Iraq and the United States:
THE ROAD TO WAR
for easier reading (4/2/03)
By Alan Shapiro
To the Teacher: The following readings are intended to help students understand the background of the war on Iraq. Following the readings are suggestions for student discussion, study and inquiry to be used as the teacher sees fit.
Student Reading 1:
The President's Demand to Iraq and Opposition to It
Speech by President George W. Bush
On March 17, 2003 President Bush spoke to the nation and to the world about Iraq. He said that for more than 10 years the United States and other nations had tried to disarm Iraq peacefully. Iraq's leaders promised to reveal and destroy all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in 1991 after they surrendered in the Gulf War. But, said Bush, those leaders lied and are continuing to lie.
The President warned that terrorists could get hold of chemical, biological, or, one day, even nuclear weapons from Iraq "and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other." For the past four months, the President said, the U.S. and its allies had worked within the Security Council of the United Nations to make Iraq obey the Council's demands. Unfortunately, said Bush, some members of the Security Council had publicly announced that they would veto any resolution forcing Iraq to disarm. Therefore, said Bush, "The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours...."
The President said: "Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do will result in military conflict." He told the Iraqi people that a military campaign "will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you. As our coalition takes away their power we will deliver the food and medicine you need." The U.S., said Bush, will destroy Saddam Hussein's "apparatus of terror" and "will help you build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free."
The President said that the terrorist threat to America would be reduced the moment Saddam Hussein was disarmed. Terrorists and terrorist states do not reveal their threats to use chemical, biological, or nuclear terror with formal announcements, the President said. "And responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self-defense, it is suicide. The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now."
We believe, the President concluded, that "the Iraqi people are deserving and capable of human liberty. And when the dictator has departed, they can set an example to all the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing nation....Free nations have a duty to defend our people by uniting against the violent. And tonight, as we have done before, America and our allies accept that responsibility."
Speech by Senator Robert Byrd
Below are excerpts of a speech the West Virginia senator made on March 19, 2003.
I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.
Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves.Ö We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism. We assert that right without the sanction of any international body. As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.
We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. We treat UN Security Council members like ingrates who offend our princely dignity by lifting their heads from the carpet. Valuable alliances are splitÖ
There is no credible information to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11. The twin towers fell because a world-wide terrorist group, Al Qaeda, with cells in over 60 nations, struck at our wealth and our influence by turning our own planes into missiles, one of which would likely have slammed into the dome of this beautiful Capitol except for the brave sacrifice of the passengers on boardÖ
But, this Administration has directed all of the anger, fear, and grief which emerged from the ashes of the twin towers and the twisted metal of the Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But, he is the wrong villain. And this is the wrong war.Ö
The general unease surrounding this war is not just due to "orange alert." There is a pervasive sense of rush and risk and too many questions unanswered. How long will we be in Iraq? What will be the cost? What is the ultimate mission? How great is the danger at home? Ö.
What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?
Why can this President not seem to see that America's true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?
Excerpts from a joint statement by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Russia on March 5
Our common objective remains the full and effective disarmament of Iraq....We consider that this objective can be achieved by the peaceful means of inspections. We moreover observe that these inspections are producing increasingly encouraging results: The destruction of the Al Samoud missiles has started and is making progress. Iraqis are providing biological and chemical information. The interviews with Iraqi scientists are continuing....
We firmly call for the Iraqi authorities to cooperate more actively with the inspectors to fully disarm their country. These inspections cannot continue indefinitely. We consequently ask that the inspections now be speeded up....the inspectors have to present without any delay their work program accompanied by regular progress reports to the Security Council. This program could provide for a meeting clause to enable the Council to evaluate the overall results of this process. In these circumstances we will not let a proposed resolution pass that would authorize the use of force.
Excerpt from a statement by French President Jacques Chirac on March 18
The United States has just issued an ultimatum to Iraq. Whether...it's a matter of necessary disarmament of Iraq or of the desirable change of regime in that country , there is no justification for a unilateral decision to resort to war....It is a grave decision, at a time when Iraq's disarmament is under way and the inspections have proved to be a credible alternative method of disarming that country. It is also a decision that jeopardizes future use of methods to resolve peacefully crises linked to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Iraq does not today present an immediate threat warranting an immediate war.
Student Reading 2:
A Short History of Iraq
Turkey controlled the area now known as Iraq for centuries. It consisted of three provinces. Most of the people were Muslims but of different backgrounds. Kurds were the majority group in the north, Sunni Muslims dominated in the central section, and Shiite Muslims in the south. After Turkey was defeated in World War I (1914-1918), Britain and France took over and created the present day state of Iraq and other Middle East countries. Iraq is about the size of California. It has a population of 23 million, a majority of them Arabs. The country is second in the world only to Saudi Arabia in its known deposits of oil.
In 1968 the Baath Party seized control of Iraq and in 1979 Saddam Hussein became its dictator. He soon showed his aim to make Iraq a more powerful country. From 1980-1988 Iraq and its neighbor fought a war that was partly over control over the Shatt al-Arab River, which provides Iraq with its only access to the Persian Gulf.
The U.S. said it was neutral during this war. But President Reagan supported sales of hundreds of millions of dollars of military equipment to Iraq even though American officials knew that Iraq was using chemical weapons (which violates international law). At the time, Iran was under the control of the fiercely anti-American Ayatollah Khomeini. The U.S. government feared that if Iran won the war, it would gain control of the Persian Gulf area and its oil. The U.S. saw Iraq as a more moderate country and more friendly to the United States. The war ended with neither Iraq nor Iran as the victor, but hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians on both sides were killed or wounded. Thousands of Kurds in Iraq were killed or horribly wounded by chemical attacks ordered by Saddam Hussein. Kurds opposed Hussein's rule and wanted some independence for their people.
Saddam Hussein continued to be a dictator who controlled Iraq completely. He once said to Western reporters: "I am in every glass of milk an Iraqi child drinks."
In 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait. Kuwait is another oil-rich country that neighbors Iraq. Saddam Hussein argued that when Turkey controlled the region, Kuwait and Iraq were part of one province. Britain and France had separated them artificially. That meant Iraq did not have an adequate outlet to the Persian Gulf.
The first President Bush strongly condemned the Iraqi invasion. He demanded that the Iraqis withdraw. The United Nations took up the issue and passed resolutions opposing Iraq's actions. These resolutions were approved by most nations, including other Arab and Muslim countries. The official reason was that Iraq had violated "international peace and security." But the countries were also very worried about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons and its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. They wanted to stop Iraq's warlike behavior, which threatened peace in the Persian Gulf region. The region supplies much of the oil used by Europe and the U.S. If Iraq took over Kuwait, it would control 20 percent of the world's oil reserves.
The U.S. was also worried that after Kuwait, Iraq might attack Saudi Arabia. For many years the U.S. and Saudi Arabia had had a deal: the U.S. would protect the Saudis from attack in exchange for being a favored oil customer that could buy oil at reasonable prices.
The U.S. led a coalition force in January 1991 that attacked Iraqi troops in Kuwait and bombed Iraq itself. (This is referred to as the Gulf War.) By February, Iraq had retreated from Kuwait. President Bush decided not to invade Iraq itself and remove the Saddam Hussein government. The UN had declared its aim had been to force Iraq to leave Kuwait. That had been successful.
However, President Bush hoped that revolts by Shiite Muslims in the south of Iraq and Kurds in the north would lead to the end of Hussein's rule. He encouraged these revolts but did not support them. The result was that Hussein put them down harshly. Many Shiites and Kurds died.
After the war the UN required Iraq to permit inspectors into the country to search for and destroy any chemical and biological weapons and stop any Iraqi program to develop nuclear weapons. The UN also began economic sanctions on Iraq--a ban on all trade except for humanitarian reasons. The purpose was to put pressure on Iraq to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.
The UN inspectors found and destroyed collections of Iraq's biological and chemical weapons. The UN inspection team, called UNSCOM, also destroyed ballistic missiles and stopped Iraq's nuclear weapons program. But they knew they had not found everything. Iraq is known to have produced nerve gas and anthrax even though it officially supported an international treaty banning these deadly weapons.
During seven years of inspections there were many disputes between the UN team and Iraqi officials. Late in 1998 the chief inspector said that Iraq was interfering with the team's work. The U.S. then threatened Iraq with force. The inspectors left the country. U.S. planes bombed Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. After this attack, Iraq refused to let the inspectors back in. It had claimed for some time that the UN team included American spies. U.S. officials admitted in January 1999 that American spies had worked within the UN team. They gave the inspectors information and technology to help them. They got from them intelligence about Iraqi weapons programs and their locations.
Millions of people in Iraq suffered from the sanctions. They led to severe shortages in food, medicines, and medical supplies. They prevented the rebuilding of water systems bombed during the war. Even seven years after the war, over 5,000 children were dying each month because of the sanctions, according to the World Health Organization. Saddam Hussein blamed the U.S. and its allies for the Iraqi people's misery.
The UN set up a program that lets Iraq sell oil. The profits go into a UN fund to buy food and other supplies for ordinary Iraqis. The UN says this "oil-for-food" plan has had "considerable achievements." But a number of organizations such as the American Friends Service Committee continue to report Iraqi suffering. So they opposed the sanctions.
Another outcome of the Gulf War was that U.S. and British planes enforced "no-fly" zones to keep Iraqi aircraft from flying over the north and the south of the country. Its official purpose in the north was to keep Saddam Hussein from attacking the Kurds. Its official purpose in the south was to prevent Iraqi troops from attacking either the Shiite Muslims there or Kuwait. The unofficial purpose of the no-fly zones seemed to be the opportunity to gather a great deal of information about Iraqi air defenses and to impress the Iraqis with the determination of the U.S. The Iraqis frequently fired on the planes. American and British pilots then bombed anti-aircraft and radar sites and killed civilians as well as soldiers.
Iraq continued to refuse to allow any more inspections. It insisted it had no more weapons of mass destruction. But the inspectors had not finished their work, so the economic sanctions continued.
Student Reading 3:
Iraq , Weapons of Mass Destruction, the U.S. and the UN
It is a fact that Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran in their war from 1980-1988 and against their own rebellious Kurdish citizens. It is a fact that in the 1990s UNSCOM found and destroyed Iraqi stocks of poison gases and biological agents like anthrax that can be used as weapons. It is a fact that they destroyed Iraqi ballistic missiles and took apart its nuclear facilities.
Iraq insisted that it had no weapons of mass destruction remaining. But during the 1990s Saddam Hussein lied about what Iraq had. President Bush believed he continued to lie.
Last June the President released an important document, the National Security Strategy of the United States. It says that U.S. defense strategies of past years are not of much use any more. They were mostly aimed at the ex-Soviet Union. One goal of this past U.S. strategy was to contain the Soviet Union within its boundaries. Another goal was to prevent the Soviet Union from invading another country by threatening it with an overwhelming nuclear attack. The Soviet Union no longer exists. Russia, its main successor, is now considered a friendly nation.
President Bush and his advisors see different kinds of threats today: They fear terrorist groups like Al Qaeda that have cells in many countries. They are concerned about aggressive countries that may have weapons of mass destruction, like Iraq. Such groups and countries, they believe, may commit acts of terrorism and attack with no warning. So the new strategy states, "we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively." This means that the U.S. will not wait if its leaders think an attack is coming but will attack first. This is a strategy the U.S. has never had before.
The Bush administration argued that the U.S. and other countries should act preemptively to prevent a terrorist attack by Saddam Hussein and his allies. The President called over and over again for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, which he called "regime change."
The Bush administration decided to bring the Iraq issue before Congress and the Security Council of the UN. In October the House of Representatives (by a vote of 296-133) and the Senate (by a vote of 77-23) authorized the President to use U.S. armed forces to (1) "defend the national security interests of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq" and (2) to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions aimed at disarming Iraq.
The UN Security Council debated the Iraq issue for two months. It had serious discussions about the exact wording of a resolution on Iraq. Finally, they passed Resolution 1441 by a vote of 15-0. It required Iraq to produce by December 8 an accurate and complete list of its weapons of mass destruction. And it required Iraq to readmit UN inspectors to check that its reports were truthful.
One important disagreement continued among Security Council members. U.S. officials said the resolution gave America the legal support it needed to go to war against Iraq if the Security Council did not agree about how to respond to any new Iraqi violations. But three of the five permanent members--France, China and Russia--disagreed. They said it was up to the inspectors to report violations. Then it would be up to the Security Council to decide what, if anything, to do about them.
Another disagreement was over exactly what the UN was demanding of Iraq. President Bush demanded the elimination of all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, as the UN resolution required. But he also raised other issues in his public remarks, including "regime change," the creation of a new and democratic government for Iraq, and the spread of democracy to other Middle East nations. France, Russia, and China agreed about the elimination of weapons of mass destruction but nothing else.
In the second half of March 2003 the Iraq crisis came to a head. American and British leaders charged that Iraq, as in the past, was not honestly meeting the Security Council's demands. Iraq had turned over some 100 missiles for destruction. But it insisted it had no weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. and Britain said the Iraqis were lying. But French, Russian, and Chinese leaders believed that the inspectors were making progress and that there was no reason to approve a second resolution authorizing force against Iraq. The U.S. and Britain did not have the votes for this resolution. They decided to go to war on Iraq without it.
The leaders and citizens of most nations of the world opposed this decision. There were huge demonstrations in many cities around the world. Before the war began polls showed that most Americans opposed the U.S. going to war without the support of the UN. Once war began, a majority of Americans said they supported the Bush administration. However, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against the war in cities and towns across the U.S., both before and after the war began. These protests were among the largest this nation has seen.
Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia said in a February speech on the Senate floor: "The idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self-defense." He said it appeared to be against international law and the UN Charter*. "And it is being tested at a time of worldwide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our--or some other nation's--hit list." He warned that the U.S. was opening "huge cracks" with our allies and that "Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders" is breaking the solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11...."Frankly, many of the pronouncements made by this administration are outrageous. There is no other word."
*Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter: "All members shall refrain in their interrelations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations."
On March 19 the attack on Iraq began.
SUGGESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND STUDY
What are students' questions about the events leading up to the war with Iraq? Write them on the chalkboard. Then have the class examine them closely for clarity, assumptions, and words and phrases needing definition. Have students reword the questions, as necessary. Which questions call for a factual answer? an opinion? a prediction? Where will the facts come from? Whose opinion or prediction? Why? See "Teaching Critical Thinking" on this website for detailed suggestions. The student readings can provide some of the background students may need for their inquiries.
Student Reading 1
1. What reasons does President Bush give for his decision to use military force against Iraq?
2. In what ways does the President believe "the United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities....?
3. What does the President promise the Iraqi people?
4. What reasons does Senator Byrd give for opposing the use of military force in Iraq?
5. What does Senator Byrd say about the link between terrorism and Saddam Hussein?
6. What is your opinion of the President's and Byrd's opposing views? Why?
7. Why did some Security Council members declare they would not "let a proposed resolution pass that would authorize the use of force"?
8. What is your opinion of the President's and some Security Council members' opposing views? Why?
9. What do you think President Chirac means by saying the U.S. decision to go to war "jeopardizes future use of methods to resolve peacefully crises linked to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction"? How do you think President Bush would answer him? What do you think and why?
Student Reading 2
1. How did Iraq come into being as a state?
2. What was U.S. policy during the Iraq-Iran war and why?
3. What reasons did Iraq give for invading Kuwait?
4. What were U.S. reasons for opposing the invasion?
5. What are economic sanctions? their impact on the Iraqi people? the oil-for-food program? the no-fly zones? the results of inspections of Iraq up to 1998 for weapons of mass destruction?
6. Why do you suppose that the U.S. did not support the Kurds' and Shiites' revolts against Saddam Hussein?
7. How do you understand Saddam Hussein's "glass of milk" remark?
Student Reading 3
1. What are weapons of mass destruction? (Teachers might be interested in reviewing "Weapons of Mass Destruction" on this website.)
2. How successful was UNSCOM in eliminating Iraq's stock of such weapons?
3. How do you understand "The National Security Strategy of the United States"?
4. What differences of opinion have there been over UN Resolution 1441? Why?
5. Does Article 2(4) of the UN Charter apply to the U.S. and Britain in their war on Iraq? Why or why not?
6. How do you explain the demonstrations in the U.S. and around the world opposing war on Iraq?
7. Explain why the U.S. and Britain decided to invade Iraq while many other countries opposed this action.
ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS FOR INQUIRY AND DISCUSSION
1. Is it appropriate, is it patriotic to discuss the pros and cons of the U.S. decision to war on Iraq when that war is taking place? Why or why not? Were there widespread pro and con discussions during the first Gulf War? the Vietnam War?
2. What does it mean to "support the troops"? If someone opposes the war, does that mean he or she does not "support the troops"?
3. What evidence was there before the war began that Iraq was a serious and imminent danger to the U.S. or other countries?
4. What does the U.S. strategy of preemptive military action mean? Should the U.S. act preemptively when the President sees fit? Why or why not?
5. If preemption is a reasonable policy to follow, what effects might it have on the India-Pakistan conflict? the China-Taiwan conflict? How is this U.S. policy affecting North Korea? Iran?
6. What possible alternatives are there to a policy of preemption?
7. What impact will the serious disagreements in the Security Council have on the future of the United Nations? What makes you think so? Will the UN participate in the rebuilding and governance of Iraq even though no specific Security Council resolution authorized military force in that country? What makes you think so?
8. Among the many other consequences of the war, consider its impact on:
a. the future of Iraq. What are President Bush's intentions? How does he propose to carry them out? How realizable are they? There are a number of issues here. If the President intends, as he has said, to develop Iraq into a democracy, how will he do it? What difficulties might there be? Why? Who will pay for the reconstruction of Iraq and who will do it? (The current indications are that all contracts are going to American companies.) Who will supply and pay for the enormous amount of humanitarian aid--the basics of medical supplies, food, water, and shelter? How long will it be necessary to keep U.S. soldiers in Iraq and how much will that cost?
b. U.S. relations with such NATO allies as France, Germany and Turkey.
c. "the war on terrorism." Will the removal of Saddam Hussein decrease the amount of worldwide terrorism? Why or why not? Will Al Qaeda get additional recruits because of the war? Why or why not?
d. the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What likelihood is there that a U.S. success in Iraq would lead to a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
e. the Arab public, almost all of whom are strongly opposed to the war on Iraq.
f. U.S. relations with the other countries Bush named as part of his "axis of evil" --North Korea and Iran.
g. the U.S. budget. President Bush has requested $75 billion for the first six months of U.S. war on Iraq and its aftermath. What effects is the war having on American social programs--education and health care, for example?
A Constructive Controversy
1. Divide students into groups of four, forming two pairs within each group. Ask each pair to take opposite positions on one of the following questions:
a. Is the U.S. policy of preemption a wise policy? Why or why not?
b. Are demonstrations against the war on Iraq appropriate and patriotic? Why or why not?
2. Give students an appropriate amount of time in which to prepare and to consult with their partner. They should also feel free to consult with pairs from other teams.
3. Review or teach active listening skills, particularly paraphrasing and summarizing another's position; open-mindedness; being able to disagree respectfully; consensus-building skills; working together.
4. After students have prepared themselves, the pairs in each group should present their case to the other pair in a clearly stated amount of time and without interruption.
5. Each side should be provided time to challenge the other side's arguments without interruption.
6. The four students should decide which arguments are most valid on both sides and prepare a concise presentation to the class that incorporates the best thinking of the group.
7. After all presentations have been made, have the class work toward a statement on U.S. policy or on the demonstrations issue that embodies the best thinking of the class as a whole. A consensus is desirable but not essential.
(This activity is based on "Constructive Controversy" developed by David and Roger Johnson.)
1. Write a letter to President Bush expressing your views on his reasons for war with Iraq.
2. Write a letter to Senator Byrd expressing your views on his position about the war on Iraq.
3. Write a letter to your representative or senator expressing your views on President Bush's policy of preemption
Organize a learn-in for students in your high school about the war on Iraq. One or more of the questions above might serve to focus the learn-in. Speakers might include students, parents, and officials. Discussions and workshops following a session with speakers might be useful.
Books and Other Publications
Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Gulf War Reader
Scott Ritter, Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem Once and For All
The New York Times (various issues)
Washington Post, "U.S. had key role in Iraq buildup" by Michael Dobbs, 12/20/02
The New Yorker, 3/11/02, 3/25/02, 4/1/02
The Nation, 7/15/02
American Friends Service Committee (afsc.org)
Campaign Against Sanctions in Iraq (cam.ac.uk/societies/casi/index/html)
Center for Defense Information (cdi.org)
Institute for Policy Studies (foreignpolicy-infocus.org)
Monterey Institute of International Studies
U.S. Department of State
Websites providing ongoing news and perspectives on the war:
cnn.com (CNN network)
doctorswithoutborders.org (for news on conditions in Iraq)
electroniciraq.net/news/ (website of Voices in the Wilderness)
independent.co.uk/ (U.K. Independent newspaper)
npr.org (National Public Radio)
news.bbc.co.uk (BBC News)
essay was written for TeachableMoment.Org, a project of Morningside
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