A dozen Iraq war myths that need to die – AEI

A dozen Iraq war myths that need to die – AEI

1. Sanctions killed 1 million Iraqis (and 500,000 children). False. Where did this claim come from? Saddam Hussein’s government.

2. The 2003 Iraq war was illegal. Wrong. Too many activists who cite international law to back their positions of the day act essentially as armchair dictators. They assume they alone can act as judge and jury and discount alternate interpretations. As first a state senator and then U.S. senator, Barack Obama repeatedly declared the 2003 Iraq war as illegal because Bush acted absent U.N. authorization. It is reasonable to debate whether or not the war was wise or necessary, but it was not illegal: Bush acted under existing U.N. Security Council Chapter VII resolutions allowing force to ensure compliance. To suggest that they were no longer binding would be to establish a precedent in which binding, enforceable Security Council resolutions expired after 13 years. To declare that the Iraq war to be illegal, therefore, risks undermining the entire basis of permanence in international law.

3. Iraq was a war of choice. Any war is one of choice, but this is the wrong framing. The question wasn’t to invade by an arbitrary date or let stability reign. The sanctions regime was actively collapsing, thanks to countries like Jordan, France, Germany, and Russia.

4. Bush lied. False. Bush (and Vice President Dick Cheney) read the intelligence presented them. Sometimes, that intelligence was wrong.

5. Saddam had no interest in WMDs. False. Let’s put aside the residual WMD discovered in Iraq, as that fell far short of what U.S. intelligence suggested Iraq had. While true that Saddam had suspended his WMD program, he wanted to keep the illusion of one and so did not cooperate fully with inspectors. All documents seized the aftermath of his fall, however, show that the Iraqi dictator planned to restart his program as soon as sanctions collapsed. The war prevented an Iraq armed with a nuclear, biological, or chemical arsenal, period.

6. The Invasion of Iraq caused the deaths of 1 million Iraqis. False. Let’s put aside the exaggerated figures used by some analysts, most of whom cite a statistically flawed 2006 article in the Lancet, a British medical journal. Certainly, many Iraqis did die in the wake of the war, but who killed them? Most were killed not by U.S.-led forces but rather by Sunni insurgents or Iranian-backed militias.

7. At least Iraq was stable under Saddam. False. Iraqi Kurdistan had been in a state of near-constant insurgency since 1961. As for southern Iraq, Saddam controlled the day, but even his elite Republican Guards were afraid to patrol at night. The simple truth is that as Saddam confused brutality with stability — he had gradually lost control of broad swaths of Iraq.

8. At least Saddam was a secularist. Well, yes and no. Saddam himself worshipped only himself, but he used religion as a tool.

9. The Iraq war created al Qaeda in Iraq. False. Remember Laurence Foley, a U.S. diplomat assassinated by al Qaeda in Iraqi leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Amman, Jordan, in October 2002? Well, that was more than four months before the war began. The post-war chaos in Iraq exacerbated the problem, but it did not create it.

10. Dismantling the Iraqi army caused Insurgency. False. Baath Party cells planned and carried out the insurgency.

11. De-Baathification caused insurgency. False. Founded by a Syrian Christian in the 1940s, the Baath Party was, in its early years, a secular, socialist pan-Arabist political movement. With time, however, it became a vehicle for power, both for Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Assad family in Syria. De-Baathification referred to the purge of the top four levels of the party in Iraq. Senior Baathists deemed complicit in Saddam’s regime lost their jobs and their qualification to work in government or the military.

12. Ousting Saddam empowered Iran. Let’s put aside the intellectual inconsistency inherent in this statements by critics of the Iraq War who then support empowering Iran with other policies such as the Iran nuclear deal or caving to Iranian ambitions in Syria, Lebanon, or Yemen. The idea that ousting Saddam alone empowered Iran was false. The majority of Iraqis may be Shiite, but they have an identity distinct from Iran and often resent Iranian attempts to subordinate Iraqi interests to those of Tehran.

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