Note: In my first entry on this topic I talked a bit about the notion among liberal bloggers that George Bush’s lies in regards to WMD’s were obvious at the time the IWR vote was taken. I specifically looked at the positions taken by William Rivers Pitt, first in 2005 in an editorial at truthout.org where he condemned the twenty-eight Democrats in the Senate for their yes vote in favor of the IWR, followed by a look at his position one year earlier where he not only seemed to contradict his 2005 assertion that the book he authored stated unequivocally that there were no WMD’s in Iraq, but seemed to indicate support for the IWR. I was able to ask Mr. Pitt about this in this thread at Democratic Underground. Unfortunately his answer seemed to contain the same contradictions as his previous statements. In response to my query asking him about his 2004 position he replied as follows:

I think the IWR Vote would have been essentially benign…

had Bush not been in office. It is true that dealing with that regime required a big stick to weild, all the way back to Clinton. All those bombs Clinton dropped were done to force the continuation of the UNSCOM inspections. Look at this last war; Hussen all but surrendered beforehand, because the threat was enough. The IWR opened the door for inspections under threat. Had the inspections been allowed to be completed unmolested, the cause for war would have evaporated…and the inspections were only going to be allowed under threat, which was provided by the IWR.

My opinion on this is based, in no small part, on my conversations with Scott Ritter. Go back and read my book; he lays it all out, and has repeated same oftentimes.

And yes, the Senators should have known better.

So he seems to acknowledge that the IWR was working until short circuited by President Bush, but then in his last sentance says the Senators should have known better. I wasn’t able to follow up to see exactly what he meant by this…but there it is. If you would like to read his book for yourself…it can be purchased here.

On to the third installment on this topic…

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In 1952 Arthur Miller presented an excellent play called The Crucible, a fictional work based on the 1692 Salem Witch trials (personal note: My 15th Great Grandmother, Mary Bradbury, was convicted but escaped punishment). As most probably know, a number of men and women in and around Salem, Massachusetts were accused by a group of mostly teenage girls, of being witches…that they had been willingly possessed by the devil and were performing evil acts as a result. The transcripts of these trials are fascinating and can be read verbatim here.

In Miller’s version, denial that one was possessed constituted evidence of guilt. In other words, confess to the crime of witchcraft even if you believed yourself innocent, and you were spared the noose. Refuse to admit guilt…and you swung.

The play’s central character John Proctor, refused to sacrifice his honor and integrity by confessing to a crime he knew he did not commit…and he was eventually hanged for that stubborness.

Miller wrote the play as a commentary on the red-baiting of Joseph McCarthy in his role as chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommitte on Investigations. In McCarthy’s world, refusing to implicate others to the committee was considered evidence of communist affiliation.

So, what you may ask does this have to do with the Iraq War Resolution and the twenty-eight Democratic Senators that voted for it.

Well, since the IWR vote took place in October of 2002, and as a consequence of their support of that act, these twenty-eight Senators, particularly Hillary Clinton, have been labeled apostates to the progressive cause by many in the liberal blogosphere.It is now accepted wisdom that Senator Clinton and the other twenty-seven Democratic yes votes are warmongers, who have demonstrated a willingness to tolerate the death of thousands of American soldiers and many more thousands of Iraqi civilians, for the sole purpose of advancing themselves politically.

Given that some even believe that these are the acts of war criminals, one would think that they would be unforgivable.

And yet it seems one simple act is all it takes to escape the liberal political noose…all one has to do to regain the support of these liberal critics…is apologize. Say you were wrong, say that you made a mistake, that you didn’t mean it, imply you did not take your original vote seriously…and all is magically forgiven. You are no longer a warmonger, and are spared the political noose.

Take the John Proctor route on the other hand, refuse to sacrifice your integrity by admitting you did not take your original vote seriously, that you did believe your vote was the correct thing to do at the time….why then you are still a warmonger and deserve to be punished.

In the current political climate apologizing for prior support or the IWR is hardly as act of courage. Taking that step finds those Senators making it greeted with liberal laurels lauding their political “courage.” Admitting one’s mistake the thinking goes, shows extraordinary strength of character.

In reality of course, apologizing implies that one’s reasons for prior support for the IWR was exactly what these former critics said it was…a political ploy.

It doesn’t take strength to swim downriver.

Conversely, Senators taking the Hillary Clinton route by refusing to apologize for taking their job seriously the first time, by saying that they looked at the evidence and voted the way they thought best, are labeled cowards…lackeys for the Bush administration and their corporate allies in the Democratic Party…usually with some implicit or sometimes explicit assertion that the DLC is behind it all.

In fact, Hillary Clinton and the others who have refused to apologize for their prior vote are merely being consistent. As I have argued in my first two entries on this topic, Democratic supporters of the IWR had perfectly valid reasons at the time for voting the way they did. Saddam Hussein had shown a willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, had done everything in his power between 1991 and 1998 to thwart weapons inspectors, had ended all cooperation with inspectors and the U.N. in 1998, and not one inspector had set foot in Iraq in the four years running up to the IWR vote. In addition, Congress was receiving very explicit and detailed information from the CIA that Iraq had reconstituted its chemical and biologocal weapons programs, and was pursuing a nuclear one. Even IWR opponents acknowledged this.

At the time, folks such as John Kerry and John Edwards, who have apologized, made valid arguments for their vote that mirrored those of most other Democratic Senators, demonstrating they believed Saddam Hussein was dangerous and needed to be disarmed. They voted to authorize military action realizing the only thing that had elicited any cooperation from Saddam in the past was the threat of violence. They had nothing to apologize for…and I am somewhat disappointed they did.

In this political climate, refusing to acquiesce to the mob demanding an apology where none is required does take political courage.

It does take strength to swim upriver.

Now I know what the reaction on the left will be to this argument. They will simply say those that have not apologized are warmongers who continue their full-throated support for the war. With the exception of Joe Lieberman however, this is simply not the case.

Hillary Clinton, like most Democrats who voted for the IWR, has said very explicitly that had they known then what they know now, they never would have supported it. In other words had they known George Bush was lying about the reasons for the IWR, that the evidence for WMDs was being cooked up to support a predetermined policy, and that Bush had not intention of pursuing further inspections, they certainly would not have voted for it. In other words, they put the blame where it properly belongs…with George Bush.

Despite the logic and accuracy of this position however, it is seen by the mob clamoring for apologies as a copout.

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I had intended to go further in this entry, with a more detailed look at the question of preemptive war and whether these twenty-eight Senators were voting to endorse that concept. However, I believe I have laid out the reasons most of these Senators voted the way they did, as a way to get inspectors back into Iraq to avoid, not initiate military conflict. Given this it is clear that none were voting to endorse the concept of preemptive war. This is made explicit in their floor statements as well. Virtually every one noted specifically they were not voting for such a concept. Hillary Clinton’s statement is a good representative example:

My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption, or for uni-lateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose — all of which carry grave dangers for our nation, for the rule of international law and for the peace and security of people throughout the world.

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By making the IWR vote the first topic on this blog, I hope to recast the debate a tiny bit over who is to blame for the mess in Iraq. Liberals who believe, wrongly in my opinion, that the Democratic Party is nothing more than a lite version of the Republican Party, with both being subservient to corporate requirements, impels them to find as many wedge issues as they can to demonize those they view as not sufficiently progressive. The IWR vote is number one on that list.The problem of course, is that their logic breaks down when you ask them if they have the same opinion of liberal and IWR supporter Tom Harkin, as they do of Hillary Clinton. Or if they truly believe the IWR vote was a vote for unfettered aggressive war, how could they have voted for John Kerry in 2004. Or, how can they explain the yes vote on the part of war hero, and triple amputee Max Cleland, without casting him in the same class as those more hated members.

The only effect this wedge issue ultimately has however, is to divert attention from those truly responsible for the Iraq war…George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rubber stamp Republicans in Congress they had at their beck and call for six years.