Early History and Challenges of the Second Persian Gulf War (2004, 2007)
G. Stolyarov II
Note from the Author: This paper was originally written in 2004 and published in five parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007, where it earned over 5,400 views until the closure of Yahoo! Voices in 2014. The paper presents a mixed view of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, largely as of mid-2004. Since then, the situation in Iraq has deteriorated greatly, and this paper does not account for those subsequent events. Furthermore, I no longer hold my former all-too-favorable view of aggressive American foreign policy or of war in general. However, the facts in the paper regarding the time period from 2003 to 2004 remain accurate. Moreover, this paper is part of my historical writings, and I wish to honestly represent my previous positions. Therefore, I have given this paper a permanent presence on this page.
Events Leading to the Second Persian Gulf WarAfter the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, U. S. President George W. Bush began to make the case for war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. On January 9, 2002, Bush orated his famous "axis of evil" speech in his State of the Union Address. The President declared:
"States like these [Iran, Iraq, and North Korea], and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic."
The United Nations thereafter attempted to inspectfor weapons, but Iraq rejected inspections in July, 2002. In compromise, it invited UN inspector Hans Blix to Iraq for further technical talks about disarmament. Then, on October 8, 2002, Congress voted to give Bush the power to disarm Iraq by force.
The UN, soon after, unanimously adopted Resolution 1441, which created an enhanced weapons-inspection program. Iraq accepted the resolution five days later, and wrote 12,000 pages of information about the country's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs on December 7, 2002. The document insisted that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. Hans Blix, however, did not believe the words in the document, and told the UN Security Council of his skepticism.
Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech to the UN in February, 2003, promoted these doubts. Powell presented more evidence of WMD sites such as satellite pictures, excerpts from communications among Iraqi officers, and testimony about Iraqi mobile weapons factories and dual-use facilities. A month later, President Bush gave the UN a choice: join the United States in its confrontation of Iraq, or stand aside as America confronts Iraq alone without UN approval.
This angered the leaders of many countries in the UN, and Russia and France promised to veto any UN resolution that gave the United States the power to use military force against Iraq. Six days later, Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar met at Azores Summit and agreed to use force for the disarmament of Iraq.
The next day, President Bush gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to flee Iraq. If Hussein did not meet the deadline, the United States would send its military to oust Hussein. He refused to leave, and on March 20, 2003, the United States launched a pre-dawn missile attack on Baghdad. The US strategy was to initiate a massive attack by land and air to "shock and awe" the enemy into surrender.
Original Reasons for Toppling the Saddam Hussein Regime During the Second Persian Gulf WarThe arguments employed by coalition governments and other supporters of the Second Gulf War provided a variety of reasons to topple Saddam Hussein. First, Saddam's history of developing weapons of mass destruction, his use of chemical weapons and nerve gas to kill thousands of Kurds in 1988, his near-completed nuclear program, which was only aborted by the First Gulf War in 1991, and his latest expulsion of UN inspectors in 1998 all indicated that Saddam had something to hide and would behave consistently with his past tendencies. George W. Bush thought that the image of complacency that Saddam was flaunting before the international community was a mere deception.
Moreover, Saddam has routinely violated resolutions issued by the UN itself, as the text of the latest of these, Resolution 1441, notes. This, in itself, claimed the Bush Administration, justified force, as UN Resolutions 678 and 687 from Gulf War I were still in effect and authorized military action in the event of Iraqi noncompliance.
Hussein was also notorious for providing aid to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and thus encouraging further terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Moreover, Hussein's links to Al Qaeda were observed in the fact that Hussein's regime was the only one to officially praise the September 11th attacks and include Osama bin Laden's name on the "Honor Roll of 600," printed in pre-war Iraqi newspapers.
An October 27, 2003 Defense Department memo to Senators Roberts and Rockefeller presented further evidence of cooperation betweenand Al Qaeda from 1990 onward. The Hussein regime reportedly offered training camps, safe haven, and even financial assistance to Mohammed Atta, the September 11th hijacker himself.
Moral arguments in favor of war were also presented. Those advocating the right to unilateralism claimed that the US should proudly exercise its national sovereignty and act in its own security interests without compromising these to conform to international opinion. These theorists favored a flexible "coalition of the willing," which would act on its common interest in Iraq and ignore those who did not share it.
Moreover, the "right to intervention" argument stated that a free nation always has the prerogative to intervene in any country where an oppressive regime denies basic liberties. The institution of a free, Western order in Iraq would later become an explicit aim of the occupation.
The Preemptive Doctrine, the response to threats by terrorists and rogue states before actual damage can be inflicted, also featured prominently in the war's justification. Some economists and pro-capitalist thinkers actually agreed with war opponents that oil played a role in this war, but they saw no moral quarrel with this, and pointed out economic benefits to come.
Finally, the war would bring an end to a futile 12-year sanctions regime in Iraq, which apparently allowed Saddam to preside over a terrorized, impoverished, starving population, far easier for a dictator to govern than a prosperous citizenry.
An Overview of the Major Events of the Second Persian Gulf War in 2003Some of the most intense fighting during the Second Persian Gulf War occurred during the first few months following the March 20, 2003, invasion.
Despite the lack of UN support for an invasion, the US still managed to garner a multitude of allies. Coalition forces consisted of 150,000 US combat troops, 45,000 from the British, 2000 Australians, and over 50,000 of the local Kurdish peshmergas militia. Even Denmark and Poland contributed to aquatic combat forces. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Hungary, Italy, and Portugal allowed American forces the use of their bases, and the US secured access to airspace in Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Turkey.
In all, the US effort secured the backing of 35 nations. Still, circumstances were murky, and coalition forces did not know what to expect of the extent of resistance.
Operation Iraqi Freedom began on March 20, 2003, with a preemptive strike aimed at Iraqi leaders in Baghdad. The US initiated its "shock and awe" program, which included almost continual bombing of major cities. From Kuwait, coalition troops began to march towards Baghdad. They encountered ugly opposition along the way, especially in Nasiriya and Basra.
The Third Division under Major General Blount proceeded towards its destination, decimating Hussein's Republican Guard along the way. This was quickly followed up by its capture of the Baghdad International Airport. Well ahead of schedule, American troops proceeded with an armored push to the capital.
Urban warfare heavily disfavors the aggressors and armor-users, which meant that everyone was surprised when Blount's Abrams tanks and Bradley carriers plowed through fierce but uncoordinated resistance to Saddam's front lawn. Baghdad was out of the fight by April 9, 2003.
Iraq's second largest city of Basra was also taken by the British 2 days prior, and the Kurds quickly took Kirkuk. The last dagger came with the US' capture of Tikrit, the remaining bastion of Iraqi opposition. Fighting petered out, and by May 1, 2003, America declared the end of major combat in Iraq.
The occupation ofrequired some 135,000 US forces to remain. They are still actively involved in seeking out former Iraqi leaders and putting down terrorism. In late July 2003, a 6-hour firefight broke out in Mosul. 20 missiles from American gunships obliterated the house hosting the resistance, and in the aftermath Uday and Qusay Hussein (the ace of clubs and the ace of hearts on the military's famous card deck of top officials in the Hussein regime) were found dead in the rubble.
Meanwhile, the occupation forces continued to experience a plethora of retaliation. Nearly a month after the killing of the sons, a suicide bombing annihilated the UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing two dozen people along with special representative de Mello. Another attack cost the Red Cross a dozen workers, and the UN and Red Cross staff were forced to withdraw many of their people. Later, November 2003 saw the second-bloodiest month since the end of the war, with 110 deaths among the US-lead coalition.
Finally, the coalition had some good news. In December 2003, Saddam Hussein himself was found, adumbrated in a hole 15 kilometers outside of Tikrit. Six hundred soldiers from the Raider Brigade approached the hideaway on a tip, and a cordon and search operation unearthed the former Iraqi leader. Saddam surrendered without resistance and was whisked away to an undisclosed location. He would later stand trial and receive the death penalty for his crimes.
Problems of the American-Led Occupation of IraqAfter a brilliant military victory over Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, the US-led coalition faced numerous obstacles to a successful reconstruction of Iraq. Many of these can be blamed on an improper political approach to the occupation.
In 2004, Iraq contained about 112 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, the second largest in the world (behind Saudi Arabia) along with roughly 220 billion barrels of possible resources. Iraq's true resource potential may be far greater than this, however, as the country is relatively unexplored due to years of war and sanctions. In 2004, Iraq's oil production averaged 2.5 million barrels per day. And yet the Second Persian Gulf War did not lead to increased oil production or decreased oil prices, primarily because the politicians directing the occupation of Iraq refused to de-nationalize control over Iraqi oil and allow more efficient Western private corporations to oversee its production and distribution.
Corrupt practices such as bribery and theft have marred the reconstruction projects and threaten the future of Iraq. More specifically, Iraqi private companies routinely pay bribes to get reconstruction contracts. Others use dishonest practices to appropriate funds allocated by the US government to reconstruction. At least 20% of US spending in Iraq is lost to corruption. Congressional initiatives that would have sent a strong anti-corruption signal to contractors in Iraq were derailed as early as 2004 by the House Republican leadership and White House.
Shiite clerics, many of whom have links to Iran, have now emerged as strong political contenders, free from the repression that Saddam's Sunni regime had carried out against them. Examples include two grand ayatollahs, the only moderately belligerent Ali al-Sistani, who nevertheless wishes for the US to transfer sovereignty to Iraqis in a timeframe of several months, and the now deceased Muhammad al-Hakim, who had the backing of Iran's clerics.
There were initial arguments among the clerics as to how long the US should stay, but none of them wished to deal with the US for more than one or two years. The clerics have already contributed to the repression of freedoms in Iraq, issuing warnings to theaters and art studios to cease their heathen practices or be shut down.
In the meantime, an even more radical young cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, managed to occupy the holy cities of Najaf and Fallujah in April 2004. His militiamen harassed US troops throughout Southern Iraq, and the US was forced to attack the two cities in late April. However, US forces were unable to occupy Fallujah completely, as the compromising American leadership agreed to a cease-fire which withdrew most US troops and allowed al-Sadr's militia ample time to regroup and recuperate. Al-Sadr later agreed to cease hostilities, but other insurgent forces still pose a grave threat to security in Iraq.
Prospects and Obstacles for Establishing a Post-Saddam Political Infrastructure in Iraq
Establishing a post-Saddam political infrastructure in Iraq has proved to be difficult at best. Americans, who typically associate liberty with democracy, must realize that the two most often oppose one another in Iraq, a country that is 60% Shiite and immensely susceptible to the dogma of hard-line fundamentalist clerics. If elections in Iraq are held prematurely, the clerics might win and establish an Iran-style theocracy, which will likely be more of a threat than Saddam's regime itself.
Additionally, Bush's pursuit of Iraq's Westernization has been half-hearted at best. President Bush has even declared that it is the Iraqi people's democratic prerogative to vote Islamic Sharia law into their Constitution, if a majority of them so wishes.
There have been two chief American administrators in Iraq, General Jay Garner and Ambassador Paul Bremer. In May 2003, Garner was suddenly recalled from his position and replaced by Bremer. Garner was a military figure, and Bremer was a civilian, whose presence after the declared end of combat was aimed to create an image of restoration of normalcy in Iraq.
During his tenure in office, Bremer met with mixed results in creating a freedom-favoring government. An interim 25-member council was initiated in July 2003, and featured among its prominent members the Secretary of the Iraqi Communist Party, the Founder of the Kurdish Socialist Party, a member of Iraq's Hezbollah, and the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, who have consistently opposed American-led reforms and have corroborated with various rebel and fundamentalist factions. It seems that, in attempting to please everyone, the American compromise-based approach pleased no one.
Fortunately, some progress has occurred. As early as May 2004, 85% of Iraqi towns had their own locally managed municipal councils, which are quite cooperative with occupation forces. These councils set up distribution centers where Iraqi families could obtain propane gas, a crucial substance for heating and cooking purposes.
Over 150 new newspapers had been established during the first year of occupation alone, and many more followed thereafter, creating a variety of media sources essential to a free society. Thousands of new Iraqi policemen are trained each month to assist in restoring order. Finally, a secular group, the Iraqi National Congress, a former opposition front to Saddam, has now been able to reestablish itself in Iraq. Those American thinkers who shun Iraqi self-determination and theocracy would like to see the INC play a critical role in the new Iraqi government.
Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II) is an actuary, science-fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress.
In December 2013, Mr. Stolyarov published Death is Wrong, an ambitious children’s book on life extension illustrated by his wife Wendy. Death is Wrong can be found on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
Mr. Stolyarov has contributed articles to the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), The Wave Chronicle, Le Quebecois Libre, Brighter Brains Institute, Immortal Life, Enter Stage Right, Rebirth of Reason, The Liberal Institute, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
In an effort to assist the spread of rational ideas,
Mr. Stolyarov published his articles on Associated Content (subsequently
the Yahoo! Contributor Network and Yahoo! Voices) from 2007 until
Yahoo! closed this venue in 2014. Mr. Stolyarov held the highest Clout
Level (10) possible on the Yahoo! Contributor Network and was one of its
Page View Millionaires, with over 3,175,000 views. Mr. Stolyarov’s
selected writings from that era have been preserved on this page.
Mr. Stolyarov holds the professional insurance designations of Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA), Associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society (ACAS), Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA), Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Associate in Reinsurance (ARe), Associate in Regulation and Compliance (ARC), Associate in Personal Insurance (API), Associate in Insurance Services (AIS), Accredited Insurance Examiner (AIE), and Associate in Insurance Accounting and Finance (AIAF).
Mr. Stolyarov has written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a philosophical treatise, A Rational Cosmology, a play, Implied Consent, and a free self-help treatise, The Best Self-Help is Free. You can watch his YouTube Videos.Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at email@example.com.Statement of Policy.
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