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Misplaced Admiration

Reading Dr. Dominic Tierney’s essay, “War and the Liberal Arts,” I appreciated his description of the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq as erroneous. However, it was not “driven by a mistaken view of the Iraqi threat” as he claims. Since 2003, multiple former U.S. intelligence officials have revealed that members of the Bush administration made false claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al-Qaeda to garner support for attacking Iraq. Public release of the “Downing Street Memo” in 2005 confirmed that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action … But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Furthermore, officials such as retired General John Abizaid, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, and former Senator Chuck Hagel have all acknowledged the obvious—that attacking Iraq was in large part about oil

Referencing General David Petraeus, Dr. Tierney also asserts: “The ‘surge’ strategy that helped pull Iraq back from the cliff edge in 2007 emphasized cultural awareness and winning Iraqi hearts and minds.” But the welfare of Iraqi society deteriorated during the surge. Through 2007, the number of Iraqis displaced from their homes quadrupled, making them the “fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world” per Refugee International. Potable water and electricity access remained below pre-invasion levels, and millions of Iraqis were in need of emergency assistance (per Oxfam International).

Counterinsurgency operations in Iraq were not social work visits, despite what the Pentagon would have us believe. They employed the same tactics as U.S. counterinsurgency in Latin America in the 1980s (see School of the Americas, now WHINSEC) and Vietnam in the late 1960s-early 1970s (see CORDS, Phoenix Program): targeting resistance leaders and their supporters; assassinating them; and terrorizing the population into submission to the U.S. political and economic agenda. As in Latin America and Vietnam, these policies in Iraq succeeded in killing thousands upon thousands of innocent people (e.g. Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” video), as well as fostering the extremism that exists there today.

The ongoing crisis in Iraq is rooted in our illegal war of aggression and military occupation. With well over 1 million dead (American and Iraqi) and millions more suffering from physical wounds, PTSD, displacement, food/ water insecurity, and ongoing bombing, admiration for U.S. policy in Iraq is misplaced.     

—Dahlia Wasfi ’93, Dover, Del.


DT responds: “The war was certainly driven by a mistaken view of the Iraqi threat. Bush became a convert to regime change after 9/11, when he concluded that Saddam, armed with WMDs, might ally with terrorists—which we now know is wildly erroneous. While the Iraq War was the greatest mistake in U.S. foreign policy since Vietnam, the surge in 2007, along with outreach to Sunni insurgents, led to a significant reduction of violence—between 2007–08, Iraqi civilian deaths fell about 90 percent. Iraq remained an extremely vulnerable, divided, and unstable society, but it would have been in an even worse state without the surge.”