The real reason for invading Iraq

By WND Staff

From the beginning, there has always been a nagging little hiccup of disconnect between Sept. 11 and its aftermath on one hand, and the invasion of Iraq on the other. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were clearly the work of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, who were based in Afghanistan. President Bush, therefore, had the whole country behind him when he ordered our forces into Afghanistan, ousted the Taliban regime, and sent bin Laden and his supporters fleeing for their lives into the mountain wilderness of Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.

But then, announcing that the war against terror was now entering its second phase, Bush opened first a diplomatic and then a military offensive against … Iraq.

Why Iraq? Bush, like the rest of the world, believed that Saddam Hussein had both chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, and that he was trying hard to develop nuclear weapons. That, if true, certainly qualified him for a preemptive strike, since waiting for him to smuggle a nuclear bomb into an American city and detonate it, or threaten to, would plainly be folly.

But Iran was also known to be trying to develop a nuclear capability, and North Korea was believed to have one already – and a couple of bombs, to boot. The president identified all three as an “Axis of Evil” in his State of the Union address to Congress in January 2002, but he subsequently singled out Iraq for invasion and regime change. Once again, why?

The conventional wisdom has it that a small band of “neoconservatives” in Washington was responsible. This clique (so the theory goes), consisted of certain second-rank figures in the administration such as Richard Perle, Eliot Abrams and Douglas Feith, plus a few influential outsiders like William Kristol of the Weekly Standard. They had long wanted the United States to impose its military will on the Middle East in general (perhaps in aid of Israel, of which they are supposedly fond), and saw the American people’s grim determination to punish al-Qaida as a matchless excuse for doing so. They won President Bush to their cause, and singled out Iraq as the loosest brick in the wall. Adroitly billing Saddam’s overthrow as simply the obvious next step in the war on terrorism, Bush ordered the invasion.

On this theory (which the Democrats have eagerly endorsed), the American public was simply tricked into regarding the attack on Iraq as part of the “war on terror,” when in fact it was a distraction from that war, and a thoroughly unnecessary one at that.

But I have never found it easy to believe that this little clutch of “neoconservatives” could have pushed around such major figures of the administration as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice – let alone George W. Bush. There does indeed seem to have been some new and different impulse at work in the sudden shift of emphasis, in 2002, from killing or capturing Osama bin Laden to overthrowing Saddam Hussein. But what was it?

The clue, I think, is in the “Axis of Evil” expression. From the outset of his administration, Bush knew that those three nations – Iraq, Iran and North Korea – represented a deadly threat to the United States because they were believed to be on the verge of acquiring the ability to inflict nuclear damage on us. North Korea, which was in some ways the greatest danger because it actually already possessed one or two nuclear weapons, had to be dealt with diplomatically, if possible, because it lay at the center of a nest of major powers – China, Russia and Japan – whose interests would have to be consulted. Iran was unstable, with powerful internal pressures for reform. Iraq was vulnerable militarily, but only if the American people could be aroused to the necessity for action.

The events of Sept. 11 provided the necessary stimulus – and then some. Having disposed of the Taliban and embarked on the long job of disrupting and destroying al-Qaida, Bush turned to the larger problem of the Axis of Evil. Relying on the unanimous belief of the world’s intelligence agencies as to Saddam’s nuclear ambitions and capabilities, Bush identified Iraq as “a grave and gathering threat” to the United States. The American public concurred, and the attack was launched. The rest is history.