Those of us who opposed it knew from the beginning that the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq was a war of choice. But in a new Slate piece by Christopher Hitchens on the death of Israeli historian Amos Elon, we learn again just how unnecessary the death and destruction that accompanied the invasion truly was:
One day in Washington several years ago, as it became obvious that things in Baghdad were becoming hellish for the American-led coalition in the Iraq war, he told me the following story. In the run-up to the intervention in Iraq, the United States had approached the Israelis and asked how many citizens they had who spoke "Iraqi Arabic"—i.e., who had lived in Iraq before they had left or been expelled and who understood the local idioms and vernacular. The answer was that there were still quite a few. A group of these was put aboard an AWACS plane that flew high over Iraqi airspace and asked to listen in to radio traffic between Iraqi officers as the date of the Bush ultimatum to Saddam drew nearer.We've known at least since Richard Clarke's exposees of Bush administration criminality that the invasion in Iraq was launched, at least in part because Administration insiders felt that an invasion of Afghanistan didn't send a loud enough "message" to the world about American vindictiveness in the face of 9/11. It was Donald Rumsfeld, after all, who lamented that "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq."
When debriefed, all the former Iraqi Jews were of one opinion: Saddam's army would not fight, and many of its soldiers had already decided to melt away when the attack began. I thought this was a mildly interesting anecdote and indeed told him so, on the Watergate balcony where we happened to be standing. He was exasperated with me. "Don't you see?" he said. "This means that all the 'shock and awe,' all the damage to Baghdad, all of that, was completely needless? We could have brought down Saddam without smashing Iraq." I have been brooding on this ever since.
So it seems that the Bush administration really just wanted to go in somewhere, guns 'a blazing, and blow up a lot of builidng and bridges and leave a lot of corpses in the sand.
In the end the Bushies suceeded in that part of their mission, though I doubt they fully realized just how may of those sand speckled corpses would wear a U.S. Army uniform.