A War We Didn't Have to Fight

'Many in the military believe the war is a disaster. Never has there been such bad feelings between the military and civilian leadership in the Pentagon. It is unreasonable to expect our military to continue absorbing losses for a war we didn’t have to fight. Before the war we thumbed our nose at most of the rest of the world. We can hardly expect them to come to our rescue – putting their lives on the line for miscalculations of the Bush Administration.'

Al-Qaeda continues to attack around the world and is a major threat to the United States. This disturbing situation is a direct result of the President’s failure to lead a worldwide effort to remove the threat posed by al-Qaeda. Instead, he diverted our military power and intelligence to a totally unnecessary war in Iraq, a country that had no real connection to 9-11 or to al-Qaeda and was not a threat to the United States

The President promised Congress and the American people that he would not engage in war, except as a last resort. He did not fulfill this promise. Instead, the President went to war based on exaggerated intelligence known to be of uncertain reliability. He did not allow international weapon experts to finish their inspections or check out our intelligence; he didn’t even allow U.S. personnel to participate in the inspection process. The President and his advisors were already on their path to war and interpreted intelligence data to suit their own needs. They deceived themselves, the nation, or both.

Regardless of its adequacy, Bush’s post-war plan was doomed to failure because of: Resentment of Iraqi citizens and the Muslim world over an unprovoked invasion based on a false premise. Enormous loss of life and human suffering. Vast destruction of the country’s infrastructure and personal property. Increased support for al-Qaeda because of our actions. As for the war on terror, the Bush Administration’s response has been too limited in scope to solve a global problem and has spread our military too thin. Nothing is being done to address the root causes of terrorism, which would significantly reduce the continuing threat to the United States. Invading Iraq has further weakened the war on terror and the President has no workable exit strategy. Two options for getting the U.S. out of Iraq and a bold strategy to reduce the threat of global terrorism are discussed in this article.

The President’s fatal misjudgments went unchecked because neither Congress nor the media challenged the President’s decisions on fighting the war on terror or going to war with Iraq. They did not perform their vital role as checks and balances on the administration in power. Instead, Congress gave the President a blank check for war. A more appropriate type of authority is described in this article.


Initial success of the President's response to 9-11 soon evaporated with a detour to war in Iraq. During the build-up to war, President Bush and Vice-President Cheney consistently por-trayed intelligence data as solid fact, when any reasonable person in their positions should have known they were dealing with intelligence estimates of uncertain reli-ability. Cheney had served in Congress and in several administrations, including positions as White House Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense. He knew first hand that he and the President were giving Congress and the American people information based on estimates, not actual facts.

The President did not do the responsible thing – have CIA and other data checked out by the 250 UN inspectors then on the ground in Iraq. The inspectors (repre-senting 60 coun-tries) were experts on each WMD category, had no ax to grind, and were in a position to obtain the actual facts – if they had been given sufficient time. Our own experts were invited to participate in the inspections but the administration declined. Inspections ended when they were preempted by Bush’s decision to go to war.


As Bob Woodward points out in his book, Plan of Attack, Bush had decided on a path to war at least a year before the invasion. At Bush’s direction, the CIA participated in the war planning and sent a team to Iraq nine months early to lay the ground work for the invasion. While arranging for covert entry into northern Iraq, the CIA Director personally told local Iraqi leaders that the United States was serious – the military and the CIA were coming.

Knowing the President had practically made up his mind, top officials exerted pressure by seeking and selectively using raw intelligence data. As Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker, such data was not expos-ed to the vigorous scru-tiny traditionally followed in the intelli-gence community. (Bypassing this scrutiny is known as 'stovepip-ing.') This raw data included some from defectors and exile groups who were promoting an American invasion of Iraq.

People inside the CIA were 'disheartened, dispirited, and angry.' One senior CIA official put it this way, 'Information not consistent with the admini-stration agenda was discarded and information that was (consistent) was not seriously scrutinized.' According to a recent suit filed against the CIA, a senior intelligence officer refused on several occasions to falsify or misstate his reports on weapons of mass destruction. The CIA eventually fired him. The CIA chief weapons inspector, David Kay, put it this way:

'Anything that showed Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction had a much higher gate to pass because if it were true, all U.S. policy towards Iraq would have fallen asunder.'

According to Senator Bill Nelson, the administration told the Senate in a closed (classified) session that Saddam could deliver biological and chemical weapons (notably anthrax) to our cities along the eastern seaboard, using aerial unmanned vehicles. The Senate had received a bad anthrax scare following 9-11 – imagine the impact of this statement.

Over 100 articles have challenged misleading administration statements leading up to the war. None of the reasons in the congres-sional authorization for war have proven to be true. None of the 20-odd claims in Secretary Powell's UN presentation have been borne out. In a documentary, former experts from the CIA, Pentagon and Foreign Service tell the public how they were misled into war (). An Army War College report sums up the situation this way: Saddam was deterred and did not present a threat. Taking him down was a distraction from the war on terror. The anti-terror campaign is unfocused and threatens to dissi-pate U.S. military resources. The U.S. Army is 'near the breaking point.'


Once the major claims of WMDs made in the build-up to war were discredited, the Bush Administration put out various other reasons (after the fact) for going to war. The following paragraphs point out these reasons and their weaknesses.

1] Saddam eventually would have converted facilities from civilian to weapons production, reconsti-tuted his former programs and passed weapons on to al-Qaeda terrorists.

There are three problems with this administration scenario.

First, the President got America’s support on grounds that Iraq was concealing lethal weapons and was an imme-diate threat to the United States and the region. Clearly, that support would not have been given had the President’s case for war been based on assumptions of some remote threat in the future. It is extremely doubtful that such a war authorization would even have been submitted by the administration or accepted by Congress.

Second, possible conversion in the future of civilian facilities to weapon use is not sufficient reason to justify war. In fact, war could be started on this basis most anywhere around the world.

Third, Iraq never before terrorized the United States and was not a terrorist state. Dr. Kay’s huge inspection team in Iraq found no evidence of any transfer of illegal weapons to terrorists. CIA analysts were ordered, repeat-edly, to redo intelligence assessments to show an Iraqi connection with al-Qaeda but refused to alter their conclusion. The 9-11 Commission confirmed the CIA analysis. The administration is still in denial.

2] Iraq is now the central front for the war on terrorism.

Fighting Iraq had little to do with terrorism until we made it so, by invading a Muslim nation – based on false claims. There were rumors of an al-Qaeda training camp in the north, but that part of Iraq was not under Saddam's control.

3] If we don’t fight the terrorists in Iraq now, we will have to fight them one day in the streets of American cities.

This is pure conjecture. There were no terrorists in Iraq until we invaded their country. How do we know that the terrorists there now entertain any thoughts of coming to America? It is far more likely that an unprovoked invasion of a Muslim country has inspired resistance by Iraqi citizens who resent our presence and are allowing outside terrorists assist them.

4] Saddam treated his people brutally.

The administration constantly refers to major incidents of brutality that took place many years ago. These incidents were well known to earlier administrations, but Saddam was treated as a valuable ally until the Gulf War. Saddam’s atrocities are entirely unrelated to the war on terrorism. They should have been prose-cuted by a world court tribunal as crimes against humanity, not used (after the fact) as a pretext for war.

5] The war was justified 'because we removed a regime that did have these weapons and gave us no reason to believe they had eliminated them.'

'Did' is the operative word. In order to avoid a preemptive war, does a country have to prove a negative? Poor Iraqi bookkeeping (documenting weapon destruction) does not excuse the war. Given enough time, international weapons experts on the ground would have found out the truth.

6] The world is a safer/better place without Saddam.

Actually, he had been defanged and containing him had worked. His regime was slowly crum-bling under UN sanctions. Both Secretary of State Powell and National Security Advisor Rice said publicly in 2001 that Saddam posed no threat.

7] Congress and other countries around the world also believed Saddam had WMD’s. Other countries and Congress relied to a great extent on U.S. intelligence and numerous unqualified statements by the President and Vice-President. Smaller countries just do not have the big budget, extensive military intelligence apparatus that we do. But, whatever other countries believed, most of them were wise enough to hold out for the facts before agreeing to sign on for a preemptive war. Since Bush was dragging the American people into a preemptive war against the advice of the world community, it was his responsibility to get facts and be sure of his position.

8] We need to spread democracy throughout the Mideast.

This is the administration’s latest after the fact 'reason' for the war. However, the President did not tell us that planting seeds of democracy would risk thousands of American lives or cost hundreds of billions of dollars, with no assurance that this costly experiment would work. As a recent Muslim Nobel prize winner said, democracy is a historical process and cannot be imposed militarily from the outside. Accord-ing to a Boston Globe report, the CIA, State Department and an international consulting firm all warned the administra-tion against trying to build democracy 'on the ashes of Sad-dam’s regime.'

A Defense Science Board report, submitted this past fall to the Pentagon, contains widespread criticism of the administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. Regarding democracy, the report said Muslims do not hate our freedoms (as Bush contends), but rather, they hate our policies. Forcing freedom in the Middle East is seen as patronizing, causing chaos and suffering while threatening the survival of Islam itself. Also, there is worldwide anger and discontent over the ways U.S. pursues its goals, and these ways have '… played straight into the hands of al-Qaeda.'


When the President decided prematurely to go to war in Iraq, Congress relied on the same intelligence that he (presumably) used and gave him a blank check. Under our Constitution, Con-gress is supposed to be an equal branch and act as one of the checks and balances on the Executive. Congress did not ask the tough questions, examine evidence or enter into a robust debate. It did not seek independent informa-tion or actual data from international inspectors.

The type of authorization Congress should have given the President is illustrated below. It was sent by a WWII Vet (the author) to some members of Congress before they voted.


First prove whether useable wmds actually exist in iraq and pose a threat If so, disarm and remove saddam with interna-tional and regional support Cite 'kennedy' model for maximum diplomacy and minimum loss of life on both sides Make dismantling al-qaeda the first priority - (Al-Qaeda, not Saddam, attacked us brutally and continues to threaten us.) PS. Can you pass this test -- would you support Bush’s war if Iraq was not a 5th rate power or if members of your own family were going to be on the firing line?

Most in Congress fell into lockstep with the President without calling in outside experts to get both sides of the story. Members relied on administration witnesses and top level officials. In effect, Congress ceded its constitutional war-making power to the Presi-dent. Congress abandoned the all-important system of checks and balances that our founding fathers had so carefully built into our democracy.

A SUBSERVIENT MEDIA The media is our watchdog. It is the only way the public can find out more than the government chooses to tell us. As our major source of information, the media is the lifeblood of our democracy.

The media marched to the drumbeat of the administration and sent its own people to join military units to report from there. They also did not ask the tough questions or examine evidence. For example, if banned weapons of the magnitude claimed by the President actually existed, where was the proof of at least a few -- or even one?Or, more obvious, why didn’t the administration use international experts on the ground in Iraq to verify its intelligence?

The media's tendency was to rely on high-level sources sympa-thetic to the administration and on Iraqi defectors and exile groups, instead of doing their own work independently. The coverage of many newspapers was highly defer-ential to the White House. There were some notable excep-tions, such as the Knight Ridder newspa-pers, but they do not receive national attention.

The New York Times periodically reported that the threat from Iraq’s weapons programs was real and ominous. In May 2004 and again in July 2004, the Times published (to its credit) an apology to readers for (1) running numer-ous stories containing misinformation and (2) not challenging the Presi-dent's assumptions. The Times Ombudsman said: The Times reporting relied on exiles and anony-mous administration sources. The Times was used to further a cunning cam-paign to promote WMD stories. When these stories broke apart, Times’ readers never found out why or who the mistaken sources were. The Washington Post ran a major editorial in support of the war. Its editorial assumed facts not in evidence. As Bob Woodward pointed out in his book on the war, his own newspaper downplayed contrary evidence from its reporters by putting their articles on back pages. A courageous investigative report by Howard Kurtz confirms the mistakes of his newspaper. The Washington Post has not yet apologized to its readers for having misled them.

TWO POSSIBLE EXIT STRATEGIES The President insisted on an unnecessary war in Iraq and will not change his course. As a result, our military is suffering increasing loss of life and injuries – practically every day. Injuries now approach 10,000, many of which are permanent disabilities, including blindness and mental health problems. Civilian loss of life and injury in Iraq exceeds 100,000, and cooperation with U.S. occupiers is a death warrant. Rampant disease and a crippled health system are threatening to kill even more Iraqi civilians than have died in the war’s aftermath. If we are not careful our country will become immune to continued death and destruction like another superpower (Germany) did during WW II.

Many in the military believe the war is a disaster. Never has there been such bad feelings between the military and civilian leadership in the Pentagon. It is unreasonable to expect our military to continue absorbing losses for a war we didn’t have to fight. Before the war we thumbed our nose at most of the rest of the world. We can hardly expect them to come to our rescue – putting their lives on the line for miscalculations of the Bush Administration.

Our continued presence in Iraq is causing most, if not all, of the resistance and acts of terror. From the Iraqi’s perspective, we are the crazed foreigners who invaded their country, and who are stealing their oil and killing many thousands of civilians – including women and children. When our military occupation ends, so will the insurgency. Insurgents and outside terrorists will no longer have a mission.

The Iraqi people should decide their own destiny. It was always a fallacy that we could force our way of life on another country with a different background and culture. An American president would be widely acclaimed here and in Europe, Iraq and other Muslim countries if he would adopt one of the following two strategies (or a combination), either of which can be adapted to changing circumstances on the ground:

Strategy # 1 – Start with partial withdrawal A recent article urges a new direction with a five-step program to begin withdrawal of our troops. (Erik Leaver, 'A New Course in Iraq,' Foreign Policy in Focus, Dec. 10, 2004.) It concludes the following: 'The current U.S. approach in Iraq is too costly in human and financial terms to Americans at home, our troops abroad, and to the very people this war was supposed to liberate.' '… the U.S. needs to accept the fact that continued military occupation by the U.S. will only cause more casualties, foster division in the country, and keep reconstruction from advancing.' '… continued fighting and the fact that any polling location guarded by U.S. troops will be a military target, means free and fair elections can’t take place as scheduled in January.' 'More Iraqi security force recruits and Iraqi police officers have been killed than Americans. Iraqi security forces can’t succeed as long as the U.S. is leading a war on the ground.' The five steps set forth in the article are: Declare an immediate cease-fire and reduce the number of troops. Total withdrawal would depend on strengthened Iraqi security forces and assistances from Muslim countries. Declare no intention to maintain a permanent or long-term military presence or bases in Iraq. Accelerate reconstruction giving Iraqis more control over funding; increase Iraqi jobs and projects targeted to their needs. The prospects of free elections at the end of January are dim. U.S. should call for a delay of national elections while helping Iraqis hold elections for local government. Congress should shape U.S. policy by tying a forthcoming supplemental (as high as $100 billion) to the four points above. Strategy # 2 – Start with immediate withdrawal to the borders Withdraw our military but maintain about 60,000 along the borders (with a quick response capability) until a peaceful election can be held and a new government installed. Allow any country willing and able to participate in reconstruction. Accelerate U.S. reconstruction, but only if Iraqi (and perhaps other Muslim) security forces maintain safe conditions. Failure to do this would automati-cally terminate U.S. participation. These two options are simply practical ways to extricate ourselves from an impossible situation that the President has led us into. They will still give Iraqi people a decent chance to create their own version of democracy.

A BOLDER STRATEGY FOR THE WAR ON TERROR An Asian-Pacific conference on security concluded that the world is losing the war on terror because the United States has expanded the sea of hatred and deep-seated rage in the Muslim world. The conference also deduced that the use of force by itself cannot eliminate terrorist threats. In a New York Times article, top terrorism expert Richard Clarke contends the United States is headed in the wrong direction. He claims that trying to impose democracy on an Arab nation at the end of an American bayonet is 'dead on arrival.' To eliminate terrorism, he says, we must have the support of the moderate Muslim community.

The President’s idea that we can deal with each and every country that supports or harbors terrorists is foolish bravado and impossible to achieve. Eliminating worldwide terrorism is a shared responsibility that requires leadership and cooperation from all heads of state. A global problem needs a global solution. This demands a more comprehensive and aggressive worldwide strategy. The essential elements (costing a fraction of war) are to: Mandate, through the United Nations, each nation’s responsibility to remove terrorist activities in their own country and help others do the same. Outlaw bomb-making nuclear material, inspect all countries that might give such material to terrorists, and enforce severe penalties for violations. Withdraw U.S. forces from Muslim countries and participate in peacekeeping through the UN and NATO. Sponsor a UN commission to identify the root causes of terrorism and determine remedies. Put as much U.S. power and prestige behind building a Palestinian state as was done in building Israel. Make energy independence one of America’s highest priorities. Terrorists may adopt the strategy of disrupting our major sources of oil (such as Saudi Arabia), as is being done today in Iraq. The UN must declare war on terror worldwide with the full support of every member country, backed by their military power and intelligence activities. Each country needs a mandate to dismantle terrorism and to assist other UN countries as needed. Any country not relentlessly pursuing terrorists or continuing to support them should receive sanctions, be suspended from the UN, and be subject to military action. Periodically, the UN should hold head of state progress meetings.

In parallel with UN action, the United States should sponsor a UN commission to identify fundamental changes that would reverse the root causes of organized violent behavior in the world. People everywhere need hope that one day we will return to more peaceful ways, without a fortress mentality.

THE BOTTOM LINE As 2002 mid-term elections approached, Bush intimidated Con-gress into passing an open-ended authority, allowing him to use force in Iraq. He manipulated our nation into an unpro-voked and costly conflict.

A common problem in the periods preceding and following 9/11 was allowing analysis and use of intelligence data to be influenced by the administration’s own priorities and preconceived notions. (See also ).

Having misused our military might against a small Muslim country, without sea power and unable to defend its own airspace, we are no longer respected by the world community. According to the Defense Science Board report, 'The war has increased mistrust of America … weakened support for the war on terrorism and undermined U.S. credibility worldwide.'

By staging a unilateral, preemptive war based on bad infor-ma-tion, the administration has opened Pandora’s Box. We have set a horrible precedent, and America’s good name is under attack. It will take at least a decade to repair America’s credibility and rebuild trust in our Govern-ment.

Bush is still ducking responsibility for the crisis his administra-tion created. He, alone, is responsible for his words, deci-sions and the people he appointed. The buck stops at his desk.

We should wonder whether recent terrorist attacks around the world would have happened if the United States had conducted an all out war on al-Qaeda, instead of divert-ing our military power to Iraq.

As an Islamic guerrilla fighter during the 1980’s war in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden takes credit for having bled the Soviet Union into bankruptcy. Currently, he is taunting the U.S. over the size of our budget deficits and hopes to help send us into bankruptcy too.

The public must become better informed and wake up to the failures of Congress and the media in checking the Executive’s abuses of power. We need to send better representatives to Congress – ones who are willing and able to carry out their obligations under the Constitution. Public hearings should be held to inquire into the media conduct of its role in our democracy. Looming issues include: real independence from those reported on, excessive concentration of ownership and conflict of interest between ownership and the people’s right to know.

Also, an independent investigation of the war is in order, questioning how the administration used intelligence, legality of the war and its necessity.

--From Media Monitors Network

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