March 21, 2023

Iraq War

“The Senate took a first step [last] Thursday toward repealing two measures that give open-ended approval for military action in Iraq, pushing to end that authority as the United States marks the 20th anniversary of the Iraq War…

“Senators voted 68-27 to move forward on legislation that would repeal the 2002 measure that greenlighted that March 2003 invasion of Iraq and also a 1991 measure that sanctioned the U.S.-led Gulf War to expel Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.” AP News

Many on both sides argue that the war was a serious mistake:

“The invasion of Iraq was the biggest foreign-policy blunder in a generation. The United States went to war with a country that had no meaningful connection to the 9/11 terrorist attacks to disarm it of weapons it did not have, ultimately to create a regime that resembles a liberal democracy only in comparison with Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship…

“The Iraq War eliminated a regional counterweight to Iran and replaced it with a government in Baghdad far more congenial to Tehran. The chaos resulting from the war unleashed the Islamic State, initially empowering a faction more closely related to the al-Qaeda death cult that carried out 9/11 than was the deposed Iraqi government. The war fractured the international coalition responding to those attacks and diverted resources and attention from the Afghanistan War… The lesson that leaders of rogue states took from the Iraq War was that it was best to actually have weapons of mass destruction to deter Western military powers.”
W. James Antle III, National Review

“Early in the occupation, the Americans made two fateful decisions that continue to reverberate today. They disbanded the Iraqi army — even though most rank-and-file soldiers had no great love for their murderous dictator — and summarily fired hundreds of thousands of low-level members of Hussein’s Baath Party, including many schoolteachers. Both decisions, made in haste without thoughtful analysis of the implications, would propel many Iraqis into armed resistance…

“GOP loyalists in the Pentagon sent a 24-year-old with no background in finance to reopen Baghdad’s stock exchange. A 21-year-old who hadn’t yet graduated from college was assigned to the team of Americans trying to rebuild the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police… Even more significant, no one in Washington thought to draw up a pre-invasion strategy for sharing power in the newly liberated nation among Shiite and Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds. That negligence launched the country into a civil war that would kill tens of thousands of Iraqis — and thousands of U.S. troops caught in the middle.”
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post

“The promulgation of the WMD fictions, the Abu Ghraib horrors, the catastrophically inept initial occupation and administration—all undid in a matter of months the post-Cold War authority and heft the U.S. had earned over decades. Almost every calamity that followed—Iran’s ascent, the rise of ISIS, Barack Obama’s disastrous failure in Syria—can be traced back more or less directly to the war

“[There’s also] the damage the war did to the fabric of American democracy. The American people were terrified by their government into war, with the bogus menace of nuclear weapons wielded by a man with bogus connections to the 9/11 terrorists. They were promised a war that would be a cakewalk followed by an occupation in which their sons and daughters would be greeted with sweets and flowers. This cloud castle of fictions did incalculable damage to the bonds of trust between Americans and their leaders.”
Gerard Baker, Wall Street Journal

“As with any good propaganda campaign, the Bush team was careful and lawyerly in making its case. In his public statements, Bush himself never explicitly said Saddam was responsible for 9/11; but he constantly used language in speeches and other public statements linking Saddam with terrorism, and he talked more broadly about connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda-style militancy. The Bush team did a masterful job of making it difficult for the public to distinguish between Saddam and Osama bin Laden…

“The Bush White House was so successful that two years after 9/11, polls showed that nearly 70 percent of Americans believed that Saddam was involved in the attacks on New York and Washington. By 2007, despite the administration’s failure to find proof of the connection over the previous six years, polls revealed that one-third of Americans still believed it… The officially sanctioned conspiracy theory that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 set a dangerous precedent.”
James Risen, The Intercept

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“The number of Iraqis who died because of our invasion may never be known. Conservative estimates put it in the hundreds of thousands, with millions more turned into refugees. The war worked out much better for Western oil companies. In 2008, as the surge was ending, the US State Department guided the Iraqi government in awarding no-bid concessions of the country’s oil wealth to ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, and Total…

“‘The Iraq war is largely about oil,’ Alan Greenspan, former chair of the Federal Reserve, wrote in his memoir. He told The Washington Post that he advised Bush to invade because it was ‘essential’ to securing the global supply. Meanwhile, this January, Iraq’s planning ministry said that 25 percent of the country now lives below the poverty line…

The United States owes the Iraqi people reparations for the destruction it inflicted upon them. It owes the world, as well as itself, a renunciation of its post–Cold War prerogative to police the globe.”

Spencer Ackerman, The Nation

From the Right

Some argue, “The idea that the United States had broken ‘the Pottery Barn rule,’ as Secretary of State Colin Powell implied, and destabilized what otherwise might have been a stable country was a myth. Iraqi Kurdistan had already peeled away. While Saddam’s Republic Guards dominated the day across southern Iraq, their control faded away from sundown to sunrise…

“If Saddam were alive today, he would be nearly 86 years old. His two sons were incompetent sociopaths. The notion that Iraq would have resisted the winds of the Arab Spring is ludicrous. To understand what Iraq would have looked like absent U.S. intervention, picture the Syrian civil war

“Nor is it fair to blame the United States for a million deaths in Iraq. U.S. forces did not kill 1 million Iraqis; insurgents and Iranian-backed militias did. To absolve these forces and bash America, which sought to counter such terrorism and protect Iraqis, is backward.”

Michael Rubin, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“Then-President Barack Obama announced he was ‘responsibly ending the war in Iraq’ in 2009, shortly after he came to office, in part on the strength of his condemnation of Bush's decision to invade. The combat mission officially concluded for a second time two years later, in 2011, with around 700 U.S. troops remaining behind in an advise-and-assist role, along with several thousand U.S. contractors. But once IS started grabbing land in Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014, committing anachronistic atrocities along the way, the Obama administration went back in…

“It wasn't until the end of 2021 that President Joe Biden announced the third end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq. This time, about 2,500 U.S. soldiers stayed behind to advise and assist—indefinitely… This time a decade ago we were a year and a quarter out from the ‘end’ of the war in Iraq, with a residual advise-and-assist force in place—and a year and a quarter away from the war's rebeginning. And now we're a year and a quarter out from another end of the war in Iraq, with a residual advise-and-assist force in place. It's not unreasonable to ask: Is it over?”
Bonnie Kristian, Reason

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