Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

“The Forgotten War”: Part II

Posted in Iraq by Dan on December 9, 2009

With America’s trials and tribulations in war-torn Afghanistan continuing to dominate the headlines, we must not forget that over 100,000 U.S. soldiers remain in Iraq.  Likewise, we must never forget why the United States decided to launch a preemptive invasion of Iraq in the first place.

The only problem is that the U.S. Government seems interested in burying the truth and forgetting about the run-up to America’s worst war blunder since the Vietnam Era.  Rather than figure out what went wrong, Washington is dissociating itself from the conflict, even though a large contingent of American forces will remain in Iraq for another two years.

America’s number-one ally, however, has taken a drastically different approach.  For the past month, British politicians, and British intelligence officials have established an independent inquiry on why Britain decided to go along with President George W. Bush’s plan for Iraq in 2003.  Chaired by John Chilcot and supported by former analysts from P.M. Blair’s administration, the British Government is rehashing old wounds in the hopes of learning valuable lessons for the future.

According to Newsweek’s Mark Hosenball, the British “inquiry’s panel aims to examine how the war was launched and conducted, what happened when the initial military operations ended, and whether there are ‘lessons to be learned.”  In case anyone was interested in the panel’s findings, here is a preliminary list of their conclusions:

1)      George W. Bush seemed to have a fixation on toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime after the September 11, 2001 attacks

2)      The Bush Administration was heavily divided over whether to use force against Iraq, with VP Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld on one side and Secretary of State Colin Powell and C.I.A. Director George Tenant on the other.

3)      On September 14, 2001- only three days after the terrorist attacks on the United States- George Bush suggested to Blair that “there might be evidence that there was some connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin-Laden and Al’Qaeda.”

4)      In early April 2002, Bush met with Blair and revealed that the U.S. Military was already preparing for a military confrontation with Saddam Hussein.

5)      P.M. Blair, in a private telegraph to the White House in October of 2002, initially argued against American military  involvement in Iraq.

6)      V.P. Cheney was frequently with the President during discussions with British officials over war planning and preparation.

Certainly, the panel’s early findings are not exactly pristine tidbits of information.  The American and British people already understand that the Iraq War was based on inaccurate intelligence estimates, personal animosity towards the Iraqi dictator, and a genuine belief that a democratic Iraq would transform the Middle East.  London’s inquiry only serves to confirm and legitimize these beliefs.

But the moral of this story is not that the British Government failed to discover anything surprising during the run-up to the Iraqi invasion.  Rather, the lesson that jumps out is Great Britain’s search for the unbiased truth, even if this involves a meticulous process of give-and-take and a nationally publicized question-and-answer session.  By calling former British politicians to testify on the stand, Gordon Brown is not only closing the final chapter in a lengthy and controversial book; he is also exposing his country’s commitment to improving British intelligence for future conflicts.

Shouldn’t the United States perform a similar investigation into the manner, one that strives to uncover the truth and nothing but the truth?  One would think so, considering that over 4500 American soldiers have died in Iraq as a result of faulty intelligence about Saddam and his motives.  In fact, with two pillars of America’s Iraq strategy – weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi support for the Al’Qaeda network- grossly inaccurate, one would be right to argue that the U.S. Government has a responsibility to explain itself to the American people.

Perhaps we are not embarking on the same path as the British because the war in Iraq is still raging on for American troops.  The fact that the British mission in Iraq is now over gives Brown and Blair an opportunity to close the book on the conflict once and for all.  With U.S. operations in Iraq still ongoing, Washington may not have the same incentive.

Yet we as Americans should hope that our government is as open and honest about “Operation Iraqi Freedom” as our British partners have been and continue to be.

Many times, getting it right in the present and digging into our past can help save lives in the future.  There is a reason why political scientists and historians are so keen on preventing a return of history.

-Daniel R. DePetris


8 Responses

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  1. Anonymous said, on December 9, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    It sounds like a bad joke but it may be a true story: One of the most sensational claims made by the British government in the run up to the Iraq War about Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction may have come from an Iraqi taxi driver based

  2. superfly48 said, on December 9, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Bush and Blair wanted to find a reason to invade Iraq. Now in 2009, look where America is. Our economy is in a shambles, Americans are paying too much for everything. Where is Saddam now? Dead, where is Bin Laden? Bush made a mess of America and Obama inherited the mess.

  3. DSW358 said, on December 9, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    First of all, there was apparently satellite evidence of what appeared to be wmd in Irag years ago but contemporaneous satellite images with the start of the Iraq war showed that material was no longer there…but where did all of that material go? Second, one only needs to be in the Washington area a short time to discover that the private driving corps (aka taxi drivers) are well educated middle easterners. Many if not most of these folks have families here too. Less obvious is that almost all of the resale car vendors along no. 1 highway, south of Washington, D.C., are also middle easterners (likely with families…) Couple of observations here, merely observations: 1) There is a locus of middle easterners in the Washington DC area, they seem to be quite “friendly,” but they are in cash businesses… especially the car dealers (soaking the poor military enlisted men out of hard earned money for what, appear to be a bunch of terrible, junk re-sale cars, likely taken off the hands of the big wholesalers in the area…) Could these communities include hawala/surveillance groups? Very intelligent people, next time you hop in a taxi, don’t surmise that your IQ is higher than the driver, you’ll likely be wrong (especially if you are an American… the average American seems to be getting dumber by the decade…) The CIA is trying to shed the stink of failure from the 2001 debacle and is spending money on counter-terrorism…isn’t that funny? Frankly, I would laugh except that it IS so funny…. (which is very sad really.) But, a couple of friends of mine that are CIA civilians are retiring as soon as possible, to leave the Washington DC area….why is that? Why do all of the incoming FBI/DHS agents move into gated communites south of DC, in Stafford (need a helicopter to get in from there…) Likely because of the threat of dirty bombs (the possible relocation of Sadam’s wmd….)(?) Does anyone know? Certainly not the Federal Government. Suggestion, monitor the comm of this Washington DC based middle eastern community (and their money and hedged stock trades….) for clues just like Blair did…if this group starts to move out of the Washington, D.C., area, (then everyone else should too because the clock is ticking on tragedy … and the Feds are woefully unable to discover it much less stop it.) Now Feds, you have your assignment, or don’t you think that’s worth considering either, just like not worrying about small airport owners telling you about the rich guys that wanted to learn how to fly a big jet but not land it…. arrogant dummies!

  4. Wsstatesecret said, on December 9, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Everything with these dedicated pieces of *** is a bad joke with some sort of standardized consequence attached to it. Because of that bad joke, there was a complete separation from reality (via wartime powers) in reference to our Constitution, rule of law, dignity, and way of life. I am surprised this taxi driver has not been put under a pre determined loony toon assessment. Stay out of new york! For the few that found out that overlapping investigative pretenses, based on no reality at all, were derailing there lives, Shameful George, and by extension, President Principle had to engineer an organic marshal law on top of Cheney’s consensual platform. Nope, we did not loose anything because of the war on terror except everything we claimed to stand for. Keep looking forward little war lord.

  5. dman001948 said, on December 9, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Well somebody sure ought to have told Clinton , John Kerry and the democrat party that, for they swore up and down that Iraq had WMD’s and even voted to go into Iraq and Afgan (also remember Kerry sat in on the Intell committee during that period of time)…

    Then once they VOTED YES to go into Iraq, they all started saying Bush Lied! When in turn it was them lying the whole time. and they still are lying and you people are still being led around by the nose…fools, suckers, dumb people (quote Muthra and what he call the people of his state Penn and they still re-elected him) proving his porint.

    • BUpetro said, on December 9, 2009 at 8:46 pm


      I don’t recall any “vote” to go to war in either Aghan. or Iraq. In fact, there was no declaration of War declared by the US since 1941. Granted, most of names you mention supported going to war; however, if you are attempting to place blame on individual(s) —it starts at the top. As you very well know (or maybe don’t) that is the President of the United States.

      —>In my opinion.

  6. jacquelinell said, on December 9, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    I heard this taxi driver story years ago.

    I don’t recall the source.

    Why is this coming out now as if it were new information.

  7. harama goti said, on December 9, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    why wouldn’t it be in Britain’s (not to mention the US’s) investigative interests to pursue the fact of Bush’s tacit admitted intentions, in ’99 to a handful of sources, on tape and off ~ that he was going to take Saddam out?

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