Iraq War 2003: Background & Lessons

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June 5, 2003

Special Report

The War Against Saddam: a Justifiable Act?

Analysis. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS. One of the major obstacles to progress in human and strategic development in the Middle East — and, indeed, in moving the world into a new and more viable set of structures — is that certain comfortable shibboleths of the past must be abandoned. Most of humankind dreads change; it must be absorbed gradually if it is to be tolerable. But the reality is that change of any consequence often only comes as a result of dramatic catalysts which tend to reflect an emblematic, focused accumulation of these gradual changes.

But in the maelstrom of this apparently sudden change, there is a tendency to cling to past beliefs: known and comfortable patterns, even if they do not bear serious, logical scrutiny. Think how reluctant civilization was to accept the reality that the world was not flat; nor that the sun did not rotate around the earth. Think of how many people, even educated, sophisticated professionals, continue to proclaim that the “emperor still has clothes”, clinging to the myth that there was no real justification for the Iraq war. In reality,  the emperor does not have clothes: the war against Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein’s Administration was justifiable.

We continue to hear — in direct contradiction of explicit, detailed intelligence — assertions to the effect that:

We hear intelligent, professional people argue, legalistically, that the UN weapons inspections and the subsequent Coalition forces, “could not find evidence of WMD in Iraq”. Let us pre-suppose that the UN issued a “search warrant” to find Iraqi WMD in the kitchen. Given notice, would the Iraqis continue to store such matériel in the kitchen? Or would they move it to, say, the living room, outside the bounds of the search warrant? That is what they did: they moved them, or kept them, out of Iraq; out of the UN’s “search area”.

Quite apart from the known fact that the UN weapons inspections teams were penetrated by Iraqi intelligence from the beginning, before the 2003 Coalition war against Saddam, what also occurred was the movement of banned weapons, substances and documents out of Iraq to other, safe locations which were outside the UN inspection mandate. This is quite apart, also, from the fact that the Saddam Administration had, for more than a decade, maintained between 10,000 and 20,000 scientists, engineers and specialist workers in Libya, engaged in work on Iraqi-owned, but Libyan-based North Korean NoDong-1 strategic ballistic missiles. The Iraqi purchase of NoDong-1s through Libya was reported in detail by our sister publication, Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, on November 8, 2000, and subsequently in this journal.

On October 2, 2002, well before the conflict began, Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily reported that Iraq was believed to be using riverine barges and vessels for WMD storage and laboratories, and highlighted the rôle of the Iraqi Navy —a Navy virtually without warships — in handling strategic weapons and the weapons traffic between Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.

On October 28, 2002, well before the conflict, Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily reported that the Saddam Administration had “moved substantial caches of chemical weapons and related materials to safe-havens across the border into Syria, to avoid any chance of discovery by United Nations (UN) inspectors. Iraq moved stockpiles of chemical weapons and nuclear matériel as well as key production machinery and key experts to the Hsishi compound near Kamishli [al-Qamishli], in Syria, along with strategic weapons, ammunition, military fuels and other defense matériel, gold reserves, national archival records and national art treasures. It is believed that the moves took place in late August and early September 2002.”

When it became apparent that the US Bush and UK Blair administrations would not go into specifics about the historic linkages between the Saddam Administration and the bin Laden terrorist grouping, Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, on March 28, 2003, after the war had started, published a four-page listing of some of the meetings which had taken place between Saddam officials and bin Laden senior team members.

During the war itself, Australian Special Forces specifically found and targeted — and suppressed — Iraqi strategic ballistic missile systems which were being readied for firing against Israel. They also witnessed the movement of these systems from safe-havens in Syria into Iraq and then back again.

The Global Information System (GIS), the encrypted-access intelligence database related to Defense & Foreign Affairs (and host of the Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily), has compiled 64 separate reports (with more being added daily) detailing the background, conduct and context of the war. These reports make it clear that before and during the conflict the casus belli of the US and its Coalition allies was clear. The evidence did, and does exist, to justify the war in the terms outlined by US Pres. George W. Bush. But what is also clear is that the Bush and Blair administrations failed to adequately explain the case.

Had they done so, there would have been ample justification (which continues to exist, but without an overwhelmingly agreed foundation of political support) for the Coalition to have continued into Syria and Libya to remove some of the final caches of Iraqi strategic weaponry. Now, Saddam remains alive, and in contact with, among others, Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Asad. One of his sons, Qusay, has gone to Libya, along with many Iraqi officials; another son, Uday, is in Belarus, one of the traditional weapons suppliers to Saddam.

There is an overwhelming body of intelligence to confirm Iraqi WMD programs and possession of banned strategic missiles, and links with al-Qaida. It is now time for the strategic policy community to accept this, and move forward. Let go of the past; face reality. Move forward.