Wrong question was asked of Jeb Bush--here's the right one

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tags: Iraq, Jeb Bush



Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University.

So here’s the hot new question for people who might want to be our next president: Given what we now know about Saddam Hussein and the false charges that he was still developing weapons of mass destruction, would you have authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq? 

Jeb Bush recently flunked the test, telling an interviewer that he would have gone ahead with the invasion and then insisting that he hadn’t understood the question. But I’ve got a different query for our growing coterie of presidential wannabes: Given what we knew about Hussein’s use of WMDs against his own citizens back in the 1980s, what would you have done in response? 

That’s a question about human rights, not about national security. And it’s getting lost in our revived debate about the war in Iraq, which has focused only on Hussein’s potential danger to Americans. His real crimes were against Iraqis, not against us. No matter what kind of threat he posed to the world, Hussein was the first tyrant since Adolf Hitler to kill his own people with chemical weapons. 

The next one — that we know of — was Syria’s Bashar Assad. And he’s still doing it. 

Earlier this month, inspectors found traces of sarin and ricin in areas bombed by Assad, who promised to renounce both chemicals in a Russian-brokered agreement in 2013. Assad has also been unleashing chlorine-filled barrel bombs, which were not covered by the 2013 pact but are banned under international conventions. 

These reports create a new dilemma for President Obama, who previously threatened air strikes if Assad crossed the “red line” by continuing to use chemical weapons. But 12 years after the botched invasion of Iraq, there’s little mood for an American attack on another Arab country. 

And there’s virtually no support for humanitarian interventions, in Syria or anywhere else. That’s another casualty of the war in Iraq, where we misrepresented both Hussein’s remaining weapons stockpile and his alleged connections to the attacks of Sept.11, 2001....




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