In 2001, the infamous terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda, hijacked two passenger planes, using them as weapons to launch an attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. Not only did these attacks result in the deaths of almost 3,000 innocent people, but they also resulted in a traumatised United States, intent on revenge. Consequently, the NATO Mutual defence clause was enacted, and for the first time ever, the UN Security Council approved a military operation in the name of self-defence. NATO allies were able to overthrow Taliban rule in Afghanistan in mere months. However, in 2003, George W. Bush (US President at the time) authorised the invasion of Iraq without justification or legitimacy. Through claims of Saddam Hussein’s involvement in the September 11 attacks, as well as allegations that Hussein had obtained weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration concealed the real reason behind the invasion of Iraq: Oil. While the undisputed atrocities committed by Hussein in the past against the Iraqi people were also often cited as a factor, such actions were not sufficient to promote US intervention. Thus, Bush utilised the tragedy of 9/11 as a reason to invade Iraq. He claimed America would invade Iraq to combat threats of terrorism and bring democracy. However, by illegally starting a war, and capitalising on Iraqi oil, it can be argued that one of the greatest threats that Iraq ever faced was a direct result of America and its allies.

The first justification of the US invasion of Iraq was the threat of Saddam Hussein. False accusations were made by Bush and his administration, claiming that Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks. Furthermore, the US falsely claimed that Hussein had obtained weapons of mass destruction. The idea of Iraq being a nuclear superpower with a dictator infamous for using chemical warfare on ethnic and religious minorities frightened the rest of the world into complying with the US’s war on Iraq. Tony Blair employed the same reasoning to justify his support of the American’s cause. However, Blair’s connection to the war runs deeper. Blair was a personal friend of Bush, and in a letter written from Blair to Bush in 2002, Blair stated, “I will be with you, whatever”, indicating the importance he placed on maintaining close ties with the US. However, the invasion of Iraq resulted in an international uproar of protests, and it was heavily disputed by other states, such as Germany and France.

Additionally, the trauma caused by 9/11 was used by the Bush administration to generate support for the illegal ‘War on Terror’. While Bush declared war to combat Iraqi extremism, his actions would produce Iraq’s largest terrorist organization, ISIS. Many initial ISIS fighters came from Saddam Hussein’s old army, and as stated by Bernd Greiner (historian and political scientist), “we know very well that the rise of IS was a direct result of the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003”. Thus, had the US and its allies not invaded Iraq, it is likely that ISIS would never have been established.  Moreover, the American war on Iraq also resulted in the deaths of over 460,000 people and caused 1 in 25 civilians to be displaced, which could have been avoided. 

Following the September 11 attacks, the US sought to “democratise” Iraq through illegal occupation, labelling it “Operation Iraqi Freedom”.  This resulted in the US’s decreasing reputation and political influence throughout the Middle East.  Bush, afraid of losing political hegemony and control, decided that ‘bringing democracy’ would prevent future acts of terrorism stemming from Iraq.  However, of the nineteen hijackers of the September 11 attacks, none were from Iraq, with fifteen from Saudi Arabi, two from the UAE, one from Lebanon, and one from Egypt.  The difference between these countries and Iraq being that they were allies of the US.

This leads to the question, why Iraq?  Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and almost entirely closed off to Western oil companies.  Since the invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi oil industry has become predominantly privatized and almost completely run by foreign companies.  The war is likely the only reason for this newly privatised access to the Iraqi oil industry.  The main obstacle to US access to Iraqi oil was Hussein.  The US quickly addressed this issue, through falsely accusing him of being involved in 9/11 and possessing weapons of mass destruction.  These reasons were enough to justify the decision to remove him from power. 

While oil was not the only goal of the Iraq war, it was central to the Bush administration’s invasion plan.  It has since been admitted by the former head of US Central Command and Military Operations in Iraq in 2007, that “of course it’s about oil, we can’t really deny that”.  Additionally, this was confirmed by Former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, who said, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil”.   Furthermore, former secretary of defence, Chuck Hagel, acknowledged, “People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course, we are”.  These quotes shed light on the true intentions of invading Iraq.

In conclusion, Bush and Blair fundamentally lied in their reasoning for starting a war against Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of countless innocent Iraqi civilians, and displaced millions. These deceptions are not only evident with the benefit of hindsight – they were evident at the time. Widespread domestic and international anti-war protests noted such concerns and other countries, such as Germany and France, openly opposed the invasion of Iraq.  9/11 and the ‘War on Terror’ continues to have an enormous impact on global affairs today and there has since been a major shift in public opinion towards how ‘military interventions’ are perceived.