Note: I had thought this topic long dead, as the title indicates. Since someone brought it up again, I reprint my previous thought on the subject, editing only the opening remark.
A reader who, on other topics, I deem worthy of respect, has ventured the following comment in regards the Iraqi war:
“Pre-invasion, Iraq was a deplorable place run by an unrepentant dictator that is better off dead. However, at the time, it was a secular and not a Jihadist hell-hole. (to the point that Al-Qaeda disliked Saddam nearly as much as us). Of course, Saddam kept it secular by terror and repression.
By toppling Saddam, and having an incompetent in charge of the war not understand how to conduct the aftermath (see the work of Tom Ricks for details) , we MADE it a hell-hole of religious conflict that we subsequently poured trillions of dollars into trying to fix.
I can’t grok why President Bush attacked Iraq.”
The original rationale for the war is the same now as it has always been.
Since someone else has done the work for me, I will simply post his line of argument in full, saving my comment for the end.
With the end of the Iraq war, comes the question…was the war justified?
Of course, one must define the justification for war first.
Was it human rights? Was it terrorism? Was it WMDs all along, with the others justifications only claimed after the fact?
Well, there’s only one definitive answer, and it always suprises me that this is still debated. The justification for war has long been codified and official.
It is described in the October 10th, 2002 “House Joint Resolution Authorizing Use of Force Against Iraq“, and it is quite clear.
We’ll list the justifications and see if they have been confirmed, or found wanting.
1: First justification:
Whereas in 1990 in response to Iraq’s war of aggression against and illegal occupation of Kuwait, the United States forged a coalition of nations to liberate Kuwait and its people in order to defend the national security of the United States and enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to Iraq;”
Simple statement of fact. The UN resolution which authorized the Gulf War can be found here.
2: Next justification:
Whereas after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver and develop them, and to end its support for international terrorism;
As stated, Iraq accepted these terms on April 6th 1991.
3: Next justification:
Whereas the efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence agencies, and Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large scale biological weapons program, and that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously indicated;
Statement of fact. These were the circumstancesthroughout the inspections.
4: Next justification:
Whereas Iraq, in direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and development capabilities, which finally resulted in the withdrawal of inspectors from Iraq on October 31, 1998;
Iraqi intransigence with regards to the UN inspections is listed on the UN Website.
5: Next justification:
Whereas in Public Law 105-235 (August 14, 1998), Congress concluded that Iraq’s continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in ‘material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations’ and urged the President ‘to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations’;
The cited Public Law 105-235 can be found here.
6: Next justification:
Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations;
Here are specific and contested claims. Let’s examine them one by one:
a: “Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace…”
- Says who?
Well, the UN said so in resolutions up to and including 1441, where they say “Recognizing the threat Iraq’s noncompliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security,”
The United States concluded such in 1998, when President Clinton said “There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. His regime threatens the safety of his people, the stability of his region and the security of all the rest of us.”
The CIA concluded such in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, when it stated “Iraq probably would attempt clandestine attacks against the U.S. Homeland if Baghdad feared an attack that threatened the survival of the regime were imminent or unavoidable, or possibly for revenge. Such attacks–more likely with biological than chemical agents–probably would be carried out by special forces or intelligence operatives.”
Tenet, who also said that Saddam was more likely to cooperate on attacks against the US as he grew stronger, later added “Let me be clear: Saddam remains a threat.”
So, while there was no claim that Iraq was an imminent threat, there was broad consensus that Iraq was a “grave and gathering” threat.
b: “….remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations…”
- Per Resolution 1441“…Iraq remains in material breach of council resolutions…”.
c: “…continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability…”
- Did Iraq do so? Let’s reference the evidence:
We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipmentthat Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002.
Reference strains of biological organisms concealed in a scientist’s home, one of which can be used to produce biological weapons.
New research on BW-applicable agents, Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin were not declared to the UN.
With regard to biological warfare activities, which has been one of our two initial areas of focus, ISG teams are uncovering significant information – including research and development of BW-applicable organisms, the involvement of Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) in possible BW activities, and deliberate concealment activities. All of this suggests Iraq after 1996 further compartmentalized its program and focused on maintaining smaller, covert capabilities that could be activated quickly to surge the production of BW agents.
Clearly, Iraq did continue to possess and develop significant chemical and biological weapons capability, in violation of the UN resolutions.
d: “…actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability,”
- Again, to the evidence:
“With regard to Iraq’s nuclear program, the testimony we have obtained from Iraqi scientists and senior government officials should clear up any doubts about whether Saddam still wanted to obtain nuclear weapons. They have told ISG that Saddam Husayn remained firmly committed to acquiring nuclear weapons. These officials assert that Saddam would have resumed nuclear weapons development at some future point.
Starting around 2000, the senior Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) and high-level Ba’ath Party official Dr. Khalid Ibrahim Sa’id began several small and relatively unsophisticated research initiatives that could be applied to nuclear weapons development. These initiatives did not in-and-of themselves constitute a resumption of the nuclear weapons program, but could have been useful in developing a weapons-relevant science base for the long-term.
This justification is less clear than the preceding. It appears that Saddam had an ongoing interest in a nuclear program, and had maintained programs for turning that interest into a program and some point in the future. It is not clear that he had taken material steps toward acquiring those items necessary to actually builda nuclear weapon.
e: “…and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations”
- The list of State Sponsors of terrorism has not changed since 1993, and Iraq remains on that list.
It was also the judgment of the world that Iraq continued to support terrorism, per Resolution 1441 , which states “Deploring also that the Government of Iraq has failed to comply with its commitments pursuant to resolution 687 (1991) with regard to terrorism…”
Conclusion: Largely accurate
***The only justification, among those cited in item #6, that can be questioned is the claim that Iraq was actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability. It is not clear, with publicly available evidence, that Iraq was doing so…although such cannot be ruled out, yet. Certainly Iraq was maintaining the potential to regain the capability.
7: Next justification:
Whereas Iraq persists in violating resolution of the United Nations Security Council by continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population thereby threatening international peace and security in the region, by refusing to release, repatriate, or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by Iraq, including an American serviceman, and by failing to return property wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait;
- This is a no-brainer. According to human rights groups, the Iraqi government was oppressing its people.
Human Rights Watch says:
“The Iraqi government continued to commit widespread and gross human rights violations, including the extensive use of the death penalty and the extrajudicial execution of prisoners, the forced expulsion of ethnic minorities from government-controlled areas in the oil-rich region of Kirkuk and elsewhere, the arbitrary arrest of suspected political opponents and members of their families, and the torture and ill-treatment of detainees.”
The UN agreed:
Iraq has been condemned by the United Nations’ top human rights body for conducting a campaign of “all pervasive repression and widespread terror”.
8: Next justification:
Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people;
- A clear citation of history.
Specific instances…….”1986 March – UN Secretary General reports Iraq’s use of mustard gas and nerve agents against Iranian soldiers, with significant usage in 1981 and 1984.” and “1988 March 16 – Iraq attacks the Kurdish town of Halabjah with mix of poison gas and nerve agents, killing 5000 residents.”
9: Next justification:
Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council;
- The attacks on US/Coalition planes enforcing the No-Fly zones is also a matter of record. These attacks constituted a violation of UN resolution requirements, whichbrequired Iraq to cooperate with the UN resolutions, and which expressly prohibited Iraq from taking or threatening any “hostile acts directed against any representative or personnel of the United Nations or the IAEA or of any Member State taking action to uphold any Council resolution.”
10: Next justification:
Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;
- This is a two-parter.
Were Al Qaeda members known to be in Iraq, prior to the war, andwere those claims justified by post-war evidence?
a: The Powell-cited case of Abu Mussab Zarqawi, who sought medical treatment in Baghdad.
b: Ansar Al-Islam operated out of Northern Iraq, out of Saddam’s immediate control, but without any attempt to quell their operations.
c: Powell also claimed that “There have been contacts over the years….” between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
a: Regarding Abu Mussab Zarqawi…..
“U.S. forces near Baghdad have captured a man they describe as a midlevel terrorist operative with links to al Qaeda, a counterterrorism official said.
The operative, whose name was not provided, works for Abu Musab Zarqawi, a senior associate of Osama bin Laden…”
b: Regarding Ansar Al-Islam….
Evidence has been found in the Kurdish-controlled regions of northern Iraq that the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Islam was working on three types of chlorine gas and ricin and has ties to Al Qaeda….”
c: Regarding the claimed contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda:
Iraqi intelligence documents discovered in Baghdad by The Telegraph have provided the first evidence of a direct link between Osama bin Laden’s al-Qa’eda terrorist network and Saddam Hussein’s regime.Papers found yesterday in the bombed headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Iraq’s intelligence service, reveal that an al-Qa’eda envoy was invited clandestinely to Baghdad in March 1998.
There is also this article, full of additional connections.
While individual charges may, or may not, turn out to be accurate, that is within the normal range of intel-reliability. However, the post-war findings are quite conclusive that the charge, itself, was accurate.
11: Next justification:
Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens;
12: Next justification:
Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;
- Hard to explain this one. Either you get it, or youdon’t.
Bush confirmed that 9/11“changed my calculation”.
This is not to say that the authorization claimed revenge as justification. It simply underscored the danger of allowing nations, like Iraq, to freely maintain WMD capability and support terror.
Notable figures like John Kerry, Tom Daschle, Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman and others concurred in that assessment.
Conclusion: Accurate, albeit opinion
13: Next justification:
Whereas Iraq’s demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself;
- The capability, willingness and risk has already been discussed above.
The magnitude of the harm of such an attack would depend on the nature of the attack, of course.
Conclusion: Accurate, still
14: Next justification:
Whereas United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) authorizes the use of all necessary means to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 (1990) and subsequent relevant resolutions and to compel Iraq to cease certain activities that threaten international peace and security, including the development of weapons of mass destruction and refusal or obstruction of United Nations weapons inspections in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 (1991), repression of its civilian population in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 (1991), and threatening its neighbors or United Nations operations in Iraq in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 949 (1994);
15: Next justification:
Whereas in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1), Congress has authorized the President ‘to use United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) in order to achieve implementation of Security Council Resolution 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677′;
Whereas in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it ‘supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1),’ that Iraq’s repression of its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and ‘constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf region,’ and that Congress, ‘supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688′;
Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support effortsto remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;
- A citation of the 1991 authorization and for war against Iraq, a supporting resolution, and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.
Review transcript of authorization here, supporting resolution here, and the Iraq Liberation Act here.
16: Next justification:
Whereas on September 12, 2002, President Bush committed the United States to ‘work with the United Nations Security Council to meet our common challenge’ posed by Iraq and to ‘work for the necessary resolutions,’ while also making clear that ‘the Security Council resolutions will be enforced, and the just demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable’;
- A citation of a speech given by Bush, to the UN, on September 12th, 2002.
It is important to note that Bush made it clear that we were not just dedicating ourselves to renewed inspections, or renewed negotiations, but to actual action….either on Iraq’s part, or, absent that, our own.
Some now claim the October 2002 resolution was just a profession of “support for the Security Councils decisions”….one should remind them of this speech, nearly a month ahead of that resolution, in which Bush said “But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced — the just demands of peace and security will be met — or action will be unavoidable.”
It was clear to everybody that the only outcome was full and immediate compliance. It was for Iraq, alone, to decide whether that would be voluntary or forced compliance.
17: Next justification
Whereas the United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq’s ongoing support for international terrorist groups combined with its development of weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire and other United Nations Security Council resolutions make clear that it is in the national security interests of the United States and in furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions be enforced, including through the use of force if necessary;
- Two controversial statements herein:
a: Iraq’s “development of weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire…”
- This had been going on throughout the inspections of the 90s, and continued thereafter, according to the Kay report, which notes “ISG teams are uncovering significant information – including research and development of BW-applicable organisms, the involvement of Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) in possible BW activities, and deliberate concealment activities” and “…ISG teams have developed multiple sources that indicate that Iraq explored the possibility of CW production in recent years, possibly as late as 2003.”
b: “it is in the national security interests of the United States…”
- One might argue whether this is true, but this must be a decision made by those given responsibility to make that call. And did they decide such was the case?
The President, CIA, UN, and Congress have all affirmed this decision, in variousstatements, UN resolutions and Congressional resolutions.
One may disagree with their judgments, but their authority was clear and due process was followed.
18: Next justification:
Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;
Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;
- A citation of the Congressional authorizationfor the war on terror.
Note: Authorization includes those responsible for 9/11, but is not exclusive to those responsible.
Iraq, per preceding citations, was unequivocally a supporter of terrorism.
19: Next justification:
Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized in the joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40);
20: Next justification:
Whereas it is in the national security interests of the United States to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region:”
- One can hardly argue that a peaceful Middle-East would not be in our national security interests.
President Clinton and Congress certainly believed Iraq constituted a threat when they passed Public Law 105-235, which stated “…Iraq’s continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threaten vital United States interests and international peace and security”.
President Clinton and Congress even voted to “support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.”
Again, one may argue that this potential threat was not the case today, but the figures tasked with making that determination decided differently.
The inescapable conclusion is that, with the sole exception of the claim that Iraq was “actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability”, the justification for war was completely accurate. And that claim has yet to besettled either way.
No facts subsequent to the war have proven any of the official justifications false.
Even the nuclear claim may be described as accurate depending on the extent to which Iraq is alleged to have “sought” the capability.
* * *
My comment: not only do I agree with the above assessment, I don’t even see wiggle-room whereby an informed and rational opinion can be held on the other side. You can say the above-given reasons are insufficient to justify the war, but you cannot say that the reasons were not given. Each one of these was propounded over and over again ad nauseam in the public press.
But let us say for the sake of argument that the entire war was hatched as a scheme for some sinister and ulterior purpose, such as to distract attention from the president’s coming impeachment, or to seize control of the world oil supplies in Alaska, or because the Moon People are controlling Area 51. Let us grant as moonbatty an assumption as you can find on the Internet.
Still. Let’s be serious. They voted in Iraq. It is a frivolous matter (for those who argue consequences justify deeds) to argue that the consequences in this case are regrettable because the administration had the wrong state of mind.
Still. They voted in Iraq. Let’s be serious. The American soldier gave those women a chance to vote.
Now, granted, it all might blow up in their faces, and it surely will if we pull out now and abandon them to the death camps. It was only a vote or two. Or three. In bigger numbers than the last election in America. While the war with Saddam ended years ago, the war with the Jihadists will continue as long as they have hope and resources.
Our side will prevail if we do not run out of hope first. What do we need for hope? We need people to cheer for our side.
What should we say to our Leftist friends who can give only grudging love, or none at all, either to their own country, or to the people we saved?
Let me quote another who speaks more simply, and more from the heart, than I.