When President Bush made his case for the invasion of Iraq, he unfortunately did so with little regard on making the full case. This is one problem I have with his administration, not that he couldn’t have, but that he didn’t. His advisors, his intelligence, the intelligence of our friends and years of knowledge about what was going on in Iraq led him to believe that the case was a “Slam Dunk” as has been often repeated.
So obvious are all of the reasons why to him, it appears that the president feels that the case has already been made and has not gone the extra mile to convince the most partisan “Bush Haters” and hard core democrats that make up an estimated 36% of the American people (based on a recent Rasmussen poll that found 36% of the American voters had already decided to vote democratic before a candidate was selected).
This essay attempts to make that case. Some of you will agree with it, some will not. There are a lot of wild claims out there, some I have been investigating but have not come to a conclusion on. These claims are not going to be listed here (no ties to al Qaeda will be represented), all I am going to list here are things I am confident about based on what I’ve gathered over the past several years, even when I was supporting and urging Bill Clinton to take on this course of action 6 years ago.
Human Rights Violations
This is a well agreed upon area of disagreement with Iraq under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. For those unfamiliar with the extent of the violations, this is from the UN condemnation of Iraq’s Human Rights Violations in April of 2001, sponsored by the EU.
(a) The systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror
(b) The suppression of freedom of thought, expression, information, association, assembly and movement through fear of arrest, imprisonment, execution, expulsion, house demolition and other sanctions
(c) The repression faced by any kind of opposition, in particular the harassment and intimidation of and threats against Iraqi opponents living abroad and members of their families
(d) The widespread use of the death penalty in disregard of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations safeguards
(e) Summary and arbitrary executions, including political killings and the continued so-called clean-out of prisons; the use of rape as a political tool, as well as enforced or involuntary disappearances, routinely practiced arbitrary arrests and detention, and consistent and routine failure to respect due process and the rule of law
(f) Widespread, systematic torture and the maintaining of decrees prescribing cruel and inhuman punishment as a penalty for offences
As for details, I’ll list a few of the more egregious of them. There are a large number that I won’t be including for space reasons.
(a) public beheadings of women who were accused of being prostitutes, which took place in front of family members, including children. The heads of the victims were publicly displayed near signs reading, “For the honor of Iraq.”. 130 documented and many more suspected cases.
(b) human rights violations directed against children. Children, as young as 5 years old, were recruited into the “Ashbal Saddam,” or “Saddam’s Cubs,” and indoctrinated to adulate Saddam Hussein and denounce their own family members. The children were also subjected to military training, which includes cruelty to animals. Parents of children were executed if they object to this treatment, and in some cases, the children themselves were imprisoned.
(c) Full political participation at the national level was restricted only to members of the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party, which constituted only 8% of the population. Therefore, it was impossible for Iraqi citizens to change their government.
(d) Iraqi citizens were not allowed to assemble legally unless it is to express support for the government. The Iraqi government controlled the establishment of political parties, regulates their internal affairs and monitors their activities.
(e) Police checkpoints on Iraqi’s roads and highways prevented ordinary citizens from traveling abroad without government permission and expensive exit visas. Before traveling, an Iraqi citizen had to post collateral. Iraqi women could not travel outside of the Country without the escort of a male relative.
(f) The activities of citizens living inside Iraq who received money from relatives abroad were closely monitored.
(g) In 1988, the Hussein regime began a campaign of extermination against the Kurdish people living in Northern and Southern Iraq. The attacks resulted in the death of at least 50,000 (some reports estimate as many as 100,000 people), many of them women and children. A team of Human Rights Watch investigators determined, after analyzing eighteen tons of captured Iraqi documents, testing soil samples and carrying out interviews with more than 350 witnesses, that the attacks on the Kurdish people were characterized by gross violations of human rights, including mass executions and disappearances of many tens of thousands of noncombatants, widespread use of chemical weapons including Sarin, mustard gas and nerve agents that killed thousands, the arbitrary imprisoning of tens of thousands of women, children, and elderly people for months in conditions of extreme deprivation, forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of villagers after the demolition of their homes, and the wholesale destruction of nearly two thousand villages along with their schools, mosques, farms, and power stations.
(h) In June of 1994, the Hussein regime in Iraq established severe penalties, including amputation, branding and the death penalty for criminal offenses such as theft, corruption, currency speculation and military desertion.
(i) In April of 2003, CNN admitted that it withheld information about Iraq torturing journalists and Iraqi citizens that were interviewed by CNN in the 1990s. According to CNN, the channel kept the information secret because they were afraid that their journalists would be killed if they reported it.
Other links of atrocities:
Human Rights Watch
US State Department
Physicians for Human Rights
I think that most agree that the Human Rights violations that occurred during Hussein’s rule were atrocious. Some argue that other countries are also Human Rights violators and that this by itself is not a reason to invade a sovereign country. I would challenge this, first that there was another country this cruel in its violations and on such a scale, but also that we should turn a blind eye to anyone suffering at this level.
That the UN refused to act, as it is refusing to act in the Sudan Genocide, makes me think that perhaps a new way of looking at and dealing with these issues needs to come about. If you had asked any human rights organization for a list of the top 5 violators in control of a county in 2001 my guess is that Iraq and Afghanistan would have been in that list. This is based on human rights organizations listing the number of countries committing each different kind of violations; Iraq and Afghanistan were committing nearly if not all of them.
State Support of Terrorism
First, this is the list of wounded and killed by groups supported by Iraq:
- Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) – Killed 407 (10 Americans) and Wounded 788 (58 Americans)
- Ansar Al-Islam – Killed 114 (1 American) and Wounded 16
- Arab Liberation Front – Killed 4 and Wounded 6
- Hamas – Killed 224 (17 Americans) and Wounded 1,445 (30 Americans)
- Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – Killed 44 and Wounded 327 (2 Americans)
- Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) – Killed 17 (7 Americans) and Wounded 43 (1 American)
- Palestine Liberation Front – Killed 1 (1 American) and Wounded 42
For a total of 811 people killed (36 American) and 2,667 people wounded (91 American). The source was the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, “1968 – 2003: Total Persons Killed/Wounded International and Accepted Incidents.” Figures. It was prepared for National Review author Deroy Murdock.
Hussein’s hospitality toward these mass murderers directly violated United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which prohibited him from granting safe haven to or otherwise sponsoring terrorists. We also know from the 9/11 report that there was a connection to al Qaeda, though we are unsure (no smoking gun) of what level that relationship may have developed into. However, their communications that continued to exist up to and beyond 2001 are troublesome to many. When looking at the amount of terror that they did support over the years, in both the 80’s and 90’s, it is not hard for many to suspect there was more than just a passing relationship.
Some of the high ranking terrorists that Iraq had links to are:
- Abu Abbas. Abbas masterminded the October 7-9, 1985, Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking in which Abbas’s men shot passenger Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year old Manhattan retiree, then rolled him, wheelchair and all, into the Mediterranean. Abbas briefly was in Italian custody at the time, but was released that October 12 because he possessed an Iraqi diplomatic passport. After 2000, Abbas resided in Baghdad, still under Saddam Hussein’s protection.
- Khala Khadr al Salahat, a member of the ANO. Al Salahat and Nidal furnished Libyan agents the Semtex bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988, killing 259 on board and 11 on the ground.
- Abu Nidal. As the Associated Press’s Sameer N. Yacoub reported on August 21, 2002, the Beirut office of the ANO said that he entered Iraq “with the full knowledge and preparations of the Iraqi authorities.” Nidal’s attacks in 20 countries killed 407 people and wounded 788 more, the U.S. State Department calculates. Among other atrocities, an ANO-planted bomb exploded on a TWA airliner as it flew from Israel to Greece on September 8, 1974. The jet was destroyed over the Ionian Sea, killing all 88 people on board.
- Abdul Yasin. U.S. forces recently discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, which shows Iraq gave Mr. [Abdul Rahman] Yasin both a house and a monthly salary. The Indiana-born, Iraqi-reared Yasin had been charged in August 1993 for mixing the chemicals in the bomb that exploded beneath One World Trade Center, killing six and injuring 1,042 individuals. Indicted by federal prosecutors as a conspirator in the WTC bomb plot, Yasin was on the FBI’s Most-Wanted Terrorists list. ABC News confirmed, on July 27, 1994, that Yasin had returned to Baghdad, where he traveled freely and visited his father’s home almost daily.
In addition to these four high level terrorists, the US received knowledge of three separate terrorist training camps in Iraq, including Salman Pak, which Khidir Hamza, Iraq’s former nuclear weapons chief and Sabah Khodada, an former Iraqi Army Captain, report was used for training of assassinations, explosions and hijackings. Khodada, who worked at Salman Pak, said, “Training includes hijacking and kidnapping of airplanes, trains, public buses, and planting explosives in cities . . . how to prepare for suicidal operations.” Khodada added, “We saw people getting trained to hijack airplanes. . . . They are even trained how to use utensils for food, like forks and knives provided in the plane.” A map of the camp that Khodada drew from memory for Frontline closely matches satellite photos of Salman Pak, further bolstering his credibility.
— list compiled by author Deroy Murdock
According to State Department reports on terrorism, before the removal of Saddam’s regime, Iraq was one of seven state sponsors of terror. So far we have a top human rights violator and one of 7 states sponsoring terrorism.
WoMD and the UN Inspectors � Paper Tiger, Hidden Weapons
No doubt that this is where much of the contention between the two parties exists now, though I think that the first two sections of the essay were overwhelmingly screaming for intervention in Iraq. However, we have learned a lot since 2002 about what was going on in Iraq regarding WoMD and what was not.
To put it simply, the world was duped by Saddam Hussein for reasons that only he can give us, though we can surely derive some exercise from our own investigations.
The most recent of those investigations was the Final Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraqi WMD.
We now know that Saddam’s main goal was to get rid of the UN sanctions balanced with his intention to preserve Iraq’s intellectual capital for WoMD and a need to not “lose face” in the eyes of the international community. He wanted to recreate Iraq’s WoMD after the sanctions were removed and focus on a nuclear weapons program. In this respect he continued to keep as much of the knowledge and materials that could aid in starting these programs up around.
Saddam felt that the sanctions would be lifted in 1998. Indeed, after April 1998 when chief arms inspector Richard Butler refused to certify that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed, Saddam became more and more uncooperative with the inspections team, and on Oct. 31, 1998, Iraq announced it would cease interaction with UNSCOM and halt all the organization’s activities inside Iraq.
From this point forward, without any inspection team in the country and the situation as it developed, there was most likely no way that the UN would lift sanctions on Iraq while Saddam was in power. There would be too many questions and no way of knowing what happened during the time inspectors were not in the country. Further, Saddam never, at any single point before the invasion started, gave full and immediate access to all of Iraq and its citizens, even when ordered to by UN Resolution 1441. Hans Blix felt that with more time that they could resolve all of the questions that were raised about Iraq’s WoMD programs and arsenal, but admitted in his briefings to the security council that Iraq had still not accepted the notion of full and immediate disclosure.
This is where we were before the invasion. Some people saying that Iraq had fulfilled its requirements to the sanctions previous to 1441, some saying that they hadn’t, with no way to find out without the disclosure that Hussein was unwilling to provide. Even that may not have been enough for the US, England and others. It was a bit of a stalemate that had lasted for 4 years since the inspectors were kicked out of Iraq.
Only 3 courses of action could have taken place with these facts.
- Acceptance that enough of the resolutions had been met and lift the sanctions.
- Admit that Iraq had run out of time to provide full and immediate disclosure and continue with the course of action that the Clinton placed in law, the removal of the Hussein regime.
- Continue with inspections and sanctions, keeping an eye on Iraq and attempting to continue containment.
Most people feel that the first option was not acceptable, but I admit that a large number of people thought that it was the best way to go. They are fine to have that opinion, but it is one that I disagreed with because of the actions of the Iraqi government in the past. There was no way to know what had been hidden, Hussein had gone through a lot of trouble to block and hide as much as possible during the inspections and the loss of inspectors on the ground for such a long time provided too much time for Iraq to hide, move or even develop further all kinds of WoMD, as well as conventional weapons.
Of course, the second option is the one that we took. In 1998, the Clinton White House, along with support and urging from the leading members of the Senate (including John Kerry and Hillary Clinton) put into law that the focus of US policy with Iraq would be for a change in leadership in the country. Through several means, the US supported the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, either through revolt or the UN.
Today I am signing into law H.R. 4655, the “Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.” This Act makes clear that it is the sense of the Congress that the United States should support those elements of the Iraqi opposition that advocate a very different future for Iraq than the bitter reality of internal repression and external aggression that the current regime in Baghdad now offers.
Let me be clear on what the U.S. objectives are: The United States wants Iraq to rejoin the family of nations as a freedom-loving and law-abiding member. This is in our interest and that of our allies within the region.
The United States favors an Iraq that offers its people freedom at home. I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq’s history or its ethnic or sectarian make-up. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else. The United States looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into a dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life.
My Administration has pursued, and will continue to pursue, these objectives through active application of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The evidence is overwhelming that such changes will not happen under the current Iraq leadership.
— emphasis added mine
Subsequent actions failed to make this happen. While running for election in 2000, then Governor Bush ran on the assurance that if elected he would do something about Iraq to bring about this change in leadership. Good to his word, within days of being inaugurated he gives Iraqi opposition groups authority to use U.S. aid within Iraq.
When the 9/11 bombings occurred, it was not immediately obvious who carried out the attack. Some in the administration, sold on the notion that Iraq had been involved in the first WTC bombings as well as al Qaeda, called upon the president to take immediate action against Iraq. President Bush weighed his options and after it was clear that it was al Qaeda who performed the attack, he focused on that group and Afghanistan who was giving the group safe haven.
However, the terrorist ties that were known about and the suggestions that had been gathered through intelligence made it clear that Iraq was a state sponsor of terror as well as Afghanistan. As we now know from the previous section, it was one of seven such countries, six now that Afghanistan was no longer in Taliban control. At this point the following things are taken together:
- Iraq had been evading UN sanctions for nearly 12 years, the last 4 having events associated with it that led us to call for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, a policy made law by Bill Clinton.
- Iraq was one of the largest human rights violators in the world. Killing, maiming and raping its citizens without impunity, no recognizable rule of law other than might and the use of chemical weapons on its own citizens prevented any uprising or ability to move forward with societal grown.
- Iraq was a large supporter of international terrorism. In our war on terror, we are calling upon the end of all state sponsored terrorism, the list of people killed and injured because of known support from Iraq led the US to realize that Iraq was a danger to the US and the world in general.
It was under these facts that the United States and a collection of like-minded countries set about to remove Saddam Hussein from power and remove the threat that he created.
The Argument Against Further Sanctions
There was a third option, allowing the sanctions to continue until we could be SURE that Iraq was devoid of any WoMD or programs to acquire such. Some argue that this could have been accomplished in three months, most notably Hans Blix. He argued this while admitting that Iraq was not accepting the notion of full and complete disclosure and the fact that his two previous predecessors could not complete the task in the previous twelve years. I am one of those not convinced that it would have taken “just three months”. As a result of this, let’s look at a longer application of sanctions.
In the twelve years that sanctions existed previously, it was known that the sanctions had crippled the country’s economic infrastructure and had contributed to a deteriorating economic situation, increased unemployment, rising malnutrition and mortality levels and widespread corruption. In 1999, UNICEF estimated that sanctions had contributed to the deaths of some 500,000 children under the age of five. In addition to the deaths as a result of the sanctions themselves, civilians were also dying at the hands of US/UK planes as they enforced the no-fly zone.
The sanctions, as has been reported, had resulted in even less restrictions than originally thought
Although Saddam had reluctantly accepted the UN’s Oil for Food (OFF) program by 1996, he soon recognized its economic value and additional opportunities for further manipulation and influence of the UNSC Iraq 661 Sanctions Committee member states. Therefore, he resigned himself to the continuation of UN sanctions understanding that they would become a ‘paper tiger’ regardless of continued US resolve to maintain them.
Throughout sanctions, Saddam continually directed his advisors to formulate and implement strategies, policies, and methods to terminate the UN’s sanctions regime established by UNSCR 661. The Regime devised an effective diplomatic and economic strategy of generating revenue and procuring illicit goods utilizing the Iraqi intelligence, banking, industrial, and military apparatus that eroded United Nations’ member states and other international players’ resolve to enforce compliance, while capitalizing politically on its humanitarian crisis.
One aspect of Saddam’s strategy of unhinging the UN’s sanctions against Iraq, centered on Saddam’s efforts to influence certain UN SC permanent members, such as Russia, France, and China and some nonpermanent (Syria, Ukraine) members to end UN sanctions. Under Saddam’s orders, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) formulated and implemented a strategy aimed at these UNSC members and international public opinion with the purpose of ending UN sanctions and undermining its subsequent OFF program by diplomatic and economic means. At a minimum, Saddam wanted to divide the five permanent members and foment international public support of Iraq at the UN and throughout the world by a savvy public relations campaign and an extensive diplomatic effort.
Another element of this strategy involved circumventing UN sanctions and the OFF program by means of ‘Protocols’ or government-to-government economic trade agreements. Protocols allowed Saddam to generate a large amount of revenue outside the purview of the UN. The successful implementation of the Protocols, continued oil smuggling efforts, and the manipulation of UN OFF contracts emboldened Saddam to pursue his military reconstitution efforts starting in 1997 and peaking in 2001. These efforts covered conventional arms, dual-use goods acquisition, and some WMD-related programs.
And, even with these sanctions in place, the containment we were applying to them, they were still a major supporter of terrorism in the world. What would make anyone believe that the sanctions, already labeled as the most invasive sanctions suffered by a country in history, could have been made even stronger without killing more and more innocent Iraqis? Not only because of the sanctions, but the inaction of the world community on the Human Rights violations?
Unfortunately, no one had an “end game” in Iraq that would result in anything other than further distrust of the Iraq government, further death of Iraqi citizens and the continuation of supporting terrorism on a global scale. Even John Kerry.
Now we have one. It is not pretty and has not been run as well as I think, as a disabled veteran, it could have been run. But the simple truth is that taking this action was the only way to put an end to the nightmare that has been brewing in Iraq for a dozen years and only now will the Iraqi citizens have any hope of self-rule and freedom, something they could never see possible with a Hussein leadership in control of the country.
John Kerry knows this. He supported the removal of Hussein from power in 1998. He is also not disputing that the Iraq invasion was the wrong thing to do, only that he would have worked harder to get more countries on our side through the UN, something that many feel was impossible especially considering what we now know of the Oil for Food scandal and its implications.
Both republicans and democrats agreed that an Iraq without Hussein in power was the only resolution to the situation there. However, few were unwilling to do what was needed done in order to make this happen. President Bush, knowing that this would quite possibly cost him re-election in 2004, took the actions that he felt needed taken in order to have a hope of a stabilized, free Iraq in the near future. An Iraq that was no longer supporting terrorist activities and one that could deal with the international community going into the future with respect and honor. I believe that by the end of the decade, you will see an Iraq that is stronger than any could have hoped it would be.
And for those reasons, I believe that it was well worth it. As I have once heard as an answer to the question “Why does the US feel that it has to be the World’s Police?”, the reason is simple. We are the only ones who are willing, as a country, to sacrifice ourselves for the protection and betterment of others whether it helps us out in the long run or not. I never want to lose that mindset and close in upon ourselves in an isolationist manner as we have in the past. I hope that our country as a whole never does. Only through this belief, this conviction, can we help make the world a better place for everyone to live in, not just the lucky few who live in a currently civilized society.
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