Why did America invade Iraq?

So why, exactly, did the US invade Iraq five years ago this week? The official reasons — the threat posed to the US and its allies by Saddam Hussein’s alleged programmes of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the possibility that he would pass along those arms to Al Qaeda — have long since been discarded by the overwhelming weight of the evidence.

Liberating Iraq from the tyranny of Hussein’s particularly unforgiving and bloodthirsty version of Ba’athism and thus setting an irresistible precedent that would spread throughout the Arab world — a theme pushed by the administration of President George W Bush mostly after the invasion, as it became clear that the officials reasons could not be justified — appears to have been the guiding obsession of really only one member of the Bush team: Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

Then there’s the theory that Bush — whose enigmatic psychology, particularly his relationship to his father, has already provided grist for several book-publishing mills — wanted to show up his dad for failing to take Baghdad in 1991.

Or he sought to “finish the job” that his dad had begun in 1991; and/or avenge his dad for Hussein’s alleged (but highly questionable) assassination attempt against Bush I.

Given both Bush’s and Vice President Dick Cheney’s long-standing ties to the oil industry and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s assertion in his recent memoir that “The Iraq war is largely about oil,” “No Blood for Oil” was a favourite mantra at anti-war protests in the run-up to the invasion, just as they did — with much greater plausibility — before the 1991 Gulf War. The problem, however, is that there is little or no evidence that Big Oil favoured a war, particularly one carried out in a way (unilaterally) that risked destabilising the world’s most oil-rich region.

A demonstration of overwhelming power in Iraq could well be the fastest way to formalise a new international order based on the overwhelming military power of the US, unequalled at least since the Roman Empire. It would be a “unipolar world” of the kind envisaged by the 1992 draft Defence Planning Guidance (DPG) commissioned by then-Pentagon chief Dick Cheney, overseen by Wolfowitz and Cheney’s future chief of staff, I Lewis Libby, and contributed to by future ambassador to “liberated” Afghanistan and Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad and Bush’s deputy national security adviser, JD Crouch.

According to a 1996 paper drafted by prominent hard-line neo-conservatives — including some, like Douglas Feith and David Wurmser, who would later serve in senior posts in Cheney’s office and the Pentagon in the run-up to the invasion — ousting Hussein and installing a pro-Western leader was the key to destabilising Israel’s Arab enemies and/or bending them to its will. This would permit the Jewish state not only to escape the Oslo peace process, but also to secure as much of the occupied Palestinian (and Syrian) territories as it wished.

Indeed, getting rid of Hussein would not only tighten Israel’s hold on Arab territories, in this view; it could also threaten the survival of the Arab and Islamic worlds’ most formidable weapon against Israel — OPEC — by flooding the world market with Iraqi oil and forcing the commodity’s price down. That’s how it looked five years ago anyway. — IPS