JG - The unjustified Iraq war
The unjustified Iraq war
published: Sunday October 26, 2008
Ian Boyne, Contributor
The financial crisis in the United States has now overtaken Iraq and foreign policy as the main issue in the American election, but the war still looms large and is one area in which the Republicans can offer absolutely no justification.
The Iraq war will go down as one of the Republican administration's biggest and most egregious blunders. There can be no rational defence of it. The issue is simple: Go back to the actual statements made about the reason - not reasons - for going to war and match that against what we now know. This analysis involves no ambiguities or complex philosophical issues. It does not come down to plausibility versus implausibility.
It is a straight case of an administration stating clearly what its justification for taking an action was and the empirical reality of what was discovered afterward.
Let's make the case. In President Bush's address to the United Nations on September 12, 2002, he said: "Saddam Hussein continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. (Iraq presents) a grave and gathering danger." On October 7, 2002, speaking from Cincinnati, Ohio, in his first address to the nation on the supposed Iraqi threat he said: "Hussein is a threat to peace and must disarm. The Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons. Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and to the world. The danger is already significant. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today - and we do - does it make sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develop even more dangerous weapons?" Well, obviously not, when you lay on that kind of hysteria on people.
On January 28, 2003, President Bush in his State of the Union address "revealed" that the British government discovered that Saddam sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. On March 6, 2003, he told a press conference that, "Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people and to all free people. I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons."
And two days before he invaded Iraq without United Nations (UN) authorisation and in contravention of international law (which he believes the hyper-power the United States does not have to respect) he said, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised ... Before the day of horror can come before it is too late to act, this danger will be removed".
A pre-emptive strike was necessary for it would be suicidal to wait for Saddam to strike first and then for the United States to then act in defence, the president was saying, with seeming incontrovertible logic.
So a war had to be launched to topple Saddam before he could carry out his terrorist threat to the United States and the 'free world'. The US had a sacred obligation not only to its citizens, but to the world to stop this madman who had weapons of mass destruction.
Notice that no humanitarian or democracy-promotion argument was advanced to justify the invasion. Of course, that would be a consequence of his toppling, but the reason for the invasion was to prevent Saddam from using his WMDs on the US and furthering the terrorism of 9/11 - which Bush had falsely associated with Saddam Hussein.
The statements leading up to the Iraq war and those shortly after had to do with one overriding issue: Saddam's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction and their clear and present danger to America and the free world.
Vice-President Dick Cheney said on August 26, 2002, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us. Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon."
The then secretary of state, Colin Powell, who has now endorsed Barack Obama, said in his February 5 address to the UN Security Council that "the gravity of this moment is matched by the gravity of the threat that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose to the world".
The then national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told CNN September 8, 2002, we know that (Saddam) is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon ... We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud", in a now famous quote.
Not to be left out, then defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, told the House Armed Services Committee on September 18, 2002 that "we do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons" and again on the following day he said, "No terrorist state poses greater and more immediate threat to the security of our people than the regime of Saddam Hussein and Iraq".
So all the key Bush administration officials were clear that Saddam had to be removed not just because he was a dictator who was oppressing his own people and brutally persecuting Kurds and Shiites; not because he was not holding national elections, etc, and not just because he was fiercely anti-American. He had to be removed because he possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed an immediate threat to US security.
All the arguments about democracy promotion, humanitarian intervention and bringing democracy to the Middle East have been concocted after the failure to find WMDs, and hence is a clear, unmistakable indication that the illegal Iraqi war was absolutely, totally unjustified.
What is even more disturbing is the fact that the Bush administration deliberately tampered with the evidence and intelligence report and misled the American people about the war. The 2002 National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) report was the touted main intelligence report which had the damning evidence on Saddam's possession of WMDs. It was first classified - but thanks to the great American system of disclosure and democracy, was declassified in party in July 2003 and April 2004. The report says, "We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction programs in defiance of UN resolutions".
But the Bush administration's White Paper version of the NIE report left out the words "we judge" and said "Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction programs ... ." Opinion was converted into fact - to whip up hysteria and to mislead the American people into an illegal and unjustified war.
The Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA's) NIE report went on to say, "We assess that Baghdad has begun renewed production of mustard, Sarin GF (cyclosarin) and VX". But Bush's White Paper dropped the "we assess that" (an opinion) converting that to the factual "Baghdad has begun ... ."
Bush's White Paper said, "All intelligence experts agree that Iraqis are seeking nuclear weapons," but that was a bold lie as there was a dissent from the Intelligence and Research Bureau of the Sate Department, which said that "the activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraqis currently pursuing ... an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons".
Significantly and damningly, too, the Bush White Paper omitted the crucial fact that the CIA report said Saddam would only use weapons of mass destruction if he believed he would be attacked first; that is, he would only use them defensively.
The evidence is overwhelming and compelling that the Bush administration overreached with the evidence and is completely unjustified to have dragged America into an estimated US$1.5 trillion, $10-billion a month war, which has taken a severe toll on its reputation all over the world and significantly cut its soft power.
Polls leading up to the war showed that an overwhelming majority of the American people believed the propaganda that Saddam Hussein was associated with Al Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks.
Bush himself had to admit publicly on August 21, 2006 that there was no evidence linking Iraq with 9/11 - absolutely none. But up to June of that year, 90 per cent of American troops fighting in Iraq thought they were fighting the nation which inflicted that dastardly harm on the American people and that they were fighting to prevent another attack.
The 9/11 Commission disclosed on June 16, 2004 that they could find no evidence that Hussein had anything to do with 9/11 bombings or that he had any relationship with Al Qaeda.
Arguments about whether Iraq would be a better place than it is today with Saddam still in power or about the democratic advances, which have been made since his removal are red herrings to cloud our minds to the fact that the reason, given for the invasion - not just the primary reason but the reason - has been proven to be absolutely unjustified. The Republican administration deserves to be booted out of office on November 4 for this gross, reckless and costly error alone.
The fact that even Democrats had believed that Saddam possessed WMDs is not the point either. Clinton believed that, but never invaded. Others had threatened. But nothing was done until the 'Bush Doctrine', which we will examine at another time.
George Bush came to office seeking what he called a more "humble foreign policy". He is leaving office with a foreign policy whose arrogance is exceeded only by its folly and recklessness.
Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feedback may also be sent to email@example.com.