There’s some important background on this new intrusion of the Iraq War into the current debate about Iran, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli election. It’s true that like a number of Senate Democrats, John Kerry voted for the Iraq War resolution in late 2002. That was due to a mix of belief in national unity, political cowardice and a credulous assumption that President Bush was actually on the level when he said he needed the authorization to wage war to avoid it, to get inspectors back into Iraq. It was or should have been clear that this was not true, that inspectors and Weapons of Mass Destruction were not the goal that made the threat of war necessary. They were cudgels and covers to help make the war a fait accompli.
Many Democrats either didn’t think Saddam would relent or thought that if he did, Bush would lose his casus belli. I don’t exonerate them. They were helped along in these maybe misunderstandings by a health dose of cowardice and what they saw at the time as political self-preservation. As it happened, when Bush lost his rationale for war, he simply invaded anyway.
This was mainly obvious at the time, not entirely obvious to everyone. But to suggest that Secretary Kerry ‘supported’ the Iraq War like President Bush or Benjamin Netanyahu is silly.
That brings us to Netanyahu. Some believe that the Israeli government either wanted the Iraq War to happen or goaded the Americans into the attack. In fact, the Israeli security establishment was very divided on the wisdom of the US administration’s policy. Indeed, Ariel Sharon pointedly warned President Bush of the dangers of what he was planning. Indeed, the best account of his discussions with President Bush suggests his warnings were highly prescient – about the spillover of radicalism growing out of a US occupation, the zero sum empowerment of Iran and more.
It was Netanyahu, then technically a private citizen, though he would soon enter Sharon’s government in late 2002 who not only supported a US attack on Iraq but advocated for it endlessly within the US. (Netanyahu is also not in line with the Israeli security establishment’s current views on Iran.) Indeed, that is the parallel to today: the fact that in many ways Netanyahu feels more at home in the US political context than the Israeli one. As Netanyahu said at the time, “there is no question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking and is working and is advancing towards the development of nuclear weapons — no question whatsoever. If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.”
And Kerry’s point is a simple if brutal one: Netanyahu has a history of trying to get the US to launch major wars in the Middle East.
Here’s video of then private citizen Netanyahu testifying before House Government Reform and Oversight Committee on behalf of a US attack on Iraq back in 2002. Think about it. How often does that happen?
Here’s the video …