Not to sound like a know-it-all, but I dont think President Bush is doing the best job of articulating a defense of his decision to invade Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein. (Its an ongoing joke that Bush often mangles the English language, but thats not exactly what Im talking about.) So, I modestly present – in this handy question-and-answer format – my take on the war in Iraq:
Q: No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. Isnt that why the U.S. invaded Iraq in the first place?
A: Not exactly. The fear that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, as well as a nuclear weapons program, was indeed one of the reasons the U.S. opted to use military force against Iraq – it was certainly the most hyped. However, there were several reasons the U.S. went to war. Hussein refused to allow unfettered inspections for such weapons, which was a condition of the cease fire (read: surrender) he signed at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. In the late summer of 1998, Iraq ceased all cooperation with the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) after a two-year campaign to thwart the commissions work. Iraq routinely fired at U.S. and British aircraft patrolling the northern and southern no-fly zones imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War. In fact, the removal of Saddam Husseins regime had been official U.S. policy since President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act into law on Oct. 31, 1998!
Q: Nevertheless, if Saddam Hussein was effectively contained, why then did the U.S. go to war with Iraq?
A: The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were the impetus for the eventual military engagement of Iraq. After defeating the al-Qaida-sheltering Taliban in Afghanistan, the U.S. turned its attention to other terrorist-supporting nations. Iraq was the next logical target, since Saddam Hussein was a vocal supporter of terrorism (he routinely gave money to the families of suicide-homicide bombers in Israel), had a history of attacking his neighbors, was known to have used chemical weapons in the past and refused to account for weapons of mass destruction as required by the terms that ended the Gulf War. In other words, in the wake of 9/11, a much more aggressive U.S. was unwilling to take chances on its security and dealt decisively with a terrorist-sponsoring (possibly including al-Qaida) nation that had been a thorn in its side for over a decade.
My Two Cents is a weekly column where the author – who will play foreign policy analyst again next week in Part II – gets in his two cents worth in spite of the old saying that you only get a penny for your thoughts.