Let’s Not Forget the Pre-Invasion War Against Iraq

The mainstream press and the Internet are filled with commentators who are expressing deep regret and remorse for having supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. That’s a good sign. But we shouldn’t forget that the U.S. government was waging war against the Iraqi people for ten years prior to its deadly and destructive invasion and war of aggression in 2003.

I’m referring to the U.S. government’s system of economic sanctions against the Iraqi people from the time of the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91 through the 2003 invasion. The purpose of those sanctions was to inflict massive death and economic impoverishment on the Iraqi people. The idea was that if Iraqi citizens could be made to suffer in a big way, they would do the dirty work of ousting their dictator Saddam Hussein and replacing him with a pro-U.S. dictator. 

The sanctions succeeded in their immediate goal of killing and impoverishing Iraqis. During the Persian Gulf War, the Pentagon destroyed Iraq’s water-and-sewage treatment plants, knowing that this would help spread infectious illnesses among the populace. The Pentagon’s plan succeeded magnificently. The next ten years of sanctions prevented Iraqi officials from repairing those water-and-sewage treatment plants. Thousands of Iraqi children were dying on a monthly basis.

In 1996, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeline Albright was asked whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions was worth it. She replied that the deaths were, in fact, “worth it.” By “it” she was referring to regime change. She was expressing the view of the U.S. government and many U.S. interventionists, who were convinced that the increasing death toll would motivate Saddam to leave power or motivate the Iraqi people to initiate a violent revolution that would have produced even more deaths. The sanctions continued for another seven years.

At the same time, the sanctions threw Iraq into an extreme downward economic spiral. The poor were doing everything just to survive. The middle class and the wealthy were selling valued family possessions and heirlooms just to eke out a living. 

While the sanctions succeeded in their intermediate goal of killing and impoverishing the Iraqi people, they failed to secure the ouster of Saddam Hussein from power. That was why U.S. officials decided to use the 9/11 attacks and the fake WMD rationale as the excuse for invading Iraq in 2003. They knew that their deadly and destructive sanctions had failed to secure regime change and were unlikely to do so in the future. 

It is worth noting — as an additional matter of moral perversity — that U.S. officials had partnered with Saddam Hussein during the 1980s in his war of aggression against Iran. Yes, the dictator they would come to call the “new Hitler” in 2003 was their partner and ally when he was killing Iranians in the 1980s.

Why were U.S. officials helping Saddam to kill Iranians? In 1953, a CIA coup removed the democratically elected Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh from power and replaced him with the brutal, CIA-trained tyranny of the Shah of Iran. In 1979, the Iranian people revolted against the Shah’s brutal tyranny and ousted him from power. The Pentagon, the CIA, and other U.S. officials hated them for doing that. That’s why they were helping the “new Hitler” to kill Iranians in the 1980s.

While we are on the subject of moral perversity, it’s also worth pointing out why U.S. officials were so certain that they would “find” WMDs when they invaded Iraq in 2003. That’s because they knew that the U.S. had furnished its “new Hitler” with those WMDs in the 1980s so that he could use them to kill Iranians. They figured that they would find some of those WMDs when they invaded and be able to exclaim, “We have saved the world from Saddam’s WMDs with our invasion!” But their “new Hitler” had foiled them by destroying those WMDs long before their 2003 invasion. See my compilation of articles in “Where Did Iraqi Get Its Weapons of Mass Destruction? (Some links in the compilation are no longer operative.)

Wouldn’t it be nice to see all the regretters of the 2003 U.S. invasion and war of aggression against Iraq expressing regret and remorse for everything the U.S. government has done to kill and destroy the Iraqi people? 

This originally appeared on Jacob Hornberger’s Expand Freedom blog.