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What Every American Should Know About Iraq

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Some people think that anyone who disagrees with the American invasion and occupation of Iraq is either a bleeding-heart liberal appeaser, a George W. Bush hater, a blame America firster, an underminer of the troops, a traitor, or a geopolitical naif.

To those who see opponents of the war as fitting into one, several, or all of these categories, I say read this page. I will make no arguments herein, nor even commentary. I will twist no data nor spin any tales. I will even include some of the comments and arguments made by the administration and its supporters.

Instead of arguing against the war, I will try to offer a fairly complete account of the relevant facts one might wish to consider when evaluating America’s policy in Iraq. Especially for those who continually claim that they, more than others, have the best interests of the troops at heart – but actually for all citizens in a democracy – it is incumbent upon us to educate ourselves about this most important of national policies.

Those troops are being maimed and are dying on our behalf every day. The very least we can do is spend a brief amount of our time learning about this question so that we can decide whether their continued sacrifices are justified.

So, in that spirit – and as the Founders themselves said – "let Facts be submitted to a candid world".

* Mesopotamia has long been a playground for great powers. The British invaded the area in 1917, causing a widespread revolt of the Iraqi people. Britain later ruled under a League of Nations mandate that produced the artificial creation of the country Iraq (and Kuwait), and continued to control oil production in the region. Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour said at the time, "I do not care under what system we keep this oil, but I am quite clear it is all-important for us that this oil should be available".

* Saddam Hussein started his career as a political thug, on the payroll of the CIA during the 1950s and 1960s, torturing and murdering Iraqi leftists whose names were provided by American intelligence, and participating in an armed coup against the Iraqi government.

* In 1972, the United States conspired with Iran and Israel to support a revolt of the Kurdish people within Iraq against their government.

* In 1980, the United States provided encouragement, weapons, intelligence, satellite data and funding for Saddam’s Iraq to invade Iran, launching an eight year war – the longest and probably the bloodiest of the post-WWII era.

* During this war, Ronald Reagan dispatched Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq to improve relations with Saddam. The United States then restored full diplomatic relations with Iraq, despite the administration’s clear awareness that Saddam was using chemical weapons at the time.

* The Reagan administration also knew that Saddam had used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds rising up again against Baghdad (this was the incident George W. Bush would later repeatedly invoke, saying of Saddam, "He gassed his own people"), but nevertheless authorized expanded sales to Iraq of highly sophisticated equipment that could be used to manufacture weapons, only two months after the Halabja incident.

* George H. W. Bush equated Saddam to Hitler. But, in the wake of the 1990-91 Gulf War, after the elder Bush had encouraged Kurds and Shiites to rise up against the regime, he abandoned them, leaving them to be slaughtered by Saddam’s military, in many cases right before the eyes of US forces who were ordered not to intervene.

* The senior Bush had a chance after that war to occupy Iraq and topple Saddam. He chose not to because, in his own words and those of his National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, "Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq ... would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. ... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. ...furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different – and perhaps barren – outcome."

* The younger Bush, George W., never asked his father for advice on Iraq. Instead, he said: "You know he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to." Bush has also stated, "I'm driven with a mission from God. ...God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq...’ And I did."

* George W. Bush gave twenty interviews in 1999 to Mickey Herskowitz, a friend of the Bush family contracted at the time to ghostwrite his autobiography. Bush was thinking about invading Iraq at that time, saying "'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency." Herskowitz said that Bush’s beliefs on Iraq were shaped by Dick Cheney’s ideas, based on the power and glory Margaret Thatcher earned from her Falklands War: "Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade." Herskowitz also reports this interesting note from his interviews with Bush: "He told me that as a leader, you can never admit to a mistake. That was one of the keys to being a leader."

* During the presidential campaign of 2000, candidate Bush said very little about Iraq, and certainly never suggested the need for urgent action. Somehow, though, in just two years time – during which, if anything, Iraq actually got weaker, not stronger – Saddam and his country became a perilous and imminent threat that had to be addressed immediately.

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)
 

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