An Inconvenient Truth: Bill Clinton Was Right

For a lot of people, the “Y2K” bug turned out to be much ado about nothing. Despite the dire warnings of catastrophes and disasters and mayhem when the calendar moved from 1999 to 2000, not a heck of a lot happened.

But I think I’ve discovered one lasting effect from that time.

While the wholesale rewriting of computers’ memory might have been avoided, it seems to have struck a lot of people’s memory.

Every single time the debate over whether or not the invasion of Iraq was appropriate, whole chunks of actual, real history seem to vanish, to be replaced with fantasies and false memories and outright lies.

Inconvenient Truth #1: in 1998, it was declared that the official policy of the United States government — as overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton — to seek “regime change” in Iraq. That’s a fancy euphemism for “get rid of Saddam and his cronies.”

Inconvenient Truth #2: By 2003, Saddam had spent over a decade perfecting his “cheat and retreat” game with regards to UN weapons inspections. He would pick a fight with the inspectors, fight it tooth and nail right up to the limit, then “back down” a little, winning concessions and conditions from the allied nations.

Inconvenient Truth #3: The sanctions against Iraq, which so many people now say were working and kept Saddam contained, were under bitter attack by many of those same people for years. We had reports of how many thousands of Iraqi children were dying each month from the brutal, cruel, oppressive, crushing sanctions, and we were told how we should end them and find “other ways” to bring Saddam to heel.

(I can’t help but contrast this with the calls for sanctions on South Africa during its apartheid days, which I opposed at the time, citing many of the same arguments. But I was wrong about that — the sanctions against South Africa did work, and it is now a free nation. I blame my youth and naivete at the time. What’s the excuse for those who now desperately try to erase their arguments on Iraqi sanctions?)

Inconvenient Truth #4: The “international community’s” resolve on Iraq was weakening day by day. Saddam’s perversion of the humanitarian-inspired Oil For Food program was well documented, as he turned it into his personal cash cow. Some of the money he lavished on himself and his supporters; some went into well-placed bribes of people who had considerable influence over the program itself, as well as key members of the United Nations Security Council. Moneys intended for the Iraqi people found its way into the pockets of key individuals and organizations within the UN, Russia, Germany, France, the UK, and the United States.

Inconvenient Truth #5: Despite its wholesale surrender at the end of the first Gulf War, Iraq continued to commit acts of war and aggression. It fired on US planes flying over the UN-sanctioned No-Fly Zones. It tried to assassinate former President Bush in revenge. It refused to account for Kuwaitis who were “disappeared” during the invasion and occupation. And it continued to aid, abet, and sponsor terrorism around the world — most flagrantly by paying the families of suicide bombers who struck at Israel.

Inconvenient Truth #6: It never fully complied with the provisions of the 1991 surrender regarding weapons of mass destruction. Under those terms, Iraq agreed to provide a full accounting of all its WMDs, WMD material, WMD research, and WMD equipment, then destroy them all in fully-verifiable ways. Instead, Iraq lied, cheated, evaded, concealed, blustered, and did everything it could to keep some weapons, equipment, and other materials so it could reconstruct its arsenal after the sanctions were lifted.

I’ve repeated this metaphor many, many times, but I’m going to bring it up yet again because it holds so true: Iraq was like a convicted criminal on probation. One of the conditions of that probation was that it remain “clean” of WMDs, and regularly submit proof of its innocence. There was no presumption of innocence. Iraq had already been found guilty, and it was obligated to continue to prove its ongoing innocence for the duration of its probation. And Iraq did pretty much everything it could to get out of that obligation.

No, we haven’t found massive stockpiles of WMDs in Iraq. That is utterly irrelevant. We found quite a few WMDs that Iraq failed to properly account for (largely poison gas shells, in various states of senescence — but still lethal), but that, again, is irrelevant. The onus was on Iraq to account for these weapons, and it did not do so. Period. End of discussion.

(“But officer, that’s old weed! I forgot it was there! I stashed it under the couch years ago!” “Sorry, pal, it’s still your pot, in your house. You’re going back in the clink.”)

The fact is simple: by 2001, Iraq had repeatedly, deliberately, willingly violated many of the terms of his 1991 surrender, and was on the verge of getting away with it as the sanctions were under severe attack. The whole situation was put on hold with the 9/11 attacks, as suddenly the United States (and the rest of the world) found itself with far more pressing concerns, but their efforts continued largely unchecked.

The sanctions, the attempts at containment, were crumbling under Iraq’s determined efforts to undermine them. The crisis point was rapidly approaching, when the pressure to remove them, to certify that Iraq had fully complied with the terms of its 1991 surrender and was ready to move towards rejoining the community of nations (when in reality it had done no such thing) would become overwhelming. The choice was simple: act now, or let Iraq’s bribery, bluster, and outright bullying triumph.

At the time, I thought that removing Saddam and his cronies was the right choice — indeed, the only choice. For all of the above reasons, as well as a host more, that I’ve spelled out on numerous occasions. And, to this day, I still believe so.

Maybe I shouldn’t have taken that Y2K fix that let me remember just what things were like vis-a-vis Iraq from 1991 to 2003. Perhaps I should have simply subsumed my own recollections to the collective revisionism of the anti-war crowd, who so fervently wish to recast events to their own satisfaction. It’d make life a hell of a lot simpler.

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