They couldn't be more wrong.
The U.S. war in Iraq — and by extension, President Bush — started coming under withering criticism not too long after it started in March 2003. Quickly forgotten were these salient quotes, made just the year before:
"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." — Sen. Ted Kennedy, on Sept. 27, 2002.
"It is clear . . . that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." — Sen. Hillary Clinton, Oct. 10, 2002.
"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country." — Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002.
We could go on and on. Others said similar things. Suffice to say, support at the time for "doing something" about Iraq was wide and deep. They even egged Bush on, urging him to get tough. Then, in the fall of 2002, Congress authorized Bush to go to war.
Only later, in late 2003 and 2004, as polls showed public support waning, did many of those same prominent politicians who once enthusiastically stumped for war and even voted for it in Congress suddenly do an about-face. It stands as one of the most shameful political turnabouts in U.S. history.
Opponents suddenly claimed the war was a sham, that they were fooled into supporting it by cooked intelligence, that we should have never removed Saddam, that Iraqis were better off with him in power than with us as occupiers.
The war in Iraq, in short, simply wasn't worth it. But they were wrong on all counts.
The data on the war weren't cooked; virtually every major foreign intelligence service, including those of France, Germany and the U.K., among others, believed Saddam Hussein was pursuing nuclear and biological weapons — weapons of mass destruction.
Moreover, Saddam's ties to al-Qaida, despite recent news reports to the contrary, were clear. He openly tolerated Ansar al-Islam, an al-Qaida affiliate, in northern Iraq. He welcomed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi with open arms before the war began.
His intelligence service met with al-Qaida cell leader and 9/11 terrorist Mohammed Atta months before he attacked the Twin Towers. Osama bin Laden even wrote a now-infamous letter to Saddam in the 1990s, asking for help.
As 9/11 Committee co-chairman and former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean said, "There was no question in our minds that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida."
We achieved many concrete benefits from taking Saddam out — none of them, by the way, related to "blood for oil," the libelous and patently false phrase used by the left to tarnish the U.S. war effort.
For instance, Libya's Muammar Qaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons just weeks after the U.S. deposed Saddam. Coincidence?
Syria pulled its troops out of Lebanon, a country it bullied for decades. Elections followed. Iraq and Afghanistan had free and fair elections, while Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even Syria recognized democratic movements. North Korea suddenly decided to talk.
Oh, but we didn't find WMDs?
On the contrary, U.S. troops found more than 500 weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. True, we didn't find an operational nuclear weapon, but U.N. inspectors found lots of equipment and plans clearly showing that Iraq had been working on one — and intended to do so again.
All of these are facts. And so are the following:
Iraq is today a growing economy again. From 2002 through 2006, the most recent year for which data are available, per capita GDP in dollars jumped 110%.
Before the war, there were some 833,000 people with telephones. Today, there's 9.8 million. Fewer than 5,000 people were on the Internet during Saddam's rein of terror; today, it's a quarter million.
There were no private TV stations under Saddam; today Iraq has more than 50. There are at least 260 independent newspapers and magazines in Iraq, vs. none under Saddam. Just 1.5 million cars were registered before the war; by 2005, that had hit 3.1 million.
In short, by almost any objective measure one might choose, Iraqis are today much better off than they were under Saddam. Those that deny this are, frankly, deluded.
Better still, Saddam's jackbooted minions no longer pull people screaming out of their homes for torture sessions and murder.
By some estimates, an average of 50,000 people died each year from Saddam's campaigns of genocide, ethnic cleansing and political murder. Last year, the peak of the surge, there were 18,000 civilian deaths — mostly by terrorists.
Today, Iraq's nascent democracy, though imperfect, seems solid. A recent look at the Index of Political Freedom shows Iraq ranking as the fourth-freest country in the Mideast, out of 20. Those who term the war a "failure" need to define that term.
Since the surge began a year ago, nearly every indicator of violence in the country is down, and down sharply: civilian fatalities, off 80% from the peak; enemy attacks, off 40%; bombings, off 81%.
Yes, U.S. fatalities are nearing 4,000. And every death of every brave soldier is a tragedy. But we lost more soldiers on D-Day.
In 2007 — widely reported by the media last summer as the "worst" yet during the war — 901 American troops lost their lives. By comparison, during the Clinton administration, an average of 938 American soldiers died each year in the military. The notion that we've suffered unconscionable troop losses is false and misleading. This is the most bloodless war in history.
So far, we've spent about $500 billion on the war — less than 1% of our GDP over the past five years. Yet with that money, we've perhaps recast the history of the Mideast, giving its people a chance to throw off the shackles of tyranny and to live in peaceful democracies. We've bashed al-Qaida severely, killing key leaders and demoralizing the terrorist group's followers.
We've not had a single major terrorist attack since 9/11 — no doubt, in part, because we showed our mettle when attacked. Just as important, we've helped make the threat of nuclear annihilation by rogue states a focus of international diplomacy — something that might end up saving the West.
Not bad for an unpopular war. Democrats may propose a total withdrawal of all our troops, as Barack Obama has done, but increasingly Americans look to be siding with President Bush. On Wednesday, he called for us to stay in Iraq until the war is completely won. We agree.