Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) issued a barrage of criticism about the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 on Wednesday, which marked the 16th anniversary of the start of one of America’s longest-running armed conflicts.
In a series of tweets, the Minnesota congresswoman labeled the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq “illegal” and called for those involved in the explanation and lead up to the war to be held accountable.
“16 years ago the U.S. illegally invaded Iraq, leaving a trail of destruction and lives lost,” Omar tweeted. “4,496 U.S. troops lost their lives. 100,000+ Iraqi civilians [were] killed.”
“We must hold accountable those who repeatedly lied in the run-up to war,” she added, citing specific statements about alleged weapons of mass destruction including biological weapons, none of which were ever found, that were made by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
“All of these statements were not only false, they were known by intelligence agencies to be lies at the time. To this day they have not been held accountable,” Omar wrote.
By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
But WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction.
Part of it was based upon wrong information. Those claiming the intell was “fixed” around the policy or that intell was cherry-picked are indeed politically distorting the record.
According to Mike Morell, former Deputy CIA director and Bush’s PDB briefer at the time of 9/11, they did not “manipulate” or “falsify”. He does criticize Cheney’s office for pushing obsessively hard for an al Qaeda-Saddam connection (in the end, though, this never became an official case for OIF; Bush never said Saddam had a hand in the events of 9/11. People who claim this- it’s a kind of Mandela effect due to media distortions and lack of clarity on the part of the Administration). Morell says CIA completely owns the wmd mistake, though.
A number of independent investigations including the Robb-Silbermann Commission, Butler Report, and SSCI Report on Iraq Prewar Intelligence have exonerated the Administration of manipulating intell or pressuring analysts to “fix” the intell around the policy. Yet political partisans keep chanting the mantra, “Bush lied, people died”.
And what were the majority of statements by the President and WH officials in regards to the WMD issue? Most of it was about the uncertainty. The not knowing (and that was the problem! Saddam is responsible for the murkiness and it was intentional on his part). What were the official justifications for OIF? What was in the AUMF that gave legal authority by Congress? There were a number of reasons, including violation and a call to finally enforce the statutes in the original Cease Fire Agreement followed up with over 15 UNSCRs. It was also more than just about WMD stockpile possession. History and open intent were also cited.
“Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
-President Bush in an address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, United States Capitol, Washington D.C., September 20, 2001.
It was more than just about OBL and al Qaeda, but a whole network of affiliates and a jihadi movement. And it is a myth that a “secular” Saddam would not ally himself with religious fanatics to achieve short-term goals an fulfill mutual interests against a common enemy. (“The enemy of my enemy is my friend“). He wasn’t opposed to appeasing and using Islamic terrorists in the same manner in which the Saudi government would fund wahhabism to try and appease salafist anger and violence against impure, secularized Muslim governments. Saddam didn’t have to trust Jihadists to be open to cooperating and doing business with them.
After OEF, a number of al Qaeda fighters fled the battlefield there and found haven where? In Iraq. This included Abu Musab Zarqawi (the founding father of ISIS, really) who fled fighting American forces in Afghanistan in 2001 to have surgery in Baghdad.
Salman Pak was a terror camp; and yes, in Northern Iraq; but it was Saddam’s reach into that part of Iraq. Saddam’s Intelligence Service ran the Salman Pak training camp where terrorists were instructed in tactics for assassination, kidnapping and hijacking.
Perhaps Bush 43’s “war of choice”, in 20/20 hindsight was a mistake that made matters worse in the world (there have been a number of moving parts and key players over the past 16 years who have contributed to making matters worse instead of better- not just Bush’s decision to invade); but the decision wasn’t based on “lies” or greed. It wasn’t based upon “fixing” the intelligence or “cherry-picking”. It wasn’t “blood for oil” to make Bush’s friends rich; or Cheney and Halliburton rich. It wasn’t a desire to avenge “daddy Bush” from Saddam’s assassination plot.
The fear the Bush administration had was that an open state-sponsor or terrorism and a wmd-loving Saddam Hussein who was a source of instability in the Middle East and who spent the last decade in deceit and defiance of UN mandates, including playing cat-and-mouse with UNSMOVIC and UNSCOM- who were never intended to be weapons hunters but weapons inspectors- would ally himself with Islamic terrorists to deliver a WMD attack against the U.S.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush’s desire was to protect the American people and by extension the global community from suffering more terror attacks of that scale by Islamic terror, a movement that had been growing since the influence of Sayid Qutb upon the likes of Zawahiri and al Qaeda. It was a metastasizing threat that had been cultivated through the 70s and 80s and 90s, culminating on September 11, 2001. Saddam wasn’t part of the solution in fighting Islamic radicals, even if he kept a tight reign upon them from attacking his own Muslim government; but as a state sponsor of terrorism, he was part of the problem.
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