La paix, bien sûr, mais la démocratie et la liberté ne sont-elles pas aussi des valeurs précieuses pour les chrétiens? Florence Taubman
If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow. Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he’ll use the arsenal. President Clinton (February 1998)
[La mission des forces armées américaines et britanniques est d’]attaquer les programmes d’armement nucléaires, chimiques et biologiques de l’Irak et sa capacité militaire à menacer ses voisins (…) On ne peut laisser Saddam Hussein menacer ses voisins ou le monde avec des armements nucléaires, des gaz toxiques, ou des armes biologiques. » (…) Il y a six semaines, Saddam Hussein avait annoncé qu’il ne coopérerait plus avec l’Unscom [la commission chargée du désarmement en Irak (…). D’autres pays [que l’Irak possèdent des armements de destruction massive et des missiles balistiques. Avec Saddam, il y a une différence majeure : il les a utilisés. Pas une fois, mais de manière répétée (…). Confronté au dernier acte de défiance de Saddam, fin octobre, nous avons mené une intense campagne diplomatique contre l’Irak, appuyée par une imposante force militaire dans la région (…). J’avais alors décidé d’annuler l’attaque de nos avions (…) parce que Saddam avait accepté nos exigences. J’avais conclu que la meilleure chose à faire était de donner à Saddam une dernière chance (…). Les inspecteurs en désarmement de l’ONU ont testé la volonté de coopération irakienne (…). Hier soir, le chef de l’Unscom, Richard Butler, a rendu son rapport au secrétaire général de l’ONU [Kofi Annan. Les conclusions sont brutales, claires et profondément inquiétantes. Dans quatre domaines sur cinq, l’Irak n’a pas coopéré. En fait, il a même imposé de nouvelles restrictions au travail des inspecteurs (…). Nous devions agir et agir immédiatement (…). J’espère que Saddam va maintenant finalement coopérer avec les inspecteurs et respecter les résolutions du Conseil de sécurité. Mais nous devons nous préparer à ce qu’il ne le fasse pas et nous devons faire face au danger très réel qu’il représente. Nous allons donc poursuivre une stratégie à long terme pour contenir l’Irak et ses armes de destruction massive et travailler jusqu’au jour où l’Irak aura un gouvernement digne de sa population (…). La dure réalité est qu’aussi longtemps que Saddam reste au pouvoir il menace le bien-être de sa population, la paix de la région et la sécurité du monde. La meilleure façon de mettre un terme définitif à cette menace est la constitution d’un nouveau gouvernement, un gouvernement prêt à vivre en paix avec ses voisins, un gouvernement qui respecte les droits de sa population. Bill Clinton (16.12.98)
Dans l’immédiat, notre attention doit se porter en priorité sur les domaines biologique et chimique. C’est là que nos présomptions vis-à-vis de l’Iraq sont les plus significatives : sur le chimique, nous avons des indices d’une capacité de production de VX et d’ypérite ; sur le biologique, nos indices portent sur la détention possible de stocks significatifs de bacille du charbon et de toxine botulique, et une éventuelle capacité de production. Dominique De Villepin
Il est maintenant clair que les assurances données par Chirac ont joué un rôle crucial, persuadant Saddam Hussein de ne pas offrir les concessions qui auraient pu éviter une guerre et le changement de régime. Selon l’ex-vice président Tareq Aziz, s’exprimant depuis sa cellule devant des enquêteurs américains et irakiens, Saddam était convaincu que les Français, et dans une moindre mesure, les Russes allaient sauver son régime à la dernière minute. Amir Taheri
Comme l’exemple d’usage chimique contre les populations kurdes de 1987-1988 en avait apporté la preuve, ces armes avaient aussi un usage interne. Thérèse Delpech
Les inspecteurs n’ont jamais pu vérifier ce qu’il était advenu de 3,9 tonnes de VX (…) dont la production entre 1988 et 1990 a été reconnue par l’Irak. Bagdad a déclaré que les destructions avaient eu lieu en 1990 mais n’en a pas fourni de preuves. En février 2003 (…) un document a été fourni [par Bagdad] à l’Unmovic pour tenter d’expliquer le devenir d’environ 63 % du VX manquant. Auparavant, les Irakiens prétendaient ne pas détenir un tel document. » Idem pour l’anthrax, dont l’Irak affirmait avoir détruit le stock en 1991. Mais, « en mars 2003, l’Unmovic concluait qu’il existait toujours, très probablement, 10 000 litres d’anthrax non détruits par l’Irak... Comme pour le VX, l’Irak a fourni à l’ONU, en février 2003, un document sur ce sujet qui ne pouvait permettre de conclure quelles quantités avaient été détruites … Thérèse Delpech
Je pense que c’est à cause de l’unanimité, tout le monde était contre la guerre, les gens étaient contents de lire dans les journaux combien la guerre était mauvaise, comme le président français l’avait prédit. (…) Dans la phase du Saddamgrad Patrice Claude et Rémy Ourdan du Monde ont inventé des atrocités, produit des témoignages en phase avec ce qu’ils ne pouvaient voir. (…) Sur les fedayyin de Saddam, les gardes les plus brutaux du dictateur, ses SS, Ourdain a dit que les fedayyin n’ont pas combattu parce qu’ils étaient effrayés de la façon dont les GI’s tuaient tout le monde, dont un grand nombre de civils. Alain Hertoghe
Even when viewed through a post-war lens, documentary evidence of messages are consistent with the Iraqi Survey Group’s conclusion that Saddam was at least keeping a WMD program primed for a quick re-start the moment the UN Security Council lifted sanctions. Iraqi Perpectives Project (March 2006)
Captured Iraqi documents have uncovered evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism, including a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist, and Islamic terrorist organizations. While these documents do not reveal direct coordination and assistance between the Saddam regime and the al Qaeda network, they do indicate that Saddam was willing to use, albeit cautiously, operatives affiliated with al Qaeda as long as Saddam could have these terrorist operatives monitored closely. Because Saddam’s security organizations and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some ways, a de facto link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust. Though the execution of Iraqi terror plots was not always successful, evidence shows that Saddam’s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime. Iraqi Perspectives Project (Saddam and Terrorism, Nov. 2007, released Mar. 2008)
Beginning in 1994, the Fedayeen Saddam opened its own paramilitary training camps for volunteers, graduating more than 7,200 « good men racing full with courage and enthusiasm » in the first year. Beginning in 1998, these camps began hosting « Arab volunteers from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, ‘the Gulf,’ and Syria. » It is not clear from available evidence where all of these non-Iraqi volunteers who were « sacrificing for the cause » went to ply their newfound skills. Before the summer of 2002, most volunteers went home upon the completion of training. But these camps were humming with frenzied activity in the months immediately prior to the war. As late as January 2003, the volunteers participated in a special training event called the « Heroes Attack. » This training event was designed in part to prepare regional Fedayeen Saddam commands to « obstruct the enemy from achieving his goal and to support keeping peace and stability in the province. » Study (Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia)
The information that the Russians have collected from their sources inside the American Central Command in Doha is that the United States is convinced that occupying Iraqi cities are impossible, and that they have changed their tactic. Captured Iraqi document (« Letter from Russian Official to Presidential Secretary Concerning American Intentions in Iraq », March 25, 2003)
Est-ce que les peuples du Moyen-Orient sont hors d’atteinte de la liberté? Est-ce que des millions d’hommes, de femmes et d’enfants sont condamnés par leur histoire et leur culture au despotisme? Sont-ils les seuls à ne pouvoir jamais connaître la liberté ou même à ne pas avoir le choix? Bush (2003)
La raison pour laquelle je continue de dire qu’il y a un lien entre l’Irak, Saddam et Al-Qaida est parce qu’il y a un lien entre l’Irak et Al-Qaida. (…) Cette administration n’a jamais dit que les attentats du 11/9 ont été orchestrés entre Saddam et Al Qaeda. Nous avons dit qu’il y avait de nombreux contacts entre Saddam Hussein et Al Qaeda. George W. Bush (Washington Post, 2004)
Avec notre aide, les peuples du Moyen-Orient s’avancent maintenant pour réclamer leur liberté. De Kaboul à Bagdad et à Beyrouth, il y a des hommes et des femmes courageux qui risquent leur vie chaque jour pour les mêmes libertés que nous apprécions. Et elles ont une question pour nous : Avons-nous le courage de faire au Moyen-Orient ce que nos pères et grands-pères ont accompli en Europe et en Asie ? En prenant position avec les chefs et les réformateurs démocratiques, en donnant notre voix aux espoirs des hommes et des femmes décents, nous leur offrons une voix hors du radicalisme. Et nous enrôlons la force la plus puissante pour la paix et la modération au Moyen-Orient : le désir de millions d’être libres. (…) En ce tout début de siècle, l’Amérique rêve au jour où les peuples du Moyen-Orient quitteront le désert du despotisme pour les jardins fertiles de la liberté – et reprendront leur place légitime dans un monde de paix et de prospérité. Nous rêvons au jour où les nations de cette région reconnaitront que leur plus grande ressource n’est pas le pétrole de leur sous-sol – mais le talent et la créativité de leurs populations. Nous rêvons au jour où les mères et les pères de tout le Moyen-Orient verront un avenir d’espoir et d’opportunités pour leurs enfants. Et quand ce beau jour viendra, les nuages de la guerre seront balayés, l’appel du radicalisme diminuera… et nous laisserons à nos enfants un monde meilleur et plus sûr. Bush (11/9/2006)
Le projet de révolution démocratique mondiale peut faire sourire. Mais ce n’est pas totalement sans raison que les néoconservateurs, qui l’ont inspiré, se targuent d’avoir contribué, sous le deuxième mandat de M. Reagan, à la démocratisation en Asie, en Amérique latine et en Europe. Ils souhaitent aujourd’hui mettre un terme à «l’exception moyen-orientale» : à la fois par intérêt et par idéalisme, l’Administration américaine veut rompre avec des décennies d’accommodement avec les dictatures de la région au nom de la stabilité (condition nécessaire, notamment, à l’accès régulier à un pétrole bon marché). Il s’agirait en effet de gagner la «quatrième guerre mondiale», comme a été gagnée la «troisième», c’est-à-dire la guerre froide. Le pari est évidemment difficile. Pour des raisons tactiques, les États-Unis doivent aujourd’hui ménager des régimes autoritaires tels que l’Arabie saoudite, dont ils ont besoin pour la lutte antiterroriste. (…) De ce fait, Paul Wolfowitz n’a pas tort de suggérer que le combat engagé par les États-Unis durera plus longtemps que la guerre froide et sera plus dur que la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Mais, si le résultat est incertain, le mouvement lui est bien engagé. Les révolutions pacifiques en Géorgie et en Ukraine ont été appuyées discrètement par des organisations publiques et privées américaines. Certes, ce qu’il est convenu d’appeler le «printemps arabe» repose aussi sur des dynamiques locales et a bien sûr bénéficié d’événements imprévus tels que la mort de Yasser Arafat ou l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri. Mais la pression américaine a joué un rôle non négligeable. En mai 2004, choisissant de «se couper les cheveux avant que les Américains ne les tondent» – selon les termes d’un diplomate, les dirigeants de la Ligue arabe se sont engagés à étendre les pratiques démocratiques, à élargir la participation des citoyens à la vie publique et à renforcer la société civile. Même le président Assad semble aux abois lorsqu’il dit publiquement qu’il «n’est pas Saddam Hussein» et qu’il «veut négocier»… (…). La question géopolitique centrale de notre temps reste donc bien celle qui avait été au coeur de l’affrontement franco-américain de 2002-2003 : faut-il préférer la stabilité au risque de l’injustice, ou la démocratisation au risque du chaos ? Optimiste et risqué, le pari américain n’en reste pas moins éthiquement défendable et met du coup l’Europe, qui se veut une «puissance morale» (si l’on en croit le président de la Commission, M. Barroso), en porte-à-faux. L’Union européenne s’est révélée être une force capable de promouvoir simultanément la stabilité et la démocratisation, mais seulement dans son environnement immédiat. Pour le reste, elle n’a pas de stratégie alternative, le «processus de Barcelone» ayant eu du point de vue politique des résultats plus que mitigés. Il lui reste donc à choisir entre approuver, s’opposer ou accompagner le combat américain. Bruno Tertrais (mars 2005)
By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction. Wired magazine (2010)
It’s more than a little ironic that, with its newest document dump from the Iraq campaign, WikiLeaks may have just bolstered one of the Bush administration’s most controversial claims about the Iraq war: that Iran supplied many of the Iraq insurgency’s deadliest weapons and worked hand-in-glove with some of its most lethal militias. The documents indicate that Iran was a major combatant in the Iraq war, as its elite Quds Force trained Iraqi Shiite insurgents and imported deadly weapons like the shape-charged Explosively Formed Projectile bombs into Iraq for use against civilians, Sunni militants and U.S. troops. A report from 2006 claims “neuroparalytic” chemical weapons from Iran were smuggled into Iraq. (It’s one of many, many documents recounting WMD efforts in Iraq.) Others indicate that Iran flooded Iraq with guns and rockets, including the Misagh-1 surface-to-air missile, .50 caliber rifles, rockets and much more. As the New York Times observes, Iranian agents plotted to kidnap U.S. troops from out of their Humvees — something that occurred in Karbala in 2007, leaving five U.S. troops dead. (It’s still not totally clear if the Iranians were responsible.) Wired
A partir de la Guerre Froide, cette région est devenue stratégique de par ses ressources nécessaires au premier consommateur mondial d’énergie, mais aussi de par la rivalité idéologique entre l’URSS et les Etats-Unis. Cette époque fut dominée par la pensée de Kissinger qui prôna en conformité avec la « Realpolitik », l’immobilisme politique des régimes arabes comme option nécessaire à la consolidation de l’influence américaine. En échange d’une approbation de la diplomatie américaine, les régimes se voyaient soutenus. Les limites de cette politique ont commencé à se faire sentir lorsque les Etats-Unis en 1979 ont continué à appuyer le Shah d’Iran, ignorant alors qu’une population était en train de se soulever, donnant naissance à l’islamisme politique. Dans les années 80, le président Reagan introduisit une vision opposée au réalisme, attenant à une vision idéaliste d’une mission américaine d’exporter les justes valeurs au reste du monde. C’est dans son discours de Juin 1982 que Reagan parla « d’une croisade pour la liberté qui engagera la foi et le courage de la prochaine génération». Le président Bush père et Clinton reprirent une vision plus « réaliste » dans un nouveau contexte de sortie de Guerre Froide. Malgré « le nouvel ordre mondial » prôné par Bush père, son action n’alla pas jusqu’à Bagdad et préféra laisser un régime connu en place. Le 11 Septembre 2001 a révélé les limites de l’immobilisme politique des pays arabes, lorsque certains régimes soutenus n’ont pu s’opposer aux islamistes radicaux. Les néo-conservateurs qui participaient alors au gouvernement de G.W Bush, décidèrent de passer à l’action et de bousculer l’ordre établi dans la région, afin de pérenniser leur accès aux ressources énergétiques, mais aussi probablement pour d’autres raisons. Notamment selon G. Ayache « pour montrer (leur) force par rapport à la Chine dont le statut international ne cesse de croître et dont les besoins énergétiques sont appelés à concurrencer ceux des Etats-Unis(…), et dans l’objectif proclamé de lutte contre le terrorisme.» Les néo-conservateurs se sont dès le début prononcés pour la redistribution des cartes politiques dans cette région, donc un changement de régimes. Le nouveau président américain voulut se poser dans la lignée des présidents qui ont marqué l’histoire. Lors de son discours du 11 Septembre 2006, il s’est adressé en ces termes au peuple américain : « Ayez la patience de faire ce que nos pères et nos grands-pères ont fait pour l’Europe et pour l’Asie.» En fait, le vieux projet de Reagan d’exportation de la démocratie fut remis au goût du jour à travers l’annonce du projet de Grand Moyen-Orient en Novembre 2003 qui prôna la nécessité d’une démocratisation sans limites. Les néo-conservateurs qui avaient participé au deuxième mandat de Reagan revendiquèrent leur apport à la démocratisation en Asie, en Amérique latine et en Europe dans les années 80 et 90. Il était donc temps selon eux de mettre fin à la situation stagnante au Moyen-Orient. La théorie des dominos était censée s’appliquer à la région en partant de l’Irak, même si elle pouvait mettre un certain temps à se réaliser selon les dynamiques locales. Alia Al Jiboury
Depuis la chute de la dictature de Ben Ali en Tunisie, les dictateurs et autres despotes arabes tremblent devant le vent de liberté, transformé en tempête. Les peuples arabes, compressés depuis des décennies, rêvent de liberté et de démocratie. Ils finissent, à tour de rôle, par réaliser le projet de George W. Bush, qu’ils avaient tant dénoncé. Mediarabe.info (février 2011)
Though the Iraq War later became a favorite Democratic club for bashing George W. Bush, Republicans and Democrats alike had long understood that Saddam was a deadly menace who had to be forcibly eradicated. In 1998 President Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, making Saddam’s removal from power a matter of US policy. « If the history of the last six years has taught us anything, » Kerry had said two years earlier, « it is that Saddam Hussein does not understand diplomacy, he only understands power. » But bipartisan harmony was an early casualty of the war. Once it became clear that Saddam didn’t have the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that were a major justification for the invasion, unity gave way to recrimination. It didn’t matter that virtually everyone – Republicans and Democrats, CIA analysts and the UN Security Council, even Saddam’s own military officers – had been sure the WMD would be found. Nor did it matter that Saddam had previously used WMD to exterminate thousands of men, women, and children. The temptation to spin an intelligence failure as a deliberate « lie » was politically irresistible. When the relatively quick toppling of Saddam was followed by a long and bloody insurgency, opposition to the war intensified. For many it became an intractable article of faith that victory was not an option. The war to remove Saddam was not merely « Bush’s folly, » but – as Senate majority leader Harry Reid called it in 2007 — « the worst foreign policy mistake in the history of this country. » But then came Bush’s « surge, » and the course of the war shifted dramatically for the better. By the time Bush left office, the insurgency was crippled, violence was down 90 percent, and Iraqis were being governed by politicians they had voted for. It was far from perfect, but « something that looks an awful lot like democracy is beginning to take hold in Iraq, » reported Newsweek in early 2010. On its cover the magazine proclaimed: « Victory at Last. » And so it might have been, if America’s new commander-in-chief hadn’t been so insistent on pulling the plug. In October 2011, President Obama – overriding his military commanders, who had recommended keeping 18,000 troops on the ground – announced that all remaining US servicemen would be out of Iraq by the end of the year. Politically, it was a popular decision; most Americans were understandably weary of Iraq. But abandoning Iraqis and their frail, fledgling democracy was reckless. (…) The invasion of Iraq 10 years ago ended the reign of a genocidal tyrant, and ensured that his monstrous sons could never succeed him. It struck a shaft of fear into other dictators, leading Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi, for example, to relinquish his WMD. It let Iraqis find out how much better their lives could be under democratic self-government. Like all wars, even wars of liberation, it took an awful toll. The status quo ante was worse. Jeff Jacoby
Iraq, I suggested, would wind up “at a bare minimum, the least badly governed state in the Arab world, and, at best, pleasant, civilized and thriving.” I’ll stand by my worst-case scenario there. Unlike the emerging “reforms” in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria, politics in Iraq has remained flawed but, by the standards of the grimly Islamist Arab Spring, broadly secular. So I like the way a lot of the trees fell. But I missed the forest. (…) Granted that most of the Arab world, from Tangiers to Alexandria, is considerably less “multicultural” than it was in mid century, the remorseless extinction of Iraq’s Christian community this last decade is appalling — and, given that it happened on America’s watch, utterly shameful. Like the bland acknowledgement deep in a State Department “International Religious Freedom Report” that the last church in Afghanistan was burned to the ground in 2010, it testifies to the superpower’s impotence, not “internationally” but in client states entirely bankrolled by us. Foreigners see this more clearly than Americans. As Goh Chok Tong, the prime minister of Singapore, said on a visit to Washington in 2004, “The key issue is no longer WMD or even the role of the U.N. The central issue is America’s credibility and will to prevail.” Just so. If you live in Tikrit or Fallujah, the Iraq War was about Iraq. If you live anywhere else on the planet, the Iraq War was about America, and the unceasing drumbeat of “quagmire” and “exit strategy” communicated to the world an emptiness at the heart of American power — like the toppled statue of Saddam that proved to be hollow. On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, mobs trashed U.S. embassies across the region with impunity. A rather more motivated crowd showed up in Benghazi, killed four Americans, including the ambassador, and correctly calculated they would face no retribution. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, these guys have reached their own judgment about American “credibility” and “will” — as have more potent forces yet biding their time, from Moscow to Beijing. (…) Nevertheless, in the grim two-thirds-of-a-century roll call of America’s un-won wars, Iraq today is less un-won than Korea, Vietnam, or Afghanistan, and that is not nothing. The war dead of America and its few real allies died in an honorable cause. But armies don’t wage wars, nations do. And, back on the home front, a vast percentage of fair-weather hawks who decided that it was all too complicated, or a bit of a downer, or Bush lied, or where’s the remote, revealed America as profoundly unserious. A senator who votes for war and then decides he’d rather it had never started is also engaging in “alternative history” — albeit of the kind in which Pam Ewing steps into the shower at Southfork and writes off the previous season of Dallas as a bad dream. In non-alternative history, in the only reality there is, once you’ve started a war, you have two choices: to win it or to lose it. Withdrawing one’s “support” for a war you’re already in advertises nothing more than a kind of geopolitical ADHD. Mark Steyn
Attention, un mensonge peut en cacher un autre !
Bill Clinton, le Congrès, Madeleine Albright, l’inspecteur nucléaire Richard Butler, Gore, Hillary Clinton, Kerry, Edward Kennedy, John Edwards, Tom Daschle, Biden, Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Chris Dodd, Jay Rockefeller, 72% de l’opinion publique …
Y avait-il, aux Etats-Unis mêmes sans parler de notre Villepin national et des services secrets allemands, quelqu’un qui ne croyait pas en mars 2003 à l’existence (confirmée d’ailleurs depuis par Wikileaks) d’ADM en Irak ?
Retour, à la veille du 10e anniversaire du lancement de l’Opération Liberté pour l’Irak et avec le professeur du United States Naval War College Stephen F. Knott, sur le mythe devenu depuis vérité d’évangile (et motivation d’ailleurs, pour le contrer, de tant de blogs dont celui-ci) des prétendus « mensonges » de l’Administration Bush sur les raisons de la guerre …
Qui, avec tous ses risques, apporta le premier régime élu démocratiquement, Israël mis à part, du Moyen-Orient …
Et sans lequel il n’y aurait probablement pas eu, aussi mitigé soit son bilan, de « printemps arabe »…
For years before the war, a bipartisan consensus thought Saddam possessed WMD.
Stephen F. Knott
March 15, 2013
At 5:34 a.m. on March 20, 2003, American, British and other allied forces invaded Iraq. One of the most divisive conflicts in the nation’s history would soon be labeled » Bush’s War. »
The overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime became official U.S. policy in 1998, when President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act—a bill passed 360-38 by the House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the Senate. The law called for training and equipping Iraqi dissidents to overthrow Saddam and suggested that the United Nations establish a war-crimes tribunal for the dictator and his lieutenants.
The legislation was partly the result of frustration over the undeclared and relatively unheralded « No-Fly Zone War » that had been waged since 1991. Saddam’s military repeatedly fired on U.S. and allied aircraft that were attempting to prevent his regime from destroying Iraqi opposition forces in northern and southern Iraq.
According to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Hugh Shelton, in 1997 a key member of President Bill Clinton’s cabinet (thought by most observers to have been Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) asked Gen. Shelton whether he could arrange for a U.S. aircraft to fly slowly and low enough that it would be shot down, thereby paving the way for an American effort to topple Saddam. Kenneth Pollack, a member of Mr. Clinton’s National Security Council staff, would later write in 2002 that it was a question of « not whether but when » the U.S. would invade Iraq. He wrote that the threat presented by Saddam was « no less pressing than those we faced in 1941. »
Radicalized by the events of 9/11, George W. Bush gradually concluded that a regime that had used chemical weapons against its own people and poison gas against Iran, invaded Iran and Kuwait, harbored some of the world’s most notorious terrorists, made lucrative payments to the families of suicide bombers, fired on American aircraft almost daily, and defied years of U.N. resolutions regarding weapons of mass destruction was a problem. The former chief U.N. weapons inspector, an Australian named Richard Butler, testified in July 2002 that « it is essential to recognize that the claim made by Saddam’s representatives, that Iraq has no WMD, is false. »
In the U.S., there was a bipartisan consensus that Saddam possessed and continued to develop WMD. Former Vice President Al Gore noted in September 2002 that Saddam had « stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country. » Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton observed that Saddam hoped to increase his supply of chemical and biological weapons and to « develop nuclear weapons. » Then-Sen. John Kerry claimed that « a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his [Saddam’s] hands is a real and grave threat to our security. »
Even those opposed to using force against Iraq acknowledged that, as then-Sen. Edward Kennedy put it, « we have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing » WMD. When it came time to vote on the authorization for the use of force against Iraq, 81 Democrats in the House voted yes, joined by 29 Democrats in the Senate, including the party’s 2004 standard bearers, John Kerry and John Edwards, plus Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Sen. Joe Biden, Mrs. Clinton, and Sens. Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Chris Dodd and Jay Rockefeller. The latter, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed that Saddam would « likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. »
Support for the war extended far beyond Capitol Hill. In March 2003, a Pew Research Center poll indicated that 72% of the American public supported President Bush’s decision to use force.
If Mr. Bush « lied, » as the common accusation has it, then so did many prominent Democrats—and so did the French, whose foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, claimed in February 2003 that « regarding the chemical domain, we have evidence of [Iraq’s] capacity to produce VX and yperite [mustard gas]; in the biological domain, the evidence suggests the possible possession of significant stocks of anthrax and botulism toxin. » Germany’s intelligence chief August Hanning noted in March 2002 that « it is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years. »
According to interrogations conducted after the invasion, Saddam’s own generals believed that he had WMD and expected him to use these weapons as the invasion force neared Baghdad.
The war in Iraq was authorized by a bipartisan congressional coalition, supported by prominent media voices and backed by the public. Yet on its 10th anniversary Americans will be told of the Bush administration’s duplicity in leading us into the conflict. Many members of the bipartisan coalition that committed the U.S. to invade Iraq 10 years ago have long since washed their hands of their share of responsibility.
We owe it to history—and, more important, to all those who died—to recognize that this wasn’t Bush’s war, it was America’s war.
Mr. Knott, a professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College, is the author of « Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics » (University Press of Kansas, 2012).
By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
But WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction.
An initial glance at the WikiLeaks war logs doesn’t reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime — the Bush administration’s most (in)famous rationale for invading Iraq. But chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents.
In August 2004, for instance, American forces surreptitiously purchased what they believed to be containers of liquid sulfur mustard, a toxic “blister agent” used as a chemical weapon since World War I. The troops tested the liquid, and “reported two positive results for blister.” The chemical was then “triple-sealed and transported to a secure site” outside their base.
Three months later, in northern Iraq, U.S. scouts went to
look in on a “chemical weapons” complex. “One of the bunkers has been tampered with,” they write. “The integrity of the seal [around the complex] appears intact, but it seems someone is interesting in trying to get into the bunkers.”
Meanwhile, the second battle of Fallujah was raging in Anbar province. In the southeastern corner of the city, American forces came across a “house with a chemical lab … substances found are similar to ones (in lesser quantities located a previous chemical lab.” The following day, there’s a call in another part of the city for explosive experts to dispose of a “chemical cache.”
Nearly three years later, American troops were still finding WMD in the region. An armored Buffalo vehicle unearthed a cache of artillery shells “that was covered by sacks and leaves under an Iraqi Community Watch checkpoint. “The 155mm rounds are filled with an unknown liquid, and several of which are leaking a black tar-like substance.” Initial tests were inconclusive. But later, “the rounds tested positive for mustard.”
In WikiLeaks’ massive trove of nearly 392,000 Iraq war logs are hundreds of references to chemical and biological weapons. Most of those are intelligence reports or initial suspicions of WMD that don’t pan out. In July 2004, for example, U.S. forces come across a Baghdad building with gas masks, gas filters, and containers with “unknown contents” inside. Later investigation revealed those contents to be vitamins.
But even late in the war, WMDs were still being unearthed. In the summer of 2008, according to one WikiLeaked report, American troops found at least 10 rounds that tested positive for chemical agents. “These rounds were most likely left over from the [Saddam]-era regime. Based on location, these rounds may be an AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] cache. However, the rounds were all total disrepair and did not appear to have been moved for a long time.”
A small group — mostly of the political right — has long maintained that there was more evidence of a major and modern WMD program than the American people were led to believe. A few Congressmen and Senators gravitated to the idea, but it was largely dismissed as conspiratorial hooey.
The WMD diehards will likely find some comfort in these newly-WikiLeaked documents. Skeptics will note that these relatively small WMD stockpiles were hardly the kind of grave danger that the Bush administration presented in the run-up to the war.
But the more salient issue may be how insurgents and Islamic extremists (possibly with the help of Iran) attempted to use these lethal and exotic arms. As Spencer noted earlier, a January 2006 war log claims that “neuroparalytic” chemical weapons were smuggled in from Iran.
That same month, then “chemical weapons specialists” were apprehended in Balad. These “foreigners” were there specifically “to support the chemical weapons operations.” The following month, an intelligence report refers to a “chemical weapons expert” that “provided assistance with the gas weapons.” What happened to that specialist, the WikiLeaked document doesn’t say.
Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman
As the insurgency raged in Iraq, U.S. troops struggling to fight a shadowy enemy killed civilians, witnessed their Iraqi partners abuse detainees and labored to reduce Iran’s influence over the fighting.
None of these phenomena are unfamiliar to observers of the Iraq war. But this afternoon, the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks released a trove of nearly 392,000 U.S. military reports from Iraq that bring a new depth and detail to the horrors of one of America’s most controversial wars ever. We’re still digging through the just-released documents, but here’s a quick overview of what they contain.
(Our sister blog Threat Level looks at how Friday’s document dump could affect Bradley Manning, who’s already charged in other WikiLeaks releases.)
It Was Iran’s War, Too
No one would accuse WikiLeaks of being pro-war. Not when the transparency group titled its single most famous leak “Collateral Murder.” Not when its founder, Julian Assange, said that its trove of reports from the Afghan conflict suggested evidence for thousands of American “war crimes.”
So it’s more than a little ironic that, with its newest document dump from the Iraq campaign, WikiLeaks may have just bolstered one of the Bush administration’s most controversial claims about the Iraq war: that Iran supplied many of the Iraq insurgency’s deadliest weapons and worked hand-in-glove with some of its most lethal militias.
The documents indicate that Iran was a major combatant in the Iraq war, as its elite Quds Force trained Iraqi Shiite insurgents and imported deadly weapons like the shape-charged Explosively Formed Projectile bombs into Iraq for use against civilians, Sunni militants and U.S. troops.
A report from 2006 claims “neuroparalytic” chemical weapons from Iran were smuggled into Iraq. (It’s one of many, many documents recounting WMD efforts in Iraq.) Others indicate that Iran flooded Iraq with guns and rockets, including the Misagh-1 surface-to-air missile, .50 caliber rifles, rockets and much more.
As the New York Times observes, Iranian agents plotted to kidnap U.S. troops from out of their Humvees — something that occurred in Karbala in 2007, leaving five U.S. troops dead. (It’s still not totally clear if the Iranians were responsible.)
High Civilian Death Tolls
Over 66,000 deaths classified as “civilians” are listed in the documents, which span the years between 2004 and 2009. According to an initial assessment by the Iraq Body Count, an organization that tallies reports of civilian casualties, that’s 15,000 more dead Iraqi civilians than the United States has previously acknowledged.
“This data should never have been withheld from the public,” Iraq Body Count told the Guardian.
In one incident highlighted by The New York Times, Marines who couldn’t get a car carrying an Iraqi family to stop at a Fallujah checkpoint after warning them with a flare opened fire on the car, killing a woman and wounding her husband and two children. Confusion at checkpoints was a common feature of the Iraq war, placing U.S. troops who didn’t speak Arabic in a murky situation of judging who posed a threat to them.
Iraqi Detainee Abuse
The United States spent billions to train and equip Iraqi security forces, a mission that continues to this day. But while under U.S. tutelage, Iraqi soldiers and police abused detainees in their custody. And even after the 2004 Abu Ghraib detainee-abuse scandal, U.S. troops sometimes tolerated accounts of Iraqi abuse, writing “no investigation is necessary” in one case.
That wasn’t uniformly the case: In a 2005 report, U.S. troops discovered “a hand cranked generator with wire clamps” at an Iraqi police station in Baghdad where a detainee claimed to have been brutalized. The report says the Americans took the generator as evidence and reported the incident to a two-star general — but it doesn’t specify if the general was American or Iraqi.
As expected, the Pentagon denounced WikiLeaks’ disclosure of the nearly 400,000 documents. “We deplore Wikileaks for inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world, including our enemies,” e-mails Geoff Morrell, spokesman for Defense Secretary Robert Gates. “We know terrorist organizations have been mining the leaked Afghan documents for information to use against us and this Iraq leak is more than four times as large. By disclosing such sensitive information, Wikileaks continues to put at risk the lives of our troops, their coalition partners and those Iraqis and Afghans working with us. The only responsible course of action for Wikileaks at this point is to return the stolen material and expunge it from their websites as soon as possible.”
WikiLeaks appears to have learned from the criticism of its last document dump, however. According to the Guardian, which has pored through the documents under a press blackout for weeks, WikiLeaks didn’t release all the information in an Iraq-deaths database, in order to protect the identities of Iraqis who worked with the United States — a correction for something that it didn’t sufficiently do when releasing U.S. military documents from Afghanistan this summer.
We’re still digging through the documents. We’ll bring you more soon. And in comments, tell us what you’re seeing — and what you’re interested in learning more about.
October 28, 2010
WikiLeaks’ latest publication of Iraq war documents contains a lot of information that most reasonable people would prefer remained unknown, such as the names of Iraqi informants who will now be hunted for helping the U.S.
And although the anti-war left welcomed the release of the documents, they would probably cringe at one of the most significant finds of this latest crop of reports: Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
« By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, » Wired magazine’s Danger Room reports. « But WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction. »
That is, there definitively were weapons of mass destruction and elements of a WMD program in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq when U.S.-led coalition troops entered the country to depose Hussein.
Predictably, the liberal media did their best to either ignore the story–like the New York Times and Washington Post did–or spin it. It’s not an easy choice to make, since ignoring the story makes you look out of the loop and hurts your reputation as an informative publication, yet spinning the story means actively attempting to confuse and mislead your readers. CBS News chose the latter.
« WikiLeaks Iraq War Logs: No Evidence of Massive WMD Caches » read the headline on CBS News’ online. Here is the story’s opening paragraph:
« The nearly 400,000 Iraq war log documents released by WikiLeaks on Friday were full of evidence of abuses, civilian deaths and the chaos of war, but clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction–the Bush administration’s justification for invading Iraq–appears to be missing. »
There are two falsehoods in that sentence, demonstrating the difficulty in trying to spin a clear fact. The Bush administration’s justification for invading Iraq was much broader than WMD–in fact, it was similar to the litany of reasons the Clinton administration signed the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which specifically called for regime change in Iraq as the official policy of the United States government (Iraq had repeatedly violated international law, Iraq had failed to comply with the obligations that ended the Gulf War, Iraq had circumvented U.N. resolutions, etc.).
« If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow, » President Clinton said in February 1998. « Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he’ll use the arsenal. »
The second falsehood was the phrase « appears to be missing. » In August 2004, American soldiers seized a toxic « blister agent, » a chemical weapon used since the First World War, Wired reported. In Anbar province, they discovered a chemical lab and a « chemical cache. » Three years later, U.S. military found buried WMD, and even as recent as 2008 found chemical munitions.
This isn’t the first time Iraq war documents shattered a media myth about Saddam’s regime. In 2008, a Pentagon study of Iraqi documents, as well as audio and video recordings, revealed connections between Saddam’s regime and al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Called the Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP), the report–based on more than 600,000 captured original documents and thousands of hours of audio and video recordings–proved conclusively that Saddam had worked with terrorist organizations that were plotting attacks on American targets around the world.
One way to identify a media narrative in deep trouble is the naked attempt to draw conclusions for the reader instead of just presenting the story. The CBS report on the leaked WMD documents is a case in point of the reporter telling the reader what they ought to think, knowing full well that otherwise the facts of the case would likely lead the reader to the opposite conclusion.
« At this point, » CBS reporter Dan Farber desperately pleads, « history will still record that the Bush administration went into Iraq under an erroneous threat assessment that Saddam Hussein was manufacturing and hoarding weapons of mass destruction. »
That’s as close as the liberal mainstream media will get to admitting they were wrong. It’s their version of a confession. The myth that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was WMD-free has met its demise.
And these weapons couldn’t simply be the lost scraps of Saddam’s attempts to destroy the stockpile, as Ed Morrissey points out.
« Had Saddam Hussein wanted those weapons destroyed, no lower-ranking military officer would have dared defy him by keeping them hidden, » he writes. « It would have taken dozens of officers to conspire to move and hide those weapons, as well as a like number of enlisted men, any and all of whom could have been a spy for the Hussein clique. »
But now that we’ve answered the question of whether there were actual weapons of mass destruction in Iraq–there were and are–we may have a more significant question to answer: Who has possession of these weapons now?
« But the more salient issue may be how insurgents and Islamic extremists (possibly with the help of Iran) attempted to use these lethal and exotic arms, » Wired reports. In 2006, for example, « neuroparalytic » chemical weapons were brought in from Iran.
« That same month, then ‘chemical weapons specialists’ were apprehended in Balad, » the Wired report continues. « These ‘foreigners’ were there specifically ‘to support the chemical weapons operations.’ The following month, an intelligence report refers to a ‘chemical weapons expert’ that ‘provided assistance with the gas weapons.’ What happened to that specialist, the WikiLeaked document doesn’t say. »
Seth Mandel is the Washington DC based correspondent of Weekly Blitz.
CNN/TIME and Congressional Quarterly
December 16, 1998
CLINTON: Good evening.
Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.
Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world.
Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.
I want to explain why I have decided, with the unanimous recommendation of my national security team, to use force in Iraq; why we have acted now; and what we aim to accomplish.
Six weeks ago, Saddam Hussein announced that he would no longer cooperate with the United Nations weapons inspectors called UNSCOM. They are highly professional experts from dozens of countries. Their job is to oversee the elimination of Iraq’s capability to retain, create and use weapons of mass destruction, and to verify that Iraq does not attempt to rebuild that capability.
The inspectors undertook this mission first 7.5 years ago at the end of the Gulf War when Iraq agreed to declare and destroy its arsenal as a condition of the ceasefire.
The international community had good reason to set this requirement. Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there is one big difference: He has used them. Not once, but repeatedly. Unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian troops during a decade-long war. Not only against soldiers, but against civilians, firing Scud missiles at the citizens of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran. And not only against a foreign enemy, but even against his own people, gassing Kurdish civilians in Northern Iraq.
The international community had little doubt then, and I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.
The United States has patiently worked to preserve UNSCOM as Iraq has sought to avoid its obligation to cooperate with the inspectors. On occasion, we’ve had to threaten military force, and Saddam has backed down.
Faced with Saddam’s latest act of defiance in late October, we built intensive diplomatic pressure on Iraq backed by overwhelming military force in the region. The UN Security Council voted 15 to zero to condemn Saddam’s actions and to demand that he immediately come into compliance.
Eight Arab nations — Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman — warned that Iraq alone would bear responsibility for the consequences of defying the UN.
When Saddam still failed to comply, we prepared to act militarily. It was only then at the last possible moment that Iraq backed down. It pledged to the UN that it had made, and I quote, a clear and unconditional decision to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors.
I decided then to call off the attack with our airplanes already in the air because Saddam had given in to our demands. I concluded then that the right thing to do was to use restraint and give Saddam one last chance to prove his willingness to cooperate.
I made it very clear at that time what unconditional cooperation meant, based on existing UN resolutions and Iraq’s own commitments. And along with Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain, I made it equally clear that if Saddam failed to cooperate fully, we would be prepared to act without delay, diplomacy or warning.
Now over the past three weeks, the UN weapons inspectors have carried out their plan for testing Iraq’s cooperation. The testing period ended this weekend, and last night, UNSCOM’s chairman, Richard Butler, reported the results to UN Secretary-General Annan.
The conclusions are stark, sobering and profoundly disturbing.
In four out of the five categories set forth, Iraq has failed to cooperate. Indeed, it actually has placed new restrictions on the inspectors. Here are some of the particulars.
Iraq repeatedly blocked UNSCOM from inspecting suspect sites. For example, it shut off access to the headquarters of its ruling party and said it will deny access to the party’s other offices, even though UN resolutions make no exception for them and UNSCOM has inspected them in the past.
Iraq repeatedly restricted UNSCOM’s ability to obtain necessary evidence. For example, Iraq obstructed UNSCOM’s effort to photograph bombs related to its chemical weapons program.
It tried to stop an UNSCOM biological weapons team from videotaping a site and photocopying documents and prevented Iraqi personnel from answering UNSCOM’s questions.
Prior to the inspection of another site, Iraq actually emptied out the building, removing not just documents but even the furniture and the equipment.
Iraq has failed to turn over virtually all the documents requested by the inspectors. Indeed, we know that Iraq ordered the destruction of weapons-related documents in anticipation of an UNSCOM inspection.
So Iraq has abused its final chance.
As the UNSCOM reports concludes, and again I quote, « Iraq’s conduct ensured that no progress was able to be made in the fields of disarmament.
« In light of this experience, and in the absence of full cooperation by Iraq, it must regrettably be recorded again that the commission is not able to conduct the work mandated to it by the Security Council with respect to Iraq’s prohibited weapons program. »
In short, the inspectors are saying that even if they could stay in Iraq, their work would be a sham.
Saddam’s deception has defeated their effectiveness. Instead of the inspectors disarming Saddam, Saddam has disarmed the inspectors.
This situation presents a clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere. The international community gave Saddam one last chance to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors. Saddam has failed to seize the chance.
And so we had to act and act now.
Let me explain why.
First, without a strong inspection system, Iraq would be free to retain and begin to rebuild its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs in months, not years.
Second, if Saddam can crippled the weapons inspection system and get away with it, he would conclude that the international community — led by the United States — has simply lost its will. He will surmise that he has free rein to rebuild his arsenal of destruction, and someday — make no mistake — he will use it again as he has in the past.
Third, in halting our air strikes in November, I gave Saddam a chance, not a license. If we turn our backs on his defiance, the credibility of U.S. power as a check against Saddam will be destroyed. We will not only have allowed Saddam to shatter the inspection system that controls his weapons of mass destruction program; we also will have fatally undercut the fear of force that stops Saddam from acting to gain domination in the region.
That is why, on the unanimous recommendation of my national security team — including the vice president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the secretary of state and the national security adviser — I have ordered a strong, sustained series of air strikes against Iraq.
They are designed to degrade Saddam’s capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction, and to degrade his ability to threaten his neighbors.
At the same time, we are delivering a powerful message to Saddam. If you act recklessly, you will pay a heavy price. We acted today because, in the judgment of my military advisers, a swift response would provide the most surprise and the least opportunity for Saddam to prepare.
If we had delayed for even a matter of days from Chairman Butler’s report, we would have given Saddam more time to disperse his forces and protect his weapons.
Also, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins this weekend. For us to initiate military action during Ramadan would be profoundly offensive to the Muslim world and, therefore, would damage our relations with Arab countries and the progress we have made in the Middle East.
That is something we wanted very much to avoid without giving Iraq’s a month’s head start to prepare for potential action against it.
Finally, our allies, including Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain, concurred that now is the time to strike. I hope Saddam will come into cooperation with the inspection system now and comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. But we have to be prepared that he will not, and we must deal with the very real danger he poses.
So we will pursue a long-term strategy to contain Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction and work toward the day when Iraq has a government worthy of its people.
First, we must be prepared to use force again if Saddam takes threatening actions, such as trying to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction or their delivery systems, threatening his neighbors, challenging allied aircraft over Iraq or moving against his own Kurdish citizens.
The credible threat to use force, and when necessary, the actual use of force, is the surest way to contain Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction program, curtail his aggression and prevent another Gulf War.
Second, so long as Iraq remains out of compliance, we will work with the international community to maintain and enforce economic sanctions. Sanctions have cost Saddam more than $120 billion — resources that would have been used to rebuild his military. The sanctions system allows Iraq to sell oil for food, for medicine, for other humanitarian supplies for the Iraqi people.
We have no quarrel with them. But without the sanctions, we would see the oil-for-food program become oil-for-tanks, resulting in a greater threat to Iraq’s neighbors and less food for its people.
The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world.
The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government — a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people. Bringing change in Baghdad will take time and effort. We will strengthen our engagement with the full range of Iraqi opposition forces and work with them effectively and prudently.
The decision to use force is never cost-free. Whenever American forces are placed in harm’s way, we risk the loss of life. And while our strikes are focused on Iraq’s military capabilities, there will be unintended Iraqi casualties.
Indeed, in the past, Saddam has intentionally placed Iraqi civilians in harm’s way in a cynical bid to sway international opinion.
We must be prepared for these realities. At the same time, Saddam should have absolutely no doubt if he lashes out at his neighbors, we will respond forcefully.
Heavy as they are, the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors. He will make war on his own people.
And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.
Because we’re acting today, it is less likely that we will face these dangers in the future.
Let me close by addressing one other issue. Saddam Hussein and the other enemies of peace may have thought that the serious debate currently before the House of Representatives would distract Americans or weaken our resolve to face him down.
But once more, the United States has proven that although we are never eager to use force, when we must act in America’s vital interests, we will do so.
In the century we’re leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community, fear and hope. Now, in the new century, we’ll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past, but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace.
Tonight, the United States is doing just that. May God bless and protect the brave men and women who are carrying out this vital mission and their families. And may God bless America.
Now the U.S. has bailed out of Iraq leaving behind little trace. And a strongman is in charge.
March 18, 2013
Nowadays, few people step forth to speak well of the Iraq War, to own up to the support they gave that American campaign in the Arab world. Yet Operation Iraqi Freedom, launched 10 years ago this week, was once a popular war. We had struck into Afghanistan in 2001 to rout al Qaeda and the terrorists’ Taliban hosts—but the 9/11 killers who brought ruin onto American soil were not Afghan. They were young Arabs, forged in the crucible of Arab society, in the dictators’ prisons and torture chambers. Arab financiers and preachers gave them the means and the warrant for their horrific deeds.
America’s previous venture into Iraq, a dozen years earlier, had been a lightning strike: The Iraqi dictator was evicted from Kuwait and then spared. Saddam Hussein’s military machine was all rust and decay by 2003, but he swaggered and let the world believe that he had in his possession a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. The Arab redeemer, as he had styled himself, lacked the guile that might have saved him. A great military expedition was being readied against him in London and Washington, but he gambled to the bitter end that George W. Bush would not pull the trigger.
On the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom—the first bombs fell on March 19—well over 70% of the American public supported upending the Saddam regime. The temptation to depict the war as George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s is convenient but utterly false. This was a war waged with congressional authorization, with the endorsement of popular acceptance, and with the sanction of more than a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for Iraq’s disarmament.
Those unburdened by knowledge of the ways of that region would come to insist that there had been no operational links between the Iraqi despot and al Qaeda. These newborn critics would insist on a distinction between secular terrorism and religious terrorism, but it was a distinction without a difference.
The rationale for the war sustained a devastating blow in the autumn of 2004 when Charles Duelfer, the chief U.S. arms inspector for Iraq, issued a definitive report confirming that Saddam had possessed no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. The war now stood on its own—and many of its former supporters claimed that this wasn’t what they had signed up for. Yet the « architects » of the war could not pull the plug on it. They soldiered on, offering a new aim: the reform and freedom of Iraq, and the example of a decent Iraq in the « heart of the Arab world. »
President Bush, seen in this image from television, addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House, on March 19, 2003. Bush said U.S. forces launched a strike against targets of military opportunity in Iraq, describing the action as the opening salvo in an operation to disarm Iraq and to free its people.
There were very few takers for the new rationale. In the oddest of twists, American liberalism now mocked the very idea that liberty could put down roots in an Arab- Muslim setting.
Nor were there takers, among those watching from lands around Iraq, for the idea of freedom midwifed by American power. To Iraq’s east lay the Iranian despotism, eager to thwart and frustrate the American project. To the west in Syria there was the Baath dictatorship of the House of Assad. And beyond there was the Sunni Arab order of power, where America was despised for giving power to Shiites. For a millennium, the Shiite Arabs had not governed, and yet now they ruled in Baghdad, a city that had been the seat of the Islamic caliphate.
A stoical George W. Bush held the line amid American disaffection and amid the resistance of a region invested in the failure of the Iraq campaign. He doubled down with the troop « surge » and remained true to the proposition that liberty could stick on Arab soil.
There is no way of writing a convincing alternative history of the region without this war. That kind of effort is inherently speculative, subject to whim and preference. Perhaps we could have let Saddam be, could have tolerated the misery he inflicted on his people, convinced ourselves that the sanctions imposed on his regime were sufficient to keep him quarantined. But a different history played out. It delivered the Iraqis from a tyranny that they would have never been able to overthrow on their own.
The American disappointment with Iraq helped propel Barack Obama to power. There were strategic gains that the war had secured in Iraq, but Mr. Obama had no interest in them. Iraq was the « war of choice » that had to be brought to a « responsible close, » he said. The focus instead would be on that « war of necessity » in Afghanistan.
A skilled politician, Mr. Obama made the Iraqi government an offer meant to be turned down—a residual American force that could hardly defend itself, let alone provide meaningful protection for the fledgling new order in Baghdad. Predictably, Iraq’s rulers decided to go it alone as 2011 drew to a close. They had been navigating a difficult course between Iran and the U.S. The choice was made easy for them, the Iranian supreme leader was next door, the liberal superpower was in retreat.
Heading for the exits, Mr. Obama praised Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as « the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq. » The praise came even as Mr. Maliki was beginning to erect a dictatorship bent on marginalizing the country’s Kurds and Sunni Arabs and even those among the Shiites who questioned his writ.
Two weeks ago, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, issued his final report, called « Learning from Iraq. » The report was methodical and detailed, interspersed with the testimonies of American and Iraqi officials. One testimony, by an Iraqi technocrat, the acting minister of interior, Adnan al-Asadi, offered a compelling image: « With all the money the U.S. has spent, you can go into any city in Iraq and you can’t find one building or project built by the U.S. government. You can fly in a helicopter around Baghdad or other cities, but you can’t point a finger at a single project that was built and completed by the United States. »
It was no fault of the soldiers who fought this war, or of the leaders who launched it, that their successors lacked the patience to stick around Iraq and safekeep what had been gained at an incalculable cost in blood and treasure.
Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of « The Syrian Rebellion » (Hoover Press, 2012).
The Boston Globe
March 20, 2013
TEN YEARS AGO this week, the United States led an invasion of Iraq with the explicit purpose of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. The preceding months had been filled with vehement protests against the impending war, expressed in editorials, in advertisements, and in rallies so vast that some of them made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. With so many people against the invasion, who supported it?
Well, if you were like the great majority of Americans – you did. In February and March 2003, Newsweek’s polls showed 70 percent of the public in favor of military action against Iraq; Gallup and Pew Research Center surveys showed the same thing. Congress had authorized the invasion a few months earlier with strong bipartisan majorities; among the many Democrats voting for the war were Senators John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden.
The invasion of Iraq 10 years ago ended the reign of a genocidal tyrant, and ensured that his monstrous sons could never succeed him.
Though the Iraq War later became a favorite Democratic club for bashing George W. Bush, Republicans and Democrats alike had long understood that Saddam was a deadly menace who had to be forcibly eradicated. In 1998 President Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, making Saddam’s removal from power a matter of US policy. « If the history of the last six years has taught us anything, » Kerry had said two years earlier, « it is that Saddam Hussein does not understand diplomacy, he only understands power. »
But bipartisan harmony was an early casualty of the war. Once it became clear that Saddam didn’t have the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that were a major justification for the invasion, unity gave way to recrimination. It didn’t matter that virtually everyone – Republicans and Democrats, CIA analysts and the UN Security Council, even Saddam’s own military officers – had been sure the WMD would be found. Nor did it matter that Saddam had previously used WMD to exterminate thousands of men, women, and children. The temptation to spin an intelligence failure as a deliberate « lie » was politically irresistible.
When the relatively quick toppling of Saddam was followed by a long and bloody insurgency, opposition to the war intensified. For many it became an intractable article of faith that victory was not an option. The war to remove Saddam was not merely « Bush’s folly, » but – as Senate majority leader Harry Reid called it in 2007 — « the worst foreign policy mistake in the history of this country. »
But then came Bush’s « surge, » and the course of the war shifted dramatically for the better.
By the time President Bush left office, Iraq had been transformed from a « republic of fear » into a relatively peaceful constitutional democracy.
By the time Bush left office, the insurgency was crippled, violence was down 90 percent, and Iraqis were being governed by politicians they had voted for. It was far from perfect, but « something that looks an awful lot like democracy is beginning to take hold in Iraq, » reported Newsweek in early 2010. On its cover the magazine proclaimed: « Victory at Last. »
And so it might have been, if America’s new commander-in-chief hadn’t been so insistent on pulling the plug.
In October 2011, President Obama – overriding his military commanders, who had recommended keeping 18,000 troops on the ground – announced that all remaining US servicemen would be out of Iraq by the end of the year. Politically, it was a popular decision; most Americans were understandably weary of Iraq. But abandoning Iraqis and their frail, fledgling democracy was reckless.
« It freed Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to be more of a Shiite sectarian than he could have been with the US looking over his shoulder, » military historian Max Boot observed this week. And with Maliki moving against his Sunni opponents, some of them « are making common cause once again with Al-Qaeda in Iraq, [which] has recovered from its near-death experience » during the surge. It is cold comfort that so many urgently warned of just such an outcome in 2011.
So was the Iraq war worth it? On that, Americans are a long way from a consensus. It is never clear in the immediate aftermath of any war what history’s judgment will be. Two decades ago, the 1991 Gulf War was regarded as a triumph. In retrospect, the decision to leave Saddam in power – and to let him murderously crush an uprising we had encouraged – looks like a tragic blunder.
But this much we do know: The invasion of Iraq 10 years ago ended the reign of a genocidal tyrant, and ensured that his monstrous sons could never succeed him. It struck a shaft of fear into other dictators, leading Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi, for example, to relinquish his WMD. It let Iraqis find out how much better their lives could be under democratic self-government. Like all wars, even wars of liberation, it took an awful toll. The status quo ante was worse.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe. His website is http://www.JeffJacoby.com).
National Review online
March 22, 2013
Ten years ago, along with three-quarters of the American people, including the men just appointed as President Obama’s secretaries of state and defense, I supported the invasion of Iraq. A decade on, unlike most of the American people, including John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, I’ll stand by that original judgment.
None of us can say what would have happened had Saddam Hussein remained in power. He might now be engaged in a nuclear-arms race with Iran. One or other of his even more psychotic sons, the late Uday or Qusay, could be in power. The Arab Spring might have come to Iraq, and surely even more bloodily than in Syria.
But these are speculations best left to the authors of “alternative histories.” In the real world, how did things turn out?
Three weeks after Operation Shock and Awe began, the early-bird naysayers were already warning of massive humanitarian devastation and civil war. Neither happened. Overcompensating somewhat for all the doom-mongering, I wrote in Britain’s Daily Telegraph that “a year from now Basra will have a lower crime rate than most London boroughs.” Close enough. Major General Andy Salmon, the British commander in southern Iraq, eventually declared of Basra that “on a per capita basis, if you look at the violence statistics, it is less dangerous than Manchester.”
Ten years ago, expert opinion was that Iraq was a phony-baloney entity imposed on the map by distant colonial powers. Joe Biden, you’ll recall, advocated dividing the country into three separate states, which for the Democrats held out the enticing prospect of having three separate quagmires to blame on Bush, but for the Iraqis had little appeal. “As long as you respect its inherently confederal nature,” I argued, “it’ll work fine.” As for the supposedly secessionist Kurds, “they’ll settle for being Scotland or Quebec.” And so it turned out. The Times of London, last week: “Ten Years after Saddam, Iraqi Kurds Have Never Had It So Good.” In Kurdistan as in Quebec, there is a pervasive unsavory tribal cronyism, but on the other hand, unlike Quebec City, Erbil is booming.
What of the rest of the country? Iraq, I suggested, would wind up “at a bare minimum, the least badly governed state in the Arab world, and, at best, pleasant, civilized and thriving.” I’ll stand by my worst-case scenario there. Unlike the emerging “reforms” in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria, politics in Iraq has remained flawed but, by the standards of the grimly Islamist Arab Spring, broadly secular.
So I like the way a lot of the trees fell. But I missed the forest.
On the previous Western liberation of Mesopotamia, when General Maude took Baghdad from the Turks in 1917, British troops found a very different city from the Saddamite squat of 2003: In a lively, jostling, cosmopolitan metropolis, 40 percent of the population was Jewish. I wasn’t so deluded as to think the Jews would be back, but I hoped something of Baghdad’s lost vigor might return. Granted that most of the Arab world, from Tangiers to Alexandria, is considerably less “multicultural” than it was in mid century, the remorseless extinction of Iraq’s Christian community this last decade is appalling — and, given that it happened on America’s watch, utterly shameful. Like the bland acknowledgement deep in a State Department “International Religious Freedom Report” that the last church in Afghanistan was burned to the ground in 2010, it testifies to the superpower’s impotence, not “internationally” but in client states entirely bankrolled by us.
Foreigners see this more clearly than Americans. As Goh Chok Tong, the prime minister of Singapore, said on a visit to Washington in 2004, “The key issue is no longer WMD or even the role of the U.N. The central issue is America’s credibility and will to prevail.” Just so. If you live in Tikrit or Fallujah, the Iraq War was about Iraq. If you live anywhere else on the planet, the Iraq War was about America, and the unceasing drumbeat of “quagmire” and “exit strategy” communicated to the world an emptiness at the heart of American power — like the toppled statue of Saddam that proved to be hollow. On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, mobs trashed U.S. embassies across the region with impunity. A rather more motivated crowd showed up in Benghazi, killed four Americans, including the ambassador, and correctly calculated they would face no retribution. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, these guys have reached their own judgment about American “credibility” and “will” — as have more potent forces yet biding their time, from Moscow to Beijing.
A few weeks after the fall of Saddam, on little more than a whim, I rented a beat-up Nissan at Amman Airport and, without telling the car-hire bloke, drove east across the Iraqi border and into the Sunni Triangle. I could not easily make the same journey today: Western journalists now require the permission of the central government to enter Anbar Province. But for a brief period in the spring of 2003 we were the “strong horse” and even a dainty little media gelding such as myself was accorded a measure of respect by the natives. At a rest area on the highway between Rutba and Ramadi, I fell into conversation with one of the locals. Having had to veer onto the median every few miles to dodge bomb craters, I asked him whether he bore any resentments toward his liberators. “Americans only in the sky,” he told me, grinning a big toothless grin as, bang on cue, a U.S. chopper rumbled up from over the horizon and passed high above our heads. “No problem.”
“Americans only in the sky” is an even better slogan in the Obama era of drone-alone warfare. In Iraq, there were a lot of boots on the ground, but when it came to non-military leverage (cultural, economic) Americans were content to remain “only in the sky.” And down on the ground other players filled the vacuum, some reasonably benign (the Chinese in the oil fields), others less so (the Iranians in everything else).
And so a genuinely reformed Middle East remains, like the speculative scenarios outlined at the top, in the realm of “alternative history.” Nevertheless, in the grim two-thirds-of-a-century roll call of America’s un-won wars, Iraq today is less un-won than Korea, Vietnam, or Afghanistan, and that is not nothing. The war dead of America and its few real allies died in an honorable cause. But armies don’t wage wars, nations do. And, back on the home front, a vast percentage of fair-weather hawks who decided that it was all too complicated, or a bit of a downer, or Bush lied, or where’s the remote, revealed America as profoundly unserious. A senator who votes for war and then decides he’d rather it had never started is also engaging in “alternative history” — albeit of the kind in which Pam Ewing steps into the shower at Southfork and writes off the previous season of Dallas as a bad dream. In non-alternative history, in the only reality there is, once you’ve started a war, you have two choices: to win it or to lose it. Withdrawing one’s “support” for a war you’re already in advertises nothing more than a kind of geopolitical ADHD.
Shortly after Gulf War One, when the world’s superpower assembled a mighty coalition to fight half-a-war to an inconclusive halt at the gates of Baghdad, Washington declined to get mixed up in the disintegrating Balkans. Colin Powell offered the following rationale: “We do deserts. We don’t do mountains.” Across a decade in Iraq, America told the world we don’t really do deserts, either.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon.