The 2003 invasion of Iraq began on March 20. On March 18, US President George W. Bush had set a deadline for the ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and his two sons, Uday and Qusay to leave the country, or face military action. By the time of the ultimatum, political and military preparations for the invasion were well advanced.
Plans for securing Iraqi cities following the invasion, infrastructure reconstruction, and transitioning the country into a post-war government – plans to "win the peace" — were either nonexistent or woefully inadequate. The lack of a post-invasion security plan allowed widespread looting and the violent insurgency that immediately followed the invasion. The looting "caused far more damage to Iraq's infrastructure than the bombing campaign" and suggested to the insurgents that the US military was vulnerable. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction wrote, "There was insufficient systematic planning for human capital management in Iraq before and during the U.S.-directed stabilization and reconstruction operations."
Former UK Minister of Defence Geoff Hoon commented on this issue in 2007 and said, "There was an enormous amount of post-war planning. It's one of the things that the newspapers have never troubled to look at. I accept, and I've said so publicly, that we perhaps did not anticipate quite the kinds of trouble that we would have. I think we thought that because the population of Iraq hated Saddam Hussein, they would simply come out on the streets and everything would be fine... I don't think we quite estimated the degree of control that Saddam's people had in Iraqi society... So the kind of things we were planning for, with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps weren't quite the right things. But they were the right things in terms of the problems that we anticipated, which was the lack of food, water. We probably didn't quite appreciate, as I say, the ruthlessness of some of Saddam's [followers]."
Political preparation for war began in earnest during the period of weapons inspections in Iraq over the winter of 2002–2003, carried out by a team led by Hans Blix with the authority of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441. The U.S. and its principal allies, the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal, maintained a skeptical position on the results of the inspections procedure. By 2003, the U.S. was keen to invade Iraq and secure the goal some argued it had ultimately been pursuing all along – the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Under pressure from his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and his main ally, the UK, President Bush decided to try to obtain UN backing for an invasion. The so-called "second resolution" (the first being 1441) was eventually drafted and presented to the UN Security Council. It was a tough resolution, calling for immediate compliance with the previous resolutions requiring disarmament, and setting a 10-day deadline for compliance. Critics saw it as an unrealistic ultimatum designed to provide the U.S. with a cause for war, and it met considerable opposition in the security council, with opponents including the permanent members France, the People's Republic of China, and Germany. After a period of intense diplomacy, President Bush met with his British, Spanish and Portuguese counterparts, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prime Minister José María Aznar and Prime Minister José Manuel Barroso in the Azores, Portugal on March 15 and 16. Declaring that "diplomacy had failed," he announced the intention to drop the proposed resolution. Subsequently, both the U.S. and the UK accused France of effectively blocking the negotiations by threatening to veto the proposed resolution "whatever the circumstances", but France maintained that its position had been intentionally misconstrued. Lacking the "second resolution", the U.S. announced its intention to attack Iraq regardless if Saddam Hussein did not abdicate.
The U.S.'s rationale for war depended on several contentions. Firstly, it contended that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction, which it claimed he might be willing to supply to terrorists. It accused Iraq of supporting terrorism, notably through payments to families of Palestinian suicide bombers. In this way, the U.S. contended, Iraq presented a threat that it would be justified in removing, placing this as a new interpretation of the doctrine of self-defence. It further argues that the U.S. is legally justified in taking military action by previous UN resolutions, most notably 1441 which states that "serious consequences" would result from a failure to disarm on Iraq's part. Some have also argued that the invasion can be considered a resumption of the 1991 Gulf War, which ended with a conditional ceasefire that (they contend) Iraq has subsequently breached.
This position has been criticised on several grounds, including skepticism regarding the administration's claims that:
- Iraq presents a clear threat to the U.S.,
- the extent of Iraq's partial disarmament was inadequate to remove that threat,
- the weapons inspection process no longer had any chance of effecting the disarmament of Iraq,
- there is reason to believe that Iraq is an important supporter of terrorism,
- Iraq represents a more significant or urgent threat to the United States than the other nations with Weapons of Mass Destruction and dictators,
- the existing UN resolutions provide a sufficient legal basis for an invasion. The UK and U.S. governments have presented detailed legal justifications, but these have been rejected by others, including the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.
Continued at: 2003 invasion of Iraq.
- Iraq disarmament crisis
- United Nations actions regarding Iraq
- Support and opposition for the U.S. plan to invade Iraq
- Iraq disarmament crisis timeline 1990-1996, 1997–2000, 2001–2003
- Iraqi production and use of weapons of mass destruction
- Worldwide government positions on war on Iraq
- Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, p. 31
- Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, p. 46
- Scarborough, Rowan. "U.S. lacked plan for rebuilding Iraq, report says". The Washington Times, February 28, 2006. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
- Hoon, Geoff. Question and Answer Session at West Nottinghamshire College; November 16, 2007
- U.N. offered 'moment of truth' – article in the Washington Times <-- 404 error
- Probe for Iraqi weapons should have continued—article from the U.N. News Centre
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