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  • Adam Ghannoum

The Iraq War: A Mere Blunder?

The US-led invasion of Iraq began on March 19, 2003. Twenty years later, public discourse surrounding the war remains muddled and unrepentant.

One of the central motivations for the war was the Bush administration's claim about the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. These WMD’s were alluded to have nuclear capabilities. The administration alleged that Iraq’s dictator at the time, Saddam Hussein, possessed these weapons and was prepared to use them for terrorism and attacks on the American people. The claims that the Bush administration made came during the “War on Terror” and the heightened anxiety of the American people following the horrific 9/11 attacks. The Bush administration utilized Saddam’s track record of human rights violations as justification for the invasion. Yet the US armed forces’ actions throughout the war paint a grotesque picture of an attempt to “Free the Iraqi People”

During the leadup to the invasion of Iraq, there was much doubt from UN inspectors in Iraq and certain voices in government and public society about the authenticity of the WMD claims. In 2002, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter publicly stated the following, "Realistically speaking, Iraq has been disarmed fundamentally. Their weapons programs have been eliminated. Iraq has no capability to day to project meaningful military power outside of its borders."

Hans Blix was the head of the UN inspection committee searching Iraq for evidence of WMD’s. Prior to the invasion, Blix stated the following in a report to the UN security council, “UNMOVIC has not found any such weapons [of mass destruction], only a small number of empty chemical munitions." Following the invasion, Blix reiterated that "there were about 700 inspections, and in no case did we find WMD’s."

The claim that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD’s capable of harming American forces or destabilizing the Arab world simply retains no evidence. The famous 2004 Senate report on Iraqi WMD intelligence unveiled the inaccuracy of American government reports of WMD’s in Iraq. A common claim that presents itself surrounding the WMD debate is Saddam’s possession of chemical weapons from the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980’s. This is not comparable to the alleged possession of WMD’s with nuclear capabilities as the Bush administration promulgated.

In relation to the Bush administration’s claims about relations between Al-Qaeda and Hussein, former CIA director George Tenet stated that "We could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al-Qaeda for 9/11 or any operational act against America, period." The statements of these officials inform us of the fabricated justifications for the war and bring into question the accuracy of their humanitarian justifications as well.

Humanitarian intervention in its most basic definition is the use of military force to alleviate human suffering. Iraq prior to the invasion was not experiencing any genocides or large-scale human rights violations at the hands of Saddam Hussein. Hussein ruled the country with an iron fist and was well known for his history of human rights violations throughout the 80s, especially against the Kurdish people. The fact of that matter is that these violations had subsided by the years preceding the invasion. The Bush administration’s humanitarian reasoning for intervention fails to qualify as a humanitarian intervention.

The ramifications of the Bush administration's initial invasion of Iraq have lasted until today -- and have taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians. The Lancet published a study stating that over 600,000 Iraqis were killed as a direct result of the American invasion. This data only tracks up until 2006 which was before the US troop surge in 2007. According to Human Rights Watch “U.S. efforts to bomb leadership targets were an abysmal failure” The US government’s “targeting method bordered on indiscriminate”, which contributed to significant civilian deaths.

Human Rights Watch has also stated in their report that “U.S. ground forces, particularly the Army, also used cluster munitions near populated areas, with predictable loss of civilian life.” The humanitarian reasoning that the Bush administration utilized to justify the invasion cannot be reconciled with the atrocities committed against the Iraqi people during and after the invasion

Furthermore, according to the Dutch peace group Pax, US forces fired nearly 10,000 depleted uranium rounds in Iraq during the war in 2003. This was done in civilian populated areas, primarily Fallujah, and the disastrous health effects of depleted uranium on unborn children have been witnessed over the past 20 years. There has been a dramatic increase in infant mortality, cancer, and congenital birth defects in the aftermath of US military bombardment. This is not to mention the white phosphorus, a chemical agent, used alongside the depleted uranium in Fallujah. Pax estimates that it will take 30 million to clean up these waste sites. The author of the report, Wim Zwijnenburg, states that the US force's use of DU challenges their commitment to their own values. Utilizing cluster munitions, Depleted Uranium rounds, and White phosphorus in civilian populated areas in no way meets the criteria for humanitarian intervention.

The failure of the Iraq War to actualize its supposed goals of "disarming Iraq of WMDs, ending Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and freeing the Iraqi people", has contributed to massive destabilization in the region and undoubtedly caused the rise of terrorist groups' most infamous among them being ISIS. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including many civilians have been killed and the region’s ongoing refugee crisis has worsened. Unfortunately, the understanding of this war in the American psyche remains ambiguous and unregretful. Reflecting on the sentiments of the words of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the evening of 9/11, “We need to bomb something else to prove that we’re, you know, big and strong and not going to be pushed around by these kinds of attacks.” Rumsfeld’s words emblemize the remorseless and inhumane attitude of the Bush administration, where the Iraqis were simply a pawn to be discarded in the chess game of American foreign policy for which any tactic or false justification could be used.


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