The date March 20, 2003 doesn’t sound important and most of us don’t remember where we were, but it is an important date. On that day President George Bush announced that American troops began an invasion of Iraq. It’s a good time to ask why we invaded, what happened, and where we are now.
No understanding of the invasion can be understood outside the attacks of September 11, 2001. On that morning we watched in horror as passenger planes crashed into the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania (that was likely headed toward the White House). It didn’t take long before we learned that the mastermind behind these attacks was Osama bin Laden; he was in Afghanistan being protected by their government.
But not long after these events President Bush and his administration began to push the idea that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to the attacks. There wasn’t any evidence of this and the Bush administration stopped pushing it but never completely disavowed it. Instead they pushed the idea that Saddam Hussein had both the ability to and intention of attacking us. He possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, we knew where they were, and we could confiscate them. Further, they claimed that the conquest of Iraq would be a cakewalk. Ordinary Iraqis would see us as liberators. Six weeks later, on May 1st, President Bush announced Mission Accomplished on the USS Abraham Lincoln.
In the years since then we’ve learned that none of this was true. It wasn’t a cakewalk, we weren’t seen as liberators and we didn’t accomplish the mission in six weeks. So what happened?
Today I heard an excellent podcast on this. The podcast is called On The Media and the link to this episode is here. It’s true that members of the administration “cherry picked” information that made their case and they gave too much credibility to sources who made unsubstantiated claims.
But the podcast shows that those behind this campaign felt that the only path to peace for the United States lay in “liberating” nations like Iraq and that the Iraqis suffered so much under Saddam that they would welcome us. President Bush also talked about the “axis of evil,” countries that included Iran and North Korea.
War is horrible and should be used only as a last resort. Saddam Hussein was never a threat and all we did was lose thousands of lives and leave a country that is broken to this day.
We need to remember this next time there is a call to war.