And why it mattersJul 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 42 • By DICK CHENEY and LIZ CHENEY
As the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) capture territory and establish a caliphate stretching across the now-eradicated Syria-Iraq border, hard-won gains secured with American blood and treasure are being lost. We are watching the rise of potentially the gravest threat to our national security in a generation, one that surpasses even the threat we faced on 9/11. Against this backdrop, as we debate what our response should be, it has become fashionable in some quarters to say, “Let’s not relitigate Iraq.” It’s not politically expedient, this line of argument goes, to discuss why we invaded Iraq in the first place, or the lessons we learned. This view is wrong on the history, misguided on the politics, and dangerous as a matter of policy.
The larger war, of which the liberation of Iraq was part, is still ongoing. Winning it requires that we understand the truth about the liberation of Iraq, the challenges America faced in the aftermath of the invasion, how we overcame them with the 2007-08 surge, how we defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq and established a stable, functioning nation allied with America in the heart of the Middle East. We must understand how President Obama squandered it all, creating a vacuum in which ISIS, the richest terrorist organization in history, now thrives.
Those who say the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a mistake are essentially saying we would be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power. That’s a difficult position to sustain. It is undisputed, and has been confirmed repeatedly in Iraqi government documents captured after the invasion, that Saddam had deep, longstanding, far-reaching relationships with terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda and its affiliates. It is undisputed that Saddam’s Iraq was a state based on terror, overseeing a coordinated program to support global jihadist terrorist organizations. Ansar al Islam, an al Qaeda-linked organization, operated training camps in northern Iraq before the invasion. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the future leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, funneled weapons and fighters into these camps, before the invasion, from his location in Baghdad. We also know, again confirmed in documents captured after the war, that Saddam provided funding, training, and other support to numerous terrorist organizations and individuals over decades, including to Ayman al Zawahiri, the man who leads al Qaeda today.
It is also undisputed that Saddam Hussein had the technology, equipment, facilities, and scientists in place to construct the world’s worst weapons. We know he intended to reconstitute these programs as soon as the international sanctions regime collapsed. He had an advanced nuclear program in place prior to Operation Desert Storm in 1991. In 1998, he kicked the international weapons inspectors out of Iraq. He violated every one of the 17 U.N. Security Council Resolutions passed against him.
Anyone pining for the days of Saddam would do well to read the accounts of his 1988 chemical weapons attack on Halabja, Iraq. Listen to the survivors talk about the babies and children who died slow, painful deaths in bomb shelters where they had sought refuge with their families. The shelters became, as Saddam knew they would, gas chambers. The lesson of Halabja is that Saddam had no compunction, no moral compass, no hesitation to use the world’s worst weapons, including against his own people.
Saddam’s was a reign of terror characterized by torture, rape rooms, the murder of parents in front of their children and children in front of their parents, and the oppression and slaughter of Kurds, Marsh Arabs, and Shiites. George W. Bush captured it well when he wrote that Saddam was a homicidal dictator pursuing WMD and supporting terror at the heart of the Middle East.
Leaving Saddam in power after 9/11, in light of the threat he posed, would have been, as Tony Blair has noted, an act of political cowardice. We are not saying Saddam was responsible for 9/11. What we are saying is that in the aftermath of 9/11, when we saw thousands of our fellow citizens slaughtered by terrorists armed with airline tickets and box cutters, our leaders had an obligation to do everything possible to prevent terrorists from gaining access to even worse weapons. Saddam’s Iraq was the most likely nexus for such an exchange.
Against the weight of historical evidence, some critics claim the Bush administration manufactured or exaggerated the intelligence about Saddam’s weapons programs. The charge doesn’t stand up against the facts. Both the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Robb-Silberman Commission issued bipartisan reports concluding there was no politicization of the intelligence or pressure on analysts to change their judgements about Iraq’s WMD.
Jul 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 42 • By LEE SMITH
Last week, Hamas fired hundreds of rockets and missiles at targets throughout Israel, including the nuclear reactor at Dimona. Two of the three M-75 missiles targeting Dimona missed the mark entirely, but one had to be brought down by Iron Dome, Israel’s antimissile shield. The U.N. considers an attack on a nuclear reactor an act of nuclear terrorism, which in this case might have taken a catastrophic toll on Israel’s population—as well as the Palestinians.
Hosted by Michael Graham.10:34 AM, Jul 8, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior writer Stephen F. Hayes on the chaos at the border and in the Middle East and President Obama's do-nothing role.
6:15 AM, Jun 23, 2014 • By PAUL WOLFOWITZ
The death of Fouad Ajami this weekend, at the age of 68, deprived this country and the world of a uniquely powerful voice – one that is at the same time both Arab and American – that could have helped guide us, as he has in the past, through the hazards and complications of his native Middle East.
12:00 AM, Jun 21, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
And we thought the bad old days of oil shocks were over. Embargoes, price spikes, gasoline lines in America, a sweater-bedecked president ordering the end of hot water in many facilities, collapsing retail sales as high gasoline and energy prices hit stores as much as a big tax increase would, economic stagflation, or worse. Well, it just might be that we were wrong to believe that danger to our continued prosperity has been removed with the death of theories about “Peak oil.”
11:45 AM, Jun 16, 2014 • By FREDERICK W. KAGAN and WILLIAM KRISTOL
It’s widely agreed that the collapse of Iraq would be a disaster for American interests and security in the Middle East and around the world. It also seems to be widely assumed either that there's nothing we can now do to avert that disaster, or that our best bet is supporting Iran against al Qaeda. Both assumptions are wrong. It would be irresponsible to embrace a premature fatalism with respect to Iraq. And it would be damaging and counterproductive to accept a transformation of our alliances and relationships in the Middle East to the benefit of the regime in Tehran. There is a third alternative.
The perils of the Palestinian Authority’s new Fatah-Hamas government Jun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
The creation of a new Palestinian “national unity” government has raised a slew of questions in the United States. What should our policy be toward a government that has the support not only of the Fatah party but of the terrorist group Hamas as well? Should all aid to the Palestinians be suspended?
11:22 AM, Jun 2, 2014 • By JONATHAN SCHANZER
Today the Palestinian Authority announced a joint interim government uniting Fatah and Hamas. West Bankers and Gazans cheer the move because the division between the two most powerful Palestinian factions has been a black eye for the Palestinian nationalist movement. Their rival religious and political visions, dating back to the creation of Hamas in 1987, have divided the Palestinians ideologically. Moreover, the territorial divisions resulting from the 2007 civil war in Gaza had made the creation of a unified, viable Palestinian entity all but impossible, until now.
Jun 2, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 36 • By LEE SMITH
Last month the president of the Syrian Opposition Coalition went to the White House. Ahmad Jarba and the Syrian rebels want American weapons, in particular the shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles that might neutralize Bashar al-Assad’s air force and stop it from dropping barrel bombs loaded with chlorine gas canisters. What Jarba got instead was a handshake and platitudes.
10:08 AM, May 9, 2014 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Last night Martin Indyk, now the chief assistant to Secretary of State Kerry in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, spoke at length to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. One account of his speech appears here at the Times of Israel's web site.
Israel’s security establishment steps up.May 12, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 33 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
The world’s attention was largely turned to Ukraine last week. To the extent that the Middle East was on the front pages, the focus was the new agreement between the PLO and Hamas, its implications for the “peace process,” and John Kerry’s comment about Israel as an “apartheid state.”
But in Israel a different subject was getting a lot of attention: Iran’s nuclear program. April 28 was Holocaust Remembrance Day, and that was the context in which Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke about Iran at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
And the White House campaigns for Assad.1:25 PM, Apr 23, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Monday the Syrian regime announced that presidential elections will be held June 3. The State Department dismissed the news. “The fact that you would even think you can hold free and fair elections in the middle of a civil war,” said a State Department spokesman, “is absurd.”
9:00 AM, Apr 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Former President Jimmy Carter does not think much about Hillary Clinton's effort to bring about peace in the Middle East. John Kerry's efforts, on the other hand, are "notable," according to Carter.
He made the remarks in an interview with Time magazine, in response to this question: "What’s your take on Secretary Kerry’s efforts so far in the Mideast?"
2:02 PM, Apr 4, 2014 • By ARYEH TEPPER
So the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are, predictably, collapsing. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded to the frustration of his manic peacemaking efforts by quoting an ancient complaint, "There’s an old saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Now it's time to drink and the leaders need to know that."
To which one might respond with the words of Psalms: "Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding."