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Reasons Given by the Bush Administration to Justify the Iraq War

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Reasons Given by the Bush Administration to Justify the Iraq War

From 2001 through to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, then-President George W. Bush and his administration worked to build support for military action against Iraq.

The primary justifications for military action in Iraq were as follows:

  1. Saddam Hussein was stockpiling biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and planned to use them
  2. Saddam Hussein had links to terrorists and the al Qaeda terrorist organization, and could potentially arm them with WMDs to use against the US
  3. The Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein’s regime were suffering grave abuses and human rights violations that warranted intervention on humanitarian grounds

Were the Reasons Accurate?

Rationale for military action against Iraq hinged, rather heavily, on the assertion that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling biological and chemical WMDs. In a speech delivered in 2002, then-Vice President Dick Cheney provided this reinforcement, “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”  

Another justification for military action was that Saddam Hussein actively supported and assisted terrorists and terrorist organisations (such as al Qaeda). Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice were among the Bush administration officials to publically accuse Saddam Hussein of having ties to al Qaeda (Pan, 2005).  

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the intelligence community was able to quickly disprove the existence of WMDs and links to al Qaeda.  In 2003, David Kay, the chief weapons inspector in Iraq, reported to Congress that there was no evidence that Iraq had stockpiled weapons. Former US State Department intelligence official Greg Thielmann also asserted in 2003, “There was no significant pattern of cooperation between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist operation.”

Subsequent reports by the FBI, CIA, and other intelligence agencies have also concluded that there was no evidence of a cooperative relationship between that Iraq and al Qaeda, nor was there any evidence of WMDs. In a speech delivered in 2005, then-President Bush himself admitted, “it is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong” (Transcript). It seems the official explanation for the lack of WMDs has been attributed to false intelligence.

Initially human rights violation justification was not one of the primary justifications for military intervention (Chief, 2004). However, after the 2003 invasion, and subsequent failure to find WMDs, government rhetoric justifying military action in Iraq shifted to emphasizing serious human rights violations and the US’s noble quest to bring democracy to Iraq.

The accusation that Saddam Hussein was a cruel leader who tortured and abused the Iraqi people was accurate. However, critics argue that human rights violations had been ongoing for several years, and that the US administration was aware of said violations. Moreover, Saddam’s most egregious offences occurred during the 1980s, at which time the US considered him an ally (Dorf, 2004).

Conclusion

During the lead up to the war, various members of the Bush administration sought to characterize Saddam Hussein and his alleged stockpiling of biological and chemical weapons as a very real and imminent threat to global safety. However, the results of subsequent studies indicate that the reasons given to justify military action in Iraq were inaccurate. Former President Bush has himself admitted that the intelligence, upon which the decision to go to war was based, was flawed.

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