Thursday, October 23, 2008

Iraq—Searching for the Real Story, Volume 2 – Prelude to Invasion

For better or worse, the next President will inherit the mess of the ongoing occupation of Iraq. In the 3rd volume, I will look ahead to what the new President should do. But for this posting, I look back briefly at how we got into the mess.

When historians look back at the 2003 invasion of Iraq, they may better document why US policy took a complete reversal over the course of 20 years. For this look-back, I’ve chosen to focus on the one man who was in the lead for implementing the 1983 courting of Saddam Hussein (with gifts of weapons and advice) and then 20 years later lead the charge to demonize him and topple his regime.

Act 1: Rumsfeld in Iraq (1983-1984)
One of the strangest back-stories preceding the Bush Administration’s decision to invade Iraq is the apparent 180 turnaround by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Near the end of the first term of President Ronald Reagan, Rumsfeld served as Special Envoy to the Middle East. In this roll, Rumsfeld provided military hardware and advice to Iraq during its war with Iran. Essentially, he was sent to befriend the regime of Saddam Hussein, at the very time Iraq was using its chemical weapons against the Kurds.

Now, in the context of that point in time, Islamic clerics had been in control of Iran since 1980, when the US Embassy in Tehran was occupied. US policy aimed to hold back the expansion of Iran’s brand of revolutionary Islamic influence in the Middle East. Therefore, befriending the secular, though totalitarian, regime in Iraq was considered an effective countermeasure.

Act 2: Rumsfeld as Architect of the Iraq Invasion (2001-2003)
Rumsfeld’s interest in invading Iraq dates to the afternoon of September 11, 2001, when he put forth the idea of “hitting” both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. He made many public statements emphasizing Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. Clearly, he knew of the chemical weapons that Iraq used in the 1980s. But why did the Special Embassy, who prided himself on normalizing US relations with Iraq in 1984, now advocate the overflow of the regime he courted?

The Bush regime pounded the war drum on Iraq, emphasizing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the regime’s crimes against its own peoples, a possible link to Al Qaeda, and generally portraying Saddam as the boggy man.

Postlude: What Went Wrong?
The pendulum of Rumsfeld’s advocacy wrought damage both in the US and Iraq at each apex of its swing:


  • US support uplifts Saddam Hussein at the very time he was gassing the Kurds.
  • This only tightened the repressive regime’s control over Iraqis.
  • Is this one of the beginnings of a pattern of US administrations ignoring international human rights standards?
  • The pattern of US support for repressive Middle Eastern regimes is cited by militants and terrorists as part of their hatred of the US.

The Iraqis were damaged by the tightening grip of Hussein, while the US was damaged by being known as a supporter of repressive regimes.


  • No WMD found.
  • No connection between Hussein and Al Qaeda.
  • Invasion forces were inadequate in number for the subsequent occupation.
  • After Pandora’s Box was opened, civil order disintegrated in the absence of the iron fist rule of Hussein.
  • The planners of the occupation had little understanding of the cultures and complex relationships among the majority Shiites, the minority Sunni, and the Kurds in the north.
The Iraqis were damaged by the years of chaos and unrest wrought by the invasion. The US reputation was damaged by the unsanctioned near-unilateral invasion of a sovereign nation, followed by the twin albatrosses of the occupation and mounting death of servicemen and women.

What Next?
We can't go back in time to undo the invasion. The next President must take over where the Bush administration leaves things. What to do?

To be continued.........................

1 comment:

  1. Its necessary for America to keep patience and help people in the world to overcome their own problems instead of invading the countries. America has not solved any problem by invading.
    Good Article
    Personality development