War in Iraq

The US Congress passed a resolution in October 2002 that authorized military force to enforce UN sanctions and "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq."

On 20 March 2003, the United States launched a war against Iraq, with President Bush saying the attack was to "disarm Iraq and to free its people"; 250,000 United States troops were supported by approximately 45,000 British, 2,000 Australian and 200 Polish combat forces.



The US State Department released this list of the "coalition of the willing": Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and the United States.

On 1 May, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and under a "Mission Accomplished" banner, the President said, "Major combat operations have ended; in the battle of iraq, the US and her allies have prevailed... We've removed an ally of al Qaida." Fighting continues; there is no scheduled departure of US troops.

The Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) assumed authority for governing Iraq on June 28, 2004. Elections are scheduled for January 2005.

Whereas the first Gulf War was measured in days, this second has been measured in months.

Fewer than 200 US military were killed in the first war; more than 1,000 have been killed in the second. Congress has appropriated $151 billion for the war effort.

Latest Developments

A review of US and coalition troops (June 2005). US Liberals reports on Iraq by the Numbers (July 2005).

Background

Iraq is approximately the size of California with a population of 24 million; it is bordered by Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

Ethnnically, the country is predominantly Arab (75-80%) and Kurd (15-20%). Religious composition is estimated at Shi'a Muslim 60%, Sunni Muslim 32%-37%, Christian 3%, and Yezidi less than 1%.

Once known as Mesopotamia, Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire and became a British territory after World War I. It achieved independence in 1932 as a constitutional monarchy and joined the United Nations in 1945. In the '50s and '60s, the country's government was marked by repeated coups. Saddam Hussein became President of Iraq and Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council in July 1979.

From 1980-88, Iraq warred with its larger neighbor, Iran. The United States supported Iraq in this conflict.

On July 17, 1990, Hussein accused Kuwait -- which it had never accepted as a separate entity -- of flooding the world oil market and "stealing oil" from field which ran beneath both countries. On August 2, 1990, Iraqi military forces invaded and occupied Kuwait."

The US led a UN coalition in February 1991, forcing Iraq to exit Kuwait. Coalition Allied Forces, 34 countries, included Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Honduras, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Turkey, The United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.



President Bush rejected calls to march to Baghdad and oust Hussein. The U.S. Department of Defense estimated the cost of the war as $61.1 billion; others suggested the cost could be as high as $71 billion. Much of the cost was borne by others: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States pledged $36 billion; Germany and Japan, $16 billion.

Pros

In his 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush asserted that Hussein aided al Qaida; Vice President Cheney elaborated that Hussein had provided "training to al-Qaeda members in the areas of poisons, gases, making conventional bombs."

In addition, the President said that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that there was a real and present danger that he could launch a strike on the US or provide terrorists with WMD.

In a speech in October 2002 in Cincinnati, he said that Hussein "... could bring sudden terror and suffering to America... a significant danger to America... Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.... we're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using unmanned aerial vehicles for missions targeting the United States... America must not ignore the threat gathering against us."

In January 2003, the President said, "With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region... The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages...

The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm. America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country, and our friends and our allies. The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq's ongoing defiance of the world."

This epitomizes the "Bush Doctrine" of pre-emptive war.



When it became obvious that the UN would not endorses the US military proposal, the US tabled the war referendum.

Cons

The 9-11 Commission report made it clear that there was no collaboration between Hussein and al Qaida.

No weapons of mass destruction have been found in the 18 months that the US has been inside Iraq. There are no nuclear or biological weapons. All appear to have been destroyed during the Gulf War (Desert Storm).

Instead, the status of weapons more closely matches that of Administration claims in 2001:

  • "He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq..." - Colin Powell, 24 February 2001
  • "The sanctions, as they are called, have succeeded over the last 10 years, not in deterring him from moving in that direction, but from actually being able to move in that direction... And even though we have no doubt in our mind that the Iraqi regime is pursuing programs to develop weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and nuclear -- I think the best intelligence estimates suggest that they have not been terribly successful." - Colin Powell, 15 May 2001
  • "We are able to keep arms from him [Hussein]. His military forces have not been rebuilt." - Condoleezza Rice, 29 July 2001

 

 

Where It Stands

 

 

The Administration now justifies the war based on Hussein's human rights record.

Public opinion polls suggest that most Americans no longer believe this war was a good idea; this is a major change from March 2003 when an overwhelming majority supported the war. However, dislike of the war has not translated to a dislike of the President; the contest between President Bush and Senator Kerry remains neck-and-neck.

Sources: BBC - 15 Mar 2003 ; CNN - 1 May 2003 ; The Gulf War: A Line in the Sand ; Iraq Backgrounder: State Department ; Iraqi Resolution: Critical Dates ; The Memory Hole ; Operation Desert Storm - Military Presence Allied Forces ; White House Transcript .

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Gill, Kathy. "War in Iraq." ThoughtCo, Mar. 23, 2016, thoughtco.com/war-in-iraq-3368387. Gill, Kathy. (2016, March 23). War in Iraq. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/war-in-iraq-3368387 Gill, Kathy. "War in Iraq." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/war-in-iraq-3368387 (accessed November 21, 2017).