Friday, July 20, 2012

How to Justify a War in a Few Easy Steps

Updated August 2013

Now that the Obama Administration is considering its Syrian options, I thought that it would be interesting to take a look back at how the previous Bush II Administration justified its invasion of Iraq and how we were deliberately duped into believing that such a move was mandated by the circumstances in Iraq.

A very interesting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Department of Defense document was recently released by the Secretary of Defense.  In reading through the document, I found that there were a lot of interesting parallels between Iraq and Syria and how the Bush Administration used some of these issues to justify their force to unseat a brutal dictator in Iraq.  Before I get to the details, I'd like to post a video showing President George W. Bush addressing Congress et al, making the case for the Iraq War:

As an aside, if you watch the entire video, the President recites a list of torture methods used by the Hussein regime.  As I posted here, this is very similar to the list of methods of torture used by the al-Assad regime in Syria right down to the use of an electric drill.  The President then goes on to state that "...if this is not evil then evil has no meaning..." referring to the use of torture by the Iraqi leadership.  In the end, I guess the presence of billions of barrels of exportable oil makes all of the difference, doesn't it? 

This declassified document from September 12th, 2002 makes the case for war.  Here are screen captures of the first three pages showing the justification for war:

Please notice a few key points:

1.) The DoD was looking at Iraq through the lenses of the failure of intelligence on 9/11 stating that America's intelligence community has more information now than they did in the previous year about what Saddam Hussein might do and how he might use his stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to achieve his goals.  I particularly found the line "...experience tells us that what we have found is only a small part of what actually is there." and "...isn't it reasonable to conclude that Iraq's WMD programs are continuing, if not accelerating?".  History proved their "experience" to be sadly off base.  The presentation goes on to note that Iraq was a totalitarian regime led by a megalomaniacal tyrant.  While true, the same could be said for many other regimes including Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iran et al and actions were only "warranted" on one of them, coincidentally, another major oil producing nation.

2.) The document attempts to connect al Qaeda and Iraq, stating that "...In addition, numerous contacts over past decade between senior Iraqi and al Qaida officials, including there (sic) are many intelligence reports showing connections between Iraq and al Qaida, over a decade.".  The document also goes on to provide a link between an Iraqi senior intelligence officer and Osama Bin Laden (UBL).  The key sentence is:

And, in the end, how did that bit of history turn out for the Poles and their beloved homeland?

3.) The Bush Administration was seeking the support of the United Nations, noting that Iraq has flouted the will of the U.N. Security Council for more than a decade.  Looking at the present, how is U.N. finger-waggling working out for Syrian civilians?  Is it just me or are those in power very, very slow to learn from the lessons of the past?

4.) It was interesting to note that the Bush Administration was preparing itself and Americans for the impact of aggression against Iraq on the world's oil markets as shown here:

Once again, how has that worked out for all of us?  In case you've forgotten, in 2003, oil was under $40 a barrel.

5.) The document goes on to question the impact of the precedent being set by the onset of aggression. Unfortunately, part of the document is redacted here.  The four justifications given for setting the precedent were (i) that the Bush Administration was not claiming the right to intervene in any regime that they didn't like, (ii) that Iraq had ties to terrorism and possessed WMD, (iii) that Saddam Hussein was particularly vicious with respect to the treatment of its own population and (iv) that it has violated U.N. Security Council resolutions many times.  Excluding, perhaps, the presence of WMD, can we say the word "Syria"?

6.) Lastly, the document concludes by looking at the effect of the looming war on Middle East peace negotiations, a subject that seems to consume most American Presidents at one time or another during their tenure.  As shown here, the Bush Administration actually thought that regime change in Iraq would have an impact on the Israeli - Palestinian peace process:

Again, how has that turned out for Israelis and Palestinians?

I'd like to close this posting by looking at how the Bush Administration felt that war with Iraq would impact their ongoing war on terrorism in Afghanistan.  Here is the screen capture of that part of the document:

Isn't it interesting to see that the Bush Administration was already suspecting that the positive benefits and "goodwill" generated by the "victory" in Afghanistan was wearing off in the international community, less than one year after the war had started?  The document concludes by stating that the justification for a war with Iraq does not need a link to 9/11 since any actions in Iraq would be about self-defense, not revenge.  I guess it is just a coincidence that, according to a survey taken by the Program on International Policy Attitudes a decade after 9/11, 38 percent of Americans still believe that the United States found clear evidence that Saddam Hussein was working closely with al Qaeda and 16 percent still believe that the United States found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.  I guess there's nothing like a government-induced self-fulfilling prophesy.  

It is interesting to look back at recent history and see how governments can use "propaganda" to convince the voting public that the actions that they are taking are justifiable.  As someone who looks for consistency, I also find it interesting how governments can, in at least one case (Syria), ignore the plight of a tormented civilian population that is experiencing a lack of freedom under the leadership of a despot while using the same issue to justify military action in another.


  1. Yes, I have been thinking about this parallel. Baathist regimes both.

    The Syrian civil war is not yet over. Syria contains part of Kurdistan, which could threaten the present border of Turkey (a NATO ally), Iran and Iraq. I think public opinion is being prepared in case an intervention "becomes necessary".

  2. Today's announcement of WMD/chemical weapons from Syria certainly complicates the issue.

  3. The civil war in Syria will continue without our direct involvement because it is well funded by Sunni states in the Gulf. This is quite different from the case in Iraq, where the Sunni minority held the power, and backers of the Shiite majority (only Iran?) didn't have enough money to foment a successful uprising.

    I think we should continue to stay out. Our involvement would cost money and lives, and probably gain us nothing. Even with our level of involvement with Iraq, we've hardly been able to steer their course.

    It doesn't look like Iran will come to Syria's rescue, though I wouldn't entirely rule out the possibility.

  4. I guess that Bush video has too much TRUTH in it. Since when is posting Political Speeches "copyright infringement"? Obvious cover up is obvious. Anyone know where one can watch it.