The arguments employed by coalition governments and other supporters of the Second Gulf War provided a variety of reasons to topple Saddam Hussein. First, Saddam’s history of developing weapons of mass destruction, his use of chemical weapons and nerve gas to kill thousands of Kurds in 1988, his near-completed nuclear program, which was only aborted by the First Gulf War in 1991, and his latest expulsion of UN inspectors in 1998 all indicated that Saddam had something to hide and would behave consistently with his past tendencies. George W. Bush thought that the image of complacency that Saddam was flaunting before the international community was a mere deception.
Moreover, Saddam has routinely violated resolutions issued by the UN itself, as the text of the latest of these, Resolution 1441, notes. This, in itself, claimed the Bush Administration, justified force, as UN Resolutions 678 and 687 from Gulf War I were still in effect and authorized military action in the event of Iraqi noncompliance.
Hussein was also notorious for providing aid to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and thus encouraging further terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Moreover, Hussein’s links to Al Qaeda were observed in the fact that Hussein’s regime was the only one to officially praise the September 11th attacks and include Osama bin Laden’s name on the “Honor Roll of 600,” printed in pre-war Iraqi newspapers.
An October 27, 2003 Defense Department memo to Senators Roberts and Rockefeller presented further evidence of cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda from 1990 onward. The Hussein regime reportedly offered training camps, safe haven, and even financial assistance to Mohammed Atta, the September 11th hijacker himself.
Moral arguments in favor of war were also presented. Those advocating the right to unilateralism claimed that the US should proudly exercise its national sovereignty and act in its own security interests without compromising these to conform to international opinion. These theorists favored a flexible “coalition of the willing,” which would act on its common interest in Iraq and ignore those who did not share it.
Moreover, the “right to intervention” argument stated that a free nation always has the prerogative to intervene in any country where an oppressive regime denies basic liberties. The institution of a free, Western order in Iraq would later become an explicit aim of the occupation.
The Preemptive Doctrine, the response to threats by terrorists and rogue states before actual damage can be inflicted, also featured prominently in the war’s justification. Some economists and pro-capitalist thinkers actually agreed with war opponents that oil played a role in this war, but they saw no moral quarrel with this, and pointed out economic benefits to come.
Finally, the war would bring an end to a futile 12-year sanctions regime in Iraq, which apparently allowed Saddam to preside over a terrorized, impoverished, starving population, far easier for a dictator to govern than a prosperous citizenry.