Iraq – 22 Reasons why it was RIGHT to invade
Comment at end of page
1st August, 2007
With the kind permission of Mr Stan Rosenthal, one of my regular commenters here, I’d like to let you read his thoughts as at The Progressive website. He lists 22 reasons (original article) why it was right to invade Iraq. Below that are pertinent replies to his article, including a few more reasons supplied by an American commenter, who says he was against the invasion.
22 reasons why it was right to invade Iraq by Stan Rosenthal
Nick Cohen’s controversial polemic What’s Left: How Liberals Lost Their Way has reignited the debate about the rights and the wrongs of the Iraq war. In an earlier post I exposed ten lies about the conflict which have shaped anti-war sentiment. I now go further and set out a more comprehensive point-by point case for the war which to my knowledge is fairly unique amongst all the material that’s been produced on this issue. I do so because the self-righteous opponents of the war continue to insist that there can be no good argument for the war. Also I believe that the full weight of the pro-war argument has largely gone by default.
Such has been the success of the anti-war lobby in claiming the moral high ground for their views that there are now few on the left who are prepared to challenge them over the whole range of their propaganda. Even Nick Cohen provides only a very narrow justification for the war (the desirability of over-throwing an evil dictator and standing by the Iraqi victims of the insurgency), thereby conceding much valuable territory regarding the other equally valid reasons for the war.
Here then, in chronological order, are no less than 22 reasons why progressives should stand up against the prevailing opinion of the liberal-left on this issue, particularly at a time when their mindset threatens to undermine the chances of Labour winning the next election.
1. The second Gulf war of 2003 followed the first Gulf war of 1991 which resulted directly from Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
2. Instead of over-throwing Saddam at that time, the allies gave way to liberal sentiment and left him in power on the basis that he would never be in a position to threaten neighbouring countries again.
3. The terms of the 1991 cease-fire (not a peace settlement, by the way) forbade Iraq from developing WMD.
4. To that end a UN inspection regime was imposed by resolution 687 and several related resolutions, non-compliance with which would represent a breach of the cease-fire.
5. Several years passed during which UN inspections were continually being thwarted.
6. In 1998 Iraq ceased all cooperation with the United Nations and economic sanctions and no-fly zones were imposed.
7. Then came 9/11 which underlined the world-wide terrorist threat and highlighted how failing anti-West states could be used as sanctuaries and attack bases for jihadists.
8. 9/11 also pointed up the dangers of UNDER-reacting to intelligence information.
9. The intelligence was showing that Saddam still possessed WMD and was continuing with his WMD programme, despite the terms of the cease-fire and related UN resolutions.
10. The UN inspectors, most governments, every intelligence agency in the world, and even Saddam’s own generals were convinced that these weapons still existed and represented a threat, either directly through Saddam or indirectly if they were to fall into the hands of Al-qaeda. In a post-war interview with the Iraq Survey Group Saddam admitted that he was trying to give the impression that he had WMD for deterrent purposes.
11. If there were any doubts about the intelligence the feeling after 9/11 was probably that it was safer not to take any chances and that anyway why should a tyrant like Saddam be given the benefit of that doubt, particularly if it provided a legitimate reason for getting rid of him?
12. After being given every opportunity to comply with the UN resolutions (over a considerable period) Saddam rejected the final demand under resolution 1441 (passed unanimously in November 2002) which called for “an accurate, full and final disclosure of Iraq’s WMD’s and of all aspects of its WMD programme”, and which encompassed presenting evidence that WMD stocks had been destroyed. Opinions differed amongst eminent international lawyers on whether a second resolution was needed for military action. Such differences are quite common in international law since very little is clear-cut in this fairly new and arcane area of the law.
14 To argue that the war was DEFINITELY illegal is not therefore defensible whereas the Prime Minister’s parliamentary answer (March 17, 2003) putting the legal case for the war is legally defensible.
15. The ensuing invasion presented an opportunity for (a) finally dealing with the WMD threat perceived at that time (b) removing a tyrannical dictator (c) neutralising Iraq as a potential base for world-wide terrorism (d) demonstrating that the international community could not be defied on such vital issues (e) allowing US troops to be withdrawn from Saudi Arabia and its holy places (which up to that point was one of AL-qaeda’s main recruiting causes) and (f) allowing progress to be made towards a Middle East settlement (Saddam was offering 50,000 dollars for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers!).
16. Blair’s dilemma was, therefore, this. To go into Iraq meant war with all its terrible consequences. But not going into Iraq meant Saddam defying the international community and literally getting away with murder thus setting an example to other dictators and enemies of democracy. It also meant Saddam proceeding with his WMD programme to a point where he might become invulnerable, possibly passing WMD on to the jihadists, continuing his repression of his muslim population, and continuing to undermine a Middle East peace settlement. Finally the need to keep US troops in Saudi Arabia would continue to give AL-qaeda a cause-celebre regarding the holy places. In other words he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.
17. In coming down in favour of the war Blair probably saw this as the lesser of the evils and as the chance to act as a restraining influence on Bush in a way that those opposing the war were not able to do.
18. Far from the invasion being anti-Islamic, the (Islamic) Kurds, anti-Saddam Sunnis and the Shias rejoiced at being liberated from Saddam’s tyranny (even now despite the post-war mayhem a recent poll has shown that over 60% of the population believe that overthrowing Saddam was worth the hardship entailed, 75% of the Shias and 81% of the Kurds).
19. Yes, terrible mistakes were made in the post-war period (as in any war). Amongst these was underestimating the sheer depravity of an enemy which seems to be prepared to destroy the country and slaughter its people rather than to see it progress under a democratically elected government.
20. Iraq is NOT under occupation. The occupation was ended in 2004 under UN Security Council Resolution 1546 when the interim Iraqi government took power. Coalition troops have been mandated by the UN to keep the peace. The US government is pledged to comply with a UN resolution requiring them to leave if requested by the Iraqi government.
21. Millions of Iraqis risked death to elect their government. Their government therefore has a greater legitimacy than almost any other government in the world!
22. That government wants our troops to stay as long as it takes to do the job. To cut and run now would be one of the most ignoble acts in our history.
From this perspective then there is no betrayal of what the Labour Party and the liberal-left are supposed to stand for. Quite the opposite. Here we have a courageous Labour leader trying, against all the odds, to uphold the principles of democracy, social justice, humanitarianism, and international solidarity which the Labour Party was founded to promote. To be sure, there is a downside. But those who constantly dwell on these negative aspects without putting them into the above context are simply giving comfort to one of the most despicable enemies we have faced, thereby stiffening their resistance in the belief that western public opinion does not have the stomach for the fight and that one more spate of high-profile suicide bombings will precipitate demands to bring home the troops and thus bring them victory.
Over to you.
(My reply follows:)
Thank you so much for this article. I was directed here from a Guardian Cif page of Michael White’s – It’s Not Blair’s Fault – open at the moment.
You should contribute Stan. It’s the “illegal war” and “war crimes” issues they labour on about. They seriously need de-bunking.
As you’ll see from my url I support Tony Blair. So, although it’d be great to be added here to your site, I obviously understand that that would just confuse people at the present time. Anyway you are welcome to comment at my blog; all except the anti-Blairites. Sorry. I’ve had enough of their crazy abuse of the PM. I refuse to indulge their rantings on my own blog – Keep Tony Blair For PM.
I’ll paste your link on my own blog anyway.
Good luck to you. Hope you survive Blair’s departure.
I very much appreciate your efforts here. Your objective is very unpopular; I am surprised that you have received only a handful of comments. Usually this sort of analysis is greeted with much umbrage.
I landed here nearly by accident, but I am glad that I did. I do not know at all what your ultimate political beliefs may be; for all I know, you and I may be interminably at odds with each other socially, politically, and philosophically.
But I must say I am glad to see someone take the time to make sense of the invasion of Iraq. I have tried to make similar sense; though I am opposed to war in general and thought the invasion a bad idea, I find myself irresistably opposed to the revision of history the war’s critics seem to enjoy without compunction.
My American perspective is no doubt skewed, but I should like to point out a couple of other critical reasons for the war you have overlooked. Perhaps you will find them helpful.
First, it is worth saying that, at least in American foreign policy, the US has been in military conflict with Iraq since 1991. No one can name the dates when America was NOT in conflict between 1991 and 2003, when the current Iraq invasion began (four years ago today). Hence, it is demonstrably false that President Bush rushed to war or that this is his war. The war is 16 years old.
Second, as a result of agreeing not to depose the Hussein regime in 1991 so the US could use Saudi Arabia as a base (an important part of forging the Saudi-US alliance at the time was to leave Baghdad alone), the US and its western allies merely delayed the inevitable: Hussein would need to be deposed at some later date.
Third, from 1992-2000, the Clinton administration, enforcing the UN’s Iraq sanctions and the no-fly zone in that country, flew more sorties against Mr. Hussein than were flown during the entirety of the First Gulf War. Some estimates show that the US bombed Iraq nearly every other day. (Clinton led two major assaults against Iraq, Operation Desert Strike  and Operation Desert Fox ).
Fourth, in February 1998 Osama bin Laden issued his fatwa against the US, calling for the killing of Americans everywhere. As you know, this fatwa was issued during the height of the Clinton presidency. But what is most important about the OBL fatwa is this: his biggest complaint was the continued oppression of Iraq and its people. In short, the OBL fatwa, the very call to war that led to 9/11, declared Iraq a central front in Islam’s conflict with America.
Fifth, also in 1998, President Clinton signed into law the Iraq Liberation Act which called for “regime change” in Iraq. George W. Bush would inherit this Act and its attendant language.
These five things, combined with what you have written above, show that the front which is Iraq has not only been known to be consequential well before the Bush/Blair governments, but it is the central front in the mind of OBL. It is even defensible that America’s “oppression” of Iraq during the Clinton years — the very years that gave us the OBL fatwa — is the very cause of 9/11 and, by extension, the very cause of this current conflict.
What stymies me the most, what leaves me shaking with incredulity, is the suggestion that Iraq is somehow tangential or irrelevant to the War on Terror. Surely OBL did/does not think it irrelevant.
Blessings to you, dear sir. May peace prevail.
PS. You may also find interesting the recent comments of former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter re: regime change. You can find them at http://contratimes.blogspot.com/2007/03/on-politics-voice-of-scott-ritter-iraq.html.
Have a good life!
(My further reply)
Stan – what an excellent comment from Mr Gnade. I’d like him to contact me either through my site or here – if he checks back to read this again.
Still musing heatedly over the press. We are really badly treated here in the UK by them.
I don’t get time to read the American press to any extent, though I think their liberal lefties are just as bad as ours. I used to consider myself a kind of liberal thinker. Not any more. I love my country and value freedom too much for that.
In our papers we seldom see thoughtful, historically based or balanced argument around the whole issue of Iraq. Not in our dailies anyway, which most people read.
The arguments are always black and white – whereas the truth is usually pretty grey (sounds like Blair in his retirement speech) … wasn’t intentional, honestly!
I’ve been thinking about how this dreadful period for our PM has affected me as a supporter of his.
ANGER at his colleagues who were forcing him to state he’d leave within a year. (He must have been under SOME duress to agree to that!)
Then IRRITATION that so many people were taking the press’s opinions as the stark and honest truth. I comforted myself with the fact that most of them didn’t know any better. They read the Daily Mail and other rags, written for a 13 year old reading age, so what should I expect?
Then I noticed the Guardian and the Independent taking the editorial lines that Blair has taken us into an ‘illegal war’ and is therefore a ‘war criminal’. We’d hang him if we weren’t such peace-loving, fair-minded, civilized individuals, unlike HIM.
So then I began to BOIL SLOWLY.
I boiled even faster when I realised the press was re-writing history and claiming that Blair took us into Iraq WITHOUT Parliament’s say-so. Patently untrue. He COULD have done so, but he put it to the vote and won with Tory help.
They were also bending the truth by saying that the invasion was against the wishes of the British people. It WAS NOT. Over 60% approved according to all polls at the time. It’s not an in and out game – oh, this week they’re OK so we’ll stay there – next week if they’re a bit off, we’ll bring the troops home!
So now I was BOILING over.
At the same time the press attacked Blair on two fronts. They pursued every nook and cranny of the ‘honours’ nonsense. Leaks and innuendo, going for the jugular at every opportunity in a shameless way. (They might just come unstuck in the end as in the Bob Woolmer case.)
But on Iraq, from Bush to the Attorney General, from ‘gullible’ cabinet ministers to ‘compliant’ civil servants, and from gun-happy security services to the military – EVERYONE who had come into contact with Blair and agreed with anything he said was automatically branded a liar.
There was NO, repeat NO possibility that the WMD evidence could have been believed at the time by our ‘evil’ leader. Oh, yes, some of them thought – well, maybe – but that would mean he had been incompetent or negligent – so that was just as bad as lying!
String him up, say they!
So in the end the press in this country have tried Tony Blair by public opinion and through the prism of press perception while skewing the evidence their way only. Surprise, surprise – they’ve found him guilty as charged.
And at the same time they SCREAM about our having lost our civil rights and freedom to rant and rave, while they rant and rave!
I think it has been unforgivable behaviour.
Where was the counter argument? I suppose it’s been in The Sun, strange as it may seem, since you might have expected them to have jumped ship by now like half the population.
But I’m still on BOILING point!
Through no fault of mine or his I’m about to lose the Prime Minister I trust to protect my country.
And WHO are we going to blame if there are further atrocities in the short term after Blair has warned us, but has already gone? Who’s going to sort it out? Brown? I’ll believe that when he stops climbing all over the unions’ backs!!!
I’m not the blaming sort – but if Blair’s worst predictions come true, and Brown shows no signs of tackling the growing terrorist threat at home – SOMEBODY is going to get the flak and this time it WON’T be Blair.
Maybe I’ll start up a campaign to hold the press to account. Yeah, right – I’ll get the Indie to print it.
Cooled down a bit now, Stan. It helps to tap it out now and again.
All the best to you.
THE TEN LIES MR ROSENTHAL REFERRED TO
January 09, 2007
Ten lies about the Iraq war
Saddam Hussein’s execution has thrust the Iraq war back into the headlines. In typical fashion the anti-war lobby have found an angle to attack the coaltion leaders, notwithstanding that that the execution was soley a matter for the sovereign state of Iraq. Had the West intervened to produce a more “acceptable” outcome no doubt this would have been presented as evidence that the Iraqis were not in control of their own affairs. Yet another example of Blair and Bush being damned if they do and damned if they don’t on the Iraq issue.
Underlying this hostility to everything the coalition is doing in Iraq is a mindset that’s been cleverly created by opponents of the war (aided and abetted by their many friends in the media) whereby the war is so obviously wrong that it is regarded as the cause of any bad thing happening in Iraq. The mindset makes great play of “the lies” that led us into war. Yet it is itself founded upon a number of fasehoods that have so permeated the public consciousness that they have come to be taken for granted, even by Blair supporters. if there is to be a sensible debate on the rights and wrongs of the war it is essential that we should first sort out fact from fiction regarding its key elements.
So here are the ten most commonly accepted lies which have shaped our attitudes to the war.
Lie 1: The war was fought to rid Iraq of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
The reality:The casus belli of the war was Iraq’s serial non-compliance with UN resolutions which were formulated after the first Gulf war to ensure that Saddam would never again threaten the region with WMD. After being given every opportunity to meet the terms of these resolutions (over several years) Saddam rejected the final demand under Resolution 1441(unanimously agreed) which called for “an accurate, full and final disclosure of Iraq’s WMD’s and all aspects of its WMD programme”. Hans Blix, the UN chief weapons inspector, confirmed that “Iraq had not fully accepted its obligation to disarm”. At this point the actual existence of WMD was immaterial since this could only be determined by proper inspection and disclosure.
Lie 2: The war was illegal.
The reality: The legal justification for the war was set out in the Prime Minister’s written answer to a Parliamentary question on March 17, 2003. Essentially this argued that non-compliance with UN Resolution 1441 and previous related UN resolutions provided sufficient grounds for military action without a further resolution. Certainly there were differences of opinion on the need for a second resolution. However such differences are quite common in this fairly new area of the law and a challenge to the Attorney- General’s advice does not constitute proof of illegality, whether it comes from another lawyer or the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Lie 3: Coalition troops are responsible for the deaths of over 500,000 innocent civlians in Iraq.
The reality: To support their case the anti-war lobby always quote the highest possible number of civilian casualties. In fact, estimates quoted in Wikipedia range from the 50,000 of the Iraq Body Count project to the 655,000 of the second Lancet survey of mortality. As Wikipedia points out the differences reflect differing methodologies as well as differing definitions of the types of deaths counted. In particular the Lancet study from which the higher estimates are taken includes non-civilians and deaths due to degraded infra-structure and poor health care. There is also the difficulty of distinguishing between between civlilian and insurgent deaths since it is in the nature of this type of warfare for the combatants to melt into the civlian population during and in between battles. And in the case of genuine civilian deaths who is to say who is responsible when insurgents operate from densely built-up areas, in effect using civilians as human shields?
Lie 4: Coalition troops are responsible for the never-ending violence in Iraq.
The reality: The violence is being perpetrated mainly by Iraqi and other Middle Eastern groups. This is being done to settle sectarian scores, to gain power or to prevent the elected Iraqi government from doing its job. Of course the presence of coalition troops will attract fire in certain areas in the way that any peace-keeping force will be resisted by those who oppose peace but such actions are very much in the minority at the present time. In the final analysis the coalition can argue that they gave the Iraqis the chance to govern themselves in a free and democratic manner. If they do not or cannot take that chance the responsibility lies primarily with those who seek to destroy that chance , not with those who gave them the chance in the first place.
Lie 5: The war is responsible for acts of terror elsewhere.
The reality: Acts of terror preceded the Iraq war and have taken place in countries that were not involved in the war (like the Bali massacre) or have been thwarted in countries that actively opposed the war (like the recently announced foiled plots in France). Terrorists will always exploit any grievance to justify their actions, especially where they relate to countries that are resisting them.From this standpoint it can be argued that the main recruiting sergeant for terrorism is not the war but those who continually dwell on its negativities.
Lie 6: Iraq is an Occupied Territory.
The reality: The occupation was ended in 2004 under UN Resolution 1546 when the interim Iraqi government took power. Coalition troops were then mandated by the United Nations to keep the peace. The U.S. government has pledged itself to comply with a UN resolution requiring American troops toleave if requested by the Iraqi government.
Lie 7: Iraq has a puppet government.
The reality: Millions of Iraqis (representing well over 60% of the population) risked death to choose their government in the two elections of 2005. International monitors concluded that the elections generally met international standards. On this basis their government has a greater claim to legitimacy than any other government in the world.
Lie 8: The Iraq war was a war against Islam.
The reality: Islamic Shias, Sunnis and Kurds rejoiced at being liberated from Saddam’s oppression. Even now, despite the post-war carnage, polls have shown that over 60% of the Islamic population believe that overthrowing Saddam was worth the hardships that followed.
Lie 9; Tony Blair took us to war on lies about the related Iraqi intelligence.
The reality: Two independent investigation, The Hutton and Butler Inquiries have cleared Tony Blair of this charge. A lie is a known untruth. At the time of Blair’s decision to go to war the UN inspectors, every intelligence agency in the world, most governments, and even Saddam’s own generals were convinced that Saddam was concealing WMD stocks and a WMD programme. In a post-war interview with the Iraq Survey Group Saddam actually admitted that he was trying to give the impression that he still had WMDs, for deterrent purposes.Tony Blair can hardly be blamed for acting on that impression.
Lie 10: Tony Blair was George Bush’s poodle on all things to do with the war.
Mr Rosenthal’s winding up comments: The reality: Since the Americans were bent on war regardless of the British position, Blair’s choice was to resist them and to be thereby excluded from the decision making process or to support them and thus gain some influence in that decision making process. By taking the course that he did Blair can be regarded as being more of a guide-dog than a poodle.
The pro-war case emerging from this analysis is that a legally defensible war was fought to uphold UN resolutions designed to rein in an evil dictator, with Blair’s role being one of damage limitation rather than supine aquiesence.
Yes, mistakes were made in the post-war period but the resulting mayhem has more to do with the determination of Iraq’s enemies to thwart the efforts of the democratically elected government of Iraq (supported by UN -mandated peace- keeping forces) than anything else.An anti-war case can, of course, still be made but stripped of its lies component, I suspect that this will carry far less weight in the final judgement on the war which will form such an important part of Blair’s legacy.
Stan Rosenthal has also written a piece In Defence of Blair at the Progressive website. Please click here to read it. I think it will still take your comments should you wish to comment there.
In March 2004 Tony Blair spoke on Iraq in his Sedgefield constituency: Click here to read The Guardian’s report.