Awfully Tough to Get Out: The Prescience of George McGovern

People who bought into the Bush administration’s rationale for war in Iraq (or thought it was a good idea for reasons of their own) just loooove to bash fuzzy-headed liberal thinking. It’s so McGovernite. And you know McGovern and his ilk don’t know anything about foreign policy!

From CNN’s “Inside Politics”, 13 February 2003, a little over a week after Colin Powell’s presentation at the UN Security Council:

MCGOVERN: You know, I think most people would agree that had it not been for that 9/11 attack, we wouldn’t even be here talking about Saddam Hussein. The irony of that is that he had nothing to do that with that attack. Iraq had nothing to do with it. This was Osama bin Laden’s. He was the mastermind. He planned it, and his al Qaeda network, that little band of desert radical young men that he’s assembled. So I don’t see the connect between that and this march to war in Iraq. And I disagree with the president. I don’t think Iraq is a threat to the most mighty military power in the history of the world.

MCGOVERN: Well, I agree with former President Carter, who said the other day that it’s ridiculous to think that Iraq would attack the United States, knowing that they’d be incinerated in a matter of hours. Any country that attacks the world’s most powerful nuclear state is going to go down.

There are nine countries that have nuclear weapons. No one of them would attack us, knowing that we have overwhelming preponderance of power there.

MCGOVERN: If we’re going to go after every irrational person around the world, we’re not going to have enough soldiers left to feed the wars that will erupt.

I want to make one thing clear. I don’t enjoy criticizing the policies of my government. I love this country more than life itself. And that’s why I came here today, as I have other places, to try to plead with our leaders, do not drop an American army into that Middle East tinderbox. The consequences of that are almost beyond imagination.

I remember, after Winston Churchill tried to talk our leaders out of going into Vietnam, we said, well, we have information that the communists are doing this and doing that. He said, the only thing certain about a war is that nothing is certain about a war. I tremble at the consequences of putting an American army into that area. I think it’s going to inflame the whole Arab world and doubtless many other countries. And that’s what we don’t need right now.

MCGOVERN: But you know there are nuclear weapons for sale. I’m not going to go in to all the countries that are capable of selling them. But certainly Iraq is low on the list. There are countries that have had these weapons for many years who are in economic trouble who could use the proceeds from the sale of those weapons.

Also, we don’t have any monopoly on science. Other groups are capable of copying, at least on a primitive scale, what we have done. And even as you and I sit here today, we have some of the world’s best arms experts combing Iraq from stem to stern, looking for evidence of weapons.

WOODRUFF: The U.N. inspectors?

MCGOVERN: The U.N. inspectors.

Now, they say they need more time. Well, what’s the big hurry? Lyndon Johnson once said, somewhat ruefully, during the Vietnam War, it’s awfully easy to get into war. It’s awfully tough to get out. What is the rush? Why don’t we give these arms inspectors — there are several hundred of them, I guess, that are in Iraq. And they did a great job right after the Gulf War 10 years ago of destroying large numbers of weapons. Let’s give them a chance to operate here, before we decide to go to war.

WOODRUFF: All right, former Senator George McGovern making a case that we know that the administration and others are going to be arguing and debating in the days to come — Senator, good to see you.

MCGOVERN: Thanks a lot. It’s nice to be with you.