So why, exactly, did the US invade Iraq five years
ago this week?
The official reasons the threat posed to the US and its allies by Saddam
Hussein's alleged programs of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the possibility
that he would pass along those arms to al-Qaeda have long since been
discarded by the overwhelming weight of the evidence, or, more precisely, the
lack of evidence that such a threat ever existed.
Liberating Iraq from the tyranny of Hussein's particularly unforgiving and
bloodthirsty version of Ba'athism and thus setting an irresistible precedent
that would spread throughout the Arab world a theme pushed by the administration
of President George W. Bush mostly after the invasion, as it became clear that
the officials reasons could not be justified appears to have been the
guiding obsession of really only one member of the Bush team, and not a particularly
influential one at that: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
Then there's the theory that Bush whose enigmatic psychology, particularly
his relationship to his father, has already provided grist for several book-publishing
mills wanted to show up his dad for failing to take Baghdad in 1991. Or he
sought to "finish the job" that his dad had begun in 1991; and/or
avenge his dad for Hussein's alleged (but highly questionable) assassination
attempt against Bush I in Kuwait after the war.
Because Bush was the ultimate "Decider," as he himself has put it,
and because no one who ever served at top levels in the administration has ever
been able to say precisely when (let alone why) the decision was made to invade
Iraq, this explanation cannot be entirely dismissed as an answer.
Then there is the question of oil. Was the administration acting on behalf
of an oil industry desperate to get its hands on Mesopotamian oil that had long
been denied it as a result of UN and unilateral sanctions prohibiting business
between US companies and Hussein?
Given both Bush's and Vice President Dick Cheney's long-standing ties to the
industry and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's assertion in his
recent memoir that "The Iraq war is largely about oil," this theory
has definite appeal particularly to those on the left who made "No
Blood for Oil" a favorite mantra at antiwar protests in the run-up to the
invasion, just as they did with much greater plausibility before
the 1991 Gulf War.
The problem, however, is that there is little or no evidence that Big Oil,
an extremely cautious beast in the global corporate menagerie, favored a war,
particularly one carried out in a way (unilaterally) that risked destabilizing
the world's most oil-rich region, especially Saudi Arabia and the emirates.
On the contrary, the Rice University Institute that bears the name of former
Secretary of State James Baker a man who has both represented and embodied
Big Oil throughout his long legal career publicly warned early on that
if Bush absolutely, positively had to invade Iraq for whatever reason, he should
not even consider it unless two conditions were met: 1) that the action was
authorized by the UN Security Council; and 2) that nothing whatever be done
after the invasion to suggest that the motivation had to do with the acquisition
by US oil companies of Iraq's oil resources.
That is not to say that oil was irrelevant to the administration's calculations,
but perhaps in a different sense than that meant by the "No Blood for Oil"
slogan. After all, oil is an absolutely indispensable requirement for running
modern economies and militaries. And the invasion was a forceful indeed,
a shock- and awe-some demonstration to the rest of the world, especially
potential strategic rivals like China, Russia, or even the European Union, of
Washington's ability to quickly and effectively conquer and control an oil-rich
nation in the heart of the energy-rich Middle East/Gulf region any time it wishes,
perhaps persuading those lesser powers that challenging the US could well prove
counterproductive to long-term interests, if not their supply of energy in the
Indeed, a demonstration of such power could well be the fastest way to formalize
a new international order based on the overwhelming military power of the United
States, unequaled at least since the Roman Empire. It would be a "unipolar
world" of the kind envisaged by the 1992 draft Defense Planning Guidance
(DPG) commissioned by then-Pentagon chief Dick Cheney, overseen by Wolfowitz
and Cheney's future chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, and contributed to by future
ambassador to "liberated" Afghanistan and Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad and
Bush's deputy national security adviser, J.D. Crouch.
It was that same vision that formed the inspiration for the 27 charter signatories
a coalition of aggressive nationalists, neoconservatives, and Christian
Right leaders that included Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Libby, Khalilzad,
and several other future senior Bush administration national-security officials
of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) in 1997. It was the
same project that began calling for "regime change" in Iraq in 1998
and that, nine days after the 9/11 attack on New York and the Pentagon, publicly
warned that any "war on terror" that excluded Hussein's elimination
would necessarily be incomplete.
In retrospect, it seems clear that Iraq had long been seen by this group, which
became empowered first by Bush's election and then supercharged by 9/11, as
the first, easiest and most available step toward achieving a "Pax Americana"
that would not only establish the US once and for all as the dominant power
in the region, but whose geostrategic implications for aspiring "peer competitors"
would be global in scope.
For the neoconservative and the Christian Right members of this group, who
were its most eager and ubiquitous war boosters, Israel would also be a major
beneficiary of an invasion.
According to a 1996 paper drafted by prominent hard-line neoconservatives
including some, like Douglas Feith and David Wurmser, who would later serve
in senior posts in Cheney's office and the Pentagon in the run-up to the invasion
ousting Hussein and installing a pro-Western leader was the key to destabilizing
Israel's Arab enemies and/or bending them to its will. This would permit the
Jewish state not only to escape the Oslo peace process, but also to secure as
much of the occupied Palestinian (and Syrian) territories as it wished.
Indeed, getting rid of Hussein and occupying Iraq would not only tighten Israel's
hold on Arab territories, in this view; it could also threaten the survival
of the Arab and Islamic worlds' most formidable weapon against Israel OPEC
by flooding the world market with Iraqi oil and forcing the commodity's price
down to historic lows.
That's how it looked five years ago anyway.
(Inter Press Service)