File:Bush announces Operation Iraqi Freedom 2003.jpg

President George W. Bush addresses the nation from the Oval Office, March 19, 2003, to announce the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. "The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder." The Senate committee found that many of the administration's pre-war statements about Iraqi WMD were not supported by the underlying intelligence.

President Bush consistently referred to the Iraq war as "the central front in the War on Terror", and argued that if the U.S. pulls out of Iraq, "terrorists will follow us here."[1][2][3] While other proponents of the war have regularly echoed this assertion, as the conflict has dragged on, members of the U.S. Congress, the American public, and even U.S. troops have begun to question the connection between Iraq and the fight against terrorism. In particular, many leading intelligence experts have begun to argue that the war in Iraq is actually increasing terrorism. Additionally, some may argue that the United States entered Iraq to preserve and protect the oil fields, a greater concern to the U.S. than that of searching for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and taking Saddam Hussein out of power.

Views of U.S. Congress, public, and troops[edit | edit source]

Calls for withdrawal from Iraq[edit | edit source]

Main article: Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq

First, was this war necessary or did it actually divert important resources from al Qaeda and the true war on terror? The withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq has been a contentious issue within the United States since the beginning of the Iraq War. As the war has progressed from its initial invasion phase to the more than four-year occupation, U.S. public opinion has turned in favor of troop withdrawal. As of May 2007, 55 percent of American believe that the Iraq war was a mistake, and 51 percent of registered voters favor troop withdrawal.[4] In late April 2007, the U.S. Congress passed a supplementary spending bill for Iraq that sets a deadline for troop withdrawal, but President Bush vetoed this bill soon afterwards.[5][6] In the wake of the veto, proponents of withdrawal appear to be shifting to towards establishing benchmarks that the Iraqi government will need to meet, a plan that may be more palatable to President Bush and his advisers.[7] Journalist Pepe Escobar points to the destiny of the Iraq oil law as the crucial point determining the will of the American administrations to withdraw.[8]

Opinion from 2003 to 2005[edit | edit source]

At the outset of the war, the U.S. Congress and public opinion supported the notion that the Iraq War was part of the global war on terror. The 2002 Congressional resolution authorising military force against Iraq cited the U.S. determination to "prosecute the war on terrorism", and in April 2003, one month after the invasion, a poll found that 77% of Americans agreed that the Iraq War was part of the War on Terror.[9] Much of the organized violence encountered by the U.S. military was framed by the metaphor of a crusade, or total conflict, that was taken up by the terrorists.[10] In 2004, an Army War College report said the war diverts attention and resources from the threat posed by Al Qaeda and called for downsizing the war on terror and focusing instead on the threat from Al Qaeda.[citation needed]

Opinion from 2006 to date[edit | edit source]

As the military and civilian death toll has mounted, the Iraqi insurgency has shifted to what many observers have labeled a civil war, and the politics of Iraq have remained unstable, many politicians and citizens from the United States and across the world have begun pushing for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq. Significant American calls for withdrawal include the Iraq Study Group Report[11] and the Center for American Progress's proposal for strategic reset.[12]

As of spring 2007, surveys showed majorities of Americans in support of a timetable for withdrawal.[13] While up to 70 percent of Americans in one survey favored withdrawal, most prefer to leave gradually over 12 months, and 60 percent say the U.S. has a moral obligation to the Iraqi people.[14] In addition to voicing concerns over the human and financial costs of the war, supporters of withdrawal argue that the U.S. presence fosters ongoing violence by providing a target for al-Qaeda and by allowing Iraqi political leaders to avoid reaching a power-sharing agreement hile the withdrawal will induce Iraq's neighbors to become more involved in quelling violence in the country and will relieve the strain on the U.S. military.[12] The withdrawal debate has brought comparison of Iraq and Vietnam wars.[15][16]

After the 2006 midterm Congressional elections, Congress has pushed to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq, in part based on the argument that Iraq is a distraction, as opposed to a part of, the war on terror. Likewise, a January 2007 poll found that 57% of Americans feel that the Iraq War is not part of the War on Terror.[17][18] By June 2007, polls revealed that only 30% of Americans support the war.[19][20] On July 12, 2007 the House passed a resolution by 223 to 201, for redeployment [or withdrawal] of U.S. armed forces out of Iraq. The resolution requires most troops to withdraw from Iraq by April 1, 2008.[21][22]

Increase in terrorism[edit | edit source]

File:Car bomb in Iraq.jpg

As Coalition Forces arrive at a car bombing in South Baghdad, a second car bomb is detonated, targeting those responding to the initial incident. 14 April 2005

According to the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center, Saddam Hussein had a long history before the invasion of giving money to families of suicide bombers in Palestine. And, as part of the justification for the war, the Bush Administration argued that Saddam Hussein also had ties to al-Qaeda, and that his overthrow would lead to democratisation in the Middle East, decreasing terrorism overall.[23] However, reports from the CIA, the U.S. State Department, the FBI, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as the investigations of foreign intelligence agencies found no evidence of an operational connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda.[24] Some intelligence experts have a contrary view - that the Iraq war has increased terrorism. Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna frequently refers to the invasion of Iraq as a "fatal mistake."[25] London's conservative International Institute for Strategic Studies concluded in 2004 that the occupation of Iraq had become "a potent global recruitment pretext" for jihadists and that the invasion "galvanised" al-Qaeda and "perversely inspired insurgent violence" there.[26] The U.S. National Intelligence Council concluded in a January 2005 report that the war in Iraq had become a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists; David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, indicated that the report concluded that the war in Iraq provided terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills... There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries." The Council's Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said, "At the moment, Iraq is a magnet for international terrorist activity."[27] And the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, which outlined the considered judgment of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, held that "The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement."[28] According to Mohammed Hafez, "Since 2003, the number of suicide bombings in Iraq has surpassed all those of Hamas in Israel, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka combined."[29]

Al-Qaeda leaders have seen the Iraq war as a boon to their recruiting and operational efforts, providing evidence to jihadists worldwide that America is at war with Islam, and the training ground for a new generation of jihadists to practice attacks on American forces. In October 2003, Osama bin Laden announced: "Be glad of the good news: America is mired in the swamps of the Tigris and Euphrates. Bush is, through Iraq and its oil, easy prey. Here is he now, thank God, in an embarrassing situation and here is America today being ruined before the eyes of the whole world."[30] Al-Qaeda commander Seif al-Adl gloated about the war in Iraq, indicating, "The Americans took the bait and fell into our trap."[31] A letter thought to be from al-Qaeda leader Atiyah Abd al-Rahman found in Iraq among the rubble where al-Zarqawi was killed and released by the U.S. military in October 2006, indicated that al-Qaeda perceived the war as beneficial to its goals: "The most important thing is that the jihad continues with steadfastness ... indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest.".[32]

International opinion of the War on Terror[edit | edit source]

In 2002, strong majorities supported the U.S.-led War on Terror in United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, India, and Russia. By 2006, supporters of the effort were in the minority in Britain (49%), France (43%), Germany (47%), and Japan (26%). Although a majority of Russians still supported the War on Terror, that majority had decreased by 21%. Whereas 63% of the Spanish population supported the War on Terror in 2003, only 19% of the population indicated support in 2006. 19% of the Chinese population supports the War on Terror, and less than a fifth of the populations of Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan support the effort. Now at about 56%, India's support for the War on Terror has been stable.[33] Andrew Kohut, speaking to the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, noted that, according to the Pew Center polls conducted in 2004, "majorities or pluralities in seven of the nine countries surveyed said the U.S.-led war on terror was not really a sincere effort to reduce international terrorism. This was true not only in Muslim countries such as Morocco and Turkey, but in France and Germany as well. The true purpose of the war on terror, according to these skeptics, is American control of Middle East oil and U.S. domination of the world."[34] Dr. Steven Kull testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on May 17, 2007, that "a new feeling about the US that has emerged in the wake of 9-11. This is not so much an intensification of negative feelings toward the US as much as a new perception of American intentions. There now seems to be a perception that the US has entered into a war against Islam itself. I think perhaps the most significant finding of our study is that across the four countries (Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia), 8 in 10 believe that the US seeks to 'weaken and divide the Islamic world.'"[35] ll

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Global Message
  2. DefenseLink News Article: Iraq Part of Global War on Terrorism, Rumsfeld Says
  3. Press Conference by the President, August 21, 2006
  4. "Quinnipiac University Poll".
  5. "Senate passes Iraq withdrawal bill; veto threat looms". CNN.com, April 26, 2007.
  6. "Bush vetoes war-funding bill with withdrawal timetable". CNN.com, May 2, 2007.
  7. Bush Vetoes Bill Tying Iraq Funds to Exit". The New York Times, May 1, 2007.
  8. Pepe Escobar on Iraq - The U.S. "Surge" in Iraq and the oil law.. Sao Paulo, Brazil: The Real News. 2007-06-29. Event occurs at 2:25 - 3:14. http://www.therealnews.com/web/index.php?&thisid=284&thisview=item. Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  9. Survey Shows Skepticism About Iraq, Washington Post 4 November 2003
  10. Stocchetti, Matteo (2007). "The Politics of Fear: A Critical Inquiry into the Role of Violence in 21st Century Politics". In Hodges, Adam; Nilep, Chad. Discourse, War and Terrorism. Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture. 24. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 223–241. ISBN 978-90-272-2714-0. 
  11. Iraq Study Group Report
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Strategic Reset"
  13. Pew Research Center: Solid Majority Favors Congressional Troop Deadline, 26 March 2007
  14. Public Agenda: "Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index" accessed 28 April 2007
  15. Why the U.S. must withdraw from Iraq
  16. Withdraw From Iraq
  17. CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll Jan. 19-21, 2007
  18. No more GWOT, House committee decrees - Army News, opinions, editorials, news from Iraq, photos, reports - Army Times
  19. "CNN Political Ticker - All politics, all the time - CNN.com Blogs". CNN. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  20. http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/2007/images/06/26/rel7c.pdf
  21. wcbstv.com - House Passes Troop Withdrawal Bill
  22. "House passes bill to bring troops home in '08 - CNN.com". CNN. July 13, 2007. http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/07/12/iraq.vote/index.html. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  23. White House Oct 2002 press release
  24. Weisman, Jonathan. Iraq's Alleged Al-Qaeda Ties Were Disputed Before War. The Washington Post, September 9, 2006.
  25. Rohan Gunaratna, "The Post-Madrid Face of Al Qaeda", Washington Quarterly 27:3 (Summer 2004) p. 98.
  26. Sengupta, Kim (2004-05-26). "Occupation Made World Less Safe, Pro-War Institute Says". Commondreams.org. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0526-05.htm. 
  27. Priest, Dana (2005-01-14). "Iraq New Terror Breeding Ground". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7460-2005Jan13.html. 
  28. DNI: Declassified NIE Key Judgments PDF (66.3 KiB)
  29. Mohammed M. Hafez, "A Case Study:The Mythology of Martyrdom in Iraq," eJournal USA (May 2007).
  30. al Jazeera English: Message to Iraqis October 2003
  31. Gerges, Fawaz A. (2005-10-10). "The Iraq War: Planting the Seeds of Al Qaeda's Second Generation". Toward Freedom. http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/623/60/. 
  32. Murphy, Dan (2006-10-06). "How Al Qaeda views a long Iraq war". Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1006/p01s04-woiq.html. 
  33. Pew Global Attitudes Project: America’s Image in the World: Findings from the Pew Global Attitudes Project
  34. Microsoft Word - Kohut.doc
  35. As I discussed the last time I was here, negative views of the US have increased over the last 5 years
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