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Not a Diversion

Was Iraq a diversion from the war on terror? Bush and McCain remind us that the answer is: No.

3:27 PM, Oct 6, 2004 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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WAS REMOVING Saddam Hussein from power a "diversion" from the war on terror, as Senator John Kerry now claims? Or was taking action against the Iraqi regime necessary in a post-September 11 world, as President Bush believes?

In Pennsylvania today, the president explained why Iraq is "no diversion," but "the place where civilization is taking a decisive stand against chaos and terror":

After September the 11th, America had to assess every potential threat in a new light. Our nation awakened to an even greater danger, the prospect that terrorists who killed thousands with hijacked airplanes would kill many more with weapons of mass murder. We had to take a hard look at everyplace where terrorists might get those weapons. And one regime stood out: the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

We knew the dictator had a history of using weapons of mass destruction, a long record of aggression and hatred for America. He was listed by Republican and Democrat administrations as a state sponsor of terrorists. There was a risk--a real risk--that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons, or materials, or information to terrorist networks. In the world after September the 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take.

After 12 years of United Nations Security Council resolutions, we gave him a final chance to come clean and listen to the demands of the free world. When he chose defiance and war, our coalition enforced the just demands of the world. And the world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell. . . .

Our victory requires changing the conditions that produce radicalism and suicide bombers, and finding new democratic allies in a troubled part of the region. America is always more secure when freedom is on the march. And freedom is on the march--in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere. There will be good days and there will be bad days in the war on terror, but every day we will show our resolve and we will do our duty. This nation is determined: we will stay in the fight until the fight is won. . . .

After September the 11th, our object in the war on terror is not to wait for the next attack and respond, but to prevent attacks by taking the fight to the enemy.

In our debate, Senator Kerry said that removing Saddam Hussein was a mistake because the threat was not imminent. The problem with this approach is obvious: if America waits until a threat is at our doorstep, it might be too late to save lives. Tyrants and terrorists will not give us polite notice before they launch an attack on our country.

Senator Kerry assures us that he's the one to win a war he calls a mistake, an error, and a diversion. But you can't win a war you don't believe in fighting. In Iraq, Senator Kerry has a strategy of retreat; I have a strategy of victory. . . .

[W]e're in Iraq because I deeply believe it is necessary and right and critical to the outcome of the war on terror. If another terror regime were allowed to emerge in Iraq, the terrorists would find a home, a source of funding, vital support. They would correctly conclude that free nations do not have the will to defend themselves. If Iraq becomes a free society at the heart of the Middle East, an ally in the war on terror, a model of hopeful reform in a region that needs hopeful reform, the terrorists will suffer a crushing defeat, and every free nation will be more secure.

This is why Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman calls Iraq a "crucial battle in the global war on terrorism." This is why Prime Minister Tony Blair has called the struggle in Iraq "the crucible in which the future of global terrorism will be determined." This is why the terrorists are fighting with desperate cruelty. They know their own future is at stake. Iraq is no diversion; it is the place where civilization is taking a decisive stand against chaos and terror--and we must not waver.

Given the president's remarks today, this may also be a good time to revisit the forceful words of Senator John McCain on the centrality of Iraq to the war on terror, spoken during the Republican convention in New York City on August 30, 2004:

After years of failed diplomacy and limited military pressure to restrain Saddam Hussein, President Bush made the difficult decision to liberate Iraq. Those who criticize that decision would have us believe that the choice was between a status quo that was well enough left alone and war. But there was no status quo to be left alone.