This month will mark the 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, which was known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. Australians also call it Operation Falconer. To that effect, last week this author had the honour and pleasure of being the guest speaker for the Returned & Services League (RSL) Washington, D.C. Sub Branch at the Embassy of Australia, whereupon the topic was the Australian Special Air Service’s (SAS) capture of Al Asad Airbase in April 2003.
In drafting a speech and revisiting the events of the time, it became appropriate to discuss whether the Iraq War was justified. This author’s personal feeling is a strong “Yes.”
Yes, Virginia, Iraq DID Have WMDs
It stirs up emotions when opponents of the Iraq War try to rewrite history on the spot by claiming that Saddam Hussein “NEVER” had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
Tell that to the Iranian soldiers, who were on the receiving end of Saddam’s chemical weapons attack during the Iran-Iraq War. Granted, Iran *is* our enemy and a terrorist state, and therefore rather difficult to feel pity for its government’s minions, but the fact remains that Iraq’s use of mustard gas during that was a flagrant violation of the Geneva Protocol, to which Iraq became a signatory back in 1931.
Revisionists may go on, but tell that to the Kurds.
To quote Nick Cohen, columnist for UK newspaper The Guardian – hardly a bastion of right-wing militarist propaganda – in an op-ed piece he wrote 10 years ago: “Every few months a member of the audience at a meeting I am addressing asks whether I regret supporting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein … If my interrogators’ protesting cries allow it, I then talk about Saddam’s terror state and the Ba’ath’s slaughter of the “impure” Kurdish minority, accomplished in true Hitlerian fashion with poison gas … As Bayan Rahman, the Kurdish ambassador to London, said to me: ‘Everyone wants to remember Fallujah and no one wants to remember Halabja.’”
That mustard gas attack caused the death of between 3,200 and 5,000 innocent Kurdish men, women, and children, and injured between 7,000 and 10,000. Again, tell the Kurds that Saddam’s Iraq didn’t have WMDs.
Thanks to the Iraq War, the Kurds are now free from Saddam and his murderous Ba’athists and have been building a better and more prosperous life for themselves.
Now revisionists may say that by 2003, Saddam had gotten rid of all of his WMDs. He never furnished proof that he’d gotten rid of them, and as Bill O’Reilly pointed out all those years ago, the onus wasn’t on the U.S. and its allies, to prove that Saddam had the weapons; the onus *was on Saddam* to prove he’d done away with them.
And if Saddam didn’t have the intent, opportunity, and capability of continuing to develop WMDs, then why did he have the likes of “Chemical Ali” Hassan al-Majid – the mastermind of that Halabja massacre – along with “Dr. Germ” Rihab Taha and “Mrs. Anthrax” Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash in his inner circle?
And then there was this nugget from PBS – again hardly a bastion of warmongering – back in 2014, titled “Uncovering secret chemical weapon victims of the Iraq war,” which revealed that a goodly number of American troops were injured after being exposed to chemical or nerve agents as a result of being tasked with destroying thousands of rockets and artillery shells left behind by Saddam Hussein’s regime. How was this possible if “Saddam had no WMDs.”
And if there were no WMDs left in Iraq, how did ISIS/ISIL/Da’esh seize a former chemical weapons facility northwest of Baghdad back in July 2014, which contained 2,500 chemical rockets filled with the deadly nerve agent sarin?
Iraq IS Now a Democracy AND an Ally
To be sure, Iraq is an imperfect democracy, rife with corruption and sectarian violence, but a representative democracy nonetheless, contrasted with the Ba’athist dictatorship of Saddam, wherein the country’s Shiite Muslim majority were treated as second-class citizens, not entirely unlike South African’s black majority populace was treated during the apartheid era.
As opposed to Ba’athist Iraq, which actually had *extensive* terrorist ties – another reality that runs contrary to the revisionists’ narrative – from the Islamic Jihad to the so-called “Martyrdom Project” of funding Palestinian homicide bombers in Israel to harboring the likes of Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas (mastermind of the Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking of 1985 that resulted in the murder of wheelchair-bound U.S. citizen Leon Klinghoffer), post-Saddam Iraq is a firm ally in the fight against terrorism, as was underscored by SECDEF Lloyd Austin’s visit to Iraq last week.
Post-Saddam Iraq is also an important trading partner in the Middle East, a relationship that was bolstered last month when top Iraqi officials were in Washington for the regular dialogue of the Higher Coordinating Committee of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA). The SFA dates back to 2008, with this year’s dialogue focused heavily on economic cooperation.
Speaking about economic cooperation, Iraq as a whole remains a tragically impoverished nation-state. This fact is a shame, as the country should be every bit as rich and prosperous as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, namely the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar. It’s easy for simple-minded folks to dismiss Iraq as simply a “Third World sh*thole” and a lost cause, but from having worked three contract assignments in Iraq – Al Asad Airbase in 2011, Camp Taji and Port of Umm Qasr 2012-2013, and Balad Airbase 2015-2018 – I can personally vouch that the country is full of bright, motivated, and entrepreneurial-minded men and women who demonstrate the country’s true untapped potential.
Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force Security Forces officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon). Chris holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California (USC) and an M.A. in Intelligence Studies (concentration in Terrorism Studies) from American Military University (AMU). He has also been published in The Daily Torch and The Journal of Intelligence and Cyber Security. Last but not least, he is a Companion of the Order of the Naval Order of the United States (NOUS).