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It's been five years since the Allied coalition invaded Iraq under the pretence that they were bringing democracy to the Iraqis, tyrannised by the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, and that Iraq possessed 'weapons of mass destruction' (or WMD's) that were famously capable (supposedly) of striking Britain in as little as 45 minutes. Despite living through the war, it is only now - after the lies, spin and passion have diminished and ceased to cloud our minds - that the invasion of Iraq can truly be dissected, and the truth uncovered. From my knowledge, most people in Britain did not want to go to war with Iraq, although of course some believed that we were doing the right thing. Most importantly - and what I'll be looking at - was the war against Iraq an illegal war? This is the crux of the matter - if the war was indeed illegal (by international law, for instance) then by what mandate do we occupy the nation? The war in Iraq is fascinating for so many reasons - many, including myself, believed that the days when a powerful aggressor could invade a much smaller, weaker nation (full of natural resources) without consequences were over. Clearly, the Iraq War holds answers for those of us who want to question American global hegemony, and what the 21st century has in store for the West and indeed the world.I have used footnotes quite liberally in this report, so lookout for the numbers in brackets for additional/backup information to the statements made.
East Meets West
The history between Iraq and the West is a tumultuous one. Whatever negative connotations people have with Iraq as being a horrific bloodbath, it should be remembered that the Mesopotamian plateau was one of the birthplaces of modern civilisation - the great Babylonian empire of the B.C. times centred around the fertile plains surrounding the Tigris river. After years of Ottoman Turk occupation, Iraq was ceded to the British Empire (as a mandate) in 1921 when the Turkish dynasty collapsed, and the British handed independence to the Iraqis in 1932. This did not bring stability - the monarchy was overthrown in 1958, with more revolutions in 1963, 1968 and 1979, when Saddam Hussein assumed control by murdering and imprisoning many of his opponents. A bloody 8 year war with Iran followed (in which Iraq - ruled by Saddam - was given $30bn in loans from the West to topple Iran , which it failed to do), in which millions were killed, and both nations economies were damaged. Later on, in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the US, on behalf of the UN, invaded to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait and settle the dispute, which it did. However, the problem of Saddam Hussein - a malign dictator who was a threat to stability in the region and a human rights abuser - had not been solved, and forces withdrew. Nevertheless, perhaps some viewed the scenario as unfinished business - would a nation always have had to take out Hussein's regime? Could this be done in a peaceful manner? In any case, it is hard to imagine how the United States could pick and choose when to see dictatorships as a threat and when to work with them. Sadly, it seems to be that human rights and freedoms are not at stake here - rather, it is U.S. interest in question. For instance, the U.S. supports, and continues to support, the effective dictatorship that exists in Uzbekistan whose human rights record is nothing short of shocking. Besides, it also seems as though the U.S. can violate human rights whenever it wants (Guantanamo Bay) yet seeks to lambaste and destroy any nation following suit. I digress. After the Gulf War, relations between Iraq and the U.S. were very patchy indeed despite the fall of the Bush snr. administration in the mid 1990s, UN weapons inspectors remained in Iraq until they were thrown out in 1998.
The war in 2003, it must be said, was a different matter. Here, Iraq was not a blatant aggressor, but simply a state that did not co-operate with the United States. Nevertheless, the nations still managed to exist on the same planet without waging war against one another until after the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks in New York City, whereby Al-Qaeda, an Afghanistani militant group of extremist Muslims, allegedly attacked the United States. This justified the following invasion of Afghanistan later that year, since Al-Qaeda was the ruling regime in the country. So far, so clear. But the next step is problematic - how did the US manage to get from attacking Al Qaeda lead Afghanistan, who had attacked the US, in 2001, to launching a full-scale invasion of Iraq, a neighbour some 1,000 miles away, who had no links with the terrorist group?
Thieving a Nation - Tricks of the Trade
It is at this point that the U.S. position begins to look rather corrupt. Delve further, however, and the water becomes murkier still, especially when the specific reasons given for attacking Iraq are scrutinized carefully. Firstly, and foremost, was the desire to rid Iraq of its alleged weapons of mass destruction, as part of the U.S. war on terror. After the Gulf War, Iraq signed a Treaty in 1991 as part of the peace agreement stating that it would suspend its production of weapons of mass destruction (such as chemical or atomic weaponry) infinitely. Bush claimed that this had been broken in 2001, and demanded that Iraq ceased immediately. Counter to this, Iraq allowed weapons inspectors back in 2002 with the U.N. to prove that it did not have, nor was producing, WMD's. The weapons inspectors found nothing. Yet the US pressed on. Bush accused Hussein of purchasing uranium from Niger , and the CIA investigated this link by examining records of exports from Niger, stocks, weapons control etcetera. The CIA concluded that reports claiming Iraq had purchased the uranium were "unequivocally wrong" . Despite this, the U.S. continued to accuse Iraq of purchasing uranium from Niger, most notably in the 2003 Sate of the Union Address. Iraq denied ever purchasing any uranium.
Another reason for the U.S. invading was that Al Qaeda had links with Hussein - in other words, Iraq was a terrorist state. This claim is dubious in the extreme. It would seem to me that the U.S. government deliberately made it seem as though Al Qaeda were Iraqi at every stage in their campaign to wage war against Saddam Hussein, from the evidence that exists. When the War on Terror began, the CIA, under George Tenet, were paramount in investigating Al Qaeda positions in Afghanistan. In personal meetings with the President throughout 2001 and 2002, Tenet repeatedly insisted that there was no link whatsoever between Iraq and Al Qaeda. However, despite being the head of a team investigating the terrorist body, his word was not taken. In 2002, Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld initiated a secret program to re-examine the evidence and marginalize the CIA and Tenet. The secret, and rather questionable, intelligence acquired by this program was fed to Cheney who presented it to the public via news correspondents and the press, specifically The New York Times. Cheney later appeared on national television as part of a politics show to discuss this intelligence, and he The New York Times as his reference for the evidence to give it creditability. Further, members of the Bush administration repeatedly used ideologically-charged language to make Al Qaeda and Iraq look one and the same. For instance, a high profile female Republican (I apologise that I have misplaced the original link and so cannot confirm her name, though the quotation is accurate) stated, in a debate about whether the Iraq War was 'right' in its aftermath, that:
In this statement, Al Qaeda, who attacked the U.S. in 2001, and Iraq, who the U.S. invaded in 2003, are portrayed to be the same through the use of 'they' to refer to both Al Qaeda and Iraq. This subtle adjustment of language was neither a mistake nor an isolated incident - if you look at speeches made by the Bush administration, Iraq and Al Qaeda are rarely distinguished. The result was that by 2004, 80% of Americans believed that Al Qaeda were an Iraqi organisation. This is not true. Subsequently, in 2008, the neutral Centre for Public Integrity has enumerated a total of 935 false statements made by George Bush and six other top members of his administration in a carefully launched campaign of misinformation during the two year period following 9-11, in order to rally support for the invasion of Iraq. The third, and I would argue tacked-on, reason for war with Iraq was to uphold the principles of human rights and liberalism (via democracy) against the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein. This has been emphasised most in the aftermath of the regime ("At least we got rid of Saddam"), rather than a legitimate reason for going in in the first place. This raises a few questions. First of all, in retrospect, was war the only method by which Saddam could be toppled? In the past, the U.S. has adopted various counter-establishment techniques to force those whom they dislike (or those who don't co-operate with America) out of power. Cuba's Fidel Castro is an example - a Communist authoritarian who ruled with vast popular consent of the Cuban people, the Americans attempted to lower popularity for the regime by restricting trade with the nation, thus impoverishing the people to such an extent that they would desire capitalism and overthrow Castro. Other examples, such as the pressure put on the USSR, show that perhaps war wasn't the only method by which Saddam could be toppled. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, what gives America this right to decide when a ruler should be deposed? Many claim that once a regime starts to murder and torture its own citizens, collective action against it must be taken, as this is plainly wrong. However, drawing the line is, in this case as in so many others, difficult. One could argue that America kills and tortures its own citizens - the death penalty still exists in many states and the nefarious Guatanamo Bay is a blemish against the liberalism the U.S. supposedly stands for. The point here is this - it is notoriously tricky to determine just when a regime is being unjust, and even then, is It right to intervene? In any case, though, the need to topple Saddam as an end in itself was not highlighted extensively before the invasion but, rather, afterwards, suggesting that this was never high on the list of priorities for the U.S. After all, if this were the case, North Korea, Zimbabwe and others would be next in the crosshairs for them, or even before Iraq. It would seem, from this evidence so far, that the U.S. had vested interest in Iraq whether or not they were actually linked to Al Qaeda and whether or not they had WMD's, and whether or not Iraq had been abusing human rights (after all, it had never bothered the U.S. before). This leads us to yet another question - why did the U.S. desire armed conflict against Iraq so badly?Cruel Britannia - Tony's choice
It's The Economy, Stupid
To borrow that well known Clinton-ism, it would seem that this debacle is all down to economics. In any case, the war cannot be understood without a cursory understanding of how the global economy works. The United States has the world's largest and most powerful economy, worth a staggering $13 trillion. There are many reasons as to why the U.S. possesses such a strong economy, but one of them is that the main global currency is, and has been for some time, the dollar. When nations wish to trade resources with one another, the dollar is often used as the currency of choice as it is ubiquitous and 'safe'. Many nations pin their currency to the dollar, making it fluctuate with the U.S. currency. Indeed, in the many trade deals it engenders, the U.S. adds a sub clause whereby it proposes that the country being negotiated with should use the dollar for all its transactions in the near future. Nations that hold currency an stocks to increase its value via interest often do so in dollars. Whenever a country uses dollars that isn't the United States it must purchase them off the U.S. federal reserve, and thus the massive worldwide demand for dollars mean that the U.S. makes a massive turnover. Elsewhere, the single European currency, the Euro, was created in 1999. This would be a transnational currency to rival the dollar if it became widely used. In the same year, Saddam Hussein declared that he would only sell oil to companies and nations using Euros rather than dollars, mainly due to his grudge against the U.S. stemming from the Gulf War. Obviously, Iraq exports a tremendous amount of oil, which would, prior to 1999, be exported in dollars, thus being beneficial to the U.S. Once the switch to the Euro was complete, the U.S. stopped making money on this. Clearly, this had an adverse effect on the American economy - after the September 11th attacks in 2001, many American commentators wished a return to the laissez-fair economic policies of the Republicans after Clinton of the Democrats was out in 2000. The threat of China, coupled with the damage done to the U.S. economy by the 9/11 attacks, meant that the economy was more crucial than ever before. Further still, many elites in the U.S. began to question how long oil could continue to be used to such an extent (reserves could dry up as early as 2050), and hinted that in the future, dominance would be assimilated by those with oil or access to it. At the same time, traditional U.S. - Saudi Arabian relations were on the wane - this meant poorer future access to its oil. Good access to oil was fundamental to the U.S. policy circa 2001. From the point of view of the U.S., what better way to consolidate its access to the black gold than by setting up camp in an oil-rich nation? By having de facto control over Iraq, the U.S. can now control the flow of oil from the Middle east itself. Whatever short term costs the war created for the United Stares, in the long term it will prove to be a profitable venture for the nation. It may interest readers to know that Iraqi oil is now sold by the dollar, not by the Euro.
It is also important to understand just how profound an effect the U.S. economy has on other nations. At the last count, over half of the world's top 20 businesses (in terms of turnover) were American. If a nation fails to comply with America, it can threaten to wipe out this trade. For instance, at the U.N. preliminary vote on whether to go to war with Iraq in 1991, 7 nations voted against the U.S. military action. The U.S. then offered Saudi oil to these 7 nations in return for support. When the real vote was cast, 2 nations rejected the offer and voted against the U.S., Yemen and Cuba. Later that month, the U.S. cancelled the $75m dollars of aid it was to give to Yemen that year indefinitely. This is just one example of many displaying the influence the U.S. wields in the global economy. Examples abound - in 2001, the U.S. threatened to withdraw their trade from Pakistan unless more airbases could be built & used on a more regular basis in the war with Afghanistan. Coercion, it seems, may have helped more than a few countries make up their minds on the war. My suspicious lie chiefly with Mr Blair. What economic deal was struck with Bush? Perhaps staying on the good side of the richest, most powerful country in the world was the main reason for Blair's insistence on the war. People often forget that war is good for business and good for economies - only the outbreak of the Second World War healed the Great Depression of the 1930s. The weaponry has to be supplied, the fuel, the logistics, the manpower, the energy, all has to be paid for - a top U.S. based military firm made $2.7bn out of a single contract for the Iraq War, and from October 2006-October 2007, $237bn was spent by the U.S. in its military. Clearly, the real money is in guns.
Going Deeper - What's Philosophy Got To Do With It?
Judging the philosophical implications of America's invasion reveals a whole new perspective on the war. If you trace some of the arguments in favour of the war to their logical conclusions, the implications are often brutal and frightening. Let's begin with my personal favourite - often in a debate about the war, someone will declare that democracy and individual liberty has been brought to the Iraqis, and this is usually followed by a general nodding of heads and happy agreement. This is nonsense for many reasons. Firstly, if you just accept that bringing democracy to Iraq has been a benefit, or in that case bringing liberalism to Iraq, you are guilty of presupposing a commitment to your own values. In other words, the creation of democracy and liberal values in Iraq has been a good thing only to the extent that we say democracy and liberalism are good. What gives the U.S. and her allies the right to declare some regimes and processes 'right' and others 'wrong'? The pretence of the war, bringing democracy to Iraq, is simply not good enough. For a start, when did the Iraqis ask for democracy, and more specifically, a U.S. model of democracy? Some would say that they couldn't declare that they wanted a democracy as Saddam Hussein exercised control of the nation, but this is a half-truth. Most dictators are toppled when their people simply have enough of them and organise a coup d'etat. By forcing democracy upon the Iraqis we are helping no one. To say, "It's democracy and therefore it's good" is tautological in the extreme, not to mention rather bigoted and narrow minded. Democracy isn't necessarily the best form of government - the most popular, yes, but how can someone prove it's the best? Along what grounds? In the invasion of Iraq, America presupposed democracy's epistemological superiority over other forms of government, which is ironic considering Mr Bush's own election. If a country declared Britain's form of government wrong, we would rightly be annoyed and ask the question, "What gives you the right to declare it wrong?". This is precisely what the USA has done in this situation. Democracy is entirely dependant on the context of each nation - just because it works in one place, there is no guarantee it will work in another. Different cultures have different perspectives on the family, the community, and the state, and their prospective roles in society, and thus may choose a form of government that reflects this, which may not be democracy. Western liberal democracy, which is often fused with Capitalism, encourages citizens to think along individualistic lines, whereas many Eastern cultures place greater emphasis along the lines of the community. In any case, if democracy is to come about, it must do so naturally and organically, and thus reflect the nature of its society. Britain's peculiar constitutional monarchy, with a first past the post electoral system and no written constitution or bill of rights, developed organically for around 600 years. Imposing government where it does not belong will culminate in violence and disobedience. Nations must have governments that reflect their history and culture, as this will help engender loyalty to the government and a sense of national cohesion. The system in India, for instance, is democratic, but is peculiar in that the system of law is not nationally impartial, but rather allows room for the many individual cultures to have 'laws' of their own within their separate communities. In this case, the democracy of India has developed specifically to the needs of the people living there. This is truly democratic.
The case of liberalism is even harder to justify. Yes, a vast majority of the world would agree that individual liberties are a good thing and vital to human existence, but the importance of these liberties compared to other values is debatable. In other words, different countries place individual liberties above or below other factors such as equality, order and economic prosperity. Depending on where it is placed, it is either enshrined or occasionally sacrificed, and this is to the discretion of each individual nation. Iraqis, due to there cultural history, may place individual liberty below stability. It is not another country's place to determine the order of these values. Individual liberalism may 'work' in Britain and America, but it may not fit with the cultural norms of societies in places such as Iraq. This is not an issue of 'development' - cultures that have different values to us are not 'behind' - but merely the natural and logical conclusion to the differing cultural values in these cultures. Giving liberty or democracy to Iraq is thus a very contentious issue, especially when you consider the following. It can be argued that order and stability are the most important features of a society, as without them, governance becomes impossible and the state descends into a state of anarchy, usually violent. Even if we consider for a moment that bringing democracy to Iraq is a good idea, can it be justified if order has been compromised? What is the use of democracy if there is no stability? This is what many pro-War Westerners fail to understand. Just because the West places democracy and individual liberty at the apex of values, it doesn't necessarily mean that other nations and cultures do too. Many other societies value order and stability, and quite rightly so - as discussed, there can be no other values without order. How can individual liberty be upheld if there is chaos? Without order, other values such as equality are useless. The U.S. is guilty of disrupting order in Iraq and thus harming its long term prospects of liberty, democracy or any other value. Yes, Iraq has a democratically elected parliament now, but often it is close to empty as politicians fear assassination if they leave their house. Under Saddam Hussein's brutal regime, at least there was some sort of order and stability. This is not a statement in support of Hussein - his regime was morally deplorable and downright brutal - but now there is chaos thanks to the American insistence on democracy.
It can also be seen that we have betrayed the very values we stand for by invading Iraq. The West claims to stand for democracy, and yet Blair did not listen his people when they marched against the war. The West claims to stand against terrorism and arbitrary (totalitarian) government, and yet Bush continues to lock up suspects without a trial in the brutal Guantanamo Bay, where torture is permitted. The West claims to stand for individual liberty, yet continually curbs freedom of speech and protest within its borders. In general, the moral validity of the West is at best questionable and at worst utterly false. The humanitarian crises that have plagued Iraq since the eruption of war make for sad reading - the violation of human rights at the so-called Battle for Haditha (where the majority of an entire village was killed, much like a modern day My Lai), an outbreak of cholera, health care has deteriorated to the level of the 1950s, an upsurge in refugees and orphans, and various human rights abuses including torture. What example are we setting by marching into other nations and dismantling them as we please, imposing our values along the way? There is now a moral vacuum whenever the West makes a claim against others, and this has sadly lead to a loss of faith in the West and its values. As of yet it is unclear whether the West can ever regain its moral authority again, and whether it can regain the trust of the people it so foully lied to.
Below are the footnotes made: Here, the U.S., that staunch defender of human rights, was the only nation to authorise Iraqi use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians.
 State of the Union Address, 29/01/2002 Specifically 'yellowcake' uranium.
 Former CIA Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was head of the team sent to investigate the dubious claims. To this day, it is illegal for a U.S. citizen to take more than $200 into Cuba.
 Every single allegation against Iraq made in the 2002 'September Dossier', properly known as 'Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government', has since been proven false. Indeed, the U.S. places the majority of its Indian Ocean fleet at the Malacca strait, through which 70% of China's oil passes. The U.S. effectively has its hands around the Chinese windpipe and, if it decided to stop the flow of oil, China would be paralysed.
 The democratic process in Iraq is based along the lines of the American democratic systems, with the country divided along federal lines. In the infamous 2000 Presidential election, George Bush needed a re-count of votes in Florida to 'win' the election, despite Al Gore having previously won the state. The head of the counting of the votes in Florida was a cousin on Bush's.
 Not only did the government lie about the amount of anti-war protestors on 20/03/03 by a substantial amount, it is now also illegal to protest in Parliament Square. Further, the new anti-terror laws have destroyed the right to a fair trial. The American embassy in Iraq, for example, is the largest embassy in the world. Costing $1bn, it has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, its own missile defence system and the largest shopping centre in Iraq.
Thanks for taking time to read this, do leave a comment with your thoughts if you can, whether you agree or disagree. If I've made an omission or error of some sort, let me known and I'll endeavour to fix it.
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