05 July 2017 Blogs, Academic, Community College, Faculty, Librarian, Student/Researcher

Exploring the Marketing and Unanticipated Consequences of the Iraq War

1000s of declassified documents from the National Security Archive illuminate the symbiotic relationship between policy and promotion

In the late 90s and early into the 21st century, the U.S. successfully orchestrated a campaign to market the invasion of Iraq, presenting a case for war in the most persuasive light possible.

The result was a conflict that turned out to be nothing like what had been advertised. Death and injury occurred on a grand scale, costs ran to the trillions, and there was a subsequent instability and rise in extremism (predicted by war opponents). Fourteen years after the United States invaded Iraq, the conflict continues.

Examining the politicization of intelligence surrounding the Iraq War is now possible thanks to the work of the National Security Archive at George Washington University and its Iraq Project director, Joyce Battle, who opened thousands of pages of documents through FOIA requests with the State Department, the Defense Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency, CENTCOM, the Central Intelligence Agency, and other agencies that participated in making policy toward Iraq.

The National Security Archive and its publishing partner ProQuest have brought the documents online in the Digital National Security Archive (DNSA) collection Targeting Iraq, Part I: Planning, Invasion, and Occupation, 1997-2004.

More than 2,100 pages of documents illuminate the symbiotic relationship between policy and promotion about one of the most critical events for the United States, Iraq, the Middle East, and the international community in recent history.

An unfiltered and comprehensive view into history

The collection presents an extraordinary and candid view into the run-up and ongoing struggles of the War. U.S. policy debates over Iraq dating to the Clinton administration are documented and internal records detail the Bush administration’s decision-making leading to Operation Iraqi Freedom, including the controversial use of false intelligence to justify military action. Other materials reveal the campaign to build domestic and international support for the operation and document the first 18 months of U.S.-led occupation.

Slides and other briefing materials charting the Defense Department’s months-long development of a war plan for Iraq, ordered by President George W. Bush in late 2001, are included in the collection. Memos and background papers discuss strategies for achieving American goals.

Post-invasion documents reflect frequently changing strategies to respond to the many reversals and setbacks that the U.S. had not anticipated, such as rising and increasingly violent opposition to the continuing presence of American troops, sectarian conflict, rampant looting, collapse of Iraq’s physical infrastructure and civil society, and massive displacement of the civilian population.

Documents dating from mid-2003 through mid-2004 provide background on attempts to ensure consolidation of long-term objectives in Iraq by a United States under pressure from Iraqis and from the United Nations to end the occupation and restore Iraq’s sovereignty.

Researchers and others can view the documents that detail American decisions to dissolve Iraq’s military and security forces and to dismantle most of its civil service through enactment of a de-Baathification policy that was intended to bar from positions of authority anyone connected to the former government. Drafting a new Iraqi constitution and implementation of a new oil law that opened Iraq to global markets are documented along with Status of Forces and Strategic Framework agreements institutionalizing long-term U.S.-Iraq military cooperation.

This collection also includes reports of human rights abuses committed by American forces, culminating in exposure of the systematic torture of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. Other documents discuss attacks on Iraq’s museums and libraries and the sustained destruction of its antiquities and archaeological heritage, attributable in considerable part to the actions or the inaction of occupying coalition forces.

American measures to privatize Iraq’s economy, eliminate state-owned enterprises, and facilitate contracts for international corporations to invest in Iraq’s reconstruction can also be researched through scores of documents.

A partnership to support transparency

Targeting Iraq, Part I: Planning, Invasion, and Occupation, 1997-2004 is one of more than 40 collections of declassified documents the National Security Archive has published with ProQuest. The Archive curates the collections and ProQuest enables distribution to libraries around the world, where researchers and students can connect simply with the content. Topic-oriented collections span the crucial issues from post-World War II to the present.

The Archive was founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy and combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents ("the world's largest nongovernmental collection" according to the Los Angeles Times), leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets.