Readers React: Hubris, not faulty intelligence, led us to invade Iraq

A U.S. Marine pulls down a billboard of Saddam Hussein in Safwan, Iraq, on March 23, 2003.
A U.S. Marine pulls down a billboard of Saddam Hussein in Safwan, Iraq, on March 23, 2003.
(Chris Hondros / Getty Images)

To the editor: As an Iraq war veteran who was called up to active duty from the Army Reserve in 2005, I respectfully disagree with key parts of former Rep. Jane Harman’s piece recalling the intelligence failures and her pro-war vote leading up to the 2003 invasion.

Harman says that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2003 presentation to the United Nations, making the case against Iraq, was highly convincing, and that she has “no doubt Powell believed what he was saying.”

I do not recall being persuaded by Powell’s argument. In fact, a contemporaneous Newsweek cover story questioned many claims he made about the supposed weapons of mass destruction and alleged Iraqi connections with Al Qaeda. I also highly recommend the book, “Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War,” by journalists Michael Isikoff and David Corn. They write that “even his [Powell’s] own specialists did not believe” what he claimed at the U.N., and that when he rehearsed his statements beforehand, he declared, “This is [expletive].”


Invading Iraq was a mistake, so let’s be sure we don’t make the same blunder and rush to judgment in dealing with Iran.

John D. Wagner, Altadena


To the editor: Harman, who as the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee provided an important vote in 2002 to authorize the use of military force against Iraq, continues to deny reality in blaming faulty intelligence.

In 2002, some people in the White House and the Department of Defense did not accept the U.S. intelligence on Iraq and formed the Office of Special Plans to provide their own conclusions. The primary pieces of evidence presented by Powell to the United Nations were proved false objectively and repeatedly before his presentation, and of course afterward.

No amount of saying the intelligence was wrong will change facts and history.

Richard Havenick, San Pedro


To the editor: Harmon excuses her vote in 2002 to authorize war by saying, “The intelligence provided prior to the Iraq war was compelling.” She omits some details.

President George W. Bush wasn’t just looking to go to war at the time of the vote, but was seeking a blank check from Congress to allow him to start a war at his discretion. Congress shouldn’t give their war power away; it should have told him to ask for authorization when it was time to fight.

The policy of containment and utilizing the United Nations inspectors to search for the weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein supposedly had were always the better alternatives.

The U.S. should never wage war without buy-in from our allies. And, perhaps most important of all, preemptive war (attacking first, as opposed to responding to aggression) is always immoral and illegal and is the stuff of hubris. This was always true, no matter how “compelling” anyone found the intelligence in 2002.

Jeff Vaughn, Encino


To the editor: It is only the bodies of dead Americans that we count as collateral damage. What about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed as a result of the war?

“Don’t do unto others as we do unto ourselves” seems to be our new Golden Rule. This is a sublime form of racism.

Murtadha A. Khakoo, Fullerton

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