, Cheney and
the administration have the truth on their side. Exhaustive and
authoritative examinations of the prewar intelligence, by the
bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004,
by the Silberman-Robb Commission in 2005 and by the British commission
headed by Lord Butler, have established that U.S. intelligence
agencies, and the intelligence organizations of leading countries
like Britain, France and Germany, believed that Saddam Hussein's
regime was in possession of or developing weapons of mass destruction
-- chemical and biological weapons, which the regime had used
before, and nuclear weapons, which it was working on in the 1980s.
To the charges that
Bush "cherry-picked" intelligence, the commission co-chaired
by former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb found that the intelligence
available to Bush but not to Congress was even more alarming than
the intelligence Congress had.
panel also concluded, after a detailed investigation, that in
no instance did Bush administration authorities pressure intelligence
officials to alter their findings.
Much of the intelligence
turned out to be wrong. But Bush didn't lie about it. Some Bush
supporters argue that the pushback now is a mistake, because it
prevents the administration from focusing on events going forward.
But the damage to Bush's credibility is real, and he needs to
repair it to speak credibly about the future.
At the same time,
we must remember that the United States and our allies did not
go to war solely because of weapons of mass destruction. There
were other reasons, which Bush articulated at the time and which
have been vindicated by events.
One of them was to
remove from power one of the most brutal regimes on Earth. Mainstream
media have enjoyed focusing on isolated prison abuses by U.S.
forces and, in the past week, by Iraqis. (Have the media ever
focused so closely on prison conditions in our past wars?) But
these abuses are nothing compared with what the Saddam Hussein
regime did every day. Rape rooms, prisoners fed into shredders,
hundreds of mass graves: Do we really want to forget that the
liberation of Iraq has vastly improved the lives of millions of
Another goal was
to advance freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Not just
to help the people there, but to change the mindset of the region
that produced the attacks of Sept. 11. Before 2003, the dictators
and authoritarian rulers of the region focused their peoples'
inevitable discontents on the United States and Israel.
progress toward democracy in Iraq is leading Middle Easterners
to concentrate on the question of how to build decent governments
and decent societies. We can see the results -- the Cedar Revolution
in Lebanon, the first seriously contested elections in Egypt,
Libya's giving up WMDs, the Jordanian protests against Abu Musab
Zarqawi's recent suicide attacks and even a bit of reform in Saudi
Arabia. In Syria, The Washington Post's David Ignatius
reports, "people talk politics here with a passion I haven't
heard since the 1980s in Eastern Europe. They're writing manifestos,
dreaming of new political parties, trying to rehabilitate old
ones from the 1950s."
Almost surely none
of this would have happened without the liberation of Iraq. And
there democracy goes forward: Seventy-eight percent voted for
the Constitution last month, and democratic parties are contesting
the elections to be held next month.
Against this backdrop,
mainstream media headlined the call for withdrawal of Democratic
Rep. John Murtha, who has long been skeptical about the war. The
propagators of the big lie against President Bush are trying to
delegitimize not only him, but also all the progress that has
been made as a result of Iraq, progress both toward freedom for
Middle Easterners and toward a Middle East that will no longer
threaten the United States.