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Reconsidering Iraq: What If We Had Been Greeted as Liberators?

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"A man always has two reasons for doing what he does:

the one that sounds good, and the real one." J. Pierpont Morgan

Karl Rove, in his new book Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight, maintains that George W. Bush did not "lie us into war" in Iraq in 2003. According to Rove, Bush truly believed Saddam Hussein harbored a secret cache of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, with nuclear weapons coming soon. That was the real reason we went to war in Iraq.

Sound-good Reasons for War

Maybe Rove is right: maybe in the upside-down world of George W. Bush, the fact that no weapons of mass destruction could be found proved their existence. They could have been destroyed, or moved, or secreted away in another country but they existed.

Maybe Bush sincerely believed that. But his actions when the weapons of mass destruction theory was debunked suggest otherwise. At that point, the U.S. did not acknowledge a horrible mistake, withdraw, apologize, and offer to rebuild Iraq and make reparations to its people. Instead, Bush advanced a new reason for going to war: Saddam Hussein was harboring and sponsoring terrorists.

Iraq thus became a front in the War on Terror. Soon enough, though, we learned that Iraq was not connected to 9/11. Saddam Hussein disliked and distrusted al Qaeda and if anyone knew the minds of terrorists, it was Saddam Hussein. There was no way they were going to set up shop in his country.

So a third reason for war emerged: Iraq was a war of liberation. We were going to free the Iraqi people from Saddam's iron grip and establish a democracy in Iraq. The fact that they did not ask to be freed was immaterial; they were going to be freed whether they liked it or not. "The world will be a better place without Saddam Hussein."

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The fact that the Bush Administration gave at least three different reasons at different times for invading Iraq suggests that none of them was the real reason for the war. They were just reasons that sounded good. Rove's claim that Bush did not "lie us into war" only tries to restore a reason that was discredited and dismissed years before. We do not know even now the real reason for the Iraq War.

And the Real Reason Was ...?

Three years after the invasion, the true rationale for war was still unclear. We knew what it was not, but we did not know what it was. So, at a March 21, 2006 press conference at the White House, Hearst reporter Helen Thomas put the question to Bush point-blank:

"Every reason you've given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true," Ms. Thomas began. "My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet officers, the intelligence people, and so forth what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil, a quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel or anything else " what was it?"

Bush bristled that anyone might suggest Iraq was a war of choice. In a muddled and rambling reply, Bush said he did not want to go to war but his attitude toward national defense and foreign policy changed after 9/11. He talked about our not being protected by the oceans as we once thought we were. He mentioned Iraq and Afghanistan and al Qaeda and the Taliban but got them bollixed up and moved away from that point. Besides, he said, it was Saddam Hussein who decided to flout UN Resolution 1441 and not disclose the location of his weapons. And Helen's "performance at the Gridiron was just brilliant."

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That was Bush's response to the question, "Why did you really want to go to war?" Significantly, Bush referred to weapons of mass destruction only obliquely and as an afterthought although, according to Rove, they were the real reason for war. Somebody's not telling the whole truth.

Today, seven years after the invasion, U.S. forces remain in Iraq. And there remains the unanswered question, "Why did Bush really want to go to war in Iraq?" We still don't know. After all this time, we may never know the real reason for the Iraq War.

One More Theory

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Rick Wise is an industrial psychologist and retired management consultant. For 15 years, he was managing director of ValueNet International, Inc. Before starting ValueNet, Rick was director, corporate training and, later, director, corporate (more...)

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