What Every American Should Know About Iraq
By David Michael Green
06/16/07 “ICH” — — -Some people think that anyone who disagrees with the American invasion and occupation of Iraq is either a bleeding-heart liberal appeaser, a George W. Bush hater, a blame America firster, an underminer of the troops, a traitor, or a geopolitical naif.
To those who see opponents of the war as fitting into one, several, or all of these categories, I say read this page. I will make no arguments herein, nor even commentary. I will twist no data nor spin any tales. I will even include some of the comments and arguments made by the administration and its supporters.
Instead of arguing against the war, I will try to offer a fairly complete account of the relevant facts one might wish to consider when evaluating America’s policy in Iraq. Especially for those who continually claim that they, more than others, have the best interests of the troops at heart – but actually for all citizens in a democracy – it is incumbent upon us to educate ourselves about this most important of national policies.
Those troops are being maimed and are dying on our behalf every day. The very least we can do is spend a brief amount of our time learning about this question so that we can decide whether their continued sacrifices are justified.
So, in that spirit – and as the Founders themselves said – “let Facts be submitted to a candid world”.
* 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.”
Read all of it here.