- As a participant in the confidential, top-level administration meetings about Iraq, it was clear to me at the time that, had there been a realistic alternative to war to counter the threat from Saddam, Mr. Bush would have chosen it.
- On July 27, 2001, Mr. Rumsfeld sent a memo to Mr. Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney that reviewed U.S. options: "The U.S. can roll up its tents and end the no-fly zones before someone is killed or captured. . . . We can publicly acknowledge that sanctions don't work over extended periods and stop the pretense of having a policy that is keeping Saddam 'in the box,' when we know he has crawled a good distance out of the box and is currently doing the things that will ultimately be harmful to his neighbors in the region and to U.S. interests – namely developing WMD and the means to deliver them and increasing his strength at home and in the region month-by-month. Within a few years the U.S. will undoubtedly have to confront a Saddam armed with nuclear weapons."
- The Iraq policy debate remained unresolved when the September 11 attacks occurred. Like all major national security issues, Iraq policy was re-examined in light of our post-9/11 sense of vulnerability and the heightened worries about terrorism and, especially, about the danger that terrorists might obtain WMD from a nation state.
- The threat of renewed aggression by Saddam was more troubling and urgent after 9/11. Though Saddam's regime was not implicated in the 9/11 operation, it was an important state supporter of terrorism. And President Bush's strategy was not simply retaliation against the group responsible for 9/11. Rather it was to prevent the next major attack.
- The U.S. did not rush to war. Working mainly through the U.N., we tried a series of measures to contain the Iraqi threat: formal diplomatic censure, weapons inspections, economic sanctions, no-fly zones, no-drive zones and limited military strikes. A defiant Saddam, however, dismantled the containment strategy and the U.N. Security Council had no stomach to sustain its own resolutions, let alone compel Saddam's compliance.
- The CIA was mistaken, we all now know, in its assessment that we would find chemical and biological weapons stockpiles in Iraq. But after the fall of the regime, intelligence officials did find chemical and biological weapons programs structured so that Iraq could produce stockpiles in three to five weeks. They also found that Saddam was intent on having a nuclear weapon. The CIA was wrong in saying just before the war that his nuclear program was active; but Iraq appears to have been in a position to make a nuclear weapon in less than a year if it purchased fissile material from a supplier such as North Korea.
- Thoughtful, patriotic Americans differed then and now on whether the risk of leaving Saddam in power outweighed the risk of war. But Mr. Bush concluded that it did, and that war therefore was necessary.
The war went swimmingly. The occupation and defeat of the insurgency haven't gone as well as anyone would have liked, but there's no denying that significant progress has been made.
I still support this country, this war, and this president. Have a happy 4th of July.