For decades I have kept newspaper clippings on virtually every country in the world. This week I was thinning out my Iraq files. Eleven years after the American invasion, many read like fantasy and wishful thinking.
As early as Dec. 28, 2001, the National Post printed an article by Rich Lowry, “The Liberal Case for Attacking Iraq.” He provided six reasons: Saddam Hussein was flouting numerous UN resolutions (including the calls to destroy his “weapons of mass destruction”); women had little freedom in Iraq; 500,000 children had died since 1991 due to UN sanctions, so the “truly humanitarian position” was to overthrow Saddam; it was also necessary for effective arms control, would allow Muslims to practice their religion in peace; and allow for proper nation-building.
On Aug. 15, 2002, TV personality Ezra Levant, in another National Post column, “Why Canada Should Declare War,” chided “our pusillanimous European allies” as a bunch of fearful pacifist appeasers.
As war loomed, the National Post’s Andrew Coyne on March 7, 2003, in “12 Arguments Against the War; Rebutted,” did Lowry six better. It would not be a unilateral American action since “more than 30 countries” had declared their support. It met the standards of international law, since Saddam had failed to comply with at least 17 UN Security Council resolutions, and Iraq had “massive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.”
Four days later in the National Post, University of Toronto political science professor Clifford Orwin made the case for a pre-emptive war. In “America is Justified in Striking First,” he suggested that the “military aspect of the war on terror does not lend itself to other means.” And the continued oppression of the Iraqi people would end with “their liberation at the hands of the Americans.”
National Post journalist George Jonas, in his March 12, 2003 commentary “Why This Kosovo Dove Became an Iraq Hawk,” also pointed to Iraq’s many violations of UN resolutions.
As the war was winding down, Washington Post correspondent Antony Shadid filed an article on April 10, 2003, “Hussein’s Baghdad Falls,” in which he wrote of residents pouring into the streets “to celebrate the government’s defeat and welcome the U.S. forces in scenes of thanks and jubilation.”
How did so many get it so wrong?