George W. Bush Administration’s War on Iraq. Precedents and Consequences

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2013

27 Pages, Grade: 8

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Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. Hypothesis

3. Research questions

4. Antecedents
4.1. Prior to 9/11 attacks: Neo-conservative roots
4.2. Post - 9/11 attacks
4.3. War on Terror
4.4. The Pre-emptive Doctrine

5. Implementation
5.1. Lead-up To the Iraq War
5.2. Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Controversial War

6. Responses
6.1. Legality
6.2. False Rationale and Evidence
6.3. War: A Bush-Blair Creation?
6.4. Human Rights Abuse
6.5. Public Opinion and Protests against the War
6.6. Critics’ Critiques
6.7. Support for Pre-Emptive Doctrine
6.8. Was Iraq War Justifiable?
6.9. Has it Benefitted American Vital Interests Narrowly Perceived?
6.10. Where Is Iraq Today? Post US Withdrawal

7. Conclusion



Following the 2001invasion in Afghanistan to dismantle Taliban regime, the United States engaged in a more difficult war in Iraq by invading it in March 2003 following what was appeared a success in Afghanistan. Before the invasion, the George W. Bush administration launched its National Security Strategy of 2002 as a quick and powerful response to the deadly 9/11 attacks in the United States. The strategy was indoctrinated with such provisions to re-define terrorism and respond to it with high level of precision and effectiveness. The pre-emptive Doctrine of 2002, commonly known as Bush Doctrine, gave way to offensive and radical foreign policy of ‘regime change’ on the basis of ‘perceived threat-perception’ from Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq under the Bush administration. Provisions like pre-emptive strike, unilateralism in international relations, military hegemony, etc. negates the settled international sovereignty, significantly challenged the territorial integrity norms and clearly undermines the international body, the United Nations, by one of its leading founding-member. The paper seeks an attempt to explain and analyze Bush’s costly Iraq War. It also attempts to study impact it creates on both domestic and international stage thoroughly.

1. Introduction

The 9/11 attacks in the United States heralded a new and radical shift in the US foreign policy, national security and other strategic interests. It is a big shift not only in terms of its national security and foreign policy priorities but also the nature of administration’s politico-administrative agendas became so ingrained into fighting and eliminating all the terrorist networks that are ‘perceived’ as threats to homeland security as well as security of its interests and allies across the globe. What struck the most is the former President G.W. Bush administration’s over-enthusiasm regarding the threat-perception emanating out of Saddam’s Iraq and its efforts to link the ‘war on terror’ with the so-and-so claim of Saddam’s regime acquiring deadly Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).[1] This later became the primary source and justification for its invasion in Iraq that had claimed thousands of innocent lives and destroyed many cities - the consequences of which is a combination of sectarian violence and increasing attacks by insurgents and terrorist networks. The consequences of the war - neither the Americans could themselves address nor the Iraqis ameliorate and move on till today.

After what appeared to be a successful war in Afghanistan against the Taliban, the Bush administration in quick succession invaded Iraq under its former President, Saddam Hussein. The rationale behind the war on Iraq was a perceived threat felt by the former President, G.W. Bush, and his close neo-conservative dominated Cabinet colleagues such as Dick Cheney, the Vice- President during the administration of the former President.

The paper looks into two aspects of the decision to invade a full-scale war on Iraq in March, 2003. First, it looks into the basis as to what were the main reasons that prompted the President to declare war on Iraq, a country under a leader who was neither a religious radical nor had any association with terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda as such. Second, it analyzes the cost, benefit and risks associated with the war that President, Barack Obama, once described as “a war on credit.” This paper follows step-by-step approach in the form of antecedents, implementation and implications to give an overview of the Bush administration’s war on Iraq.

2. Hypothesis

George W. Bush administration’s war on Iraq was not based on practical evidences and historical linkage. It had not taken into account several previous US norms of conducting foreign policy and several war doctrines and in doing so it had exposed itself to more threats from outside. Hence, it cannot be called a successful war.

3. Research questions

- Why did the US invade Iraq? Did the administration take into account domestic sentiments viz-a-viz Iraq war?

- Did 9/11 attacks on American soil serve as an opportune time to an already plan/ desire of regime change in Iraq by the administration?

- What is the link between removing Saddam and securing the homeland security and security of its interests?

- How did the administration carry on the war despite opposition from the UNSC?

4. Antecedents

4.1. Prior to 9/11 attacks: Neo-conservative roots

In 2000 a report from a neo-conservative organization, New American Century, called Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy Forces and Resources For a New Century, outlines the ideas behind global dominance and empire in the form of a Global Pax Americana. In that document, amongst various other things, it is mentioned that at present the United States faces no global rival and America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible. But subsequently, because of heavy criticisms from many quarters it was buried by the new administration (Shah, 2004).

The Scottish Paper, the Sunday Herald, broke the story of a secret blueprint for US global dominance reveals that President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure “regime change” even before he took power in January 2001. The blueprint, uncovered by the Sunday Herald, for the creation of a “Global Pax Americana” was drawn up for Dick Cheney (at that time not a Vice-President), Donald Rumsfeld (then Defence Secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s deputy), George W. Bush’s younger brother Jeb and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s Chief of Staff).[2]

The document, entitled Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources For A New Century, was written in September 2000 by the neo-conservative think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC).[3] The PNAC document supports a “blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests” (PNAC, 2000). On September 20, 2001, the PNAC sent a letter to President George W. Bush, advocating strong suggestions to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

This meant even if evidence does not link Iraq to attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. But the same PNAC report also mentions that the need for a substantial American force presence in the Persian Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

In fact, offensive and neoconservative foreign policy was rooted back in 2000 Presidential campaigns. The Republican Party Platform in the election called for full implementation of the Iraq Liberation Act (1998) and removal of Saddam Hussein. His key advisors such as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, etc. have long been advocates of invading Iraq, and contributed to the September 2000 report that argued for using an invasion of Iraq as a means for the US to “play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security...”[4]

In fact, according to former Bush's Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, President Bush's first two National Security Council meetings included a discussion of invading Iraq. "From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," says O'Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before September 11, 2001 (Suskind, 2004).

4.2. Post - 9/11 attacks

However, the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington fundamentally changed the perception and incentivized the administration to carry out what had been until then was on the table- Saddam’s removal or regime change in Iraq.[5] It was the President's State of the Union address on 29 January, 2002 that signalled the first discernible shift in US strategy away from deterrence towards pre-emption. Known as the 'axis of evil' speech, Bush's remarks singled out Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as “undeterrable rogue regimes” which posed a threat to international order due to their possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and the possibility that these states could pass on such weapons to terrorist organizations. Bush emphasized strongly that the US would act decisively to “ensure its security” in the face of such threats. A concept borrowed from “Axis Powers” of World War Second.[6]

4.3. War on Terror

Shortly after the attacks, on 20 September, 2001, former President George W. Bush addressed a Joint Session of Congress, and announced his new " War on Terror ". This announcement was accompanied by the doctrine of "pre-emptive" military action, later termed the Bush Doctrine . First used by the former President himself and other high-ranking US officials, “War on Terror” denote a global military, political, legal and ideological struggle against organizations designated as terrorist and regimes that were accused of having a connection to them or providing them with support or were perceived, or presented as posing a threat to the US and its allies in general. It was typically used with a particular focus on militant Islamists and al-Qaeda (White House, 2003).

4.4. The Pre-emptive Doctrine

On June 1, 2002, in an address at the West Point, US President George W. Bush announced a new set of foreign policy principles that has come to be known as the “Bush Doctrine.”[7] The Bush Doctrine was different from post-Cold war, Clinton Doctrine and Powell Doctrine, diverted from Cold War multilateralism, deterrence and containment under Truman Doctrine [8] .

A few months later, President Bush administration formalized the speech entitled the National Security Strategy of the United States (White House, 2002). The document, entitled "The National Security Strategy of the United States,” published on Sept. 17, 2002 has four main points. These are - Pre-emption, Military Primacy, New Multilateralism, (strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism and work to prevent attacks against the US and its allies, work with others to defuse regional conflicts), and The Spread of Democracy (Democratic Regime Change) (White House, 2002).

He declared that the US would reserve the right to attack any nation (pre-emptive strikes) that it deemed to be a threat to its own national security and interests. With the adoption of pre-emptive and preventive doctrines that allow the US to strike states that harbour terrorism or suspect of developing or planning to use Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), it was a radical departure from previous national strategies in the history. Bush administration’s strategic approach has become more offensive and quasi-imperial. Michael Doyle called it “US Imperial Strategy.”[9] The document commonly referred to as “Bush Doctrine,” served as the policy framework for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

5. Implementation

5.1. Lead-up To the Iraq War

An excerpt from the memo (shown below) by then Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, dated 27 November, 2001 to President Bush mentions about serious consideration for an invasion.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

A slice of the memo by Donald Rumsfeld to President Bush in 2001 to invade Iraq.

Source : NBC news,

The “hawkish” elements within the administration began pushing hard to accomplish the mission of a “regime change” envisioned in the Liberation Act of 1998 - a prominent among them was Paul Wolfowitz. In September 2002, President Bush made a speech in UN General Assembly he emphasized the need to take quick action by the UNSC to enforce Resolutions against Iraq. In fact, campaign to sell Iraq war started with Bush’s September 19, 2002 speech in the UN. Bush's speech signaled a stepped-up effort in the administration’s carefully scripted campaign to win broad public support for a possible military confrontation.

Bush's speech provided new talking points for “educating the public about the threat”. Of course, not all Americans supported the idea of confronting Iraq. But more than 8 in 10 believe the regime of Saddam Hussein supported terrorist organizations intent on attacking America, and more than 9 in 10 believed it possessed or was developing WMD. A majority also believed-erroneously that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks (McClellean, 2008: 119-121).

Following he sought for a legal basis for his administration to invade Iraq. Known as Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of the United States Armed Forces Against Iraq (2002), or commonly as Iraq Resolution the Act was passed by the Congress in October that cited factors for use of military force against a “sovereign” country- Iraq and replacement by democracy. Some of the factors cited were Iraq’s non-compliance with UN Resolutions, alleged acquiring of WMDs, link with al-Qaeda, aiding and harbouring international terrorists groups, etc.[10]

President Bush actively involved in debate within his top advisors after 9/11 attacks regarding the invasion and how to go about it. The day after the attack, the President did not ask about Osama bin Laden. He did not ask Richard Clarke, the then White House of Counter-terrorism, about al-Qaeda. He did not ask about Saudi Arabia or any country other than Iraq. When Clarke responded to that first question by saying that Iraq was not responsible for the attack and that al-Qaeda was, the President persisted in focusing on Iraq. The President sent back the CIA/FBI report days after the attack only to insist Clarke to find link with Saddam Hussein (Al Gore, 2007: 107-108).

Two distinct schools of thoughts appeared to have evolved in the run-up to Iraq Invasion within Bush administration. They are:-

a.) Policy of containment through harsh sanctions espoused by then Secretary of State Colin Powell, State Department, etc.,[11]

b.) Unilateral action by using the super power force espoused by the then Vice-President Dick Cheney, the then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Department of Defense and neo-conservatives like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Parle, etc.

5.2. Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Controversial War

The invasion on Iraq was inevitable after mission in Afghanistan turned out be in the direction what President Bush wanted. The pressure from his Cabinet colleagues and his personal perception of a ‘rogue’ dictator challenging the US hegemony and its interest added fuel to the already existed controversy about Saddam’s reluctant acceptance to full allow UN inspection (Kristol and Kaplan, 2003: 46-47).

The Bush administration began a military buildup in the region, and pushed for the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which brought weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix and El Baradei to Iraq. President Bush insisted on the issue of WMDs and persisting threat to its security from Saddam Hussein. In the Second Bush- Kerry Presidential Debate in October, 2004 in St. Louis, President Bush reiterated that Saddam posed a unique threat to the US and because of potential WMD. He further stated that Saddam was gaming the oil-for-food program to get rid of sanctions and he wanted to restart his weapons programs, based on Duelfer Report (2004) but it refutes because of lack of evidence. In his 2006, State of the Union Address, Bush reflected the same and urged the need to safeguard Iraq from falling into the hands of terrorist organizations which might target America.

Hans Blix, the chief UN Inspector to Iraq, told UNSC that his team found no evidence of such activities, except for 18 undeclared empty 122 mm chemical rockets that were destroyed under UNMOVIC (UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission). On March 7 2003, he informed the Council that it would not take years but months to verify whether Iraq had complied with its disarmament obligations.[12]

On March 15-16 2003, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair had a secret meeting in which Bush reported told the Prime Minister that despite Blix’s report, “diplomacy had failed” to compel Iraq to comply fully with the UN Resolution 1441 and military option to non-compliance by Saddam Hussein was in compliance to “serious consequences” under UN Resolution 1441[13].

Thus the first day of invasion started on March 20, 2003. It was sudden and surprise military invasion without declaration of war. It was later codenamed as “Operation Iraqi Freedom” by the US The War began with an air campaign, which was immediately followed by a US-led ground invasion powered by Iraq Resolution (October 2002) on the pretext that Iraq does possess Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). With the either you are with us or with terrorists rhetoric, Bush asked all the nations to align with his policy on Iraq and many followed subsequently.[14] On 9 April, 2003 Baghdad fell, ending President Hussein's 24‑year rule. The abrupt fall of Baghdad was accompanied by a widespread outpouring of gratitude toward the invaders, but also massive civil disorder, including the looting of public and government buildings and drastically increased crime (Kriston and Kaplan, 2003: 120-124).

6. Responses

Opposition from a Bunch of Countries: Lack of Broad International Support

The Bush administration's decision to embrace pre-emption provoked immediate, and wide-ranging, reactions, both within the US and internationally. According to Pape (2005), Russia, Germany, France and China’s opposition and disagreement moves (in EU and the UNSC) and opposition of United States (National Missile Defense) NMD system programme from Russia and Europe through different techniques are the examples of the opposition to Iraq war.[15] Russia and China vehemently opposed the US unilateral move of pre-emptive strike in Iraq in the UNSC and other international forums arguing that the US is moving against the settled norm of sovereignty and independence of a nation. He further asserts that Germany and France accused the US for becoming an imperial power and the US might use the expedition as a tool later also to achieve its interests abroad. Turkey’s denial to provide territorial bases for Iraqi invasion to the US and Canada, its neighbour and an important ally in Gulf War (1991) refused to go with Bush’s policy on Iraq without UN approval are given as some important glaring examples.[16]

6.1. Legality

No doubt, the War on Terror was against the UN Charter’s article 2(4). Also it was without the UNSC authorization under Chapter VII, Article 51 of the Charter. The US Justice Department was gagged. The United States failed to establish in the UNSC that Iraq constituted an imminent threat to the security of the United States. Kofi Annan, the then Secretary-General of the UN, in 2004 in an interview on BBC termed it as an illegal expedition.[17]

6.2. False Rationale and Evidence

Duelfer Report prepared by Iraq Survey Group (ISG), the Iraq War multi-national forces survey, under its (then) Director, Charles Duelfer, in collaboration with the Pentagon and CIA published in 2004 couldn’t find any evidence of Bush administration rationale of alleged acquiring of dangerous WMDs in 2002 UN inspection led by Chief Weapon Inspector, Hans Blix. Blix in his testimony in the UN on 7 March, 2003, also reflected the same.

Scott Ritter , a former U.N. weapons inspector, argued in 2002 that inspections had eliminated the nuclear and chemical weapons programs and that evidence of their reconstitution. Joseph C. Wilson, an American diplomat investigated the contention that Iraq had sought uranium for nuclear weapons in Niger and reported that the contention had no substance. In his July 6, 2006, in New York Times op-ed, Wilson candidly wrote that based on his experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, he had little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.[18]

A 2004 report by the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) concluded that the evidence that Powell offered to support the allegation that the Iraqi government possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) was inaccurate. Collin Powell, after he resigned as the then Secretary of State, in an interview with ABC News confessed that his Feb. 5, 2003 speech in the UN was a ‘blot’ on his record.[19] So much so is the excessiveness of the administration on Iraq to make a case of Saddam Hussein’s link with WMDs and terrorist organization like al-Qaeda that the administration in collusion with the CIA forged the Habbush letter to make evidence to the cause of the White House (Suskind, 2004).[20]

6.3. War: A Bush-Blair Creation?

According to a secret memo revealed by The New York Times says that the US President was firmly set on the path to war two months before the 2003 Iraq invasion. From private talks between George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, the memo makes it clear the US was determined to go to war whether or not he had UN backing.[21] This is reflected by another leaked memo, “Downing Street Memo”, in which it says that the Bush administration is determined to take military action against Saddam Hussein through the so-and-so claim of acquiring dangerous WMDs. This is to be backed by intelligence inputs that favour the military option.[22]

6.4. Human Rights Abuse

There were wide-spread human-rights abuses. Abu-Ghraib prison abuses on Iraqi prisoners were vivid example which caught international attention.

6.5. Public Opinion and Protests against the War

Days before the March 20 invasion, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found support for the war was related to UN approval. Nearly 6/10 said they were ready for such an invasion "in the next week or two." But that support dropped off if the U.N. backing was not first obtained.[23] Conservative poll says 79-82% of the Iraqi populace opposed to US occupation and wants US troops to leave.[24] The media played a vital role in galvanizing the public opinion against what was gradually became to be known as an illegitimate war. According to CBS / New York Times poll conducted from 21–25 July 2006 in the , 32% said they approved of the way George W. Bush was handling the situation in Iraq, 62% disapproved, with 6% unsure.

The months leading up to the war saw protests across the United States, the largest of which, held on February 15, 2003 involved about 300,000 to 400,000 protesters in New York City, with smaller numbers protesting in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and other cities. Europe saw the biggest mobilization of protesters, including a rally of three million people in Rome, which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ever anti-war rally. Besides Europe there were huge demonstrations, rallies and protests in Tehran, Arab Countries, Australia, Canada and Latin America against the war. In particular, critics have argued that the US was unprepared for US the widespread looting and the violent insurgency that immediately followed the invasion.

The coffins of death soldiers bringing back home galvanized mass protests and rallies across the United States. The group One Thousand Coffins held a procession of one thousand full-scale flag-draped cardboard coffins, commemorating each of the US fallen troops as of that date, carried by a nationwide coalition of citizens, veterans, clergy and families of the fallen. One of the most daring protests came from Cindy Sheehan, the mother of Casey Sheehan, a soldier killed in Iraq. She led many anti-war protests and rallies- the famous being camping out near President Bush’s Ranch in Texas. She continued to tour across the United States and Europe against the war. “No Blood for Oil” became a popular slogan. Iraq War Veteran Association (IVAW) was formed in 2004 to help antiwar soldiers network and seek solidarity from one another. IVAW held a Winter Soldier event, from March 13-16, 2008, in which US veterans spoke of their experiences during the Iraq War

There were oppositions from national security and military personnel. Some argued that the Bush Administration's rationale for war was to gain control over Iraqi natural resources (primarily petroleum). The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has cost over $3 trillion to the US economy and lost around 4700 US soldiers. 1-2 lakh Iraqis lost their lives and there was no post-war reconstruction plan (Mearsheimer, 2010: 78-79).

6.6. Critics’ Critiques

Paul Wolfowitz, a leading architect of the war, acknowledged that the US made assumptions related to the insurgency that "turned out to underestimate the problem. Pre-war beliefs about the occupation were inherently rosy, with Vice President Cheney noting on “Meet the Press” that US forces would be “greeted as liberators”.

Morton Halperin, a foreign policy expert with the Council on Foreign Relations and Center for American Progress, warned that an invasion would increase the terrorist threat. A very important and significant opposition to the war came from Bush’s father, G.H.W. Bush’s former National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft. Scowcroft wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal in August 2002 arguing that the war would distract from the broader fight against terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which should be the US's highest priority in the Middle East.[25] The next month, Gen. Hugh Shelton, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed that war in Iraq would distract from the War on Terrorism.

In the 2008 US Presidential campaign, candidates Representatives Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, then Senator Barack Obama, Senators Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton and Mike Gravel were some of the most outspoken critics of the Iraq War. Ron Paul has said that "The war in Iraq was sold to us with false information.”

Scholars such as John Mearsheimer, a conservative offensive realist, criticizes war on terror and Iraq war in particular for diverting from the important threats from al-Qaeda and North Korea. Arguing that the war would distract from the broader fight against terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which should be the US's highest priority in the West Asian region. Democratic Senator Dean Edwards criticized for failure of the Bush administration to address “ignorance, poverty and disease”. The tragedy of the "ill-considered war in Iraq… is that we have empowered radicals and weakened moderates," making it easier for terrorists to recruit, he said.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies, Washington, agreed, saying in late 2003 that the war had swollen the ranks of al-Qaida and galvanized its will by increasing radical passions among Muslims.

6.7. Support for Pre-Emptive Doctrine

There are at least four arguments in favour of pre-emption. First, pre-emption reinforces deterrence rather than weaken it. It actually enables a “rogue state” to abandon its attempts to acquire WMDs as was in the case of Gaddafi’s Libya in 2004. Secondly , it is efficient in protecting an imminent threat arising outside the national boundary and hence can avoid huge cost in defending its territory and people. The third argument is pre-emption is ethically defensible as it involves the defending of huge population of innocent citizens and massive infrastructure for which the government is elected. And finally , the argument is that since the UN as an international body has been unable to fulfill its global security responsibilities, the buck stops at individual states. The UN Charter’s Article 51 has become outdated in a post-9/11 world with challenges coming from asymmetric global terrorism (O’Neil, 2004).

Kristol and Kaplan lay out a detailed rationale for action against Iraq. To understand why US fought Saddam, the authors assert, it is necessary to go beyond the details of his weapons of mass destruction, his past genocidal actions against Iran and his own people, and the U.N. resolutions he had ignored. The explanation begins with how the dominant policy ideas of the last decade - Clintonian liberalism and Republican realpolitik - led American policymakers to turn a blind eye to the threat Iraq has posed for well over a decade. Both make it clear that the war over Iraq is in large part a war of competing ideas about America's role in the world. The authors while praising for the policy of "preemption" guiding the Bush Administration in dealing with this crisis, also asserts that they show that American foreign policy for the 21st century is being forged in the crucible of US response to Saddam. They predicted that war over Iraq would presumably be the end of Saddam Hussein and a new era of American foreign policy.

6.8. Was Iraq War Justifiable?

As already discussed above, in the run-up to the Iraq war after the 9/11 incident, President Bush administration efforts to build up a case of WMDs and linking Iraq with terrorist organizations were refuted by many officials who were part of his administration. Many Commissions including Iraq Survey Groups’ (ISG) finding, “Duelfer Report” (2004), could not trace direct evidence of Saddam acquiring WMDs to a level that threatens US or any country’s security or had link to any agenda of developing nuclear weapons program which had been already abandoned in 1991.

Princeton University research fellow Dr. Jonathan Monten, in his 2005 International Security journal article “The Roots of the Bush Doctrine: Power, Nationalism, and Democracy Promotion in US Strategy”, attributed the Bush administration's activist democracy promotion to two main factors: the expansion of material capabilities, and the presence of a nationalist domestic ideology. It was also a key objective of the administration's grand strategy of expanding the political and economic influence of the United States internationally.

He examines two contending approaches to the long-term promotion of democracy: “exemplarism”, or leadership by example, and “vindicationism” or the direct application of United States power, including the use of coercive force. Whereas exemplarism largely prevailed in the 20th century, vindicationism has been the preferred approach of the Bush administration. The war on terrorism also coincides with a programme of "force transformation" centred on rebuilding the American military around information technology and phasing out big weapon systems; a revolution in warfare.

Scholars such as John Mearsheimer and many other strategic analysts contended that the threat was not on the scale as during cold war enmity against the Soviet Union. Threat is more severe with North Korea and Iran. Moreover, there were support from some allies like Britain, Spain and other NATO members but important allies like Germany and France were missing. There was no genuine world support. France and Germany together with China and Russia moved against the United States decision in the EU forum and the UNSC. Lastly there was no post-reconstruction plan (read no exit strategy). This is not in congruent with the Powell Doctrine . [26]

So accordingly there was no vital threat(s) to American security interests emanating out from the countries so that America had to decide for war. Vital threats, these scholars emphasized, comes from rogue states like North Korea, Iran and the threats looming from inability to resolve Israel-Palestine dispute in West Asia.

6.9. Has it Benefitted American Vital Interests Narrowly Perceived?

The invasion in Iraq coincided with Israel’s destruction in West Bank and it evaporated its legitimacy in Arab World and other parts of the world. Many scholars argue that the oil factor in the Persian Gulf’s vast reserves is the main motive for occupation of Iraq through invasion. According to Pape and Anthony (2005), conquering Iraq puts the United States in a strategic position but it would not make a significant difference to the balance of power among the United States, Europe, Russia, China and Japan.

Pape and Anthony (2005) further argue that even if the US control 100% second-largest oil reserves and production in Iraq considering its pre-1990s level, 3 million barrels per day production, the United States would gain from Iraqi oil revenues only about $30 billion a year or about 1/3 of 1 percent of the United States’ $10 trillion gross national product in 2003.

Paul (2005) delineates the evidences of soft balancing by a host of second-tier powers (exclude Great Britain) as a reaction to the new United States unilateralism in the world who perceive the United States expedition would pave the way for subsequent exercises by the US. Particularly challenging territorial sovereignty and interventionism is viewed by countries like Russia and China as a part of the US continuous imperial policies. Pape and Anthony (2005) described the United States behaviour owing to its aggressive policy under Bush has turned its image of a previous long-enjoyed “benign hegemon” status in the eyes of the world to a status of a “malign hegemon,” thereby estranging its relations with its allies in Europe and other parts. Kagan and Mayers (2007) argue that the Bush strategy has widened the already existing gap between European allies and the US.

Mearsheimer (2010) explains as to why he thinks America Iraq war is a big disaster for America and hence a failure. According to him, the United States has also been unable to solve three other major foreign-policy problems. Washington has worked overtime- with no success- to shut down Iran’s uranium-enrichment capability for fear that it might lead to Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons. And the United States, unable to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place, now seems incapable of compelling Pyongyang to give them up. Finally, every post–Cold War administration has tried and failed to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; all indicators are that this problem will deteriorate further as the West Bank and Gaza are incorporated into a Greater Israel[27].

In this vein, Mearsheimer (2010) pointed out that the Bush administration’s fondness for threatening to attack adversaries (often times with the additional agenda of forced democratization) encouraged nuclear proliferation. On February 17, 2010, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that as of September 1, 2010, the name "Operation Iraqi Freedom " would be replaced by "Operation New Dawn". In July 2011, US military officials announced that Iraq and the US began negotiations for continuation of US troops beyond the December 31, 2011 dateline set in 2008. But due to unpopularity of extension of troops in Iraq by public and Iraqi political factions, President Obama announced that the troops in Iraq would be withdrawn by the end of 2011.

In November 2011, the US Senate voted down a resolution to formally end the war by bringing its authorization by Congress to an end. The last US troops withdrew from Iraq on December 18, 2011. The next day, Iraqi officials issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice-President Tareq Al-Hashemi . He has been accused of involvement in assassinations and fled to the Kurdish part of Iraq. The UN lifts Saddam Hussein era-restrictions on Iraq. These included allowing Iraq to have a civilian nuclear program, permitting the participation of Iraq in international nuclear and chemical weapons treaties, as well as returning control of Iraq's oil and gas revenue to the government and ending the Oil-for-Food Programme[28]. The United States and Iraq in 2008 signed the Status of force agreement and closed military cooperation, a move to militarize Iraq under its umbrella to challenge rogue Iran.

6.10. Where Is Iraq Today? Post US Withdrawal

Post-withdrawal, Iraqi insurgency has surged rapidly and suicide bombings targeting Iraqi officials and foreigners have become a norm. The events of post US withdrawal violence succeeded the previous insurgency in Iraq fearing of a possible civil war situation in the beginning. Some 1,000 people were killed across Iraq within the first two months since US withdrawal.

Today, a decade after US-led forces took control of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, sealing the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraq remains plagued by deadly attacks and never-ending political crises. According to Britain-based NGO Iraq Body Count recently estimated that at least 112,000 Iraqi civilians died in the decade after the invasion, while thousands of soldiers and policemen were also killed. Militant groups, particularly al-Qaeda, remain capable of mounting spectacular mass-casualty attacks in a bid to destabilize the country. The country’s first elections since US military withdrawal in 2011 was marked by violence in various parts.[29] However there was no casualty.

The violence is frequently blamed on political disputes between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and many of his erstwhile partners in Iraq's unity government, allowing militants to exploit divisions on the ground which give them room to manoeuvre[30]. Moreover, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is being accused today by US officials for not being able to stop Iran from using its air base to supply arms to the Syrian Assad’s government.

7. Conclusion

President G.W. Bush, as a Commander-in-Chief, executive and diplomatic head of the United States of America, used the full power given to the authority by the Constitution. Iraq war is a modern master-piece- a vantage point- to analyze the involving role of the Presidency since Vietnam War and subsequently Congress assertions of its power to limit overarching powers of a President. Bush along with his key colleagues not only convinced the Congress of an imminent threat posed by Saddam’s Iraq but also sold successfully the rationale for war after 9/11 to the public in the United States before the invasion.

However, what is alarming of the Iraq war under G.W. Bush administration is the contention that the United States whenever and wherever necessary will use the first strike option without any imminent threat (according to the UNSC) regardless of the UN Charter and international laws. The US exceptionalism and unilateralism is legitimized by the Bush’s decision to invade Iraq through “false evidence or mere suspicious assumptions” despite Iraq’s attempts to negotiate or hold talk to clear everything before March 20 2003. It declares transcendental right of the USA to engage preventively in war. This might legitimize/encourage any country with capabilities to take action against an enemy state.[31]

The concern for other states doesn’t lie with objectives the United States is setting but with means. The Iraq War proved to be a very costly war with high human casualties. The US conquest of Iraq challenges one of the most important norms in international politics- that democracies do not fight preventive wars- and so undermines the assurance that comes from the expectation that democratic institutions can keep a sole superpower from altering the status-quo to its advantage. Though the Bush administration used the word, “pre-emption,” his policy with the rogue states comes under aggressive policy of preventive war.

The Bush administration’s strategy of ‘regime change’ through military invasion unilaterally, if necessary, as the case Iraq case demonstrates represents a major departure from the traditional US security policy. For the major powers, the main threat to their security doesn’t stem from the United States but the means it is using-the preventive war- which, they fear, would unleash violence that the United States cannot control and poses an indirect threat coming out from the general rise in the level of global terrorism targeted at European and other major states as in Turkey (2003) and Spain (2004).

Hence George W. Bush’s Iraq war (I would use the word “invasion” instead of war) not only challenges the international settled norms of territorial sovereignty and non-interventionism but also undermines the function and role of the United Nations. The action didn’t accrue significant gains to the United States’ interests and security. In fact, it has made the United States more vulnerable to terrorist attacks as evident in 2009 attempted suicide bombing by a Nigerian and Times Square attempted bomb-blast by a Pakistani-American. The United States is not safe and secure. And the spill-over effects of the unilateralism has damaged America’s reputation for benign intent and major powers are reacting to concerns, if not soft-balancing, over US intentions, not US capabilities.

The United States has appeared to have learnt the lesson of engaging multilaterally as its involvement in Libya and Syria suggested. It has to find the sophisticated global problems arising out of modern terrorism, transnational crimes, etc. within the purview of the world body, the United Nations. Though it has started engaging multilaterally in Iran’s nuclear program and surrendered the unilateral control over Iraq’s oil 14 contracts and working under a broader consortium with international friends for post-war reconstruction in Iraq, it has left Iraq much more vulnerable to external threats and incapable of defending its borders and air-space or coping with its own internal problems like suicide terrorism and internal violence. Sectarian and ethnic tensions run in deep in Iraqi politics today. It is apparent that post-American Iraq remains an unstable, deeply sectarian state that's verging on authoritarianism under the veneer of a US-friendly Muslim democracy.

Having said these, neither Iraq is politically/economically stable nor do Iraqis feel they are more secure or able to digest the hollow claim of liberated Iraq. In future, Iraq is likely to become more divided, volatile region and playfield for external actors with nuclear politics looming large in its vicinity. The 10th anniversary on April 9, the day when Saddam Hussein was rooted out of power, was more of an emotive day than a day of celebration for majority of the Iraqis. A dictator has gone only to be replaced by politicians who climb over one another to achieve their narrow sectarian goals leaving behind a highly unstable polity and administrative structure.


Agence France Presse (2013), “A Decade after Saddam’s ouster, Iraq seeks stability”, Arab News [Online: web] Assessed 22 April, 2013. URL:

Andrew O’Neil (2004), “The Bush Administration, Pre-emption, and the Absence of Consistency,” AQ: Australian Quarterly, 76 (3): 9-14.

BBC (2006), “Bush- Blair War Memo Revealed”, [Online: web] Assessed 15 April, 2013, URL:,bbc news.

Evera, Stephen Van, “Assessing US Strategy in the War on Terror,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 607:10-26.

Gaddis, John Lewis (2002), “Strategy of Transformation,” Foreign Policy, No. 133: 50-57.

Gupta, Sanjay (2006), “The Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Strike: Application and Implications during the Administration of President George W. Bush ,” International Political Science Review, 29 (2): 181-196

Gordon, Philip H. (2005), “Bush's Unilateralism Risks Alienating America's Allies,” Diplomacy, Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy.

Gore, Al (2007), The Assault On Reason, Washington: Penguin Press.

Isikoff, Michael (2013), “Building Momentum for Regime Change’: Rumsfeld’s Secret Memos”, [Online: web] Assessed 12 April, 2013, URL:

Kagan, Robert and Joanne J. Myers (2007), “Of Paradise and Power: America vs. Europe in the New World Order,” Public Affairs Program.

Kristol, William and Lawrence F. Kaplan (2003), The War Over Iraq: Saddam’s Tyranny and America’s Mission, Washington D.C.: Encounter Books.

Leffler, Melvyn P. (2004), “Bush's Foreign Policy,” Foreign Policy, 144: 22-29.

Mearsheimer, John (2010), “Bad Idea: American Foreign Policy 1993-Present,” Washington D.C.: Farrar, Straux and Giroux.

Pape, Robert Anthony (2005), “Soft Balancing Against the United States,” International Security, 30 (1): 7-45.

Paul, T.V. (2005), “Soft Balancing in the Age of US Primacy,” International Security, 30 (1): 46-71.

Rove, Karl (2010), Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight , Washington D.C.: Threshold Editions.

Suskind, Ron (2004), The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill, Washington: Simon & Schuster.

Schwenninge, Sherle R. (2003), “Revamping American Grand Strategy,” World Policy Journal, (20) 3: 25-44.

Wilson Joseph C. (2003), “What I Didn’t Find in Africa”, New York Times, [Online: web] Assessed 12 April, 2013, URL:


[1] In his speeches in the State of Union Address (Jan. 29, 2002), State of Union Address to Joint Session of Congress (Jan. 2004), on Iraq at Army War College (May, 2004), President Bush emphasized on threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s alleged WMDs to the United States security and peace and stability in the world as well. This was confirmed when he said in 2004 “…And I saw a unique threat in Saddam Hussein, as did my opponent, because we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. And the unique threat was that he could give weapons of mass destruction to an organization like al Qaeda, and the harm they inflicted on us with airplanes would be multiplied greatly by weapons of mass destruction. And that was the serious, serious threat (Second Bush-Kerry debate, St. Louis, MO , Oct 8, 2004).

[2] Media commentators have found it significant that signatories to the PNAC's January 16, 1998 letter to President Clinton calling for removal of President Saddam Hussein (and some of its other position papers, letters, and reports) included such later Bush administration officials as Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton, Richard Armitage, and Elliott Abrams.

[3] The PNAC was often identified as a “neo-con” or “right-wing think tank” in profile s features on the websites of “left-wing” and “progressive” policy institutes based in the US which are critical of it. The profile of PNAC also features some rightist opinion. Source: See,

[4] Sponsored by Republicans in The Congress in September, 1998 and signed by President Clinton in October, it calls for regime change in Iraq. This was done in compliance to the need arose after Iraq was found to have violated International law including ignorance of UN Resolutions. However, it failed to substantiate the objective of Saddam’s removal.

[5] “Before 9/11, Saddam was a problem America might have been able to manage. Through the lens of the post 9/11 world, my view changed. I had just witnessed the damage inflicted by 19 fanatics armed with box cutters. I could only imagine the destruction possible if an enemy dictator passed his WMD to terrorists.” (Bush’s Decision Points, 2010).

[6] The phrase was attributed to former Bush speechwriter David Frum, originally as the axis of hatred and then evil. In his book The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush, Frum relates that the more he compared the Axis powers of World War II to modern "terror states", the more similarities he saw. "Together, the terror states and the terror organizations formed an axis of hatred against the United States."

[7] According to Charles Krauthammer, who was the first to use it in June 2001, the phrase has had four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency: firstly, unilateralism, i.e. unilaterally withdrawing from treaties like the ABM treaty and the Kyoto protocols; secondly, after 9-11-2001, the “with us or against us” policy on terror; thirdly, a doctrine of pre-emptive war, e.g. Iraq; and fourthly, the idea that the fundamental mission of American foreign policy is to spread democracy throughout the world.

[8] Unlike other doctrines, Bush Doctrine has many fundamental flaws. One fundamental flaw is the absence of exit strategy post-invasion/ war. Powell Doctrine specifically talks about exit strategy.

[9] Michael Doyle expands upon this definition by asserting that empire ‘is a relationship, formal or informal, in which one state controls the political sovereignty of another political society’ which relies on a high degree of direct intervention in the affairs of another state or society (Doyle in Beeson, 2004:3).

[10] The reasons and justification for Bush’s invasion in Iraq cited in the Iraq Resolution became controversial after the invasion. Iraqi Survey Group Report (2004) and 9/11 Commission Report (2004), both officially authorized by the US Governrnent didn’t find any evidence of administration’s alleged linking of Iraq’s role in the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda as well as the claim of possession of WMDs.

[11] He had often clashed with others in the administration, who were reportedly planning an Iraq invasion even before the September 11 attacks, an insight supported by testimony by former terrorism czar Richard Clarke in front of the 9/11 Commission. The main concession Powell wanted before he would offer his full support for the Iraq War was the involvement of the international community in the invasion, as opposed to a unilateral approach. He led the US diplomatic campaign in the UNSC on 5 Feb, 2003 charging Saddam Hussein of concealing WMDs and alleged connections between 9/11 terrorists and Iraqi Intelligence which the 9/11 Commission Report couldn’t confirm later. He resigned in 2004 and in an interview with CNN a year later he confessed that the speech in the UN was a blot on his record but defended his support to Iraq invasion.

[12] Hans Blix briefing to the UNSC. See,,2763,895882,00.html

[13] In the words of Resolution 1441 (2002) - it requires immediate, unconditional and active efforts by Iraq to resolve existing questions of disarmament - either by presenting remaining proscribed items and programmes for elimination or by presenting convincing evidence that they have been eliminated.

[14] "Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." - George W. Bush, Sept. 20, 2001. Source : The War in Quotes, by G.B. Trudeau, p. 4-5 , Oct 1, 2008.

[15] On January 29, 2003, the European Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution opposing unilateral military action against Iraq by the United States. According to the resolution, "a pre-emptive strike would not be in accordance with international law and the UN Charter and would lead to a deeper crisis involving other countries in the region"

[16] In late January 2003, Turkey invited at least five other regional countries to a "'last-chance' meeting to avert a US-led war against Iraq. The group urged neighboring Iraq to continue cooperating with the UN inspections, and publicly stated that "military strikes on Iraq might further destabilize the Middle East region". In the end, Turkey did not grant access to its land and harbours as asked for by US officials because the Grand National Assembly of Turkey voted against this proposal. See,

[17] When pressed on whether he viewed the invasion of Iraq as illegal, he said: “Yes, if you wish. I have indicated it was not in conformity with UN Charter from our point of view, from the Chater point of view, it was illegal.”

[18] Bush in his “Decision Points” (2010) wrote that although there were serious questions about the accuracy and thoroughness of Wilson's report, his charge became a prime talking point for critics of the war. He acknowledged that WMD was not found but he acted on British Intelligence.

[19] Britain's Channel 4 News reported soon afterwards that a UK intelligence dossier that Powell had referred to as a "fine paper" during his presentation had been based on old material and plagiarized an essay by American graduate student.

[20] The Habbush letter, is a handwritten message dated July 1, 2001, which appears to show a link between al Qaeda and Iraq's government. It purports to be a direct communication between the head of Iraqi Intelligence, General Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, to Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, outlining mission training which Mohamed Atta, one of the organizers of the September 11 attacks, supposedly received in Iraq. The letter also claims that Hussein accepted a shipment from Niger, an apparent reference to an alleged uranium acquisition attempt that US President George W. Bush cited in his January 2003 State of the Union address.

[21] The five-page memo, dated 31 January 2003, was written by Mr Blair's then chief foreign adviser , David Manning, the New York Times says. Summarising the two-hour White House meeting, the memo says: "Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning." Mr Bush is paraphrased as saying: "The start date for the military campaign was now pencilled in for 10 March. This was when the bombing would begin." Excerpts from the memo were first quoted by UK human rights lawyer Philippe Sands in his book Lawless World.

[22] It also quoted Foreign Secretary Jack Straw as saying that it was clear that Bush had "made up his mind" to take military action but that "the case was thin".

[23] See, Richard Benedetto (2003), Poll: Most back war, but want UN Support

[24] 79% of Iraqis opposed the presence of coalition forces in Iraq according to a national survey of Iraqi public opinion conducted by ABC News, BBC, and Japanese broadcaster NHK in 2007. And the figure is 82% according to a new poll conducted for the occupation authority in 2004 by the Washington Post.

[25] Bush in his autobiography “Decision Points” (2010) reflected his anger and frustration over Brent Scowcroft’s article and stressed that he was shocked at the open opposition of his father’s friend and his former NSA. He wrote that he later called on his father and complained about the necessity to openly express against his policy instead of talking to him directly. To which his father replied that he was his close friend thereby indicating/ hinting that the Sr. Bush had no problem with Scowcroft’s piercing article.

[26] The Powell Doctrine states that a list of questions all have to be answered affirmatively before military action is taken by the United States and few of these are- A.) Is a vital national security interest threatened? B.)Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?

[27] Mearsheimer asserts that “By pursuing this extraordinary scheme to transform an entire region at the point of a gun, President Bush adopted a radical grand strategy that has no parallel in American history. It was also a dismal failure. The Bush administration’s quest for global dominance was based on a profound misunderstanding of the threat environment facing the United States after 9/11. And the President and his advisers overestimated what military force could achieve in the modern world, in turn greatly underestimating how difficult it would be to spread democracy in the Middle East. This triumvirate of errors doomed Washington’s effort to dominate the globe, undermined American values and institutions on the home front, and threatened its position in the world.”

[28] UN Security Council Lifts Some Restrictions On Iraq, 15th December, 2010.

[29] PTI sources says that mortar shells struck near voting centres in Baghdad and in the towns of Mahmoudiya, Latifiyah and Mussayib, south of the Iraqi capital, as well as in Samarra, to the north, according to police and hospital officials. A bomb went off near a polling centre in the southern town of Jibala while stun grenades, which emit a bright flash and loud bang, were thrown at polling centres in the towns of Iskandariyah and Beiji.

[30] Maliki currently is faced with months of protests in provinces of Iraq's west and north, where demonstrators complain their minority community is targeted by the authorities. Experts say that this could be overshadowed by simmering row between Maliki and Kurdish

[31] India claimed right to launch pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in Kashmir in March 2003 that left 24 people dead. India's Minister for External Affairs, Jaswant Singh, reacted to this atrocity by declaring: “India has a much better case to go in for pre-emptive action (against Pakistan ) than the US had over Iraq….”

27 of 27 pages


George W. Bush Administration’s War on Iraq. Precedents and Consequences
Jawaharlal Nehru University  (School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
US Foreign Policy after the Second World War
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ISBN (Book)
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9/11, George W. Bush, War on Terrorism, Iraq, Rumsfeld
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Md. Farijuddin Khan (Author), 2013, George W. Bush Administration’s War on Iraq. Precedents and Consequences, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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