Sunday 25 Sep 2022 | 22:29 | SYDNEY
Sunday 25 Sep 2022 | 22:29 | SYDNEY

When did Bush decide to go to war?


Sam Roggeveen


2 November 2007 09:55

Mark Danner’s dissection of the Bush-Aznar memo in the NYRB makes the familiar argument that President Bush was impatient for war against Iraq and had decided to invade well before diplomacy had been given a fair chance to succeed:

Even in discussing Aznar's main concern, the vital need to give the war international legitimacy by securing a second UN resolution justifying the use of force—a resolution that, catastrophically, was never achieved—little pretense is made that an invasion of Iraq is not already a certainty. "If anyone vetoes," the President tells Aznar, "we'll go. Saddam Hussein isn't disarming. We have to catch him right now. Until now we've shown an incredible amount of patience. There are two weeks left. In two weeks we'll be militarily ready.... We'll be in Baghdad by the end of March."

The calendar has already been determined—not by the inspectors and what they might or might not find, nor by the diplomats and what they might or might not negotiate, but by the placement and readiness of warplanes and soldiers and tanks.

There was certainly a feeling of inevitability about the war from about the last quarter of 2002. But this was not solely a function of the Bush Administration's policies. As Bush says in the above quote, the US was readying for war because Saddam Hussein wasn't disarming. This is a reference to Iraq's consistent obstruction of UN weapons inspections, which continued right into March 2003 .

In the entirely justified effort to hold the Bush Administration accountable for an ill-conceived and badly botched war, we are apt to forget that it might all have been prevented if Saddam Hussein had comprehensively and immediately complied with all the relevant Security Council resolutions. Had Saddam done so, it's hard to see how Bush could have justified an invasion.