What a great day it was yesterday. The Democrats are back in control! Hallelujah! I have every confidence we can look forward to excellent progress rolling back the disastrous policies implemented by our opponents over the last six years.

I have a second reason for being elated today. That is the possibilty that we Democrats, particularly those of us who converse online, will be able to reengage in constructive dialog on contemporary issues, rather than engage in the type of divisive rhetoric engaged in by many liberals, that my friend over at DonkeyDigest calls the “cult of perpetual outrage.” Specifically, it seems the news vacum created by the end of the 2006 election cycle has induced many in the liberal blogosphere to resume their favorite pasttime…trashing Democratic supporters of the Iraq War Resolution passed in October of 2002. Not surprisingly, most of this criticism is aimed at Sen. Hillary Clinton. In recent weeks she has been accused of supporting a flag burning amendment, of having no interest in public policy other than censoring video games, and of supporting the Iraq War Resolution (IWR), in a crass attempt to further her political career with no regard at all for the lives that would be lost.

It is this last charge, and the surrounding debate over whether Democratic Senators voting for the IWR were in any way justified in supporting its passage, that will be the focus of my first substantive blog entry. In fact, it will be the subject of my first three blog entries.

Over the next three days I will be looking back at the passage of the IWR, with a specific concentration on the Democrats in the Senate that voted for it. In today’s entry I will be looking at what these Democrats believed about Iraq’s WMD capacity, and the nature of the criticism leveled at them for it. Tomorrow’s entry will look specifically at the evidence they based these assumptions on and the notion on the left that these Democrats were voting to give George W. Bush a blank-check to start a war with Iraq. And finally, I will wrap it up day after tomorrow with a look at how liberals demand these members now behave vis a vis their IWR support. Specifically, is it politically courageous to now apologize for that vote, or does it simply indicate a politician wishing to swing with the prevailing wind. Does an apology imply that they did not take their original vote seriously?

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It has become left-wing dogma that Hillary Clinton never did a thing in public life that did not benefit her politically…the greatest manifestation of that tendency they declare, is her crass and politically motivated support for the IWR in 2002. Though many others have come under some criticism by liberals for their stand, no Democrat has come under the type of attacks Hillary Clinton has. When queried whether they feel such Democrats as Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, Tom Harkin who served in the Navy from 1962-1967, or even John Kerry, who as we know, and despite efforts to smear him, displayed unusual heroism in Vietnam, also voted simply to advance their careers, these critics become mealy-mouthed, hem and haw, and simply revert to their boilerplate attack, avoiding the question entirely.

It is also left-wing dogma that a vote for the IWR was made despite overwhelming and authoritative evidence that the claims made by the U.S. intelligence community were known to be false at the time, and that such evidence was compelling enough to induce Senators to discount the opinions of the CIA and State Department. The obvious conclusion being that there can be no explanation for a yes vote on the resolution other than for political expediency. In addition, the IWR vote is viewed on the left as a blank check authorization for immediate, unconditional, preemptive war against Iraq. Implicit in this view is the notion that had the IWR failed to pass, there would be no Iraq war.

Reading through the floor statements of the 28 Democrats that supported the IWR, one is struck by the remarkable similarity in their reasoning. First and foremost was a fear that Saddam Hussein had retained, or was expanding a WMD capability. Second was a desire to reinsert weapons inspectors into Iraq, with the recognition that it would only happen with a credible threat of force. Third was a misplaced trust in George Bush to do what he said he would in terms of exhausting all non-military options first. And finally, a flat rejection by nearly all of the members that they were endorsing the concepty of preemptive war, or were advocating immediate military intervention in Iraq

The fear that Saddam Hussein had retained a WMD capability, or that he was actively engaged in reconstituting one, was the primary motivator expressed by nearly all of the Democratic supporters of the IWR. A sampling of these opinions:

“…it is clear to me that the current situation in Iraq is an on-going tragedy for the Iraqi people and an unacceptable menace for us, our neighbors, and the world.” – Tom Harkin

“While the distance betwen the United States and Iraq is great, Saddam Hussein’s ability to use his chemical and biological weapons against us is not constrained by geography” – Diane Feinstein

Saddam Hussein has stockpiled, weaponized and used chemical and biological weapons, and has made no secret of his desire to acquire nuclear weapons.” -Tom Daschle

There is unmistakable evicence that Saddam Hussein is working to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next 5 years” -Jay Rockefeller

“…it is Hussein’s vigorous pursuity of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, and his present and potential future support for terrorist acts and organizations, that make him a terrible danger to the people of the United States.” -Chuck Schumer

“…in the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program.” -Hillary Clinton

“Adoption of the force resolution will satisfy our obligations to make it clear to the international community that America stands united in its determination to rid the world of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” -Max Cleland

and perhaps most pointedly…

“With respect to Saddam Hussein and the threat he presents, we must ask ourselves a simple question: Why? Why is Saddam Hussein pursuing weapons that most nations have agreed to limit or give up? Why is Saddam Hussein guilty of breaking his own cease-fire agreement with the international community? Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don’t even try…Why did Saddam Hussein lie and deceive the inspection teams previously? Why did Saddam Hussein not account for all of the weapons of mass destruction which UNSCOM identified? Why is he seeking to develop unmanned airborne vehicles for delivery of biological agents?…Does he do all of these things because he wants to live by international standards of behavior? Because he respects international law? Because he is a nice guy underneath it all and the world should trust him?” – John Kerry

For many liberals, this reasoning was hogwash. It was obvious, they say, that the Bush administration was lying from the get go(which we now know it was of course). It was the responsibility of these Senators to somehow get past the lies they were obviously being told, and to find the truth that Colin Powell and George Tenet were witholding. The logic goes that if it was so obvious that even “lowly” bloggers could see past the lies, certainly these Senators should have been able to as well.

This view is expressed by William Rivers Pitt, currently editorial director for Progressive Democrats for America(PDA), in an article written for Truthout.org in 2005. After doing an excellent job exposing the lies perpetrated by the Bush administration in the run-up to the war, Pitt turns his attention to the 28 Democrats that voted for the IWR. “The Democrats who got behind this thing in the first place have not come close to absolving themselves of their responsibility for what has taken place, ” Pitt asserts. Mocking the accurate protestations of these Senators that they had been lied to, Pitt asks “if I knew this – me, wee little me – then how is it possible that all these Senators allowed themselves to be tricked?” The evidence he asserts led him to see the truth, was contained in the book he wrote in August 2002, two months before passage of the IWR, entitled “War on Iraq…,” which is largely an interview with former weapons inspector Scott Ritter. He claims the book “…stated unequivocally that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq…”

Interestingly, this article was in direct contradiction to the position he took just one year earlier. Pitt not only contradicted the later assertion regarding his books unequivocal statement that there were no WMD’s in Iraq, but in an attempt to defend John Kerry’s comments on his IWR vote during the 2004 campaign, appeared to indicate support for it.

“The ‘yes’ vote on the IWR essential to the establishment of effective weapons inspections,” Pitt says, “only the threat of force made the previous inspections effective. I asked Scott Ritter personally if his seven years in Iraq as an inspector would have been effective without the threat of force. He said the inspections would have been useless without the threat.” (emphasis mine)

And finally, he notes, “as Ritter said in my book, no one was absolutely sure they hadn’t retained any of their weapons capabilities.” (emphasis mine)

So much for not being “tricked!”

Concurrent to the liberal notion that it was obvious to anyone with half a brain that the intelligence supplied to Congress was a pack of lies, those Democrats(and one Republican) that voted against t he IWR became revered as heroes of the anti-war movement. They certainly saw through the lies, the thinking goes, they weren’t duped by tales of renewed nuclear capability, or of missiles tipped with anthrax or mustard gas. Right?

Well if one looks at the floor statements of these heroes during the debate over the IWR, it is obvious they disagreed with the tactic, not the goal. With very few exceptions these opponents acknowledged the danger Saddam Hussein allegedly posed. For example:

There is no question that Saddam Hussein is ignoring the will of the United Nations and that he has not honored the agreements he made following the Gulf War. Saddam Hussein is a dangerous force in the world.” -Kent Conrad

“Saddam Hussein’s regime has chemical and biological weapons and is trying to get nuclear capability.” -Bob Graham

“Saddam Hussein’s desire to obtain weapons of mass destruction is of grave concern.” -Jim Jeffords

“…I commend President Bush for taking his case against Iraq to the American people…and I agree with the President that Saddam is a despicable tyrant who must be disarmed.” -Ted Kennedy

Iraq has grim and ghoulish weapons to carry out its evil plans. As part of the Gulf War cease-fire agreement, Saddam Hussein committed to destroying its chemical and biological and nuclear weapons programs…instead, Saddam Hussein is trying to add nuclear weapons to an arsenal that already includes chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles.” -Barbara Mikulski

Saddam must give arms inspectors unfettered access. And, if he does not comply with this new U.N. resolution there will be consequences, including the use of appropriate military force.” -Paul Wellstone

Wellstone was advocating a unified approach with the U.N. which is why he opposed the IWR…

“With regard to Iraq, I agree, Iraq presents a genuine threat, especially in the form of weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological, and potentially nuclear weapons. I agree that Saddam Hussein is exceptionally dangerous and brutal, if not uniquely so, as the President argues. And I support the concept of regime change.” -Russ Feingold

Interesting how all these opponents of the IWR were also duped by Bush’s lies…

Another of the liberal heroes is General Wesley Clark, a fine man, who I believe would make a fine PResident if elected. However he too apparently was taken in by the lies told to us by the Bush administration. In an appearance before the House Armed Services Committee on September 26, 2002, Clark made t he following statement:

“I think it’s not time yet to use force against Iraq but it is certainly time to put that card on the table, to turn it face up and to wave it and the president is doing that and I think that the United States Congress has to indicate after due consideration and consulting our people and building our resolve that yes, this is a significant security problem for the United States of America and all options are on the table including the use of force as necessary to solve this problem because I think that’s what’s required to leverage any hope of solving this problem short of war. “

As CalPundit points out here, Clark opposed the IWR, but recognized the validity of the arguments for it. He acknowledged that the IWR may have been responsible for renewed success at getting the inspectors back into Iraq, and that it was the Bush administration that short-circuited that process in its haste to attack.

That Clark does not share the view of many liberals that those who voted for the IWR were merely playing political games, or were dishonest in their support of the resolution, is evidenced by his service as one of John Kerry’s primary foreign policy advisors during the 2004 Presidential campaign, at a time when Kerry was still defending that vote. As CalPundit puts it, Clark was “willing to acknowledge that there are good arguments even for positions he opposes. Frankly, we could use more of that instead of the scorched earth tactics in which every possible argument from your opponents is deemed both absurd and fraudulent.”

I wish the sentiment expressed by CalPundit, and embodied by the attitude of General Clark were more prevelent in our party. It is clear to me that for most of the Democratic supporters of the IWR, their vote was not simply a case of political expediency. Having read every floor statement by Democrats in the Senate, both opposing and supporting the IWR it is clear the vast majority of both camps believed Saddam Hussein had either retained a WMD capacity or was rapidly rebuilding one. And the notion that the liberal blogosphere had somehow seen trhough this smokescreen is contradicted in at least one case by one of the most visible proponents of it.

Tomorrow – the lies told to Congress and the American people by the Bush administration and…were IWR supporters voting for preemptive war?

UPDATE: Well I have gotten at least one person to take a position on Max Cleland and his IWR vote…according to the poster at DemocraticUnderground, Max Cleland, and the other 27 Democrats that voted Yes are…..you guessed it….war criminals.