Leading off Blackwater's TacticalWeekly, for Monday 6/26/06 is a quote from Senator John McCain: "recall the facts as we knew them in March 2003." In the debate of whether Saddam Hussein was actually attempting to acquire WMDs, who he may have sought to use them against (directly or indirectly) and who he may have actually partnered with are all lost in this debate.
Briefly, let us go back and consider the facts as we knew them in March 2003. First, we were still working to put Afghanistan into the "win column" by establishing rule of law and the reconstruction of societal and economic infrastructure (all through intimately intertwined). Our military and political attention, not to mention the world's attention, was still focused on a region that was clearly and without question a safe-haven for terrorists. We were in the heart of Asia with a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate to the region and world, across ethic and religious affiliations, there are alternatives to Islamic extremism, growing poppies, and 15th Century education in a 21st Century world, among others.
The facts as we knew them in 2003 were that Iraq did not pose an immediate and dire threat to the United States. The facts as we knew them were that Osama Bin Laden, al-Qaeda, the Taleban, and other extremist groups latching onto the above for convenience were the dire threat. The trajectory of the Iraqi people and the politics of Saddam Hussein did not point to collusion with OBL.
The facts as we knew them, and as hindsight makes even more clear, shows we have squandered an opportunity to demonstrate an alternative path. There was nothing to indicate, for example, the invasion of Iraq could not have waited another year as we focused more time and energy from the United States and marshaled the same from the global community into Afghanistan. During that year, we could have entertained the French and others to build consensus, afterall, we did not have to go in 2003. We could have better prepared Phase IV operations (post-conflict), which were nearly completely ignored as the facts have shown in both statements and deeds.
The facts, as we knew them in March 2003, do not support the timeline we forced and more importantly, did not support abandoning effective operations in favor of a distraction of global proportions that created a far larger problem than it was supposed to eliminate. The fact is Iraq has become a more dangerous powder keg and source of threat now than it was in 2003. The facts, as we knew them in 2004 and 2005 demonstrate this. The facts as we know them in 2006 continue to reinforce this.