You didn't have to be a genius to see what was coming in 2003. I saw it. My family saw it and most of my friends saw it as well. The talk of the mushroom cloud was bullshit. The switch to "weapons of mass destruction" was ridiculous -- Saddam had chemical weapons in the 80s with our blessing. They weren't a threat to us then and they weren't a threat to us in 2003 -- even if he'd had them.
Even now, supporters of the president like to point out that the Democratic establishment was also wrong about the war. As if that's an excuse. The Democrats were spineless and feckless. I can't believe more than 10 of the Democratic senators who voted to give Bush the authorization believed Saddam was a legitimate threat to us.
The knock on Obama that he is "inexperienced" is laughable. If you're the general manager of an NBA team on draft day, given the choice between a star high-school player with an NBA body and an NBA mind or a four-year NCAA veteran of smaller stature and questionable judgment who has done nothing but lose, who are you going to go with? The one with "experience?" Or the one who can ball?
Excerpt from his speech at DePaul:
Five years ago today, I was asked to speak at a rally against going to war in Iraq. The vote to authorize the war in Congress was less than ten days away and I was a candidate for the United States Senate. Some friends of mine advised me to keep quiet. Going to war in Iraq, they pointed out, was popular. All the other major candidates were supporting the war at the time. If the war goes well, they said, you'll have thrown your political career away.
But I didn't see how Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat. I was convinced that a war would distract us from Afghanistan and the real threat from al Qaeda. I worried that Iraq's history of sectarian rivalry could leave us bogged down in a bloody conflict. And I believed the war would fan the flames of extremism and lead to new terrorism. So I went to the rally. And I argued against a "rash war" - a "war based not on reason, but on politics" - "an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences."
I was not alone. Though not a majority, millions of Americans opposed giving the President the authority to wage war in Iraq. Twenty-three Senators, including the leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee, shared my concerns and resisted the march to war. For us, the war defied common sense. After all, the people who hit us on 9/11 were in Afghanistan, not Iraq.
But the conventional thinking in Washington has a way of buying into stories that make political sense even if they don't make practical sense. We were told that the only way to prevent Iraq from getting nuclear weapons was with military force. Some leading Democrats echoed the Administration's erroneous line that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. We were counseled by some of the most experienced voices in Washington that the only way for Democrats to look tough was to talk, act and vote like a Republican.
As Ted Sorensen's old boss President Kennedy once said "the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war" and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears." In the fall of 2002, those deaf ears were in Washington. They belonged to a President who didn't tell the whole truth to the American people; who disdained diplomacy and bullied allies; and who squandered our unity and the support of the world after 9/11.
But it doesn't end there. Because the American people weren't just failed by a President - they were failed by much of Washington. By a media that too often reported spin instead of facts. By a foreign policy elite that largely boarded the bandwagon for war. And most of all by the majority of a Congress - "a coequal branch of government" - that voted to give the President the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. Let's be clear: without that vote, there would be no war.
Some seek to rewrite history. They argue that they weren't really voting for war, they were voting for inspectors, or for diplomacy. But the Congress, the Administration, the media, and the American people all understood what we were debating in the fall of 2002. This was a vote about whether or not to go to war. That's the truth as we all understood it then, and as we need to understand it now. And we need to ask those who voted for the war: how can you give the President a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it?
With all that we know about what's gone wrong in Iraq, even today's debate is divorced from reality. We've got a surge that is somehow declared a success even though it has failed to enable the political reconciliation that was its stated purpose. The fact that violence today is only as horrific as in 2006 is held up as progress. Washington politicians and pundits trip over each other to debate a newspaper advertisement while our troops fight and die in Iraq.
And the conventional thinking today is just as entrenched as it was in 2002. This is the conventional thinking that measures experience only by the years you've been in Washington, not by your time spent serving in the wider world. This is the conventional thinking that has turned against the war, but not against the habits that got us into the war in the first place -- the outdated assumptions and the refusal to talk openly to the American people.
Oh, and by the way, Obama isn't too shabby with a basketball, either.