While the United States warns the world of the possibility and serious consequences of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, its own past botched invasion of Iraq continues to hang around its necks.
On at least two occasions, officials in President Joe Biden’s administration have had to answer questions about why anyone should trust what the United States says about Russia when its intelligence to substantiate the Iraq war were fabricated.
And on Thursday, a senior official had to address the elephant head-on, in front of the international community.
On February 3, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that the United States had information that Russia was “planning to stage fabricated attacks by military or intelligence forces. as a pretext for a new invasion of Ukraine”.
A reporter issued a skeptical note, pressing Price on the evidence to back up his comments, saying: ‘I remember [weapons of mass destruction] in Iraq. … So where is the declassified information other than you coming out here and saying it?
A week later, a reporter also asked National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan if the administration should show more underlying evidence to prove Russia’s escalation, considering that “it’s a country that’s gone by Iraq”.
“In the situation in Iraq, intelligence was used and deployed from that same podium to start a war. We’re trying to stop a war, prevent a war, avert a war,” Sullivan replied. “And all we can do is come here before you in good faith and share everything we know to the best of our abilities, while protecting sources and methods so that we continue to have access to intelligence. which we need.”
Sullivan added that in 2003 the intelligence focused on whether Saddam Hussein secretly possessed weapons of mass destruction, a “hidden thing, things you couldn’t see.”
“Today we are talking about over 100,000 Russian troops massed along the Ukrainian border, with all the capabilities out in the open for people to see. It’s all over social media. is all over your news sites,” he added.
There is no real comparison between US involvement in Iraq and Ukraine, as recognized by national security experts. But the fact that it keeps coming back shows how long the 2003 invasion endures and how badly it damaged the credibility of the United States.
“There is no doubt that Iraq has done unfathomable damage to America’s reputation and reliability,” said Max Bergmann, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who focuses on Russia.
The comparison is sufficiently present that on Thursday, in his address to the United Nations Security Council, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken addressed it. This is the same place that Colin Powell, then President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, made his inaccurate presentation in favor of war with Iraq almost exactly 19 years ago.
“Now I am aware that some have questioned our information, recalling previous instances where the information ultimately went unconfirmed,” Blinken said. “But let’s be clear: I am here today, not to start a war, but to prevent it. The information I have presented here is validated by what we have seen unfold in plain sight before our eyes for months.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told HuffPost that Iraq and Ukraine are “apples and oranges.”
“We had more than one point of view, having met people from the Baltic [countries] in Britain,” she said on Thursday. “It’s not like it’s just us who have that intelligence.”
Biden said he do not intend to send American troops in Ukraine, although he approved the training of Ukrainian troops and the transfer of arms to the country. And he warned the American public that they could sense economic hardship at home, including rising gasoline prices.
On Thursday morning, Biden made some of his strongest comments about the likelihood of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying he thought it might come”in the next few days.”
“Comparisons with the present between this crisis and Iraq should clarify things,” Bergmann said. “This time it is the United States desperate to avoid a catastrophic conflict, while it is Russia threatening to wage a disastrous war of choice to invade Ukraine.”