Douglas J. Feith, under Secretary of Defense for policy from 2001 to 2005, is author of "War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism" (HarperCollins, 2008). This book, in my opinion, puts to rest, once and for all, the why-fors and why-nots of the Iraq war.
There have been reams of commentary written by Bush detractors that the Iraq war was one of choice, rather than necessity. I would hope that any right-thinking person would conclude that the war was a necessity. But, of course, there will always be those who would vote "no" to war, even as the enemy was shooting through their windows.
George W. Bush was left with the Iraq problem by former president, Bill Clinton, as well as his own father, former president, George H.W. Bush. Iraqi Leader Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait and was constantly undermining the edicts of the U.N. Security Council. Within a few months after the the current-Bush's term of office began, his inner circle was considering the best action to adopt to get rid of, or at least destabilize, Saddam's regime.
President Bush sought alternatives to all-out war with Iraq, but it became apparent that the likelihood of that was remote. Several months before the 9/11 attack, the then-Secretary of State Colin Powell recommended multinational economic sanctions. The CIA suggested the possibility of a coup, but historically, Saddam could detect and diffuse plots, much better than the CIA could engineer them.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld groused that Iraqi regulars were constantly and without fear of reprisal, firing at U.S. and British aircraft almost daily. Finally, two months before 9/11, Rumsfeld sent a memo to the President: "The U.S. can roll up its tents and end the no-fly zones before someone gets killed or captured ... We can publicly acknowledge that sanctions against Saddam don't work, and stop this pretense that we are keeping Saddam in a box, when we know he has crawled a great distance out of the box ... We know he is developing WMD and the means to deliver them ... the U.S. will eventually, undoubtedly, have to confront a Saddam armed with nuclear weapons."
Ultimately (and after 9/11), the President was convinced that war with Saddam (and as a message to all terrorists) was the only possible alternative. Notwithstanding what you might have heard from talking heads about the motives for the Iraq incursion, Mr. Feith, who was in a much better position to know the truth, lists the following as determinates for war:
· Saddam was a threat to U.S. interests. He had started a war with Iran and Kuwait; fired missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel and provided training, funds, safe haven and political support for known terrorists.
· Though Saddam's regime was not implicated in the 9/11 attack, he was openly supportive of the attacks, and potentially had access to nuclear capabilities, which terrorists could obtain.
· The U.S. wanted to contain Saddam without war. The U.N. tried weapons inspections, diplomatic censure, economic sanctions, no-fly zones, no-drive zones and limited military strikes. Ultimately, the U.N. did not have the guts to enforce their own resolutions against Saddam.
· The risk of a war with Iraq was far less than leaving Saddam in power. The president found it unacceptable to just wait while Saddam developed biological and possible nuclear weapons. While the CIA did not find WMD during their initial inspections, we now know that intelligence officials (after Saddam's removal) did find chemical and biological weapons stockpiles in Iraq.
· The U.S. was concerned that while Saddam might not have the means to deliver WMD's to American soil, his proxy terrorists might. Imagine a group of hopped-up, anti-American, Islamo-fascists headed our way in a commercial airplane armed with a nuclear device.
Americans will differ on whether the risk of leaving Saddam in power outweighed the risk of war, but Bush concluded that it did. Historians will re-visit the president's decisionfor many years to come.
In the final analysis, though, if there had been no response to 9/11, how many more 9/11's would there have been?
James Studdard is an attorney. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.