On the 20th of March, 2003, the Unites States of America launched an offensive against Iraq. This war was called as “Iraqi Freedom Operation” and led to the defeat and eventual capture of the Iraqi President and Baath Party leader Saddam Hussein. The war lasted only ten days but the consequences were far reaching, echoes of which can still be felt today. It has also proved to be a long, protracted and expensive war for the US with many analysts terming the situation as a quagmire for the US as well as its allies. It was the second war that the US had waged against Iraq, the first being the Gulf war in aid of Kuwait. The causes for the Iraq war are manifold and can be broadly classified under official and practical reasons. The official reasons fall mostly under military and humanitarian concerns with the war on terror an important aspect while the unofficial and practical reasons for the war was predominantly economical. Political and personal concerns were also touted as reasons for waging a war against Iraq by some.
The war on Iraq was a continuation or a part of the US war against terror which began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Since it was the first terrorist attack on US soil, the government launched an offensive against Al-Qaeda which had taken responsibility for the attack. Although the war against terror initially started off in Afghanistan, the US soon started a war against Iraq and harboring terrorists was given as one of the reasons for attacking Saddam Hussein's regime. “After launching an offensive in Afghanistan, where bin Laden took refuge, and suspecting links between Iraq and al Qaeda, George W. Bush charged Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks to establish a plan of attack against Iraq. This is the plan of operation 1003V, which is an evolution of the war plan of the first Gulf War (Bassil 29).” Another important and official reason that was given by the Bush regime and the United States was that the Saddam regime posed a threat to the US and other countries as Iraq had accumulated weapons of mass destruction that could either be used by Saddam Hussein or could fall into the hands of the terrorists. Saddam’s preparedness and ability to wage a successful war was then shown as a very possible immediate threat. The Iraqi government was accused of having an arsenal of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons as well as having long range missiles. On top of the destruction of Saddam’s military arsenal, the recovery of land, military equipment and freeing Kuwaiti prisoners of war from the first Gulf War was also given as a reason for the US involvement in the Iraq War.
The claim of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction came mainly from the CIA report of 2002 titled,"Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs" and stated that Iraq had violated the 1998 UN resolution and was investing heavily on biological and chemical weaponry as well as producing long range missiles. The report also went on to state that Iraq had reformed its nuclear program . “The Iraqi which has tried to obtain uranium tubes from Niger in the 1990s, resumed production of chemical agents, conservation, and development of missiles ( Iraq’s weapons of).”
The political and humanitarian reasons given for the war was the ushering of a democratic rule in Iraq after the invasion. Saddam and his Baath party members were accused of running a dictatorial regime that was not conducive for the peaceful coexistence of minorities with the majority population. The US also wanted to establish a transition government which would later become permanent and be representative of the Shiite, Sunni and the Kurdish population of Iraq. The US also saw itself as the liberator of the oppressed Kurds as well as the women under the Iraqi rule. The above were the official reasons given by the United States government to the United Nations as well as its allies to justify an invasion of Iraq. These reasons were all found to be based on little or no actual evidence as was established pretty soon. Saddam was not harboring terrorists but was actively fighting against Al-Qaeda presence in his country. The subsequent UN missions also found out that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The humanitarian reasons also proved to be hollow as Iraq has only slided into political turmoil and a hotbed of extremism since the war leading many critics to opine that iraq was stable under the Saddam regime.
The unofficial reasons were many and there are numerous theories floating around as to why the US went to war against Saddam. One of the most important reasons for the war which was never acknowledged by the United States Government was the economic reason, especially concerning oil. A control of Iraqi oil reserves and flow would not only have ensured that the US had an uninterrupted supply of oil at prices that it could control but it also meant that the US dependency on Saudi Arabia for oil would also drastically reduce. Also Saddam was instrumental and almost brought it to a state where the Euro would have replaced the dollar as the standard currency for oil transactions. If Saddam had gone ahead with his plans, the value of the dollar would have taken a considerable hit. Oil and the value of the dollar then became the main reasons for leading a war against Iraq (Pelletiere 2004). Another reason for the decision to wage a war against Iraq was purely political and determined by domestic concerns of the Bush regime and the Republican Party.
Bueno de Mesquita says that , “international relations is, simply put, a venue for politicians to gain or lose domestic political advantage (Mesquita, 2002).” In the case of the Iraq war, the republicans and the Bush regime had taken a bad rap within the country for a slowdown in the economy as well as their inability to prevent a terrorist attack on US soil. A war against terror as well as an avowed enemy of the United States was expected to win huge public support from the electorate. The republican party estimated that the war would be against a weaker foe and hence would not take much time to get over with. An affirmative and strong action against Iraq would also rally the citizens in favor of the government. War then became a reason as well as a ploy to increase domestic support for the Bush regime as well as the republican party. Since the earlier war in Afghanistan has proved to be an embarrassment for the US, a quick exit in the Iraq war would have helped the republican party save face. It was also reasoned that a successful war against Iraq would deflect the media attention away from the pathetic handling of terrorist threats by the Bush government. The failure to prevent the terrorist attack and the inability of the US and its allies to capture Osama Bin Laden would have also been overlooked in case of a new and victorious war against Iraq (Lichtblau, 2005). Theories of vested interests also suggest how corporate interests and corruption play an important role in wars. In the case of the Iraq war, it meant that the huge corporate players could reap a handsome profit by not only taking control of the oil reserves in the country but could also make money supplying defense material for the war. Many corporates with connections to the political class were also involved in the reconstruction process that happened after the war further giving credibility to the theory that corporate greed played a substantial role in America’s decision to go into war against Iraq (Lieberfeld, 10) . Personal factors and ideological leanings of the US leaders at that time have also been touted as reasons for the US decision to wage a war against Iraq (Woodward 2004). President Bush Sr had already waged a successful war against Iraq but ended up facing threats from Saddam Hussein. Comparison to the previous war and his dad, as well as a threat to his wife were cited by any as giving Bush Jr an added incentive and a personal motive to go into war. Also the Bush government was dominated by the neo conservatives who took a more realistic approach to politics and were projecting America as a hegemon and taking a different route from its previous policy of containment of threats.
Thus there were many reasons that led the US to wage a war against Iraq. There were domestic, political, geo-political, economic as well as ideological factors at play and a combination of everything proved to be the cause of war against Iraq. Ushering in of a democratic rule as well as the finding of weapons of mass destruction were reasons as well as tools used to go into war with Iraq. Since the official reasons given by the United States government took a beating after the end of the war as well as the UN inspection, the other theories and reasons for the war have come into focus. The many reasons for the Iraq war are still being debated by many given the fact that the war against Iraq has unleashed instability in the region as well as proved to be a hotbed for terrorist groups who used the lack of a strong government as a way to set up base. Whatever the cause or the reasons for the war against Iraq, it proved to be a damaging and costly affair for the United States, its allies as well as the citizens of Iraq. The instability created by the war has indirectly contributed to the highly volatile atmosphere in the region.
Bassil, Youssef. “The 2003 Iraq War: Operations, Causes, and Consequences.” IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science. 4.5 (2012): 29-47.
Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs. CIA Report. 2002. pp. 1-3.
Stephen Pelletière. Iraq and the International Oil System: Why America Went to War in the Gulf. New York: Maisonneuve Press. 2004.
Lieberfeld, Daniel. “Theories of Conflict and the Iraq War.” International Journal of Peace Studies. 10.2 (2005): 1-22.
Mesquita, Bueno. “Domestic Politics and International Relations.” International Studies Quarterly. 46.1 (2002): 1-9.
Woodward, Bob. Plan of Attack. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2004.
Lichtblau, Eric. “9/11 Report Cites Many Warnings about Hijackings.” New York Times. 10 Feb 2005. Web. 17 July 2015.