Rashid A Mughal
THE US again seems to be in war mode. After having invaded Iraq, Liyba and Afghanistan and succeeded in regime change and also creating at total chaos there, they are now targeting Iran for the same purpose for which they waged the wars in Iraq and Libya- control of Oil and minerals. The rationale for the Iraq War (i.e. the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent hostilities) has been a contentious issue since the Bush administration began actively pressing for military intervention in Iraq in late 2001. The primary rationalization for the Iraq War was articulated by a joint resolution of the US Congress known as the Iraq Resolution. The US stated that the intent was to remove “a regime that developed and used weapons of mass destruction, that harboured and supported terrorists, committed outrageous human rights abuses, and defied the just demands of the United Nations and the world.” For the invasion of Iraq the rationale was “the United States relied on the authority of UN Security Council Resolutions 678 and 687 to use all necessary means to compel Iraq to comply with its international obligations”.
In the lead-up to the invasion, the US and UK emphasized the argument that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction and that he thus presented a threat to his neighbours and to the world community. The US stated “on November 8, 2002, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1441. All fifteen members of the Security Council agreed to give Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its obligations and disarm or face the serious consequences of failing to disarm. The resolution strengthened the mandate of the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission(UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), giving them authority to go anywhere, at any time and talk to anyone in order to verify Iraq’s disarmament.”
Throughout late 2001, 2002, and early 2003, the Bush Administration worked to build a case for invading Iraq, culminating in then Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2003 address to the Security Council. Shortly after the invasion, the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and other intelligence agencies largely discredited evidence related to Iraqi weapons as well as links to Al-Qaeda, and at this point the Bush and Blair Administrations began to shift to secondary rationales for the war, such as the Saddam Hussein government’s human rights record and promoting democracy in Iraq. Opinion polls showed that people of nearly all countries opposed a war without UN mandate and that the view of the United States as a danger to world peace had significantly increased. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan described the war as illegal, saying in a September 2004 interview that it was “not in conformity with the Security Council.”
Accusations of faulty evidence and alleged shifting rationales became the focal point for critics of the war, who charge that the Bush Administration purposely fabricated evidence to justify an invasion that it had long planned to launch. The US led the effort for “the redirection of former Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (weapons of mass destruction) scientists, technicians and engineers to civilian employment and discourage emigration of this community from Iraq.” The United States officially declared its combat role in Iraq over on August 31, 2010, although several thousand troops remained in the country until all American troops were withdrawn from Iraq by December 2011. In June 2014, however, US forces were reinstated in Iraq due to the escalation of instability in the region. That Iraq was attacked for its demonstration effect is attested to by several sources, not least the principals themselves – in private. A senior administration official told a reporter, off the record, that “Iraq is not just about Iraq”, rather “it was of a type”, including Iran, Syria, and North Korea.
In a memo issued on September 30, 2001, Rumsfeld advised Bush that “the USG [US government] should envision a goal along these lines: New regimes in Afghanistan and another key State [or two] that supports terrorism [to strengthen political and military efforts to change policies elsewhere]”. Despite Saddam not having an active WMD programme, this explanation has found support among some International Relations scholars, who say that while the Bush administration was wrong about Saddam’s WMD capabilities, it was sincerely wrong. Intelligence is a complicated, murky enterprise, the argument goes, and given the foreboding shadow of the 9/11 attacks, the US government reasonably, if tragically, misread the evidence on the dangers Saddam posed.
In a 2002 column, Jonah Goldberg coined the “Ledeen Doctrine”, named after neoconservative historian Michael Ledeen. The “doctrine” states: “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” It may be discomfiting to Americans to say nothing of millions of Iraqis that the Bush administration spent their blood and treasure for a war inspired by the Ledeen Doctrine. Did the US really start a war – one that cost trillions of dollars, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, destabilized the region, and helped create the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – just to prove a point?
More uncomfortable still is that the Bush administration used WMDs as a cover, with equal parts fear mongering and strategic misrepresentation – lying – to exact the desired political effect. Indeed, some US economists consider the notion that the Bush administration deliberately misled the country and the globe into war in Iraq to be a “conspiracy theory”, on par with beliefs that President Barack Obama was born outside the US or that the Holocaust did not occur. Sixteen years after the United States invaded Iraq and left a trail of destruction and chaos in the country and the region, one aspect of the war remains criminally under examined: why was it fought in the first place? What did the Bush administration hope to get out of the war?
— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.