The lie that won’t die

After listening to the early speakers at the Republican convention, particularly Rudy Guiliani and John McCain, we have to wonder: Have they read The 9/11 Commission Report? Or even a summary of its conclusions?

It doesn’t seem so. In their praise of President Bush’s leadership in the war on terrorism, they both implied that the invasion of Iraq was central to the effort and that it had made America safer.

But there is no evidence, the report clearly states, that Saddam Hussein had any connection to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Nor was Saddam harboring terrorists or aiding al Qaeda. And, as we already knew, he did not have weapons of mass destruction and was not building a nuclear arsenal, as Bush infamously charged.

History will decide whether deposing Saddam, a nasty tyrant who had outlived his former usefulness to the United States, was worth the cost: some 6,000 Americans dead or injured, many thousands of Iraqis dead, a damaged U.S. reputation abroad (thanks especially to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal) and some $200 billion in American taxpayers’ money spent, with no end in sight.

Like all Americans, we hope good comes from this. We’re glad that Saddam Hussein is locked up. Perhaps democracy will take root in Iraq after all and against all odds. We just don’t know.

What we do know is that the person most responsible for the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, is still at large. A number of top al Qaeda operatives have been captured, but new recruits are signing up every day, thanks in no small part to the anger felt by so many Arabs because of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Is America safer because of the Bush administration’s policies? The best we can say is that it’s hard to know. That’s not good enough.

Would we be safer now if, instead of invading Iraq, we had focused on capturing bin Laden and dismantling al Qaeda? Would we be safer if we had spent those billions of dollars on protecting our ports, borders, chemical and nuclear plants—wherever terrorists can sneak in or wreak havoc?

We believe the answer is yes. And that is why we challenge the Big Lie, still being posited by people who know better, that invading Iraq was an appropriate response to 9/11.