Iraq war anniversary: What went wrong reconsidered, 10 years later.

Ten Years Later, What Really Went Wrong in Iraq? 

Ten Years Later, What Really Went Wrong in Iraq? 

Slate's online video magazine.
March 8 2013 7:04 AM

The Road Not Traveled in Iraq

Ten years after the Iraq invasion, a diplomatic insider reminds why it didn’t have to go the way it did.

Ten years ago this month—March 20, 2003, to be precise—U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq on a mission to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the war, including more than 4,000 U.S. service members. In the years since the invasion, several books have been written about the suspect rationale for the war: the notion that intelligence reports showed Saddam Hussein had a ready arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. But for some, there are even bigger questions.

Carne Ross was Britain’s leading United Nations Security Council diplomat in the years before the war, and he later testified that the intelligence did not show that Saddam’s Iraq had WMD capability. Further, Ross says that even if you believed that Hussein and his repressive regime were a threat that needed to be neutralized, going to war was not the best option even at the time. That’s the subject of our latest episode of The World Decrypted.

Ross expanded upon his argument about alternatives to war in Iraq in his then-secret testimony to the U.K.’s first official inquiry into the war, the so-called Butler Review. You can read his evidence and the story of how he gave it on his blog.


The question of what happened to the infamous WMD is covered in this U.S. government report by Charles Duelfer, a former U.N. weapons inspector and CIA official. The detailed report includes information about sanctions-busting in Iraq. 

Ross does not argue that there should have been tighter sanctions on Iraq—just better-targeted ones against the regime because the comprehensive economic sanctions largely punished the Iraqi civilian population. This was chronicled in David Rieff’s powerful 2003 article in the New York Times Magazine.