‘Weapons of mass destruction’ ‘Shock and awe.’.These were the headlines racing around the globe in the controversial lead-up to war on march 22, 2003- considered by many to be the most uphorrent legacy that will be forever regarded as one of the most falsified,military intervention which has been since found by historians, politicians and the United nation to be unnecessary, unlawful and unjustified. Throughout the course of the 21st century, the US-led conflicts in Iraq have resulted in years and decades of war, loss and violence, affecting the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians and the beginning of an era marked by contemptible and infernal acts of terror by emerging terrorist groups who spread their heinous crimes across the globe. Hence, the overwhelming consensus that the US’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was without doubt, an unjustifiable and even illegal act of terror.
The case of war against iraq was justified on three grounds; Saddam’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction which had posed an imminent threat to the US security and that of their coalition allies, to liberate the Iraqi civilians from Saddam’s oppression by establishing democracy in Iraq as a model for other authoritarian regimes in the region, as well as his falsely perceived links to terrorist groups like AL Qaeda. Prior to the invasion, many people around the world had been constantly deluged with deceptive and treacherous information from right wing Western media like FoxNews who had magnified and publicized the Iraqi threat.” In his speech in Cinninati five months before the invasion, President Bush claimed that “Iraq possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons…members of congress and memebers of the united nations security council agree that he is a threat to peace and must disarm.” This very claim has been subject to constant dispute and public scrutiny due to the lack of empirical evidence, hence why this argument held little credibility. UN inspectors compsed of approximately were tasked with locating any evidence of WMD’s, and it was clear that no real stockpiles had existed and that the evidence had suggested that Iraq’s large scale capability to produce these chemical weapons was signififcantly reduced during the Gulf War of 1991. Based upon the evidence presented by the CIA Iraq Study Group, the Bush administration hyperbolised the existence of WMD’s in iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein, as a means of manipulating public opinion through propaganda, hence why the iraq war was unjustified.
The most profound and unjustifiable element of war is the illegality of the US’s actions. According to UN secretary Kofi Annan, the invasion was unequivocally deemed as an illegal war crime as it had breached the UN Charter. The UN Charter as a foundational Treaty, grants every country regardless of existing democratic values or not, with the right to choose their own political system clearly reflected in Article 51 which states that “Nothing in the present charter, shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.” Denouncing the war in a candid interview with New York Times, Kofi Annan makes the important distinction by stating that the Un Council authorised “disarmament, not mass murder.” Thus the fact that the invasion was in defiance with international law, proves how unjustified and undiplomatic it was. Corresponding to this, is the argument and application of President Bush’s doctrine of premptive strike which stipulates that military force can be exerted when an imminent threat poses an evidential and unquestionable danger. But when a threat is not imminent in that there is a sufficient amount of time to protect oneself without the killing of innocent people, and that there is transparent evidence by high-ranking chemical weapon inspectors that accounted for and dismantled 94% of iraq’s WMD’s in previous Gulf Wars, that premption cannot be justified in these circumstances. The moral principles of the American criminal and consititutional jurisprudence “forbid the use of war to check tyrants and terrorists who threaten us with death, unless there is such a clear and present danger.” As military historian Lawrence Suid asserts, it was just another propagandistic attempt to justify the unjustifibale.
Another argument upheld by the Bush Administration as well as some human rights advocates is that the invasion was morally justifiable as a humanitarian intervention to protect iraqi civilians from mass slaughter by Saddam’s brutal regime. However like the doctrine of premtpion, the dctrine of humanitarian intervention requires empirical evidence of large-scale killing to justify the exertion of military force. In 2001, an international commission of legal scholars and practitioners proposed a criteria that would only permit humanitarina intervnetion to protect the population from “large scale loss of life.” Drawing upon this criteria, Human Rights Watch concluded in a 2004 World Report “That was not the case in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in March 2003…. despite the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s rule, the invasion cannot be justified as a humanitarian intervention.”
The most prominent motive after the WMD’s, was the establishment of democracy in Iraq by removing the oppressive dictatorship of Saddam Hussein from power. This very argument divides critics and historians. Analysts who view the war in a positive light, suggests that the removal of Saddam, had paved the way for the creation of a new elected government and an economy prospering at almost 9% per year.Some like Nadim Shehadi argue that “while the US bit off more than it could chew in iraq” the invasion “may have shaken the region out of a stagnation that has dominated the lives of at least two generations.” Other political commentators have recently rejoiced over the Iraqi election, that to them, act as a symbol of democracy. Contrarily, skeptics believed that President’s Bush’s rhetoric and propaganda had discredited the spread of democracy in Iraq, now” a violent place governed by sectarian groups with one corruption index, ranking it 169th out of 174 countries.” Historian Miljenko Antic simply argues that “democratization cannot be a means of justifying agression” nor from a moral or legal stance. But to fathom the long-term implications of the invasion, is to explore the impacted lives of first hand iraqi civilians who reveal their predicament. Specifically, one interviewed student, 20 year old Hussein Ali says that “Ok, we have democracy,we can talk freely with no fear.. All these are available and all were not before 2003,” “but why don’t you ask us about the other side of the story of the U.S presence in Iraq? WHy don’t you ask us about their crimes, atrocities, the pain and anguish that we suffered because of their military presence?” He then progresses to say that “We got rid of Saddam Hussein, but the problem now is that we have many.” Therefore from the perspective of an Iraqi, the US-led invasion was without doubt, an unjustifiable act.
Part of the sheer propaganda had involved concealing part of the real incentive for war; oil and empire. The neoconservatives were key players of the Bush administration as they were strong advocates of premptive military action, to instill compliant regimes within iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, in order to secure global American hegemony against international rivals whom were also dependent on Iraq’s oil to enhance the prosperity of their economies. This opinion is congruent with that of reknown English journalist and Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk whom firmly contests the US’s self- proclaimed motivations by stating that the war was about “oil” and “regional control”,and how it was a “conflict driven by the self-interests of America.”. Robert alludes to the role that oil played as an objective of the invasion, exposing links between President Bush and oil in which he had remarked to the General Assembly on the 12 September 2002 about the importance of protecting and sustaining Iraq’s Turkomans- ‘coincidentally’ Turkomans is one of Iraq’s largest oil fields.
The Bush administation had furthered their argument by making the wordly community believe that Saddam Hussein as a brutal and oppressive tyrant had an inextricable link with terrorist organisations like AL Qaeda. In his UN speech, Colin Powell, a fourth ranked generalof the United States had warned of Saddam’s regime stating with unsupported evidence that Iraq “harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of osama bin laden and his al Qaeda operatives. Ironically, Powell’s very statement has translated into harsh reality because of the US’s decision to invade Iraq, consequently sparking Sunni and Shia sectarian conflict that still to this day, divides the nation and its people. When Saddam Hussein was in power, Iraq was a majority Sunni government with a predominantly Shiaa population. Following Saddam Huseein’s removal by US, the Iraqi government became majority SHiaa, hence the Sunni’s felt politically marginalised, reuslting in the emergence of Sunni terrorist groups like isis and al qeada whom began to exploit the power vacuum initiated by the US. These groups encouraged and promoted sectarian violence in the name of the establishement of the Caliphate which to this day, terrorists hold the world to ransom. According to Joseph Nye, a professor of history at Harvard University, the Iraq war was a blunder as “US polls, Intelligence agenices, and news accounts report an increase rather than a decrease in recruitment by Islamic terrorists as a result of the war.”The sad reality is that Isis and various other Sunni terrorist groups have expanded their worldwide foreign fighter recruitment into the Western world, making terrorism a global and almost ubiquitous issue. According to a 2017 study from the United Nations Office of Counter terorism, there is an estimated 25,000 foreign fighters spanning across 100 countries including UK, US, France and Australia. In retrospect, the invasion was unjustified as it had created a power vacuum for nefarious terrorist groups to commit such inhumane crimes on a vast global spectrum.
But inadvertently, the US invasion was particularly beneficial for the Kurdish people, in which some like Rand Khalid viewed the war as uphorrent and unjustified as it was, as an avenue of escape from years of oppressive dictatorship in which Saddam had cut off financial support for the Kurds, forcing them to thrive on donations from international organisations. “Starvation was rampant,ordinary citizens suffered from the UN trade embargoes; many people had to sell items in exchange for food.” But in the aftermath of war, Kurdish living standards had flourished to a great extent as they now receive 17 percent of iraq’s annual budget. In this sense, the iraq invasion acted as a safe haven for the struggling Kurdish population whom brutally suffered under Saddam’s rule, however insufficient to justify the invasion.
But the most compelling argument as to why the US- led invasion cannot be justified is because of how morally unacceptable such an inhumane action is- sadly the Iraq war’s infamous legacy holds years of brutal war crimes, continuous trickery and deceit, the, but most importantly the destruction of civilian infrastructure, sewage and power systems beyond repairable and the devastatingly high fatality figures attached. The combination of air strikes and harsh sanctions that have crippled the regime’s food distribution system have lead to impoverishment, the mere existence of basic medical care,consequently resulting in an increase in the mortality rate, especially among children. These sanctions according to former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq have been responsible for “thousands of deaths per month, and a possible total of 1 million to 1.5 million over the last nine years.” According to British charity Oxfam, approximately “28 percent of iraqi children are malnourished” with 70 percent lacking clean drinking water. In the long term, one in seven Iraqis have been uprooted from their homes, and at least one in four Iraqis are unemployed. It is clear that the 2003 US led invasion has had a deep rooted and catastrophic impact on civilians on unfathomable levels, thus cannot be justified.
The iraq invasion of 2003 illustrates the extremely hideous side of global politics and the pursuit of national interests compromising the sanctity of human life. Arguments for the justification of war vary between the perspectives of historians, critics, journalists and politicians but to draw fair and accurate conclusions based on the evidence provided, the devastating loss of lives on both parts respectively, the immorality and illegality of such an act as well as the political ramifications sparked by the war solidifies the Iraq War in 2003 as absolutely unjustified.