President Bush, The Iraq Invasion, and "Enhanced Interrogation"

By Chelsey E. Hay
2010, Vol. 2 No. 06 | pg. 1/1

Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote that “to ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.”1  Although this statement was meant towards the civil rights movement, the idea equally applies in other instances, especially in times of war.  In March of 2003, the United States invaded Iraq in a preemptive attack against the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein.  Despite the fact that President Bush and his administration had advertised the war as necessary in order to protect against the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that Hussein would use in the imminent future, it became obvious immediately after the invasion that Iraq did not have any chemical or biological weapons and had not committed any crimes that would warrant a preemptive strike from the United States.  This revelation brought to the surface many disputes as to whether the United States illegally invaded Iraq and therefore broke many standing laws of war both in the United States and internationally.  On top of the invasion, the United States has employed the use of “enhanced interrogation” of suspected terrorists, meaning that torture and indefinite detention has been practiced during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Is the United States responsible for international war crimes due to the use of “enhanced interrogation” and the invasion of Iraq?  And if so, are the American people equally responsible for the atrocities the United States has committed in their name?  In order to answer these questions, it is necessary to evaluate the Iraq war, “enhanced interrogation,” and possible remedies for the actions of President Bush and his administration.

Certain rules and guidelines exist that must first be followed before a legal invasion of a country can be carried out.  Before any hostilities were to commence in Iraq, the United States had to meet the bar for one of the following criteria: President Bush would need to get an approval from the United Nations Security Council to go to war; President Bush would have to prove that the strike against Iraq was out of self defense; or, President Bush would have to show that Iraq and/or Saddam Hussein had committed a humanitarian offence, such as genocide.2  President Bush and his administration tried to meet the guidelines, but were unable to create the case for any of the three options.  First, President Bush could not make the case for self defense since Hussein did not attack the United States or its army at any point in time: the United States did try to provoke an attack by strategically placing troops around Iraq before the invasion but Hussein did not fall into the trap.3  The humanitarian offence option had not been an issue since the first Gulf War and therefore was impossible to use as a reason to go to war.  Therefore, President Bush could only rely on the approval from the Security Council of the United Nations to legally invade Iraq.

In order to gain UN support, the United States had to present its case to the Council and ask for approval to declare war on Iraq.  The United States sent Colin Powel to the Security Council on February 5, 2003, a month before the invasion of Iraq, in order to present the case that chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction were either in the possession of Saddam Hussein or would be in his possession in the near future.4  In response to this claim, the United Nations sent inspectors into Iraq to search for any stock piles of weapons of mass destruction or any facilities that were capable of manufacturing those weapons.  During the investigation, the Iraqi government and Saddam Hussein allowed the inspectors into all facilities, but did not make the process an easy one; members of the government forced inspectors to wait for admittance into facilities, did not immediately allow them access to every room they demanded, and made sure to inconvenience the inspectors every chance that was possible.5  Although the UN inspectors did not find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Presidesnt Bush and his administration believed that since Hussein had made the inspection process very difficult he was probably still hiding these weapons somewhere within the country despite the fact that no weapons were actually found.6

Despite all of the legal issues with going to war with Iraq, the United States invaded Iraq in March of 2003 without any legal precedent.  Regardless of the fact that there was no real reason to invade Iraq, President Bush and his administration continued to convince the American public that Saddam Hussein must be removed from power.  In May of 2003, Paul Wolfowitz stated in an interview that “the truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason.”7  The Bush administration gave three additional reasons that war was imminent with Iraq: Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, the fact that he may give weapons of mass destruction to the terrorists he supports, and the brutality he had visited upon his own people.8  In addition to these four reasons, the Bush administration worked dubiously to feign a link between Iraq and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; in a poll taken on September 13, 2001, 78 percent of those polled said it was “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the terrorist attacks.9  In reality, these reasons were all fabricated in order to convince the American public and Congress that war with Iraq was necessary and imminent.  This propaganda paid off since a majority of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction and more than fifty  percent of Americans believed he was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in a poll taken immediately before the United States invaded Iraq.10

Proof has surfaced in the form of the Downing Street Memo, a communication that discusses the minutes of a top secret meeting within the English government, written on July 23, 2002, a full year before the Iraq incursion, that the United States was bent on invading Iraq before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.11  This memo shows that President Bush was eager to remove Saddam Hussein, based upon threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, but he was forcing the intelligence from governmental agencies to comply with his policy on Iraq.12  Despite the fact that intelligence existed to prove that terrorists and weapons of mass destruction were not a threat from Iraq, President Bush pushed ahead with his plan to remove Saddam Hussein purely because he wished to do so.  In reality, the current military engagement with Iraq was not legally justified, but was actually a policy that President Bush and his administration desperately wanted to enact.  Therefore, the United States is in the midst of an unjust war with Iraq and could be subject to prosecution in the International Criminal Court.  Also, the Bush administration did not adequately plan for the aftermath of the Iraq war; the Downing Street Memo explicitly mentions that despite the plan for invasion, the Bush administration gave little to no consideration towards a plan after military action was complete.13

Another controversial issue plaguing the United States is the “enhanced interrogation,” techniques which allows for the torture of prisoners through waterboarding, isolation for up to 30 days, hooded interrogation and transportation, forced nudity, stress positions, yelling and deceiving, 20-hour interrogations, scenarios that convince prisoners their death, or their family’s death, is imminent, and mild non-injurious physical contact, practices used on prisoners of war by the military.14  These practices were created by the Bush administration between 2001 and 2003 to handle suspected terrorists that were captured by the United States military.  In an effort to define the basic guidelines for interrogation and detention of individuals during wartime, the international laws of the Geneva Convention, which lay out the basic principles afforded to prisoners of war and other individuals captured during wartime, apply to all nations around the world and are upheld in the International Criminal Court.  The Geneva Convention states that torture is never an option on prisoners of war or civilians and that human beings must always be treated as humanely as possible.15  Also, the United States created a federal statute (18 U.S.C. § 2340A) that directly forbids torture during interrogation and allows for punishments ranging from a fine all the way to death if torture is indeed committed.16  Despite the Geneva Convention and the federal statute that strictly forbade torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners of war, the United States circumvented these laws in a series of internal memorandums within the White House to create the “enhanced interrogation” policy.

Up until December of 2001, the official policy of the United States strictly forbade torture against prisoners of war.  This policy drastically changed through a series of initiatives within the White House but never reached Congress for approval.  The methods mentioned in the previous chapter were approved by several members of the White House, including John Yoo, David Addington, Dick Cheney, and President Bush.17  In addition to the allowance of “enhanced interrogation,” the Bush administration altered the name of “prisoner of war” to “enemy combatant,” held detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and created military tribunals specifically to hear cases of suspected terrorists.  All of these steps were taken to ensure that the United States, especially the civilian courts and Congress, had no authority over suspected terrorists.18  A “working group” put together by Donald Rumsfeld to address the new interrogation policies stated that “Congress lacks authority under Article I to set the terms and conditions under which the President may exercise his authority as Commander-in-Chief to control the conduct of the operations during a war,” while in another memo John Yoo stated that, “…without a clear statement otherwise, we will not read a criminal statute as infringing on the President’s ultimate authority in these [torture] areas.”19  In short, the Bush administration had created a policy of “enhanced interrogation” and would not stop it due to the Geneva Convention or the United States federal statutes that already existed.

In reality, the invasion of Iraq and the “enhanced interrogation” policies of the Bush administration break American statutes, the Geneva Convention laws against torture, and the international guidelines to a legal and just war.  The American public and Congress did in fact support many of these policies; most of the support came from the high levels of propaganda that the Bush administration pushed into the media, such as Saddam Hussein’s connection with 9/11 and the necessity of “enhanced interrogation” to find out information that was pertinent to national security.20  Also, the United States is a representative democracy where the president and Congress make decisions on behalf of the citizens of the nation.  Due to these two realities, the American people are most definitely accomplices to the evil that the Bush administration committed behind closed doors, especially since no legal action has been taken against any person involved in these atrocities.  In order to combat our status as accomplices, the American people must investigate what happened and try to safeguard against its occurrence in the future.

In order to find out exactly what happened with regards to the Iraq invasion and the implementation of “enhanced interrogation,” it is necessary for the United States Congress to hold a public hearing to uncover the truth.  Obviously, this route will be tremendously difficult to follow unless some sort of compromise is agreed upon with the members of the Bush administration that were involved in these situations.  During the hearing, Congress must create an open forum for people to come forward and reveal every single aspect about the Iraq invasion and “enhanced interrogation,” and in return will be granted immunity from prosecution.  Immunity from prosecution will encourage every individual involved in the scandals to come forward and reveal every other person involved, the decisions that were made, and how the policies were implemented.  Every person that is disclosed during testimony that does not come forward will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for every war crime and law that has been broken. Only then will the American public and the United States government be able to understand exactly what occurred and how President Bush and his administration were able to blatantly abuse the Constitutional power of the presidency.

Once the Congressional hearing is complete, the next logical step is to create legislation that will protect against centralized power with the President of the United States.  The Congressional hearing is necessary in order to decide whether federal statutes or Constitutional amendments are needed to eliminate the possibility of unyielding power being taken and abused by the sitting president.  The Bush administration ignored federal statutes that banned torture by any American citizen, so the findings of Congress would most likely point towards a Constitutional amendment being enacted.  A Constitutional amendment will protect the sanctity of the United States government, promote the essential existence of checks and balances, and show all people that no crime goes unnoticed.

These measures must be taken to protect the American people, all nations abroad, and to help the United States gain back the respect of countries that lost faith in the democratic system while under the leadership of President Bush.  The revelation of what actually happened will allow the government and the public to understand and begin the process of healing both domestically and abroad.  The United States will prove itself as a legitimate and worthy superpower in the international scene once legislation is enacted to prevent any atrocities from occurring in the future.  After this process is complete, the United States government, the American people, and the entire world will heal and exist in a safe world where international war crimes will be almost impossible to commit.

House Committee on the Judiciary Majority Staff Report to Chairman John C. Conyers, Jr. Reining in the Imperial Presidency: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to the Presidency of George W. Bush.  New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009.

Jacobson, Gary C.  A Divider, Not a Uniter: George W. Bush and the American People.  New York: Pearson, 2008.

King, Martin Luther, Jr.  Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community.  New York: Bantam, 1967.

Rycroft, Matthew.  “The Secret Downing Street Memo.” The Sunday Times, May 1, 2005.

1.) Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community (New York: Bantam, 1967), 32.

2.) Matthew Rycroft, “The Secret Downing Street Memo,” The Sunday Times, May 1, 2005.

3.) Ibid.

4.) Gary C. Jacobson,  A Divider, Not a Uniter: George W. Bush and the American People, (New York: Pearson, 2008), 98.

5.) Ibid., 138.

6.) Ibid., 138.

7.) Ibid., 99.

8.) Ibid., 99.

9.) Ibid., 95-6.

10.) Ibid., 138.

11.) “The Secret Downing Street Memo.”

12.) Ibid.

13.) Ibid.

14.) House Committee on the Judiciary Majority Staff Report to Chairman John C. Conyers, Jr., Reining in the Imperial Presidency: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to the Presidency of George W. Bush, (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009), 115-6.

15.) Ibid., 111.

16.) Ibid., 113.

17.) Ibid., 110-119.

18.) Ibid., 74-5.

19.) Ibid., 117 and 113.

20.) A Divider, Not a Uniter, 138.

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