06/26/04 — Conjecture: What if we had known about the post-war killing?

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Conjecture: What if we had known about the post-war killing?

What if President George W. Bush had somehow been able to predict that insurgent guerrillas would continue to ambush and bomb American soldiers long after the coalition forces deposed Saddam Hussein as the ruler of Iraq? Would he still have taken us to war?

Based on the best intelligence available — which apparently was not very good — Bush and President Bill Clinton before him both believed that Saddam had deadly weapons that could kill masses of people. As further evidence of it, Saddam chose to violate an agreement that he had made with the United Nations to allow inspectors to verify that Iraq was free of such weapons.

It now appears that if Saddam had the weapons, they were moved out of the country, perhaps to adjacent Syria, before the coalition took control of the country.

But suppose he did possess them, as everyone thought. Would it have been right, even if the post-war bombings had been foretold, to invade Iraq to ensure that the weapons would not be used against Americans or our allies?

These are questions that we need to keep in mind.

The answers are: Yes, if we were sure Saddam had the weapons. Failing to act would have shirked the president’s responsibility to maintain the security of the United States.

And yes, his responsibility would have been the same even if he had known that the insurgent bombings and ambushes would occur. War nearly always involves casualties. That is a cruel fact but one that we cannot ignore. We assume going into any conflict that the lives of American soldiers are at risk.

So far, we have lost around 900 soldiers in the war and in its bloody aftermath. Many more Iraqis have died. The blame for this carnage does not rest with the United States, Great Britain and the other countries in the coalition. It belongs to Saddam Hussein.

Published in Editorials on June 26, 2004 11:42 PM