Term Paper: Iraq War President George W. Bush

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Iraq War

President George W. Bush describes himself as a "wartime president," and at least to some extent this is true. The attack by al-Qaeda on the United States on September 11, 2001, was clearly an act of war. It represented a new and unconventional war, where a country was at war with a terrorist organization rather than another country. Certainly, any president of this country would have taken it seriously; as Kassop says, "All presidents view their responsibility to protect their citizens and their nation from hostile attack as the most solemn duty of the office. Nothing matters more than this profound obligation. " (Kassop, Nancy)

The first response to this attack, in Afghanistan, was understandable even by Muslim countries such as Pakistan. Virtually all governments knew that al-Qaeda was based in Afghanistan. It was Bush's next major act, the war with Iraq that began on March 19, 2003, that raised more concerns. The great majority of critical comment from both scholars and other countries suggest that the United States attacked Iraq precipitously and without exploring all other options first. In addition, there is now credible evidence that the reasons given by Bush and his administration to justify this action do not stand up to close scrutiny.

JUSTIFICATION

The after the war with Iraq began, Ari Fleischer, the White House Press Secretary, told reporters that since Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), they could provide them to terrorists, who could then use them on another attack on the United States (Kassop, Nancy).

There was solid justification for that hypothetical scenario. Iraq had viewed WMD as strategically important for themselves for over three decades. They put up with 11 years of stringent economic sanctions rather than stop their WMD program. They invested significant amounts of money into WMD before the Gulf War. They kept the program secret, covert, and invisible to satellites including the construction of underground facilities. (Cordesman, pp. 175-176). Iraq was careful to buy equipment that could have more than one purpose when it had to trade on the world market (Cordesman, pp. 176).

While the United Nations had an intensive program of inspection of Iraq's war manufacturing, Iraq employed multiple strategies to thwart UN inspections (Cordesman, p. 175). The need for these inspections was clear, because Iraq had used WMD not only on civilian targets during the Iran-Iraq and Gulf wars but on minority groups within its own borders (Cordesman, p. 176). The Bush administration believed, largely because of Iraq's intense efforts to thwart the U.N.'s authority to inspect, that Iraq might have hidden some WMD outside its borders (Kassop, Nancy).

CRITICS

Post-war analysis of the timeline of events leading to war with Iraq show that Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Chaney began formulating a plan to attack Iraq as early as November of 2001. In the President's State of the Union Address in January of 2002, Bush reported that an "axis of evil" existed. The word "axis" implied that they were working together as the Axis Powers did during World War II. Bush declared that the United States should not wait without acting while "dangers gather" (Kassop, Nancy). During the next few months, the President secretly instructed the CIA to use lethal force in order to remove Saddam Hussein from power. By the summer of 2002, Bush had begun preparations to ask Congress to approve the use of force against Iraq (Pfiffner, PAGE). He also made plans to present this to the United Nations' Security Council as a strike against a terrorist group like that conducted in Afghanistan rather than one country waging war on another (Kassop, Nancy).

The President, at least initially, knew that the American people would find this argument credible. In a survey taken on September 13, 2001, nearly 80% of Americans believed that there was some link between Osama bin Laden and Iraq, even though terrorists experts knew that Osama bin Laden held Hussein in contempt because Iraq was a secular state (Pfiffner, PAGE).

The President's administration continued to build on the initial belief by Americans that Iraq and Osama bin Laden may have worked in concert to attack the United States in 2001. On October 7, bush stated that the U.S. government had learned that al-Qaeda members had been trained in bomb making, poisons and deadly gasses by Iraq (Pfiffner, PAGE). If true, that would make Iraq as much of a threat as Afghanistan had been. Vice-President Cheney bolstered this view when he was a guest on the TV show "Meet the Press near the end of 2001. He stated that before the attacks in 2001, Mohammed Atta, one of the 19 September 11 hijackers, had met with an official of the Iraqi government in Prague, thus making a strong tie between the 9/11 attacks and Iraq. In another interview, Rumsfeld described the tie between Iraq and al-Qaeda as "bulletproof" (Pfiffner, PAGE).

However, neither Bush nor any other member of his administration ever acknowledged the doubts the U.S. intelligence community had regarding the Prague report. Both the FBI and the CIA looked into the report and concluded that the claim was "not convincing." (Pfiffner, PAGE) Since this supposed Prague meeting was a cornerstone in the argument that Iraq participated in the September 11 attacks, some experts have concluded that Bush deliberately misled the citizens of the United States regarding justification for going to war with Iraq (Pfiffner, PAGE).

SKEPTICISM in OTHER COUNTRIES

The United States is not the only entity with the ability to evaluate the credibility of intelligence reports. The United Nations Terrorism Committee looked at the claims of Iraq involvement in the September 11 and concluded that it did not exist. Their chief investigator, Michael Chandler, came to the same conclusion the FBI and CIA had, and said, "Nothing has come to our notice that would indicate links between Iraq and al-Qaeda (Pfiffner, PAGE). Such reports made it hard for Bush to build the kind of multi-national coalition he had been able to put together for attacks on Afghanistan.

Certain influences in Europe worked against Bush as he tried to build a widely based army to fight Iraq. Germany, for instance, suffered devastating losses during World War II, and has since become an advocate for democracy, peaceful solutions to inter-country disputes, and human rights (Fuss, PAGE). In Germany's recent history the country's population experienced some of the worst things war can bring, including starvation, seeing centuries-old historical buildings destroyed by bombs and fire, the loss of high numbers of civilians, and devastating post-war living conditions. Germany has good reason to avoid going to war, and they did not feel the justification was present for going to war with Iraq (Fuss, PAGE).

Many citizens of other countries felt the same way. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, supported the United States in its war on Iraq, and as a result faced significant political challenges. More than one million British citizens demonstrated in London, objecting to the prospect of fighting in Iraq, and France joined Germany in vocal protest against the war (Wither, PAGE).

In fact, although Great Britain has been the United States' most important ally in the Iraq war, Great Britain itself has had mixed feelings about their participation. Some viewed Blair's determination as sticking to principle and supporting a country (the United States) that had acted boldly to help protect Great Britain in the past. Others, however, felt that Blair and other leaders who supported Great Britain's participation in the war had a naive belief in America's good intentions (Wither, PAGE). The leader of the Conservative Party in Great Britain, Ian Duncan Smith, believed that fighting Iraq served his country's national interests, and so supported Great Britain's participation. He argued that Great Britain was as much a potential target for al-Qaeda as the United States, going so far as to state that anyone in Great Britain who didn't see that was living in "cloud cuckoo-land." (Wither, PAGE)

For Bush's part, he hoped that strong support from the United Kingdom would encourage other major European nations, such as Germany and France, to join the United Nations in its support, both morally and with soldiers and war materiel. However, it didn't happen,

It should be pointed out that not all criticism of the United States was grounded as deeply in fact as it was in rhetoric. One writer from New Zealand announced in 2004 that America was losing the war in Iraq, and losing because we did recognize that "fundamental changes have taken place in the nature of warfare" (Jackson, PAGE). Since then that critic has been proved at least partially wrong, as Iraq has held its first truly democratic elections.

CONCLUSION

The most serious criticism of our decision to go to war with Iraq may not be the war itself but the timeline we followed to get there. Israel argues that we conducted the Iraq war "at a remarkably low price, human and economic, both for the U.S. And its allies, and for the Iraqi people" and that "America… [END OF PREVIEW]

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