As students watch soldiers move through the southern desert of Iraq toward Baghdad on the nightly news and daily protests can be seen throughout the campus and community, many may wonder how history has come to this point.
One reason this war began was Sept. 11 and the reaction the nation had to the threat of terrorism and the questions that were raised on how best to protect the country, said Robert Lawrence, professor of political science at CSU.
“Sept. 11 happened and President Bush started a war on terrorism. Since that time, he increasingly has made accusations that terrorism and Iraq are linked,” Lawrence said.
There is much debate, Lawrence said, about whether or not Iraq and terrorist networks are working together, but it is an essential part to the process. Through the war on terrorism, the U.S. combats terrorist organizations and any nation that harbors them, one in the same.
In September of 2002, President Bush went to the United Nations to address the issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the possibility of renewed inspections.
“(President Bush) challenged the Security Council to live up to the past resolutions and asked them if they wanted to be another League of Nations (an international governing body that failed),” Lawrence said.
In a graduation speech to West Point graduates, the president stated that national defense policies needed to change.
“(The president) said given the new situation where terrorists can gain weapons of mass destruction and rogue nations can obtain weapons of mass destruction, America needed to adopt a change in the national security policy,” Lawrence said.
Until this point the United States followed a policy that centered on the containment and deterrence of enemy threats. After Sept. 11, national security policy has moved to first strike and preventative war, Lawrence said.
“Military containment was developed to fight the Soviets during the Cold War, but it won’t work against terrorism and deterrence (fear of retaliation from the United States) is not possible either because terrorists commit suicide,” Lawrence said. “Deterrence will not work against groups like al-Qaida.”
America’s new policy is first strike and preventative war, attacking a rogue nation or terrorist group before that nation or group has the ability to attack the United States This first strike and preventative war is the policy that has led America into war with Iraq, Lawrence said.
“United States policy (toward Iraq) since the 1991 gulf war (but before Sept. 11) was one that had been largely based upon trying to contain Iraq through United Nations resolutions,” said Nathan Citino, assistant professor of history at CSU.
According to Citino, countries within the United Nations had different ideas on the meaning of the resolutions passed concerning Iraq and even more disagreement on how to implement them.
“The U.S. and Britain used the resolutions to enforce mandates of their own like the no-fly zones (in northern and southern Iraq), which countries like France didn’t agree with and pulled out of early,” Citino said.
One aspect of the cease-fire agreement Iraq signed to end the first Gulf War was the presence of weapons inspectors in Iraq and monitoring the production of weapons and delivery systems. From 1991 to 1998 weapons inspectors were in Iraq, but they encountered increasing Iraqi harassment throughout the process, Lawrence said.
“Inspectors did verify weapons of mass destruction and in some cases, would evacuate the plant the weapons were in and blow it up,” Lawrence said. “Then (President) Clinton comes into office and gets upset at the harassment Iraq was giving to the inspectors and fires cruise missiles into Iraq, reminding them of America’s presence.”
The reminder failed in its purpose though, and in 1998 weapon inspectors were at a stalemate. Without cooperation from Iraq, they were unable to complete their jobs and the inspections ceased in 1998. In the time since 1998 until today, the world has been unaware of Iraq’s weapon production, Lawrence said.
For Ryan Hutton, freshman sociology major, the history of how the war began is becoming increasingly more important.
“When I was young I didn’t understand all that was going on (during the first Iraq war), but now I follow (the history and current war) carefully. I know people who have gone over (to Iraq), so it makes a difference,” Hutton said.
If you are interested in learning more about the war and its history go to:
Univ. of Texas Middle East Studies Center — Resources on Iraq War
Collection of academic, government, news resources on the war.
Middle East Research and Information Project
Articles and editorials on current events by scholars and researchers
who work on Middle Eastern topics. Offers a generally critical
perspective on U.S. foreign policy.