President-Elect Obama has named Rahm Emanuel to be his Chief of Staff, perhaps the most important single figure in his inner circle.

In January 2005 Representative Emanuel was interviewed by the late Tim Russert, and asked about the Iraq war.

MR. RUSSERT: You voted—you said you would have voted for the war if you had been in Congress.

REP. EMANUEL: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: Now, knowing that are no weapons of mass destruction, would you still have cast that vote?

REP. EMANUEL: Yes. 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 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. And in March of 2003, Congressman Emanuel, your tone was strikingly different. This is what you said.

“I had the fortunate experience of serving in the White House; I knew firsthand what a solitary and difficult decision it is for a President to send our Armed Forces into harm’s way. I will remember some of the members of this body, in the midst of conflict, attacking the President—the commander-in-chief— even even as he worked day-and-night to complete that mission and bring our servicemen and women home safely. It was wrong then. It would be wrong now. I, for one, will not do that to our President . . . to our commander-in-chief. I want him to succeed. We should all want him to succeed. So as long as our troops [are] engaged, we should suspend the debate over how and why, focus on the mission, unite as a country, in prayer and resolve, hope for a speedy resolution of this war with a minimum of loss. God bless America.”

So, while the new Chief of Staff for the Obama administration had reservations about the conduct of the war, he nevertheless whole-heartedly defended the invasion of Iraq. As late as January 2005, Emmanuel would have no part of the “Bush lied, soldiers died” mantra of the anti-war left. Nor did he trot out the mantra of the anti-war religious left that the Iraq war was an unjust and unnecessary war. It seems as though the Iraq war for Emmanuel was just and justified, although the planning for peace and stability operations was flawed.

I’ve personally been called a “warmonger” for holding precisely that opinion. I’m willing to let bygones be bygones, but I do so very much look forward to the howls of protest, the outrage at this early act of betrayal from the anti-war religious left. So, to Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Ron Sider and others on the anti-war religious left, I have to ask: Where’s the outrage?

Articles by Keith Pavlischek

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