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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Augmenting William Inboden's critique of J.E. Smith's Bush biography regarding Iraq

PREFACE: William Inboden is the Executive Director and William Powers, Jr. Chair, Clements Center for National Security, and Associate Professor of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. I responded to his 15AUG16 Foreign Policy article, It’s Impossible to Count the Things Wrong With the Negligent, Spurious, Distorted New Biography of George W. Bush. Professor Inboden didn't respond to my e-mail, so I don't know whether he's read it.

from: [me]
to: [William Inboden]
date: Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 8:21 AM
subject: Augmenting your Foreign Policy critique of J.E. Smith's Bush biography re Iraq

Professor Inboden,

I appreciate your article, "It’s Impossible to Count the Things Wrong With the Negligent, Spurious, Distorted New Biography of George W. Bush", at President Bush is a decent man and, at an inflection point in American history, he was a dutiful President.

Your notice, "Smith devotes more attention to this [Iraq War] than any other topic in the book", prompted this e-mail. I can augment your defense of President Bush in relation to the Iraq War from my study of the law, policy, precedent, and facts of President Bush's decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

I recommend my explanation of OIF's legal-factual basis at It synthesizes the situation, controlling law, policy, and precedent that defined the operative enforcement procedure for the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) and, in the operative context, the determinative fact findings of the Saddam regime's breach of the Gulf War ceasefire that triggered enforcement with OIF.

I excerpted Iraq-related passages from your article and interjected comments and references.

[Note: Quotes from the article were italicized in the e-mail and block-quoted here, and quotes from cited sources are plain text in the e-mail and italicized here.]

Moreover, in Smith’s account, this alleged presidential application of biblical prophecies to Iraq had a tremendous consequence in that it caused Chirac to decide to oppose the war: “Bush’s religious certitude and his invocation of Gog and Magog scuttled the possibility of French support for military action” (339)
_French opposition to the US-led military enforcement of the Gulf War ceasefire started, at the latest, in August 1996 with Operation Desert Strike. The French (and other nation[s']al) opposition that President Bush faced over Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002-2003 was carried forward from the same French (and other nation[s']al) opposition that President Clinton faced over Operation Desert Fox in 1998.

Excerpt from Iraq Survey Group report:
"Iraq pursued its related goals of ending UN sanctions and the UN OFF program by enlisting the help of three permanent UNSC members: Russia, France and China. ... Saddam expressed confidence that France and Russia would support Iraq’s efforts to further erode the UN sanctions Regime.
... In May 2002, IIS correspondence addressed to Saddam stated that a MFA (quite possibly an IIS officer under diplomatic cover) met with French parliamentarian to discuss Iraq-Franco relations. The French politician assured the Iraqi that France would use its veto in the UNSC against any American decision to attack Iraq, according to the IIS memo."

New York Times: U.N. Rebuffs U.S. on Threat to Iraq if It Breaks Pact, 03MAR98:
Los Angeles Times: Allies Sit on Sidelines for Desert Fox, 18DEC98:
New York Times: To Paris, U.S. Looks Like a 'Hyperpower', 05FEB99:

After denying Bush any credit for protecting the nation against further attacks, Smith goes further and blames Bush for any terrorist threats that the nation does face. As he puts it, “the threat of terrorism that confronts the United States is in many respects a direct result of Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003.” But Smith just states this as an article of faith, and offers no evidence for such an overwrought assertion. In fact, as every serious counterterrorism expert knows, the jihadist threat existed well before the Iraq invasion, and has continued and metastasized through to today in many ways that have nothing to do with the Iraq war. Instead of Smith’s reckless calumny, a more scrupulous and nuanced assessment of the Iraq War’s effect on jihadism would find a complex relationship wherein the American troop presence and chaos in Iraq certainly inspired and attracted a large number of new jihadists, but also had a “flypaper” effect, which, when combined with lethal advances in American intelligence and counterterrorism operations, led to the near decimation of al Qaeda in Iraq by 2009. Meanwhile, other al Qaeda franchises and other jihadist groups have proliferated over the last 15 years in places like Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Algeria, and Nigeria, and their growth in numbers and in hostility to the United States has had almost nothing to do with the Iraq War.
_Knowing what we know now about Saddam's terrorism, it seems less the case that OIF "inspired and attracted a large number of new jihadists" than Saddam's terrorism and its network of "regional and global terrorism" (IPP) were converted to the insurgency. Saddam was a world-leading vector of terrorism: "Saddam’s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime" (IPP). Saddam also ruled Iraq with "widespread terror" (UNCHR). A chief reason the US was caught off guard by the insurgency appears to be that Saddam's terrorism was significantly underestimated by US analysts before OIF, although it was recognized enough to constitute a lead element of the OIF casus belli[.],

US Joint Forces Command Iraqi Perspectives Project: Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents, November 2007:
Kyle Orton: The Islamic State Was Coming Without the Invasion of Iraq, 12DEC15:

The Patriot Act sends Smith into a frenzy of righteous indignation. Yet once again, his treatment of it demonstrates his familiar problems with facts and historical perspective. He denounces the act as “a direct assault on the civil liberties Americans enjoy” and calls it potentially “the most ill-conceived piece of domestic legislation since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.”
_It's not directly Iraq-related, but I'll point out that the Patriot Act's content was recycled from the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995 and Antiterrorism Amendments Act of 1995 requested by President Clinton. P.L. 104-132, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, contained a watered-down version of the 1995 acts.

Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995, 10FEB95:
Antiterrorism Amendments Act of 1995, 15MAY95:
Public Law 104-132, Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 24APR96 (see sections 301 and 324):

Then there is the Iraq War. Smith devotes more attention to this than any other topic in the book. And yet, because he relies almost exclusively on secondary sources and has failed to do any meaningful original research, his account sheds virtually no new insight on any aspect of the war — such as the Bush administration’s changed risk calculus in the post-September 11 environment, Bush’s own deliberations and decision-making, the inter-agency divisions and disputes that hindered post-war planning, the intelligence challenge posed by a dictator who wanted the world to believe that he possessed weapons of mass destruction when in fact he did not ...
_President Clinton marked Saddam's distinctive combined WMD-and-terrorism threat. Prevention of terrorist acquisition of WMD from rogue state actors, especially Saddam, was Clinton policy; President Bush carried forward the standing policy, heightened by the 9/11 attacks. Iraq's proscribed armament was more than a belief; it was established fact in the UNSCR 687 disarmament process. There was no "intelligence challenge" in terms of the operative enforcement procedure because enforcement of UNSCR 687 et al was compliance based. The burden of proof was on Iraq to cure its established and presumed guilt of UNSCR 687-proscribed armament by proving the mandated disarmament. Iraq's threat was gauged by Saddam's compliance and disarmament. If Saddam was noncompliant and not disarmed according to UNSCR 687, then Saddam continued to be an armed threat. Saddam's breach of UNSCR 687 regarding WMD was [established by UNSCOM, ]decided by UNSC, confirmed by UNMOVIC, and corroborated by ISG. The UNMOVIC and ISG findings are rife with disarmament violations. Saddam did not disarm as mandated and was rearming in breach of UNSCR 687. Saddam's WMD program, as proscribed by UNSCR 687, was active.

President Clinton address to Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon staff, 17FEB98:
Presidential Decision Directive/NSC-39, 21JUN95:
UNMOVIC Clusters document: Unresolved Disarmament Issues Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes 6 March 2003:
Iraq Survey Group: DCI Special Advisor Report on Iraq's WMD (Duelfer report), 30SEP04:

For example, he returns again and again to the assertion that it was not until over a month after the original Iraq invasion that Bush summarily invented the goal of establishing a democracy in Iraq, in his “Mission Accomplished” remarks aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003. Smith accuses Bush of using the speech to “unilaterally changing the plan” to replace the Saddam Hussein dictatorship with a democracy, and claims this is the first time that Bush ever announced the strategic objective of a democratic Iraq. Which would be a significant violation of the commander-in-chief’s responsibility — if it were true. But what Smith fails to mention is that Bush had declared the goal of leaving behind a democratic government in Iraq months earlier, before the invasion. For example, in his speech to the American Enterprise Institute in February 2003, Bush laid out an extensive case for why the removal of the Hussein regime would best be followed by a democratic government accountable to its people: “The nation of Iraq–with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people–is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.”
_The "democracy" goal of the Iraq intervention was rooted in UNSCR 688 (5 April 1991) and concurrently established as US policy under President HW Bush, carried forward without break, and progressed in law and policy under Presidents Clinton and Bush. Consistent with the standing law and policy of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement, the "democracy" goal was a constant element in Bush's major speeches on Iraq leading up to OIF and carried forward in the 2002 AUMF. The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 is cited and nation-building "efforts" are "expected" in section 4 of P.L. 107-243.

Excerpt from President Bush's remarks at the UN General Assembly, 12SEP02:
"If all these steps [to make Iraq compliant with UN mandates] are taken, it will signal a new openness and accountability in Iraq. And it could open the prospect of the United Nations helping to build a government that represents all Iraqis -- a government based on respect for human rights, economic liberty, and internationally supervised elections.
... The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq."

President HW Bush Letter to Congressional Leaders Reporting on Iraq's Compliance With United Nations Security Council Resolutions, 19JAN93:
[Secretary of State Albright speech on President Clinton’s 2nd term policy on Iraq, 26MAR97:]
Joint statement by VP Al Gore and leaders of the Iraqi National Congress, 26JUN00:
Bush White House: Statement of the Atlantic Summit: A Vision for Iraq and the Iraqi People, 16MAR03:

Smith’s lack of research and original insights into the war do not prevent him from making it the centerpiece of his evaluation of Bush, or from declaring in the final sentence of his book that Bush’s “decision to invade Iraq is easily the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.”
_Setting aside Professor Smith's subjective opinion of Bush's decision, the US case versus Saddam is substantiated. President Bush's decision for OIF objectively was correct on the law and facts.

In my [OIF FAQ] explanation, see the FAQ answers to "Why did Bush leave the ‘containment’ (status quo)?", "Did Iraq failing its compliance test justify the regime change?", and "Did Bush lie his way to war with Iraq?".

Nor does he even begin to offer a net assessment of the successes and failures, and benefits and costs, of the war. The costs and failures are well known and grim, including the over 4,000 American troops killed in action and thousands more physically maimed, the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths ... But the war’s successes and benefits need to be accounted for as well, including the removal from power of a genocidal dictator who had already destabilized the region for over two decades (having invaded two of his neighboring countries, threatened to invade a third, and attacked a fourth), Muammar al Qaddafi’s voluntary relinquishment of his weapons of mass destruction stockpile in Libya, and the fact that upon leaving office in January 2009, Bush left to his successor an Iraq that was relatively stable and peaceful, with a reasonably functioning elected government, and with al Qaeda in Iraq almost completely defeated.
_According to the UN Security Council official assessment of Iraq's progress in December 2010, the US peace operations with Iraq were succeeding before President Obama disengaged the OIF peace operations.

Security Council Takes Action to End Iraq Sanctions, Terminate Oil-For-Food Programme as Members Recognize ‘Major Changes’ Since 1990, 15DEC10:
In my [OIF FAQ] explanation, see the FAQ answer to "Was Operation Iraqi Freedom a strategic blunder or a strategic victory?".

... the damage to American credibility, the incitement of more terrorists, and the further destabilization of the region.
_The "damage to American credibility" is mainly a product of the disinformation promulgated by actors, including UNSC permanent members, who opposed American leadership and/or were complicit with Saddam's breach of the Gulf War ceasefire. The corrupted political state of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement was carried forward from Operation Desert Fox in 1998 to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002-2003. Fixing the "damage to American credibility" begins with clarifying that OIF's basis was humane, legal, and justified, and discrediting the prevailing yet false narrative of OIF. Again, it's not clear to what degree OIF "incite[d]...more terrorists" and to what degree the insurgency was converted product of Saddam's terrorism, if they can be distinguished (in other words, Saddam's terrorism was growth-oriented regardless of OIF). The notion that OIF "further destabiliz[ed]...the region" seems like a conflation of OIF and the subsequent [degeneration of the] Arab Spring. In fact, before President Obama disengaged the OIF peace operations and led from behind with the Arab Spring, he characterized post-Surge Iraq as a potential healing influence for the region: "Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress".

Politico: The Iran Deal’s Fatal Flaw by Charles Duelfer, 02APR15:
President Obama Remarks on the Middle East and North Africa, 19MAY11:

The references in this e-mail, except the [19MAY11] Obama speech, also can be found listed and linked at

Critical responses to pundits:
Explaining the grounds for Operation Iraqi Freedom to a law professor (Chibli Mallat);
Correcting Politifact's fundamental distortion of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement;
Comments on Stephen Knott's "When Everyone Agreed About Iraq";
Augmenting William Inboden's critique of J.E. Smith's Bush biography regarding Iraq;
Objection to Paul Miller's characterization of OIF as an "outlier" in American Power and Liberal Order;
Critique of the Iraq portion of chapter one of Anne Pierce's A Perilous Path;
Critical response to John Rentoul's "Chilcot Report: Politicians".

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