or, as I put it at the time, "I support a war with Iraq, but I don't support this war with Iraq.
At the time (i.e. before the war), everyone was convinced that Saddam had WMD. This made Iraq a threat, but not an immanent threat as there was no evidence of a massing of troops or a plan being implemented to attack the US or any other nation. Nor was there evidence showing that Saddam was planning on getting those WMD into the hands of terrorists or rogue nations. Without an immanent threat, war under the rationale of "preemptive war" just didn't fly for me. (I know that others disagree with me here, but war in response to non-immanent threats is more properly classified as "preventative war", a category of war which I am not comfortable supporting.)
Yes, there were violations of the UN Security Council decrees. Such violations gave the UN the right to declare war, though not the obligation to do so (just as being attacked gives the right but not the obligation to retaliate [c.f. Israel's noble non-retaliation against Iraq during the first Gulf War]). The decision about whether to go to war over UN security council decree violations properly belongs to the UN security council (regardless of the corruption of the members of the council). The security council, for whatever reasons, did not look like it was going to authorize war.
However, I did think that there was a perfectly good reason to go to war besides preventative war or UN security council decree violations: humanitarian intervention. Saddam was widely recognized to have one of the worst (though not the worst, that honor is held by Kim Jong-Il) human rights records on the planet. For this reason, I was willing to support a war waged with the purpose of halting these human rights abuses.
But then there was a press conference held by Rumsfeld. He was asked point blank if the Administration was proposing a war for humanitarian reasons. Rumsfeld was crystal clear in his response: "No. Iraq has a long record of human rights abuse, but that is not and must not be the reason was go to war with them. The reason we must go to war is WMD--that and nothing else." At that moment, the administration completely lost my support for the war. Rumsfeld essentially said that human rights violations were neither necessary nor sufficient reason to go to war--basically, that factor was completely irrelevant. Though Jeremy asserts that this administration has always had humanitarian reasons for going to war, this statement demonstrates the contrary.
"So what?" you might ask. "Who cares why they want war. If you both want the same result, then who cares if you disagree on why." I might agree with that sentiment if we were talking about something simple like turning on a light switch (a simple one, not a dimmer switch) where there is only one way to do it. But there are lots of ways to wage war, and why you are waging war determines to no small degree how you wage war. A war of self-defense is fought differently from a war of invasion is fought differently from a war of liberation.
The administration's stated goal was "regime change" and they fought the war accordingly--they used the minimum force needed necessary to topple Saddam quickly. "Mission Accomplished" was accurate inasmuch as the mission was regime change.
But contrast that with what I wanted: a war for humanitarian intervention. There the goals are the safety of the Iraqi people and the installation of a stable and humane government; not merely the toppling of Saddam. This kind of war is fought more slowly using more troops. You have to make sure that you have enough troops to protect and safeguard infrastructure (like electrical grids) and culture (like libraries and museums), not just strategic targets (like the Ministry of Oil
and weapons depots).
When every soldier is aware that the goal is the ending of human rights abuses, then the likelihood of Abu Ghraib goes way down.
A war for humanitarian relief would likely have (with the benefit of hindsight, or a little bit of foresight) been more successful in most respects. Which is why I supported that war and not this one.