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Removing the Blinders on Iraq

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What a great thing for Jeb Bush to bring his brother George W. into his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. That’s because the former president’s participation in the race has brought his war on Iraq back into public discussion. The controversy enables Americans who have chosen to live lives of self-deception on Bush’s Iraq War to confront truth and reality about the war.

After all, let’s not forget that the Pentagon called its invasion Operation Iraqi Freedom and that many Americans spent 11 years thanking and glorifying the troops for defending our rights and freedoms by killing, injuring, maiming, jailing, and torturing untold numbers of Iraqi people. In the process, they failed to recognize that it was the U.S. government that was the aggressor in the war and that neither the Iraqi government nor the Iraqi people ever attacked or threatened the rights or freedoms of the American people.

A classic case of self-deception on the Iraq War was reported yesterday in an article in the New York Times entitled, “How the War in Iraq is Haunting the 2016 Presidential Contest.” The article stated:

Frederick R. Welch, 69, a retired Air Force officer from Myrtle Beach, came to hear both Bushes speak Monday. Trump’s broadside against the Iraq war rankled him. “It’s very easy once the war has begun to sit back and Monday-morning quarterback,” he said. “We had bad intelligence, but we didn’t know we had bad intelligence. In retrospect we can say it was a bad decision, but that’s not fair.”

Welch is your classic case of self-deception. It amazes me that he still doesn’t get it. He has convinced himself that President Bush and his national-security state cohorts were just a group of innocent babes in the woods who received bad information and, therefore, made an honest mistake in invading Iraq. Really? Then why didn’t Bush, the Pentagon, and the CIA apologize when their “mistake” was discovered and immediately order all their troops home? Isn’t that what someone should do when he has committed a mistake, especially when the mistake has caused the needless deaths, maiming, torture, and injury to thousands of people? Instead, Bush and his army continued killing, maiming, torturing, incarcerating, and injuring people in Iraq and destroying homes, businesses and infrastructure for 11 long years after they realized their “mistake.” And during those 11 years, many Americans continued saying to U.S. soldiers, “Thank you for your service in Iraq,” notwithstanding the fact that they were still killing Iraqis long after Bush’s WMD “mistake” had been realized.

But there are two other critically important factors that belie Air Force veteran Welch’s reasoning.

First, the U.S. government had no legal authority to enforce UN resolutions with an invasion of Iraq. Don’t forget: That was Bush’s principal justification for the invasion — that Saddam Hussein had refused to disarm his weapons of mass destruction pursuant to resolutions requiring him to do so that had been passed by the United Nations.

But here’s the law: Only the United Nations has the legal authority to enforce its own resolutions. The individual members of the UN do not have the authority to enforce resolutions of the United Nations.

Yet, that is precisely what George W. Bush and his national-security team did. They first went to the United Nations and tried to convince UN officials to approve a UN invasion, one that Bush was ready to commit his army to.

But UN officials said no. They told Bush that their official inspectors in Iraq had determined that Saddam had already disarmed — that he didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. We shouldn’t forget that during the run-up to Bush’s invasion, Saddam was willing to let UN inspectors, as well as CIA agents, have free rein in Iraq to verify the absence of WMDs.

But Bush would have nothing of that. His position was that Saddam Hussein was lying and that the UN inspectors were nothing more than a bunch of incompetent, hapless Inspector Clouseaus. The U.S. military, he said, would show those inspectors how to conduct a real search. They would find those WMDs.

Thus, after the UN turned down Bush’s request for an invasion, he decided that he would order a U.S. invasion of the country to enforce the UN resolutions that the UN itself was refusing to enforce. Of course, he and his team also began using innuendo to imply that the American people were in grave danger of an imminent WMD attack by Saddam Hussein. That’s what those references to “mushroom clouds” were all about. Bush obviously figured that he could confuse people with a war that was intended to enforce UN resolutions while, at the same time,a war of self-defense rather than a war of aggression, which was a type of war condemned at the Nuremberg Tribunal.

Second, Bush’s invasion of Iraq was illegal under our form of government. That’ because the law of the United States required Bush to secure a declaration of war from Congress. That’s what the Constitution is all about. That’s the law that we the people have imposed on government officials. They’re supposed to follow our law just as we are expected to follow their laws. The Constitution prohibited the president from invading Iraq without a congressional declaration of war.

From a legal standpoint, it doesn’t make any difference that presidents and their troops have waged wars in the past without a congressional declaration of war, such as with the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Just because presidents in the past have ignored the Constitution doesn’t mean the Constitution has been amended to obviate the necessity of securing a declaration of war. Under the highest law of the land, Bush was required to secure a congressional declaration of war before invading Iraq.

That means that his failure to do so made his war — and the subsequent 11 years of brutal military occupation — were illegal under our form of government.

Bush’s breaking of the law was especially damaging to the people of Iraq, who had their country totally destroyed and who had hundreds of thousands of people killed, maimed, injured, tortured, or jailed on what was supposedly “bad intelligence.” If Bush had gone to Congress and asked for a declaration of war, as the law required him to to, there is a good possibility that at least some members of Congress would have proven that Bush’s WMD information was bogus and then rejected his plea for a declaration of war, which thereby would have spared the lives of untold numbers of people and avoided the total military destruction of Iraq.

The worst part about all this is not only the fact that U.S. soldiers died for nothing in Iraq but also that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed, tortured, injured, maimed, or jailed wrongfully and had their homes, businesses, and infrastructure illegally destroyed by Bush’s war, not to mention the rise of ISIS and the ongoing civil war that Bush’s regime-change operation brought to Iraq.

The second-worst thing about all this is the massive “emergency” infringements on the rights and freedoms of the American people at the hands of their own government, justified as necessary to protect us from so many angry people in the Middle East who wish to retaliate for what Bush and his army did to the people of Iraq.

The third-worst thing about all this is how Bush’s war accelerated the drive toward financial and economic bankruptcy on the part of the U.S. government.

Bush’s entry into the campaign enables Americans to confront these discomforting truths rather than just mouth empty, false bromides about how the troops were protecting our rights and freedoms with the death and destruction they and George W. Bush brought to Iraq.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.