The sins of our fathers.

AuthorTrobaugh, Elizabeth
PositionIraq and the Crimes of Aggressive War: The Legal Cynicism of Criminal Militarism - Book review

A Review of Iraq and the Crimes of Aggressive War: The Legal Cynicism of Criminal Militarism, by John Hagan, Joshua Kaiser, and Anna Hanson. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 260 pages.

John Hagan, Joshua Kaiser, and Anna Hansen, in Iraq and the Crimes of Aggressive War, paint the picture of exactly how a preventive war in Iraq could happen. From the disbanding of the Ottoman Empire in the early twentieth century to Saddam's reign of terror, the authors examine the full spectrum of history leading up to the invasion of 2003. The book takes a refreshing look at the situation in Iraq without reducing it to a millennia-old religious problem, devoid of solutions--an easy cop-out for the West, at times. Instead, the authors rely on the theory of Legal Cynicism, which holds that society in Iraq lost its faith in the law and its arbiters to keep the public safe. Living under the brutal rule of the Sunni Ba'athist Saddam Hussein, as described in the book, certainly lends itself to this theory.

More importantly, the authors look at how the United States government used national subterfuge to their benefit when weighing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and seek to explain why the Bush administration did not focus on the humanitarian aspect of intervention. This argument would have forced the administration to pay attention to other countries' state-sanctioned violence programs--for example, Darfur. The authors correctly point out that one premise for invading Iraq was the self-defense argument, in which the administration outlined the imminent danger of a weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq and the apparent aid Hussein provided to the attackers of 9/11. The authors further state that not only were there no WMD, but Saddam Hussein had been unwelcoming to Osama bin Laden, while Sudan sheltered him and other al-Qaeda leadership. (1)

Hagan and his co-authors write that the greatest sins of the Iraq War, besides the invasion itself, were Paul Bremer's decisions to remove top tier Ba'athists from their bureaucratic government posts, and to disband the Iraqi military. Comparing himself to General MacArthurin post-WWII Japan, Bremer, so-called "emperor" of post-war Iraq, effectively cut out the most well-trained and well-educated individuals of the Iraqi State when he began to "reconstruct" post-Saddam Iraq. The authors note that Bremer created an "interim governing council" which he essentially declared to have no governing power, enabling him...

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