The Great Betrayal
Four years ago I co-authored a book with Ben Johnson called Party of Defeat: How Democrats and Radicals Sabotaged the War in Iraq. In it we documented the Democrats’ bad faith in supporting the decision to go to war and only four months later to turn their backs on the war while American troops were still engaged in battle. For the next five years Democrats conducted an unprecedented campaign against the war, describing it as an illegal aggression, both unnecessary and immoral. They accused America’s commander-in-chief of lying to them in particular and to the American people in general, in order to manipulate support for a war that should never have taken place.
As we pointed out, the Democrats’ charge that “Bush lied, people died” was itself the biggest lie of the war. Senate Democrats John Kerry, Jay Rockefeller and Diane Feinstein sat on the Intelligence Oversight Committee. They had access to every piece of intelligence data that was available to President Bush. If they had any cause to doubt the reliability of the information provided to justify the use of force, they could have summoned the director of intelligence, George Tenet, a Clinton administration appointee, and asked for clarification or additional data. The reason Senate Democrats supported the decision to remove Saddam Hussein was that doing so was a necessity, regardless of whether Saddam possessed WMDs or not, and had been recognized as such by Democrats themselves. The issue was always the character and therefore the intentions of Saddam Hussein – a ruler who had launched two aggressive wars in the Middle East, violated the Gulf War truce, defied 16 UN Security Council resolutions, massacred more than 300,000 Iraqis, used poison gas on the Kurds, was determined to build WMDs and was denying UN inspectors access to his weapons facilities. For these reasons, regime- change in Iraq had been an official American policy since 1998, when President Bill Clinton signed the “Iraqi Liberation Act” into law.
Democrats lied about why they changed their minds in regard to Iraq because the truth was too damning. The reason they turned against the war had nothing to do with the war itself, or the rationale for undertaking it, or misinformation fed to them by George Bush. It was a presidential primary season for Democrats, and they turned against the war for purely political reasons. An anti-war candidate from the left named Howard Dean had surged ahead in the polls among Democratic primary voters and was running away with the nomination. It was the desire to win a primary election that caused John Kerry and John Edwards to reverse their positions on the war, to turn their support into opposition and mount reckless attacks on their own government and the party in power. Once Kerry and Edwards reversed their position on the war, they gained the support of the primary voters, overtook Dean and became the nominees on the Democratic ticket. Until this turn in the Democratic primary, opposition to the war had been the political cause of the radical left. But it now became the official position of the Democratic Party.
The Democrats could not admit the truth; namely, that they had turned their backs on troops they had only months before sent into harm’s way because they wanted to win an election. So they said – and had to say – Bush lied. There were honorable exceptions to this disgraceful assault, like Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt, who sacrificed their presidential ambitions for the good of their country. But the majority of the Democratic Party leadership was now set on a path of unconditional, no-holds-barred attacks on the war, whatever the cost. Opposition to the war was the central theme of the Democrats’ general campaign during the 2004 presidential election. In a debate with Bush, the Democrats’ standard-bearer John Kerry declared Iraq to be “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.” This demoralizing attack on a war in progress was made by the same John Kerry who, only months earlier, had given an eloquent speech on the floor of the Senate in support of the use of force.
Despite the Democrats’ betrayal, however, neither the Bush administration nor Republican leaders held them accountable. For the next five years, the Democrats continued their attacks on the war, while Republicans treated their sedition as though it were a normal contribution to a foreign policy debate. In fact it was not normal; it was unprecedented. Ever since the onset of the Cold War, bipartisanship in foreign policy had been the rule, with both parties observing the principle that “politics stops at the water’s edge.” The debate over Vietnam was not really an exception. It did not begin until there was bipartisan agreement that America should withdraw its forces. The debate itself was over how to withdraw, not whether America was an aggressor nation that had violated international law and was conducting an indefensible and immoral war against a country that was “no threat.” The Democrats’ unrestrained and unprecedented attacks on the Iraq War led to a bitter polarization on the home-front from which the country has yet to recover. The divisions crippled the effectiveness of the commander-in-chief, and prevented America from dealing with Saddam’s allies in Syria and Iran. This failure has had incalculable consequences for the politics of the Middle East, and also for the security of the United States.
Because of these developments, I was anxious that the book Ben Johnson and I had written should have the widest possible audience. Consequently, I sent the galleys of Party of Defeat to prominent conservatives, receiving endorsements from national figures such as former senator Rick Santorum, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, former Clinton CIA director James Woolsey and Fox TV anchor Sean Hannity, who called it “an eye-opening account of one of the greatest betrayals in American history.” To make sure that the book and its argument were taken seriously, I also sent copies of the galleys and requests for endorsements to senators and congressmen, including the chairs or ranking members of the Armed Services, Intelligence, Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees. The argument laid out in Party of Defeat was endorsed by 18 legislators including senators Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyl, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, and representatives, David Dreier, Mike Pence, Peter Hoekstra, Peter King, Howard “Buck” McKeon, Lamar Smith, John Shadegg, Ed Royce, Ginny Brown-Waite and Tom Tancredo, all of whom signed this statement: “Party of Defeat is a well-documented and disturbing account of the unprecedented attacks by leaders of the Democratic Party on a war they supported and then turned against. In a democracy like ours, criticism of war policy is legitimate and necessary. But deliberate undermining of a war policy, the authors of this book argue, is a different matter. Every American concerned about the future of their country in the war on terror should consider the arguments in this book.”
When Party of Defeat was published in the spring of 2008, I was anxious to see the reaction. But there was none. Despite the endorsements from senior Republican legislators responsible for overseeing foreign policy, intelligence and national security matters, the book was greeted with a deafening silence. Except for the web magazine I myself published at Frontpagemag.com, not a single review of the book appeared either in print or on the Internet. I was used to the blackout from the “liberal” press, and expected it. What I was not prepared for was the silence from conservative reviewers.
I’m not quite sure how to explain this, given the fact that 18 senior Republicans in congress had endorsed the book. But I think it is fair to say that, ever since the early days of the Cold War, conservatives and Republicans have been generally skittish when it comes to noticing the uncertain loyalties frequently displayed by people on the left in regard to matters of national security. During the Iraq War, for example, The New York Times leaked a number of classified secrets, thereby destroying at least three national-security programs designed to protect Americans from terrorist attacks. To embarrass their president and their country, The Times also ran stories about the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison on its front page for 32 straight days and 60 all told, which was more than two and half times the total number of stories The Times ran on the Holocaust and more than ten times its front-page features on the Holocaust in the course of the entire Second World War.
Democrats, by contrast, had no such compunction about questioning their political adversaries’ patriotism. Referring to President Bush, former vice president Al Gore – who had initially supported the use of force – now reversed himself, screaming “He betrayed us!” in a speech before the left-wing organization MoveOn.org. Senator Edward Kennedy called the war “a fraud concocted in Texas” to make money for Bush’s friends. These attacks on the moral character of America’s commander-in-chief were a gift to America’s Islamist enemies around the world. Attacks on the moral character of the leader of the enemy’s forces are, in fact, prescribed as the first order of business in psychological-warfare manuals. Yet Republicans refused to respond in kind, or in a manner appropriate to the offense Democrats were committing. Not a single Republican legislator or spokesperson rose to characterize the Democrats’ attacks as the betrayals or sabotage they were. None even suggested that dividing the home-front and conducting a propaganda campaign worthy of the enemy was to risk the lives of American men and women in the field. Yet, when one publicity-seeking preacher burned a Koran in Florida during the Obama administration’s war in Afghanistan, Democrats and Republicans were quick to condemn him for precisely that reason.
The failure of Party of Defeat to gain an audience effectively closed the book on the case we had made. There was little that was personal in the frustration I felt over this situation. I have written many books, and whether one is successful or not is of no great moment. But the fate of Party of Defeat was a different matter. I made one additional effort to draw attention to it by inviting leading critics of the Iraq War, like Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and Brookings’ security expert Lawrence Korb, to respond to our argument. I published the debates in Frontpage magazine. But the exercise proved to be futile. All of the six war critics I invited chose to duck the issue of the Democrats’ false claim that Bush had lied, and went on to rehash their original critiques.
My personal frustration at the failure of our argument to gain an audience was nothing compared to my frustration when the long-term consequences of the Democrats’ “anti-war” campaign began to unfold. Because of the severity of the attacks on the war in Iraq, and the fact that the Democratic Party was their chief carrier, the Bush administration was unable to pursue Saddam’s fleeing generals and shipments of weapons into Syria, or to punish Iran for supplying the IEDs that killed most of our troops on the battlefield. This national paralysis was a direct result of the divided home-front; it was soon followed by the destruction of Lebanon by Syria and the installation of the terrorist army Hezbollah as a regime within the regime. It also emboldened the regime in Iran to go forward with its nuclear program and to step up its war against the state of Israel by supporting the terrorist organization Hamas. Indeed, the Islamist upheaval that is now transforming the Middle East and empowering the jihadists was greatly encouraged by the Democrats’ success in blackening America’s reputation, defaming American policies and crippling the Bush administration’s war on terror – a war that Obama has officially declared over.
When the policies of the new Obama Administration began to unfold in Afghanistan and Iraq – the theaters of war that Democrats had previously attacked – and when Obama then undertook a new war in Libya, which violated every principle the Democrats had invoked to condemn Bush’s intervention in Iraq, I felt the need to re-open the discussion, and saw an opportunity to do so. In these wars Obama was daily exposing each of the lies Democrats had used to sabotage the war on terror. They had attacked Bush for conducting an aggressive war, for detaining suspected terrorists without trial, and for causing civilian casualties. Now Obama was invading a country, Libya, that was “no threat,” blowing up whole families in a non-combatant nation, Pakistan, and using drones to assassinate suspected terrorists without trial. And he was committing all these acts with Democratic approval. I asked Daniel Greenfield, a talented and insightful writer, to look at these wars Obama was now conducting, and to place them against the backdrop of Bush’s war in Iraq and the Democrats’ unbridled opposition to that war; I asked him to call it The Great Betrayal.
Originally written as an Introduction to The Great Betrayal: Obama’s Wars and the War in Iraq by Daniel Greenfield, July 2012, http://frontpagemag.com/upload/pamphlets/great-betrayal.pdf
 Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_Liberation_Act
 Patricia Wilson, “Kerry on Iraq: ‘Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Time’,” Common Dreams, September 6, 2004,http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0906-02.htm
 “New York Times Streak of Page One Stories on Abu Ghraib Ends at 32 Days!,” June 2, 2004, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1145998/posts
 Katharine Q. Seelye, “Gore Says Bush Betrayed the U.S. by Using 9/11 as a Reason for War in Iraq,” New York Times, February 9, 2004,http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/09/politics/campaign/09GORE.html
 Sean Loughlin, “Kennedy Stands by Criticism of Bush on Iraq,” CNN.com, September 19, 2003, http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/09/19/kennedy.iraq/
 David Swindle, “Revisiting Party of Defeat,” FrontPage Magazine, March 4, 2010, http://frontpagemag.com/2010/03/04/the-sledgehammer-comes-down-on-the-party-of-defeat/
 Toby Harnden, “Barack Obama Declares the ‘War on Terror’ Is Over,” The Telegraph, May 27, 2010, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/7772598/Barack-Obama-declares-the-War-on-Terror-is-over.html
 Available as an ebook on Kindle or from the David Horowitz Freedom Center in Los Angeles, https://secure.donationreport.com/productlist.html?key=5DGIXYHTRFJI