The Iraq War - Plus One: Was it Justified?
It has been a year since the Bush Administration began the invasion of Iraq.
On March 20, 2003, after a strategically important aerial bombardment of Baath Party targets in Baghdad the day before, American and British troops pushed into Iraq from Kuwait. A northern front had been denied them when the Turkish parliament refused to allow it. Sixteen days later, after overcoming desert weather and sporadic resistance, U.S. forces entered Baghdad. The early occupation was characterized by chaos and widespread looting. After initial jubilation over the fall of Saddam in most sectors of occupied Iraq, public opinion turned to anger at the lack of services and personal security. Since then improvements have been made in many regions of the country, but there is still armed resistance and political turmoil.
The war has been costly in money and blood. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the first year of the war cost the American taxpayers nearly 108 billion dollars. Since the beginning of hostilities in Iraq, news accounts place the number of American deaths at 579, while the Pentagon reports that 3,254 U.S. troops have been wounded in the war. More than 5,000 Puerto Rican National Guardsmen and Reservists have responded to the call to fight in the global war against terrorism. In the initial stages of the war in Iraq, their participation per capita in the worldwide war on terror was higher than that of 43 states. Currently, more than 3000 Puerto Ricans from Guard and Reserve units are mobilized and thousands more are members of the regular armed forces. So far, 15 Puerto Ricans have made the ultimate sacrifice in Americas fight to contain terrorism.
For the past several months, the Bush Administration has been under attack by critics, questioning both its handling of homeland protection before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and for its decision to go to war with Iraq.
The current focus of attention is a recently published book written by Richard A. Clarke, a former member of the George W. Bush Administration, in which he charged that the President ignored the Al Qaeda threat before 9/11 and was single-mindedly focused on Iraq -- and not Islamic militant groups both before and after the attacks occurred. Clarke, a career government employee, served the last three Presidents as a senior White House Advisor concerned with security and counter-terrorism issues. Prior to his White House service, Clarke served in the Pentagon, the Intelligence Community, and the State Department.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appeared before a bipartisan commission formed to study the state of intelligence before 9/11. Their testimony was that no action against Al Qaeda and their Taliban protectors in Afghanistan was possible before the worldwide shock of the 9/11 attacks because the American public, the Congress, and international opinion would not have supported it. Their predecessors from the Clinton Administration, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Secretary of Defense William Cohen, both agreed with them on that point.
In January of this year, David Kay, who had just resigned from his Bush Administration position as head of a group sent to Iraq searching for weapons of mass destruction after the US occupation began, said that he found no evidence that Iraq had a program for the production of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in place at the time of the war and no stockpiles of such weapons when it began.
Last Sunday on the CNN program "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," Hans Blix, who oversaw the UNs investigation into whether Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, referred to Secretary of State Colin Powells February 2003 address to the United Nations Security Council, attempting to tie Saddam Husseins regime to the production of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Blix described Powells evidence as shaky. "I think it's clear that in March, when the invasion took place, the evidence that had been brought forward was rapidly falling apart." Blix alleged that the Bush Administration "ignored" his information that the intelligence was faulty.
On the same program, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the entity that dismantled Iraqs nuclear weapons program in 1997, said he thought that giving more time to inspectors in Iraq before the war began would have shown that there had been no resumption of the nuclear project. He recounted that the evidentiary lynchpin for the Bush Administration's allegation that Saddam had an on-going nuclear weapons program was a discovered document that purported to show that Saddam had contracted with the country of Niger to import uranium oxide. ElBaradei asserted that "it took the IAEA a day to discover that it was a forgery." In the year since the invasion began, exhaustive searches by coalition forces have yet to find any evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.
Confronted with charges that the Bush White House shaped intelligence information to justify its preemptive strike against Iraq, the President and his top advisors have been scrambling to defend their actions in the face of growing public concern about the Administrations credibility in the matter.
Through it all, Bush Administration officials have held fast to their justification for a preemptive invasion of Iraq. They point out that unilateral action in Iraq was required because the UN Security Council refused to authorize collective military action to back up its own resolutions that Saddam was ignoring. They say the war was necessary due to the likely presence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, Saddams support of international and local terrorist cells and his brutal abuse of the Iraqi people. They have remained steadfast that the decision to go to war was based on intelligence thought to be accurate at the time and was motivated by a desire to protect the American people.
They also stress that the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution giving the President the authority to use the Armed Forces of the United States in any way that he determined "necessary and appropriate to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq." The resolution, drafted by the Administration, was based on allegations now being questioned by dissenters. Members of Congress -- mostly Democrats, but some Republicans are now saying that they would never have supported the resolution had they been privy to some of the charges now coming to light in the public arena.
The Bush Administration alleges that the press has ignored the significant success so far realized in Iraq, especially in the area of political compromise and the movement to return sovereignty to Iraq in June of this year. The White House has stayed on its message that the operation resulted in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party, a U.S. led occupation with the objectives of pacifying the country, developing its economy and guiding it towards a democratic form of government. The world, it posits "is better off without Saddam Hussein in Iraq."
This week is the opportunity for Herald readers to decide if the war in Iraq was warranted. In light of all the evidence, do you think that the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq in March of 2003 was justified?