The Iraq war. Why and what for?

Throughout this year, with the build up to and the execution of the invasion of Iraq someone forget to tell me why.

I remember one day coming to work, pulling up the news and kapow, Afghanitswhatsitstan was gone and Iraq was it. Next thing I know, the US is dropping bombs on the day of my birthday, but for some reason, I am still clueless as to why it happened.

There was talk about WMDs, about oil, about UN inspectors, about threats to the US mainland, about supporting terrorist, about Al Quida, about nation building, about revenge, about the repressed people of Iraq, and a multitude of other things. Each was brought at different times. Some before the war, some after, but I don’t remember anyone saying the reason why we went to war and the reason for the continuing occupation.

So Wise Ones, can someone fill me in as to what was the cause for the war, and what is the reason for the on going occupation? The current administration can’t seem to help me.

It’s all about securing foreign sources of oil for the United States, so we won’t be beholden to hostile foreign sources in the next 20-50 years. Vice President Dick Cheney spelled it out in the national energy policy paper from 2001.

All that other stuff about WMDs and terrorism and “regime change” is a smokescreen.

Why and what for?

[Super cynical mode:]

Of Halliburton, by Halliburton, for Halliburton.

For it, and other big corporations, it is perfect. You don’t need to get the oil, just the contracts, and no matter if the US pulls out, chances are they will remain there for a long time.

I do imagine GWB and Cheney’s position as: "c’mon, we dare ya! Vote us off! The sooner we are off this gig the sooner we can roll in dough! The only reason why I would seek reelection is to make sure Kenny boy gets just a wrist slap.

[/Super cynical mode]

Afghanistan was totally justified, The Taliban were protecting that mass murderer Osama.

Now for the Iraq war: one big reason was that Saddam could not be trusted, but he also was the perfect escape goat after Osama got away from us in Afganistan.

The lack of WMD and his hatred of Osama, shows to me that we could have manipulated Saddam into being an ally (A temporary ally, think Stalin and that other war against an Axis) against Osama, but that point is moot now.

IMO since we are in, not making a quicker effort to give control to other nations and/or local authorities is what is dumb right now. We could tell all up and coming leaders, to sign an official honor treaty that says that we could drop by again, if they support terror in the future, and then we will go. Since there would be a better mechanism than the UN one to check for threats, we will indeed have trustworthy evidence of WMD this time, and a better justification to bet back in.

IMO this idea that we should stay longer now, will prevent us later to go back to Iraq if necessary, and I am taking the US experience in Vietnam into account when I say this.

It was a dick-waving contest between Bush Sr. and Saddam. Kind of a “my son can kick your son’s ass” thing.

Bush the Father has expressed his take on the the invasion of Iraq as it happened. It’s not an overwhelmingly positive one. He has some objections to the timing and manner. See his speech @ Tufts 03/03/03(?) for a starter.

I suspect that history will look back on the episode thus:

2001 - Al Qaeda attacks America.
2002 - America attacks Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
2003 - America attacks Iraq.

Future history student: “So Al Qaeda were in Iraq?”

Teacher: “No. However, Saddam Hussein had access to biological, chemical and possibly nuclear weapons, collectively known as Weapons of Mass Destruction, which might be used against America either directly or through being sold to Al Qaeda”.

Student: “So America went in and destroyed all of these WMD’s?”

Teacher: “No. Saddam destroyed them himself long before the invasion.”

Student: “So, why was Iraq invaded?”

Teacher: “With the leader of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, uncaptured, America still needed a ‘victory’ which showed that they had ‘done something’ after 11/9. Added to this, 11/9 gave America a pretext that it could use to pursue its interests more aggressively: in Iraq’s case these interests were oil and Middle East presence. Finally, past UN resolutions and Saddam’s tyrannical brutality lent an air of legitimacy to the invasion, even though it was in direct defiance of the UN Security Council who demanded proof of WMD’s.”

The teacher’s final paragraph does not bathe the US in a particularly complementary light, IMHO. It is perhaps how one might expect the old USSR to behave, rather than a modern democracy with a supposedly well-informed and educated electorate.

Forgive me for shameless self-promotion, but I wrote a little poem about it.

*Poor GWB was in trouble:
“Though most of Kabul is in rubble,
Bin Laden’s not found
And Al Q’s gone to ground.
Get me PNAC on the double!”

Said Dubya to Perle “are you certain
That bombing Iraq’ll divert 'em?”
Said Paul Wolfowitz:
“Sure, just blow them to bits
Bonus: contracts for our Halliburton!”*

In seriousness, the admin-in-waiting was already planning this war - at least as far back as 1998. Here you go.

Now that’s absurd. Who could ever believe that the US would adopt the European date convention of 11/9 over 9/11? :wink:

Well I’ll take the less cynical line.

Regime change in Iraq would create the first Arab democracy and be the first step in transforming the Middle East. Notice now Saudi Arabia is quietly starting to hold elections.

The US has no intention of using Iraq for oil or any material purpose. If it did, Bush would not have fought to have the US$87 billion as a grant instead of a loan. Think about it.

The frustrating thing is that the Bush Administration think the public is really stupid, so they argue an issue they thought was winnable, WMD.

ravage2:

One big flaw in your idea that this is all altruistic: you are assuming that Bush will never see that money. After the presidency, there is no doubt in my mind that both Cheney and Bush will have a piece of that money, no need to be that greedy.

History has showed me that there is always an altruistic reason attached to interventions. While many take a black and white view of the situation, I see that many times that that attached reason is valid also; therefore, what we should be doing is to fight to prevent the profit element of it, to not fall in the hands of the promoters of the adventure. If there is something that we should be doing in the future, is to ask for laws that will prevent the powerful to see the presidency as a piggy bank.

Certain elements within the Bush administration had been pushing to topple Hussein since shortly after the first Gulf War. The thinking was that turning Iraq into a client state would be a big win for the U.S. for a variety of reasons:

  • It would provide a democratic model that could be used to push other middle eastern countries in a more liberal direction.

  • It would put pressure on the mullahs in Iran to behave themselves and not export Islamic revolution.

  • It would put pressure on Syria, forcing them to moderate their hostility toward Israel.

  • Thereby weakening the Palestinian position and making a settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian problem easier.

  • It would allow us to remove our garrison from Saudi Arabia, easing the friction that their presence causes with Islamic hardliners.

They realized – correctly, in my opinion – that Iraq is the lynchpin of the region and that having a friendly, free, prosperous Iraq would be in the best interests of the United States.

However, throughout the Clinton years the regime-change crowd was unable to get much traction. Democrats controlled the White House and while Clinton was willing to intervene in Bosnia on humanitarian grounds, he did so under the Powell Doctrine for military interventions: have clear goals, use overwhelming force, and make sure you have an exit strategy. He wasn’t interested in a grand, risky, open-ended scheme to remake the entire middle east.

When Bush was elected in 2000, the regime-change advocates were back in the White House. But Bush had run on a platform that explicitly rejected “nation building”. So while they were at least being listened to, they were no closer to an invasion than they had been with Clinton.

Then came 9-11.

This gave the regime-change advocates an opening to pitch their ideas all over again. If invading Afghanistan was about taking out one group of terrorists, Iraq would be a grand slam – it would totally remake the political situation of the entire middle east, attacking Islamic terrorism at its roots.

And now Bush listened to them. He was already predisposed to dislike Saddam Hussein for a variety of reasons: the foiled assassination attempt on Bush Sr., his tendency to see international diplomacy as a personal battle of good vs. evil.

Basically by spring of 2002, Bush had made up his mind. We would invade Iraq and “take out” the evil doer.

But the administration didn’t feel comfortable making the case for war with just the justifications I gave above. The neoconservative plan to remake the middle east had been around for years and was viewed skeptically by a number of people who thought that it contained a large amount of wishful thinking.

Yes, it would be really great to have Iraq as a prosperous, democratic ally … but it was far from obvious that an invasion would actually produce that result. It seemed more likely that we’d wind up with an Iran-style theocracy, or a shattered state run by a collection of warlords like Afghanistan, both of which would be WORSE than an Iraq under a secular despot like Saddam Hussein.

Plus, Bush had said he wouldn’t engage in nation-building. And now here he was, planning to remake an entire region. It wouldn’t have played well in the heartland.

So the administration manufactured other reasons for the war – reasons that tied in more directly with 9-11. They cherry-picked intelligence to exaggerate the threat of WMDs, and they also exaggerated the connections between Iraq and Al-Qaeda.

I’m sure at the time they weren’t worried about the exaggerations. Even those of us who were opposed to the war thought we’d find at least SOME weapons of mass destruction. And if the war turned out okay, and if all the things I mentioned at the beginning really came to pass, who would care what our justifications had been? The remaking of the middle east would be a fait accompli and the original reasons for the war would be forgotten.

Unfortunately, the crititics of regime change seem to have been right. Bush probably has succeeded in remaking the politics of the middle east, but in a way that is not in the best interests of the United States. We’re in for a long, expensive, bloody occupation and its not clear that the end result will be to our advantage.

(It’s not about oil, BTW. Or it is, but only in the sense that the only reason that the U.S. cares about the middle east at all is that there’s oil there. If if weren’t for the oil we would ignore it just as we ignore Africa.)

So you’re admitting that all that talk about “encouraging democracy” and “freeing repressed Iraqi people” and “stopping the proliferation of WMDs” is all nonsense – that if Iraq wasn’t sitting on such a big pool o’ petroleum, the Administration would gladly ignore it and go on to darker pastures?

I’m not sure friend Pochacco need “admit” anything, rjung. His layout is approximately correct, given what we know and what we are permitted to know.

As to the noblility of the purported motives for all this pointless carnage, that as may be. But it isn’t what we were sold, it bears no resembalance whatever. We were advised to think of Saddam as a grave and growing threat, we are currently advised that “imminent” is a term of art, having considerable flexibility and subject to re-definition as the situation demands. Yes. Quite.

There is a kind of idealism in the “neo-con” version of realpolitik, the misguided idea that democracy as we know it can be forcibly asserted. From people who tend to pride themselves on hard-headed realism, this borders on wishful thinking.

In the same way that sentence itself borders on understatement, I presume.

rjung - That’s a prescient article given its date (June 2002)

Well, dat’s because he had no foreign policy, or interest in foreign policy; the man was a football-watching, no-news-is-good-news Isolationist. He was all about dressing the domestic power opportunities to the right leg of USA.Inc. But yep, 9/11 changed everything and Cheney dusted off Plan A again.

And that heart attack came from too much wanking over regional maps. They don’t tell ya that, do they . . .

Well, doesn’t that mean it’s all about oil?

I agree with Pochacco on basically all counts regarding the administration’s reasons for war. I really don’t give a rat’s ass what reasons the government offers for war as long as I can see a reason for it and those reasons aren’t dependent on accurate information from the government. I think it’s too early to tell whether the war was a smart move in the long run. Of course, what is an acceptable “long run” for some is going to be too long for others. I’d be willing to blow one of a few vouchers for a “glimpse into an alternate future” to see the difference between war/no war 15 years from now.
On another note, can anyone point to a good analysis of the botching of post war planning by the DoD et al?

President Bush Discusses Freedom in Iraq and Middle East

Well, yes, in the grand sense. If the Middle East didn’t have buckets of oil the United States would largely ignore the region the way we do Africa and South America. The presence of massive oil reserves (and to a smaller extent, the state of Israel) magnifies our interest in the region beyond its relative political importance in world affairs.

But I think its simplistic to claim (as some people do) that the Bush administration invaded Iraq to steal their oil.

A more accurate statement would be that the Bush administration invaded Iraq because they wrongly thought that it would lead to greater regional stability which would help insure a steady uninterrupted supply of oil.

This is bourne out by Bush’s recent opposition to treating the reconstruction money as a loan to be paid back out of oil revenue. If he were really interested in “stealing the Iraqis’ oil” he would have supported the loan plan.

While a number of Republican positions seem to be motivated by raw greed (their energy policy, for example), strangely enough I don’t think the invasion of Iraq is one of them. I think it’s more the product of naive neoconservative idealism about the potential of the U.S. to “civilize” the world.

They actually seem to believe that we can frog-march the world at gun-point to laissez-faire democracy, and then have them thank us for it afterwards.

I’d actually be less worried about the current situation if I thought it was motivated by greed. Greed is at least constrained by reality. But the current war seems to be a result of a romantic daydream about American power. And when unsupported ideology collides with brute reality, the result is always ugly – whether its Kulaks starving on their forcibly collectivized farms, or Vietnamese villages burned to win “hearts & minds”.

It’s a damn fool war.

Well, yes, in the grand sense. If the Middle East didn’t have buckets of oil the United States would largely ignore the region the way we do Africa and South America. The presence of massive oil reserves (and to a smaller extent, the state of Israel) magnifies our interest in the region beyond its relative political importance in world affairs.

But I think its simplistic to claim (as some people do) that the Bush administration invaded Iraq to steal their oil.

A more accurate statement would be that the Bush administration invaded Iraq because they wrongly thought that it would lead to greater regional stability which would help insure a steady uninterrupted supply of oil.

This is bourne out by Bush’s recent opposition to treating the reconstruction money as a loan to be paid back out of oil revenue. If he were really interested in “stealing the Iraqis’ oil” he would have supported the loan plan.

While a number of Republican positions seem to be motivated by raw greed (their energy policy, for example), strangely enough I don’t think the invasion of Iraq is one of them. I think it’s more the product of naive neoconservative idealism about the potential of the U.S. to “civilize” the world.

They actually seem to believe that we can frog-march the world at gun-point to laissez-faire democracy, and then have them thank us for it afterwards.

I’d actually be less worried about the current situation if I thought it was motivated by greed. Greed is at least constrained by reality. But the current war seems to be a result of a romantic daydream about American power. And when unsupported ideology collides with brute reality, the result is always ugly – whether its Kulaks starving on their forcibly collectivized farms, or Vietnamese villages burned to win “hearts & minds”.

It’s a damn fool war.

Well, yes, in the grand sense. If the Middle East didn’t have buckets of oil the United States would largely ignore the region the way we do Africa and South America. The presence of massive oil reserves (and to a smaller extent, the state of Israel) magnifies our interest in the region beyond its relative political importance in world affairs.

But I think its simplistic to claim (as some people do) that the Bush administration invaded Iraq to steal their oil.

A more accurate statement would be that the Bush administration invaded Iraq because they wrongly thought that it would lead to greater regional stability which would help insure a steady uninterrupted supply of oil.

This is bourne out by Bush’s recent opposition to treating the reconstruction money as a loan to be paid back out of oil revenue. If he were really interested in “stealing the Iraqis’ oil” he would have supported the loan plan.

While a number of Republican positions seem to be motivated by raw greed (their energy policy, for example), strangely enough I don’t think the invasion of Iraq is one of them. I think it’s more the product of naive neoconservative idealism about the potential of the U.S. to “civilize” the world.

They actually seem to believe that we can frog-march the world at gun-point to laissez-faire democracy, and then have them thank us for it afterwards.

I’d actually be less worried about the current situation if I thought it was motivated by greed. Greed is at least constrained by reality. But the current war seems to be a result of a romantic daydream about American power. And when unsupported ideology collides with brute reality, the result is always ugly – whether its Kulaks starving on their forcibly collectivized farms, or Vietnamese villages burned to win “hearts & minds”.

It’s a damn fool war.