On Thursday, Fox News Megyn Kelly highlighted a George W. Bush clip from 2007 in which the president warned withdrawing troops too early would mean “surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda.” Bush said, “It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan.”
Bush finished, “It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.”
Kelly called this “frighteningly accurate.” She’s right.
But it’s accurate in the way your mother told you touching the stove might get you burned. It’s prophetic in the way you just know Rocky Balboa is going to win.
It’s basically a “no sh*t” statement.
Without a Saddam Hussein or a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq, that country was going to become unstable, creating a vacuum for Islamic extremists to flourish.
Our choices in 2003 were: A. Leave Saddam Hussein’s regime intact and don’t go to war with Iraq. B. Remove Hussein and spend an indefinite amount of time (John McCain proposed 100 years), dollars ($2-$6 trillion) and lives (over 4,000 Americans, far more Iraqis) to suppress the Islamic extremists Saddam had always kept at bay.
Dick Cheney said as much in 1994, when he explained why we didn’t get rid of Hussein during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, “Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off…
In 2004, London’s Telegraph reported, “Tony Blair was warned a year before invading Iraq that a stable post-war government would be impossible without keeping large numbers of troops there for ‘many years’, secret government papers reveal.”
UK’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned Blair, “No one has satisfactorily answered how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be any better. Iraq has no history of democracy so no one has this habit or experience.” Regime change, said Straw, “would require the US and others to commit to nation-building for many years. This would entail a substantial international security force.”
Bush’s “frighteningly accurate” statement was just stating the obvious—and it was a situation his administration put us in. As The National Interest’s James Antle noted Friday, “it is simply indisputable that regime change in Iraq set in motion the chain of events that ultimately allowed ISIS to thrive.” President Obama’s decision to aid the Syrian rebels has only served to empower the Islamic State.
The U.S. also left Iraq on a timetable set by the Bush administration. Some prominent Republicans even thought Bush deserved credit for them leaving.
If we’re going to start praising those who thought the Iraq War was a good idea for their foresight…
Let’s remember just how “prophetic” they were:
“Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” — Donald Rumsfeld 2002
“This is going to be a 2-month war, not a 10-year-war.” — Bill Kristol 2003
“No one can plausibly argue that ridding the world of Saddam Hussein will not significantly improve the stability of the region and the security of American interests and values.” – John McCain 2003
“Iraqi democracy will succeed, and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Tehran, that freedom can be the future of every nation.” —George Bush 2003