The easy answer to the above question is, of course, no. With a decade of hindsight, it is difficult to justify the war that was based on half-truth and lies and which ultimately failed in its goals: no weapons of mass destruction found; no links between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden ever proven and the threat of terrorism still present, perhaps even more so than before.
Indeed, you’ll be hard-pushed to find many who still believe the invasion of 2003 was either a) a success b) not a mistake.
Yet, back in 2003 in the midst of the post-9/11 ‘war on terror’, the arguments for the Iraqi invasion were so readily accepted that it gained majority support from the opposition parties both in the UK and US with the Conservatives and Democrats, respectively.
Such a fact is easy to forget; the pretexts behind the war now so officially discredited they paint a murky shadow of denial, desperate defence and selective amnesia for all those involved.
Whatever the case, Iraq stands ten years later not as beacon of hope and democracy in the region, but as a country destroyed by a decade of war…
After all, Saddam was no mere dictator; he was a megalomanic in the heart of the Middle East. He infamous tenure as Iraq’s leader has included waging an eight-year war against Iran from 1980-88, an attempted annexation of Kuwait in 1990 and a genocidal campaign against his country’s Kurdish population, amongst others, in the 1980s. The fear then that such a man might possess WMDs was therefore somewhat alarming, posing both a regional and global threat to peace; one magnified by then hyper-sensitive state of the US.
In the event, Iraq never possessed any form of WMDs. British & US intelligence services had believed they existed – yet reports later found both M16 and the CIA to have committed grave errors, pairing second-hand sources and weak information to “assumptions behind Saddam’s intentions”.
Such a result was a slap in the face to the population of the coalition countries. Pre-war rhetoric gave cast-iron guarantees of “no doubt” and “the clearest possible evidence” of Iraqi WMDs with the invading troops ready to be “greeted as liberators” who would then seek to create a “free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East”. (If only).
It was unsurprising then that the citizens of the west later felt betrayed, with suspicions that the intelligence had been manipulated to serve as a Casus belli with the real goal of Bush and Blair seen as an attempted access to oil and desire for US hegemony.
This cynicism may have some basis in reality – undoubtedly, intelligence was interpreted in a favourable way to launch the invasion – but remains somewhat harsh. For Blair, there was a moral case to answer, seeing Saddam as a major threat both internally and externally. Lest we forget that it was the West who had armed the Ba’athist President in the first place.
Whatever the case, Iraq stands ten years later not as beacon of hope and democracy in the region, but as a country destroyed by a decade of war, with a shoddy democracy and as the eight most corrupt country in the world. The invasion and war failed to deliver on any of its three aims; the million plus who marched against the proposed invasion (to no avail) – the largest protest in the nation’ history – proven right.
The claim that the invasion would save lives proved foolhardy. It is, of course, impossible to guess the actions of Saddam – and their was a strong moral case to remove him – but there was little sign of any imminent danger to Iraqis in 2003. Moreover, a study of post-invasion mortality in the country estimated 655,000 more Iraqis died than would have been expected without the invasion, with 186,000 of those cause directly by the action of coalition forces. Even now, thousands continued to die now the coalition forces have left with over 4,500 civilian deaths in 2012.
The threat of terrorism has not been diminished either; only increased. Iraq itself now stands as the fifth most at risk of terrorist attacks; the Mesopotamian nation had few suicide bombings in its pre-2003 history, but 1,100 bombers blew themselves up during the war.
Iraq has become a byword for botched Western intervention; in Britain, it became the 21st century’s Suez…
The invasion has also served as fodder for radicalising thousands of Muslims around the world; as soon as the images of torture and abuse at Abi Ghraib were leaked, the coalition had lost the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
On a global scale, in an ironic twist of fate, the post-Iraq policy of other ‘rogue states’ became to seek nuclear weapons as a tool to stop such US invasions. North Korea and Iran, the other two nations of the so-called “axis of evil”, now both insured through the principle of MAD.
Democracy is hardly prospering either. The reconstruction of Iraqi democracy was flawed from the beginning, with the Sunnis boycotting the parliament due to its structure and leading the country into a sectarian civil war. Now, the government of Nouri al-Maliki is seen as increasingly autocratic, with his Shia-dominated Dawa Party finding loopholes in the constitution to enhance his personal power.
10 years later then, Iraq’s legacy is nothing more than failure. Saddam is gone, but the cost was too high. It has become a byword for botched Western intervention; in Britain, it became the 21st century’s Suez. More than though, history has shown Iraq was plain wrong.