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(IRAQ to SEPTEMBER 2003 – continued)

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IRAQ to SEPTEMBER 2003 (5 of 7)

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Claims and Debates, January to March 2003

The President of the US needed support to go to war. In other words, going to war was a collective enterprise, and there had to be a collective rationale for going to war. Some were describing President Bush motives for war as different from his stated rationale for war: defense against a possible attack involving weapons of mass destruction.

Oil in that part of the world was of interest to strategists in the United States. There were arguments that the Bush administration wanted to control Iraq's oil. James A. Paul of the Global Policy Forum wrote:

For more than a hundred years, major powers have battled to control this enormous source of wealth and strategic power. The major international oil companies, headquartered in the United States and the United Kingdom, are keen to regain control over Iraq’s oil, lost with the nationalization in 1972.

Critics of the Bush administration assumed that it had been oil that had motivated the Bush administration to make war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The issue of oil was involved in the overthrow of Mosaddegh in Iran in 1954. Oil was one of the issues involved in the war against Iraq in 1991. Now those seeing oil as the motive for going to war pointed out that Vice President Cheney had worked for Halliburton, Condoleezza Rice had had an oil tanker named after her and that Republicans took campaign contributions from oil companies.

In his State of the Union speech on 28 January 2003 President Bush spoke of the International Atomic Energy Agency confirming "in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb." He added,

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.

It was not so much that Bush was being mislead by the intelligence community. Greg Thielmann, who had been director of the Office of Strategic Proliferation and Military Affairs at the State Department, has spoken of the Bush administration "diverging from the kind of qualified and fairly carefully structured intelligence that they were being provided."  [note]   Some would accuse President Bush of lying. And there were those who thought of the president as fooling himself with his own exaggerations and as being one of those not adept at drawing a line between precise knowledge and exaggeration.

The Bush administration's case against Saddam Hussein was made in the Security Council on 5 February by US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, drawing from the "2002 National Intelligence Estimate" – the report that had been requested by Senator Graham – to be described by Powel in 2004 as faulty regarding weapons of mass destruction. The head of the CIA, George Tenet, had assured Powell that the information he was presenting at the UN was ironclad. Chief weapons inspector David Kay was to accuse Tenet of wanting to be a player and as having "traded integrity for access...a bad bargain if you're running an intelligence agency."  

At the UN, Powell also made the case for war based on Resolutions 1441 of 1991. Hussein had failed to live up to his obligations that came with the termination of war in 1991, and Secretary of State Powell stated that Resolution 1441 gave Iraq "one last chance to come into compliance or to face serious consequences." 

Some wrote that Powell had not made a convincing case regarding the danger to US security by Saddam Hussein. Some others were convinced that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction but that there was no convincing evidence that he intended to use them against the US or US forces so long as they did not attack Iraq. The argument was made that Hussein was rational enough that for the sake of his own survival he would not use his weapons of mass destruction against the US, Britain, Israel or his neighbors – not now, after the Gulf War of 1991 – similar to the Soviet Union, they argued, launching a nuclear attack knowing it would mean their destruction. They pointed out that Hussein did not use his weapons of mass destruction during the first Gulf War because of his fear of the consequences.

There were those who wrote about the differences between Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Unlike bin Laden, Hussein was a head of state. He could hide, but Iraq and its military could not – unlike bin Laden's operatives. Osama bin Laden was a purist, offended by the presence of US troops on Muslim territory. Saddam Hussein was no such purist.

On 12 February 2003, a tape made by bin Laden was broadcast on television by al-Jazeera. Osama bin Laden swore vengeance against America if Iraq were attacked, and he demanded that the Muslim world stand in solidarity with the Muslim people of Iraq. But this was not support for the Hussein regime. Osama bin Laden called on the people of Iraq to rise up against both American aggression and against the "socialist" [Baathist] Saddam Hussein.

There were people in the US who opposed pre-emptive warfare, believing that the US should wait for a country to attack before we attack it. Others argued that invading Iraq would open a Pandora's box of trouble, that those Muslims angry with us for invading Afghanistan will rise again in anger across the Muslim world, and this time it would be overwhelming. Hussein, it was argued,  might put heavy casualties upon US military personnel with his chemical or biological weapons or send people to the United States and Britain to spread death. And many argued that invading Iraq would cost too much money – money that could be better spent elsewhere.

Those supporting the Bush administration argued that peace in the world rested on agreements, that Hussein had reneged on his agreements and that letting agreements slide and engaging in endless delay was the mistake that had brought war back to Europe in 1939.

There were predictions that the streets in Baghdad would erupt in joy similar to the throngs in Kabul that greeted the Americans. Iraqi exiles in the United States were interviewed extensively for television, speaking of their desire to see Hussein overthrown. One of the exiles was the nuclear scientist, Khidhir Hamza, who said Iraq still had 1.3 tons of low-enriched uranium, bought many years ago from Brazil, from which could be extracted sufficient highly-enriched uranium to fuel three atomic weapons. There were two Iraqi military defectors, a captain and a lieutenant general, who told of a secret government camp outside of Baghdad where Islamic terrorists from across the Middle East were trained.

There were those who supported President Bush with the simplicity expressed by a woman observing an anti-war demonstration in the United States. Referring to Hussein she said, " He hates all of us. Me, them [pointing to the demonstrators] and you. He has to be stopped." 

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