The US invasion of Iraq has been the most significant military confrontation in the last decade. While military forces from various countries in the world were engaged in the war against Iraq, the US played the major role by calling for the war and leading the troops into battle. For this reason, most people regard the invasion of Iraq as an action by the US government. The Bush administration made the case against Iraq in front of the UN Security Council and made the greatest contribution of troops for the attack. This war led to the fall of the Saddam regime and subsequently plunged the country into chaos and violence for many years. As the occupation of Iraq reaches its 10th year, questions are being raised concerning the validity of this war. This paper will set out to discuss the US led invasion of Iraq with focus on the reasons for the invasion, the situation during the war, and the conditions after this war. The paper will demonstrate that the war was illegitimate and it has led to the destabilization of the once stable and prosperous Middle East nation, Iraq.
Causes of Invasion
The primary reason given for the invasion of Iraq was concern that the Saddam regime possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and that it intended to use them on US targets. In October 2002, the US intelligence community issued warnings that Saddam was actively pursuing its WMD program and this advice served as the foundation of the case for war against Iraq. The Bush administration articulated its war aims as “to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and associated programs” (Fisher & Biggar, 2011, p. 688). It should be noted that the US was not very certain about the presence of WMDs in Iraq. While Saddam retained a strategic ambition to reacquire WMDs, it was commonly known that Iraq was free of militarily significant WMD stocks by the mid 1990s (Fisher & Biggar, 2011).
UN weapons inspectors and relevant experts advised that the Saddam regime did not have any WMD. The Bush administration ignored this advice and instead chose to rely on unreliable intelligence that supported the claim that Iraq had WMDs that it intended to use against the US. Key evidence to support these allegations was given by the Iraqi defector Rafid Ahmed al-Janabi, codenamed Curveball. Even before the invasion, his German handlers questioned the veracity of Curveball’s testimony. US intelligence officials were cautioned that Curveball was not a credible witness and his testimony could not be taken as factual information.
The invasion of Iraq was also part of the Bush led “war on terror” that had been started after the devastating 9/11 attacks. After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration undertook an aggressive campaign against terrorists and countries that harbored them. Afghanistan, which had served as a safe haven for terrorists, was the first country to be attacked as a result of the “war on terror” campaign. The Bush administration suspected Saddam of having formal ties to Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda terror network. Webster (2001) states that the US suggested that Saddam had been involved in the planning and implementation of the 9/11 attacks. The association between Iraq and terrorist organizations was evident from the inclusion of Iran in the nations making up the “axis of evil” by president Bush in his 2002 State of the Union address (Copson, 2003). President Bush accused Iraq of aiding and protecting Al Qaeda in order to undermine US interests. The invasion of Iraq was therefore supposed to neutralize a regime that was supportive of terrorism and terror organizations.
A key goal of the US led invasion was to overthrow the Saddam regime and replace it with a leadership that was friendlier to the US. Saddam had succeeded in alienating the international community and making Iraq a pariah state. Stokes (2009) observes that Saddam had established himself as a rogue leader who posed a direct challenge to US political interest in the region. The Saddam regime was openly anti-US and this meant that the US could not fully achieve its political interests under such a regime. Saddam was already keen on establishing Iraq as the political and military power in the region. Under such conditions, the US would have little influence in the region since Iraq would monopolize control over the Middle East.
A major goal of the invasion was therefore to forcefully depose Saddam and create a situation where the US could play a role in the region. The oil concerns were articulated by Vice President Cheney who asserted that Saddam was developing WMD to ensure his dominance in the Middle East and threaten US oil supplies (Copson, 2003). Through the war, Washington hoped to bring about American primacy in the oil-rich country by installing a pro-US government. Such a government would reinforce American hegemony in the Middle East by having Washington as the key external guarantor of stability in the oil-rich state (Stokes, 2009).
The need to liberalize the largely nationalized oil-based economy served as another reason for the war. Saddam had engaged in numerous nationalization efforts in the country’s oil industry. Nationalization under the Saddam regime meant that Iraq’s huge energy reserves could not be exploited by the international community since the oil sector was mostly closed to the penetration of global capital. Under this closed economy, Iraq was a welfare state where the oil income was used to provide basic social amenities for the general population. The US hoped to bring about an economic transformation of Iraq through war. By overthrowing Saddam’s regime, it would be possible to incorporate Iraq’s energy reserves into the global economy under US guidance. By liberalizing the oil industry in Iraq, the US would have greater access to the oil riches of the country. Control of Iraqi oil flows onto international markets would give the US significant political and economic power in the region.
Another reason behind the invasion of Iraq was the need to install a US military infrastructure in the Middle East region. The Middle East region has always been of great strategic importance for the US. Various American administrations have therefore tried to ensure that there is a presence of US troops in the oil-rich Middle East region. As of 2003, the major troop base for the US was Saudi Arabia. However, this troop base was incurring a significant amount of opposition from the Muslim world. Stokes (2009) argues that the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia angered the Arab community due to the proximity of the troops to the Islamic holy shrines and it was therefore desirable to establish an alternative military basing. Invading Iraq presented an opportunity for a permanent American troop presence in the region. Since Iraq is further away from the Muslim Holy sites, the opposition to having US bases in the country would not be great.
Situation during the War
On March 19, 2003, the US invasion of Iraq officially began under the command of President George W. Bush. The main US force of 100,000 troops advanced into Iraq from Kuwait with support being offered by the coalition air force. A major concern for the US forces was the protection of Iraqis oil infrastructure. Measures were taken to limit damage to this infrastructure and the initial assaults by the coalition troops were focused on securing oil fields. The US Army enlisted the support of the Kurdish people who had already shown opposition to Saddam Hussein before the war. With the support of Kurdish forces, the US was able to contain Saddam’s forces in Kirkuk and take over the region.
Due to the military superiority of the US, the invasion did not last for long and on 9 April 2003, Baghdad had fallen into the hands of the Americans. Part of the reason behind the quick success of the US led invasion was the air superiority of the US. Reports indicate that in the initial stages of the war, the US excessively relied on its air force to suppress the Iraqi forces. The use of air power was not contained to military targets but also areas with many civilians. Campbell and Kelly (2009) state that the pervasive use of air power in areas with significant civilian populations led to the death of many women and children by US forces. The Iraqi army had poor moral also demonstrated little motivation to face the attacking forces. Most of the soldiers abandoned their posts and joined the civilians to avoid confrontation with the invading forces.
The war led to the collapse of the functional central government of Saddam Hussein. US forces pursued government officials who were loyal to Saddam and effectively destroyed the organized military apparatus of the country. The US administration was of the opinion that the Iraqi population would support the attack against the Saddam regime. The population was therefore expected to support the invasion one Saddam’s government had been significantly weakened by the US-led forces. However, this was not to be the case and the population engaged in violence when the Saddam regime was weakened. Copson (2003) records that the collapse of Baghdad was quickly followed by sectarian violence as different tribes launched attacks against each other in an attempt to establish dominance in the post-Saddam Iraq.
Widespread looting in the major Iraqi cities followed the outbreak of the war and the US forces were not able to prevent it since they were busy combating the armed opposition from the Iraqi military. One of the most heavily looted sites was the National Museum of Iraq, which houses thousands of items of great value. Campbell and Kelly (2009) state that this looting of the country’s heritage was a blow to the historical significance of Baghdad. The looting also extended to weapon depositories in the country. Copson (2003) notes that explosives and light weapons were looted and these weapons were later used by insurgents to attack US forces.
President Bush announced the end of major combat operations on 1 May 2003, and this marked the beginning of the post-war period in Iraq. As of that time, the US had not yet succeeded in bringing order to the country but the Saddam regime had been destroyed and steps towards establishing a new regime could begin. Meyers (2006) emphasizes that it was wrong to attack Iraq, a sovereign nation, when the country had not committed any aggressive act of war or even threatened to do so. The Bush administration cannot justify the attack on Iraq as an act of self-defense since Iraq did not pose an immediate threat or even a possible future threat to the US.
The Post-War Phase
Policy makers and political analysts agree that while the defeat of Iraqi forces during the invasion was easy, the task of reforming and rebuilding Iraq after the invasion has been very hard to achieve. Before the invasion, the Bush Administration had made plans for the reconstruction of Iraq. As early as 2004, the US Congress had provided $18 billion to help in the reconstruction efforts (Stokes, 2009). However, the reconstruction efforts did not proceed as planned. The security situation in post-war Iraq made it impossible for the US to engage in reconstruction efforts. A portion of the money intended for reconstruction was diverted to improve the security situation in the country (Eland, 2005).
One of the first actions of the US administration following the fall of Saddam was to establish a temporary governing body in the country. To achieve this, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), headed by a US official, was established and it became a key institution of Iraqi governance in the post-war period. The CPA governed Iraq for a year following the end of Saddam’s rule in April 2003. This provisional administration exerted considerable influence in Iraqi affairs leading to opposition from Iraqis and the international community. The CPA attempted to influence the new Iraqi national constitution by handpicking the Iraqis who would draft the document. This move was rejected by the Iraqi people led by the Shi’a majority. While the CPA originally opposed this move, mass action by the citizens led to the formulation of a timetable for elections that were held on 30 January 2005 to elect an assembly that would draft the constitution.
The majority of the people in Iraq did not view the US invasion of their land as “liberation”, but rather as an unwelcome foreign occupation. This view is supported by the fact that the US has established military settlements in Iraq and a number of massive and permanent American military bases are already under construction throughout Iraq. As such, even when American troops eventually pull out of Iraq, the US will have a permanent presence in the region with some US troops being present on the ground (Meyers, 2006). The US has also failed to support the establishment of democracy in the country. While the Bush administration pretended to be committed to democracy in Iraq, the reality on the ground was different. Immediately after the collapse of the Saddam regime, the US military commanders stopped the local elections that were aimed at producing local officials for the provincial cities and towns across Iraq. Instead, the US installed its own choice of mayors and administrators to run the cities and towns.
The post-war period has been marked by attacks against US forces in the country. Eland (2005) documents that the majority of US deaths in Iraq have occurred after the cessation of the major combat operations that toppled the Saddam Regime. This escalation of violence can be blamed on the perception of the US as an invading force. The US invasion is perceived by many Iraqis to be neocolonial in nature. Iraqis have therefore undertaken intensive guerrilla attacks as they seek to get the foreign invader out. At the onset, the Bush administration blamed the violence against US forces in Iraq on former Saddam loyalists and foreign jihadists.
However, research indicates that Iraqi citizens who perceive that they are defending their homeland against a foreign invader are carrying out most of the attacks. The disbanding of the Iraqi army also contributed to the rise in insurgency. Following the fall of Saddam, the US disbanded the Iraqi army and removed members of the Ba’ath party from civil service positions. While this action was aimed at freeing the new Iraqi regime of all elements from the old one, it led to disastrous results. Fisher and Biggar (2011) document that disbanding the army turned thousands of young men, many of them possessing weapons, out onto the streets without a means of livelihood. This contributed to the rise of the insurgency as the former army personnel joined rebel groups and attacked US assets in the country.
The US forces have resorted to using excessive force to counterinsurgency operations in the post-war years. Fisher and Biggar (2011) document that during the assault on major cities such as Fallujah, US forces ill treated civilians and the casualty rate among non-combatants was high. US occupation of Iraq has been marked with abuse and torture of Iraqi citizens. Eland (2005) reveals that president Bush and other top government officials signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation in Iraq. Such actions have enraged many Iraqis who are already opposed to the occupation of their country by foreign forces.
The situation for women and children in the after war era has been dire. Under the Saddam regime, women secured advanced rights and their equality was even enshrined in the constitution. In spite of all the atrocities attributed to the Saddam reign, Iraqi women in these periods benefited from one of the most permissive societies in the Middle East. The collapse of the Saddam regime led to a deterioration of the position of women in Iraq. A report by Campbell and Kelly (2009) indicates that the continued presence of US forces in Iraq has led to a collapse of security and economy leading to violence against women and the degradation of women’s rights. Western intelligence forces have taken to the practice of arresting women and forcing them to collaborate with the occupation forces and act as informants against the resistance. US forces in Iraq have been accused of engaging in sexual assaults and torture against Iraqi women (Campbell & Kelly, 2009).
Iraq’s oil resources have begun to be exploited by the US and other Western powers in the post war years. Following the military victory of the US over Saddam’s forces, plans were underway to restart the oil production process in the country. Since outright privatization of Iraq’s oil would receive too much negative reaction by the Iraqis and the international citizens, the US made use of production sharing agreements. Stokes (2009) reveals that these contracts allow the foreign oil giants to explore and extract oil reserves from Iraq in an unrestricted manner. These contracts effectively privatize Iraq’s oil and ensure that the Iraqi government does not have control over the amount of oil being extracted and marketed by oil corporations. The attention given to Iraq’s oil production clearly demonstrates that control of Iraqi oil flows was a key objective of the invasion of Iraq.
The US led invasion of Iraq took place amidst support and opposition from the international community. However, the US felt justified in engaging in the war and the Bush administration was confident that it would achieve a quick victory. The US invasion of Iraq was in violation of the traditional just war principles, which stipulate that the only proper use of military force is as a response to some wrong received or about to be received by the nation responding. This wrong is generally assumed to include some elements of military aggression against the country or one of its allies (Meyers, 2006). While Iraq was hostile to the US, it did not pose an immediate or future military threat to the US.
The initial military victory was achieved in less than one month as US forces succeeded in toppling Saddam’s regime. However, the Bush administration massively underestimated the harm that the invasion would cause on the country. The post-war period has been marked by the collapse of critical infrastructure such as electricity and water supplies for most of the country. The harsh socio-economic realities in post-Saddam Iraq have led to division along tribal and ethnic lines by many Iraqis. Iraq is today characterized by many incidents of sectarian violence as different factions try to gain greater power and access to resources in the country
This paper set out to give a detailed discussion on the invasion of Iraq by the US in order to demonstrate that the attack was done out of US self-interest and it has led to a deterioration in the quality of life for Iraqis. The paper began by noting that the primary reason given for the invasion of Iraq by the US was to rid the country of its WMD and therefore guarantee peace and security in the Middle East. However, this was not the reason but an excuse for the US to overthrow the Saddam regime and replace it with a regime that was unfavorable to US interests in the region. The paper has demonstrated that the invasion of Iraq was motivated by the desire by the US to ensure hegemony in the oil-rich country.
While the initial military action was successful in destroying the Saddam regime, the occupation phase of the Iraq campaign has been the most difficult part of the Invasion of Iraq. As long as Iraqis think of US forces as occupiers, they are unlikely to welcome their presence in the country. The invasion of Iraq has led to disastrous consequences with Iraqis continuing to experience violence from insurgents and US forces. It can therefore be stated that the US was wrong in engaging in this war, which has led to the death of thousands and the deterioration of living conditions for most Iraqis.
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