Remarks on the 138th Anniversary Celebration of The Nation Magazine, December 14, 2003, in New York City
The older I get, the more I become convinced that wisdom is enhanced by age, and I think the same can be said of The Nation magazine. It is more than a good read. It has become, over the years, an essential publication and a voice for the loyal opposition that is needed today as perhaps never before.
Tonight, I have been asked to speak about Iraq.
Early this morning came news of the capture of Saddam Hussein. That is good news. Despite his fall from power many months ago, the specter of a possible return to power had cast a constant shadow over Iraq and the Iraqi people. I applaud the tenacious work of the military and intelligence communities for their success today.
But that success does not diminish the challenges that remain in Iraq, and it certainly does not tamp the passions inflamed against the United States throughout the Muslim world by our actions in Iraq. The capture of Saddam Hussein will not be the keystone for peace in that volatile region. This day’s news does not lessen the danger that the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strike poses to international peace and stability.
In order to bring lasting stability to Iraq, that nation needs the help of the entire world, not just America and her fighting needs.
As each day passes and as more American soldiers are killed and wounded in Iraq, I become ever more convinced that the war in Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place for the wrong reasons. Contrary to the President’s rosy predictions–and the predictions of others in the Bush Administration–the United States has not been universally greeted as a liberator in Iraq. The peace–if one can use the term “peace” to describe the chronic violence and instability that define Iraq today–the peace is far from being won. Iraqi citizens may be glad that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, but they appear to be growing increasingly resentful that the United States continues to rule their country at the point of a gun.
What a huge price we are now paying for the President’s bullheaded rush to invoke the unwise and unprecedented doctrine of pre-emption to invade Iraq, an invasion without provocation, an invasion without the support of the United Nations or the international community.
It would be tragic enough if the casualties of the Iraq war were confined to the battlefield, but they are not. The casualties of this war will have serious repercussions for generations to come. Truth is one casualty. Despite the best efforts of the White House to contort the invasion of Iraq into an extension of the war on terror, there was never a connection between Saddam Hussein and September 11. There was never a connection between Iraq and September 11. Not a single Iraqi was among the nineteen hijackers of those four planes. Despite dire warnings from the President, Saddam Hussein had at his fingertips neither the means nor the materiel to unleash deadly weapons of mass destruction on the world. Despite presidential rhetoric to the contrary, Iraq did not pose a grave and gathering menace to the security of the United States. The war in Iraq was nothing less than a manufactured war. It was a war served up to a deliberately misled and deluded American public to suit the neoconservative political agenda of the Bush White House.