Posted on April 4, 2023



Iraqi Invasion At 20

The "forever war" that wasn't


Daniel Clark



Twenty years ago, the United States embarked upon one of the most tragic and misguided military blunders in world history. Or so one would think, by listening to the dishonest revisionists who continue to dominate the narrative. George W. Bush sent our nation to war "under false pretenses," they tell us. Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, and no ties to Islamic terrorism. It was an illegal, undeclared war. Bush prematurely said "mission accomplished," and then got America bogged down in a quagmire. The costly war produced little benefit, and even made us less safe, by creating more terrorists. None of this has ever been true, yet most people seem to believe it, for the simple reason that it's the only side of the argument that ever gets a public hearing.

To hear the willfully ignorant "what we know now about Iraq" chorus tell it, this was a war that was fought without an enemy. In one particular omission-riddled essay published recently at Breitbart, James Pinkerton went 24 paragraphs before even mentioning Saddam Hussein. Even then, he only did so in an indirect reference to his supposedly nonexistent WMDs. Countless others have conceded that Saddam was "a bad guy," while contending that this did not justify his forcible removal, a designation that puts the Butcher of Baghdad roughly on par with Justin Trudeau. Granted, the Iraq War does appear to have been quite senseless if we first dismiss, among other factors, Saddam's refusal to comply with the 1991 cease fire, his habitual funding, training and harboring of foreign terrorists, and the VX nerve agent discovery that precipitated "Operation Desert Fox." But why in the world should we do that?

Gulf War wasn't over

A state of war had technically still existed between the United States and Iraq since 1991, because there had never been a treaty ending it, but only a cease-fire, the conditions of which Saddam immediately and habitually disobeyed. The terms required him to report all of his weapons of mass destruction, and then destroy them under the supervision of the UN weapons inspectors. They did not allow him to hide the weapons, to secretly destroy them or transport them out of the country, or to physically obstruct and repeatedly attempt to bribe the weapons inspectors. In addition to these WMD-related violations, he routinely fired upon American and allied aircraft. Before we even proceed any farther than this, his removal was already totally justified.

According to the "unilateral destruction" hypothesis that is favored by the what-we-know-nowers, Saddam rounded up all the chemical and biological weapons in his country in a moment of panic in 1991, and blasted them to smithereens with a couple air-to-surface missiles, all while avoiding detection by the weapons inspectors. Not only is this just plain dopey on its face, but it steps all over the WMD timeline. It was already known that Iraq had admitted to producing large quantities of ricin in the mid-90s, and had been caught weaponizing VX in 1998. It is not also possible that its WMD programs were dismantled in 1991 and never revived since.

"Smoking gun" snipe hunt

The weapons inspectors were tasked with overseeing Iraq's destruction of its own WMDs, and reporting all material breaches of the terms of the cease-fire. It was not to go on a snipe hunt for some mythical object called a "smoking gun," to be subjectively defined by those who wished them to fail. Deliberately obtuse United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix repeatedly nullified WMD discoveries by declaring, "This is not a smoking gun," usually on the basis that the munitions predated the '91 Gulf War, and thus were presumably degraded to the point that they did not qualify. In reality, those were the very same weapons whose supervised destruction Saddam had promised as part of the cease-fire.

In accordance with the 1997 International Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States is expected to complete the destruction of its chemical weapons stocks sometime this year. These Cold War-era weapons were also produced no later than 1991, yet their destruction is necessarily a long and laborious process. We can't just scrape them into a gigantic pile and blow them up. Nor are they presumed to be inert and therefore nonexistent just because they were created so long ago. To excuse Saddam for hundreds of sarin and mustard gas bombs on that basis runs contrary to the way the UN treats chemical weapons throughout the entire world outside of Iraq.

Not that Saddam stopped producing WMDs at the end of the Gulf War. In addition to the VX discovery and the ricin admission, "WMD components" were also found, but have not been officially acknowledged as WMDs. Our forces recovered large quantities of each of the two chemicals that are combined to create sarin, and also binary warheads that are specifically designed to blend those two chemicals while airborne. According to the evasive semantic rules that had been set, those "components" would not become full-fledged WMDs until the warheads were filled with the chemicals, mounted on missiles, and then launched, thereby combining the chemicals into sarin. If you've been under the impression that there were no chemical weapons in Iraq, is this what you thought that meant?

On multiple occasions, our soldiers were treated for exposure to deadly chemicals in Iraq, but this was dismissed on the basis that they were dual-use chemicals that could have either been weaponized, or used for innocent civilian purposes like making pesticides. Although the chemicals were found in camouflaged ammunition dumps, the what-we-know-nowers have eagerly drawn this latter conclusion.

The Duelfer Report (a.k.a., the Iraq Survey Group Report) includes an explanation from one of Saddam's officers that he had modernized his chemical weapons program so that he could produce small stocks as he needed them, which is why our forces did not find large stockpiles of recently made WMDs. The report strangely pays only fleeting attention to this information, even though it treats other, less substantiated statements from Saddam and his representatives with remarkable credulity. In truth, this is a conclusion we should have drawn for ourselves, without any direct input from a member of the enemy regime.

Dual-use duplicity

In 2004, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) made a presentation to the UN Security Council in which spokesman Ewan Buchanan showed before-and-after pictures of Iraqi missile sites that had been hastily dismantled before the invasion. Buchanan reported that the inspectors had found dual-use equipment at the sites that could have been used to produce chemical or biological weapons. "You can make all kinds of pharmaceutical and medicinal products with a fermenter," he said. "You can also use it to breed anthrax." Once again, the most generous assumption possible has been made about Saddam's dual-use materials, in direct contradiction of the context in which they were found.

This revelation demonstrated not only the existence of the dual-use equipment, but also the fact that Saddam had decided to conceal his WMD programs rather than use them in a vain attempt to defeat the United States militarily. Considering that President Bush had given him 14 months' warning (rather than "rushing to war" as he was accused of doing), it only stands to reason that the inspectors did not find the large stockpiles of WMDs that had been expected when everyone assumed that Saddam would stand and fight. Nevertheless, in addition to those weapons that were found but dismissed for various reasons, an abundance of circumstantial evidence was uncovered.

In an interview with NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, also in 2004, U.S. weapons inspector David Kay reported the finding of a paper trail of Iraqi government documents that included records of the procurement of WMD components from foreign sources, and progress reports from Saddam's scientists. Although Kay would later become frustrated by the lack of weapons findings to support the documentation, he did not retract what he had told Brokaw. Furthermore, he had testified to Congress on October 2, 2023 that the Iraqis had been continuing research on the weaponization of ricin, aflatoxin, and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever.

Anybody who bothers to read any substantial portion of the Duelfer Report will be startled to find that it does not illustrate that Iraq had no WMDs, but instead plainly states many facts that the public has been led to disbelieve. There's a whole section, for example, detailing Saddam's clandestine network of mobile chemical laboratories, the existence of which is commonly thought to have been debunked. Like so many of the other chemical discoveries, these facilities must have been presumed to have an innocent civilian purpose. An innocent, clandestine, mobile, civilian purpose, that is.

Mouths open, case closed

Even the most dedicated contrarian should have been persuaded by the three secret recordings of Saddam's that were made public in 2006. In the first of these, he met with two of his scientists to discuss a new method of uranium enrichment. At the time of this conversation, he was still in possession of those 500 tons of uranium that our forces successfully captured and whisked out of the country after the invasion. It is apparently true that he was a long way from weaponizing this material, but his intention to do so is beyond serious doubt.

The second recording featured Saddam and one of his aides daydreaming about how easy it would be for a small number of terrorists to poison a water supply in Britain or the United States. Perhaps this was idle speculation, but it deserved to be taken seriously, coming from a tyrant who had a Putin-like penchant for poisoning his political enemies.

In the third of these recordings, Hussein Kamel, son-in-law of Saddam Hussein and head of his chemical weapons program, boasted about how completely they had fooled the weapons inspectors about their chemical weapons stocks and capabilities. "We did not reveal all that we have," he said. "Not the type of weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported, not the volume of the production we told them about, not the volume of use. None of this was correct. They don't know any of this." It's hard to imagine how this could possibly be explained away, which is probably why nobody has bothered. The what-we-know-nowers have simply opted to ignore it.

WMDs were not the only rationale for invading Iraq. They were only of such immediate concern because we knew that the country was a prolific state sponsor of terrorism. That's why the Duelfer Report's conclusion that the WMDs that had been found were not "militarily significant" is irrelevant. Our concern was not that they would be used in a military context, but that some of them might be passed along to terrorists for attacks on civilian populations.

Up to his wrists in terrorists

Under interrogation, Saddam admitted that his Iraqi Intelligence Service met twice with representatives of al-Qaeda, although he denied giving them material support. If it's actually true that he didn't fund and supply al-Qaeda directly, that's only because he was careful enough to do it surreptitiously. According to a 2006 Senate Intelligence Committee report, the IIS funded a group called the Army of Muhammad, which it recognized as an "offshoot of bin Laden," and explained that its use of a different title "can be a way of camouflaging the organization."

Another IIS document referenced "organizations that our agency cooperates with," a list that included the Afghani Islamic Party, which controlled the area of Afghanistan in which Osama bin Laden established his training camp, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which was Ayman al-Zawahiri's precursor to al-Qaeda.

The rest of Saddam's terrorist activities were far less subtle. For decades, he sheltered the most infamous terrorists in the world, including: Abu Nidal, whose Abu Nidal Organization was a renegade faction of the PLO that perpetrated high-profile terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Europe throughout the 1980s; Abu Abbas, hijacker of the Achille Lauro cruise ship and murderer of wheelchair-bound American Leon Klinghoffer; and Abdul Rahman Yasin, the man who created the explosives that were used in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

According to The 9/11 Commission Report, Saddam even "offered bin Laden a safe haven in Iraq" in 1999, a year after the al-Qaeda leader declared his fatwa against the United States. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was itself founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who naturally took refuge in Iraq after being wounded in Afghanistan in 2001. Zarqawi had operated a terrorist training camp that was directly funded by Osama bin Laden, who gave his support because he shared Zarqawi's aim of overthrowing the government of Jordan.

Saddam overtly incorporated terrorism within his own government through his creation of the Fedayeen, a paramilitary group made up primarily of foreign jihadists, which circumvented the military hierarchy by reporting only to the dictator's sadistic son, Uday. It was from the Fedayeen that Saddam selected an elite group of terrorists for a mission he called "Operation Blessed July." Whether this planned campaign of bombings and assassinations was ever realized is unknown, but it involved the deployment of his ten best recruits to London to conduct "martyrdom operations" throughout Europe.

Explosive exports

His willingness to export terrorism was already understood before the invasion, from his very public funding of terrorist acts against Israel. For turning one of its members into a suicide bomber, a Palestinian family was paid as much as $25,000 by Saddam's representatives. At that rate, the total amount of $35 million that the Iraqi government contributed to this cause adds up to a horrifying amount of carnage.

In yet another development that should have shocked the entire civilized world, Saddam was found to have militarized his diplomatic corps. A 2002 document from the IIS lists the following items, which had been stockpiled at Iraqi embassies throughout Europe and Asia: rifles with silencers being kept at the embassy in Austria; plastic explosives in India, Thailand, Yemen, Azerbaijan and Lebanon; conventional explosives in Pakistan, Romania and Greece; missile launchers in Romania, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Yemen, Azerbaijan and Lebanon; hand grenades in Austria; pistols with silencers in Turkey; and "booby-trapped suitcases" in India, Thailand, Azerbaijan and Lebanon. So much for the "containment was working" theory.

If the what-we-know-nowers would take a step back and look at what we really do know now about Iraq, they'd see that it would have been totally pointless to wage a War on Terror while declining to exercise our standing justification to remove this evil regime. It might even occur to them that this one of the "forever wars" was won quite a long time ago. You can't pinpoint the moment it happened, and nobody is observing anything called "V.I. Day," but our forces undoubtedly succeeded. Saddam Hussein was hanged. His sons Uday and Qusay were hunted down and exterminated. Their government was dismantled. Its guerilla "insurgence" was routed. The defeatists' "crunch all you want, they'll make more" view of the war turned out to be every bit as false as anything else they've said. Iraq had become a quagmire for the other side, not ours. By killing the terrorists, our soldiers reduced their numbers, instead of increasing them. Who but a sensible person would have expected that?

By refusing to recognize what's been accomplished in Iraq, the neo-peaceniks that now predominate both parties are committing an offense against truth that has equally ugly secondary effects. Among those is a lack of appreciation for the accomplishments of our military personnel, who have done so much to protect us from Islamic terrorism that, back here on the homefront, it's hardly even treated as a serious issue anymore. Rather than mindlessly chirping "thank you for your service" at our veterans as if they were coffee baristas, we ought to be sincerely thanking them for delivering to our nation a tremendous victory, against a powerful enemy who was surpassingly devious and cruel.



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