Top 10 Pro & Con Arguments

Should the US have attacked Iraq?

The PRO and CON statements below give a five minute introduction to the debate on the US-Iraq war.
(Read more information about our one star to five star Theoretical Expertise System.)
  1. Iraq as a Threat to the United States
  2. Possible Ties Between Iraq, al-Qaeda, and 9/11
  3. Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction
  4. United Nations Resolutions Violations
  5. Safety of the United States
  1. Possibility for Democracy in Iraq
  2. Oil as a Reason for Invading Iraq
  3. Human Rights Concerns in Iraq
  4. Legality of Preemeptive Warfare
  5. Available Intelligence

PRO Iraq War CON Iraq War
1. Iraq as a Threat to the United States

PRO: "Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations."

-- US House of Representatives
US Senate
"Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq"
Oct. 2, 2002

CON: "It's not, I think, thoroughly established to everybody's satisfaction that Iraq is, in fact, a threat. Threat requires capability, and I think that's pretty well established, at least on the chemical and biological front. But it also requires intent. And here, I think, reporting, the international consensus on this and a large measure of domestic commentary as well, I just don't think that case has been made... So you've got a problem in establishing a threat itself, either to the neighborhood or to the wider U.S. and Western community."

-- Gareth Evans, LLB, MA
President of the International Crisis Group
Speech to the Council on Foreign Relations
Mar. 19, 2003

2. Possible Ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda

PRO: "Since we began after Sep. 11th, we do have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad. We have what we consider to be very reliable reporting of senior level contacts going back a decade, and of possible chemical and biological agent training. And when I say contacts, I mean between Iraq and al Qaeda. The reports of these contacts have been increasing since 1998. We have what we believe to be credible information that Iraq and al Qaeda have discussed safe haven opportunities in Iraq, reciprocal nonaggression discussions. We have what we consider to be credible evidence that al Qaeda leaders have sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire weapon of -- weapons of mass destruction capabilities. We do have -- I believe it's one report indicating that Iraq provided unspecified training relating to chemical and/or biological matters for al Qaeda members. There is, I'm told, also some other information of varying degrees of reliability that supports that conclusion of their cooperation."

-- Donald Rumsfeld
Former US Secretary of Defense
Testimony before the US House Armed Services Committee
Sep. 26, 2002


CON: "[Usama] Bin Ladin also explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan [1991-1994], despite his opposition to [Saddam] Hussein's secular regime. Bin Ladin had in fact at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Sudanese, to protect their own ties with Iraq, reportedly persuaded Bin Ladin to cease this support and arranged for contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting Bin Ladin in 1994. Bin Ladin is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded.

There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Ladin had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior Bin Ladin associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."

-- National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (aka 9/11 Commission)
"Staff Statement No. 15: Overview of the Enemy"
June 16, 2004

3. Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction

PRO: "The point is that this document [United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission report: 'Unresolved Disarmament Issues: Iraq's Proscribed Weapons Programs'] conclusively shows that Iraq had and still has the capability to manufacture these kinds of weapons, that Iraq had and still has the capability to manufacture not only chemical but biological weapons, and that Iraq had and still has literally tens of thousands of delivery systems, including increasingly capable and dangerous unmanned aerial vehicles."

-- Colin Powell, MBA
Former US Secretary of State
Presentation to the United Nations Security Council
Mar. 7, 2003

CON: "There is only one truth and therefore I tell you as I have said on many occasions before that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction whatsoever...

If the purpose was to make sure that Iraq is free of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons then they can do that. These weapons do not come in small pills that you can hide in your pocket.

These are weapons of mass destruction and it is easy to work out if Iraq has them or not. We have said many times before and we say it again today that Iraq is free of such weapons."

-- Saddam Hussein
Former President of Iraq
Interview with UK Labour Cabinet Minister Tony Benn, Channel 4 News
Feb. 4, 2003

4. United Nations Resolutions Violations

PRO: "The determination by the George W. Bush administration to enter Iraq and remove the regime of Saddam Hussein from power in early 2003 followed twelve years of Iraqi violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Prior to the decision by the United States and its coalition partners to intervene in Iraq with military force, Saddam Hussein had done everything possible to avoid complying with the will of the international community. Of the twenty-six demands made by the Security Council since 1990, Iraq had complied with only three...

In Iraq, the coalition led by the United States and the United Kingdom was responding to an attack on the very effectiveness of the United Nations security system, by seeking redress for repeated violations of Security Council resolutions. If not addressed directly, these violations would have done irreparable harm to the minimum world order system represented by Article 2(4) and Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, to the peace and security of the region, and to the well-being of the Iraqi people."

-- James P. Terry, SJD, LLM
Principal Chairman of the Board of Veteran's Appeals, Department of Veterans Affairs
"A Legal Appraisal of Military Action in Iraq," Naval Car College Review
July 1, 2004

CON: "...[I]n articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter, the nations of the world agreed that no member state has the right to enforce any resolution militarily unless the Security Council determines that there has been a material breach of its resolution, decides that all non-military means of enforcement have been exhausted, and specifically authorizes the use of military force...

Legally, the conflict regarding access for UN inspectors and possible Iraqi procurement of 'weapons of mass destruction' (WMDs) had always been between Iraq and the United Nations, not between Iraq and the United States. The United States therefore had no legal right to act on the dispute unilaterally. Although UN Security Council Resolution 687, which demands Iraqi disarmament, was the most detailed in the world body’s history, no military enforcement mechanisms were included."

-- Stephen Zunes, PhD
Chair of the Middle Eastern Studies Program, University of San Francisco
"Why Hillary Clinton's Iraq Vote Does Matter,"
Feb. 28, 2008

5. Safety of the United States

PRO: "Our efforts in Iraq have been critical to success in the global war on terror... As democracy gains in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are reminded that no democratic nation in the world threatens America. Saddam's removal has advanced peace and democracy throughout the broader Middle East. America and the world are clearly safer with this tyrant in the jail cell he has earned."

-- Condoleezza Rice, PhD
Former Secretary of State and Former National Security Advisor
"U.S. and World Clearly Are Safer," USA Today
July 16, 2004





CON: "This is a war that each passing day confirms what I have said before and I will say again. This war in Iraq is a grotesque mistake; it is not making America safer, and the American people know it."

-- Nancy Pelosi
Majority Leader (D-CA) of the House of Representatives
Speech on the House floor "This War in Iraq Is a Grotesque Mistake; It Is Not Making America Safer"
June 20, 2005





6. Possibility for Democracy in Iraq

PRO: "The Western world, the countries of the free world have a lot at stake in relation to Iraq. If the democratic future of Iraq can be achieved, that will have beneficial consequences not only in Iraq, but it will also be a wonderful demonstration in the Middle East and around the world that democracy is not something which is confined to countries that have historically enjoyed it. I regard that as something of an arrogant attitude on behalf of those who think that, in some way, democracy cannot be extended to countries that haven't regularly enjoyed it over past decades."

-- John Winston Howard
Former Australian Prime Minister
Press conference at the White House
June 3, 2004





CON: "The US is not the political, economic, and social model for every culture and every political system... In most cases, economic and physical security; dealing with the educational and job problems created by demographic change, and creating basic human rights will be far more important than trying to rush towards 'democracy' in nations with no history of pluralism, no or weak moderate political parties, and deep religious and ethnic divisions... The idea that the US can suddenly create examples of the kind of new political, economic, and social systems it wants in ways that will transform regions or cultures has always been little more than intellectual infantilism, and Iraq provides all the proof the US can ever afford to acquire."


-- Anthony H. Cordesman
Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center For Strategic & International Studies (CSIS)
Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
May 19, 2004

7. Oil as a Reason for Invading Iraq

PRO: "Our oil is the main reason America wants to attack Iraq. They want to control our oil and control price and production levels. They know the future oil resources for the world will come from this area for many years."

-- Ali al-Rawi 
Head of the Economics Department at Baghdad University
Guardian Unlimited
Jan. 23, 2003


CON: "If it was a war for oil, we wouldn't have done it.

Because if you look at the consequences - Iraq is now producing less oil, it's more unstable, it has led to disruptions in the market. Even today, nine months later, Iraq is producing - and I don't have firsthand knowledge - less than two-thirds of what it was producing before the war.

So it just doesn't work for me. There has got to be another reason. I assume that the reason is global security."

-- Dave O'Reilly
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ChevronTexaco Corporation
"On the Record," San Francisco Chronicle
Dec. 21, 2003

8. Human Rights Concerns in Iraq

PRO: "It is fashionable to sneer at the moral case for liberating an Iraqi people long brutalized by Saddam's rule. Critics insist mere oppression was not sufficient reason for war, and in any case that it was not Bush's reason. In fact, of course, it was one of Bush's reasons, and the moral and humanitarian purpose provided a compelling reason for a war to remove Saddam... For the people of Iraq, the war put an end to three decades of terror and suffering. The mass graves uncovered since the end of the war are alone sufficient justification for it."

-- Robert Kagan, PhD and William Kristol, PhD
Co-founders of the Project for the New American Century
"The Right War for the Right Reasons,"
Feb. 27, 2004

CON: "In considering the criteria that would justify humanitarian intervention, the most important, as noted, is the level of killing: was genocide or comparable mass slaughter underway or imminent? Brutal as Saddam Hussein’s reign had been, the scope of the Iraqi government’s killing in March 2003 was not of the exceptional and dire magnitude that would justify humanitarian intervention. We have no illusions about Saddam Hussein’s vicious inhumanity. Having devoted extensive time and effort to documenting his atrocities, we estimate that in the last twenty-five years of Ba'th Party rule the Iraqi government murdered or 'disappeared' some quarter of a million Iraqis, if not more...

There were times in the past when the killing was so intense that humanitarian intervention would have been justified... But on the eve of the latest Iraq war, no one contends that the Iraqi government was engaged in killing of anywhere near this magnitude, or had been for some time. 'Better late than never' is not a justification for humanitarian intervention, which should be countenanced only to stop mass murder, not to punish its perpetrators, desirable as punishment is in such circumstances."

-- Human Rights Watch
"War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention," Annual World Report

9. Legality of Preemptive Warfare

PRO: "International law, which at times mimics criminal law on self-defense, allows the justification of the Iraq war based on the facts as they reasonably appeared at the time of the invasion. Rather than prove its harmlessness, Iraq instead did everything it could to suggest that it possessed WMD and would be willing to use them. Hence the games played with U.N. arms inspectors and the rumors that Iraq would use chemical weapons if coalition forces neared Baghdad."

-- John Yoo, JD
Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley
"Why Iraq's Weapons Don't Matter," Legal Times
Aug. 4, 2003

CON: "Nothing in international law authorizes a preemptive war to overthrow a government and disarm it. Our war in Iraq fits in none of the prescribed situations where it is lawfully permissible."


-- Erwin Chemerinsky, JD
Alston & Bird Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at Duke University
"By Flouting War Laws, U.S. Invites Tragedy," Los Angeles Times
Mar. 25, 2003

10. Available Intelligence

PRO: "More than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power."

-- George W. Bush, MBA
43rd US President
Speech commemorating Veterans Day
Nov. 11, 2005

CON: "When the Senate voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq in 2002, it was based on a more limited scope of prewar intelligence than was available to the Administration."

-- Diane Feinstein
US Senator (D-CA)
"Senator Feinstein Releases Nonpartisan CRS Report that Concludes Congress Did Not Have Access to Full Scope of Prewar Intelligence" announcement
Dec. 15, 2005

PRO Iraq War CON Iraq War