Your columnist Mark Leibovich notes a variety of answers to the critical Jeopardy question for the November 7th crowd: Why did you vote for the Iraq war?( New York Times, October 21st, 2006: Section 4, pages1 and 4)
He fails to appreciate the truly accurate answer of Joseph Biden: the legislators did not vote for war; they voted to give the President the option of going to war.
You see at that time, it was a vote designed to give the President leverage in calling Iraq to account before the United Nations. It exemplified realpolitik at its best.
It is hard to remember the sequence of events from 2001 to thebeginning of the war on March 20th 2003. Up until November 2002 (that is until the President had the support of the Senate and House of Representatives through the vote) the Iraqis refused to allow UN inspectors to undertake inspections for Weapons of Mass Destruction on Iraqi territory. By the end of November, inspections under the direction of Hans Blix were under way. The vote to grant the President war powers had achieved its purpose, the Iraq regime was being called to account for its actions.
We have forgotten too that Hans Blix called on the US and Britain to give his inspectors the "hard intelligence" that they claimed to possess so that his inspectors could go to check out that information on the ground. The failure of the US and Britain to do so should have roused our suspicions that all was not well with the intelligence -- its invalidity has been amply demonstrated in the past years.
Where we went wrong -- the Senate, and the House, and the country, and all of us -- was the failure to recognize the importance of the inspector's reports in mid February 2003 that there was no evidence of WMD in Iraq, so that we were in no immanent danger from Iraq. That should have led to a re-evaluation of the war power resolution and its potential repeal based on the changed situation. We failed to do so and we are reaping the tragic consequences today.
But you, who have attacked President Bush for his failure to understand the nuance in the situation, should have made sure your columnist recognized the nuance implicit in the vote for the war option and should be educating your readers about the realpolitik aspects of that vote, not sneering at those who are trying to explain their actions with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.