For a certain class of Americans, the following represents a victory and a justification for the invasion of Iraq. The point of the invasion, for them, wasn’t about liberating Iraqis from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, or preventing Hussein from developing nuclear weapons. It wasn’t about protecting Israel from Scud missiles and chemical or biological attacks. It wasn’t about protecting Saudi Arabia. It certainly wasn’t about containing Iran, which was greatly advantaged by the change in government. And it had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or the attacks of September 11, 2001. It was about this:

BAGHDAD — Iraq has asked the United States for new arms to beat back the dramatic resurgence of al-Qaeda-linked militants in a western province and would like U.S. troops to train its counter­terrorism forces, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in an interview Thursday.

The Iraqi leader said he provided the wish list after a phone call with Vice President Biden on Tuesday. U.S. officials said it might be easy to deliver those weapons, which include assault rifles and artillery, to Baghdad soon.

“Some is on hand, and we can supply it quickly,” a senior American diplomat said Thursday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

Certainly, there was another class of Americans who were interested in developing Iraq’s oil fields, but for purposes of commerce and geopolitical standing, becoming the primary military contractor for Iraq was an end in itself. If the arms are sold to kill an al-Qaeda organization that didn’t even exist in Iraq prior to the invasion, it just looks more justifiable and somehow connected to 9/11.

Here is an excerpt from a 1990 airing of Frontline:

Last winter, in Baghdad’s annual Army Day parade, Hussein displayed some of Iraq’s extraordinary arsenal, bought with billions of its oil revenues and with loans from its Arab neighbors. At least half of Iraq’s conventional weapons were purchased from its ally, the Soviet Union, but France was also a major source, providing its sophisticated Mirage fighters and deadly Exocet missiles. And there were many others — China, South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Egypt and Brazil. At one point, in the 1980s, Iraq was the biggest importer of arms in the world.

People like to talk about the assistance the U.S. gave Saddam Hussein during his long war with Iran, but we didn’t build his army. That’s fixed now.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at