Why Bush went to war- from Slate

November 10, 2008 § Leave a comment

starting with Slate

) 9/11 created an atmosphere of peril.
2) Bush believed Saddam had WMD.
3) He thought the war would be easy.
4) There was a lot of momentum toward war.
5) Bush was impatient with the U.N. inspections.
6) He thinks America has a duty to liberate oppressed peoples.

Members of Bush’s war council, including Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld, had additional reasons that may have influenced him as well. Among them:

7) They thought Saddam was helping al-Qaida.
8) They thought Saddam had supported terrorism against the United States.
9) To stop Saddam’s violations of human rights.
10) To show American power and resolve.
11) To catalyze democratic change in the Middle East.
12) To prove we could win wars with better technology and fewer troops.
13) Enough with this creep already.

Others have proposed possible personal and unconscious reasons that pushed Bush toward war:

14) To protect his father and his family.
15) To get revenge on his father’s enemy.
16) To fix his father’s mistake in leaving Saddam in power.
17) To fix Clinton’s mistake of letting the problem fester.
18) To prove himself a strong and consequential leader.

Oliver’s film suggests a few more possible reasons.

19) To secure access to Iraqi oil.
20) To set the stage for an assault on Iran.
21) To create a new American empire.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. And it’s likely that Bush’s decision was made for some combination of these reasons (or at least of the first 18 of them). It’s also possible that the conclusion was overdetermined—that Bush just thought, "There are so many good reasons for getting rid of Saddam, I don’t need to decide exactly why we’re doing it."

Bush’s rationales have shifted over time. Unless he keeps a secret diary, I seriously doubt he could give an accurate answer to the question himself. As Rumsfeld might put it, the issue of why Bush went to war is a known unknown.

These seem inadequate to catch the spirit of the moment and the man.



The Way of the World, I came across fresh, detailed accounts of battles from January 2002, when senior officials of the Defense Department and CIA were instructed by the White House to begin a one-year, logistical planning process for the invasion. At that point, it was not a matter of if. It was, in essence, a 12-month ticking clock for the execution of an approved policy. What’s more, in the spring of 2002, the White House told senior intelligence officials that WMD would be the lead justification for the invasion. The response from intelligence officials, especially those with expertise on Iraq, was that using WMDs as justification for war was a perilous gambit—advice that the White House ignored.


My second point speaks to motivation, and here’s where the Ronald Reagan interview that day sheds some light. While researching Hubris, Corn and I got hold of the actual written memo prepared for Bush in which the White House communications staff had written out the likely questions the president would get from the History Channel interviewer. Bush then wrote on it, scribbling his thoughts about the points he wanted to emphasize. The memo with Bush’s jottings is a fascinating document. It offers a pretty good window into not just what Bush admired about Reagan but also how he saw himself in the spring of 2002. "Optimism and strength," Bush scrawled at the top of the memo. Also, "decisive" and "faith." Next to a question about Reagan’s direct, blunt style, Bush wrote "moral clarity." He drew an arrow next to the word forceful. Alongside a question about the 1983 suicide-bombing attack on the U.S. Marines barracks in Lebanon (which killed 241 U.S. troops), Bush wrote, "There will be casualties."


When it came time for the actual interview, Bush hit these points and used an interesting analogy that Stone includes inW.: Recalling one of the iconic speeches of the Reagan era, one that the late president’s admirers have long pointed to as a decisive moment in the fall of the Soviet Empire, Bush said that Reagan "didn’t say, ‘Well, Mr. Gorbachev, would you take the top three bricks off the wall?’ He said, ‘Tear it all down.’ … And the truth of the matter is, I spoke about the Axis of Evil, and I did it for a reason. I wanted the world to know exactly where the United States stood."


I’m bewildered, first, by your categorical disregard for his 1999 speech before the Petroleum Institute. The key quote remains: "The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies." Do you really think his views changed that much in three years? I’m sure you remember that in 2001 the vice president’s energy task force spent a great deal of time courting every significant oil company to weigh in on the national energy policy—even though this was denied by everyone at the time. And what was the conclusion of Cheney’s task force? That "by any estimation, Middle East oil producers will remain central to world oil security."

In September 2002, the Bush administration issued a new national security strategy that codified the themes of Cheney’s 1992 defense guidance: maintaining overwhelming military power to "dissuade potential adversaries" from attempting to even equal U.S. power, and enhancing "energy security" by expanding "the sources and types of global energy supplied, especially in the Western Hemisphere, Africa, Central Asia, and the Caspian region."


In September 2002, the Bush administration issued a new national security strategy that codified the themes of Cheney’s 1992 defense guidance: maintaining overwhelming military power to "dissuade potential adversaries" from attempting to even equal U.S. power, and enhancing "energy security" by expanding "the sources and types of global energy supplied, especially in the Western Hemisphere, Africa, Central Asia, and the Caspian region."

In October 2002, Oil and Gas International reported that U.S. planning was already under way to reorganize Iraq’s oil and business relationships. In January 2003, the Wall Street Journal reported that representatives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Halliburton, among others, were meeting with Vice President Cheney’s staff to plan the postwar revival of Iraq’s oil industry. One-time Bush speech writer David Frum wrote in The Right Man, his 2003 biography of his boss, that the "war on terror" was designed to "bring new freedom and new stability to the most vicious and violent quadrant of the Earth—and new prosperity to us all, by securing the world’s largest pool of oil."

In August 2005, Bush acknowledged this connection himself—answering "growing anti-war protests," according to AP (Aug. 31), "with a fresh reason for U.S. troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country’s vast oil fields, which he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists."

Regarding Iran, W. points to its centrality geographically. According to Gen. Wesley Clark, memos calling for the overthrow of seven countries in five years, including Iran and Iraq, were circulating in the Pentagon within two weeks of 9/11. And in State of Denial, Bob documents a secret, influential November 2001 meeting dubbed "Bletchley II," which concluded the United States couldn’t defeat Islami
c radicalism without first overthrowing Saddam, which, according to one participant, would lead to "Iranian overthrow." Current threats against Iran flow from this overall strategic vision.

I think in closing that we would agree that the fascinating portrait of Cheney as a Hobbesian, completely realistic, America-first survivalist, and (in contradiction to the Bush theology) a Darwinian of the first order, wherein the strong eat the weak, is quite plausible. That Dick Cheney, in his methodical, quiet, 1 percent way, must surely be thinking of the future of America in the next 50 years. In his entire government experience, he’s been nothing less than loyal to his version of its perceived interests. Unfortunately, as was the case with many "armchair patriots" before him, defending those interests has led us into a "black hole." We made Cheney’s plan for world domination as alluring and economically brief as possible for a dramatic audience. However, reading books such as Larry Everest’s Oil, Power, and Empire, you will find a realistic, certainly plausible assessment of world energy policy, as perceived by the oil companies. There is a wonderful moment, I think, in the "Situation Room" scene, where Colin Powell looks over at Cheney after his monologue and says, somewhat with awe, "Spoken like a true oilman."


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