National Observer: Australia and World Affairs, No. 84, 2011

Will Bush be vindicated?
A case for the Iraq War

by Jeff McIntyre


In the lead-up to the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, all six of the world’s major external intelligence agencies, as well as prominent politicians and senior officials in the U.S. Democrat and Republican parties, were persuaded, by their respective pieces of intelligence evidence, that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. In this article, Jeff McIntyre argues the case for President Bush’s military action in Iraq.

(National Observer also features in this issue Dr Paul Stenhouse’s observations on the unintended consequences of regime change in Baghdad: the greatly increased incidence of persecution of Christians in Iraq.)


One of the most interesting books ever to be published about the war in Iraq was written by Douglas Feith, Under-Secretary of State in the George W. Bush Administration, and is called War and Decision. Unlike many journalists or political opponents of the war, Feith was inside all the decisions and thinking of the Administration at the highest levels, from the inception of the Administration. He was able to draw on personal dairy notes and recollections from the meetings of the key Administration officials, beginning with the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Feith recalls the very first assessments done about America’s role in a post-9/11 world — assessments carried out with senior Administration officials, as they returned to the US on a military plane from Russia, to get around the global grounding of civilian airlines. Part and parcel of that process was a series of thorough and frank analyses concerning the existential threats posed to the US and its interests. An integral part of these analyses dealt with the threats posed by Iraq.

Feith posits that the containment policy through the 1990s to constrain Saddam Hussein had not been successful, that Saddam Hussein had both used and coveted weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), that he had supported terrorists, and that he had a singular history of aggression. In the post-9/11 world, the possibility of terrorism on a massive scale greatly sharpened the Administration’s thinking.[1]


Five noteworthy incidents

In surveying any Iraqi threat, five main incidents needed to be examined. These were: the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-87; the 1988 attack on the Kurds; the 1990 invasion of Kuwait; the rocket attacks on Iraq’s neighbours during the First Gulf War (1991); and the expulsion of Marsh Arabs, also in 1991.

The Iran-Iraq War was a brutal, seven-year-long conflict, started by an Iraqi invasion of Iran. It ended up costing one million Iranian and 500,000 Iraqi casualties. Iraq used chemical weapons on Iran, and the total cost of the war was estimated at a staggering $1.2 trillion.

Following a Kurdish uprising in 1988, the ferocious suppression carried out by Saddam’s troops resulted in 2,000 villages being razed to the ground, the Iraqis expelling 150,000 people, and 1.5 million Kurds fleeing Iraq altogether, mostly north to Turkey. Some 50,000 to 100,000 of these refugees died as a consequence of the expulsion, and chemical weapons were also used.

After the invasion of Kuwait the Iraqis looted treasures, and so successfully terrorised the population that 50 per cent of Kuwait’s population (that is, about 400,000 people) fled the country. In addition, 600 arrested Kuwaitis never returned from Iraq. As the Iraqi soldiers retreated, they set thousands of oil wells alight, and six million barrels of oil were released into the Arabian Gulf, leading to an unprecedented ecological disaster. It cost the Kuwaitis $1.5 billion just to put out the fires. The total cost of the first Gulf War, incurred in removing Saddam from Kuwait, was $60 billion.

Iraq’s dictatorship, during 1991, fired 42 SCUD missiles into Israel, 44 into Saudi Arabia, one into Bahrain, and one into Qatar. The consequence: three civilian deaths and 295 injuries, because the regime deliberately chose military and civilian targets.

Also during 1991, Saddam responded to an uprising by Shi’ite Arabs, comprising many of the so-called Marsh Arabs in the nation’s south, by draining the swamps: thus destroying their centuries-old habitat, and wreaking major ecological damage. He expelled Marsh Arabs from their homelands, forcing between 80,000 and 100,000 of them to flee to refugee camps in Iran. Shi’ite villages were then attacked and burned, and their water sources poisoned.

Such human rights abuses were typical of Saddam’s corrupt Baath Party, which had dominated the political landscape of Iraq from 1968, all other parties having been progressively controlled or else banned outright. The regime was characterised by frequent and extensive government-sanctioned executions, torture and rape. After the invasion, coalition forces uncovered dozens of mass graves; and Human Rights Watch estimated that 800,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed by Saddam’s forces from 1979 to 2003. There were travel restrictions on Iraqi citizens, and there was constant spying on Iraqi nationals overseas. As is common with dictatorships, there was also ruthless suppression of internal dissent via a well-funded internal intelligence service. Within Saddam’s extended family occurred an enormous concentration of power.


Documented use of WMDs

Three documented instances exist of Saddam’s Iraq employing weapons of mass destruction. It did so in the Iran-Iraq War; in its nuclear programme; and against the Kurds.

During the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam’s forces engaged in numerous mustard gas attacks on their Iranian foes. These led to 20,000 Iranian soldiers dying and 90,000 being injured. Missiles with chemical warheads were fired by Iraq into civilian populations, with unspecified thousands of casualties. 5,000 victims are said to be still suffering adverse side effects 20 years later.

In the late 1970s, France agreed to sell Iraq a gas-graphite plutonium-producing reactor, which was located at the Iraqi city of Osirak. This facility was only really useful for weaponised use of nuclear fuel, versus the alleged purpose of generating power for peaceful purposes. The facility was destroyed by the Israeli Air Force in June 1981. A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated that during the First Gulf War, Iraq had a plan to divert highly-enriched uranium research reactor fuel, stored at the Tuwaitha facility, for use in the production of a nuclear weapon.

Iraqi scientists Khidir Hamza and Imad Khadduri said:[2]

“What happened is that Saddam ordered us — we were 400 … scientists and technologists running the programme. When they bombed it out we became 7,000 with a $10 billion investment for a secret, much larger underground program to make bomb material by enriching uranium. We dropped the reactor out totally, which was the plutonium for making nuclear weapons, and went directly into enriching uranium…. But the program we built later in secret would make six bombs a year.”

Then there was the Iraqi regime’s attempt to obtain yellowcake uranium from Niger, made controversial because it was mentioned in Bush’s 2003 State Of The Union speech, and because of claims by former Ambassador Joe Wilson, claims, which led to the subsequent libel trial of Irve Lewis “Scooter” Libby (Vice-President Cheney’s chief of staff). The claim about the obtaining of yellowcake was never rejected by the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, or MI6), even after an extensive parliamentary investigation.[3]

It was in March 1988 that Saddam hit Halabja, in the Kurdish region in the north of Iraq, with mustard, sarin, tabun and VX gases. In the town of Anfal alone, 5,000 were killed and 10,000 injured as a result of this atrocity.


Harbouring terrorists

As for harbouring of terrorists, the following list of terrorists comes from records unearthed at the HQ of the Iraqi internal security service after the country’s liberation in 2003:[4]

•      Abu Nidal — the Palestinian terrorist most famous for bombing the ticket counters at Rome and Vienna airports in 1985;

•      Abu Abbas — Achille Lauro cruiseliner hijacker, and killer of US retiree Leon Klinghoffer, also in 1985;

•      Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq;

•      Leaders of the PKK, and Palestine Liberation Front, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Arab Liberation.


Flouting UN sanctions and international law

Saddam diverted upwards of $500 million from illegal oil sales, obtained through the Oil-For-Food (OFF) programme (designed to alleviate the negative effects of the sanctions on the Iraqi people), to bribe mostly French, Russian and Chinese officials into gaining their approval for lifting sanctions, and also to support his and his government’s extravagant expenditure.

The Iraq Survey Group report sums up the effect of the regime’s systematic efforts to undermine the sanctions regime:[5]

“Over time sanctions have steadily weakened to the point where Iraq in 2000-2001 was confidently designing missiles around components that could only be obtained outside sanctions. Moreover illicit revenues grew to quite substantial levels during the same period … the regime quickly came to see the OFF could be corrupted to acquire foreign exchange both to undermine the sanctions and to provide the means to enhance dual-use infrastructure and potential WMD-related development. By 2000-20001 Saddam had managed to mitigate many of the effects of the sanctions and undermine their international support. Iraq was within striking distance of a de facto end to the sanctions regime both in terms of oil exports and the trade embargo by the end of 1999.”

Meanwhile Saddam reduced the UN Security Council’s sanctions to meaningless, toothless and ineffectual words, although these sanctions had been passed after many complex and delicate negotiations between diplomats. He simply ignored and undermined them.

These were the UN Security Council Resolutions, in chronological order:

•      Resolution 660, August 2, 1990 — Demanded that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait.

•      Resolution 661, August 6, 1990Established the first sanctions regime.

•      Resolutions 678 and 679, November 29, 1990Last chance to leave Kuwait before war.

•      Resolution 686, March 2, 1991Cease provocative actions.

•      Resolution 687, April 3, 1991Destroy all biological and chemical weapons, and make restitution.

•      Resolution 688, April 5, 1991Established the No-Fly Zones.

•      Resolution 707, August 15, 1991Demanded full disclosure of WMD.

•      Resolution 715, October 11, 1991Established weapons-monitoring programme (UNSCOM).

•      Resolution 986, April 14, 1995Established Oil-for-Food.

•      Resolution 1284, December 17, 1999Re-established weapons inspections (UNMOVIC).

•      Resolution 1373, September 13, 2001Tightened international laws concerning terrorism.

•      Resolution 1441, November 8, 2002“False statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq’s obligations “ (This resolution was passed unanimously by the relevant nations, 15-0, an even bigger level of support than the UN manifested for the First Gulf War.)

Every single one of these resolutions was breached by the Iraqi regime.


Concealment of WMDs

Chief UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix addressed the UN Security Council on January 27, 2003. He said, among other things, this:[6]

“During the period 1991-1998, Iraq submitted many declarations called full, final and complete. Regrettably, much in these declarations proved inaccurate or incomplete or was unsupported or contradicted by evidence. In such cases, no confidence can arise that proscribed programmes or items have been eliminated…. Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance not even today of the disarmament, which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace…. the Iraqi regime had allegedly misplaced 1,000 tonnes of VX nerve agent — one of the most toxic ever developed.”

A repeated refrain from the UNSCOM weapons inspectors was the fact that all of Saddam’s vast palaces were off-limits for the weapons inspectors. Saddam was uninterested in abiding by any of the sanctions or requirements levied on him by the UN.


Bipartisan political consensus

Moreover, in the midst of the bitter and partisan battles on Capitol Hill during the second term (2005-09) of the Bush Administration, it is easy and convenient for opponents of the war in Iraq to overlook and forget the extensive bipartisan consensus that existed pre-2004 regarding the Iraqi regime. This is most clearly illustrated by the following:

(i)   The 1998 Iraq Liberation Act: Removing Saddam had been official US Government policy since the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act in October 1998; this was enacted by the Clinton Administration after the expulsion from Iraq of the UN weapons inspectors. The Act set up a $90 million fund to fund opposition activities and passed the House of Representatives, 360-38 (84 per cent of Democrats and 95 per cent of Republicans voting in favour), and by unanimous consent in the Senate. Here are some quotes on the subject of Saddam, from a series of prominent Democrats, almost all of whom changed their views on the war when it became politically expedient to do so.

(ii) President Bill Clinton: “One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line” (February 4, 1998).[7] “If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.” (February 17, 1998).[8]

(iii)      Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s Secretary of State: “Iraq is a long way from here, but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.” (February 18, 1998).[9]

(iv) Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Adviser: “He [Saddam] will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983” (February 18, 1998).[10]

(v)   Senators Carl Levin (Democrat, Michigan), Thomas Daschle (Democrat, South Dakota) and John Kerry (Democrat, Massachusetts), in a letter to President Clinton dated October 9, 1998: “We urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the US Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.[11]

(vi) Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California), subsequently House Speaker: “Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process” (December 16, 1998).[12]


Pre-war intelligence consensus

The pre-war intelligence consensus concerning Iraqi WMD extended beyond both sides of the political divide in Congress. It reached the external intelligence agencies of the world’s six major or regional powers. All of these agencies had come to similar, and mostly independent, conclusions about the presence of WMDs and Saddam’s propensity to use them.

•      Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) — United States.

•      Security Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6) — United Kingdom.

•      Mossad — Israel.

•      Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) — Germany.

•      Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) — France.

•      Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (SVR) — Russia.

This is the German BND’s intelligence summary:[13]

•      “Iraq has resumed its nuclear program and may be capable of producing an atomic bomb in three years;

•      Iraq is developing its Al Samoud and Ababil 100/Al Fatah short-range rockets, which can deliver a 300kg payload 150km. Medium-range rockets capable of carrying a warhead 3,000km could be built by 2005 — far enough to reach Europe;

•      Iraq is capable of manufacturing solid rocket fuel;

•      A Delhi-based company has acted as a buyer on Iraq’s behalf. Deliveries have been made via Malaysia and Dubai. Indian companies have copied German machine tools down to the smallest detail and such equipment has been installed in numerous chemicals projects.

•      Since the departure of the UN inspectors, the number of Iraqi sites involved in chemicals production has increased from 20 to 80. Of that total, a quarter could be involved in weapons production.

Regarding Britain: after it became apparent that there were no discoverable WMDs in Iraq, the British House of Commons Intelligence Services Committee (ISC) conducted a thorough investigation into the failures of British intelligence to predict accurately the true state of Iraq’s situation. It is significant that this committee and the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee concluded, along with Lord Hutton’s independent inquiry, that no undue or inappropriate pressure was brought to bear upon the Joint Intelligence Chiefs (JIC) to shape their assessments according to a particular, pre-existing policy construct. Such a finding was contrary to persistent media reports, and to the repeated claims of opponents of Tony Blair’s position.

This is a key quote from the September 2003 House of Commons ISC report on its investigation into the JIC’s Iraq Assessment:[14]

“It was clear to all that Saddam Hussein was defying the international community, ignoring UNSCRs, breaking embargoes and engaging in an extensive programme of concealment. Based on the intelligence and the JIC assessments that we have seen, we accept that there was convincing intelligence that Iraq had active chemical, biological and nuclear programmes and the capability to produce chemical and biological weapons. Iraq was also continuing to develop ballistic missiles. All these activities were prohibited under UNSCRs.”

What did the Iraq Survey Group actually find?[15]

•      A clandestine network of laboratories and safe houses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service; these contained equipment subject to UN monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW research designed to thwart inspection.

•      A prison laboratory complex, possibly used in human testing of biological weapons agents; Iraqi officials working to prepare for UN inspections were explicitly ordered not to declare this complex to the UN.

•      Reference made to strains of biological organisms concealed in a scientist’s home; one of these strains can be used to produce biological weapons.

•      New research by Iraq on biological weapons applicable agents, Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin, none of which were declared to the UN.

•      Documents and equipment, hidden in scientists’ homes, that would have been useful in resuming uranium enrichment by centrifuge and electromagnetic isotope separation.

•      A line of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), not fully declared at an undeclared production facility, and an admission that Iraqi scientists had tested one of their declared UAVs out to a range of 500 kilometres, that is, 350 kilometres beyond the permissible limit.

•      Continuing covert capability to manufacture fuel propellant, useful only for prohibited SCUD variant missiles, a capability that was maintained at least until the end of 2001, and that cooperating Iraqi scientists have said they were told to conceal from the UN.

•      Plans and advanced design work for new long-range missiles with ranges up to at least 1000 kilometres — well beyond the 150-km range limit imposed by the UN. Missiles of 1,000-km range would have allowed Iraq to threaten targets throughout the Middle East, including Ankara, Cairo and Abu Dhabi.

•      Clandestine attempts, between late 1999 and 2002, to obtain from North Korea technology related to 1,300-km-range ballistic missiles — probably the No Dong, 300 km range anti-ship cruise missiles, and other prohibited military equipment.

•      Work on camel pox, a precursor to smallpox; this work was never satisfactory explained.

•      After 1991, Saddam expressed his intent to retain the intellectual capital developed during the previous nuclear programme. Senior Iraqis from the inner circle told the ISG that they assumed Saddam would restart a nuclear programme once the sanctions were lifted.


Democracies and war

From all this we can conclude several relevant things. Here are a few observations.

All wars are terrible, and, contrary to popular belief, the leaders of democratic nations go to great lengths to avoid them, due to the huge material and human cost. Natan Sharansky (the third most prominent Soviet Jewish dissident finally released from years in the Soviet Gulags in the early 1980s) echoed Kant, in his classic book The Case For Democracy,[16] in asserting that no democracy has waged war against another true democracy in the modern era, because the price of war in blood and treasure is too great and because the leaders of democracies must justify war to their electorate (as Bush and Blair had to in 2004 and 2005 respectively). Sharansky rightly noted that almost all wars are waged by or against totalitarian regimes or insurgencies.

Wars until recently were fought by sovereign nations against sovereign nations, with an easily definable end of the war (such as the unconditional surrenders in World War II, or the armistices of World War I and the Korean War). That is when hostilities end, prisoners are exchanged and armies demobilised. The war in Iraq devolved into an urban insurgency waged by religious extremists, who still publicly proclaim their goal to end Western civilisation, and their opposition to our core values such as freedom of speech and religion, equal rights for woman and gays, freedom for political parties to form and operate, a free press, freedom of association with trade unions and regular uncorrupted elections. These extremists have also said that they will never surrender. When does war with such an enemy end?

Sadly, wars in the modern era involve sometimes substantial civilian casualties. In World War II estimates range from 40-50 million (or 85 per cent of all war-related deaths). A generation earlier in World War I, the ratio of military to civilian deaths was 95:5. In the three years of the Korean War, 2.5 million civilians were killed. The most reliable and widely accepted estimates of civilian casualties in the Iraq war reckon deaths at 100,000 to 150,000, with a good percentage of these being due to sectarian violence rather than the specific war-related campaigns waged by coalition forces. Each war involved the removal or surrender of, or resistance to the invasion of, totalitarian regimes that had wrought horror upon their people. Dictators do not respond to diplomacy or sanctions, and they count on the reluctance of democracies to engage in direct military action against them.

Modern weapons and extensive live 24/7 media coverage have led the public in Western democracies today to demand small-footprint wars, with light casualties, and that the war should be over in the minimum possible time, versus the more drawn-out total war waged (including the deliberate targeting of civilians) in World War II. Roosevelt and Churchill were not interested in a negotiated truce or mere cessation of hostilities with Germany and Japan. They wanted unconditional surrender and to destroy the enemies in such a way to prevent them from ever waging war against the Allies again. This led, for example, to the indiscriminate bombing of German and Japanese cities, often for no military purpose other than to break the will of the German and Japanese people.

Previous wars are littered with blatant failures of intelligence: the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, the 1941 German invasion of Stalin’s USSR, the 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Rhodesia, the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam, the 1982 Falkland Islands invasion by Argentina, and, of course, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.



As mentioned earlier, all six of the world’s major external intelligence agencies, as well as prominent politicians and senior officials in the U.S. Democrat and Republican parties, were persuaded, by their respective pieces of intelligence evidence, that Saddam had WMDs. This is quite a different kettle of fish from the mantra of the anti-war Left that “Bush lied — people died”.

The much-maligned Bush surge strategy worked so much that Obama has followed Bush’s post-2005 strategy in Iraq and has replicated it in Afghanistan. General David Petraeus’s success in waging a successful counterinsurgency in Iraq saw his unanimous Senate confirmation last year in his role of taking over command in Afghanistan, despite the partisan opposition of many Democrat Senators when he was first appointed to the Iraq command by George W. Bush. Military and civilian deaths in Baghdad are now lower than the latter are in Obama’s home town of Chicago, and there have been three elections in Iraq since liberation, with a 62 per cent turnout in the most recent (2010) poll. This figure is higher than that of various US midterm elections.

Feith’s book details the extensive debate that was had inside the Bush Administration, regarding the war, and the considerable lengths to which Bush and his top officials went to devise every sensible way to resolve the issues and risks that Iraq posed, short of war. Again, this is contrary to the popular view of the warmongering Texan cowboy.

Finally, let’s assume the CIA had reported that Saddam had destroyed all his WMD stockpiles. The next question would have been “How readily could he produce significant amounts of chemical or biological material?” The answer was: Saddam had retained the personnel and facilities for the task and retained the intention to reinvigorate his programmes — the existence of programmes is more important than stockpiles. The post-war search was unable to unearth any substantial stockpiles, but the Iraq biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programmes remained active, and were easy to reactivate.


About the author

Jeff McIntyre grew up and was educated in Christchurch, NZ. A Bachelor of Commerce graduate from the University of Canterbury, he has worked extensively in finance. In 2006 he emigrated to Arizona in the US where he successfully promotes oil/gas joint ventures with Canadian partners.


National Observer: Australia and World Affairs, No. 84, 2011



[1]      Douglas J. Feith, War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism (New York: Harper Collins 2008), pp. 181-212.

[2]      Interview with David Albright and Kevin O’Neill published as “Iraq’s efforts to acquire information about nuclear weapons and nuclear-related technologies from the United States” by the Institute for Science and International Security (Washington DC), November 12, 1999.

[3]      Rt Hon The Lord Butler of Brockwell, Report of a Committee of Privy Counsellors, Review of the Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction (July 2004), pp. 490–503.

[4]      Institute for Defense Analyses, Iraqi Perspectives Project: Saddam and Terrorism (Alexandria, Virginia, 2006), Vol. 1, p. 27.

[5]      Charles Duelfer, Iraq Survey Group.
or URL:

[6]      Hans Blix Update on Inspection Report UNMOVIC, January 27, 2003.

[7]      President Bill Clinton in speech to Pentagon staff, February 4, 1998.

[8]      President Clinton address to Joint Chiefs of Staff, February 17, 1998.

[9]      Secretary Madeleine Albright in Town Hall meeting held at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, February 18, 1998.

[10]     Secretary Sandy Berger, ibid.

[11]     “Concern over recent developments in Iraq”, U.S. Senate, October 9, 1998.

[12]     Nancy Pelosi, December 16, 1998.

[13]     The German Federal Intelligence Service Assesses Iraq’s Likely Nuclear Weapons Program, Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), Washington, DC, updated for December 15, 2009.

[14]     Rt Hon. Ann Taylor, MP Intelligence and Security Committee of the House of Commons, Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction — Intelligence and Assessments, September 2003, p. 21.

[15]     Summary only of key findings, Charles Duelfer, Iraq Survey Group.
or URL:

[16]     Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror (New York: PublicAffairs Books, 2004).