This week marks the 16th anniversary of the U.S. government’s invasion of Iraq. The anniversary helps to remind us of the important role that country has played in the destruction of American liberty.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was ordered by President George W. Bush, was justified under the rubric of “weapons of mass destruction” or “WMDs.” The argument was twofold: that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs and, even worse, was about to deploy them against the United States. The invasion, the Bush people argued, was necessary to both “disarm” Saddam and prevent an imminent WMD attack on the United States.
Why were U.S. officials so certain that Saddam had WMDs? Because they had the receipts. It was the U.S. and other Western countries that furnished Saddam with the WMDs that they later used as the excuse to invade the country.
In the 1980s, the U.S. government was a partner and ally of Saddam. That was during the Reagan administration, when Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, was vice-president. During that time, U.S. officials loved Saddam. When he invaded Iran, U.S. officials were ecstatic, supporting him all the way. It was during that war that the U.S. furnished Saddam with those WMDs, so that he could use them to kill Iranians.
In 1989, the U.S. national-security establishment lost its official Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union. Suddenly, the Pentagon, CIA, and NSA, the three principal components of the national-security establishment, were in a desperate situation. They had no big official enemy to justify their existence. They needed a new official enemy. Their partner and ally, Saddam Hussein, filled the bill perfectly.
In the early 1990s, Saddam was embroiled in a boundary dispute with Kuwait. U.S. officials led him to believe that the U.S. had no interest in that conflict. Saddam proceeded to order an invasion of Kuwait to resolve the crisis. That’s when President George H.W. Bush and the members of the U.S. national-security establishment went ballistic. Suddenly their partner and ally, Saddam Hussein, was converted into the new official enemy of the United States, replacing the Soviet Union and godless communism. They even referred to him as a new Hitler.
Without securing a congressional declaration of war, which the U.S. Constitution requires, Bush ordered the U.S. military to intervene in the conflict and wage war against Iraq. Thousands of Iraqis, both military and civilian, were killed and maimed, along with hundreds of U.S. soldiers.
The U.S. government easily won the war, but Bush decided not to send U.S. forces to Baghdad to remove Saddam from power. Instead, he instituted one of the most brutal sanctions regime in history, one that succeeded in killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children for the next 11 years, including the 8 years of the Clinton administration. The purpose of the sanctions was to squeeze Saddam into resigning or secure his ouster with a coup. It didn’t work. But who can forget U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright’s infamous declaration that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it”?
Throughout the 1990s, Saddam was the new official enemy and bugaboo of the U.S. government and the American people. Through the power of U.S. propaganda and fear-mongering, he became a fear-filled obsession for U.S. officials and Americans for 11 years.
Angered by U.S. interventionism, including the sanctions that were killing multitudes of Iraqi children, Middle East terrorists decided to retaliate. That’s how we got the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on the USS Cole, the attacks on the U.S. embassies in East Africa, and, of course, the 9/11 attacks—“blowback” from U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, including the killing of all those Iraqi children.
The 9/11 attacks occurred during the presidential regime of George W. Bush, the former president’s son, who was among those who believed that his father had made a mistake in failing to oust Saddam from power. Bush recognized that the sanctions had failed to achieve their goal of regime change. He also saw that the 9/11 attacks gave him an opportunity to achieve that goal with an invasion, given the widespread fear among Americans following the 9/11 attacks.
That’s when Bush and his people began exclaiming about Saddam’s WMDs and telling Americans that they were under imminent threat of a WMD attack. It was all a lie. There was never any possibility that Saddam was going to attack the United States, even if he had not already destroyed the WMDs the U.S. had furnished him back in the 1980s.
Once it became clear that Saddam didn’t have any WMDs, President Bush refused to apologize for what he claimed was an intelligence “mistake” and order his troops home. Instead, as further confirmation that the WMD ruse had been one great big lie, U.S. forces continued occupying the country for the next several years and killing more thousands of Iraqis in the process, none of whom had ever attacked the United States or even threatened to do so.
Meanwhile, the U.S. national-security establishment openly assumed the totalitarian powers of assassination, indefinite detention, secret surveillance, and torture of American citizens (and others). Federal spending and debt went through the roof. The Iraq war and occupation (along with the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and regime-change operations in Libya and Syria) produced a never-ending threat of terrorism, which was used to justify a never-ending “war on terrorism” and the never-ending destruction of American liberty at the hands of the U.S. government.