Casus belli

This past week Americans were hit with the one—two story punch of L. Paul Bremer's speechifying about troop strength in Iraq, and the findings of Charles Duelfer's Iraq Survey Group on weapons of mass destruction.

Major media outlets churned these stories for several 24/7 news cycles, replete with out—of—context citations and sound bites that generated the desired negative impact on our national will and morale.

Reading the actual words, rather than absorbing the shaped and formed MSM excerpts, will, in fact, be a morale booster. Attention to the actual messages of Bremer and Duelfer will lead inevitably to the anchored rationale, the casus belli: why we went to war in Iraq.

Ambassador Bremer had his own personal views about the situation in Iraq during the immediate post—major hostilities period.  For instance, he believed, as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, that there ought to have been more troops to deal with various pressing problems.  But the judgment of US military commanders in Iraq, that they had sufficient numbers, prevailed.

In his October 8 New York Times editorial, Bremer made it clear that, despite any real or imagined differences he may have had, 'President Bush was right when he concluded that Saddam Hussein was a menace who needed to be removed.' 

So while we may question Mr. Bremer's judgment in airing publicly his quibbles on Iraq policy at this juncture, we know that, despite them, he did not question President Bush's decision to go to war.  

The findings of the Iraq Survey Group, headed by Charles Duelfer, were presented by the major media as contradicting President Bush's (alleged) primary rationale for launching Operation Iraqi Freedom: Saddam's having weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Pior to heading up the ISG, Duelfer led the UN's Special Commission (UNSCOM) from 1998—2000, which searched for WMD in Iraq. Before that, he was deputy to Rolf Ekeus and Richard Butler, who prosecuted the same efforts.  His most recent findings agree with previous conclusions he made about Iraq and Saddam recorded during a May 17, 2001 interview on Radio Free Europe.  Asked if tighter controls on military—use items in a modified sanctions regime would be effective, Duelfer said that tighter controls alone might not be sufficient to keep Baghdad from pursuing WMD programs.

'I would not rely on... sanctions to stop Iraq from obtaining WMD or, indeed, rebuilding, much of their conventional forces.  I think as a defense planner, someone would have to look at this and say we are going to have to depend on deterrence as well. (emphasis added)

'Iraq took a decision in 1991 that they would reveal part of their (WMD) program and conceal part of it...under the assumption that we would think we had found everything... they began with missiles and chemical weapons... everybody knew they had, and they denied they had an offensive biological program until 1995.'

'Iraq,' said Duelfer, 'was never able to convince us that they had stopped concealment and in fact, we were convinced of the opposite, that they still retain weapons.' *

The 2004 Iraq Survey Group report consists of six sections addressing the Iraqi regime's strategic intent, its finance and procurement systems, missile delivery systems, and the status of its nuclear, chemical and biological programs before, during and after UN sanctions.
Charles Duelfer's report opens with this statement:

'Saddam Hussein so dominated the Iraqi regime that its strategic intent was his alone.  He wanted to end sanctions while preserving his capability to reconstitute his WMD when sanctions were lifted....  
"Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq's WMD capability... after sanctions were removed ... but probably with a different mix of capabilities...Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability — in an incremental fashion irrespective of international pressure...but he intended to focus on ballistic missile and tactical chemical warfare capabilities.' 
Whether WMD were present at any given time is a point rendered moot by Saddam's programmatic deceit and deception, his proven intent to retain the implementing WMD capability and his willingness to use such weapons on his own people and his neighbors.    

The United States listed its reasons for going to war in House Joint Resolution 114, dated October 10, 2002.   Reading it, we are reminded that the trouble with Saddam began in 1990, if not beforehand.  After Iraqi forces were expelled from Kuwait, Saddam agreed to a cease—fire that required him to 'eliminate its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver them, and to end its support for international terrorism.'

From 1990 onward, the UN Security Council continued to pass resolutions aimed at reigning in the Iraqi regime, but Saddam was hell bent on achieving the Guiness Book record for total number of resolutions violated. By the time congress passed the Authorization For The Use Of  Military Force Against Iraq in August 1998 (Public Law 105—235) Saddam was in breach of no fewer than 11 UN resolutions. 

The congressional resolution stated, in part, that

'Iraq poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States, international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region, and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by...continuing to possess and develop chemical and biological weapons (and) actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations.'

Then came 9/11, which riveted American attention on the true nature of terrorism, and focused the national will on fighting and defeating it.  HJ Res. 114 took note of this in stating:

'The Unites States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq's ongoing support for international terrorist groups combined with its development of weapons of mass is in the national security interests of the United furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant UN Security Council resolutions be enforced... through the use of force if necessary.'

And finally, HJ Res. 114 stated that 'The President has the authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States...'  Or, pre—emption was an option.

Even after 9/11, President Bush went to the UN and pledged the United States would work with them to 'meet our common challenge' posed by Iraq, to 'work for the necessary resolutions,' that all UN resolutions will be enforced, and that the 'just demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable.'

And so, going to war was unavoidable, the reasons for doing so manifold and manifest, with Iraq a looming menace. The tonic of these truths is bracing, helping to sustain our national will and morale, anchored in the immutable trinity of liberty, freedom and democracy.