Following the infamous September 11 attacks of 2001, the United States government under the Presidency of George W. Bush pledged to begin a “War on Terror” campaign, in response to perceived threats to the freedom and democracy of the United States. The purpose of the war was to re-establish and provide security to the American homeland and included several legislative and administrative decisions such as the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the controversial Patriot Act. This war also included military campaigns beginning with with the invasion of Afghanistan in October, 2001, with the intention of capturing or killing suspected terrorists of the Al-Qaeda group who were allegedly harbored by the Taliban government. Two years following the invasion of Afghanistan, on March 20, 2003, a multi-national coalition of troops primarily from the USA and the UK began its invasion of Iraq, a sovereign nation under the rule of Presidential dictator Saddam Hussein, which had been accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction and state sponsored terrorism. The decision to invade Iraq was met with criticism and negativity by a majority of the International community including the administrations of France, Germany, Canada and Spain. This paper examines both sides of the controversy surrounding the decision to invade Iraq, emphasizing on the United States and Canadian perspectives.
The controversy surrounding the decision to invade Iraq stems from several contributing factors, the first of which involving the fact that the Al Qaeda network’s prominent members primarily responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States had still not been apprehended or killed. The war on terror’s primary goal was presumably to bring those behind the September 11 attacks to justice. A diversion of military assets to begin another war with the war in Afghanistan still underway with limited success eliminating the Al Qaeda network leadership was a decision that received much understandable criticism. The Bush administration provided several points of justification for the decision, primarily that Saddam Hussein’s administration was in possession of weapons of mass destruction or the production capabilities to develop such weapons. The Bush administration also cited Saddam Hussein’s alleged links to Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi who was stated to be an associate of Osama Bin Laden – founder of the Al Qaeda Network. Saddam Hussein’s links to other terrorist activities, such as his alleged payments to the families of suicide bombers working with terrorist organizations such as Hamas in the Middle East were also a contributing factor as claimed by the United States government. The Hussein government’s violations of human rights were also among the justifications for the “liberation of the Iraqi people from the ruling government’s tyranny”. In light of evidence that has been uncovered by third party investigative sources as well as governmental agencies, these numerous justifications for the invasion, in my opinion, fail to retain their merit. The evidence of Saddam Hussein’s links to the Al-Qaeda network was discredited by several sources including the CIA. A news story published in The Guardian by Julain Borger stated that the CIA’s ISG (Iraq Survey Group) headed by Charles Duelfer, a former United Nations weapons inspector, stated that there was no direct evidence of chemical weapons nor any indication that the Iraqi administration was harboring or linked to Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. In September, 2002, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press stating, “we do know, with absolute certainty, that he (Saddam) is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon”. Criticisms of the opposition parties of the ruling governments in the United States and the United Kingdom alleged that the Bush administration and that of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair had falsified evidence in order to defend their decision to go to war. According to a CBS news story by correspondent David Martin, the United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld instructed aids to come up with plans to invade Iraq. These allegations were further strengthened by former US Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill following his dismissal by the administration in December, 2002. In an excerpt from a book entitled “The Price of Loyalty” for which O’Neill was an informant, he is quoted to have said, “From the start, we were building the case against Hussein and looking at how we could take him out and change Iraq into a new country, and if we did that, it would solve everything. It was about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it — the president saying, ‘Fine. Go find me a way to do this’”. With regard to the justification revolving around the human rights violations committed under the regime of Saddam Hussein, the United States once supported the regime of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq wars, during which some of the most atrocious human rights violations of this regime were committed. The credibility of this claim is therefore seriously challenged in the light of these previous decisions to lend support to this regime. Furthermore, international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International stated on numerous occasions that the prevailing human rights situation in Iraq would not be resolved through war and was not threatening enough to warrant immediate action.
Another allegation made by critics of the Iraq war surrounds the issue of Oil. The United States Oil Industry consultant Falah Aljibury made allegations that Bush attended clandestine meetings in the Middle East and the United States where the notion of overthrowing the Iraqi state was discussed. On the BBC television show Newsnight, Aljibury stated that he was entrusted with the responsibility of “interviewing potential successors to Saddam Hussein on behalf of the Bush administration.” In an interview with the Washington Post, the former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan stated that the Iraq war was “largely about oil” and that the removal of Saddam Hussein was “essential to secure world oil supplies”.
In my opinion, the war in Iraq was not a justified course of action on the part of the United States of America and the multi-national coalition forces that took part in the invasion under the pretext of a war on terrorism. Multiple credible experts have stated that terrorism has, in fact, increased as a direct consequence of the war and the removal of the Saddam Hussein administration. Apart from the evidence presented above, the United States policies towards dictators and Saddam Hussein himself have not always been seemingly justified. During the rule of President Sukarno in Indonesia, the United States cultivated ties with military generals who were opposed to the President’s open attitude towards the communist party of Indonesia – the PKI. With the backing of the CIA, General Suharto performed a military coup’d’état and ousted President Sukarno from power. The aftermath of these events resulted in the genocide of over half a million people in Indonesia. The Bush administration also maintained diplomatic relations with Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf who, in 1998 staged his own military coup’d’état against the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan was in the possession of nuclear technologies but the United States did not respond to the Musharraf regime despite firm evidence of his possession of weapons of mass destruction.
The administration of then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien decided not to involve Canada in the invasion of Iraq. This decision was primarily influenced by the disapproval of the United Nations with regard to the United States’ decision to invade Iraq. This decision was met with some degree of criticism from the leader of the Alliance party – Stephen Harper, who later went on to become Prime Minister in the following election. I agree with the decision of the Chretien government as I believe that a full scale invasion Iraq without the consent of the United Nations is not justified, neither were the alleged contributing factors as promoted by the United States. In the absence of a complete and thorough investigation of the allegations made by the “coalition of the willing”, it is my belief that the invasion of any sovereign nation on general principle is not justified under any circumstances. Canada’s decision not to intervene in the Iraq situation was, therefore justified in this regard.
In conclusion, the Iraq war, which has been at the center stage of political and ideological debates all across the world, has been met with much controversy and criticism by the world community as a whole. The failure of the United States to act in accordance with the plans laid out by the United Nations is a hypocritical cause of action by a nation that has, on several historical occasions, championed the cause of the United Nations when it was better suited to its own view of foreign policy.
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