Invading Iraq Was Necessary and We Would Do It Again

 

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 February 1993, the UN passed Resolution 806 condemning Iraq for breaching the agreement regarding the southern border. In 1994, Resolution 949 did the same.

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;

Resolution 1194 in 1998 condemned Iraq for suspending inspections. That same year UN Resolution 1205 implicitly threatened an invasion if Iraq didn’t allow inspections to resume:

[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.

Members have made 48 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of MarciN Member

    This is fantastic. Thank you. An excellent summary.

    • #1
    • February 28, 2016 at 11:36 pm
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  2. Profile photo of BrentB67 Inactive

    Great article and research Tommy. Brings back a lot of memories. I forgot many of the resolution numbers.

    I think our ending the first war was less an act of mercy and had more to do with the specific, limited charter of the coalition. Pres. Bush deserves much credit for assembling such a coalition and acting quickly. One of the reasons he was able to do so was specifically identifying and limiting the goal. Iraq out of Kuwait and no further.

    It was a shame because there was opportunity to support factions in Iraq that may have overthrown him. Saddam’s attacks on those factions in the east was the original reason for the southern no-fly zone.

    Additionally, Scott Ritter played a key role in many of the 96-98 inspections as well as U2 flights under UN authorization.

    • #2
    • February 28, 2016 at 11:54 pm
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  3. Profile photo of Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Tommy, thanks for taking the time to do this.

    I lived through a period much like this in Turkey — one in which history through which I’d lived, which I’d seen, and which could easily be documented by anyone with Internet access changed according to the political exigencies of the moment and the media’s eerie amnesia. So I know this phenomenon is possible. But I didn’t realize this wasn’t a phenomenon peculiar to Turkey.

    I lived through the First and Second Gulf wars and remember exactly what happened in the run-up to both. This is what happened. Anyone alive then and reading a newspaper daily knows that this is what happened. It seems impossible to me that anyone my age could not know that this is what happened: These were very memorable events. We went to war over them! You don’t forget things like that.

    I understand that people who are only now entering college and only now old enough to vote are learning this as history, and won’t have it seared into their memory. But I cannot fathom how anyone our age could not remember this. I’ve not taken the time, as you have, here, to remind people, because my operating assumption is that anyone who’s “forgotten” has forgotten in bad faith.

    But you’re very right to take the time to do it, because many people are too young to remember this, and perhaps some people truly have forgotten.

    That said, I don’t think Tenet should be let off the hook. Certainly, Saddam did everything in his power to create the impression that he’d reconstituted his WMD program. But there’s good, amply-documented reason to believe that the IC allowed itself to succumb to groupthink and failed to adhere to best intelligence practices.

    It’s important to remember that, because that’s the least-supervised part of our government — and thus the one least likely to reform itself. They had a job, and they blew it. Many people lost their lives because of it.

    The ultimate blame lies with Saddam, but we can only control our side of it, and our side of it — our IC, in particular — made a tragic and immensely costly error. I still don’t know whether any kind of real reform of the IC has happened, and to judge from the kinds of foreign policy blunders we’ve made since, I suspect not.

    • #3
    • February 28, 2016 at 11:56 pm
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  4. Profile photo of LC Member
    LC

    “Bush lied, people died” is one of the most asinine things I’ve heard in American politics.

    • #4
    • February 29, 2016 at 12:06 am
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  5. Profile photo of Rodin Member

    Tommy, I made a similar but less eloquent and complete review of this history in another thread. There was only one Iraq War with multiple phases. To treat the 2003 decision to bring the War to an end as instead the start of something new and untethered to this history, is either malpractice or propaganda.

    • #5
    • February 29, 2016 at 12:09 am
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  6. Profile photo of DialMforMurder Inactive

    13 years on, and trying to defend the Iraq war is still a fantastic way to turn people against you. Even attacking Saddam Hussein is considered taboo. In the left’s eyes, that was a benevolent dictatorship.

    • #6
    • February 29, 2016 at 12:22 am
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  7. Profile photo of Rodin Member

    DialMforMurder: In the left’s eyes, that was a benevolent dictatorship.

    Yes, Uday and Qusay were choir boys.

    • #7
    • February 29, 2016 at 12:27 am
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  8. Profile photo of Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    DialMforMurder:13 years on, and trying to defend the Iraq war is still a fantastic way to turn people against you. Even attacking Saddam Hussein is considered taboo. In the left’s eyes, that was a benevolent dictatorship.

    It’s not just the left’s eyes. It’s no longer plausible to use the lens through which we’ve looked at a lot of American politics. It’s not just the left that thinks this way. We’ve been wrong about this. It’s a very hard thing to have been wrong about.

    • #8
    • February 29, 2016 at 12:31 am
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  9. Profile photo of Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Excellent, Mr. De Seno. I am grateful.

    I am going to write a post pivoting off of this so as not to derail the thread.

    • #9
    • February 29, 2016 at 12:38 am
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  10. Profile photo of Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno Post author

    BrentB67:I think our ending the first war was less an act of mercy and had more to do with the specific, limited charter of the coalition. Pres. Bush deserves much credit for assembling such a coalition and acting quickly. One of the reasons he was able to do so was specifically identifying and limiting the goal. Iraq out of Kuwait and no further.

    You are certainly right about that, and that’s why I phrased it that “the case could have been made” to go get Hussein. It would have taken a new agreement with the coalition members, but I think the pollution alone he was causing with setting wells on fire and dumping oil into the Gulf could have been enough to carry the day.

    The point of the subsequent resolutions were that we would go in, so the world at the time hadn’t ruled it out.

    • #10
    • February 29, 2016 at 12:39 am
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  11. Profile photo of Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Perhaps, Tommy, or someone else reading this thread, it is also necessary to remind people what Saddam Hussein’s regime was like. I’ve likewise assumed that anyone who doesn’t remember that is deliberately failing to remember, but perhaps that isn’t so. For anyone too young to remember this history — and increasingly, I realize that’s many people — this is what we knew of his regime at the time. And it turned out to be even worse than that. We didn’t find the nuclear weapons, but we sure found the mass graves.

    • #11
    • February 29, 2016 at 12:58 am
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  12. Profile photo of tigerlily Member

    MarciN:This is fantastic. Thank you. An excellent summary.

    Ditto.

    • #12
    • February 29, 2016 at 1:27 am
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  13. Profile photo of Chris Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:Tommy, thanks for taking the time to do this.

    I lived through a period much like this in Turkey — one in which history through which I’d lived, which I’d seen, and which could easily be documented by anyone with Internet access changed according to the political exigencies of the moment and the media’s eerie amnesia. So I know this phenomenon is possible. But I didn’t realize this wasn’t a phenomenon peculiar to Turkey.

    I lived through the First and Second Gulf wars and remember exactly what happened in the run-up to both. This is what happened. Anyone alive then and reading a newspaper daily knows that this is what happened. It seems impossible to me that anyone my age could not know that this is what happened: These were very memorable events. We went to war over them! You don’t forget things like that.

    I understand that people who are only now entering college and only now old enough to vote are learning this as history, and won’t have it seared into their memory. But I cannot fathom how anyone our age could not remember this. I’ve not taken the time, as you have, here, to remind people, because my operating assumption is that anyone who’s “forgotten” has forgotten in bad faith.

    Very well said.

    • #13
    • February 29, 2016 at 1:38 am
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  14. Profile photo of Al Kennedy Member

    Tommy, thanks very much for this excellent summary. Well done.

    • #14
    • February 29, 2016 at 1:46 am
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  15. Profile photo of DialMforMurder Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    It’s not just the left’s eyes. It’s no longer plausible to use the lens through which we’ve looked at a lot of American politics. It’s not just the left that thinks this way. We’ve been wrong about this. It’s a very hard thing to have been wrong about.

    What have we been wrong about? Wrong to not pretend they were right all along? What do you propose we do about this? Because soon the “Bush Lied” myth will be in schools, (I’m sure it probably is already).

    • #15
    • February 29, 2016 at 1:54 am
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  16. Profile photo of Zafar Member

    Here’s the text of Hans Blix’s briefing to the Security Council a month before the invasion. Not a 100% clean chit, but not very damning either. The credibility of WMD claims sort of depends on whether one thinks Blix and his team knew what they were doing or not.

    Also

    Tommy De Seno

    In 1998, President Clinton signed the “Iraq Liberation Act” into law, making it official US policy to work to remove Saddam Hussein:

    Which imho removed Saddam’s personal motivation to be reasonable. If the US wanted him out whether he had WMDs or not, why wouldn’t he sacrifice Iraq for a slim chance at remaining in power by bluff? He’d done it (sacrificed Iraq) before, right?

    With the irritating wisdom of hindsight it looks like the big mistake was not liberating the South in 1993 – and even worse, encouraging an uprising that wasn’t backed, and was then brutally put down. Seems to have achieved the worst of both worlds, and if one just looks at Iraq there seems no good reason for doing that.

    So, of course, I blame the Saudis and the Gulf countries for getting cold feet about an actual Shia Arab democracy (in fact any Arab democracy), presumably with a free press, sharing their linguistic universe. (Totally unsupported, so probably tin foil hat stuff.)

    • #16
    • February 29, 2016 at 2:09 am
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  17. Profile photo of Joseph Stanko Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Anyone alive then and reading a newspaper daily knows that this is what happened. It seems impossible to me that anyone my age could not know that this is what happened

    I understand exactly how you feel, but I think I’ve spotted your mistaken assumption: “and reading a newspaper daily.”

    How many Americans — even in the 90’s, let alone today — actually read the newspaper daily? And even if they did, did they read the entire boring article on the latest round of weapons inspections, or just skim the headlines before skipping to the sports section, the horoscope, the advice column, or the funny pages?

    • #17
    • February 29, 2016 at 2:17 am
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  18. Profile photo of Joseph Stanko Member

    Tommy De Seno: Donald Trump has gone the full Code Pink and blamed George Bush for both 9/11 and wrongly invading Iraq. Good grief.

    The moment he made that statement in the debate was the final straw for me. Won’t support him even if he wins the nomination, won’t vote for him in November, period.

    • #18
    • February 29, 2016 at 2:21 am
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  19. Profile photo of Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Zafar: The credibility of WMD claims sort of depends on whether one thinks Blix and his team knew what they were doing or not.

    Agreed. Both hands and a flashlight.

    • #19
    • February 29, 2016 at 2:23 am
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  20. Profile photo of Marion Evans Member

    Ok but maybe we should not have backed Saddam in the 80s, right?

    • #20
    • February 29, 2016 at 2:44 am
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  21. Profile photo of Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Marion Evans
    Ok but maybe we should not have backed Saddam in the 80s, right?

    As a proxy against Iran, I didn’t have a problem with it.

    • #21
    • February 29, 2016 at 2:53 am
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  22. Profile photo of Marion Evans Member

    Ball Diamond Ball:Marion Evans
    Ok but maybe we should not have backed Saddam in the 80s, right?

    As a proxy against Iran, I didn’t have a problem with it.

    So abet a monster, then deplore the monster? Fine if it’s about realpolitik but then don’t cast the whole effort in moral terms.

    • #22
    • February 29, 2016 at 3:10 am
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  23. Profile photo of Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Enjoy your moral purity. Perhaps you think we should simply have gone to war against Iran in the eighties, and handed the whole thing to Iraq. Or vice-versa.

    • #23
    • February 29, 2016 at 4:01 am
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  24. Profile photo of Marion Evans Member

    I make no claim on moral purity. Only hoping for a little consistency. For the sake of credibility. Personal attack noted though.

    • #24
    • February 29, 2016 at 4:10 am
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  25. Profile photo of BrentB67 Inactive

    Claire, part of the problem is that while we were justified in removing Saddam and did so with a quickness, what came after was haphazard at best.

    Yes, there were some elections that appeared neat, but the reality is that Iraq as configured is ungovernable with anything approaching western values and we’ve failed to acknowledge that reality.

    In doing so we leave the door open to the lefts attacks because 13 years on next month we still cannot identify our foes beyond Saddam and or the objective.

    • #25
    • February 29, 2016 at 4:18 am
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  26. Profile photo of Miffed White Male Member

    Marion Evans:

    Ball Diamond Ball:Marion Evans
    Ok but maybe we should not have backed Saddam in the 80s, right?

    As a proxy against Iran, I didn’t have a problem with it.

    So abet a monster, then deplore the monster? Fine if it’s about realpolitik but then don’t cast the whole effort in moral terms.

    How do you feel about us allying with Stalin in the early 1940s?

    • #26
    • February 29, 2016 at 4:20 am
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  27. Profile photo of Miffed White Male Member

    My only problem with the case made in the OP is that it leaves out the part about the sanctions regime being on the verge of collapse in the early 200o’s, and it being a cause celebre on the part of the left around the world to deplore the US for killing “100,000 children a month” before the 2003 invasion through starvation and inadequate medical care due to the sanctions.

    • #27
    • February 29, 2016 at 4:23 am
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  28. Profile photo of Lazy_Millennial Member

    Placeholder comment for future reference of post

    • #28
    • February 29, 2016 at 4:25 am
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  29. Profile photo of I Walton Member

    Good article, but I thought it was a horrendous mistake. We had to invade Afghanistan. We’d been hit and had to go after them, scatter Al Qaeda and topple the Taliban, then leave and with all that credibility promise to return if necessary. Then move troops toward Iraq snarl at Saddam and strike a grand bargain, remove sanctions, end the no fly in exchange for a flood of inspectors. Once we had an Embassy and agents under every oil barrel, we figure out what to do with the man, how to get rid of him, who to replace him with. If no bargain was possible. Then we invade and occupy. This isn’t hind sight I was teaching a course at the time and used Iraq, the Cuban missile crisis, the invasion of Haiti and Panama to make points about the ineffectiveness of economic sanctions, the impossibility of talking dictators into giving up power and the inherent and corrupting problems of occupation nation building and winning hearts and minds.

    • #29
    • February 29, 2016 at 4:42 am
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  30. Profile photo of Zafar Member

    Miffed White Male:My only problem with the case made in the OP is that it leaves out the part about the sanctions regime being on the verge of collapse in the early 200o’s, and it being a cause celebre on the part of the left around the world to deplore the US for killing “100,000 children a month” before the 2003 invasion through starvation and inadequate medical care due to the sanctions.

    Well not 100,000 a month, but a fair few.

    And the impact of sanctions was not abstract, and it wasn’t focused enough (imho, wrt collateral damage) on the regime.

    Anecdote: I was in high school with a girl who married an Iraqi guy she met in college, and moved to Iraq with him. Post 1993, when things began to get uneasy, she went to the Indian Embassy in Baghdad and asked for advice – they told her that it would be unsafe to stay, but that if she left it would be very hard to return.

    So she stayed with her husband. And unfortunately got cancer, and died [I fear miserably] of something that could have been treated, if it were not for sanctions. Did that make Saddam fall any sooner? I doubt it.

    • #30
    • February 29, 2016 at 4:45 am
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