Five years and going, the Iraq War has been subject to more spin, hyperbole and misinformation that anything else in our time. According to Douglas Feith, in his new book War and Decision, the two biggest errors of the Bush administration were: (1) Not communicating clearly the multifaceted reasons for going to Iraq and (2) allowing an occupation government (i.e. the CPA) to be set up, something which we had intentionally avoided in Afghanistan.
He notes that although the issue of physical stockpiles of WMD have been the main point of criticism, it was one of many reasons for neutralizing Saddam’s Iraq. Until 9/11 the aim of terrorism was primarily political and thus attacks were generally small in scale and in body count. However, 9/11 changed marked the beginning of a new phase, namely, that terrorists sought mass-casualties for their own sake. With that in mind, WMD and state support became central issues as WMD were the most attractive means of a massive attack. Hence, the Axis of Evil speech, in which the President outlined the three states of most concern in both areas. Iraq came to the forefront because diplomacy may still have a chance with Iran and North Korea, two states with which the United States has had little diplomatic contact whereas Iraq had defied over a decade of UN sanctions and had clearly demonstrated that no amount of reason, bargaining or diplomacy could disarm Saddam.
On the issue of a massive failure of public relations and strategic communication, contrast the following quote, which according to Feith, were the reasons for eliminating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, with conventional wisdom (page 460):
“We aimed to bring into being an Iraq that would seek peace, remain unified, develop its economy, abandon Saddam’s WMD and long-range missile programs, and oppose terrorism. We did not promise to put in place a stable democracy for the Iraqis; rather, we stated the more realistic aim of ‘a representative government that builds democratic institutions and is respectful of its diverse population.’”
He notes that the reasons for liberating Iraq were that he maintained WMD capability (different from stockpiles) including numerous dual use facilities, teams of scientists researching biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, actively intended to produce WMD, was actively working to undermine sanctions after which he could continue his programs, was actively attacking British and American planes patrolling the no-fly-zone and actively supporting (including direct training and allowing them to use Iraqi territory) terrorist groups (Mujahedin-e Khalq, PKK, Abu Nidal organization, PLF, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Arab Liberation Front) and much more. All these, however, have been obscured by the failure to find physical stockpiles of WMD.
Readers, with 5 years of hindsight, an Iraq which is beginning to make progress and new memoirs by figures such as Feith, Paul Bremer, George Tenet and Tommy Franks, how do you feel about Iraq, the decision to remove Saddam, our progress and the future of the war on terror.?
* To download a 3 hour interview with Douglas Feith about his book, click here.
 To view a detailed but not exhaustive list of Saddams many illegal activities click here for “A Decade of Deception and Defiance.”