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updated 3/24/2004 10:37:09 AM ET 2004-03-24T15:37:09

On the anniversary of the Iraq war, I went back and reviewed all my 'Closing Arguments' leading up to the war, to compare them to how I feel now. 

I generally supported the war based on previous U.N. reports which indicated  Saddam had not accounted for tons of weapons of mass destruction, based on his continuing defiance of the U.N., and his repeated refusal to live up to his commitments to the world. I was convinced that he must be stopped before becoming an even more violent world menace.  At the time, I questioned the need to go in without more international support, but I still backed the administration.

Like most Americans, it was the weapons of mass destruction and their potential to threaten this nation that convinced me.  Sure, the administration‘s public comments and arguments had an impact, but it was the 1998 U.N. reports in particular and Saddam‘s continuing refusal to allow inspectors to verify anything that gave me confidence in my position.

Now no WMDs have been found, and the administration has shifted the focus from the WMDs to the well-being of the Iraqi people. 

Yes, I believe the Iraqi people will be better off in the long run.  And yes, the world is a better place without Saddam‘s reign of terror.   Those who simply refer to Saddam as a “bad guy” underestimate the extent of his evil.

But helping the people of Iraq, while admirable, does not in and of itself justify the sacrifice of hundreds of American lives, hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, and the scorn of many, including our long-time allies. What about a supposed link between Saddam and al Qaeda?  Even before the war, I argued the evidence was weak at best.  Nothing has changed that opinion. And it seems the administration was woefully unprepared for the problems and dangers we would face in the post-war Iraq.

The question is not “Is it a good thing that Saddam is gone?”  No, we must ask if it was worth it.  “Do the benefits outweigh the costs?  Was the price in American blood and dollars too high?” It is a difficult question for me, but in retrospect and with  hindsight, my answer now is no. 

Does that mean we ought to pull out?  Of course not.  That would lead to an even greater disaster, a more significant threat of creating a terror breeding ground. 

Does that mean the anti-war protesters are right?  No.  Most of them would have opposed war even if WMDs had been found.  And many argued that the reason not to go to war was because Saddam would then use those illegal weapons. And it seems clear Saddam never would have afforded inspectors the sort of open access that would have allowed them to clear Iraq once and for all.

Does this mean the administration fooled the American people?  I think not.  They made a mistake, a colossal mistake, for which they should be accountable.  Did the administration overstate the threat? Probably, based on the information they had then and I think certainly based on the information we have now.  But I don‘t believe it was  motivated by evil, oil, revenge, whatever.  This president believed and still believes, I think, that he was and is doing the right thing to protect this country in the post 9/11 world. 

I just don‘t think so.

'Closing Argument' is a regular segment of 'The Abrams Report.' 'The Abrams Report' airs weeknights, 6 p.m. ET

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