Editor’s Note: When a democracy goes to war, its citizens have a right to expect that even those who disagree with the decision will watch their countrymen’s backs. They have a right to expect that opponents of the war will limit their dissent to civic persuasion and will not join the enemy’s forces – either by providing them with soldiers or leaking national secrets that would weaken the nation’s defense. They have a right to expect that criticism would be tempered by a desire to minimize benefits to the enemy. If the decision to go to war has been ratified by the nation’s elected officials citizens should expect that criticism will not take the form of psychological warfare against the credibility of the commander-in-chief and the morality of the war itself.
In their book Party of Defeat: How Democrats and Radicals Undermined the War on Terror Before And After 9/11, David Horowitz and Ben Johnson argue that in the course of the war in Iraq War the leadership of the Democratic Party stepped over the bounds of reasonable criticism of national policy and conducted a campaign which amounted to political sabotage of the war effort. They base their claim on a core of critical facts that have been conveniently ignored by critics of the war.
The first is that the Democratic Party supported the invasion of Iraq, but then turned against it within four months of its inception. This was not merely a tactical about face. On the contrary, Democrats now claimed that the enemy was no threat, that the rationale for the invasion was falsified, and that America’s war was thus an unjustified aggression and American leaders were in effect war criminals.
Exploiting a minor incident at the Abu Ghraib prison to promote the idea that American leaders were indeed war criminals, Democrats went much further; they supported leaks of classified information by the New York Times and other media agencies, the publication of which destroyed national security programs; and they rallied Americans to cut off aid to their own troops and force us an American surrender in Iraq.
The second point Horowitz and Johnson make is that nothing occurred on the battlefield itself to produce such a scorched earth attack on America’s war. What produced the change was a domestic political calculation. At the time of the invasion, a Democratic primary was in progress in which a far-left antiwar candidate was about to win the party’s presidential nomination. It was this fact that caused the Democrats’ eventual candidates John Kerry and John Edwards to reverse their position on the war, and the Democratic Party followed suit. Because the Democrats could not admit their opposition to the war was based on political polls – that they were willing to sacrifice American lives abroad for political gains at home – the party’s leaders claimed that the speeches and votes they marshaled in support of the war were based on lies that George Bush told them.