No, it wasn’t because of WMDs, democracy or Iraqi oil. The actual reason is much more sinister than that.

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Then president George W shrub is checked out addressing the US military soldiers at ft Hood, Texas around the possibility of military activity against Iraq in January 2003
Sixteen year after the joined States got into Iraq and left a trail of devastation and chaos in the country and the region, one aspect of the war stays criminally underexamined: why to be it combated in the first place? What did the Bush management hope to gain out the the war?

The official, and also widely-accepted, story stays that Washington was urged by Saddam Hussein’s tools of mass destruction (WMD) programme. His atom capabilities, especially, were deemed sufficiently alarming come incite the war. Together then united state Secretary the State Condoleezza Rice said, “We carry out not desire the smoking cigarettes gun to it is in a mushroom cloud.”

Despite Saddam not having an energetic WMD programme, this explanation has discovered support amongst some global Relations scholars, that say that while the Bush management was wrong around Saddam’s WMD capabilities, it was sincerely wrong. Knowledge is a complicated, murky enterprise, the debate goes, and also given the foreboding zero of the 9/11 attacks, the US federal government reasonably, if tragically, misread the evidence on the risks Saddam posed.

There is a major problem through this thesis: over there is no evidence for it, past the indigenous of the bush officials themselves. And also since we recognize the management was involved in a widespread campaign of deception and propaganda in the run-up to the Iraq war, there is small reason to think them.

My investigation into the causes of the war finds that it had tiny to do with fear of WMDs – or various other purported goals, such together a desire come “spread democracy” or meet the oil or Israel lobbies. Rather, the Bush administration invaded Iraq for its demonstrate effect.

A quick and also decisive victory in the love of the Arab civilization would send a message to every countries, specifically to recalcitrant power such together Syria, Libya, Iran, or north Korea, the American hegemony was right here to stay. Placed simply, the Iraq battle was motivated by a desire to (re)establish American standing as the world’s leading power.

Indeed, even prior to 9/11, then-Secretary that Defense Donald Rumsfeld saw Iraq v the prism the status and reputation, variously suggesting in February and July 2001 the ousting Saddam would “enhance us credibility and influence throughout the region” and “demonstrate what US plan is every about”.

These hypotheticals to be catalysed right into reality through September 11, as soon as symbols of American military and also economic dominance were destroyed. Moved by humiliation, the Bush management felt the the US required to reassert its position as one unchallengeable hegemon.

The only way to send a message so menacing was a swashbuckling win in war. Crucially, however, Afghanistan was no enough: the was just too weak a state. Together prison bullies know, a fearsome call is not got by beating increase the weakest in the yard. Or together Rumsfeld placed it top top the evening of 9/11, “We need to bomb something else to prove that we’re, friend know, huge and strong and no going to it is in pushed roughly by these type of attacks.”

Moreover, Afghanistan was a “fair” war, a tit-for-tat solution to the Taliban’s delivery of sanctuary to al-Qaeda’s leadership. Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary the Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and Under Secretary the Defense for policy Douglas Feith considered restricting retaliation come Afghanistan dangerously “limited”, “meager”, and “narrow”. Law so, lock alleged, “may be regarded as a authorize of weakness quite than strength” and prove come “embolden quite than discourage regimes” opposed to the US. They knew that sending out a message of unbridled hegemony entailed a disproportionate solution to 9/11, one that had to extend past Afghanistan.

Iraq to the right the invoice both due to the fact that it was much more powerful than Afghanistan and also because the had remained in neoconservative crosshairs since George HW shrub declined to push on come Baghdad in 1991. A regime remaining defiant despite a military defeat to be barely tolerable before 9/11. Afterwards, however, it came to be untenable.

That Iraq was attacked for that is demonstration result is attested to by numerous sources, not least the principals us – in private. A senior administration main told a reporter, turn off the record, the “Iraq is no just about Iraq”, fairly “it was of a type”, consisting of Iran, Syria, and also North Korea.

In a memo issued on September 30, 2001, Rumsfeld advised shrub that “the USG have to envision a goal along these lines: new regimes in Afghanistan and another crucial State that supports terror ”.

Feith created to Rumsfeld in October 2001 that action against Iraq would make it simpler to “confront – politically, militarily, or otherwise” Libya and also Syria. Together for then-Vice President cock Cheney, one close adviser revealed that his reasoning behind the war was to show: “We are able and also willing come strike in ~ someone. That sends out a very powerful message.”

In a 2002 column, Jonah Goldberg coined the “Ledeen Doctrine”, called after neoconservative chronicler Michael Ledeen. The “doctrine” states: “Every ten years or so, the unified States requirements to choose up some little crappy small country and also throw it against the wall, just to present the civilization we median business.”

It may be discomfiting to americans to say nothing of countless Iraqis the the Bush administration spent their blood and treasure for a war influenced by the Ledeen Doctrine. Walk the united state really begin a battle – one that price trillions of dollars, killed numerous thousands the Iraqis, destabilised the region, and also helped create the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – simply to prove a point?

More uncomfortable quiet is the the Bush management used WMDs as a cover, through equal parts fearmongering and also strategic misrepresentation – lie – to specific the preferred political effect. Indeed, some us economists consider the concept that the Bush management deliberately misled the country and also the globe into battle in Iraq to it is in a “conspiracy theory”, ~ above par with beliefs that president Barack Obama to be born outside the us or the the Holocaust did not occur.

But this, sadly, is no conspiracy theory. Even bush officials have actually sometimes dropped your guard. Feith confessed in 2006 that “the rationale because that the battle didn’t hinge on the details the this intelligence also though the details of the intelligence at times became facets of the general public presentation”.

That the management used the are afraid of WMDs and terrorism come fight a war for hegemony have to be acknowledged by an American political facility eager to rehabilitate George W shrub amid the ascendancy of Donald Trump, no least because John Bolton, Trump’s nationwide security adviser, appears eager to employ similar methods to comparable ends in Iran.

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The see expressed in this write-up are the author’s own and also do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.