I do think that any political commentator who supported it owes his or her readers an explanation as to why they would expect such judgment to be trusted again in the future.Actually, that is very easy. I can do it in three words: Saddam with nukes.
Alterman and other post-war commentators focus on what we knew before the war that turned out to be wrong and ignore the parts that were right. The parts that were wrong were that
Saddam had reconstituted his WMD programs including an active nuclear program. The parts that were right were that Saddam planned to reconstitute his WMD programs including an active nuclear program but had been prevented by the UN sanctions. Want proof? How about this article that Alterman himself links to.
The CIA said if Saddam obtained enriched uranium, he could build a nuclear bomb in "several months to a year." Sabri said Saddam desperately wanted a bomb, but would need much more time than that.The world doesn't stand still. By 2002 there was pressure to lift the sanctions. These calls stopped when Bush started talking about invasion. Without Bush's push against Iraq, the sanctions would have been lifted years ago. Possibly the no-fly zones would have also been lifted allowing Saddam to resume bombing the non-Shiite portions of his country into submission.
After the Gulf War, Saddam said that his biggest mistake was invading before he had nuclear weapons. He did not plan on repeating that mistake. The implication was that he planned on developing nukes first, then invading one or more neighbors. He might also have started another war with Iran before they developed their first nuke.
If the sanctions had been lifted three years ago then Saddam would be well on the way to his goals. The former head of his nuclear program estimated that they could start refining weapons-grade uranium within two years. Even allowing a generous margin of error, he might well have developed a bomb by now without our interference.
Then there is the possible alliance with al Qaida. Saddam and bin Lauden had discussed moving al Qaida to Iraq but bin Lauden was too comfortable in Afghanistan. A nuclear Iraq with an active al Qaida presence would be the US's worst nightmare.
All of this is speculation, but it is informed speculation. These are events that very well might have occurred if Bush had simply let the status quo stand. Is this a present that you would willingly trade for today's reality?