The United States government of George W Bush seemed to have
been keen to have a war against Saddam Hussein, even before they
took office. They allege that this is because he had "weapons
of mass destruction" or even may have been connected to
the terror network of Osama bin Laden following the attack on
the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001. (There
is in fact no evidence for either of these assertions. An account
in Ron Suskind - The Way of the World says
that before the war began the head of Iraqi intelligence, Tahir
Jalil Habbush, told an MI5 officer in Jordan that there were
The reason is probably set out in the Project for a New American Century, the
ideological statement of those who came to power in the US in
2001 until they lost the Congressional elections in 2006. These
people seem to have had grandiose notions of American power,
remarkably similar to the delusions of the German ruling group
in 1914 - see First World War page, and
Norman Stone's essential book.
Possibly, however, this article may give the reason - Mr Bush
thought he heard the voice of God telling him to.
Another possibility is that it was from a desire for revenge
against an alleged plot against the elder Bush while he was visiting
Another possible cause is from a claim by a Moroccan acting
as a spy for France and Britain within Al Qaeda. He reported
that members of the organisation were trained to lie under torture
and that one prominent prisoner had claimed to American interrogator
that Saddam had been assisting them. If the US government acted
on this lie then the invasion of Iraq was at the wish of Osama,
to increase the tension between the west and the Islamic world.
This was broadcast by the BBC on 16 Nov 2006.
Another possibility is that an Iranian agent, Ahmed Chelabi
made the Americans believe that Saddam had nuclear and bilogical
weapons. Thus it was Iran's policy to eliminate Iraq as a rival
power that was the real cause of the war, the US obliging them.
Following the Kuwait war, a United Nations resolution ordered
Iraq to allow its nuclear, biological and chemical war stocks
and manufacturing to be inspected and destroyed. The inspectors
did indeed find many weapons and factories and oversaw the destruction
of poison gases, biological weapons, missiles and nuclear manufacturing
The Iraq government (Saddam Hussein) is said to have made
the inspectors leave in 1997 (though some say that the inspectors
withdrew themselves, fearing a military attack on Iraq from the
US and British forces). Although aircraft of Britain and the
US have been bombing various parts of Iraq since then (indeed,
since the end of the Kuwait war) it was not clear whether the
Iraqis had been continuing to build these weapons. It seems unlikely
there is a serious nuclear program as the facilities needed would
be large and visible to Space Satellite inspection. (The International
Atomic Energy Agency inspector's report confirms this impression.)
At the time of the war it was not clear whether there might have
been biological weapons production as this can be concealed easily.
Chemical weapons can also be made in small facilities. Subsequent
inspection showed none. After intensive search by American teams
no nuclear, biological or chemical weapons were found. It seems
Saddam's government had told the truth when they said these weapons
had been destroyed. The UN teams had found the same.
Was Iraq a threat to the neighbors?
This seemed unlikely even before the war started as it was clear
much of his army consisted of unwilling conscripts. Many of these
deserted during the Kuwait war whenever they had the opportunity.
In this war, however, fewer seem to have done so at first, though
Was Iraq a threat to the United States?
This too seems unlikely as Iraq is not known to control large
scale terrorist groups (though assassinations of opposition people
in foreign states was not unknown).
The US persuaded (November 2002) the Security Council to pass
a Resolution demanding the re-admission of Weapons Inspectors.
There was at the same time a visible movement of US troops, ships
and aircraft to the area.
Was Iraq connected with Osama bin Laden?
No evidence has been presented to show any link. As a secularist,
Saddam Hussein was seen as an enemy of the fanatical type of
Islam promoted by Osama. However, once Iraq was occupied, Osama's
supporters are believed to have infiltrated the country, and
some of the guerrillas may be associated with him. In the Kurdish
area there was a group called Ansari (named after the early helpers
of Mohammed) who may have been associated with Osama. These may
have become more active - although an area believed to have been
their main training camp was destroyed by American and Kurdish
Will there be an invasion of Iraq? (2002)
The president of the US and other government spokesmen had been
demanding 'regime change' - presumably meaning the replacement
of Saddam as head of government, and perhaps also the ending
of the dictatorship. Invasion began on 20 March 2003. The only
states to actively support this are: Australia, Britain, Kuwait,
Spain. Bulgaria provided a base. Turkey grudgingly allowed use
of air space. Thus it may well be seen as an act of American
empire-building. There was no agreement by other members of the
United Nations Security Council
Turkey sent troops across the northern border, presumably with
the intention of controlling the Kurds. They did not send troops
to assist in the occupation. This may well be because it was
clear that Iraqis would not accept their former imperial rulers.
It was also because the war was very unpopular in Turkey.
Apparently the American government expected resistance to collapse
almost at once. The first three days showed that, although a
few Iraqi troops surrendered, enough fought back to prolong the
war. But civilians were wary of rebelling after what happened
after the Kuwait war, when they were encouraged to rise, but
not helped. Bombing of government and Ba'ath party buildings
and military targets began the war, and there was an invasion
by armored forces, both American and British. Some Iraqi troops
surrendered, but it looks as though the extremely repressive
regime with party enforcement death squads in every group of
troops prevented desertion, while similar extreme police measures
threatening death prevented an uprising in the cities until the
later stages of the war. Baghdad collapsed on about 8 April.
Were the people of Iraq freed from their extremely obnoxious
regime? Bush and Blair claimed (after the invasion) that this
was an important war aim.
The occupation by British forces of Basra showed that the regime
had melted away, especially after the (falsely) reported death
of Ali Hassan Al Majid "Chemical Ali" the commander
of the south, and one of the worst war criminals of the Ba'ath
regime. When there was no government people came out on to the
streets and broke into government buildings taking away everything
movable, and removed statues and portraits of Saddam. But the
looting then extended to almost all property including even hospitals
as the police no longer existed.
Possibly the most unfortunate action of the occupation government
was to disband the Iraqi army, police and governmental institutions.
As a result the American governor had no tools to administer
the country. (It is said that the State department had had a
plan for the occupation but that the Secretary for War, Donald
Rumsfeld, had ignored it.) The abolition of the government structure
may well have made the subsequent looting and guerrilla war inevitable.
There seems to be a concerted campaign against the occupation
forces, at first thought to be directed by Saddam Hussein, while
he was uncaptured, but by April 2004 looking like a popular uprising
acquiesced in by many (mainly Sunni) Iraqis. There may also be
activity by Radical Islamists perhaps assisted by associates
of Osama bin Laden.
People wondered whether the occupation would result in a government
controlled by Iraqis. First, there was a Governing Council appointed
by an American Administrator who promised there would be a handover
to an Iraqi government by July 2004. This occurred a few days
before on 28 June. However, there were no elections. The new
government was selected in a process with some UN involvement
but was largely controlled by the US administrator.
Many people suspected that what the US intended was a puppet
government appointed by the US that would then request American
assistance in the 14 bases the Americans are beginning to build.
This is of course similar to the claims the USSR made for its
presence in Afghanistan. It can be confidently predicted that
this situation would result in continual military opposition
and guerrilla war. The British had done something similar when
they set up the monarchy, apparently independent but in reality
needing British military force to keep it in being. The main
leader of the Shi'ite Muslims insisted there must be free elections.
There were elections in January 2005. The Iraqi government eventually
formed after the elections was dominated by those who voted -
the Shi'ites and the Kurds. The Sunnis are not represented as
much as they would like.
There is a report that Kurds are preparing
a Kurdish army under cover of the new Iraqi army to seize control
of Irbil and parts of Mosul as a preparation for Kurdish independence.
By 2006 there is a worsening interior situation as suicide car
bombs occur several times a day, killing thousands of people.
It is not clear who are coordinating these attacks. They seem
to be by Sunni Arabs, trying to regain control of the country
from the Shi'ite dominated government. However, there are also
killings of Sunnis, possibly by Shi'ite attackers.
It is clear that neither the occupation forces nor the elected
government have much influence over what is happening.
In both the US and Britain there are signs (October 2006)
that the governments are looking for a way to withdraw their
forces. This would leave behind a civil war likely to be "won"
by Shi'ites controlled by Iran in the south, Saddamists in the
center, and Kurds in the north.
The war has perhaps demonstrated to the world what the Suez
war in 1956 did - the limits to military power. The United States
has a huge military machine, as Britain had in 1956. But that
machine cannot control events. The Suez war demonstrated that
the British Empire
had ended. Does the Iraq war show the end of American hegemony?
The US government has apparently realised (November 2006)
that it cannot achieve any of its aims. The signs are that they
will eventually agree to take the western armies out. What will
happen to the Iraqis - believed to have suffered at least 600,000
In 2007 Bush announced an increase in US forces - a Surge
- and a new policy of recruiting Sunni allies and constructing
walls between Shi'ite and Sunni areas in Baghdad. He has claimed
that this policy has reduced violence. Has it? Possibly only
a reduction in attacks on US forces but civilian deaths continue
at a high level.
The Shi'ite dominated government forces moved in force to Basra,
apparently attempting to suppress the Mahdi Army, the militia
formed by Bani Al Sadr. The Shi'ite faction controlling the government
seems to be hostile to the faction controlled by Sadr.
The main factor now (2009) seems to be uncertainty about what
President Obama's policy will be. He needs the money the war
is costing in order to restore the US economy, and he needs the
troops, to be sent to Afghanistan.
He has promised to withdraw combat troops within a year.
He announced on 21 October 2011 that all American troops would
leave "at the end of the year".
Shortly after they left, the government structure set up in Iraq began to unravel with a warrant issued by the ShiĠite Prime Minister for the Sunni vice President and the Sunnis leaving the coalition government.