The announcement that Saddam Hussein’s appeal has failed is being broadcast in the news, and the speculation is that he will be hung by the neck until dead this weekend. One would think that such an even would force a sigh of relief from the world community, a lifting of weight off of the shoulders from the populations of many nations; instead it only reinforces the questions that remain unanswered concerning the military action that brought him to justice and the sadly destructive aftermath that has followed.
Make no mistake about it, Hussein is a bad man. He ruled with an iron fist, which turned into hot lead over time, as he used and abused his power to commit genocides and turn his country into a violent and oppressive dictatorship. There is no doubt that the man was a serious threat to anyone residing in his country who had the nerve to oppose him in any way, shape, or form. But as the battle rages on in the streets and wilderness of Iraq, as our military is caught up in some of the worst, most out of control violence seen on our planet in many years, the question still remains: did we, the US government, do the right thing?
The reasons for the US military action have been varied, and (regardless of what some pundits and news casters would have one believe) have been relatively unsubstantiated. At this late point in the police action, all of the excuses and reasoning that has led up to the mess that we find ourselves in now have become muddied and vague, leading to a great deal of justified speculation as to exactly why we are there.
We’ve heard about Hussein’s supposed links to Al-Qaeda and, in turn, Osama Bin Laden. These accusations have been dismantled by a variety of facts to the contrary. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Bin Laden himself offered Saudi Arabia protection in the form of “jihadist warriors” from a possible further incursion from Iraq. Bin Laden was often very critical, even hostile, towards Hussein, stating once: “the land of the Arab world, the land is like a mother, and Saddam Hussein is fucking his mother.” Additionally, Hussein himself felt that Islamic extremists were a threat to his administration, and dealt with those that operated within his borders quite harshly. Vice President Dick Cheney often decried the fact that Iraq was harboring the fugitive Abdul Rahman Yasin, one of the perpetrators of the World Trade Center bombings in 1993. In fact, and never mentioned by Cheney, Iraq tried to extradite Yasin not once but three times total; all three times this overture of good faith was turned aside by both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. Additionally, our own intelligence community (as well as the 9/11 commission report) have held fast to their claim that any connection between 9/11 and Hussein’s Iraq was highly unlikely.
Another reason for the invasion of Iraq was that our government felt that Iraq was an immediate threat to the US, and posed a clear and present danger to our shores and borders. This, again, has been proven false in hindsight. In fact, at the time that these assertions were being bandied about the media, the US was a direct threat to Iraq. After the first Gulf action, the US created ‘No-Fly’ zones over Iraq; these areas were maintained by a US military presence continuously afterwards. One could surmise from this that the US was intentionally trying to goad Hussein into a war but that he did not take the bait. In fact, to support this claim, there was a White House memo of a meeting between Bush and Tony Blair where they actually discussed using coalition aircraft flying UN colors in order to force Iraq into a fight. Eventually, the Air Force went from enforcing the ‘No-Fly’ zone (in which no full land attacks were launched) to actively bombing Iraq with 8 to 14 tons of ordinance per month a full five months before Congress gave authorization for the Commander in Chief to launch a full scale attack (to this date, the Congress has still not officially declared war on Iraq).
The public was also told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that said weapons were ready to be used on American soil. Just about every press authorized member of the executive branch has gone on record and declared publicly that we were facing an imminent threat from stockpiles of WMD’s in Iraq, with Colon Powell giving a rousing speech on Yellow-cake purchases in front of the UN and Condoleezza Rice going on about her fear of seeing a mushroom cloud in the US as a result of Iraq’s weapons program. This is yet another assertion that has been proven false as time has gone on. Interestingly enough, there are some who still believe that we did indeed find WMD’s in Iraq (political pundit Bill O’Rieley and now deposed Senator Rick Santorum both claimed that WMD’s had been found), even though the official report from the National Ground Intelligence Center of the US Army Intelligence and Security Command stated plainly that any weapons or weapon parts that were found were degraded and had no viable military usage whatsoever. (Interestingly enough, if one looks at the entirety of the Middle-East and Persia, the only nuclear power in the entire region is Israel)
Another reason for the invasion of Iraq is that we needed to create a regime change in order to protect the citizens of Iraq and to stabilize the region. Of course, one can get behind a humanitarian effort to save a tortured and oppressed people from a dictator as extreme as Hussein. But considering the fact that the US has never once in its history actively gone to war for those reasons, coupled by the fact that there are an awful lot of dictators and genocides – which make Hussein’s Iraq look like a veritable Garden of Eden by comparison – that are occurring right now which the US refuses to take an official stand on, proves out that our invasion of Iraq had very little to do with such moral idealism. And considering that Iraq was indeed THE stabilizing force in the region (as bad as he was and is), it seems highly doubtful that our aims went in that direction.
Most recently, the Bush and Blair administrations have claimed that Iraq is the physical front in the war on terror. This claim would seem to be patently true considering the abhorrent violence that is gripping the country right now, but recall that such violence would not be taking place (at least not in Iraq) if we did not decide to invade in the first place.
I have no doubt that Saddam Hussein is ultimately getting what he deserves. He is and was a very bad man who committed atrocities against humankind and caused the untimely deaths of thousands. My concern lies in the question of whether we have done the right thing in the invasion of Iraq in the first place. Was it worth the cost in the lives of our troops, the tax-money spent, and the deterioration of world opinion that we see now as the inevitable afterbirth of the conflict that we have spawned when the only positive result of the conflict so far was to bring this one despot to justice? I, for one, have to say that is was not.