its amazing how fast today’s news becomes forgotten history. Eighteen years ago the U.S. war in Afghanistan started (I was about 40 years old, so I was very aware of it) but today young men who were just born at that time are going as soldiers to fight in the war there.
When they go, they have to first be told what the war is all about. This is a sad fact about the human condition – every new generation is a blank slate as far as history is concerned. Anyway, one belief that I will attempt to counter today is that we went to war in Iraq (at about the same time the war with Afghanistan started) because the then president, George W Bush, wanted to please his oil buddies (who presumably wanted control of Iraqi oil), or that he wanted to get money from the Israel lobby and therefore was willing to sacrifice American lives to fight an enemy of Israel. The book I quote here is “Decision Points“, a book that George W Bush wrote after he left the presidency to explain some of the decisions he made.
When Americans went to war in Iraq, they were convinced that the cruel man who led that country (Saddam Hussein), was bent on obtaining nuclear weapons. President Bush was afraid that those weapons would get into the hands of terrorists. Terrorists had recently gotten everyone’s attention when nineteen Muslim men with box cutters hijacked several American planes, and rammed them, with their passengers, into skyscrapers in New York as well as into the Pentagon.
The initial American victory was quick, though later U.S. troops got bogged down in a lower-intensity war, with their patrols running over explosive devices buried in roads and so forth. The main point though is that no nuclear weapons were found. Says Bush:
Coalition forces had discovered torture chambers, rape rooms, and mass graves containing thousands of bodies. They found a facility containing state-of-the-art hazmat suits and syringes with the antidote for VX verve agent. But they had not found the stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons that virtually every major intelligence agency in the world believed Saddam had.”
The left trotted out a new mantra: “Bush Lied, People Died.” The charge was illogical. If I wanted to mislead the country into war, why would I pick an allegation that was certain to be disproven publicly shortly after we invaded the country?
Bush adds that the accusation was dishonest:
Members of the previous administration, John Kerry, John Edwards, and the vast majority of Congress had all read the same intelligence that I had and concluded Iraq had WMD [bloggers note: WMD means Weapons of Mass Destruction such as nuclear weapons or biological weapons]
Nobody was lying. We were all wrong.
To suspicious types in the public, it now seemed that the war had been fought on false pretenses. If it was not fought to stop WMDs, then perhaps our leaders had been lying to us. Perhaps our leaders were willing to get young naïve Americans killed, for their own profit or for oil.
(Afghanistan does not have oil, but I once saw an Afghan standing up in the audience of an American lecturer, claiming we invaded his country to get its minerals. )
How did the president feel when no WMDs were found?
…[It was] a massive blow to our credibility–my credibility–that would shake the confidence of the American people… No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do.
I had been receiving intelligence briefings on Iraq for nearly two years. The conclusion that Saddam had WMD was nearly a universal consensus. My predecessor believed it. Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill believed it. Intelligence agencies in Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia, China, and Egypt believed it.
Then he adds:
In retrospect, of course, we all should have pushed harder on the intelligence and revisited our assumptions. But at the time the evidence and the logic pointed in the other direction. If Saddam doesn’t actually have WMD, I asked myself, why on earth would he subject himself to a war he will almost certainly lose?
Part of the reason for the huge mistake was that Saddam himself pretended he had WMD. After his capture, says Bush, “he told agents he was more worried about looking weak to Iran [bloggers note: Iran was a neighboring country Saddam had fought a war with, using chemical weapons in some battles] than being removed by the coalition. He never thought the United States would follow through on our promises to disarm him by force.”
Bush says he doesn’t know what more he could have done to show Saddam “I meant what I said”, and then Bush lists all the warnings he gave to Saddam, including massing 150,000 troops to the Iraqi border.
One final irony. The German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, was told originally by President Bush that “I was determined to make diplomacy work”, and that the military option was a last choice, but would be used if necessary. Gerhard replied:
What is true of Afghanistan is true of Iraq. Nations that sponsor terror must face consequences. If you make it fast and make it decisive, I will be with you.”
However, when the German elections arrived later that year, Schroeder denounced the possiblity of using force against Iraq, and his justice minister said the reason for Bush’s military threats was “to divert attention from domestic political problems…Hitler also did that.” Bush writes that this duplicity made him “shocked and furious.”
Speaking of money and politics, an interesting item about Shroder from Wikipedia: In 2017, Russia nominated Schröder to also serve as an independent director of the board of its biggest oil producer Rosneft. At the time, Rosneft was under Western sanctions over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis. Schröder told Blick that he would be paid about $350,000 annually for the part-time post. His decision caused an outcry in Germany and abroad. Now there was a politician whose motives were dubious.
We should be skeptical of any leaders, and never give them a blank check. But the skepticism on motives can go far off the reality track. A possibility that the entire Bush administration suffered from “confirmation Bias” is worth entertaining, but Bush comes across as a very honest man, and “Decision Points” is all too believable. I doubt the naysayers would have done better.
Decision Points – George W. Bush (2010)
Also interesting is this column by John Hawkins: https://townhall.com/columnists/johnhawkins/2016/02/21/show-this-column-to-anyone-who-claims-bush-lied-about-wmds-in-iraq-n2122278