What are our recollections of the Iraq war? Explosions which lit up the skies around Bagdad as the invasion commenced? Tony Blair announcing that Britain would support America in the conflict? A viral video depicting a scrawny, ragged man being executed? These are just a few of the images which have been used to summarise the Wests effort to secure Iraq.
Beginning an argument in favour of the war should firstly focus upon dispelling many of the common misconceptions that exist with regard to the conflict. Chiefly there exists a misconception that America was motivated solely by the prospect of oil and wealth. Since the original invasion, which caused Iraq’s oil production to crash, the country has slowly made progress. Even today, although it fails to rival its own production rates of the 1970s (when the country produced four million barrels of oil per day).
Furthermore, the country itself is reliant upon external imports to meet its own demands. Only 45% of its fuel production accounts for heavy oils such as petrol or diesel. For American oil companies, this means that whilst oil production is enjoying something of a resurgence, it is still not sufficient to be considered a worthwhile justification for invasion. Furthermore, the contracts which have been granted to oil companies were far from exclusively American. Instead, British, Chinese and Russian companies have also been able to hold lucrative rights over a share of Iraq’s oil production. If America had intentionally invaded Iraq to ensure a means of securing its energy future, it would have been an incredibly risky and short-sighted decision, which went against all military knowledge and advice.
What is more, this misconception has helped to foster an even greater misconception that the Iraq War was carried out to extend American influence in the region. This is based heavily upon the belief that America desired to widen its sphere of influence within Middle Eastern politics. If this had been the case, though, why on earth would America quit the country when its political system was still fraught with difficulties?
|Iraqis exercising right to protest, 2013|
Indeed it was only on Monday that Ban Ki-Moon urged the resuming of talks between the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government. With an unstable political system which is still mired in controversy and corruption, America has hardly succeeded in creating a valuable alliance with a country in the Middle East. Certainly it is undeniable that perhaps America could well have chosen to invade Iraq on just such a basis, however quickly realised the difficulties of implementing such a plan once faced with reality. Again, though, why would this reasoning be employed by the United States Government? Saddam Hussein had been a cause of humanitarian concern for decades. Sanctions had been imposed on the country since 1990, when Saddam had instrumented the invasion of Kuwait that sparked the First Gulf War. This offered America a clear motivation for invasion: namely to rid the world of a monumental headache. Therefore, to say that it was either to do with oil or to do with a desire for power ignores the previous issues which Saddam caused for both the world and his own country.Before progressing onto the reasons why the war itself was of a major benefit it is worth acknowledging that the WMD case was grossly exaggerated. Dr David Kelly, the weapons expert who fulfilled inspection roles for both Britain and the United Nations, expressed particular worry at a dossier which claimed that Iraq could use chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of the order being released. After the war, however, evidence quickly mounted suggesting that Saddam had largely disposed of his weapons arsenal almost a decade before the invasion. Charles Duelfer’s investigation into Iraq’s weapon capabilities concluded that “It is my judgment that retained stocks do not exist. I still do not expect that militarily significant WMD stocks are hidden in Iraq.” Without the stock piling of WMDs, the case for the Iraq war therefore seemingly collapsed. Tony Blair attempted to restore the case by highlighting the report’s conclusion that Saddam Hussein may well have tried to rebuild his weaponry capabilities once the trade embargo was lifted. On balance, when attempting to support the war, it is extremely difficult to use the case of WMDs. Saddam was found to have stopped nuclear research in 1991 and chemical tests in 1995.
Why, then, was the war both justified and entirely necessary?
It cost the British Armed Services the lives of 179 personnel. There can only be one undeniable reason as to why the action was necessary: to remove a despotic, tyrannical individual who abused his people to the most extreme extent. John Simpson, who has spent almost a decade covering the war for the BBC, reflected on some of the features of the Saddam regime during an article marking the tenth anniversary of the war. Speaking to an individual who had been victimised during Saddam's regime offers a perfect summation of Saddam’s style of dictatorship: “I once talked to a Baghdad man who was sentenced to death by acid bath for writing a phone number on a banknote with Saddam Hussein's portrait on it.”
|Woman protesting against Saddam's |
genocide against the Kurdish people
Furthermore, the atrocities that Saddam Hussein committed were far beyond the extremes of other dictators of the time. The Halabja gas attack is perhaps the greatest example of his capacity for evil. Following the initiation of Operation Anafal, Saddam began to target the Kurdish populations who lived in the North of the Country. One such operation included an attack on Kurdish town of Halabja, where Iraqi jets dropped a mixture of mustard and nerve gas, leading to the deaths of 5,000 Kurdish nationals in what must have been the most appalling scenes imaginable. The attack itself took place in 1988. Subsequently it took almost 20 years for Saddam Hussein and his cousin “Chemical Ali” to be punished for these atrocities. If anything, then, the final serving of justice appears to provide a pretty robust reason for the war.
It was Bob Dylan who said “Don't criticize what you can't understand.” Considering the measure of Saddam Hussein’s regime includes horrific methods of execution and genocide, it is impossible for a Western observer to truly understand the plight of these people. The war itself has admittedly been poorly carried out with a variety of blunders, causing journalists to leave the region with harrowing memories. However to remove one of the cruellest dictators known to the twentieth century seems like a clear justification for the war.