By ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, former U. S. senator


MAY 20, 2015 -- The media has gone ape on whether or not invading Iraq was a mistake.

We know by now that Vietnam was a mistake, Afghanistan was a mistake, and Iraq is a mistake. I voted against Iraq the first time (Desert Storm) and I told my desk partner, Joe Biden, that I was voting against Iraq the second time.

I had asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: "What does Mossad say about Iraq?" I had learned on the Hoover Commission Task Force on Intelligence in 1954 that Israel's Mossad had "plants" all over the Mid-East and knew exactly what was going on. Israel had knocked out a nuclear facility in Baghdad in 1981. Rumsfeld evaded the question and I was prepared to vote against Iraq's invasion a second time. But when President Bush came on the TV days before we voted on Iraq in the U.S. Senate, and stated: "We cannot wait until the smoking gun is a mushroom cloud", I knew that the CIA had told President Bush that somewhere in Iraq were weapons of mass destruction. We had to support the President. I changed and voted to invade Iraq because of Bush's misleading statement.

Iraq began in 1996. Netanyahu had just become the Prime Minister of Israel and he commissioned a "Rand group" in Israel to recommend a course of action with the Palestinians. Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser headed up the study: "Clean Break."

Since Arafat couldn't be trusted, Israel should make a clean break by

1.) Invading Lebanon

2.) Invading Syria for possessing weapons of mass destruction and

3.) Replace Saddam Hussein with a Hashemite ruler favorable to Israel.

When Netanyahu balked, Perle, Feith, and Wurmser returned to the United States and joined Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Steve Cambone, Jeb Bush, Elliott Abrams, and William Kristol in the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). I remember debating a PNAC Resolution on Iraq in 1998. We finally agreed under Trent Lott, the Leader, to a Resolution on Iraq by a voice vote so long as the last paragraph was worded: "Under no circumstance does this permit military action against Iraq." At that time, we wanted to stir dissent and have Iraq headed for a democracy but under no circumstance invade.

In January, 2001, ten days before George W. Bush was sworn in as President, he came to Washington and went straight to the Pentagon. Later that afternoon, I saw Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen and I asked: "What did Bush come to the Pentagon for?" Cohen answered: "A briefing on Iraq." Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill went to the first meeting of the Security Council intending to brief them on the recession and all they wanted to talk about was Iraq. The New American Century crowd was dedicated to going into Iraq. By 2003 they were ready. I introduced a tax to pay for the Iraq War in January, 2003 but Calio, the White house Representative, kept running around the Senate Floor calling my tax bill "DOA- Dead on Arrival".

Senator friends told me that if I could get President Bush to consider it, they would co-sponsor but the "DOA" message continued and I couldn't get any cosponsors. Reason or not, we invaded Iraq March 19, 2003. We supported Saddam during the 80's. He told April Glasby, our U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, that Kuwait was drilling oil at an angle into Iraq and that he was going to teach Kuwait a lesson. He wanted to know the U.S. position on his invasion of Kuwait. Glasby checked and told Saddam: "We don't have a dog in this fight." Of course we have a dog - Saudi Arabia.

Replacing Saddam with Maliki is to no avail. Training Iraqi troops is to no avail. As I wrote years ago: "Religion is stronger than freedom and democracy in the Mid-East."

If you want to know about the Mid-East, ask Mossad, the Israeli intelligence. Note: Netanyahu doesn't regularly reflect Israeli intelligence.

Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina served 38 years in the United States Senate, and for many years was Chairman of the Commerce, Space, Science & Transportation Committee. He is the author of Making Government Work (University of South Carolina Press, 2008).

© 2015, Ernest F. Hollings. All rights reserved. Contact us for republication permission.

About Fritz Hollings

Ernest F. Hollings served the public for 56 years -- 38 years in the United States Senate and as South Carolina's governor, lieutenant governor and a member of the S.C. House of Representatives. Today, Hollings continues to be influential in public affairs and offers this website as a compendium of current and past positions on public issues. Learn more about Fritz Hollings.

The Hollings legacy

Click here to learn more about Hollings' impressive and distinguished record of public service.


2016 commentaries

2015 commentaries

Previous commentaries

Read the book

The University of South Carolina Press in 2008 published Making Government Work by Sen. Hollings. Learn more.

Receive commentary via The Huffington Post

Please visit Sen. Hollings' section of The Huffington Post where you can get an RSS of his columns, subscribe by email or use social media.