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Karl Rove just admitted the Iraq War was a huge mistake

Ever since it became apparent we weren’t actually going to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, certain conservatives have continued to argue that the invasion was still a good idea. Maybe he didn’t possess nukes or other WMDs, the thinking goes, but Saddam Hussein was still a bad guy — a threat to his own people and a destabilizing force in the region who needed to be removed. As National Review’s Victor Davis Hanson said last year: “Congress cited 23 reasons why we should remove Saddam. The majority of these authorizations had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction.”

I’ve long contended that’s a dodge: Maybe there were plenty of reasons to want to see Saddam Hussein out of power, but there was only one necessary and sufficient reason the American public was going to back an otherwise-unprovoked invasion of Iraq: the WMDs.

Guess who agrees with me? Karl Rove and George W. Bush:

While the opportunity to bring democracy to the Middle East as a bulwark against Islamic extremism “justified the decision to remove Saddam Hussein,” Mr. Rove makes clear that from the start, at least, the suspected weapons and their perceived threat were the primary justification for war.

“Would the Iraq War have occurred without W.M.D.? I doubt it,” he writes. “Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the W.M.D. threat. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change, and deal with Iraq’s horrendous human rights violations.”

Rove goes on to reject that Bush “lied” the United States into war — he really, really believed Hussein had the weapons. Fine. Lots of people and nations did. Only one problem: There was a process in place before the war to determine the nature of Saddam’s WMD programs — the UN inspectors — and their inability to find the non-existent weapons somehow became proof that the weapons actually existed!*

*Not to mention that there were options besides invasion for deterring Saddam Hussein if he possessed WMDs. But that’s a whole ‘nother argument.

But the math here is simple and, really, inarguable. If the invasion of Iraq wouldn’t have happened without the WMDs, and if Iraq didn’t actually possess WMDs, then the invasion of Iraq was a huge mistake — one created in part by the Bush Administration’s aggressive blunder in short-circuiting the U.N. process. The debate, such as it was, is over. We can all move on.

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