As some of my readers know, I used to be a wannabe Politburo watcher and specialist on Soviet strategy and weapons systems.
There are some times when I wish the late Andrei Gromyko, former Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs and Politburo member, was around to give lessons in just saying “No.” He is remembered semi-fondly by historians as “Mr. Nyet.”
Some of our leading Democratic voices, Rahm Emanuel the latest, seem to have to dissemble every time the subject of the Iraq War comes up — particularly on whether the respective politico would have supported the war given knowledge today that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s control.
Here is what Emanuel said on Tim Russert’s Meet the Press last weekend (you can actually watch the segment here):
MR. RUSSERT: You voted–you said you would have voted for the war if you had been in Congress.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, knowing that are no weapons of mass destruction, would you still have cast that vote?
REP. EMANUEL: Well, you could have done — well, as you know, I didn’t vote for it. I still believe that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, OK? But how you go about it and how you execute that war is the problems we face today.
MR. RUSSERT: So even knowing there are no weapons of mass destruction, you would still vote to go into Iraq?
REP. EMANUEL: You can make — you could have made it a case that Saddam Hussein was a threat, and what you could have done also, Tim, is worked with other countries, go through the U.N., take the time to do it. Again, the problems with our troops and the country today faces in Iraq isn’t about whether we should or should not have gone to war, whether we should or should not have removed Saddam Hussein, it’s how they have pursued this war, the lack of planning, the lack of processing, thinking about there was no plan, as you know, for after we removed Saddam Hussein, what would you do. There was no plan for — as you know, before war, you had to have an exit strategy. One has not even been annunciated. There’s been a presumption that we were going to be greeted as liberators. There was a presumption this would be quick and easy, and then we can turn the country over. None of that has been laid out, and that has to do with the competency and the planning that goes in, and they did not have a plan for the day after “hostilities ended.”
MR. RUSSERT: This is the way Democrats are talking in 2005. But back when they were voting for the war, and three-fourths of both houses of Congress voted to authorize the president to go to war, as a candidate you said you would.

Note to Rahm:
Rahm, the Iraq War — whether one adored or detested Saddam Hussein — was a reckless gamble by the United States that has punctured the mystique of American power in the world and shown our would-be enemies our limits, financial and military. The right answer is that this battle with Hussein, which was distinct from the real-and-present-danger posed by bin Laden and al Qaeda, should have been pursued when the strategic circumstances before, during and after an Iraq-focused military effort were clearly and overwhelmingly in our favor.
That assessment of interest was never clearly calculated by the Bush administation and support from Congress was blind. Knee-jerk, emotional impulses drove us into this mess in Iraq with little accountability (yet) for those neoconservatives and their followers who led us into this quagmire.
How could you say you would not produce a different decision?
Here is what I wrote when John Kerry dissembled in similar fashion. I should really acknowledge that you and Kerry did not dissemble. You fairly clearly acknowledge that you follow Bush’s logic and support his ultimate decision — and would have done the same even when informed with empirical information that would least most rational beings to change course.
This “Zell Miller Light” strategy seems problematic to me if this is the way you hope to get more Democrats elected as the new head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
I think you are brilliant, by the way — one of the very smartest Members of Congress in fact. But in the spirit of a “fair and balanced” critique, I hope you’ll consider this alternative take on your position.
For those of you interested in more commentary on this, Arianna Huffington addresses Rahm Emanuel’s comments as well and makes some broader suggestions regarding our engagement in Iraq.
Can we organize some “Just Say No” practice sessions?
— Steve Clemons