The rationale for the Iraq War (i.e., the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent hostilities) has been a contentious issue since the Bush administration began actively pressing for military intervention in Iraq in late 2001. The primary rationalization for the Iraq War was best articulated by a joint resolution of the US Congress known as the Iraq Resolution.
The US stated that the intent was to remove "a regime that developed and used weapons of mass destruction, that harbored and supported terrorists, committed outrageous human rights abuses, and defied the just demands of the United Nations and the world". Additional reasons have been suggested: "to change the Middle East so as to deny support for militant Islam by pressuring or transforming the nations and transnational systems that support it. For the invasion of Iraq the rationale was "the United States relied on the authority of UN Security Council Resolutions 678 and 687 to use all necessary means to compell Iraq to comply with its international obligations".
In the lead-up to the invasion, the U.S. and UK emphasized the argument that Saddam Hussein was developing "weapons of mass destruction" and thus presented an imminent threat to his neighbors, to the U.S., and to the world community. The US stated "on November 8, 2002, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1441. All fifteen members of the Security Council agreed to give Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its obligations and disarm or face the serious consequences of failing to disarm. The resolution strengthened the mandate of the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), giving them authority to go anywhere, at any time and talk to anyone in order to verify Iraq’s disarmament. Throughout late 2001, 2002, and early 2003, the Bush Administration worked to build a case for invading Iraq, culminating in then Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 2003 address to the Security Council. Shortly after the invasion, the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and other intelligence agencies largely discredited evidence related to Iraqi weapons and, as well as links to Al Qaeda, and at this point the Bush and Blair Administrations began to shift to secondary rationales for the war, such as the Hussein government's human rights record and promoting democracy in Iraq.
Accusations of faulty evidence and alleged shifting rationales became the focal point for critics of the war, who charge that the Bush Administration purposely fabricated evidence to justify an invasion it long planned to launch. Supporters of the war claim that the threat from Iraq and Saddam Hussein was real and that this has later been established. The US lead the effort for "the redirection of former Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) scientists, technicians and engineers to civilian employment and discourage emigration of this community from Iraq.
U.S. policy shifted in 1998 when the United States Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the "Iraq Liberation Act" after Iraq terminated its cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors the preceding August. The act made it official U.S. policy to "support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power..." although it also made clear that "nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces. This legislation contrasted with the terms set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which made no mention of regime change.
One month after the passage of the “Iraq Liberation Act,” the U.S. and UK launched a bombardment campaign of Iraq called Operation Desert Fox. The campaign’s express rationale was to hamper the Hussein government’s ability to produce chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, but U.S. national security personnel also reportedly hoped it would help weaken Hussein’s grip on power.
The Republican Party's campaign platform in the 2000 election called for "full implementation" of the Iraq Liberation Act and removal of Saddam Hussein; and key Bush advisers, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Rumsfeld’s Deputy Paul Wolfowitz, were longstanding advocates of invading Iraq, and contributed to a September 2000 report from the Project for the New American Century that argued for using an invasion of Iraq as a means for the U.S. to "play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security... After leaving the administration, former Bush treasury secretary Paul O'Neill said that "contigency planning" for an attack on Iraq was planned since the inauguration and that the first National Security Council meeting involved discussion of an invasion. Retired Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he saw nothing to indicate the United States was close to attacking Iraq early in Bush's term.
Despite key Bush advisers' stated interest in invading Iraq, little formal movement towards an invasion occurred until the September 11, 2001 attacks. According to aides who were with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center on September 11, Rumsfeld asked for: "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit Saddam Hussein at same time. Not only Osama bin Laden." The notes also quote him as saying, "Go massive", and "Sweep it all up. Things related and not."
In the days immediately following 9/11, the Bush Administration national security team actively debated an invasion of Iraq, but opted instead to limit the initial military response to Afghanistan. In January 2002, President Bush began laying the public groundwork for an invasion of Iraq, calling Iraq a member of the Axis of Evil and saying that "The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons. Over the next year, the Bush Administration began pushing for international support for an invasion of Iraq, a campaign that culminated in Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5, 2003 presentation to the United Nations Security Council. After failing to gain U.N. support for an additional UN authorization, the U.S., together with the UK and small contingents from Australia, Poland, and Denmark, launched an invasion on March 20, 2003 under the authority of UN Security Council Resolutions 660 and 678.
The October, 2002, US congress Iraq War Resolution cited many factors to justify the use of military force against Iraq:
The Resolution required President Bush's diplomatic efforts at the U.N. Security Council to "obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion, and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions." It authorized the United States to use military force to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq."
Throughout the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, George Bush and Tony Blair were explicit that they were concerned about a "single question" from the chief UN weapons inspector: Has the Iraqi regime fully and unconditionally disarmed, as required by Resolution 1441, or has it not? The US government based their allegations that Iraq was developing Weapons of Mass Destruction, including nuclear weapons upon forged documents that the CIA and others believed were unreliable.
George Bush, speaking in October 2002, said that "The stated policy of the United States is regime change… However, if [Hussein] were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations, the conditions that I have described very clearly in terms that everybody can understand, that in itself will signal the regime has changed." Similarly, in September 2002, Tony Blair stated, in an answer to a parliamentary question, that “Regime change in Iraq would be a wonderful thing. That is not the purpose of our action; our purpose is to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction…” In November of that year, Tony Blair further stated that “So far as our objective, it is disarmament, not regime change - that is our objective. Now I happen to believe the regime of Saddam is a very brutal and repressive regime, I think it does enormous damage to the Iraqi people... so I have got no doubt Saddam is very bad for Iraq, but on the other hand I have got no doubt either that the purpose of our challenge from the United Nations is disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, it is not regime change.” At a press conference on January 31st 2003, George Bush stated: “Saddam Hussein must understand that if he does not disarm, for the sake of peace, we, along with others, will go disarm Saddam Hussein.” As late as February 25th 2003, Tony Blair said to the House of Commons: “I detest his regime. But even now he can save it by complying with the UN's demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully.”
As Secretary of State Powell summarized in his February 5, 2003 presentation to the U.N. Security Council, "the facts and Iraq's behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction. On April 10, 2003, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer reiterated that, "But make no mistake -- as I said earlier -- we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about. And we have high confidence it will be found. Despite the Bush Administration's consistent assertion that Iraqi weapons programs justified an invasion, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz later cast doubt on the Administration's conviction behind this rationale, saying in a May 2003 interview: "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue - weapons of mass destruction - because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.
After the invasion, despite an exhaustive search led by the Iraq Survey Group involving a more than 1,400 member team, no evidence of Iraqi weapons programs was found. On the contrary, the investigation concluded that Iraq had destroyed all major stockpiles of WMDs and ceased production in 1991 when sanctions were imposed. The failure to find evidence of Iraqi weapons programs following the invasion led to considerable controversy in the United States and worldwide, including claims by critics of the war that the Bush and Blair Administrations deliberately manipulated and misused intelligence to push for an invasion.
Supporters of the war claim that the accusation of fabricating evidence isn't consistent with the Bush administration's actions--as one example, they did not fabricate evidence of weapons after the invasion that would justify the supposed fabrications before the invasion. In 2006 investigative journalist Larisa Alexandrovna found compelling evidence that an off book team acting on behalf of the Office of Special Plans did in fact investigate the plausibility of planting evidence but abandoned it due to the difficulty in replicating the forensics required.
On August 26, 1998, approximately two months before the US order United Nations inspectors be withdrawn from Iraq, Scott Ritter resigned from his position rather than participate in what he called the "illusion of arms control." In his resignation letter to Ambassador Butler, Ritter wrote: "The sad truth is that Iraq today is not disarmed... UNSCOM has good reason to believe that there are significant numbers of proscribed weapons and related components and the means to manufacture such weapons unaccounted for in Iraq today ... Iraq has lied to the Special Commission and the world since day one concerning the true scope and nature of its proscribed programs and weapons systems." On September 7, 1998, in testimony to the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee, Scott Ritter was asked by John McCain (R, AZ) whether UNSCOM had intelligence suggesting that Iraq had assembled the components for three nuclear weapons and all that it lacked was the fissile material. Ritter replied: "The Special Commission has intelligence information, which suggests that components necessary for three nuclear weapons exists, lacking the fissile material. Yes, sir."
On November 8 2002, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1441, giving Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" including unrestricted inspections by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Saddam Hussein accepted the resolution on November 13 and inspectors returned to Iraq under the direction of UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix and IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Between that time and the time of the invasion, the IAEA "found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq"; the IAEA concluded that certain items which could have been used in nuclear enrichment centrifuges, such as aluminum tubes, were in fact intended for other uses. UNMOVIC "did not find evidence of the continuation or resumption of programmes of weapons of mass destruction" or significant quantities of proscribed items. UNMOVIC did supervise the destruction of a small number of empty chemical rocket warheads, 50 liters of mustard gas that had been declared by Iraq and sealed by UNSCOM in 1998, and laboratory quantities of a mustard gas precursor, along with about 50 Al-Samoud missiles of a design that Iraq claimed did not exceed the permitted 150 km range, but which had travelled up to 183 km in tests. Shortly before the invasion, UNMOVIC stated that it would take "months" to verify Iraqi compliance with resolution 1441.
In an interim report on October 3, 2003, Kay reported that the group had "not yet found stocks of weapons", but had discovered "dozens of WMD-related program activities" including clandestine laboratories "suitable for continuing CBW [chemical and biological warfare] research", a prison laboratory complex "possibly used in human testing of BW agents", a vial of live C. botulinum Okra B bacteria kept in one scientist's home, small parts and twelve year old documents "that would have been useful in resuming uranium enrichment", partially declared UAVs and undeclared fuel for Scud missiles with ranges beyond the 150 km U.N. limits, "[p]lans and advanced design work for new long-range missiles with ranges up to at least 1000 km", attempts to acquire long range missile technology from North Korea, and document destruction in headquarters buildings in Baghdad. None of the WMD programs involved active production; they instead appeared to be targeted at retaining the expertise needed to resume work once sanctions were dropped. Iraqi personnel involved with much of this work indicated they had orders to conceal it from U.N. weapons inspectors.
After Charles Duelfer took over from Kay in January 2004, Kay said at a Senate hearing that "we were almost all wrong" about Iraq having stockpiles of WMD, but that the other ISG findings made Iraq potentially "more dangerous" than was thought before the war. In an interview, Kay said that "a lot" of the former Iraqi government's WMD program had been moved to Syria shortly before the 2003 invasion, albeit not including large stockpiles of weapons.
On September 30, 2004, The ISG, under Charles Duelfer, issued a comprehensive report. The report stated that "Iraq's WMD capability ... was essentially destroyed in 1991" and that Saddam Hussein subsequently focused on ending the sanctions and "preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when sanctions were lifted". No evidence was found for continued active production of WMD subsequent to the imposition of sanctions in 1991, though "[b]y 2000-2001, Saddam had managed to mitigate many of the effects of sanctions".
The report concluded in its Key Findings that: "Saddam [Hussein] so dominated the Iraqi Regime that its strategic intent was his alone.... The former Regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam. Instead, his lieutenants understood WMD revival was his goal from their long association with Saddam and his infrequent, but firm, verbal comments and directions to them." The report also noted that "Iran was the pre-eminent motivator of [Iraq's WMD revival] policy.... The wish to balance Israel and acquire status and influence in the Arab world were also considerations, but secondary." A March 2005 addendum to the report stated that "[B]ased on the evidence available at present, ISG judged that it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place. However, ISG was unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited WMD-related materials."
On January 12, 2005, US military forces abandoned the formal search. Transcripts from high level meetings within Saddam Hussein's government before the invasion are consistent with the ISG conclusion that he destroyed his stockpiles of WMD but maintained the expertise to restart production.
During the post-invasion search for WMD, U.S. and Polish forces located some degraded chemical weapons that dated to the Iran-Iraq war. These discoveries led former senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), conservative Republicans and fierce supporters of the war, to claim that the U.S. had indeed found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
These assertions were directly contradicted by weapons experts David Kay, the original director of the Iraq Survey Group, and his successor Charles Duelfer. Both Kay and Duelfer made clear that the chemical weapons found were not the "weapons of mass destruction" that the U.S. was looking for and that their discovery did not suggest a broader chemical weapons stockpile or an ongoing weapons program under Saddam Hussein. Kay added that experts on Iraq's chemical weapons are in "almost 100 percent agreement" that sarin nerve agent produced in the 1980s would no longer be dangerous and that the chemical weapons found were "less toxic than most things that Americans have under their kitchen sink at this point". In reply, Hoekstra said "I am 100 percent sure if David Kay had the opportunity to look at the reports.. he would agree.. these things are lethal and deadly.
The degraded chemical weapons were first discovered in May 2004, when a binary sarin nerve gas shell was used in an improvised explosive device (roadside bomb) in Iraq. The device exploded before it could be disarmed, and two soldiers displayed symptoms of minor sarin exposure. The 155 mm shell was unmarked and rigged as if it were a normal high explosive shell, indicating that the insurgents who placed the device did not know it contained nerve gas. Earlier in the month, a shell containing mustard gas was found abandoned in the median of a road in Baghdad.
In July 2004, Polish troops also found evidence of degraded chemical weapons when they discovered insurgents trying to purchase cyclosarin gas warheads produced during the Iran-Iraq war. In their efforts to thwart insurgents acquiring these weapons, Polish troops purchased two rockets on June 23, 2004. The U.S. military later determined that the two rockets had only trace elements of sarin that were so small and deteriorated as to be virtually harmless and would have "limited to no impact if used by insurgents against coalition forces
While the Downing Street Memo and the yellowcake uranium scandal lend credence to claims that intelligence was manipulated, two bipartisan investigations, one by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the other by a specially appointed Iraq Intelligence Commission chaired by Charles Robb and Laurence Silberman, found no direct evidence of political pressure applied to intelligence analysts. An independent assessment by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found, however, that Bush Administration officials did misuse intelligence in their public communications. For example, Vice President Dick Cheney's September 2002 statement on Meet the Press that "we do know, with absolute certainty, that he (Saddam) is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon" was inconsistent with the views of the intelligence community at the time.
A study coauthored by nonprofit journalism organization the Center for Public Integrity found that in the two years after September 11, 2001 the president and top administration officials had made 935 false statements, in an orchestrated public relations campaign to galvanize public opinion for the war, and that the press was largely complicit in its uncritical coverage of the reasons adduced for going to war. PBS commentator Bill Moyers had made similar points throughout the run up to the Iraq War, and prior to a national press conference on the Iraq War Moyers correctly predicted "at least a dozen times during this press conference he [the President] will invoke 9/11 and Al Qaeda to justify a preemptive attack on a country that has not attacked America. But the White House press corps will ask no hard questions tonight about those claims. Moyers later also denounced the complicitly of the press in the administration's campaign for the war, saying that the media "surrendered its independence and skepticism to join with [the US] government in marching to war," and that the administration "needed a compliant press, to pass on their propaganda as news and cheer them on."
Many in the intelligence community expressed sincere regret over the flawed predictions about Iraqi weapons programs. Testifying before Congress in January 2004, David Kay, the original director of the Iraq Survey Group, said unequivocally that "It turns out that we were all wrong, probably in my judgment, and that is most disturbing. He later added in an interview that the intelligence community owed the President an apology.
In the aftermath of the invasion, much attention was also paid to the role of the press in promoting government claims concerning WMD production in Iraq. Between 1998 and 2003, The New York Times and other influential U.S. newspapers published numerous articles about suspected Iraqi rearmament programs with headlines like "Iraqi Work Toward A-Bomb Reported" and "Iraq Suspected of Secret Germ War Effort." It later turned out that many of the sources for these articles were unreliable, and that some were tied to Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi exile with close ties to the Bush Administration who was a consistent supporter of an invasion.
Some controversy also exists regarding whether the invasion increased or decreased the potential for nuclear proliferation. For example, hundreds of tons of dual-use high explosives that could be used to detonate fissile material in a nuclear weapon were sealed by the IAEA at the Al Qa'qaa site in January 2003. Immediately before the invasion, UN Inspectors had checked the locked bunker doors, but not the actual contents; the bunkers also had large ventilation shafts that were not sealed. By October, the material was no longer present. The IAEA expressed concerns that the material might have been looted after the invasion, posing a nuclear proliferation threat. The U.S. released satellite photographs from March 17, showing trucks at the site large enough to remove substantial amounts of material before U.S. forces reached the area in April. Ultimately, Major Austin Pearson of Task Force Bullet, a task force charged with securing and destroying Iraqi ammunition after the invasion, stated that the task force had removed about 250 tons of material from the site and had detonated it or used it to detonate other munitions. Similar concerns were raised about other dual use materials, such as high strength aluminum; before the invasion, the U.S. cited them as evidence for an Iraqi nuclear weapons program, while the IAEA was satisfied that they were being used for permitted industrial uses; after the war, the IAEA emphasized the proliferation concern, while the Duelfer report mentioned the material's use as scrap. Possible chemical weapons laboratories have also been found which were built subsequent to the 2003 invasion, apparently by insurgent forces.
On August 2, 2004, President Bush stated "Knowing what I know today we still would have gone on into Iraq.… The decision I made is the right decision. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.
Along with Iraq's alleged development of WMDs, another justification for invasion was the purported link between Saddam Hussein's government and terrorist organizations, in particular Al-Qaeda. In that sense, the Bush Administration cast the Iraq war as part of the broader War on Terrorism. As with the argument that Iraq was developing biological and nuclear weapons, evidence linking Hussein and Al-Qaeda was discredited by multiple U.S. intelligence agencies soon after the invasion of Iraq.
In asserting a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the Bush Administration focused special attention on alleged ties between Hussein and Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who Secretary of State Powell called a "collaborator of Osama bin Laden." Soon after the start of the war, however, evidence of such ties was discredited by multiple U.S. intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Department's Inspector General's Office. A CIA report in early October 2004 "found no clear evidence of Iraq harboring Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," More broadly, the CIA's Kerr Group summarized in 2004 that despite "a 'purposely aggressive approach' in conducting exhaustive and repetitive searches for such links... [the U.S.] Intelligence Community remained firm in its assessment that no operational or collaborative relationship existed. Despite these findings, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has continued to assert that a link existed between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which has drawn criticism from members of the intelligence community and leading Democrats. As of the invasion, Bush's own State Department listed 45 countries, including the United States where Al Qaeda was active. Iraq was not one of them . The eventual lack of evidence linking the Hussein government and Al Qaeda led many war critics to allege that the Bush Administration purposely fabricated such links to strengthen the case for the invasion. These claims were supported by the July 2005 release of the so-called Downing Street Memo, in which Richard Dearlove (then head of British foreign intelligence service MI6) wrote that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed [by the US] around the policy" of removing Saddam Hussein from power. In addition, in his April 2007 report Acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble found that the Defense Department's Office of Special Plans -- run by then-Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith, a close ally of Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- purposely manipulated evidence to strengthen the case for war. The Inspector General's report also highlighted the role of members of the Iraqi National Congress, a group headed by Ahmad Chalabi in providing false intelligence about connections with al-Qaeda to build support for a U.S. invasion.
In making its case for an invasion of Iraq, the Bush Administration also made mention of Saddam Hussein's relationships with terrorist organizations besides al Qaeda. For example, the Bush Administration alleged that Hussein regularly paid as much as $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers, some of whom were working with militant organizations in the Middle East such as Hamas.
The U.S. has cited the United Nations in condemnation of Hussein's human right abuses as one of several reasons for the Iraq invasion.
As evidence supporting U.S. and British claims about Iraqi WMDs and links to terrorism weakened, the Bush Administration began to focus more upon the other issues that Congress had articulated within the Iraq Resolution such as human rights violations of the Hussein government as justification for military intervention. That the Hussein government consistently and violently violated the human right of its people is in little doubt. During his more than twenty-year rule, Hussein killed and tortured thousands of Iraqi citizens, including gassing and killing thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq during the mid 1980s, brutally repressing Shia and Kurdish uprisings following the 1991 Gulf War, and a fifteen year campaign of repression and displacement of the Marsh Arabs in Southern Iraq. Hussein's brutal human rights record notwithstanding, war critics have severely questioned its use as rationale for military intervention.
Many critics have argued that human rights was never a principal justification for the war, and that it became prominent only after evidence concerning WMDs and Hussein's links to terrorism became discredited. For example, during a July 29, 2003, hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz spent the majority of his testimony discussing Hussein's human rights record, causing Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) to complain that "in the months leading up to the war it was a steady drum beat of weapons of mass destruction, weapons of mass destruction, weapons of mass destruction. And, Secretary Wolfowitz, in your almost hour-long testimony here this morning, once -- only once did you mention weapons of mass destruction, and that was an ad lib."
Leading human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International further argued that even had human rights concerns been a central rationale for the invasion, military intervention would not have been justifiable on humanitarian grounds. As Human Rights Watch's Ken Roth wrote in 2004, despite Hussein's horrific human rights record, "the killing in Iraq at the time was not of the exceptional nature that would justify such intervention.
More broadly, war critics have argued that the U.S. supported the Hussein regime during the 1980s, a period of some of his worst human rights abuses, thus casting doubt on the sincerity of claims that military intervention was for humanitarian purposes. Documents from the National Security Archive released in 2003 show that the U.S. provided considerable military and financial support during the Iran-Iraq war with full knowledge that the Hussein government was regularly using chemical weapons on Iranian soldiers and Kurdish insurgents. Following along this line, critics of the use of human rights as a rationale, such as Columbia University Law Professor Michael Dorf, have pointed out that during his first campaign for president Bush was highly critical of using U.S. military might for humanitarian ends. Others have questioned why military intervention for humanitarian reasons was justified in Iraq but not in other countries where human rights violations were even greater, such as Liberia or Darfur.
In an August 30 2005 speech, Bush stated a role of the occupation of Iraq was to prevent oil fields from falling into hands of terrorists: “If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks. They’d seize oil fields to fund their ambitions.”
Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, said in an interview that the removal of Saddam Hussein had been "essential" to secure world oil supplies, a point he emphasized to the White House in private conversations before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Additionally, in his memoir, Mr. Greenspan writes: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil. However, a Bush Administration foreign policy critic Dr. Robert Jervis stated: "Indeed, it is quite likely that failure [in Iraq] will lead the most common explanation to be that the war was fought for oil and Israel. This would be unfortunate." The invasion was initially called Operation Iraqi Liberation until the acronym OIL was noticed and it was changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
One report by BBC journalist Gregory Palast citing unnamed "insiders" alleged that the US "called for the sell-off of all of Iraq's oil fields" and planned for a coup d'état in Iraq began long before September 11th. It was also alleged by BBC's Greg Palast that the "new plan was crafted by neo-conservatives intent on using Iraq's oil to destroy the OPEC cartel through massive increases in production above OPEC quotas", but in reality Iraq oil production decreased with the neoconservative strategy and had the opposite effect.
Many critics have focused upon administration officials past relationship with energy sector corporations. Both the President and Vice President were formerly CEOs of oil and oil-related companies such as Arbusto, Harken Energy, Spectrum 7, and Halliburton. Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq and even before the War on Terror, the administration had prompted anxiety over whether the private sector ties of cabinet members (including National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, former director of Chevron, and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, former head of Tom Brown Inc.) would affect their judgment on energy policy. None of these officials however were in a position to benefit from energy policy decisions; all of the relationships had been severed before taking office.
In July 2007, then Australian Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson stated that oil was a major factor in the government's decision to keep troops in Iraq:
"Obviously the Middle East itself, not only Iraq, but the entire region, is an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world. And Australians and all of us need to think well what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq...One of the other priorities for us as we go forward into the future is energy security. It's not only for Australia. I think we derive about 20 per cent of our own oil reserves from the Middle East. But there are many countries, including developing countries, which rely substantially on energy supplies from the Middle East...For those reasons in particular, all of those reasons, one of which is energy security, it's extremely important that Australia take the view that it's in our interests, our security interests, to make sure that we leave the Middle East, and leave Iraq in particular, in a position of sustainable security."
Organizations such as the Global Policy Forum (GPF) have asserted that Iraq's oil is "the central feature of the political landscape" there, and that as a result of the 2003 invasion,"'friendly' companies expect to gain most of the lucrative oil deals that will be worth hundreds of billions of dollars in profits in the coming decades." According to GPF, U.S. influence over the 2005 Constitution of Iraq has made sure it "contains language that guarantees a major role for foreign companies."
Of 18 signatories to the 1998 PNAC letter, 11 would later occupy positions in President Bush's administration: Elliott Abrams, Richard Armitage, John R. Bolton, Paula Dobriansky, Francis Fukuyama, Zalmay Khalilzad, Richard Perle, Peter W. Rodman, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Robert B. Zoellick. Administration officials Dick Cheney, Eliot A. Cohen, and Lewis Libby were signatories to the 1997 PNAC "Statement of Principles.
In addition to claiming that the Hussein government had ties to Al-Qaeda, the Bush Administration and other supporters of the war have argued for continued involvement in Iraq as a means to combat terrorism. President Bush consistently refers to the Iraq war as the "central front in the war on terror. In contrast with this rationale, a few intelligence experts claim that the Iraq war has actually increased terrorism, even though no acts of terrorism have occurred within the US. London's conservative International Institute for Strategic Studies concluded in 2004 that the occupation of Iraq had become "a potent global recruitment pretext" for jihadists and that the invasion "galvanized" al-Qaeda and "perversely inspired insurgent violence" there. Counter-terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna has called the invasion of Iraq as a "fatal mistake" that has greatly increased terrorism in the Middle East. The U.S. National Intelligence Council concluded in a January 2005 report that the war in Iraq had become a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists; David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, indicated that the report concluded that the war in Iraq provided terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills.... here is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries." The Council's Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said, "At the moment, Iraq is a magnet for international terrorist activity." And the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, which outlined the considered judgment of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, held that "The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement."
Al-Qaeda leaders have also publicly cited the Iraq war as a boon to their recruiting and operational efforts, providing both evidence to jihadists worldwide that America is at war with Islam, and the training ground for a new generation of jihadists to practice attacks on American forces. In October 2003, Osama bin Laden announced: "Be glad of the good news: America is mired in the swamps of the Tigris and Euphrates. Bush is, through Iraq and its oil, easy prey. Here is he now, thank God, in an embarrassing situation and here is America today being ruined before the eyes of the whole world." Echoing this sentiment, Al-Qaeda commander Seif al-Adl gloated about the war in Iraq, indicating, "The Americans took the bait and fell into our trap." A letter thought to be from al-Qaeda leader Atiyah Abd al-Rahman found in Iraq among the rubble where al-Zarqawi was killed and released by the U.S. military in October 2006, indicated that al-Qaeda perceived the war as beneficial to its goals: "The most important thing is that the jihad continues with steadfastness ... indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest.
Our mission in Iraq and Afghanistan is clear to our service members -- and clear to our enemies. Our men and women are fighting to secure the freedom of more than 50 million people who recently lived under two of the cruelest dictatorships on earth. Our men and women are fighting to help democracy and peace and justice rise in a troubled and violent region. Our men and women are fighting terrorist enemies thousands of miles away in the heart and center of their power, so that we do not face those enemies in the heart of America.
Also, the House report accompanying the emergency spending legislation said the money was "of a magnitude normally associated with permanent bases".
Nabil Shaath told the BBC that according to minutes of a conference with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Bush said, "God inspired me to hit al Qaeda, and so I hit it. And I had the inspiration to hit Saddam, and so I hit him." Haaretz provided a similar translation of the minutes. When an Arabist at the Washington Post translated the same transcript, Bush was said to have indicated that God inspired him to, "end the tyranny in Iraq," instead.
October 12, 2002 - Newsmax wrote that CNSNews correspondent Jeff Johnson reported US Senator Spector wanted a probe of the Oklahoma City bombing link to Iraq after receiving 22 sworn affidavits by Oklahoma residents identifying 8 Middle Eastern men, including a former Iraqi Republican Guard (Hussain Al-Hussaini) from former KFOR-TV reporter Jayna Davis. Jayna Davis had theorised on the purported links between Oklahoma City (OKC) bombing and Iraq as well OKC bombing to Al-Qaeda.
Abdul Rahman Yasin, a suspect detained shortly after the 1993 US World Trade Center Bombing attacks, fled upon release into Iraq. Shortly after release, the FBI had discovered evidence linking him to the creation of the bomb. After the invasion, Iraqi government official documents translated from Arabic to English described Saddam's regime provided monthly payments to Yasin while in residing in the United States. Yasin is on the FBI's most wanted terrorists list, and is still at large.
John Lumpkin, Assiciated Press Writer, consolidates statements made by Vice President Cheney concerning the 1993 WTC bombing and Iraq. Cheney indicated Saddam's Iraqi government claimed to have FBI Fugitive Yasin, alleged participant in the mixing of the chemicals making the bomb used in the 1993 WTC attack, in an Iraqi prison. During negotiations in the weeks prior the invasion of Iraq, Saddam refused to extradite him.
Fox News claimed that evidence found in Iraq after the invasion was used to stop the attempted assassination of the Pakistani ambassador in New York with a shoulder fired rocket.
U.S. government officials have claimed that after the invasion, Yemen and Jordan stopped Iraqi terroristic attacks against Western targets in those nations. U.S. intelligence also warned 10 other countries that small groups of Iraqi intelligence agents may be readying similar attacks.
After the Beslan school hostage crisis, public school layouts and crisis plans were retrieved on a disk recovered during an Iraqi raid and had raised concerns in the United States. The information on the disks was "all publicly available on the Internet" and U.S. officials "said it was unclear who downloaded the information and stressed there is no evidence of any specific threats involving the schools.
Following the invasion, no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction were found, although about 500 abandoned chemical munitions, mostly degraded, remaining from Iraq's Iran-Iraq war, were collected from around the country The Kelly Affair highlighted a possible attempt by the British government to cover-up fabrications in British intelligence, the exposure of which would have undermined the Prime Minister's original rationale for involvement in the war. The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found no substantial evidence for reputed links between Iraq and al-Qaeda. President George W. Bush has since admitted that "much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong". Although evidence of WMD was searched for by the Iraq Survey Group, their final report of September 2004 stated, "While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter, a policy ISG attributes to Baghdad’s desire to see sanctions lifted, or rendered ineffectual, or its fear of force against it should WMD be discovered. In the March 2005 Addendum to the Report, the Special Advisor furthermore went on to state that "ISG assesses that Iraq and Coalition Forces will continue to discover small numbers of degraded chemical weapons, which the former Regime mislaid or improperly destroyed prior to 1991. ISG believes the bulk of these weapons were likely abandoned, forgotten and lost during the Iran-Iraq war because tens of thousands of CW munitions were forward deployed along frequently and rapidly shifting battlefronts. (For comparison, the U.S. Department of Defense itself was famously unable in 1998 to report the whereabouts of "56 airplanes, 32 tanks and 36 Javelin command launch units".) ISG also believed that Saddam did not want to verifiably disarm Iraq of WMD, as required by U.N. resolutions, for fear of looking weak to his enemies.
Claire Short claims that in July 2002, UK government ministers were warned that Britain was committed to participating in a U.S. invasion of Iraq, and a further allegation was that “the decision by Blair’s government to participate in the U.S. invasion of Iraq bypassed proper government procedures and ignored opposition to the war from Britain’s intelligence quarters.“. Tony Blair had agreed to back military action to oust Saddam Hussein with an assessment regarding WMD, at a summit at President George W. Bush's Texas ranch. Also present at the meeting, were Geoff Hoon, then-British defence secretary, Jack Straw, then-British foreign secretary, and Sir Richard Dearlove, then-chief of MI6.
In Europe the peace movement was very strong, especially in Germany, where three quarters of the population were opposed to the war. Ten NATO member countries did not join the coalition with the U.S., and their leaders made public statements in opposition to the invasion of Iraq. These leaders included Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, Jacques Chirac of France, Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey. Public perceptions of the U.S. changed dramatically as a consequence of the invasion.
Other possible U.S. objectives, denied by the U.S. government but acknowledged by retired U.S. General Jay Garner, included the establishment of permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq as a way of projecting power (creating a credible threat of U.S. military intervention) to the oil-rich Persian Gulf region and the Middle East generally. In February 2004, Jay Garner, who was in charge of planning and administering post-war reconstruction in Iraq, explained that the U.S. occupation of Iraq was comparable to the Philippine model: "Look back on the Philippines around the turn of the 20th century: they were a coaling station for the navy, and that allowed us to keep a great presence in the Pacific. That's what Iraq is for the next few decades: our coaling station that gives us great presence in the Middle East"; (see also Philippine-American War). Garner was replaced by Paul Bremer after reports came out of his position in SY Coleman, a division of defense contractor L-3 Communications specializing in missile-defense systems. It was believed his role in the company was in contention with his role in Iraq. The House Appropriations Committee said the report accompanying the emergency spending legislation was "of a magnitude normally associated with permanent bases. However, the United States House of Representatives voted in 2006 to not fund any permanent bases in Iraq.