Some 16 months away for the election to choose the 45th President of the United States, many in the mainstream media have come up with a new parlor game to amuse themselves. The latest obsession is to corner a Republican running for president and ask them a variation of the following: “If you knew then about what you know about Iraq now, would you have agreed with President George W. Bush to invade Iraq?”
Let’s be honest, shall we? No reasonable person would agree to invade Iraq today based on what we know now about weapons of mass destruction being stored in the country. Hindsight some 12 years later will always appear to be 20/20. At the time, President Bush and many foreign leaders around the world strongly believed in the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the Middle East as well as the United States and acted, accordingly.
No, this latest media ploy is not about asking a legitimate question of a contender for the nomination about his views on American military/foreign policy. Instead, this is an effort to bring up their favorite bogeyman, former President George W. Bush, and continue with a variation of the “Bush lied, troops died” trope they hope will trip up Republicans and ostensibly help former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her presumed path toward coronation to the presidency.
I won’t re-litigate whether Bush lied to topple the Iraqi dictator; I’ll leave that to others such as Jamie Weinstein to debunk this absurd assertion. Something far more serious and more significant is at issue here, and the media largely ignores this bigger picture.
This past weekend, the strategic city of Ramadi—capital of Anbar Province—fell to ISIS terrorists. Reports from the region indicate as many as 500 soldiers were slaughtered in the once prosperous city of 850,000. As many as 20 U.S. military vehicles were seized along with caches of arms provided by our government to the Iraqi soldiers who fled in retreat.
ISIS now controls nearly one-third of what is called Iraq today, and Baghdad is just 6o miles away from Ramadi. The very real prospect exists that the already fragile Iraqi government could fall to ISIS. And then what?
That’s a legitimate question to be asked, but it’s one not posed to President Obama’s two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Both Clinton and Kerry supported President Bush’s decision to go to war in 2002. Consider this from Mr. Kerry from October 9, 2002: “It would be naïve to the point of grave danger not to believe that, left to his own devices, Saddam Hussein will provoke, misjudge, or stumble into a future, more dangerous confrontation with the civilized world. He has as much promised it….I mention these not because they are a cause to go to war in and of themselves, as the president previously suggested, but because they tell us a lot about the threat of the weapons of mass destruction and the nature of this man. We should not go to war because these things are in his past, but we should be prepared to go to war because of what they tell us about the future.”
Or consider this floor speech by then-Senator Clinton from October 2002 regarding her support for the use of force in Iraq: “It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological or chemical warfare and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which, as we know all too well, affects American security…This is a very difficult vote, one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make. Any vote that might lead to war should be hard but I cast it with conviction.”
Rather than chase announced and presumed Republican candidates such as Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL)—gentlemen who weren’t in the Congress to cast a vote going to war with Iraq more than a decade ago—why won’t the media ask this question of America’s two top diplomats who have steered our foreign policy since 2009: If they knew then what they know now, would Clinton and Kerry still have supported President Obama’s decision to remove our troops in Iraq, which has led to a void now filled by ISIS? Do they agree that the president’s belief in December 2011 that the U.S. was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” that was a “moment of success” is still true today?
The media should demand that the current administration account for the deterioration in Iraq as well as ask potential candidates on either side of the aisle running for president how they would move to stabilize the region. The time for gotcha games is over—the time for serious journalism presents itself now more than ever. Are the media up to the task?