James Webb, in his debate yesterday with Sen. George Allen, boasted at one point, apropos his opposition to invading Iraq: “I wrote a piece for The Washington Post six months before we went into Iraq, laying out in my view this was not about WMDs, it was about our troops being turned into terrorist targets, and that there was not an exit strategy because the people in this administration who were doing this did not intend to leave.”
So I found the piece in question, “Heading for Trouble; Do we really want to occupy Iraq for the next 30 years?” which ran in the September 4, 2002 edition of the Washington Post. As its title suggests, the op-ed made perfectly defensible arguments:
The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years. Those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade and stay.
Also in the piece Webb criticized the neoconservatives, made some deft observations regarding MacArthur’s success in Japan (“In Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they would quickly become 50,000 terrorist targets”), and warned that China, which he clearly suggested is America’s greatest menace, would enjoy a “glorious windfall” thanks to an “American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East.”
But nowhere — nowhere — in the op-ed did he utter a word about Saddam’s WMDs, let alone cast doubt as to their existence. So why the clumsy lie yesterday?