The revisionist history about why we invaded Iraq is on such rampant rise that Republican candidates, even men named Bush, have amnesia about it. Donald Trump has gone the full Code Pink and blamed George Bush for both 9/11 and wrongly invading Iraq. Good grief.
Jeb Bush was recently asked, assuming he knew in 2003 what he knows now, would he still support invading Iraq? He said no, which is the wrong answer.
The correct answer is, “If your question assumes Saddam Hussein still did what he did back then, of course we would invade Iraq.”
Let’s go back to the beginning, and the beginning isn’t 2003; it’s the end of the Gulf War in 1991.
Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf stood in the desert having successfully beaten Saddam Hussein’s grossly overestimated Republican Guard in Kuwait. The case could have been made for decapitating the Iraqi government by moving to take out Hussein.
Instead, America showed mercy, as she is wont to do. An agreement was made wherein Iraq had to release prisoners of war, rescind the annexation of Kuwait, pay for war damages, help find land and sea mines and keep troops away from the southern border to avoid skirmishes.
More importantly, the US agreed to leave so long as Iraq complied with a later-adopted UN resolution about dismantling weapons of mass destruction, cessation of WMD production, and allowing inspections.
Stop and note this well, because it’s important: The 1990 Gulf War formally never ended, by design. The ceasefire and promise not to unleash Schwarzkopf would last only so long as Iraq complied with the UN resolution. The sine qua non for the coalition’s restraint from conquering Iraq was Iraq’s compliance with the UN resolution on WMDs.
Now take a look at that very UN Resolution 687 (1991), passed in April of that year. You can read the lengthy part C for the detail, but essentially it required Iraq to get rid of all WMDs, including chemical, biological, ballistic, and nuclear programs, and compelled them to be inspected.
Also important is the final paragraph, wherein the UN retained jurisdiction over enforcement of the ceasefire, which evidences that the war wasn’t over, but ceased premised on a condition:
[THE UN] Decides to remain seized of the matter and to take such further steps as may be required for the implementation of the present resolution and to secure peace and security in the area.
So we essentially have a contract action: There will be no conquering of Iraq so long as inspections reveal no WMDs. The classic quid pro quo.
Saddam Hussein considered himself to have a problem, real or imagined. He believed that if Iran was convinced he had no such weapons, Iran would surely invade Iraq. He attempted a failed gambit: He made the world wonder if he had weapons of mass destruction, and subsequently believe that he did, out of fear of being attacked by Iran. As for the US decision to attack, it didn’t matter if he had WMDs or not. What mattered is that he made the world think that he did. That was his bad calculation. Schwarzkopf famously noted how prone to miscalculation Hussein had previously shown himself to be.
Over the next dozen years, Hussein bobbed and weaved the inspectors, while the world’s eyes belonged to Hans Blix, a man who had admitted Hussein had tricked him in the past.
It only took four months, in August of 1991, for the UN to have to pass Resolution 707 condemning Iraq as being in “material breach” for non-compliance with the inspections required by Resolution 687.
In October of 1992, the UN passed Resolution 778 condemning Iraq for not meeting financial requirements mandated by 687.
In April 1993, Hussein tried to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush, failing to show the courtesy Schwarzkopf had shown him three years earlier. In June of that year, President Clinton launched a cruise missile attack in response to the assassination attempt.
In June 1996, the UN passed Resolution 1060 deploring Iraq’s refusal to allow inspectors access to the sites and demanding he comply. UN Resolution 1115 in 1997 did the same. The UN did the same with Resolutions 1134 and 1137, both also in 1997.
UN Resolution 1154, in 1998, noted that the Secretary General had to secure a subsequent agreement from Iraq to stop interfering with inspections:
[The UN] Stresses that compliance by the Government of Iraq with its obligations, repeated again in the memorandum of understanding, to accord immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to the Special Commission and the IAEA in conformity with the relevant resolutions is necessary for the implementation of resolution 687 (1991), but that any violation would have severest consequences for Iraq;
[The UN] Determined to ensure immediate and full compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) of 3 April 1991 and the other relevant resolutions,
In December of 1998, the US and Great Britain bombed Iraq for four days over Iraq’s failure to comply with weapons inspections and “degrade” their weapons.
In 1998, President Clinton signed the “Iraq Liberation Act” into law, making it official US policy to work to remove Saddam Hussein:
It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.
In 1999, UN Resolution 1284 demanded Iraq meet its obligations regarding prisoners of war.
In 2000 there were debates about resolutions to condemn Iraq for breaches of the no-fly zone.
In the beginning of 2001, newly-elected President George W. Bush had on the agenda of his first two National Security meetings discussions about invading Iraq and removing Hussein, consistent with the Iraq Liberation Act signed by President Clinton. In September 2001, the administration’s attention was, naturally, turned toward al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
In November 2002, UN Resolution 1441 again found Iraq in material breach on both inspections and weapons destruction, and threatened armed action for non-compliance. This was Saddam’s final warning for non-compliance, 11 years in the making.
The invasion began March 20, 2003.
There is another extremely important fact, and its importance is eclipsed only by media’s willingness to ignore it in their reporting:
In June 2000, Saddam Hussein made a speech stating not only did he not disarm, but that he wouldn’t disarm unless other countries neighboring Iraq disarmed too; “… a rifle for a rifle, a stick for a stick, a stone for a stone.”
That speech ought to be the most oft-cited fact on this subject in all media reports. That it is so infrequently mentioned is a shining example of media malpractice. Did Saddam convince the world he still had weapons? See his June 2000 speech, quod erat demonstrandum.
The man who debriefed Saddam Hussein after his capture, FBI agent George Piro, talked to Hussein about his bad gambit of trying to trick Iran into thinking he had WMDs, knowing he would risk the ire of the United States. Piro said:
But he told me he initially miscalculated President Bush. And President Bush’s intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998 under Operation Desert Fox. Which was a four-day aerial attack.
There’s that famed Hussein penchant for miscalculation again, but at least he grew to admit it. Hussein also confirmed to Piro that he had every intention of restarting WMD production.
The only man who could have stopped the US from invading Iraq was Hussein, and his deceit and refusal to comply with the very UN resolution that saved his neck in 1991 makes him the only man to blame for the invasion.
This isn’t to say that George W. Bush and CIA director George Tenet didn’t have one bad gambit themselves: Sending Colin Powell out to maintain that Hussein definitely had WMDs was unnecessary, even if they thought it true. It was fanfare and window dressing, and when we couldn’t find them, it consumed and hid the real reason for invading, which was that Hussein wouldn’t let the inspectors verify the truth. That’s all Powell had to say. His sideshow about WMDs stole the spotlight from Hussein’s blocking of inspections, and sadly, men like Donald Trump are still tricked by it. Or perhaps Trump knows the truth but is pandering to the Michael Moore crowd, hoping they will vote for him, evidencing a severe retardation of political sensibility.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has publicly stated that the existence of WMDs was beside the point, and the coalition needed to invade regardless of them.
If only Blair were eligible to run in the Republican primary.