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Success of War Yet To Be Determined

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, there was belief

among many inside and outside of the White House that something

must be done to combat terrorism worldwide. One country believed to

be a part of this soon to be called “War On Terrorism” was Iraq. On

March 19, 2003, two days after insisting that Saddam Hussein and his

two sons surrender and leave Iraq within 48 hours, the United States

began bombing Baghdad. This would signify the start of one of the

costliest and most controversial wars in the United States’ history, the

Iraq War, also known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bush’s invasion

reflected a new strategy for dealing with threats abroad, a strategy

known as the preemptive doctrine. The preemptive doctrine meant

that the United States would deal with threats before they emerge. In

this case, Bush believed that war with Iraq would stop the threat of

Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism. Two

days after the bombings, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld outlined

eight specific goals that the U.S. hoped to accomplish through the Iraq

War. (Murphy) These goals were:

• "to end the regime of Saddam Hussein by striking with force on a scope
and scale that makes clear to Iraqis that he and his regime are finished."
• "to identify, isolate and eventually eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction, their delivery systems, production capabilities, and distribution
• "to search for, capture, drive out terrorists who have found safe harbor in
• "to collect such intelligence as we can find related to terrorist networks in
Iraq and beyond."
• "to collect such intelligence as we can find related to the global network of
illicit weapons of mass destruction activity."

• "to end sanctions and to immediately deliver humanitarian relief, food and
medicine to the displaced and to the many needy Iraqi citizens."
• "to secure Iraq's oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people,
and which they will need to develop their country after decades of neglect
by the Iraqi regime."
• "to help the Iraqi people create the conditions for a rapid transition to a
representative self-government that is not a threat to its neighbors and is
committed to ensuring the territorial integrity of that country." (Murphy)

These goals were mostly fair and valid reasons for invading Iraq.

Toppling a ruthless dictator who had killed thousands of his people was

certainly a justified goal of the war. Although the United States would

discover that Iraq had no operational connection with al-Qaeda, the

elimination of the threat of terrorists in Iraq was also a just cause for

war. The Iraq War was only to be an extension of the larger “War on

Terrorism” that was launched in other countries, like Afghanistan and

Pakistan. Also, the goal of securing Iraq’s oil fields was justified

because they could prove to be useful in building a strong economy in

Iraq. Yet, the goal of eliminating Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction

was not a valid justification for going to war. As the Bush

Administration would later find out, there would be no discovery of

weapons of mass destruction, one of the foremost reasons the U.S.

invaded Iraq. Overall, although the reasons justifying the war were

mostly valid, the war itself has been poorly managed and executed,

thus making it unsuccessful at this point. Clearly, there is a distinct

possibility that the situation in Iraq can improve but that is yet to be


By ending Saddam Hussein’s regime, the United States finally

ceased years of corruption within the Iraqi government. One of his

worst atrocities was the killing of 50,000 Kurds in 1988. (Wong)

Although Saddam’s capture in December 2003 brought a relative

calmness to Iraq and was viewed as a large success throughout the

U.S., lawlessness grew rapidly. (Singal, Lim, and Stephey) According

to Thomas Ricks, a senior Pentagon correspondent for The Washington

Post and author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure In Iraq,

mobs vandalized government buildings, taking anything and

everything. (135)

In terms of weapons of mass destruction, the failure of the United

States to produce any such weapons has proven to be the most

damaging purposes of going to war. Much of the blame for believing

that there were WMDs was attributed to David Kay, head of the Iraq

Survey Group. Kay had exceedingly large incentives to offer Iraqis if

they could produce weapons of mass destruction. (Woodward, 242) In

fact, he was given $10 million in a covert CIA fund to offer to any

informants. (Woodward, 242) However, Kay announced in 2004 that

he had concluded that Saddam Hussein had destroyed his weapons

stockpiles after the Gulf War but bluffed that he still had them in order

to appear powerful. (Ricks, 375) “Everyone was wrong,” said Kay.

(Ricks, 375)

However, Kay did believe that Saddam still had the capacity to

create WMDs. In an interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press in

2004, President Bush reverted to Kay’s belief that Hussein had this

capacity in order to justify going to war. In Bush’s words, “Saddam

Hussein was dangerous with the ability to make weapons.” (Ricks, 376)

However, Bush and Kay are not the only ones to be blamed for the

misled belief regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass

destruction. In his book The War Within, Bob Woodward discusses how

Colin Powell, the Secretary of Defense, “had been the “closer” for the

president’s case for war.” (Woodward, 46) Powell spoke to the United

Nations a month before the war, claiming the “facts” about Iraq, which

included that Iraq had stockpiles of weapons. (Woodward, 46) The

justification for war on the pretense of weapons of mass destruction

clearly was invalid and has been very damaging to the Bush


Another pretense for war that appears to be based on false or

misleading information is that the U.S. had to eliminate the threat of

Islamic terrorists in Iraq. (Ricks, 377) Vice President Dick Cheney held

meetings with top intelligence officials in an attempt to establish

connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda. (Isikoff and Corn, 4) He would

often submit questions regarding such a connection to the CIA. (Isikoff

and Corn, 4) However, the CIA often reported that there was little

supporting the belief that Iraq and terrorists had an operational

alliance. (Isikoff and Corn, 4) Although Cheney never applied

“obviously pressure” to CIA officials, the vice president was certainly

influencing their work. (Isikoff and Corn, 4) In June 2004, the National

Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States concluded in

its report that although there were contacts made between Hussein’s

Iraq and al Qaeda, there was no evidence that there was “a

collaborative operational relationship.” (Ricks, 377) In fact, U.S.

intelligence concluded that the invasion of Iraq had turned it into a new

breeding ground for tougher and more professional Islamic terrorists.

(Ricks, 377) Thus, the war has actually become counterproductive in

regards to the number of terrorists present in Iraq.

One goal that was rather simple to accomplish was securing

Iraq’s oil fields and resources. In his article “When Is the War Won?”

for CBS in 2003, Jarrett Murphy stated that “the oil fields have been

secured and most of the relatively few oil fire have been extinguished.”


In terms of forming a representative self-government, the United

States has at least partly succeeded in that goal. After the country’s

first democratic election in 2005, there was a feeling of

accomplishment among those in the United States, but especially

those in Iraq. In the words of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, “We

are entering a new era in our history, and all Iraqis, whether they voted

or not, should stand side by side to build their future.” (Burns)

In January 2009, Iraq’s provincial elections ran smoothly.

(Abouzeid) However, there are concerns as to just how free and

democratic Iraq’s new government may be. Both foreign and

nongovernmental organizations must register with a higher authority

within Iraq’s government. The new Iraqi government will be able to

limit the amount of rights and privileges each of these groups receive.

(Abouzeid) Moreover, the government will be able to monitor these

groups’ finances and activities. (Abouzeid) However, overall, Iraq’s

current civic society is far better than the one under Hussein’s rule.

There are now over 6,250 organizations in Iraq, including the Ministry

of State for Civil Affairs Society. (Abouzeid)

However, the United States itself has not entirely helpful with the

transition of power to the new Iraqi government. In September 2005,

President Bush met with the newly elected president of Iraq, Jalal

Talabini. (Woodward, 141) Talabini expressed how the United States

was not supplying enough weapons to the Iraqi armed forces.

(Woodward, 141) This was a large flaw that existed within Bush’s

policy. While one of the strategies of the war was to prepare and train

Iraqi forces, the United States was unwilling to provide the necessary

weapons and equipment.

Through the mismanagement and poor execution of the war, more

and more money is being spent each year. The following chart

displays the amount the U.S. has spent from 2003 to 2007 on the war.

Yearly Cost of Iraq War

Year Cost in Billions

2003 $53.00

2004 $75.90

2005 $85.50

2006 $102.00

2007 $133.60


From the chart, it is clear that the U.S. has been paying the price

for a long and drawn out war that is becoming more expensive every

year. In Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, Ricks claims

that much of this money was wasted on reducing the amount of

weapons of mass destruction. (Ricks, 431) Instead, Ricks believes that

$1 billion spent on education in Pakistan could have curbed anti-

Western teachings there. (Ricks, 431) Also, other goals would have

been easier to accomplish had billions of dollars not been squandered.

On some the stated goals of the Iraq War, the United States was

correct in its justifications. Removing the corrupt Saddam Hussein

regime and replacing it with a democratic form of government were

both fair and valid reasons for going to war. However, other goals, like

eliminating weapons of mass destruction and stopping Islamic

terrorists in Iraq were not justified. It was clear before the war that

Saddam was a ruthless dictator but it was not clear that there were

weapons of mass destruction or a connection between Islamic

terrorists and Iraq. Had the Bush gone to war without those two

pretenses, billions of dollars could have been saved and used on other

goals instead.

Has the United States’ war with Iraq transformed the Middle East

into a more democratic region? As of right now, this is obviously not

the case. Nevertheless, there remains the possibility that sometime in

the future the Middle East can become democratic. Until then, the Iraq

war will only have been partially successful. Removing Saddam’s

regime and replacing it with a democratic government is a small step

in the right direction.

Works Cited

Abouzeid, Rania. "The Iraqi Government's New Target: Do-Gooders." Time Magazine

29 Mar. 2009. Print.

Burns, John F. "The Iraqi Election: Assessment; Iraqis Begin Tabulating Results of

Milestone Election." New York Times 1 Feb. 2005. Print.

"Cost of Iraq War and Nation Building." ZFacts. Web. 14 Dec. 2009.



Isikoff, Michael, and David Corn. Hubris The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the

Selling of the Iraq War. New York: Crown, 2006. Print.

Murphy, Jarrett. "When Is the War Won?" CBS News. 11 Apr. 2003. Web.


Ricks, Thomas E. Fiasco The American Military Adventure in Iraq. New York: Penguin

HC, The, 2006. Print.

Singal, Jesse, Christine Lim, and M.J. Stephey. "Shock and Awe." Time Magazine Mar.

2003. Print.

Wong, Edward. "Hussein Charged With Genocide in 50,000 Deaths." New York Times 5

Apr. 2006. Print.

Woodward, Bob. State of Denial. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Print.

Woodward, Bob. The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008. New York:

Simon and Schuster. 2008. Print