Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Invading Iraq Was a Good Decision, and Thoughts on the Iraqi WMD

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by coalition forces consisting of American (primarily), British, Australian, and Polish forces.  Very little has been published in the press to mark the occasion, with the MSM content to let lie the oft- and diligently-repeated claim that the war was unjustified because there were no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.  This claim is consistently laid at the exclusive doorstep of George W Bush, and it is not unusual to hear the assertion that Bush lied or was deceptive in order to perpetuate an unjust war.

 A US Marine symbolizes the downfall of Saddam Hussein, prior to the statue being toppled ("... gaze upon my works, ye mighty, and despair")

The Left defines itself through a variety of shibboleths, and this is one of the major ones, perpetuated by the resolute repetition of the assertion (becoming declaration, then doctrine), such as the fading craze of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming or the discredited yet wildly successful financial expenditures to avoid the ephemeral Y2K 'crisis'.  (I revisited Spain recently and was struck at the continuation of the unwritten law that requires that any article published in a magazine or book on practically any subject must contain in the first paragraph some form of condemnation of Franco.)  So it is that the invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein is labelled the "bad war", "thrust" upon the world and the Iraqi people.

I disagree.  Left out of these claims are a variety of other good reasons, and General Tommy Franks, commander of the Coalition Forces, listed the sum total of the objectives of the invasion as (1) end the Saddam Hussein regime, (2) identify, isolate, and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, (3) search for, capture, and drive out terrorists from Iraq, (4) collect intelligence for further action against terrorists networks, (5) collect intelligence on the illicit network of international cooperation in the area of weapons of mass destruction, (6) provide and support the recovery of the needy Iraqi people after years of sanctions and the abuse of the Hussein regime, (7) secure the Iraqi oil fields and resources for the sake of the Iraqi people, and (8) create conditions for a transition to a representative self-government.

The removal of Hussein was paramount.  He was ensconced in power officially since 1979 but had been the de facto ruler since 1968, and ruthlessly eliminated anyone who was not only a rival but who could be a potential rival for power.  This was a complicating factor in our decision that he must be removed: he was so consolidated and surrounded by only those of his own choosing, down through several levels of his regime, that simply removing Hussein himself would likely result in someone equally brutal and repressive in his place, particularly his pathological sons. 

He had started a war with Iran after its radical Islamist theocracy under the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, fearing – accurately – that it would try to influence the large Shia population in southern Iraq.  During its eight-year duration (1980-1988), the war resulted in the deaths of over 1.5 million people on both sides.  The Left will claim that the US was in favor of Iraq and provided important aid, correct to some degree, but will ignore the larger implications of the conflict which had the West in general fearful of the excesses of the Iranians, and the Americans, as were many countries, were content to have both sides tied down in a conflict with each other, a sentiment best exemplified by Henry Kissinger: "It's too bad that they both can't lose."

Saddam penuried Iraq as a result of the war and sought to help his situation by restating a claim that Kuwait was historically a part of Iraq and should be again, through the expedient of attacking and incorporating the kingdom as Iraq's "nineteenth province", while at the same time eliminating a major creditor that underwrote his war with Iran.  He was aided in his delusion by the incompetent April Glaspie, our ambassador at the time, who gave him the impression that the US government took no real position on the question.  He convinced himself that there would be no viable Western reaction to his invasion of Kuwait, expecting that it would be a repeat of his war with Iran for which we would have no stomach.  This was proved painfully wrong by George H W Bush and his masterful world coalition, in the Kuwait War of 1991 (in which I took a very personal interest) which drove him from Kuwait and effectively destroyed his army in a matter of days.

Despite his disastrous loss, Saddam then became the master of manipulating world politics and (further) corrupting the United Nations and its pathetic efforts to hold him accountable, by way of a series of UN resolutions that he flagrantly violated.  The remaining coalition forces (the US and UK) instituted no-fly zones in the north and south sections of Iraq, but Saddam violated the declarations almost daily, firing at our aircraft.

He was a major factor, if not the major factor, in supporting movements that targeted the interests and security of the West, whether that be the West in general (tempered by the fact that Europe was particularly reliant on Iraqi oil) or the United States and Israel in particular.  He was a constant threat to seriously de-stabilize the region and create havoc on the world oil markets – again. 

As for a humanitarian reason, he was one of History's most brutal dictators.  The press ponies up with comparisons to Hitler, always considered the most evil of right-wing despots (despite the socialist Nazi party), but Saddam was actually quite the expert on Stalin, with a huge library on the subject and his frequent reference to the Soviet dictator in meetings with his closest cabinet members.  He was paranoid about instability within his country and its large Shia and Kurd populations, and brutally repressed them, using mass murder (estimates range in the hundreds of thousands), rape, and excruciating torture (my men and I found one such torture chamber upon entering Kuwait City with Operation Desert Storm).

He starved his own people and withheld vital medical aid when Iraq was under sanctions.  Humanitarian supplies were readily available through the UN "Oil for Food" program, but with the help of corrupt UN officials he diverted money to his own use.  The press reported that these privations, including a spike in infant mortality, were the result of the sanctions themselves (reported almost gleefully by Bill Moyers of PBS), but ignored the fact that the northern zone of Iraq, with a self-governing Kurdish regime under the protection of the remaining Coalition, was practically thriving under those same sanctions.  It was later admitted by CNN (while indicting other news services as well) that it doctored news stories in favor of Saddam in order to retain its access in Baghdad.

The Left and the press (but I repeat myself) also insisted that Saddam maintained no ties with terrorist personalities or organizations, despite close ties and protection of Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, and Abu Musab al Zarqawi; a tie-in to the al Qaeda bombing of our African embassies in 1998; funneling money and support to al Qaeda, the Algerian GIA (now AQIM), and the anti-Kurdish group Ansar al Islam; an account published in an Iraqi official newspaper detailing links with Osama bin Laden; contacts with Muhammed Atta of the 9/11 hijackers (which critics doubt but which the Czech intelligence service, one of the best Warsaw Pact services of the Cold War, insisted had happened, agreeing with our CIA); and many more examples.

The Left often speaks of our "wars for oil" (which of course explains the low price of gas at the pumps today), but ignores the example of Kuwait, which we promptly left after its liberation, and even Iraq itself.  In both cases, the French were the ones who garnered the oil contracts with the respective governments.

Hundreds of trucks departing Iraqi ammo dump, early 2003

The most often-used accusation about the war was that it was fought over the claim that Iraq had WMDs, but afterward there were none to be found.  Like the Spanish example at the beginning, practically every MSM article or retrospective about our experience in Iraq has to include the assertive claim that there were no Iraqi WMDs.  This is absurd.  It first violates the principle that the (purported) absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  It flies in the face of the fact that we knew that Saddam had WMDs, insisted upon by the CIA and DIA as well as the pronouncements of the German BND and French DGSE, as well as Russian intelligence sources.  We knew he had them because he used them, particularly chemical agents.  He used them in a wholesale fashion, both blister and nerve agents, against the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War.  He even used them against his own people, with the city of Halabja being the best known, but used time and time again in destroying towns and villages in Kurdish Iraq.  In 1996, the Iraq government itself admitted to producing at least 3.9 tons of VX.  Nerve agents were used in IEDs targeting US troops in 2004.  In 2006, some 500 munitions filled with blister (mustard) or nerve agents (Sarin) had been discovered.  Tons of precursor chemicals (from France, Germany, and Singapore, among others) still remain unaccounted for.  Testimony from former Iraqi officials, as well as testimony from our own intelligence and operational assets, attest to the fact that a vast amount of Iraqi chemical weapons were trucked into Syria just prior to the Coalition attack into Iraq.  One such source was no less than Marine Lieutenant General Mike DeLong, Deputy CENTCOM Commander under General Franks, who based on his explanation was likely viewing the convoy of trucks in real time using "technical means".  John Shaw, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for International Technology Security, has said that the Iraqis received substantial direct support from the Russians to help them move the WMD materials into Syria and possibly elsewhere.  Syria is a superb place for shipment of the Iraqi stores, as it maintains an enormous chemical weapons stockpile (a "poor man's" WMD counterweight to the Israeli nuclear stockpile), and integrating the Iraqi chemical munitions would be a factor of hiding them in plain sight.  A later attempt by Zarqawi to use chemical weapons in an attack against Amman was broken up by Jordanian intelligence, with the claim that the source of his chemicals (which could result in up to 80,000 casualties) was the stockpile in Syria.

As for a nuclear capability, remember that a conspiratorial network of nuclear weapons technology under the auspices of A Q Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear weapon, and assisted by scientists from the then-defunct Soviet nuclear program, was coordinating weapons programs in other countries, and is the initial source for the programs in North Korea and Iran.  There is strong evidence that the network extended still further.  What we see of continued cooperation between North Korea and Iran means that the same can exist with other countries as well.  Saddam had exported chemical weapons production to Sudan, for example (and Libya too, I would contend), thus he could have exported a nuclear program too.  He still maintained some 7500 nuclear technicians in the late 1990s and maintained a structure that could easily have been started back up in earnest once the sanctions were lifted, or more likely collapsed, considering the situation up to the 2003 invasion, with wholesale violations of the weapons sanctions by countries anxious to do business with Saddam.  Iraq was caught trying to smuggle precise nuclear triggering devices (or calipers) through London, and was known to be keeping materials in Algeria.  Production of enriched nuclear material was accelerated at the Osiraq reactor until it was destroyed in an allied air strike in the lead-up to the Kuwait War, and the Iraqis sought to exploit highly radioactive sources from technical devices (for example, four devices for irradiating food were found and removed from the Tuwaitha nuclear complex).  The 'yellow cake' uranium that British intelligence maintained Iraq sought from Niger, to supplement some 550 tons already on hand, led indirectly to the ridiculous Valerie Plame affair but demonstrated how shrill the press can be in attempting to forge a story.  Left ignored by the press is the fact that since Iraq already had an ample supply of the yellow cake, the Niger connection was immaterial to the decision to invade.

You may also remember that Muammar Qaddafi of Libya had a nuclear weapons program, which he promptly announced and surrendered to the US upon the collapse of the Saddam regime in 2003.  All things considered, Libya seemed an unlikely prospect – on its own – to create an effective nuclear weapon.  I contend that this was in actuality a joint venture with Iraq (like the North Korean and Iranian cooperative program), and Qaddafi wanted to quickly divest himself of the suddenly paralyzed program, particularly after he saw the effect on Saddam.

As for our current relations with Iraq, an example presented to show the futility of its liberation, with al Qaeda resurgent and the government looking the other way when Iran funnels as much support as it can to Syria by way of Iraqi airspace (or more than likely just cooperating)?  Was all the sacrifice for nought, considering how it is turning out?  We have here another case of our military handing our government a victory in the field that it was sent to accomplish (just like in Viet Nam), and we did it twice: the first at the end of conventional hostilities in November 2003 (we had destroyed the Iraqi military as a fighting force; we were no longer engaging Iraqi tank brigades on line), but followed by a second phase of the war with the insurgency involving disaffected Baathists, disenfranchised Sunnis (seeing now the dreaded rise of the Shias, ending the Sunni holiday), waves of foreign jihadis flocking to the cause under al Qaeda and other affiliated groups, criminal enterprises – and yes, we anticipated some form of insurgent counterattack, but not to that degree, and we bungled even our original plans, mistakenly treating Iraq according to the post-war plan for Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan.  When all was declared lost by the "experts", literally so in the case of Harry Reid, George W Bush stood firm and ordered the surge, with the result that this second phase of the war was won as well by the summer of 2008. 

But Obama could not resist the petty political opportunity to denigrate our military and our nation, representative of the ideals that the Right holds dear, by turning his back on the process.  Our attempt to forge a Status of Forces agreement with Iraq collapsed, with the mission for that handed to Joe Biden, failing totally as he does too often.  The administration simply cannot bring itself to recognize an accomplishment of an opponent, refusing to acknowledge anything other than to "end the war".  The result was that our last elements in Iraq (3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division), deceiving the Iraqis, packed up and departed in the middle of the night, making a dash for the border of Kuwait under cover of darkness, an ignominious end that was ignored in our press but was widely understood throughout the Middle East. 

A final question to the critics of the war must be, what could have been done otherwise?  The sanctions had failed.  By 2003, brutal sanctions had been in place for twelve years.  The humanitarian exceptions were cruelly manipulated by Saddam, just as he cynically manipulated the Western powers who were anxious, as Stalin would put it, to sell him the rope by which he could hang them.  The inspectors who were to have verified the destruction of the Iraqi WMD program were flagrantly threatened and made a laughingstock by the obvious and contemptible manner by which the evidence was hidden or spirited away in full view of reporters and camera teams.  Saddam was waiting us out, and the West was giving every indication that it would be just a matter of time before we threw in the towel. 

Saddam's WMD program, said now to be a figment of the either stupid or malignant imagination (or somehow both) of George Bush and Dick Cheney, could come back on line to the extent that it needed to, above what already existed.  Because it did exist in the eyes of the intelligence services of every country sophisticated to have one, from ours (with Clinton's George Tenet, Director of the CIA, pounding the table and declaring a "slam dunk"), to the British, the Germans, the French, certainly the Israelis, and others (many countries should have surely known, for they sold Saddam the goods).  Democrats in Congress insisted that a goal of the US was to remove Saddam from power, forcefully if it came to that, and codified it in a resolution in 1998.

So the critics are saying that it would have been better to leave Saddam in power?  Can they imagine a Middle East with a Saddam unrestricted?  How many more hundreds of thousands of his people would be tortured and murdered?  How many other countries would he threaten, now with a viable means to do so?  A murderous Iraq with a bomb, facing an insane Iran with a bomb, both of them declaring that Israel should be eliminated.  The West worries about the nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan, but the critics were willing to accept this? 

No other options remained before we launched the attack into Iraq, and I submit that the situation of today, however abandoned by the current administration, is far preferable to that which existed before in all its terrifying potential.  As to the families whose members have sacrificed, and to the wounded veterans of that conflict, they can only come up with their own answer about whether it was worth it.  I can only say that I have yet to meet a veteran of our Global War on Terror (and I include two of my sons) who isn't proud to have served.

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