As the anniversary of the war in Iraq approaches, it's difficult to remember the sense of euphoria leading up to the March 2003 invasion.

Having just crushed the Taliban — seemingly forever — the United States was poised to liberate Iraq and drop a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and that would prove to be a death blow to Al Qaeda.

One person who did not get swept up in the tide of enthusiasm was William Burns, then serving as assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, who wrote a July 2002 memo that proved prescient on many levels.

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Hector René

As the notorious deck turns 15, an Iraq vet reveals the untold history behind it… and its impact on the American way of war.

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Fifteen years ago this month, we invaded a rogue state and deposed its dictatorial “president” to protect the innocent against weapons of mass destruction. That was our story, anyway: In violation of international law, he used his iron rule, terrorist contacts, and a burgeoning chemical weapons program to extend his influence and threaten the lives of Americans and their allies.

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