Where we are going and how we got here.

I have posted a number of previous opinions on how and why we invaded Iraq. The most recent is here.

There are other explanations that cover this question.

From late 1998 onwards, the sole inhibition on Saddam’s WMD programme was the sanctions regime. Iraq was forbidden to use the revenue from its oil except for certain specified non-military purposes. The sanctions regime, however, was also subject to illegal trading and abuse. Because of concerns about its inadequacy – and the impact on the Iraqi people – we made several attempts to refine it, culminating in a new UN resolution in May of this year. But it was only partially effective. Around $3bn of money is illegally taken by Saddam every year now, double the figure for 2000. Self-evidently there is no proper accounting for this money.

Because of concerns that a containment policy based on sanctions alone could not sufficiently inhibit Saddam’s weapons programme, negotiations continued after 1998 to gain re-admission for the UN inspectors. In 1999 a new UN resolution demanding their re-entry was passed and ignored. Further negotiations continued. Finally, after several months of discussion with Saddam’s regime this year, Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, concluded that Saddam was not serious about re-admitting the inspectors and ended the negotiations. That was in July.

All of this is established fact. I set out the history in some detail because occasionally debate on this issue seems to treat it almost as if it had suddenly arisen, coming out of nowhere on a whim, in the last few months of 2002. It is an 11 year history: a history of UN will flouted, lies told by Saddam about existence of his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes, obstruction, defiance and denial. There is one common consistent theme, however: the total determination of Saddam to maintain the programme; to risk war, international ostracism, sanctions, the isolation of the Iraqi economy, in order to keep it. At any time, he could have let the inspectors back in and put the world to proof. At any time he could have co-operated with the UN. Ten days ago he made the offer unconditionally, under threat of war. He could have done it at any time in the last eleven years. But he didn’t. Why?

This is from Tony Blair’s speech to Parliament.

There are too many people who don’t remember what happened. This really goes back to the end of the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman entry into World War I in the Middle Eastern theatre ended with the partition of the Ottoman Empire under the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres. This treaty, as designed in the conference of London, gave a nominal land and permitted the title Ottoman Caliphate (compared with Vatican; a sacerdotal-monarchical state ruled by the Catholic Pope), not to be a further threat but just powerful enough to protect Britain from the Khilafat Movement.

The details as reflected in the treaty regarding the British Mandate of Iraq were completed on April 25, 1920, at the San Remo conference.

Oil concession in this region was given to the British-controlled Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC) which had held concessionary rights to the Mosul Vilayet (province). With elimination of the Ottoman Empire with this treaty, British and Iraqi negotiators held acrimonious discussions over the new oil concession. The League of Nations voted on the disposition of Mosul, and the Iraqis feared that, without British support, Iraq would lose the area. In March 1925, the TPC was renamed as the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), and granted a full and complete concession for a period of 75 years.

The British tried to govern Iraq with a king using the Hashemite king Faisal I, who was immortalized in David Lean’s movie ” Lawrence of Arabia.” Faisal proved to be a tragic figure.

In August 1933, incidents like the Simele massacre caused tension between the United Kingdom and Iraq. Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald ordered High Commissioner Francis Humphrys to Iraq immediately upon hearing of the killing of Assyrian Christians. The British government demanded that Faisal stay in Baghdad to punish the guilty – whether Christian or Muslim. In response, Faisal cabled to the Iraqi Legation in London: “Although everything is normal now in Iraq, and in spite of my broken health, I shall await the arrival of Sir Francis Humphrys in Bagdad, but there is no reason for further anxiety. Inform the British Government of the contents of my telegram.”[10]

In July 1933, right before his death, Faisal went to London where he expressed his alarm at the current situation of Arabs that resulted from the Arab-Jewish conflict and the increased Jewish immigration to Palestine, as the Arab political, social, and economic situation was declining. He asked the British to limit Jewish immigration and land purchases.

King Faisal died on 8 September 1933, at the age of 48. The official cause of death was a heart attack while he was staying in Bern, Switzerland, for his general medical checkup. He was succeeded on the throne by his oldest son Ghazi. Many questions arose from his sudden death, as Swiss doctors assured that he was healthy and nothing serious was wrong with him. His private nurse also reported signs of arsenic poison before his death. Many of his companions noticed that day that he was suffering from pain in the abdomen (sign of poisoning) and not chest (a typical sign of heart attack). His body was quickly embalmed before performing a proper autopsy to find the exact result of death, a normal procedure in such situations.

Arabs have never been successful at governing themselves and and David Pryce Jones may have a good explanation.

Following the end of colonial rule in the Middle East, the newly independent Arab nations did not become progressive and free: they are despotic; most persecute religious or ethnic minorities; all oppress women; none has participatory institutions. In a scathing and provocative critique, Pryce-Jones ( Paris in the Third Reich ; Cyril Connolly ) blames these dismal conditions on what he sees as a Muslim reversion to tribal and kinship structures as well as slavish obedience to complex codes of honor and shame that prevent concepts such as open debate, democracy and accountability from taking root. With Islamocentric shortsightedness, Arabs understood Nazism in terms of German revenge for humiliation suffered in World War I.

Iraq followed this path to despotism.

Establishment of Arab Sunni domination in Iraq was followed by Assyrian, Yazidi and Shi’a unrests, which were all brutally suppressed. In 1936, the first military coup took place in the Kingdom of Iraq, as Bakr Sidqi succeeded in replacing the acting Prime Minister with his associate. Multiple coups followed in a period of political instability, peaking in 1941.

During World War II, Iraqi regime of Regent ‘Abd al-Ilah was overthrown in 1941 by the Golden Square officers, headed by Rashid Ali. The short lived pro-Nazi government of Iraq was defeated in May 1941 by the allied forces (with local Assyrian and Kurdish help) in Anglo-Iraqi War. Iraq was later used as a base for allied attacks on Vichy-French held Mandate of Syria and support for the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran.

Saddam Hussein was not the first to admire the Nazis.

Following the Six Day War of 1967, the Ba’ath Party felt strong enough to retake power in 1968. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr became president and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). The Ba’ath government started a campaign to end the Kurdish insurrection, which stalled in 1969. This can be partly attributed to the internal power struggle in Baghdad and also tensions with Iran. Moreover, the Soviet Union pressured the Iraqis to come to terms with Barzani. The war ended with more than 100,000 mortal casualties, with little achievements to both Kurdish rebels and the Iraqi government.

Those who describe Iraq as “stable under Saddam Hussein” do not know this history.

In July 1979, President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr was forced to resign by Saddam Hussein, who assumed the offices of both President and Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council.

Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly eight-year war, the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988, termed Q?disiyyat-Sadd?m – ‘Saddam’s Q?disiyyah’), which devastated the economy. Iraq declared victory in 1988 but actually achieved a weary return to the status quo ante bellum, meaning both sides retained their original borders.

This was the war that Henry Kissinger expressed the hope that “both sides lose.” Leftist revisionist who opposed the 2003 invasion, have accused the US government of supporting Saddam but this is not true. We may have supported both sides as a way of equalizing the conflict so as to do the most harm to our common enemies.

The wildly inaccurate leftist film “Bush” made the following accusation which happens to be true but not in the context they assume.

Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found, the deputy defence minister said: “Let’s look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil.”

Mr Wolfowitz went on to tell journalists at the conference that the US was set on a path of negotiation to help defuse tensions between North Korea and its neighbours – in contrast to the more belligerent attitude the Bush administration displayed in its dealings with Iraq.

The reason why we were forced to invade in 2003 was the fact that sanctions, as an attempt to control Saddam, were failing and the reason was “The sea of Oil that Iraq floats on.” Sanctions did not work because Saddam was able to buy his way with the Russians and the French. He ws assured by the French and Russians that we would not invade no matter what. He was deluded and we had no leverage.

US soldiers found nearly a billion dollars in cash in Iraq in homes of Saddam officials and his sons.

Experts say some of the cash could have been siphoned off Iraq’s UN-mandated oil-for-food program, which allowed for the sale of Iraqi oil to raise funds for humanitarian needs. Some of it could also have come from illegal purchases of Iraqi oil by Jordan or other buyers. It’s conceivable that some or all of the money may have been raised legally.

Of course it was from “oil for food.”

Anyway, Bush had no choice. It was invade or let Saddam win his war of nerves with the US. After 9/11 that was impossible.

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One Response to “Where we are going and how we got here.”

  1. Eric says:

    Dr. Kennedy,

    I recently shared with you my explanation of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom. I shared the link again in a comment at your Chicago Boyz post, “Is Obama Our Punishment?”.

    Per your comment at my explanation, you noticed I skirt the broader strategic, historic consideration that characterizes your analysis. That’s on purpose. Strategic, historic consideration by its critical nature is conjectural, which renders it open to obscuring. The basic fact record, however, is the fact record; and the fact record of President Bush’s decision for OIF happens to be straightforward and easily accessed on-line.

    A fact record is not all of an issue, of course, or else we would not have scholarship nor trials. However, clarifying the fact record is a necessary establishing step in effective advocacy. Yet that necessary step is usually given short shrift in advocacy of President Bush’s decision for OIF.

    As such, the quasi-lawyerly ‘fact pattern’ approach to my Operation Iraqi Freedom FAQ is meant to complement your kind of analysis. It lays the foundation with primary sources to serve as bedrock, an anchor point for broader strategic and historic consideration of the Iraq intervention. It also serves as a corrective frame for the whole OIF debate. For the purpose of advocacy construction, I suggest adapting my take on the Iraq issue to augment your take on the Iraq issue.