Iraq post-mortem

By Tom Quiner

We should not have gone to war in Iraq on March 18, 2003.

Knowing what we know today, few Americans would disagree with that statement.
The Congress at the time disagreed. In bi-partisan votes, both the House and Senate supported the resolution put before them to go to war.
At the time, honorable people did disagree, such as Pope John Paul II:

“War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations … War cannot be decided upon . . . except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions … There is still time to negotiate; there is still room for peace, it is never too late to come to an understanding and to continue discussions.”

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, also disagreed, stating that …

“reasons sufficient for unleashing a war against Iraq did not exist [because] proportion between the possible positive consequences and the sure negative effect of the conflict was not guaranteed. On the contrary, it seems clear that the negative consequences will be greater than anything positive that might be obtained.”

In hindsight, both Popes were correct.
Ultimately, the Iraq War was President George W. Bush’s war. History will most likely judge the war as a colossal mistake, especially in light of President Barack Obama’s failure to keep troops stationed in Iraq to maintain the peace.
John McCain famously said America would be in Iraq for another hundred years. He based that on the model we’ve successfully used in Germany, Korea, and Japan.
In the case of Japan, the occupation continued for seven years after the end of the war, and we still have 31,000 troops stationed there. Japan today is a vibrant nation and staunch ally of the United States. Why was the occupation so successful? John Dower explains in his book, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq:

“Discipline, moral legitimacy, well-defined and well-articulated objectives, a clear chain of command, tolerance and flexibility in policy formulation and implementation, confidence in the ability of the state to act constructively, the ability to operate abroad free of partisan politics back home, and the existence of a stable, resilient, sophisticated civil society on the receiving end of occupation policies – these political and civic virtues helped make it possible to move decisively during the brief window of a few years when defeated Japan itself was in flux and most receptive to radical change.”

Honorable people can say that Iraq isn’t Japan or German or Korea. They are correct. Perhaps democracy would never have worked there considering their historic ethnic rivalries. Let’s face it, Iraq is an artificial nation of sorts, created by outsiders who forced rival ethnic groups to live under the same national tent, so to speak.
Here’s the question: could it have worked if President Obama had followed the Japan occupation model?
We’ll never know.


  1. Harlan Bergman on June 21, 2014 at 9:55 am

    But who of us can say what the situation in the middle east would be like today if Saddam Hussein was still in power?

    • quinersdiner on June 21, 2014 at 10:29 am

      Good point. We know Saddam started two wars with his neighbors. We know he used weapons of mass destruction. We know he was a prolific mass murdered. Based on his record, we probably could have counted on more of the same.

  2. Teresa Rice on June 21, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    “Here’s the question: could it have worked if President Obama had followed the Japan occupation model?”
    Great question.
    Harlan made a good point. It is highly probable that if Saddam had stayed in power Iraq and the rest of the Middle East would have destabilized quicker, been more expansive, and more brutal.
    Plus, Saddam claimed to have WMD’s and with his track record I don’t think leaving him alone was a good option. I don’t think there were any good options as far as Iraq is concerned. I believe that going into Iraq was the best of the bad options.

    • quinersdiner on June 21, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Very fair assessment. Thanks for weighing in. Come again!

  3. K. Q. Duane on June 22, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    I ardently disagree! That would have dishonored and trivialized the deaths of the 3000 innocent Americans who died at the World Trade Center. How is that any different than the outrage still seething over the unavenged Benghazi attack? That situation has only served to embolden our enemies. One can only imagine what we would be experiencing today if we has not invaded Iraq.

    • quinersdiner on June 22, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      Fair point. However,we went into Afghanistan to pursue the terrorists who trained the Word Trade Center bombers, not Iraq. Iraq really had little to do with that attack. Rather, the Bush administration understandably believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and decided to make a pre-emptive strike before they could use them. In light of Obama’s decision to pull out of Iraq and give the country back to the terrorists, I think most believe that our gains have been squandered, even dishonored. Your final sentence is a legitimate concern of the ramifications of American inaction regarding Hussein. Good insights. Thanks for writing. Good to hear from you as always.