In a recent meeting http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008805170331&template=printart with reporters and editors of the Des Moines Register, Congressman Leonard Boswell described the moment when he reassessed his initial support for the Iraq War.
As reported by the Register, Congressman Boswell attended a meeting of the administration's "war council," which included President Bush, Vice President Cheney and then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in 2005. It was at that meeting, which Boswell's campaign communications director confirmed took place in December, that Leonard Boswell came to realize, for the first time, that the administration had no plan for getting U.S. forces out of Iraq.
"It's been that way ever since. That's when I started saying this is not right. This is wrong. This is doubly wrong," Boswell told the Register. "So, I rethought the whole situation and I think it's time for us to come out of there." The Register story goes on to note that Congressman Boswell began supporting "measures to withdraw troops last year."
Congressman Boswell, who voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq, and consistently supported the war there until last year, is facing a primary challenge from former state legislator Ed Fallon Jr., who opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning and has made that a pillar of his campaign to unseat Boswell.
So it comes as no surprise that Congressman Boswell is now taking time to explain his change of heart about the war, coming as it does not only when is he facing a primary challenge over the issue, but when many Republicans are doing their utmost to distance themselves from the hugely unpopular President Bush and his conduct of the Iraq war. But what I do find surprising, as a resident of the IA-03 and a constituent of Congressman Boswell, is that Boswell's discussion of his reassessment of the war does nothing to address the question about why it is that it took Boswell until December 2005 to come to the realization that his support for the war needed a rethink. For 33 months, from the commencement of hostilities on March 19, 2003 until the war council meeting in December 2005, Congressman Boswell not only voted in favor of the war, but by his own account apparently continued to believe in it. For nearly two and a half years, Leonard Boswell continued to support and personally believe in the war, even as the following events occurred:
• April 11, 2003 - chaos, looting in Baghdad following the entry of U.S. forces.
• May 16, 2003 - the de-Baathification debacle unfolds.
• May 23, 2003 - disbanding of the Iraqi army.
• February 5, 2004 - CIA Director George Tenet admits that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
• March 30, 2004 - Abu Ghraib.
• September 7, 2004 - U.S. military deaths reach 1,000.
• October 24, 2004 - 380 tons of explosives go missing from former Iraqi military bases now under the formal control of the United States. These explosives become the ammunition for the continuing plague of roadside bombs that have caused the majority of U.S. military casualties in Iraq.
• July 13, 2005 - Iraqi civilian deaths from the war and its chaotic aftermath are estimated to range between 12,000 and 100,000.
• October 26, 2005 - U.S. military deaths reach 2,000.
• November 19, 2005 - Haditha.
During this period, with each new revelation of the false premise of the war and the consistent mismanagement of its conduct, Leonard Boswell stood by the Bush administration, even as his constituents began to turn against the war. Incredibly, by Boswell's own account, it was not these events, but rather a meeting with the administration, that began to sow doubt in his mind about Iraq.
Worse still, it was not until 2007 - more than a full year after Boswell says he began to think "this is wrong...it's time for us to come out of there" - that Congressman Boswell took his first vote opposing the unlimited deployment of U.S. combat forces in Iraq.
Assuming only the best about Congressman Boswell, that his own account of his change of heart about Iraq is entirely true, that fear of a swift boat-style re-election challenge in 2006 formed no part in Boswell's deliberations about continuing to support the war, and that a primary challenge this year from an opponent who has been consistently against the war from the beginning played no role in the nature and timing of Boswell's reassessment, assuming all that is true, there remains the disturbing question about how Congressman Boswell could be so wrong for so long.
Congressman Boswell maintains that he was misled about Iraq, and that this explains his initial support of the war. Fair enough: there is no question that President Bush misled congress and the country in the run-up to the war. But what explanation is there for the congressman's on-going support of the war, even when it became clear that he was misled? Was it a matter of gullibility, or unforgivably poor judgment, or just blowing with the political winds of the moment?
Whatever the rationale Congressman Boswell might subsequently provide on these matters, and separately, whatever the actual explanation may turn out to be, Boswell's record on Iraq so strains credulity and reflects so poorly on his judgment as to provide ample reason for Democratic voters in his district to seriously consider throwing Boswell overboard in favor of a challenger, whether Ed Fallon or anyone else. It is hard to see how they could do any worse.
Dave Musgrove is an Iowa Democratic voter. He blogs at iPol.