The legitimacy of the Iraq war

  • News
  • Thread starter Andre
  • Start date
  • #1
4,465
72
British involvement in Iraq war blamed on Blair’s ‘sycophancy’

British soldiers were sent to their deaths in Iraq because of Tony Blair’s “sycophancy” towards Washington and the failure of the governing class to speak the truth...
Anyway we also read:

... he couldn’t resist the stage or the glamour that it gave him...

... it is entirely the work of warriors cast carelessly into death’s way by a Prime Minister lost in self-aggrandisement and a governing class too closed to speak truth to power...
If you believed in the existence of WMD's, the war could seem legimate, but what if it was only for the PM wish (and that of others) to satisfy the quest of more power of those who were in power?

So how come that we were so absolutely sure of the WMD? And talking about being absolutely sure about something, how about present days absolute surety of another enemy?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
HallsofIvy
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
41,833
956
There never were any "WMD". George Bush made up the whole thing just to prove he could outdo his father. (He probably believed his own lie- he was dumb enough to believe that whatever he wanted to be true was true.) What Blair's excuse was, I don't know. Certainly the war on Iraq seriously set back the "war on terrorism".
 
  • #3
4,465
72
Well it has been assumed that Bush knew that Iraq had no WMD's like here

I think it is more subtle than that. There is little doubt that Bush needed an legimate reason to go to war and revenge 9/11 somehow. The flirtation of Saddam Hussein with NBC weapons was no secret, remember the Halabja poison gas attack. Therefore the concern was definitely legimate also given the shown aggression against Kuwait in the first gulf war.

Hence there is little doubt that high political - military - intelligence consultations conveyed the wish of the government in the spirit of "We need to retaliate 911 - So give us an exact overview of the NBC destructive power of Saddam Husain". So intelligence studied all the ground and air recce data and satellite images and found that this could be a sign of WMD and that could be sign too, etc, etc.

Then the http://www.anthonyhempell.com/papers/groupthink/ [Broken] kicks in, induced by strong willed leadership:

lack of tradition of impartial leadership: the group's leader has a tendency to use power or prestige to unduly influence the group instead of encouraging debate;
So in a possible discussion if those signs could or could not be WMD's the following mechanisms may have played a part.

the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action (Janis, 1982, p.9).
instances of mindless conformity and collective misjudgement of serious risks, which are collectively laughed off in a "clubby atmosphere of relaxed conviviality" (Janis, 1982, p.3).
So like the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Challenger, sound judgement became second to the groups cohesiveness and consensus and the "could's" may have evolved via via might, and probably into "virtually certainty". And obviously nobody wanted to play devils advocate, risking the anger of the group. Maybe "the plan" most accurately describes how it may have happened:

The Plan


In the beginning was the Plan.
And then came the Assumptions.
And the Assumptions were without form.
And the Plan was without substance.
And darkness was upon the face of the Workers.
And they spoke among themselves, saying,
"It is a crock of sh*t, and it stinks."
And the Workers went unto their Supervisors and said,
"It is a pail of dung, and we can't live with the smell.
And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying,
"It is the container of the excrements, and it is very strong,
such that none may abide by it."
And the Mangers went unto their Directors, saying,
"It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength."
And the Directors spoke among themselves, saying to one another,
"It promotes growth, and it is very powerful."
And the Vice Presidents went to the President, saying unto him,
"This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigor of the company
with very powerful effects."
And the President looked upon the Plan and saw that it was good.
And the Plan became Policy.
And that is how sh*t happens.
Hence there are two notions here:
Firstly: The President and Prime Minister may have heard what they wanted to hear: Yes we are virtually certain that he has WMD

Secondly: they had no idea that their leadership induced groupthink, without devils advocates they were not going to hear anything else than what they wanted to hear.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #4
mheslep
Gold Member
311
728
Generally, any time I find the phrase "speak truth to power" embedded in an argument, as it is here by 'Sir Ken' in the Times article, I affix the self-important hyperbole bumper sticker and move on.
 
  • #5
mheslep
Gold Member
311
728
...
Firstly: The President and Prime Minister may have heard what they wanted to hear: Yes we are virtually certain that he has WMD.
Not just Bush and Blair, Congress and Parliament were also convinced.
 
  • #6
15
1
Certainly the war on Iraq seriously set back the "war on terrorism".
In what way? It has kept the terrorists busy fighting in Iraq as opposed to being able to rest and recuperate and plan their next attacks. In addition, if Iraq can be formed into a functioning democracy, having a democratic ally in that region will go a long way in fighting the GWOT.
 
  • #7
BobG
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
185
80
In what way? It has kept the terrorists busy fighting in Iraq as opposed to being able to rest and recuperate and plan their next attacks. In addition, if Iraq can be formed into a functioning democracy, having a democratic ally in that region will go a long way in fighting the GWOT.
Actually, it kept them busy fighting in Iraq instead of fighting in Chechnya. Russia should thank us for creating a place more attractive to die in than Chechnya.

I think the little countries that have to be more progressive to compete, such as UAE and possibly even Kuwait, showed a lot more promise for developing democracies than Iraq. Out of over 120 civil wars since World War II, the only ones to be resolved by sharing power in a democratic government were Mozambique and South Africa. Sixty to one is kind of slim odds. (Too be fair, Iraq wasn't actively in a civil war prior to be being liberated, but surely our government had to see the risk of civil war was high - why else do you think Hussein used such extreme measures to keep the Kurds and Shiites in line?)

Sometimes, you look at how a President handles some earth shattering crisis and realize by the President's response that the event wasn't so earth shattering at all.

The country's economic crisis becomes an excuse for achieving goals that will have little immediate effect and that's a positive sign. It means the world isn't going to fall apart today (the day Republicans and Democrats agree on a solution to a crisis is the day you realize the world is on the brink of destruction).

9/11 becomes just an excuse to wipe the "Axis of Evil" off the map is just a positive sign that there was never a chance a terrorist organization such as Al-Qaeda could really threaten the security of the US. (Heck, the US suffered the equivalent of 3 WTC's worth of casualties every month during WWII).
 
  • #8
381
0
Andre, every single time you use the term groupthink against people I lose a lot of respect for you. You seem very closed minded by contiuously throwing that term around like it's 'dat new-new'

Anyways, I'm kind of iffy on if any government body actually believed that they had WMD. Maybe they thought it was a possibility but I highly doubt they actually thought that they seriously had WMD. Yes the war was purely political... then again, that's pretty much the entire purpose of war.
 
  • #9
BobG
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
185
80
Not just Bush and Blair, Congress and Parliament were also convinced.
I'm not so sure about Congress. Unfortunately, you have to pay for it now if you want to read it, but Winslow Wheeler's long essay/mini-book about Congress's "Week of Shame" makes for some interesting reading. Or you could browse the Senate's transcripts on line for the week Congress approved the authorization for military force.

Plain and simple BS by Hillary Clinton (D), John Kerry (D), Chuck Hagel (R) .... just about any person that thought we were making a mistake but didn't dare to put a "No" vote on their record if they wanted to protect their chances of getting elected in the event that the US invaded Iraq and successfully sparked a democratic government. They played it both ways. They gave a "Yes" vote, but their comments make absolutely no sense except as a quote they could extract out of context in the event the US invaded and the invasion didn't turn out so well.

You could go through that week's transcript and cross off a pretty sizable portion of the Senate as being just too spineless to ever be entrusted with receiving a "phone call at 3AM".

There were very few Senators that took a very courageous stand on either side. McCain (R) would be one. Biden (D) would come darn close, but backed down at the very last - either because the votes just plain weren't there and it would be folly to keep up the fight, or because all the other Presidential hopefuls had caved and he had to match their move - depends how cynical you are which you believe.
 
  • #10
mheslep
Gold Member
311
728
...
9/11 becomes just an excuse to wipe the "Axis of Evil" off the map is just a positive sign that there was never a chance a terrorist organization such as Al-Qaeda could really threaten the security of the US. (Heck, the US suffered the equivalent of 3 WTC's worth of casualties every month during WWII).
What is inference of this comment, that the US has no right to respond to WTC events because they don't measure up to WWII?
Nobody posited that Al-Qaeda could actually destroy the US, or any developed country for that matter, but visibly they sure can kill a great many civilians. If left to themselves, AQ would likely have destroyed a city or two given time. BTW, in WWII the US never suffered an attack of any significance on mainland civilians, a very different thing from soldiers killed on the battlefield.
 
  • #11
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,213
176
What is inference of this comment, that the US has no right to respond to WTC events because they don't measure up to WWII?
Nobody posited that Al-Qaeda could actually destroy the US, or any developed country for that matter, but visibly they sure can kill a great many civilians. If left to themselves, AQ would likely have destroyed a city or two given time. BTW, in WWII the US never suffered an attack of any significance on mainland civilians, a very different thing from soldiers killed on the battlefield.
Which is why there were relatively few objections when we went after the real enemy in Afghanistan, right after the attack.
 
  • #12
sylas
Science Advisor
1,646
7
So how come that we were so absolutely sure of the WMD? And talking about being absolutely sure about something, how about present days absolute surety of another enemy?
"We?" How wide was strong confidence in existence of WMDs in Iraq? People who were actually looking at the evidence without regard for politics tended not to be particularly confident, as I recall.

This can sometimes be a hard ideal: to put aside political or social concerns and just stick with evidence on its own real merits. The same thing applies for all kinds of other issues today that may have implications for politics. There are many such issues in all kinds of different fields today. Are you perhaps alluding to disputes over causes of the Aids crisis?

It doesn't matter what issue you might mean. In all cases we should aim to stick with the evidence, on its own merits, and not let concerns about policy or politics alter the evaluation of facts. This applies equally to overconfidence in weak inferences for some extraneous reason, or denial of strong inferences for some extraneous reason. That way you have a much better ground for rational politics or policy; certainly better that what followed in the wake of the WMD boondoggle.

Cheers -- sylas
 
  • #13
russ_watters
Mentor
19,855
6,276
What is inference of this comment, that the US has no right to respond to WTC events because they don't measure up to WWII?
No, he's saying that since the resources devoted to Afghanistan were far smaller than the resources devoted to Iraq, al Qaeda wasn't considered a serious threat (otherwise the larger resources would have been devoted to it).

I disagree with that, mainly because of Bush's lack of forward thinking: He devoted to each the resources necessary to win a conventional, self-contained war and by the initial goal he set out for each (topple the existing regime), both succeeded. What he didn't count on was how difficult it would be to keep the peace afterwards.
 
  • #14
russ_watters
Mentor
19,855
6,276
Anyway, WMDs are not the only reason that the Iraq war could be legal/just. Hussein was an aggressive dictator who was a threat to both his own people and his neighbors. Removing him was a positive thing, with or without the WMDs.

Please understand that I'm not saying that it was a good idea to attck Iraq. It wasn't. There was no imminent threat to us and our resources would have been better spent in Afghanistan. But the war was just and the outcome was a better world.
 
  • #15
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,213
176
Anyway, WMDs are not the only reason that the Iraq war could be legal/just. Hussein was an aggressive dictator who was a threat to both his own people and his neighbors. Removing him was a positive thing, with or without the WMDs.
Be that true or not, it was not how the war was justified. So the bottom line is that we attacked a country for no reason. That is a war crime. The only reason Bush got his bogus war was the claim that Saddam was imminent threat, when in fact the former chief weapons inspector was going ballistic denying the claims from the Bush admin.

This business of retroactive justification is absurd and you know it. Bush never would have gotten his war based on the justifications used now. That is a simple fact.
 
Last edited:
  • #16
lisab
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,887
616
"We?" How wide was strong confidence in existence of WMDs in Iraq? People who were actually looking at the evidence without regard for politics tended not to be particularly confident, as I recall.
Wide enough that "we" went to war.

It was amazing to live during that time...it didn't really matter how many people were true believers that there were WMDs, the fact is that most were marching lock-step without questioning what they were told. I felt like I wasn't in America any more, there were virtually no dissenting voices.

On 3/19/2003, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzlLU9Uxvdc" (yes I know his background, but that speech took guts).
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #17
15
1
One thing to remember is Iraq was not invaded solely over WMDs. That was one of the reasons, albeit one of the big ones.
 
  • #18
15
1
Actually, it kept them busy fighting in Iraq instead of fighting in Chechnya. Russia should thank us for creating a place more attractive to die in than Chechnya.

I think the little countries that have to be more progressive to compete, such as UAE and possibly even Kuwait, showed a lot more promise for developing democracies than Iraq. Out of over 120 civil wars since World War II, the only ones to be resolved by sharing power in a democratic government were Mozambique and South Africa. Sixty to one is kind of slim odds. (Too be fair, Iraq wasn't actively in a civil war prior to be being liberated, but surely our government had to see the risk of civil war was high - why else do you think Hussein used such extreme measures to keep the Kurds and Shiites in line?)
I didn't mean Iraq was necessarilly a great nation from the standpoint of, "Let's invade a Middle Eastern nation and turn it into a democracy," I just meant that since we have invaded it now, it is, long-term, probably better to stay the course and turn it into a democracy if this can be done as that will go a long way as an ally in the long run in that region.

9/11 becomes just an excuse to wipe the "Axis of Evil" off the map is just a positive sign that there was never a chance a terrorist organization such as Al-Qaeda could really threaten the security of the US. (Heck, the US suffered the equivalent of 3 WTC's worth of casualties every month during WWII).
If the terrorists were ever able to detonate a nuclear weapon of some type within the nation. I'm not saying invading Iraq was the solution to this, but I think Al-Qaeda was most definitely a massive threat to U.S. security.
 
  • #19
turbo
Gold Member
3,077
46
W's daddy and Reagan loved Hussein until he invaded Kuwait. He was their "junk-yard dog" in the region. He was a cruel and ruthless man, BUT he refused to allow the religious fanatics to take over Iraq, which was good news for women, Christians, and other people who would have had a really hard time in the countries of some US "allies" in the region. In Iraq, women had civil rights, and could hold positions of power, unlike in Saudi Arabia, where they are forbidden to even drive cars or be in the company of a male without male relatives present, etc.

Given the make-up of the 9/11 hijacking crews, Bush could have attacked Saudi Arabia and perhaps Yemen, but Iraq? Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, despite the years of hints and insinuations by W and his minions. Judging from the pro-Iraq war bumper-stickers around here saying that we had to "fight them over there so we won't have to fight them over here" there is a raft of gullible people who will rally when you wave a flag and cry for war, regardless of the lack of evidence.
 
Last edited:
  • #20
turbo
Gold Member
3,077
46
If the terrorists were ever able to detonate a nuclear weapon of some type within the nation. I'm not saying invading Iraq was the solution to this, but I think Al-Qaeda was most definitely a massive threat to U.S. security.
Invading Iraq had nothing to do with AQ. Hussein would never have tolerated the existence of a fundamentalist militant group in his country. W's advisors knew this, and probably tried to clue him in, to no avail.
 
  • #21
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,213
176
One thing to remember is Iraq was not invaded solely over WMDs. That was one of the reasons, albeit one of the big ones.
That is effectively false. WMDs were the justification; in particular, it was the claim that Saddam was an imminent threat. He was not an imminent threat. Interestingly, Obama made that clear way back then; before we ever attacked.

From there, the public was lead to believe that Saddam had been involved in the 911 attack, which was also not true.

Imagine what political if not personal courage it took for a young, black, State Senator from Illinois, to stand in front of the charging bull.
 
Last edited:
  • #22
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,213
176
I know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military is a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
- Barack Obama, October, 2002
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16903253/page/2/
 
  • #23
sylas
Science Advisor
1,646
7
Wide enough that "we" went to war.

It was amazing to live during that time...it didn't really matter how many people were true believers that there were WMDs, the fact is that most were marching lock-step without questioning what they were told. I felt like I wasn't in America any more, there were virtually no dissenting voices.

On 3/19/2003, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzlLU9Uxvdc" (yes I know his background, but that speech took guts).
I've never heard of him, frankly; but then I'm not American. Nice speech, though!

In Australia at the time, our prime minister was a strong supporter of the invasion, but this was not actually a very popular position. The chief UN arms inspector from 1997 to 1999 was Richard Butler, an Australian, who had a rather ambiguous role in the whole debate. He argued that Saddam was hiding WMDs at that time; but he also argues against using an invasion to get rid of them. He was very much against the proliferation of WMD elsewhere in the world as well, and in particular, he argues that WMD belonging to the USA are also an matter of concern.

It's worth recalling that Iraq did indeed have weapons of mass destruction a decade prior, which were located and destroyed. The question is whether he was still hiding them in the twenty first century. Butler certainly thought so, and most others considered it plausible; but it was not exactly a matter for great confidence, as I recall. Plenty of people felt that our then prime minster was exaggerating the scale and likelihood of the alleged WMD program, but most people I think considered it plausible Saddam had some kind of hidden WMD program.

FWIW: Butler was vocal in opposition to the invasion in 2003, and very critical of the prime minister; calling for his resignation over misleading the public about reasons for the invasion.

Cheers -- sylas
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #24
DrClapeyron
Don't you guys remember Wilson saying he would keep us out of WWI, but then he claimed we had to preserve democracy and freedom, which are some of the same things Bush talked about after the Iraq invasion. Honestly, I don't remember Wilson but I doubt he or Bush were the first leaders to declare some kind of noble idea or truth to justify a war.

Anybody who bought into the WMD arguement was probably either a child or a nitwit, but there are those of us who just flat out like war and you can't argue with that. We're good at it.
 
  • #25
russ_watters
Mentor
19,855
6,276
Be that true or not, it was not how the war was justified. So the bottom line is that we attacked a country for no reason. That is a war crime.
You are arguing that whether something is right/wrong crime/not a crime depends strictly on the motivation of the person doing the act. That just plain isn't how crime works. An action is/isn't a crime based on whether the action itself is just*.

For example, if you take out a gun and randomly shoot someone....who turns out to have been holding someone hostage....that's not a crime, even if you intended to commit murder.
The only reason Bush got his bogus war was the claim that Saddam was imminent threat, when in fact the former chief weapons inspector was going ballistic denying the claims from the Bush admin.
I understand that - I wasn't saying something different.
This business of retroactive justification is absurd and you know it. Bush never would have gotten his war based on the justifications used now. That is a simple fact.
Yes, that's a simple fact and I know it. But it doesn't have any direct bearing on your point above: whether the war was a crime or not. And I figure you probably know it. :wink:

*Moreover, the opposite is also often true: if a person has no criminal intent, even if the action causes harm, it isn't necessarily a crime.

[edit] And, of course, since the President is commander and chief the armed forces, the prior justification question is completely irrelevant: he need not assert any justification at all prior to engaging the military. So any way you want to slice it, in hindsight, when trying to determine if there was a crime, what matters is if the actions can be justified.
 
Last edited:

Related Threads on The legitimacy of the Iraq war

  • Poll
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
2K
  • Last Post
5
Replies
115
Views
8K
Replies
34
Views
3K
  • Last Post
7
Replies
158
Views
10K
Replies
26
Views
3K
Replies
2
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
4K
Replies
24
Views
4K
Replies
8
Views
3K
Top