Perspective on Operation Iraqi Freedom
Why Iraq? Presidents Clinton and Bush, Congress, and the United Nations told us why. While there's still room for speculative analysis, the work has been done for us. Primary sources that are easily accessed on-line provide a straightforward explanation for OIF. President Clinton, whose entire presidency was preoccupied by the Iraq enforcement, is the best source for understanding OIF.
This post informs my perspective on the goals we seek in Iraq. (For my FAQ-style explanation of OIF, go here.) This post is not an intelligence analysis of coalition and Iraqi forces, the enemy, the mission difficulty, or actual performance. The links are to official sources, articles, speeches, weblogs, and my own thoughts that have informed my views on the 'Why We Fight' in Iraq, and why I believe the Iraq mission is central to the War on Terror. Expect me to add items over time. Enjoy:
Note: + denotes an item I view as a basic essential for understanding the law or policy context of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
President Clinton Perspective
* Operation Desert Fox was the penultimate military enforcement step and set the baseline precedent for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“In the century we're leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community; fear and hope. Now, in a new century, we'll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past -- but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace. Tonight, the United States is doing just that.”
+ President Clinton's announcement of Operation Desert Fox, 16DEC98.
* "If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow by the knowledge that they can act with impunity, even in the face of a clear message from the United Nations Security Council and clear evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program."
+ President Clinton's address to Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon staff, 17FEB98.
* "At approximately 5:00 p.m. eastern standard time on December 16, 1998, at my direction, U.S. military forces conducted missile and aircraft strikes in Iraq in response to Iraqi breaches of its obligations under resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. ... It [this action] is consistent with and has been taken in support of numerous U.N. Security Council resolu-tions, including Resolutions 678 and 687, which authorize U.N. Member States to use "all necessary means" to implement the Security Council resolutions and to restore peace and security in the region and establish the terms of the cease-fire mandated by the Council, including those related to the destruction of Iraq's WMD programs. ... I directed these actions pursuant to my authority under the Constitution as Commander in Chief and as Chief Executive, and to conduct U.S. foreign relations, as well as under the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1) enacted in January 1991."
President Clinton's letter to Congress on the legal authority for Operation Desert Fox, 18DEC98.
President Clinton letter to Congress on Iraq's compliance, 05NOV98.
* "A short while ago, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning Iraq's intransigence and insisting it immediately resume full cooperation with the weapons inspectors -- no ifs, no ands, no buts about it. It is long past time for Iraq to meet its obligations to the world. After the Gulf War, the international community demanded and Iraq agreed to declare and destroy all of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capability and the missiles to deliver them, and to meet other U.N. Security Council resolutions. ... Now, the better part of a decade later, Iraq continues to shirk its clear obligations. Iraq has no one to blame but itself -- and the people of Iraq have no one to blame but Saddam Hussein -- for the position Iraq finds itself in today. Iraq could have ended its isolation long ago by simply complying with the will of the world. The burden is on Iraq to get back in compliance and meet its obligations -- immediately."
President Clinton statement on Saddam's noncompliance, 05NOV98.
* "Let me be clear on what the U.S. objectives are: The United States wants Iraq to rejoin the family of nations as a freedom-loving and lawabiding member. This is in our interest and that of our allies within the region. The United States favors an Iraq that offers its people freedom at home. I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq's history or its ethnic or sectarian make-up. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else. The United States looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into a dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life."
President Clinton's statement on signing the Iraq Liberation Act, 31OCT98.
Clinton White House summary on Iraq.
CNN: Former President Clinton supports Operation Iraqi Freedom with Larry King, 03JUL03.
CNN: Clinton defends successor's push for war, 23JUL04.
AlterNet: Collection of 2003-04 statements by President Clinton supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
* William Cohen served as Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001.
Statement of William S. Cohen to The National Commission On Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States March 23, 2004.
Defense Department: CHRONOLOGY From DESERT STORM to DESERT FOX.
State Department: Saddam Hussein's Iraq, 13SEP99.
* "It is the policy of the United States to deter, defeat and respond vigorously to all terrorist attacks on our territory and against our citizens, or facilities, whether they occur domestically, in international waters or airspace or on foreign territory. The United States regards all such terrorism as a potential threat to national security as well as a criminal act and will apply all appropriate means to combat it. ... The acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by a terrorist group, through theft or manufacture, is unacceptable. There is no higher priority than preventing the acquisition of this capability or removing this capability from terrorist groups potentially opposed to the U.S."
Presidential Decision Directive/NSC-39, 21JUN95 - html.
* Public Law 104-132 was a watered-down version of legislation Clinton had transmitted to Congress: the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995, 10FEB95, and Antiterrorism Amendments Act of 1995, 15MAY95.
President Clinton's statement on signing the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 24APR96.
* Graduate student shows the continuity of counter-terror policy, including preemption, from (Reagan and) Clinton to Bush.
Tsui: The Myth of George W. Bush’s Foreign Policy Revolution.
* Snapshot of the stalemate after Operation Desert Fox.
New York Times: With Little Notice, U.S. Planes Have Been Striking Iraq All Year, 13AUG99.
Washington Post defense analysis of Operation Desert Fox, 17JAN99.
President Bush Perspective
* "The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable."
+ President Bush's remarks to the United Nations General Assembly, 12SEP02.
* "The 108 U.N. inspectors ... were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq's regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened. ... Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option."
+ Excerpts from the State of the Union regarding Iraq, 28JAN03.
* "Congress will also be sending a message to the dictator in Iraq: that his only chance -- his only choice is full compliance, and the time remaining for that choice is limited."
President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat, 07OCT02 - working link.
Dr. Condoleezza Rice Discusses Iraq with Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 08OCT03.
* "This is important day for us all as we review the situation with respect to Iraq and its disarmament obligations under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. Last November 8, this council passed Resolution 1441 by a unanimous vote. The purpose of that resolution was to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. Iraq had already been found guilty of material breach of its obligations, stretching back over 16 previous resolutions and 12 years. Resolution 1441 was not dealing with an innocent party, but a regime this council has repeatedly convicted over the years. Resolution 1441 gave Iraq one last chance, one last chance to come into compliance or to face serious consequences. No council member present in voting on that day had any illusions about the nature and intent of the resolution or what serious consequences meant if Iraq did not comply."
Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council, 06FEB03.
* Tom Junod cited the 02JUN04 speech in his excellent August 2004 Esquire article (see Liberal's Perspective below).
"For decades, free nations tolerated oppression in the Middle East for the sake of stability. In practice, this approach brought little stability, and much oppression. So I have changed this policy. In the short-term, we will work with every government in the Middle East dedicated to destroying the terrorist networks. In the longer-term, we will expect a higher standard of reform and democracy from our friends in the region. Democracy and reform will make those nations stronger and more stable, and make the world more secure by undermining terrorism at it source. Democratic institutions in the Middle East will not grow overnight; in America, they grew over generations. Yet the nations of the Middle East will find, as we have found, the only path to true progress is the path of freedom and justice and democracy."
President Bush speaks at Air Force Academy Graduation, 02JUN04 - working link.
President Bush Delivers Graduation Speech at West Point, 01JUN02.
* "Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. ... But the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows. ... This is not, however, just America's fight. And what is at stake is not just America's freedom. This is the world's fight. This is civilization's fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom. ... As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world."
Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, 20SEP01.
Office of Legal Counsel: The President's Constitutional Authority to Conduct Military Operations Against Terrorists and Nations Supporting Them, John Yoo, 25SEP01.
Council on Foreign Relations: U.S. Security Agreements and Iraq, 23DEC08.
* "It appears that from 1987 to 2003, A. Q. Khan, head of one of Pakistan’s key nuclear organizations, was overseeing a nuclear supply network, which sold or attempted to sell to Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, and perhaps others."
Clary: The A. Q. Khan Network: Causes and Implications, December 2005.
President HW Bush Perspective
Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf, 16JAN91.
Address to the Nation on the Suspension of Allied Offensive Combat Operations in the Persian Gulf, 27FEB91.
Remarks on Assistance for Iraqi Refugees and a News Conference, 16APR91.
Letter to Congressional Leaders Reporting on Iraq's Compliance With United Nations Security Council Resolutions, 19JAN93.
US Congress Perspective
* Note the diverse bundle of reasons cited to authorize the use of force against Iraq.
+ Public Law 107-243, Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, 16OCT02.
Public Law 102-1, Authorization for Use of United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, 14JAN91.
* "Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Government of Iraq is in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations, and therefore the President is urged to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations."
+ Public Law 105-235, Iraqi Breach of International Obligations, 14AUG98.
* "Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that ... if it is necessary, however, the United States should take military action unilaterally to compel Iraqi compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions."
House Resolution 322, Sense of House Regarding Iraq, 13NOV97.
* "It is the sense of the Congress that once the Saddam Hussein regime is removed from power in Iraq, the United States should support Iraq’s transition to democracy by providing immediate and substantial humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, by providing democracy transition assistance to Iraqi parties and movements with democratic goals, and by convening Iraq’s foreign creditors to develop a multilateral response to Iraq’s foreign debt incurred by Saddam Hussein’s regime."
Public Law 105-338, Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, 31OCT98.
* "[The] President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States".
Public Law 107-40, Authorization for Use of Military Force, 18SEP01.
* Compare to the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995, 10FEB95, and Antiterrorism Amendments Act of 1995, 15MAY95.
Public Law 107-56, USA Patriot Act, 26OCT01; Department of Justice: What is the USA Patriot Web.
* See sections 301 and 324.
Public Law 104-132, Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 24APR96.
Report for Congress: Iraqi Challenges and U.S. Responses: March 1991 through October 2002.
Issue Brief for Congress: Iraq: Former and Recent Military Confrontations With the United States.
* Pre-war statements by the Bush administration were found to be largely "substantiated by intelligence". Make sure to read the minority views statement beginning on page 100 of the report. My criticism is the markedly partisan Committee report stripped out the context of Clinton's enforcement precedent, UNSC resolutions, burden of proof and standard of compliance for Iraq, contemporary Congressional assessments of the pre-war intelligence, and much of the Duelfer Report's findings. The position that the US President should emphasize dissenting intelligence analysis in public presentation of policy is also abnormal.
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: Report on whether public statements regarding Iraq by U.S. government officials were substantiated by intelligence information, June 2008.
* The report is archived at GulfLINK.
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs: U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual-Use Exports to Iraq and Their Possible Impact on the Health Consequences of the Persian Gulf War, 25MAY94.
* This CRS report is notable for an 'apples-to-apples' adjusted-dollar comparison of war costs for all US wars. The peak year spending for OIF was 1% of GDP in FY2008. Note: "All estimates are of the costs of military operations only and do not reflect costs of veterans’ benefits, interest on war-related debt, or assistance to allies."
Congressional Research Service: Costs of Major U.S. Wars, 29JUN10.
* This CRS report counts the "cumulative total appropriated [for Iraq and Afghanistan] ... war operations, diplomatic operations, and medical care for Iraq and Afghan war veterans", covering DOD, State/USAID, and VA Medical costs. The report states all costs for Iraq totaled 805.5 billion dollars through FY2011 and 823.2 billion dollars estimated through FY2012. Within the total cost, the DOD cost was 757.8 billion through FY2011 and 768.8 billion dollars estimated through FY2012. See the chart on page 21.
Congressional Research Service: The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11, 29MAR11.
Congressional Research Service: U.S.-Iraq Withdrawal/Status of Forces Agreement: Issues for Congressional Oversight, 13JUL09.
United Nations Perspective
Security Council Resolutions on Iraq, 1990-2002.
UNSCR 678, adopted 29 November 1990.
* "Recalling that its resolution 678 (1990) authorized Member States to use all necessary means to uphold and implement its resolution 660 (1990) of 2 August 1990 and all relevant resolutions subsequent to resolution 660 (1990) and to restore international peace and security in the area ..."
+ UNSCR 1441, adopted 8 November 2002.
+ UNSCR 687, adopted 8 April 1991.
+ UNSCR 688, adopted 5 April 1991.
* Pursuant to UNSCR 688: "The new evidence, particularly that of eyewitnesses, added another dimension to the systematic crimes of the former regime, revealing unparalleled cruelty, even in respect of the people being taken away for execution, and at the same time stories unfolded that were far worse than originally reported to the Special Rapporteur in the past."
+ UN Commission on Human Rights: Situation of human rights in Iraq (pdf pp 78-82), 19APR02; post-war findings by Special Rapporteur on Iraq, Andreas Mavrommatis: E/CN.4/2004/36, E/CN.4/2004/36/Add.1, 18-19MAR04.
* Pursuant to UNSCR 687: "UNMOVIC evaluated and assessed this material as it has became available and ... produced an internal working document covering about 100 unresolved disarmament issues ... UNMOVIC must verify the absence of any new activities or proscribed items, new or retained. The onus is clearly on Iraq to provide the requisite information or devise other ways in which UNMOVIC can gain confidence that Iraq’s declarations are correct and comprehensive."
+ UNMOVIC Cluster Document: Unresolved Disarmament Issues Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes 6 March 2003; US State Department: Historic Review of UNMOVIC's Report on Unresolved Disarmament Issues, 10MAR03.
UNSCOM Reports to the Security Council, 1991-1999.
UNMOVIC: Compendium Observations and Lessons Learned, Chapter VIII, 27JUN07.
Arms Control Association: Iraq: A Chronology of UN Inspections, 1991-2002.
Council on Foreign Relations: Iraq: Oil for Food scandal.
* The international reaction to Operation Desert Fox presaged the international reaction to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Los Angeles Times: Allies Sit on Sidelines for Desert Fox, 18DEC98.
Iraq Survey Group findings
* The Iraq Survey Group's investigation, which was conducted after the regime change, is irrelevant to the decision point for OIF. The ISG notes the limitation that much potential evidence was lost in the war and the aftermath, so what the ISG found is more informative than what the ISG did not find. Nonetheless, the Duelfer Report corroborates that the 'containment' was failing and Iraq was in violation of weapons mandates.
+ The Duelfer Report: DCI Special Advisor Report on Iraq's WMD, 23SEP04.
* FBI agent George Piro debriefed Saddam Hussein.
60 Minutes: Interrogator Shares Saddam's Confessions, 24JAN08.
NSA Archive: Saddam Hussein Talks to the FBI: Twenty Interviews and Five Conversations with "High Value Detainee #1" in 2004.
Osama bin Laden Perspective
* Note the prominent role of the pre-OIF Iraq enforcement mission in al Qaeda's declaration of war on the US.
World Islamic Front Statement: Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, 23FEB98.
Understanding Terror Networks, Nov 2004, by Marc Sageman, forensic psychiatrist and former CIA case officer in Afghanistan - working link.
* Read Syed Qutb for the basics of 'Why They Fight'.
PDF of Milestone by Syed Qutb. HTML copy.
Small Wars Journal: Sayyid Qutb’s “Milestones” and Its Impact on the Arab Spring, 09MAY13.
Eikmeier: Qutbism: An Ideology of Islamic-Fascism, Spring 2007.
* This letter to the leader of Islamic State was signed by over 100 Islamic scholars across several nations. It condemns the actions of IS and provides a good overview and detailed argument for why the group is not following the precepts of Islam.
Open Letter to al-Baghdadi, 24SEP14.
* A must-read, by a liberal for liberals. Tom Junod is a Bush-basher, and a brilliant writer. In this article, Junod's deep dislike of Bush the man serves as a compelling counterpoint to his critique of Bush the war-time president.
"The moral certainty that makes war possible is certain only to unleash moral havoc, and moral havoc becomes something the nation has to rise above. We can neither win a war nor save the national soul if all we seek is to remain unsullied--pristine. Anyway, we are well beyond that now. The question is not, and has never been, whether we can fight a war without perpetrating outrages of our own. The question is whether the rightness of the American cause is sufficient not only to justify war but to withstand war's inevitable outrages. The question is whether--if the cause is right--we are strong enough to make it remain right in the foggy moral battleground of war."
Junod: The Case for George W. Bush i.e., what if he's right? - also posted on my blog here.
Expert Strategic Perspective
* A must-read strategic explication. A Democrat voting for Kerry, Thomas Barnett has been a supporter of Bush's strategy in the War on Terror. Barnett's strategic vision is gaining traction with the DoD, Democrats, and Republicans. After reading this article, look around his website, particularly his regularly updated weblog.
"[The] president decided correctly to fight back by trying to destroy disconnectedness in the Gulf region. We seek to do unto al Qaeda as it did unto us: trigger a system perturbation that will send all the region’s rule sets into flux. Saddam Hussein’s outlaw regime was dangerously disconnected from the globalizing world—from our rule sets, our norms, and all the ties that bind the Core together in mutually assured dependence. Disconnecting the great disconnector from the Gulf’s security scene is only the beginning of our effort, because now Iraq becomes the great battle field for the soul of the whole region. That second victory will be far more difficult to achieve. Our efforts to integrate Iraq into a wider world will pit all the forces of disconnectedness in the region against us."
Barnett: Mr. President, Here's How to Make Sense of Our Iraq Strategy.
Layperson Strategic Perspective
* I don't agree with all of the points made by Steven DenBeste at “USS Clueless"; nonetheless, DenBeste provides solid and broad coverage on Iraq from a layperson's perspective.
Scroll down to VI for Iraq section.
* In Nov 2005, Milblogger Tigerhawk posted an update to Steven DenBeste's strategic overview.
Strategic overview: Annotating and updating Den Beste.
* Timeline of events in Iraq by Milblogger Greyhawk who served in Iraq with the U.S. Army.
A Brief History of a Long War (Iraq, 1990-2003), Nov 2005 - copy at web.archive.org.
Media pundit justifications
* Hoven's take on the issue tracks closely with mine by hewing close to primary sources.
Who Lied About Iraq? by Randall Hoven, August 24, 2008.
Why Iraq was Inevitable by Arthur Herman, July 2008.
Who is Lying About Iraq by Norman Podhoretz, December 2005.
Carter Doctrine and Reagan Corollary to the Carter Doctrine
* US policy that Middle East regional security is a national interest. Used as a main argument by Arthur Borden in A Better Country: Why America Was Right to Confront Iraq. Wikipedia entry.
President Carter, 1980 State of the Union Address:
Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.President Reagan expanded President Carter’s security guarantee from repelling outside forces to also include internal regional stability when Reagan extended a security guarantee to Saudi Arabia due to concern over the Iran-Iraq war. The Reagan corollary to the Carter doctrine paved the way for President Bush to intervene when Iraq occupied Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia in 1990.
Reconstruction and Assistance Perspective
Embassy of the United States Baghdad, Iraq.
USAID: Our Commitment to Iraq.
Muslim Arab-American Civil Affairs Army Sergeant Perspective
* Sergeant Masry served in the Iraq mission for over a year and provides illuminating insights, information and advice, as well as educational links. Of note, SGT Masry is a Howard Dean supporter and the son of Ferial Masry, the Saudi immigrant school teacher running for Congress in California.
Omar Masry: Iraq 2.0.
Weblogs from Iraqis, soldiers serving in Iraq and regular folks
* There are too many good ones to list, especially the famed "milblogs" or the weblogs by US military personnel serving in the War on Terror. As an appetizer, here are three highly acclaimed weblogs:
Iraqi weblog: Iraq the Model.
Soldier's weblog: Mudville Gazette.
Civilian weblog: Chrenkoff's 'Good News from Iraq' series (scroll down to the bottom of the "Chrenkoff" blog for parts 1-10 of the series).
Eric's Perspective on regime change for Iraq
From the cease-fire that suspended the 1991 Gulf War, the UN/US mission in Iraq was designed as a strictly enforced and finite disarmament mission. It was never intended as an indefinitely prolonged, costly ‘containment’ mission that cast the UN and US as villains, severely undermined our credibility in the region and around the world, and made us complicit in Saddam’s harm of the Iraqi people. Eventually, after the penultimate enforcement step was exhausted in Operation Desert Fox, December 1998, the only alternative to ground invasion remaining was the stalemated, broken ad hoc 'containment'.
The attacks of 9/11 forced us to reevaluate US interaction with the Muslim and Arab world, with the UN/US Iraq mission at the top of the list. Our nation's leaders were faced with 3 options:*
A. Indefinitely continue and head-line the toxically corrupted, provocative, harmful, and crumbling sanctions and 'containment' status quo.
B. End the mission and release a noncompliant Saddam from constraint, in power, unreconstructed, and triumphant.
C. Give Saddam a final chance to comply under credible threat of regime change, and if he failed to comply, then bring Iraq into compliance with regime change.
* The Blix alternative, used by President Clinton to retreat from his support for President Bush and endorsement of OIF, was not realistic.
Without the 9/11 attacks as impetus, I believe we would have continued Option-A indefinitely, past the Bush presidency, and the thought disgusts me. Only one of those 3 choices is both morally defensible and provides a practical path to a better future. It is possible President Bush chose Option-C for less than noble reasons, but it is still the noble choice. For years we upheld the easier wrong in Iraq; I credit Bush for placing America on the path of the harder right.
Snapshot of my 2003-04 views on the War on Terror (multi-part);
Contextualizing the argument over Operation Iraqi Freedom (basic framing);
Regime Change in Iraq from Clinton to Bush (law school paper);
A problem of definition in the Iraq controversy: Was the issue Saddam's regime or Iraq's demonstrable WMD? (historical context);
10 year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom: thoughts (retrospective survey);
Operation Iraqi Freedom FAQ.
Iraqi Sanctions: Were They Worth It? by Sheldon Richman, 01JAN04.
Costs of War: Civilian Death and Injury in Iraq, 2003-2011, Neta Crawford, September 2011.