I was just a kid when the United States invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. While I have vivid memories of several moments before and during the war (such as President George W. Bush labeling Iraq as part of the Axis of Evil during his 2002 State of the Union & when American troops helped crowds topple a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad following the invasion), I couldn’t fully grasp the political ramifications of what was happening at the time, or how it would help define America’s foreign policy in the early days of the 21st century.
During a recent road trip home to visit my folks before the next wave of the coronavirus pandemic swamps over us this fall/winter, my main source of entertainment while I was driving was a podcast called Blowback. This 10-episode series is one of the most comprehensive sources on how the U.S. originally became entangled with a country smaller than Texas, beginning with our sending weapons and aid to Hussein in his war against Iran in 1980, & then dovetailing into our very flawed rationale (non-existent weapons of mass destruction, post 9/11 clamoring for military action, etc.) for invading & occupying our former ally 23 years later.
Since the invasion, America has never fully left Iraq (even after the presumed end of the war in 2011, some 4,000 to 5,000 U.S. defense contractors stayed behind). And, in 2014, ground troops returned to fight against ISIS, where some remain to this day.
I think part of the reason Donald Trump was able to win the Republican nomination, and the general election, in 2016 was because of his perceived opposition to the war in Iraq. (I say perceived because Howard Stern asked Trump in an interview on September 11, 2002 whether we should go to war in Iraq, and he said, “Yeah, I guess so,” before Trump would go on to criticize it when the war actually began.)
During the 2016 Republican primary, Trump frequently attacked Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, at one point saying it “may have been the worst decision” in our history (a claim he would repeat in office two years later).
After winning the party’s nomination, Trump whacked Hillary Clinton repeatedly for her vote in favor of the war when she was in the Senate, saying it was evident of her “bad judgment.” These attacks could’ve played a key role in Trump’s victory: one study after the election found that there was a direct correlation between Trump support and communities where there are higher rates of military sacrifices.
For all of Trump’s bluster about ending America’s “endless wars,” however, he has largely continued both Bush & President Barack Obama’s involvement in Iraq (see the aforementioned link about American troops remaining in Iraq to this day). His administration’s killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in January of this year (which was a bit ironic for Soleimani, since he helped the U.S. fight the Taliban after 9/11) certainly escalated tensions in the Middle East more broadly, but didn’t fundamentally alter Iran’s influence on both Iraq and the region.
It appears that, if Joe Biden is elected, he would continue America’s bipartisan tradition of being involved in Iraq:
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he supports drawing down troops in the Middle East but if elected president would keep a small force there to prevent extremists from posing a threat to the United States and its allies.
–Stars and Stripes, September 10, 2020
Biden would have authority to do this under the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force that Congress passed for Bush to invade Iraq, & was subsequently used by both Obama and Trump to engage in military activity there. Since this authorization was never repealed by Congress, a president of either party can use it as justification to send troops to the Middle East. I believe that no president should be given carte blanche to wage unlimited war, regardless of political affiliation. In Iraq, we can see the disastrous consequences.
Countdown to Election Day: 52
This Week’s WTF Moment in Congress
This is a great bit of projection from Senator Cruz, considering the president four years ago implicated that Cruz’s father was involved in JFK’s assassination & disparaged his wife. Cruz’s reaction when Trump became president was to become a total lackey, of course. Great way to prove your manhood, Senator.
What Ails America (The New York Review of Books)