| 03.18.2018

Bush was right — For the reasons you don’t know, we were right to invade Iraq


This week, with little notice and less celebration, we passed the 10th anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Judged as the 21st Century’s Vietnam War, the Iraq War should go down as a just and right intervention for reasons most Americans have never heard.Everyone knows why they opposed Operation Iraqi Freedom. Citing the absence of then-promised weapons of mass destruction, debt, and the human toll through death and both mental and physical injury, opponents of the war have little problem saying Saddam Hussein was a “bad guy,” but war was not warranted. These people have no idea what they mean when writing off Hussein as a “bad guy.”
Few in the anti-war movement understand that violating the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide qualifies a nation immediately for loss of sovereignty and invasion. Hussein violated this convention not once, but twice during his reign, against the Kurds in Northern Iraq and the Shias of Southern Iraq.
It should surprise no one familiar with the Middle East where the name for Hussein’s operation against the Kurds came from. The Koran’s eighth sura, al-Anfal, translates to “the spoils of war,” and is alleged to be among Hussein’s favorite passages. Al-Anfal became Hussein’s best Hitler impersonation, ripe with the trappings you’ve come to know from the Holocaust: concentration camps, civilian targets, mass executions, mass graves, but with an extra touch unavailable to Hitler — chemical weapons as the means to genocidal ends from 1986-89.
Hussein used mustard gas, nerve agents, and Sarin gases against mostly civilians, many of whom were women and children. By the end of al-Anfal, Kurdish estimates put the death toll at 182,000. Human Rights Watch cites 4,000 villages in Iraqi Kurdistan destroyed, including 90 percent of Kurdish villages vanishing in al-Anfal targeted areas. A chemical weapons strike on the city of Halabja, successful in eliminating between 4,000 and 5,000 Kurds, is part of why you know Ali Hassan al-Majid as “Chemical Ali.”
Since one genocide is never enough, the Marsh Arabs constitute targeted group number two.
The attack on the Marsh Arabs wasn’t just a human tragedy, but an ecological one — 7,500 square miles of wetlands were drained, leaving as much as 90 percent of the Mesopotamian Marsh a desert, and an unknowable number of plant and animal species were doomed to extinction. This was part of Hussein’s retribution against the Southern Shias for an attempt on his life in 1982. Other than committing the Dujail Massacre — murdering 148, torturing women and children while illegally arresting 399 others, the crime Hussein would hang for, Hussein’s campaign drained the Mesopotamian Marshes, poisoned the waters housing the fish many Marsh Arabs depended upon for sustenance,  and utilized military force against villages. Once numbering half a million, through death and forced immigration, the Southern Shia population shrank to 20,000, with between 80,000 and 120,000 Marsh Arabs fleeing to the comfortable confines of refugee camps according to the United Nations.
These aren’t the works of a “bad guy.”
The case against Hussein, and for intervention, does not end with the Kurds or the Marsh Arabs. Harboring terrorists, invading neighboring states and violation of the Nuclear Arms Treaty are all on Hussein’s resume without the WMDs the Bush administration alleged. Arguments for intervention, dismissed by the anti-war movement and never made properly by the war’s supporters, require history, nuance, and the stance that genocide twice over qualifies the prosecutor for loss of sovereignty and undignified death.
All of which is why I can denounce the clouded public relations operation of George W. Bush, his idiotic policy of paying for two wars with tax cuts, and lying to America about WMDs while maintaining that Operation Iraqi Freedom was not just a success, but something our country can be proud of ten years after.
Brian Marceau can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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