Why Did UK Go to War in Iraq?

Kevin Drum cites excerpts from the Downing Street Memo and other “high level British opinion” on the evidence leading up to the Iraq War and laments,

“No recent evidence.” “Frankly unconvincing.” “No credible evidence.” “Facts were being fixed.”

The Brits pretty clearly knew that the Iraq-al-Qaeda connection was a crock. As with the existence of global warming, though, they apparently didn’t have much luck in getting their American counterparts to admit it.

Interestingly, though, Tony Blair was perhaps the most forceful advocate for the war. In a whole series of speeches, he was much more articulate than George W. Bush (granted…) on why it was important.

That rather begs the question: Why?

Rather clearly, Blair believed, along with Chirac, the UN Secretariat, and most reasonable opponents of the war, that Saddam had a WMD program in place and, even aside from that, was a generally dangerous figure.

Further, it’s worth pointing out from time to time that almost all of the casualties the Americans, Brits, and other Coalition forces have suffered from the war have come in the period since the removal of Saddam. American dead numbered well under 200 at the end of that phase. It’s the counterterrorism/counterinsurgency/nation building phase that has been so deadly. None of that was predicated on a Saddam-al Qaeda or Saddam-WMD rationale.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. reliapundit says:

    the Downing Street Memo’s (DSM) attraction to the Left is BIZARRE.

    POWERLINE is right: the info in it is banal.

    EVERYONE knows that the USA was willing to use force to get rid of Saddam – and that thewre were many good REASONS FOR THIS, and that Bush was moving in that direction form the spring of 2002.

    ONLY SADDAM HAS THE POWER TO STOP IT AND HE DIDN’T – probably because he wanted the world to think he had WMD (so he could deter any/all attacks on Iraq/his regime).

    Bush used the Spring and Summer to make a case for “war if necessary” and madfe a GREAT SPEECH before the UN GA in Sept of 2002 in which he laid out ALL the reasons for regime change – INCLUDING THAT IT WOULD LEAD TO A WAVE OF DEMOCRACY THROUGHOUT THE MIDDLE EAST. (IT HAS!)

    The DSM was written before this speech.

    ALSO: Wolfowitz has admitted that WMD was only one of MANY MANY reasons to oust Saddam, and that it was FOREGROUNDED becasue it was the most salient POLITICALLY.

    Saddam was technicaslly ALREADY IN A STATE OF WAR WITH THE USA AND THE UK – who were enforcing a NO FLY ZONE and being shot at EVERYDAY. The NO FLY ZONE is the only reason that Saddam did NIOT continue genocidal polices against the Shia and the Kurds; the NO FLY ZONES prevented GENOCIDE, and were started by BJ CLINTON.

    Saddam’s attacks on the forces enforcing the NO FLY ZONES were in violation of the UNSCR’s which comporised the armistice which ended the first Gulf War, ergo a styate of war reverts.

    IN CONCLUSION: if we had not attacked Saddam in 2003, Bush and Blair would’ve had to admit defeat IN THE FIRST GULF WAR: because the UN would’ve ended sanctions and ordered an end to the NO FLY ZONES. The Kurds and Shia would’ve beend vioctim of genocide – and like those in Rwanda and Darfur and Bosnia – the UN would’ve stood by and done NOTHING.

    OF COURSE, there’s always the chance that the UN would’ve kept the sanction s in place – IF ONLY to keep the UN’s OIL FOR FOOD program in place – so that they could continue to pewrsopnally enrich themselves at the expense of Iraqis – and the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East.

    Some things are not only WORTH fighting for, fighting for them is PARAMOUNT: stopping genocide; defeating tyranny, halting the support of terrorism, and spreading democracy are things WORTH FIGHTING FOR.

    Bush and Blair believe this.

    The appeasers of Old Europe do NOT.




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  2. tubino says:

    reliapundit: “Some things are not only WORTH fighting for, fighting for them is PARAMOUNT: stopping genocide; defeating tyranny, halting the support of terrorism, and spreading democracy are things WORTH FIGHTING FOR.”

    What the DSM’s show is that the Bush administration was perfectly happy to lie to get folks on board with their actions. The DSM’s show that you are a fool if you trust what the Bush Admin SAYS publicly.

    Despite what the Bush Admin says publicly, it is spineless about confronting genocide (Darfur), it supports tyranny where politically expedient (need help with the list?), and has greatly worsened the situation in IRAQ by actively opposing democratic control of Iraq by Iraqis.

    Read how and why here.




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  3. jpe says:

    ALSO: Wolfowitz has admitted that WMD was only one of MANY MANY reasons to oust Saddam, and that it was FOREGROUNDED becasue it was the most salient POLITICALLY.

    Presumably, however, the WMD was a necessary condition of the war. The DSM strongly suggests that, even if there were good evidence that this condition were unsatisfied, the war still would’ve gone on.




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  4. Anderson says:

    Moving back to the topic of the post (is it okay if I don’t WRITE IN ALL-CAPS?), Blair is said to’ve gone along with Bush because Bush leaned really hard on him to do so, and Blair feared to jeopardize the Special Relationship. Something rather drastic must’ve gone on to inspire Britain’s answer to Bill Clinton to disregard the unfavorable polls.

    Besides, Saddam was a bad guy, and when you’re the sidekick power anyway, it’s easier to say “let’s knock down all the bad guys! You go get ’em, Captain America!”




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  5. tubino says:

    Oops, forgot to address this one:
    “halting the support of terrorism”

    Since 9-11, the number of terrorist incidents around the world has GREATLY increased. I believe it has tripled or quadrupled. The Bush administration’s response was swift and bold: they stopped publishing the annual report, for the first time since publication began.

    Implementation of genuine post-9-11 programs has been slow and spotty at best, and has resulted in little more than a boondoggle bureacracy at worst.

    Previous republican administrations created the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Republican Congress prevented Clinton from fully destroying them.

    Bush is turning Iraq into the new Afghanistan. But while Afghanistan had the cold-war rationale of training Islamic fundamentalists to oppose the Soviets, Iraq is simply a direct training ground for anti-US terrorists.

    At least that’s what a recent Pentagon spokesman said.




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  6. Rather clearly, Blair believed…that Saddam had a WMD program in place and, even aside from that, was a generally dangerous figure.

    Maybe. The leaked memos do suggest that Blair thought Saddam was a threat. But they also make clear that there was precious little evidence, so you have to take Blair’s concern with a grain of salt.

    More likely Blair recognized that the US was going to go and was determined to secure an interest for the UK in the results. If that was his thinking he certainly got bamboozled; did the UK get any post-invasion contracts in Iraq?




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  7. Anderson says:

    If that was his thinking he certainly got bamboozled; did the UK get any post-invasion contracts in Iraq?

    But watch for Halliburton’s hostile takeover of the UK, after which things should pick up for the UK firms.




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  8. McGehee says:

    Actually I kind of like the focus on this Downing Street memo business. Putting it out there is kind of like telling the children to go outside and play.




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  9. tubino says:

    McGehee: “Actually I kind of like the focus on this Downing Street memo business. Putting it out there is kind of like telling the children to go outside and play.”

    Uh-huh. Especially if your idea of children playing is to hand them automatic weapons, and targets with the images of Bush, Cheney, Rice, et al.

    The children are getting fed up with the deadly lies. And there is no statute of limitations on war crimes.

    Worth repeating: there is no statute of limitations on war crimes.




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  10. jim says:

    Why did the UK join up with the US? Hm. Gee, it can’t be that the UK gets a large percentage of it’s oil from Iraq, can it?




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  11. jim says:

    Some things are not only WORTH fighting for, fighting for them is PARAMOUNT: stopping genocide; defeating tyranny, halting the support of terrorism, and spreading democracy are things WORTH FIGHTING FOR.

    Right. So that’s why a) Osama is still free, when we could have caught him in Afghanistan, but outsourced the job, b) terrorism has steadily increased every year since we’ve invaded Iraq, c) the US is allies with dictators who boil people alive, and does nothing while hundreds of thousands die in Darfur, e) Bush decides to talk all kinds of crap about Iran’s elections – ham-handedly influencing the Iranian voters to vote *even more heavily* for the hard-line Islamofascists we *don’t* want in power.

    Oh, well. At least it cost 1700+ soldiers, 300 billion dollars, and the prestige and respect and integrity of our nation.

    But, hey, you think it’s worth fighting for. Are you in Iraq right now? If not, then why aren’t you over there? Our troops are under-equipped and undermanned, while Halliburton ‘loses’ 8 BILLION dollars – why aren’t you over there, fighting, helping ’em out?




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  12. Pat says:

    “a) Osama is still free, when we could have caught him in Afghanistan, but outsourced the job,”

    No evidence that we “could have caught him” in Afghanistan. Much more evidence that we “could have caught him” if Bill Clinton had simply accepted the offer to hand him over.

    “b) terrorism has steadily increased every year since we’ve invaded Iraq,”

    More BS. There are no comparable statistics between periods.

    “c) the US is allies with dictators who boil people alive, and does nothing while hundreds of thousands die in Darfur,”

    In fact, the Bush Administration is virtually the only Western country that has said or done anything at all about Darfur.

    “e) [sic] Bush decides to talk all kinds of crap about Iran’s elections – ham-handedly influencing the Iranian voters to vote even more heavily for the hard-line Islamofascists we don’t want in power.”

    Bush told the truth about Iran’s “election” – it was rigged. As is immediately obvious – most of all to the Iranians themselves.

    Go back to sticking up for Castro and Chavez and Mugabe and whatever other dictators you lefties fawn over.




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  13. McGehee says:

    Worth repeating: there is no statute of limitations on war crimes.

    ROFLMAO!

    You’re a one-man riot, Tubino.




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  14. Worth repeating: there is no statute of limitations on war crimes.

    On an equally relevant note: There is no bacon in my freezer.

    To repeat: There is no bacon in my freezer.




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  15. stephen says:

    If people support this war so much, why aren’t there more willing to join the military and fight it? why argue for it at all if you’re not there fighting? i was in the air force for five years, but i realized that i hated war and refused to fight. so i left. but at least i was willing to put myself on the line when i did believe in it. the rest of you are just talking. i’m no patriot, but if you are, the most patriotic thing you can do is fight for your country, not talk for it.




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