Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush seemed eager to attack Iraq instead of Afghanistan. After all, Afghanistan was the home of al Qaeda, the organization credited with the travesty. Something smelled bad. Every night we seemed closer to attacking Iraq, and the media was clearly an accomplice. Both parties became “sheeple” in support. Even Senators John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party presidential candidates, voted for it.
Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, as was Osama bin Laden. Not one was from Iraq. Later we learned that 80% of the prisoners held at Guantanamo were Saudis (“Our Enemies the Saudis,” U.S. News and World Report, June 3, 2002, p. 49). So why were we not attacking Saudi Arabia instead? Nor did any evidence exist linking Saddam Hussein with al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. Actually bin Laden was a religious fanatic and Saddam non religious and afraid that the clerics would gain power in Iraq as they had in Iran.
Both Bushes hated Saddam Hussein, and Bush Jr. had a personal vendetta against the horrible dictator for the unsuccessful assassination attempt on his father at the Kuwaiti Airport. The dictator in question used chemical warfare against his own people, the Kurds (Congressional Record 9-13, 1988, p. E2914). But if we went to war against every human rights violating dictator, we would be at war with half the world. Prior to Bush Sr.’s confrontation with Saddam, the US provided him with equipment that later fortified his bunkers (“Building Baghdad’s Arsenal” The New American, Nov. 17, 2003, p 6.)
Still, as my friend and colleague Dr. John D. Eigenauer starkly put it, “Iraq did not declare war against the United States: Iraq’s military at no time took up offensive positions against the United States or its citizens. The government of Iraq did not attempt to sabotage American interests abroad, damage American industry, harm US nationals, or hinder US growth.” He continued, “The United States attacked a nation a fraction the size of itself, with only a fraction of the population of the US, with only a small fraction of the Gross National Product of the US, and a tiny fraction of the military strength of the United States…. Iraq had no hope of defending itself in any serious sense, no chance of inflicting meaningful casualties, and no opportunity to negotiate a truce or advocate compromise.” He concluded, “The government of the United States of America—my government—conducted an unprovoked war of aggression against an essentially defenseless nation.”
But almost as troubling as attacking without proven provocation was the deception surrounding the reason. We were “hell bent” on entering this war no matter what. First we argued that Iraq was linked with al Qaeda and therefore an accomplice to 9/11. When that argument lost credibility we argued that we needed to make the UN relevant—put teeth into her—as Iraq had defied her. Then we moved to the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” argument.
Finding none after insisting such existed, our leaders argued that as soon as developed they would be used against us; all the time Saddam Hussein was villainized by our government and media amazingly, far more than was Osama bin Laden, the real enemy. We were told that a preemptive strike was necessary to protect us from the inevitable Iraqi attack, ironically the philosophical argument used by the Japanese for their attack on Pearl Harbor beginning World War II. The final argument was that we were fighting for democracy in Iraq. Who could oppose our extending to them what we had?
Left out of the argument was the fact that Iraq was the second largest oil producing country in the world after Saudi Arabia, and that the oil company Halliburton, with strong links to the Vice President, benefited greatly with some plush oil contracts.
To the 4,415 who gave their lives in Iraq, I commend you for your service so honorably provided. To those who intentionally provoked a war for personal gain or power and deceived the American people in so doing, this moment in history is not a proud one.
As combat operations end August 31 and our troops return to the shores they should be protecting, I will be delighted.
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