Before the United States invaded Iraq, the general public debated its justification. Opponents of the war demanded to know: What was the threat?
Any answer from war supporters was refuted by the claim, “Saddam Hussein was contained.” But supporters countered: Why was he being contained if he wasn’t a threat? And they added, President Bill Clinton’s 1998 Iraq Liberation Act listed all of Hussein’s violations and made it U.S. policy to remove Hussein from power.
War opponents agreed but reminded supporters the Iraq Liberation Act never called for the use of troops. Then it was asked: What “new” threat did the Iraqi regime pose to the United States?
War supporters rejected the necessity to prove a “new” threat. The notion was an admission that Hussein was a threat while he was “contained” and it was a retreat from a moral obligation. Supporters argued that, since economic sanctions punished the Iraqi people more than their rulers the United States had a moral obligation to change the regime.
Iraq was invaded and afterward President George W. Bush stated he had a mission from God. Finally, all participants in the war debate agreed, there was a difference between a moral obligation and a mission from God. War supporters lost more faith when the cost of Bush’s mission became its own moral crisis.