A War in Search of a Reason

Paul O'Neill, George W. Bush's former Secretary of the Treasury, has confirmed what many critics of the Iraq war had already suspected to be a cynical and self-serving Bush administration myth: that the September 11 attacks had moved a reluctant president, who during his campaign had advocated a "more humble U.S. foreign policy," to invade and occupy Iraq. Despite campaign rhetoric accusing the Clinton-Gore administration of being overly interventionist, O'Neill asserts that going after Saddam Hussein was the most important topic on the National Security Council's agenda 10 days after the president's inauguration and eight months before September 11. O'Neill, a former member of the council, also alleges that rather than conducting a debate about why Saddam should have been deposed and why the removal was so urgent, the initial council meetings in January and February 2001 centered on how to get rid of Saddam and plans for a post-Saddam Iraq.

And there's more cynical manipulation to come. Rather than talking about democratizing Iraq and then the Middle East by invading and occupying Iraq -- the public face of the intervention -- the council meetings focused more on divvying up Iraq's oil booty. Surprise, surprise. So how does this situation differ from Imperial Japan's invasion of other countries during the 1930s to grab their resources?

O'Neill also characterized President Bush, in his decision-making and communication at cabinet meetings, as being like a "blind man in a room full of deaf people." But this sorry state of affairs is better than the Bush administration's pre-war assessment of the threat to the United States posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction -- which could be deemed "the blind leading the blind." The U.S. intelligence community and other allied intelligence agencies had little new information about Iraqi nuclear, biological, chemical and missile programs since the U.N. inspectors left in 1998. But according to a study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, intelligence reports on such unconventional weapons programs did not ring alarm bells until mid-2002. The authors of the study allege that the Bush administration put the screws to the U.S. intelligence community to get the conclusions they wanted. Also, the authors accuse the administration of spinning intelligence estimates by marginalizing dissenting opinions and eliminating caveats.

Another inquiry, by Washington Post reporter Barton Gelman, examined Iraqi documents and interviewed Iraqi scientists and members of the American team searching for Iraqi unconventional weapons. Gelman reported that such weapons programs were a long way from fruition -- belying the need for an immediate invasion of Iraq. The Iraqis had long-range missiles only on paper and likely would have taken at least six years to build them. Similarly, he uncovered a letter from Iraq's chief of unconventional weapons programs reporting the destruction of all Iraqi biological weapons in 1991 -- contradicting U.S. intelligence estimates predicting that Iraq had retained large stockpiles of such weapons. Most important, Iraq's nuclear weapons program was largely terminated after the Gulf War and never restarted -- contrary to the administration's pre-invasion claims that the Iraqis could have a nuclear weapon within a year. It would have probably taken the better part of a decade before the nuclear program would have produced a weapon.

But such wild exaggerations should not be surprising from an administration on a mission in need of justification. Other rationale for the U.S. invasion have also collapsed. Both the president and Secretary of State Colin Powell have admitted that the implied link by administration officials between Saddam and al Qaeda or the September 11 attacks has no concrete evidence to support it. Finally, by preferring indirect non-representative caucuses to ensure a friendly Iraqi government rather than a democratic one with an interim assembly directly elected by Iraqis -- which is being advocated by Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, the administration has exposed the hypocrisy of its "democratize Iraq and then the Middle East" war justification.

Wars for legitimate and well thought out reasons usually foster the formulation of effective plans for both the conflict and its aftermath. In Gulf War II, the rush to war on flimsy grounds has made difficult the development of sound U.S. strategy and tactics to fight the continuing guerrilla war. It has also complicated post-war reconstruction efforts. Most important, if the pillars of your house are built with soft wood, they will probably collapse if there is an earthquake. That is, if the fighting continues to go badly in Iraq, the American public is liable to eventually awake from its slumber and demand a withdrawal of U.S. forces from a war whose justifications were questionable. In the wake of September 11, public opinion was willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt on an invasion of Iraq. That tolerance may evaporate now that the pillars justifying the invasion and occupation have been weakened one-by-one. The guerrillas can figure out that much. Paul O'Neill's revelations about a war in search of a reason may have sawed through the last timber.

Ivan Eland is the Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California and author of the book, Putting "Defense" Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World.

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Older Comments:
O'neil must be paraded, but
Bush and his cronies must be dragged on the streets for their studpities.

Can't find WMD!!! too bad....You days will be numbered soon. Let the clock do its ticking...

Give it a break you sorry right wings hacks. O'Neill's book means nothing, we all knew from day one the reason Iraq was targetted by the chimp. Tell us chimpsters, where are those fabled WMDs?
The terrorist war on Iraq only proved that the American media,and its politicians are liars who live in a bizarro world far removed from our own.

Mr. O'Neil has not "confirmed" anything - he has simply stated some things - none which have confirmed. Oh, did he mention how he was fired? Did he mention that he is selling a book? I think we need to consider the source before writing it down as "confirmation"!

Mr. O'Neill is all worng. His book is full of lies about Mr. Bush reason for going to war with Iraq.
He is just upset about being let go.

And yet I would imagine that if the government of Iraq "gets religion" then the reason was Allah's. If that were indeed the case then I would imagine that Americans would have already received their reward for liberating Iraq - which I imagine would have been the ability to serve Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala).

I would imagine that America's leaders ought to give some thought to becoming more "Islamically conformant" if they intend to continue forcing changes to occur in Muslim countries. I would imagine that if America's leaders intend to continue forcing such changes then at some point the decision to become more Islamic will have been already made - whether or not America's leaders realize they had made such a decision. In any event, Allah knows best.

Assalamu alaikum.

--Yahya Bergum

Bush was going to invade Iraq [come fire or flood] just as Sadat was going to invade Israel. The inner circle around both of them had high expectations with no real foresight for the inevitable outcome. One writer wrote about Alexander the great stated, "The only great act he accomplished was the people he murdered are still dead." On the backdrop of that comment, the wars and battles of the 20th century have been great. They have been under the pretext of liberation and the bringing about lasting serenity- each war the war to end all wars, each battle the mother of all battles. The very sad part about Bush the Great is that he is not unique. Human history is filled with more despotic rulers than God centered leaders.

America exposed its true colors of intent in 1776 when it took a nation from a nation of people and wrote a song with the words "this land is may land... from sea to sinning sea." And have the state of mind to pray God bless America. But the only thing stopping other nations from doing the same as Brush the Great is they don't have the military muscle to do so. There is no doubt that America is a fighting nation. In fact we are a nation of warmongers. This may sound harsh; but history has proven this to be a fact. And the only legitimate battle is a battle in the name of Allah, for the cause of Allah, to bring the human existence from barbarism to a more benevolence level.

The reason is the same.

Take away from others and make it yours.

When their max. exploitation does not work as they please, then they send their troops and others (men from other nations who have already been occupied directly or indirectly).

Like in the name of East India company, this time it was WMD almost any excuse will work for them.

Blaming others for things have been guilty of earlier, like here blaminmg IRAQ for future WMD threats, coming from a country who has used WMD on Japan. The art of convincing others is almost like Magic.

But the capatalist economy works like this, working along with the so called Democracy, the later provides excuses for almost everything.

Then we have enough time to talk about these things that have been all lies on the first place.

Its like when we buy a shoe we know that the money we are paying for it is too much, and is greater than the whole months pay, for the labor worker who made this shoe, somewhere in the 3rd world country.

Then we think why people in the 3rd world contry are so poor. We make sure that they stay poor otherwise if he gets rich who will make these kewl shoes for us.