The third posting on the war/occupation of Iraq this month.
Trawling around on the Net after I came in from work today, I came across the best summing up yet of the vast, vast range of reasons why the war was fundamentally wrong from the beginning, why it continued to be wrong as it morphed into a savage occupation and why it should end now.
The piece republished below was written by David Michael Green, a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. It was published here, where you can also find a string of comments and responses to it, many of which also recommend making copies of the article and passing it on to as many people as possible. I'm doing my bit here by posting the information on this blog.
I would suggest it as highly recommended reading for anyone that still insists that the reasons for going to war were genuine and not based on the most elaborate pack of lies of our times.
* Mesopotamia has long been a playground for great powers. The British invaded the area in 1917, causing a widespread revolt of the Iraqi people. Britain later ruled under a League of Nations mandate that produced the artificial creation of the country Iraq (and Kuwait), and continued to control oil production in the region. Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour said at the time, “I do not care under what system we keep this oil, but I am quite clear it is all-important for us that this oil should be available”.
* Saddam Hussein started his career as a political thug, on the payroll of the CIA during the 1950s and 1960s, torturing and murdering Iraqi leftists whose names were provided by American intelligence, and participating in an armed coup against the Iraqi government.
* In 1972, the United States conspired with Iran and Israel to support a revolt of the Kurdish people within Iraq against their government.
* In 1980, the United States provided encouragement, weapons, intelligence, satellite data and funding for Saddam’s Iraq to invade Iran, launching an eight year war - the longest and probably the bloodiest of the post-WWII era.
* During this war, Ronald Reagan dispatched Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq to improve relations with Saddam. The United States then restored full diplomatic relations with Iraq, despite the administration’s clear awareness that Saddam was using chemical weapons at the time.
* The Reagan administration also knew that Saddam had used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds rising up again against Baghdad (this was the incident George W. Bush would later repeatedly invoke, saying of Saddam, “He gassed his own people”), but nevertheless authorized expanded sales to Iraq of highly sophisticated equipment that could be used to manufacture weapons, only two months after the Halabja incident.
* George H. W. Bush equated Saddam to Hitler. But, in the wake of the 1990-91 Gulf War, after the elder Bush had encouraged Kurds and Shiites to rise up against the regime, he abandoned them, leaving them to be slaughtered by Saddam’s military, in many cases right before the eyes of US forces who were ordered not to intervene.
* The senior Bush had a chance after that war to occupy Iraq and topple Saddam. He chose not to because, in his own words and those of his National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, “Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq … would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. … We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. …furthermore, we had been self‑consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post‑cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.’s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different - and perhaps barren - outcome.”
* The younger Bush, George W., never asked his father for advice on Iraq. Instead, he said: “You know he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to.” Bush has also stated, “I’m driven with a mission from God. …God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq…’ And I did.”
* George W. Bush gave twenty interviews in 1999 to Mickey Herskowitz, a friend of the Bush family contracted at the time to ghostwrite his autobiography. Bush was thinking about invading Iraq at that time, saying “‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander‑in‑chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.” Herskowitz said that Bush’s beliefs on Iraq were shaped by Dick Cheney’s ideas, based on the power and glory Margaret Thatcher earned from her Falklands War: “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.” Herskowitz also reports this interesting note from his interviews with Bush: “He told me that as a leader, you can never admit to a mistake. That was one of the keys to being a leader.”
* During the presidential campaign of 2000, candidate Bush said very little about Iraq, and certainly never suggested the need for urgent action. Somehow, though, in just two years time - during which, if anything, Iraq actually got weaker, not stronger - Saddam and his country became a perilous and imminent threat that had to be addressed immediately.
* Former members of his own cabinet have revealed that Bush planned to invade Iraq from the very beginning of his administration, well before 9/11. All discussions were about the how of doing it, never about the why, the justification, the costs or the wisdom.
* Bush claims he is fighting a war on terror in response to 9/11. But in the first eight months of his administration, his own top terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, could not get a meeting of cabinet-level security officials to discuss terrorism. They finally met, one week before 9/11, and then the meeting was ‘hijacked’ into discussing Iraq instead. In 2004, Clarke said “Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re‑election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11.” Clarke is a Republican who voted for Bush in 2000, and also served in the administrations of Bush’s father, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
* Right after 9/11, according to Clarke, “The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, ‘I want you to find whether Iraq did this.’ Now he never said, ‘Make it up.’ But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this. I said, ‘Mr. President. We’ve done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There’s no connection.’ He came back at me and said, ‘Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there’s a connection’. And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report. It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, ‘Will you sign this report?’ They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, ‘Wrong answer. … Do it again’.”
* Iraq was not in league with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, whom the administration blamed for the 9/11 attacks. As Richard Clarke put it, “There’s absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever”. Indeed, the opposite is true. Al Qaeda is a Muslim fundamentalist organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of the secular regimes ruling Islamic countries, precisely what Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was. Indeed, even the highly religious Saudi Arabia (from which 15 of the 19 alleged hijackers came, none of them being Iraqis) is under violent pressure from al Qaeda for not being theocratic enough.
* Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Even George Bush has now admitted this. However, over the last six years, and still to this day, Bush constantly conflates the two in almost every speech he gives, to the point where in 2003 sixty-nine percent of Americans came to believe that Saddam had been behind the 9/11 attacks. There can be little doubt that the administration used 9/11 to justify the invasion of Iraq, though they had nothing whatsoever to do with each other.
* According to the internal top secret documents later leaked as the Downing Street Memos, we know that the administration itself realized that “the case was thin” for war against Iraq, because “Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”
* Nevertheless, the administration made an internal decision that the war would be marketed around the supposed WMD threat, despite knowing it was false. The allusions to mushroom clouds, centrifuge tubes and all the rest were gross exaggerations and outright lies, and were known to be at the time by the people making them. As the Downing Street Memos reveal, a decision for war had already been made, and the public case for it was fabricated afterwards: “The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”.
* The president claimed in a state of the union speech that Saddam had gone to Africa to get uranium, seriously alarming the American public. Before the speech, the CIA had told the White House to remove that comment because it was transparently false, based as it was on a crude forged letter. Ultimately, the ‘mistake’ of including this lie was blamed on Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who was later punished for this grave ‘error’ by being promoted to National Security Advisor. His former boss, Condoleeza Rice, was punished by being promoted to Secretary of State.
* When Joseph Wilson came home from a trip to Niger and told the truth about the forged letter, the administration revealed the identity of his wife, undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame, thus potentially jeopardizing the lives of all her contacts overseas. Eight witnesses recalled nine conversations with Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, in which Libby blew Plame’s cover - an act of treason - in order to punish a political ‘enemy’ for telling the truth. Libby claimed not to remember these nine conversations. Both the jury and the judge in the case thought Libby was unquestionably lying and convicted him of obstructing justice, with jurors commenting that they felt sorry for him because he was obviously taking a fall for Cheney.
* The case regarding Saddam’s chemical weapons capability was similarly trumped up. It was based on the rantings of a single source, code-named “Curveball”, whose handlers in the German intelligence service had repeatedly warned the administration that he was a drunk and a liar.
* The administration continually relied upon Iraqi exiles, many of whom had not set foot in the country for decades, as sources for information about Iraq and as mouthpieces to justify the invasion. But it is unclear who was using whom. Ahmad Chalabi, the most prominent of these, intended to use the US military as a vehicle to become leader of Iraq. Despite being wanted for massive bank fraud in Jordan, Chalabi convinced neoconservatives that he was the “George Washington of Iraq”. His Iraqi National Congress was the primary source for Bush administration claims that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda, neither of which was true. Chalabi gloated about how his influence led the Bush administration to war, and the Pentagon immediately flew him into Iraq following the invasion. The army of followers that he had promised would rally around him never materialized, and his party won zero parliamentary seats in the December 2005 elections. Ultimately, the United States accused him of providing intelligence secrets to the Iranian government and raided his offices.
* Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council sealed the deal for most Americans regarding the case for war. It later became apparent that almost everything Powell said that day was false, and he has described this episode as the low point in his career.
* The Downing Street Memos reveal that the purpose of authorizing UN weapons inspectors to go to Iraq was never actually to assess the threat and destroy any weapons found. Instead, the purpose was to “wrongfoot” Saddam by getting him to reject the inspectors, thus giving the American and British governments a pretext for war. Tony Blair said “It would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. If the political context were right, people would support regime change.”
* To this day Bush claims that Saddam kicked out the inspectors. That had been true five years previously, but not before the war. Hans Blix, the head of the 2002-03 weapons inspection team reported that they were getting good cooperation from the Iraqis, despite the fact that - as revealed by one of the former team members - the US had inserted American spies into prior international weapons inspection teams in Iraq.
* At the time of the invasion in 2003, the weapons inspectors were nearly done with their work, and only asked for a month or two more to finish. The Bush administration claimed that the threat of Saddam and his WMD was too grave and too urgent to wait. Bush’s claim that Saddam kicked out the inspectors is not only false, but masks the actual truth, which is that the administration told the inspectors to leave because of the looming attack, before they could finish their work and by so doing remove the rationale for that attack.
* As war loomed, Iraq made broad overtures to the United States to prevent an invasion, offering to allow full, on-the-ground, American weapons inspections, anti-terrorism cooperation, oil concessions, and even backing for the US position in an Israeli/Palestinian peace plan. The only thing Saddam balked at was regime change, but even then he offered to hold elections within two years’ time. The Americans were also informed by the Iraqis at the time that there were no existing WMD. The Iraqi representatives “could not understand why the Americans were focused on Iraq rather than on countries, like Iran, that have long supported terrorists”. The Bush administration rejected their offer, despite that it met every demand that Bush was publicly making.
* Saddam had never attacked the United States, nor even threatened to do so.
* In March of 2003, when the invasion was launched, Iraq was a gravely weakened military and economic power which could not seriously threaten its neighbors, let alone the United States. International sanctions had seriously damaged its economy and killed vast numbers of its citizens, including about 500,000 children. It had no serious weapons capability. It had lost control over two-thirds of its own airspace to American and British flyers.
* In November of 2002, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1441, requiring that Iraq declare its WMD, disarm, and allow inspections to verify that this has occurred. One week later Iraq announced that it would accept the resolution, and the weapons inspectors were simultaneously deployed.
* Iraq submitted a report to the UN, as required, indicating that it possessed no weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration immediately and definitively asserted that Saddam was lying. In fact, since Iraq had no WMD, and since Bush claimed that Saddam was unquestionably lying in saying so, it was Bush who lied, not Saddam.
* Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said of the supposed Iraqi WMD, “We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat”. But the United States government had never informed the UN weapons inspectors - a team that Bush had demanded be sent - of where to find those weapons.
* Two subsequent reports from teams sent to Iraq by the Bush administration itself revealed that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, though some people continue to this day to say there were some found there. Moreover, these teams scientifically confirmed that such weapons are neither missing nor hidden nor deported, but never existed after the mandated weapons destruction which followed the Gulf War.
* At one point Bush claimed that two small trailers found in the desert were mobile “biological laboratories” and thus declared, “We have found the weapons of mass destruction”, seemingly vindicating his decision to go to war. But even before he spoke, it was known by the Pentagon that these trailers had nothing to do with WMD production, and that fact was reported to Washington two days before the president’s statement. Bush and other administration officials continued to make the claim for nearly a year, despite an unequivocal report filed from the field stating that the trailers were not, and could not be, weapons labs. Scientists and engineers on the investigating team referred to the trailers as “”the biggest sand toilets in the world”.
* Added all together, what emerges from the above-listed facts is that all the carnage and destruction that has ensued was based on the case that Iraq was so imminent a threat - despite in fact being a very weak military power - that America could not wait four to six more weeks for the weapons inspectors to finish their work and reveal that it was no threat whatsoever.
* All the world, including the Bush administration, clearly understood that Security Council Resolution 1441 did not authorize an invasion of Iraq. Thus, in March 2003, the US drafted a second resolution which would explicitly do so. It needed nine out of fifteen votes, with no permanent member vetoes, to pass. In a press conference, Bush was asked whether he would call for a vote regardless of anticipated outcome. He responded, “No matter what the whip count is, we’re calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It’s time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam.” But after extensive American pressure, lobbying and even spying on Security Council members, only four countries were prepared to vote in favor of the resolution, with three of the five permanent members opposing. The president quietly withdrew the resolution he had promised “no matter what”.
* To this day Bush says in his speeches that Saddam did not comply with the UN, that Saddam kicked the inspectors out of Iraq, and that Bush had Security Council authorization to invade. None of those statements are true.
* In 2004, after saying that the Iraqi threat of WMD was urgent, Bush was asked by a reporter whether he had concerns about North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program, which - unlike Iraq’s - was quite real. In response, the president just opened his palms and shrugged. North Korea has since actually tested a nuclear warhead. Yet there is little expressed concern, the president almost never mentions it, there is no invasion being planned and no war drums being beaten.
* For that matter, there never was when the Soviet Union had more than 20,000 nuclear warheads mounted on ballistic missiles targeted on the US and set to a hair trigger. Bush never explained why nuclear deterrence worked against the Soviets with all their weapons for forty years, but couldn’t have had the same effect against Iraq today.
* Bush also never explained why Iraq had to be invaded, even though more than thirty countries had greater WMD capability at the time.
* When the WMD and al Qaeda link rationales for the war were exploded, the administration began arguing that its central purpose in invading Iraq was to bring democracy to the country and to the Middle East. At the same time, however, it has done next to nothing about Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been murdered in a clear case of ongoing genocide. Since the first requisite for being able to vote is to be alive, it is unclear how invading Iraq in the name of democracy could be so urgent, yet saving lives in Darfur of little concern and no action.
* The administration was told in advance by American intelligence agencies that there was a very high danger that Iraq could explode into ethnic chaos following an invasion. It chose to attack anyhow.
* According to former US diplomat Peter Galbraith, Bush was startled to learn - in January 2003 - that there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Responding to the three Iraqi exiles whom he had invited as guests to the Super Bowl, Bush looked at them and said, “You mean…they’re not, you know, there, there’s this difference. What is it about?” As Bush often likes to brag, he governs based on gut feelings, not on intelligence or analysis. Those who know him state that he doesn’t read books, and he himself admitted he doesn’t read newspapers.
* Before the war, General Eric Shinseki testified to Congress that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to govern this country of 25 million people during a post-war occupation. But since the administration was insisting that the war could be handled with far fewer troops and at far less expense, General Shinseki and at least one other general who made the same argument were publicly humiliated and had their long and prestigious military careers terminated for political reasons. Four years later, Bush is now ‘surging’ in Iraq by adding troops to the 140,000 or so that were already there, in addition to the 80,000 or so highly expensive mercenaries the taxpayers are funding. With the total now nearing 250,000 soldiers occupying the country, it is still transparently not enough to keep the peace.
* To say that there was never a plan for the post-war occupation of Iraq is technically incorrect. There was an extensive plan which the State Department had put together, working with experts and Iraqi exiles. But Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld didn’t want the State Department to have the credit and control for the occupation, so he and Bush threw State’s document in the garbage. Then there was no plan.
* Most of the Americans sent to staff the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) had no technical or professional training or experience in the work to which they were assigned. Rather, they were chosen because they were Republican Party loyalists.
* One of the most significant blunders the United States committed during the occupation was to dismiss the entire Iraqi Army, sending them home unemployed and armed, along with anyone associated with the Ba’ath Party, despite the fact that everyone who wanted to work at a professional level anywhere in Iraqi society had been forced under Saddam to join the Party. The first Chief Executive of the CPA, General Jay Garner, refused to purge all Ba’athists from Iraqi governing institutions, and instead sought to maximize Iraqi control of the post-war government as much as possible. He was quickly fired.
* As a result of this war, over 3,500 Americans are dead, and perhaps 20,000 or so are gravely wounded. Americans have not been allowed to see the caskets returning to Dover Air Force Base.
* The best, most scientific, and least politicized estimate of Iraqi dead suggests that probably close to one million have now perished in the country’s post-war chaos, out of a population of 25 million.
* Nearly four million Iraqis have been forced to leave their homes as refugees from the violence, flooding Jordan and Syria, especially. The United States allowed all of 202 refugees - many thousands of whom have been targeted for death for having cooperated with the US occupation - to settle in America in 2006. America’s major ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, is building a wall to keep them out.
* The United States has spent half a trillion dollars on the war, so far. Estimates suggest that the number could rise to two trillion dollars before the war is over and the continuing costs of medical care and economic displacement are fully accounted for.
* America’s army has been described by Colin Powell as “broken”. Almost all our land forces are deployed in Iraq - a war of choice - leaving none for use in a real foreign crisis.
* Similarly, our National Guard and Reserve troops have been used in ways that were never intended to fight this war - along with about 80,000 highly expensive mercenaries - so that the president could avoid an unpopular draft. This means that Guard and Reserve troops and their equipment are unavailable for use in national emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina.
* As a result of the war, America is far more hated today throughout much of the world, especially the Mid-East, and is seen as a imperialist power. The Iraq invasion thus played directly into the hands of Islamic radicals like Osama bin Laden.
* America’s own intelligence agencies concede that Iraq has become a giant factory for the minting of new terrorists, where almost none existed prior to the invasion.
* Terrorist incidents worldwide have gone up seven-fold since, and largely because of, the invasion of Iraq.
* Iran, a country whose government truly does despise the United States, has been an enormous beneficiary of the war. Prior to 2003, Iran was a natural check on Iraq among Middle East powers, and vice versa. Now Iran is enormously influential in Iraq and throughout the region, its growth in power alarming its neighbors.
* A very real possibility exists that the civil war now raging within Iraq will become a regional war, perhaps drawing in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Israel and others.
* Gas prices have doubled since the war began. The potential also exists for a global depression should further conflict limit the flow of oil to industrialized countries, just as these economies were damaged by OPEC doing the same thing in the 1970s.
* To this day, American troops in Iraq do not have sufficient body or vehicle armor, leading to hundreds of unnecessary deaths. Communities across America have literally held bake sales to raise funds for purchasing armor for their own kids. When confronted by a soldier about this, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld replied, “You go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time”.
* Companies like Halliburton, meanwhile, in which the Vice President still maintains financial interests, have received multi-billion dollar contracts for work in Iraq, without having to competitively bid for them, and with the internal influence of Cheney’s office in winning the assignments. Numerous scandals have emerged from these contracts, including billing for work never completed. Eight billion dollars in cash, entrusted to the Coalition Provisional Authority, has gone missing in one incident alone.
* Before the war, when they were marketing it to the public and Congress, administration officials hinted that it would be quick, easy and cheap. After the invasion, George Bush declared, under a “Mission accomplished” banner, that fighting had ceased before the war had really even begun. It has now lasted longer than America’s involvement in World War Two, and the administration has begun to talk about Iraq using the Korean model of a fifty-year occupation.
* The invasion of Iraq was supposedly part of an American ‘war on terrorism’. But, today, the United States is protecting Luis Posada from extradition to Venezuela or Cuba, despite that Posada has bragged about blowing up an airliner and killing seventy-three people on board, as well as a string of other bombings of Cuban hotels and nightclubs. The government claims that Posada cannot be extradited to Venezuela because he might be tortured, even though Venezuela has no such reputation - but after Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and the Attorney General’s renouncing of the Geneva Conventions, the United States now does.
* None of the principals who decided to go to war in Iraq had ever seen combat themselves. George W. Bush used his father’s influence to avoid service in Vietnam. John Ashcroft got seven draft deferments. Dick Cheney got five deferments, and later said “I had better things to do in the Sixties than fight in Vietnam”. Neither Paul Wolfowitz nor Richard Perle nor Condoleeza Rice ever served, and Donald Rumsfeld never fought in a war. The only senior member of the administration who had was Colin Powell. Powell advised Bush to be cautious about invading Iraq, and was thus sidelined from discussions leading up to the war. George Bush’s Secretary of State was not informed of the decision to invade Iraq until after Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador, had been told by the president.