The Chicago Tribune has analyzed the nine arguments it says the Bush administration put forward as its most important justifications for invading Iraq in 2003. And guess what? It finds half (four and a half out of nine) of the rationales were good.
The nine arguments:
1. Biological and chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein had them.
2. Iraq rebuffs the world. Saddam was required to cooperate with U.N. arms inspectors and comply with 17 U.N. resolutions, and he didn’t comply.
3. The quest for nukes. Saddam sought uranium from Africa and had equipment to make atomic bombs.
4. Hussein’s rope-a-dope. Saddam’s delays in complying with U.N. resolutions were giving him too much time to prepare deadly mischief.
5. Waging war on terror. Saddam harbored terrorists and had the means to arm them well.
6. Reform in the Middle East. Building a free country in Iraq could inspire democratic movements among Iraq’s neighbors.
7. Iraq and Al Qaida. Saddam and al Qaida had 10 years of high-level contacts.
8. The Butcher of Baghdad. Saddam ordered the murder of at least 300,000 Iraqis and the torture of many more.
9. Iraqis liberated. The Iraqis would embrace democracy.
The Tribune says the biological and chemical weapons weren’t there. So far, it appears probable that Saddam had no major stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons in 2002 and 2003. Nevertheless, Saddam was required to prove he had none, and he failed to provide the proof.
The paper also says the claims that Saddam sought atom-bomb uranium “appear discredited.” The paper is wrong there. Even Niger’s former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki says he believed the Iraqi trade delegation he met with in 1999 was seeking uranium. Niger doesn’t export much else.
Four out of nine. But in the end, The Tribune finds four of the administration’s nine arguments were well-founded, the “rope-a-dope” threat too close to call, the terror and al Qaida connections exaggerated, and the two major WMD assertions mostly wrong.
Bush’s humanitarian justifications turned out to be his strongest reasons for toppling Saddam, according to The Tribune. The case comprised reforming the Middle East, ending Saddam’s butchery and liberating the Iraqis. The paper also judged that Saddam had clearly failed to meet his many obligations under U.N. resolutions.
On the humanitarian reasons for liberation, The Tribune says:
The notion that invading Iraq would provoke political tremors in a region long ruled by despots is the Bush administration’s most successful prewar prediction to date. A more muscular U.S. diplomacy has advanced democracy and assisted freedom movements in the sclerotic Middle East….
In detailing how Hussein tormented his people--and thus mocked the UN Security Council order that he stop--the White House assessments were accurate. Few if any war opponents have challenged this argument, or suggested that an unmolested Hussein would have eased his repression….
The White House was correct in predicting that long subjugated Iraqis would embrace democracy. And while Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites have major differences to reconcile, a year’s worth of predictions that Sunni disaffection could doom self-rule have, so far, proven wrong.
Wrong emphasis. On the failure to prove Saddam had stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, and an atom bomb program, The Tribune concludes wisely:
There was no need for the administration to rely on risky intelligence to chronicle many of Iraq’s other sins. In putting so much emphasis on illicit weaponry, the White House advanced its most provocative, least verifiable case for war when others would have sufficed.
Man, is that a good point.
It supports a point I’ve made all along: A president who orders the invasion of another nation without more than one good reason probably hasn’t given the decision enough thought.
Four or five good reasons make an even better case.