During the election campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump promised to end America’s wars. However, this has not been the case under his presidency. He has upped the ante on these wars.
Following Trump’s announcement that he would increase military spending by $54 billion and launch a new branch of the military known as Space Force — which will be operational by 2020 — former U.S. President George W Bush broke his silence with an opinion piece in The New York Times titled
“How I Chose War” in which he explained why he decided to invade Iraq back in 2003. Therefore, is it fair to call Bush’s handling of Iraq a disaster for the United States? Let us examine this issue in greater detail:
George W Bush and Iraq: A Timeline of Events
As the campaign for the 2002 U.S. presidential election in America entered its final months, then-President Bill Clinton famously declared: “I feel sorry for the guy who has to follow me.”
This was a reference to the fact that Clinton himself was under fire for his administration’s handling of al-Qaeda following the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, many argued that the illegal and unilateral invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003 had helped to establish al-Qaeda in Iraq as a serious threat to the U.S. homeland.
As Bush began his quest for a second term in office, however, there was a great deal of optimism about the future of America. This optimism was fueled by the fact that Bush was personally popular and had won the election in 2000 on the back of a campaign promise to end the “nation’s longest war.”
Therefore, when Bush took office in January 2001, there was every reason to believe that he would end the war in Afghanistan and focus America’s efforts and resources on the fight against al-Qaeda.
However, this did not happen. Indeed, Bush chose to stick with the plan that Clinton had put in place to overthrow the secular government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq by way of an illegal and unilateral invasion. Bush’s reasons for choosing this path were based on the false premise that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and posed a serious threat to the U.S. homeland.
This was something that Bush’s Democratic predecessor, Clinton, had also believed. However, Bush and his administration made several serious errors in their calculations. First, Bush and his administration did not consult with Congress about the plan to invade Iraq.
This decision was likely based on Bush’s belief that there would be a congressional vote of approval to authorize the invasion it would be approved. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Second, there was a serious lack of planning and coordination between the different U.S. government agencies involved in the invasion of Iraq.
This led to mistakes and delays in the delivery of supplies and equipment in several areas of operation, including the war-torn city of Baghdad. Third, Bush and his administration decided to use the war in Iraq to promote the “global war on terror” as a new ideological framework for U.S. foreign policy.
This was a major mistake that allowed the war in Iraq to become deeply entangled in the U.S. pursuit of “regime change” in countries that were not connected to the 9/11 attacks, including Syria and Libya.
The build-up to war: March 2003
In the weeks and months leading up to the war in Iraq, there were several public warnings from U.S. lawmakers and officials that the Bush administration was planning to invade Iraq.
In February 2003, for example, former congressman Lee Hamilton warned that Bush was “building up our capacity to wage war on Iraq” and that there would “be serious consequences for the United States if we were to attack Iraq first.”
Following the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration launched a major program to build support for an invasion of Iraq by the United Nations. This saw Secretary of State Colin Powell deliver a speech to the UN on February 5, 2003, in which he claimed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and posed a serious threat to the U.S. homeland.
Powell’s speech was based on the faulty and discredited evidence used by the administration to justify the invasion of Iraq in the run-up to the war. This included the claim that Iraq had destroyed its WMD capability after the Gulf War in 1991.
What Powell did not mention was the fact that this evidence was obtained through torture. In March 2003, the U.S. administration then began a major effort to build support in the U.S. public to support an invasion of Iraq. This saw several major events and announcements occurring.
The administration first released a National Security Strategy that contained several statements that were used to justify the build-up to war on Iraq. This included the statement that “America seeks the peace and prosperity that comes from security through freedom.”
The administration also released a speech by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld entitled “Transforming the Defense Department” in which he argued for the need to transform the U.S. defense establishment “to meet new challenges and new realities.”
Finally, Rumsfeld held a press conference in which he confirmed that the government was planning to spend $379 billion on the Department of Defense in the fiscal year 2003, a 5% increase over the previous year’s budget of $36.6 billion.
The war begins: April 2003
As the Bush administration ramped up its public support for an invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military began to prepare for an invasion by conducting military exercises in and around the Persian Gulf area.
These exercises included the use of Special Forces units to “prepare for possible future action against Iraq.” The invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003, when the U.S. and British military launched a massive aerial bombardment, code-named Operation Desert Fox, against Iraq to “degrade Saddam’s capabilities to wage war.”
This bombing campaign was followed by a ground invasion led by U.S. and British troops. Although the U.S. administration and military publicly presented the invasion as a “war of choice,” with the goal of “one Iraq,” this was not the real reason for the invasion of Iraq.
As the war continued, it quickly became clear that Bush and his administration had badly misread the situation and underestimated the strength of the Iraqi army. Indeed, the Iraqi army showed no sign of crumbling, as the Bush administration had expected, but fought more fiercely than ever as the U.S. and allied forces advanced towards Baghdad.
The war also became significantly more costly as a result of the U.S. decision to invade Iraq, a decision that nearly all independent analysts believed was based on false premises and faulty logic. As a result, the U.S. government was forced to borrow billions of dollars from investors who were not expecting massive increases in military spending.
Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech: May 2002
On May 1, 2002, Bush delivered a speech to the American people in which he claimed that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” This claim was based on the faulty and erroneous assumption that the war in Iraq had completely collapsed and that the Iraqi army had completely surrendered.
This was a false assumption, as the Iraqi army continued to fight in several locations throughout the country. The Iraqi army continued to fight the U.S. and allied forces after the official end of combat operations in Iraq in May 2003.
In the run-up to Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech, there were major public warnings from the U.S. military and intelligence community that the war in Iraq was not going well and that it could become a major quagmire.
In April 2002, for example, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) issued a report that was highly critical of the war in Iraq and argued that the Bush administration had badly misread the situation.
The report stated that the U.S. had been “too optimistic in its view of the threat from Saddam Hussein” and had “underestimated the resolve of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people to resist occupation by the coalition forces.”