The Iraq War, Its Causes and Opposition
The United States’ involvement in the Iraq war has been a matter of international attention for over the last one decade. The issue of the Iraq war has been revisited time over time in reference to the various issues it has led to globally. Recently, the war in Iraq has been blamed for various issues including the recent spike in incidences of terrorism and the upsurge of Islamic State, the infamous terror organization. The Iraq war dates back to 2003 when President George W. Bush led the invasion of the United States troops in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
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The first invasion of the European troops into the United States was dubbed the “Iraqi Freedom Operation” although other observers have referred to it as the Third Gulf War. on 20th March 2003, the then President of the United States George Bush declared the mission into Iraq a success and made the declaration ‘Mission Accomplished’. Nevertheless, the conflict in Iraq dragged on for more than a century with heavy casualties on both sides of the conflict.
By the year 2011, independent analysts estimated that “between 103,103 and 112,571 Iraq civilians had died in the violence…at least 250,000 Iraq civilians were wounded, and 4,483 deaths and 32,219 injuries within the American army” (Roberts, Lafta, Garfield, Khudhairi, & Burnham, 2004, p. 1859). The war also displaced millions of individuals and created refugees throughout Syria, Europe, Jordan, and the United States. It has been noted that the Iraq War was started under false pretences and its actual causes go beyond the obvious reasons for the conflict. The war also follows a precedence that was set by earlier invasion into Iraq where war was declared as a ‘preventive war’. This essay addresses the causes and effects of the Iraq war.
Overview of Causes of the Iraq War
The main driving force behind the war in Iraq was an upsurge in global terrorism, which culminated in the September 11 terrorist attacks in America. Consequently, the United States and other Western countries were worried about the proliferation of dangerous weapons into the hands of terrorists. During the pre-Iraq war era, countries were not quite sure about how to deal with terrorists because they were non-state aggressors. America reacted to this problem by invading countries where these terrorists were supposedly ‘hiding’.
These invasions ignored the fact that the invaded countries had not expressed their outright support for terrorist groups and this is how Afghanistan ad Iraq became easy targets. For instance, in a State of the Union address to the country, President Bush declared that his government was not going to “differentiate between terrorist groups and nations which harbor or arm them” (Herman, 2008, p. 30). In the early 2000s, Afghanistan was considered to be the hiding place and training ground of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, which was America’s number one enemy.
The threat posed by Iraq in 2003 was believed to be as a result of two main factors. First, there was some evidence that although Iraq did not shelter Al-Qaeda, President Saddam Hussein was facilitating training of terrorist elements that were in war with the sovereign governments of Turkey and Iran. Second, during the start of the Iraq war there were strong suspicions that Saddam Hussein was in the process of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. For instance, several groups had gone to Iraq to investigate the rumors about Saddam developing weapons of mass destruction. The major fear for the United States government was that weapons of mass destruction under Saddam would be proliferated to terrorist organizations that would in turn attack the United States. Collins Powell the then Secretary of State in the United States outlined the reasons why the country was invading Iraq through a statement that was presented to the United Nations (UN).
Unofficial Causes of the War
There were several unofficial reasons why the United States was so keen on invading Iraq by all means necessary. The main informal reason for the war in Iraq was the fact that defeating Saddam Hussein would have sent a strong message against detractors of American dominance. Most high ranking officials within the American government felt that defeating Saddam Hussein in his own turf would send a strong message to those who felt that the 9/11 attacks were a testament that the United States was a weak target. Strategists were of the view that invading Iraq would “maintain uni-polarity, maintain hegemony, and avoid post 9/11 decline by demonstrating the Unites States’ willingness to use force” (McKoy & Lake, 2011, p. 29).
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The issue of oil interests in Iraq has also been explored in relation to the
Iraq invasion. There are those who feel that the Iraq invasion was long-time coming as a result of growing unease over Saddam’s hold on the ‘second largest oil reserves’. Although oil was not a direct interest for the United States during the Iraq invasion, the resource made the target country an influential player in the Middle East (Ender, 2010). The United States might have hoped that if it succeeded in influencing policies in Iraq, the rest of Middle East would catch up. The other unofficial reason why the United States was invading Iraq was that by knocking out the biggest Middle Eastern powerhouse, the Bush government would be in a position of influencing policy-making in the entire region through intimidation and coercion (Gilley, 2013).
Over time, Iraq had become a major thorn in the United States’ flesh owing to a number of historical disagreements between the two countries. During these earlier disagreements, it had become clear that Iraq was a stable country that could easily withstand the threats by the United States. For instance, the conflict in 2003 was the third time that military conflict between the two countries was occurring. Observers note that some of the policymakers in Bush’s administration were seen to have ‘unfinished business’ with Iraq because they had been involved in some of these earlier conflicts. For example, “Neo-conservatives in the Bush administration such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney have always been thought to have harbored grudges against Saddam Hussein” (Herman, 2008, p. 30).
Opposition to the War
Not all parties were in support of the Iraq war and its intentions both within the United States and across the world. Consequently, there were several oppositions against the Iraq war from the time of its inception. Although Britain had pledged its full support for the Iraq war, most of its citizens were opposed to the war. Statistics indicate that approximately 70-90% of the European population was opposed to the Iraq war (Debs & Monteiro, 2014). Demonstrations were held in London where citizens felt that the government was not acting on their behalf. In the United States, critics who included then Congressman Barrack Obama were not given any listening space by the government. The US government also reacted quite harshly to opposition against the Iraq war and at times treated critics of the war like terrorists.
Another strong opposition against the war came from the Vatican where the Pope was concerned about the welfare of the ordinary citizens who would be caught up in the war. At one point, the Vatican through Pope John Paul II sent two Cardinals to try and convince both Presidents Bush and Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, most Evangelical Protestants were behind President Bush because they had been led to believe that the war was in a bid to defeat terrorism thereby protecting freedom of religion. The Allies including the UK and Australia were firmly behind the war despite the protests of their citizens.
The Iraq war was as a result of various factors some of which are obvious while others require deeper investigations. The causes of war are also unrelated events that lined up to culminate into the Iraq war. Saddam Hussein’s link to terrorist elements and his ambitions for having weapons of mass destruction made him an easy target for the Bush administration. The fact that Afghanistan had recently fallen and the Taliban had been presumed defeated made Iraq the only other logical target in the United States’ blatant display of military power. It is important to note that most of the initial suspicions towards Saddam Hussein and Iraq in general never materialized. Consequently, no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq and there was never any proof that Saddam had any connections to the Al-Qaeda.
Debs, A., & Monteiro, N. P. (2014). Known unknowns: power shifts, uncertainty, and war. International Organization, 68(01), 1-31.
Ender, M. G. (2010). War causes and consequences. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 39(4), 399-402.
Gilley, B. (2013). Using a virtual history conference to teach the Iraq War. Journal of Political Science Education, 9(2), 222-235.
Herman, A. (2008). Why Iraq was Inevitable. Commentary, 126(7), 28-36.
McKoy, M. K., & Lake, D. A. (2011). Bargaining theory and rationalist explanations for the Iraq war. Political Science Education, 5(2), 22-35.
Roberts, L., Lafta, R., Garfield, R., Khudhairi, J., & Burnham, G. (2004). Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey. The Lancet, 364(9448), 1857-1864.