What we knew then about Iraq

By Eric Naing

I may just be some punk, college kid but in 2002, I was smarter than a senator. When asked about her vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Sen. Hillary Clinton responded, “If we knew then what we know now, there wouldn’t have been a vote.” But as Clinton would like you to forget, there was ample evidence available in 2002 showing that the Iraq invasion would be based on false premises.

On Oct. 10, 2002 on the Senate floor, Sen. Clinton voted to give President Bush the authority to invade Iraq. One reason she uses to justify her vote was that Saddam Hussein was working to “rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program.” Other experts at the time though, begged to differ.

Earlier that year, the International Atomic Energy Agency had already concluded that Saddam did not have any nuclear capabilities. Also, former chief U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, having seen firsthand evidence, stated repeatedly that Saddam did not have the capability to maintain an operational nuclear program and that there was no proof that he possessed chemical or biological weapons.

Clinton’s second justification to vote for invading Iraq was that Saddam had “given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaida members.” This idea which Clinton states as fact was proven false earlier in the year by a report from the CIA which stated that not only was there no “credible intelligence” linking Saddam and al-Qaida, but that for geopolitical and historical reasons, Saddam and bin Laden “were leery of close cooperation.”

Even more damning is the fact that just days earlier, all members of Congress were allowed access to the National Intelligence Estimate which fully laid out the Bush administration’s case for war and instead of reading the 92-page document, Sen. Clinton (and Sen. Edwards for that matter) chose to be briefed on its highlights instead. This is unfortunate because as they say, the devil is in the details. Not present in Sen. Clinton’s SparkNotes version of the N.I.E. were the dissents by the State Department and the Department of Energy on the validity of Saddam’s nuclear program.

I, like many others, opposed the invasion of Iraq as early as 2002 not out of some blinding hatred for President Bush or the military, but because there was credible and compelling evidence available that discredited all the reasons stated for going to war. And this is even without the N.I.E. report. Clinton did not need to know then what she knows now to vote against the war.

Sen. Clinton (and Sen. Edwards) either knew the case for Iraq was being overstated but voted for it anyway for political reasons, or they ignorantly overlooked the evidence that was staring them in the face.

Leadership requires the political will to do what is unpopular but right. If a person wants to be the next president of the United States, they have to have voted the right way on the most important issue of this era. Senators Clinton and Edwards failed that test.