President George W. Bush declared war on Iraq the evening of March 19, 2003, by telling Americans it was necessary to invade Bagdad in order to “free its people and defend the world against a grave danger.”
According to Tuesday reports on CNN, at the time most Americans, 1 in 3, believed the fear of nuclear attack on US soil was a very real possibility, because that is what they were told by their president. Today, more than half, 53 percent, of Americans believe the war was a mistake.
Congress had approved the war on Iraq, after they were convinced by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction”, although there were no clear intelligence reports to confirm that Saddam had nuclear weapons or that he had any direct affiliation with the 9/11 Al Qaeda attackers.
However, the Bush/Cheney administration was determined to go to war with Iraq and Bush claimed the “smoking gun could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” So, the Pentagon’s “shock and awe” campaign began ten years ago today, on what is now known as false pretenses.
At first, US soldiers were welcomed as saviors as they invaded the country and took over Hussein’s opulent places. The statue of Saddam was pulled down in Firdos Square by Iraqis on April 9, with the help of American soldiers, in an intentional show of dominance. Then, Bush landed on an aircraft carrier a few weeks later to claim “mission accomplished”.
But the mission was not accomplished.
The conflict escalated and quickly became messy and unstable. Hussein went into hiding while his soldiers fought against the aggression. Saddam was eventually pulled from a hole in the ground where he had been hiding and convicted of war crimes by an Iraqi court. He was hanged by the neck and executed a short time later.
President Obama brought the war in Iraq to an end in 2011 and US soldiers began the process of extricating their presence from that war-torn country.
Now, 10 years after the first bombs fell on Iraq, what lessons have been learned from the fall of Saddam Hussein?
Many critics say the cost wasn’t worth the devastating loss of life and the multi-billion dollar price tag for the longest war in US history since Vietnam. Reports claim that 190,000 people died in Iraq, with 70 percent being civilians, along with 4,488 US soldiers, who lost their lives in combat.
Polls indicate that American people have no appetite for more wars, while the conflict in Afghanistan still simmers and deadly bombings and political instability still occur in Iraq on a regular basis, including a car bomb attack in Bagdad on the 10th anniversary of that war, which killed over 50 men, women and children in the heavily fortified Green Zone.
There have been rumblings from the International Criminal Court that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld should be put on trial for war crimes, but it is not likely to happen, due to US war legalities.
In a recent documentary on former Vice President, Dick Cheney, he was unapologetic for being one of the chief architects of the war in Iraq and said he would do it all again if he had the chance, because Saddam Hussein was a horrible person.
Today Americans know there are lots of horrible people in the world as the Obama administration grapples with the prickly situations unfolding in Syria, Iran and North Korea. If there is a clear lesson to be learned from the Iraq war, it appears to surround the need for more irrefutable evidence and less cowboy diplomacy, when American lives are at stake.
President Obama’s statement on the 10th anniversary of a war he ended:
As we mark the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, Michelle and I join our fellow Americans in paying tribute to all who served and sacrificed in one of our nation’s longest wars. We salute the courage and resolve of more than 1.5 million service members and civilians who during multiple tours wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in military service. We honor the memory of the nearly 4,500 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to give the Iraqi people an opportunity to forge their own future after many years of hardship. And we express our gratitude to our extraordinary military families who sacrificed on the home front, especially our Gold Star families who remain in our prayers.