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The Wrong War From the Start

Friday, September 17, 2004; Page A26

David Ignatius's Sept. 14 op-ed column, "Saddam Hussein Revisited," accurately recounted my thoughts about Saddam Hussein at the time of the Persian Gulf War. Saddam Hussein was a bad man, possibly even a madman.

The question, however has never been about the character of Saddam Hussein. Rather, it is whether the invasion, conquest and occupation of Iraq that we undertook in 2003 was in response to legitimate national security concerns and the most appropriate way to address those concerns.


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Mr. Ignatius posited that the right answers were not obvious in 2003.

What were the right answers?

Saddam Hussein did not pose a nuclear threat to the United States, and we knew it well before we undertook the Iraq war. Operational ties to al Qaeda were never seriously believed to exist, except perhaps in the mind of Vice President Cheney, and now have been debunked by the Sept. 11 commission and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's comments last weekend ["Powell Sees No 'Direct' Link Between Hussein, Sept. 11," news story, Sept. 13]. Iraq's neighbors did not view the threat with sufficient alarm to offer support in our war. Indeed, the Turkish government would not let us cross its territory to open a northern front.

Former president George H.W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft and James A. Baker III all understood that any U.S. military action had to be consistent with our national security; we could not allow the brazen invasion of Kuwait in 1990 to stand and Saddam Hussein to be poised to invade the eastern Saudi oilfields. But they also understood and wrote about the possible consequences to our military and to our standing in the world from a war that exceeded what was necessary and that could not be justified to the world. Had the current administration heeded their advice, we would not find ourselves in a predicament where we have all but lost the military and political war for Iraq, where we have made enemies throughout the Arab and Muslim world, and where we have exposed not our strength but our weakness in managing an occupation of a country far from our own.

All this was understood well before the outbreak of hostilities. The administration chose the vapid ideological assertions of the Project for the New American Century instead, and the rest, as they say, is history.

JOSEPH C. WILSON IV

Washington


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