Nine years ago today, the United States invaded Iraq at the head of a coalition including Great Britain, Australia, Poland, and other nations with the goal of toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein and, perhaps, healing the poisoned tree of Arab Middle East politics by helping foster the growth of a stable democracy in the heart of the Islamic world.
Two goals born of the danger inherent in the status quo that was revealed to us one horrible morning in September, 2001.
One was brilliantly achieved: after the usual predictions from the Left and the MSM (but I repeat myself) of stalemate and a bloodbath, Coalition forces rolled over Saddam armies in a matter of weeks and liberated (1) the people of that country from one of the worst, most brutal tyrannies of the late 20th century. (For just one example) One of the enduring images in my mind from the Battle of Baghdad is this one, from Firdos Square just before Saddam’s statue was torn down:
(That’s Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch, USMC (ret), btw, who later lost an eye at the First Battle of Fallujah. He’s running for Congress against Democrat incumbent Susan Davis in California’s 53rd district. His campaign site is here. Go, now, and donate.)
The question ever since (and from the fringe Left, even before) has been “Was this the right thing to do?”
I argued then that it was and, to this day, I do.
It’s my belief that the commitment of American military force to any major combat operation (absent a direct attack on the United States) requires a convergence of the strategic and moral imperatives that have shaped American foreign policy for centuries. In Iraq, those interests came together — see, for example, Pollack’s “The Threatening Storm” (pre-war) and Feith’s “War and Decision” (post-war). See also this excellent article in Australia’s National Observer, which asked last year “Will Bush Be Vindicated?” The whole article is worth your time, but let me quote the portion about the international consensus among intelligence agencies about Iraq at that time:
Pre-war intelligence consensus
The pre-war intelligence consensus concerning Iraqi WMD extended beyond both sides of the political divide in Congress. It reached the external intelligence agencies of the world’s six major or regional powers. All of these agencies had come to similar, and mostly independent, conclusions about the presence of WMDs and Saddam’s propensity to use them.
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) — United States.
- Security Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6) — United Kingdom.
- Mossad — Israel.
- Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) — Germany.
- Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) — France.
- Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (SVR) — Russia.
This is the German BND’s intelligence summary:
“Iraq has resumed its nuclear program and may be capable of producing an atomic bomb in three years;
Iraq is developing its Al Samoud and Ababil 100/Al Fatah short-range rockets, which can deliver a 300kg payload 150km. Medium-range rockets capable of carrying a warhead 3,000km could be built by 2005 — far enough to reach Europe;
Iraq is capable of manufacturing solid rocket fuel;
A Delhi-based company has acted as a buyer on Iraq’s behalf. Deliveries have been made via Malaysia and Dubai. Indian companies have copied German machine tools down to the smallest detail and such equipment has been installed in numerous chemicals projects.
Since the departure of the UN inspectors, the number of Iraqi sites involved in chemicals production has increased from 20 to 80. Of that total, a quarter could be involved in weapons production.”
Regarding Britain: after it became apparent that there were no discoverable WMDs in Iraq, the British House of Commons Intelligence Services Committee (ISC) conducted a thorough investigation into the failures of British intelligence to predict accurately the true state of Iraq’s situation. It is significant that this committee and the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee concluded, along with Lord Hutton’s independent inquiry, that no undue or inappropriate pressure was brought to bear upon the Joint Intelligence Chiefs (JIC) to shape their assessments according to a particular, pre-existing policy construct. Such a finding was contrary to persistent media reports, and to the repeated claims of opponents of Tony Blair’s position.
This is a key quote from the September 2003 House of Commons ISC report on its investigation into the JIC’s Iraq Assessment:
“It was clear to all that Saddam Hussein was defying the international community, ignoring UNSCRs, breaking embargoes and engaging in an extensive programme of concealment. Based on the intelligence and the JIC assessments that we have seen, we accept that there was convincing intelligence that Iraq had active chemical, biological and nuclear programmes and the capability to produce chemical and biological weapons. Iraq was also continuing to develop ballistic missiles. All these activities were prohibited under UNSCRs.”
I put it to you that no President of the United States (2) could look at the intelligence he was receiving, which was supported by other services, and not be lead to the conclusion that liberating Iraq was very much in our interests — especially so soon after the catastrophe of September 11th.
(Fair and balanced: an alternate view from the UK’s Guardian paper.)
Regardless of what happened since and the uncertainties of the future — the poorly run occupation, the incorrect early counterinsurgency strategy, the Left’s revision of history and the Democrats’ subordination of the national interests to their party’s political goals, Obama’s decision to put all our gains at risk by pulling out too soon, the very real risk of Iraqi backsliding in our absence, and the possible failure of our second goal, fostering constitutional government in the Arab Middle East — in spite of all that, I believe George W. Bush made the right choice when he gave the order to liberate Iraq.
I still do.
(1) Yes, “liberated.” Setting oppressed people free. That’s exactly what we did. It’s been a specialty of the United States military since, oh, 1775. We’re really quite good at it.
(2) Okay, okay. No adult, mature, non-callow president.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)