I’m hearing it already, the talk that compares the impending strike against Syria to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq and the faulty intelligence — some call it outright lying about it — that supposedly justified the toppling of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Let’s hold on a minute.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said this week there is no doubt, none, that Syrian government forces gassed civilians, including infants. President Obama says that he has no intention of getting into a ground war, that he would use airstrikes only to punish Syria for using the chemical weapons in violation of “international norms.”
How does that differ from a decade ago? Well, the Bush administration said it had intelligence confirming that Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons. President Bush’s military high command assembled an invasion force to enter the country, to occupy it and to get rid of the weapons. It turned out the weapons didn’t exist. U.S. forces eventually found Hussein hiding in a “spiderhole.” He was tried for crimes against humanity in an Iraqi court and hanged. But we stayed on, and on, and on — fighting to gain control of the country before handing it over to the Iraqi government.
It’s good to ask: Does anyone really believe the Obama administration, knowing what happened when it was learned that the intelligence gathered before the Iraq War was so bad, that it’s going to repeat that horrible mistake this time around? Is it going to risk the most intense worldwide condemnation imaginable if it isn’t certain that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s forces used the chemicals on innocent civilians? I hardly think so.
The Iraq War was launched on false pretenses. The Syrian strikes — if they come — are certain to be based on much stronger evidence than we ever gathered before marching headlong into Iraq.