To regret or not to regret

Published July 14, 2004 4:53PM (EDT)

John Kerry says he doesn't regret voting for the resolution to allow the use force against Saddam Hussein because he thought Bush would get international cooperation before invading. This argument is persuasive to a degree -- I gave you the authority, but then you blew it -- but also puts Kerry in the awkward position of saying he opposes the war in Iraq, yet if he had to do it all over again, he'd vote for the resolution just the same.

Anyone who voted for the resolution seems to have a clear out here: As the Senate intelligence report has verified, Saddam did not have WMD, and did not have an operational relationship with al-Qaida. Reports from respected institutions, such as the Army War College, say the Iraq war has made us more vulnerable. It has diverted resources away from capturing Osama bin Laden, and has complicated, to put it mildly, our relations with the Muslim world. You really couldn't blame lawmakers for saying they regret signing onto the resolution -- and then putting the onus on Bush for waging a bogus war. Perhaps though, admitting regret is too dangerous in a political climate where every change of heart or mind instantly morphs into a "flip-flop," particularly if the person reconsidering his or her actions is a Democrat -- Kerry knows a thing or two about that phenomenon. And perhaps some politicians, especially Democrats, are afraid to get the treatment Howard Dean did last December when he dared to suggest that we are not safer with Hussein out of power.

But the Los Angeles Times reports that some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are openly questioning their votes -- and some admit they would not vote for another resolution with the kind of proof they had before the Iraq war, even if they agree that ousting Saddam was the debacle's silver lining.

"There's a greater burden of proof now when someone comes up here suggesting preemptive action," (Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore.) said, adding that Congress will insist "that we have more concrete facts ... It would have made my vote much more difficult," Smith said. "It's a much closer call."

"... Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio said he had no regrets about authorizing the use of force because Saddam Hussein 'was a bad guy. He was a bully; he was a bad presence in that area.' But Voinovich agreed that Bush's doctrine of preemption had suffered a blow. 'If somebody starts to say: 'Here's what the facts are,' Voinovich said, Congress will insist on more proof before acting."

"Indiana Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that 'because of the sense of some senators that if they had better intelligence  they would have come to different conclusions,' it probably would be harder to persuade Congress to use military force in instances where there is no imminent threat to the United States."

And some Democrats are openly admitting regret: "Asked Sunday whether she regretted her vote, (Sen. Dianne) Feinstein replied on CNN: 'Yes, I do. I must say I do.' She had been convinced by the intelligence community's assessments, Feinstein said. 'The intelligence was very conclusive: Saddam possessed biological and chemical weapons,' she said. Louisiana Sen. John B. Breaux said he too 'likely' would have voted against the war resolution had he been given an accurate assessment of Iraq's capabilities. 'Saddam is a terrible person, but that does not make the case for preemptive war, particularly without a worldwide coalition,' he said."

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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