Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC is proud to host an annual scholarship aimed to help students obtain a higher education. The Fall 2019 submission period just came to a close, and we were humbled by the applications we received. Thank you to every student who applied!
We’re pleased to announce we’ve chosen a winner.
Congratulations to Andrew Laeuger of New Berlin, WI!
Andrew will be attending Northwestern University as a Physics major.
This was the essay topic:
“If you could change one event in U.S. history, what would it be and why?”
Here is Andrew’s winning essay:
“The invasion of Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, was initiated just two years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when paranoia of future terrorist action still ran high in the minds of United States civilians. The September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center also revived the bombings of 1993 on the same building in American discussion, and even though the bombmaker of that attack, Abdul Rahman Yasin, displayed no direct involvement with dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, his personal connections to Baghdad registered in many Americans’ minds as evidence that Iraq as a country had a hand in the 1993 bombing, and consequently, the 2001 tragedy. These fears of state-sponsored terrorism were heightened by public addresses from President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, which repeatedly insinuated a link between the two attacks and Hussein’s nation while never explicitly confirming this assertion.
Yet, President Bush’s selection of reasons in his report of the casus belli to the American public warned of dire consequences reaching beyond the power of dispersed terrorist networks and their connections to Iraq. The most famously cited reason for launching an invasion on March 20th, 2003, was Saddam Hussein’s supposed failure to comply with United Nations Resolution 1441, which, in late 2002, ordered Iraq to disarm and destroy all Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) present in its borders. United States intelligence, along with growing suspicion with Hussein’s refusal to comply completely with UN weapons inspectors, led the Security Council to believe that Iraq was constructing and concealing new WMDs to be used for future devastating attacks.
President Bush additionally cited the glaring human rights violations committed by the Iraqi government, which had been accumulating since 1979, as just cause for the initial invasion, but this justification was used sparingly in the war’s early development and only utilized more frequently as Bush’s more vehement claims came into suspicion. Even more dubious was the relative importance of deposing the dictator’s reign altogether among various senior officials’ priorities. British Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed that the ousting of Hussein was in no way the motivation of commencing the Iraq War, while 4-star General Tommy Franks, one of the commanding officers in the eight-year war, asserted as his primary objective to wipe out Saddam Hussein’s authority completely. Despite the plethora of unconfirmed details and sketchy comments, the wave of anti-terrorist anxiety and uproar captured the public opinion, leading to a 72% approval rate in favor of the Iraq War in 2003, according to the Pew Research Center. By 2008, however, this approval rate would be cut nearly in half.
The conflict in Iraq itself levied disastrous aftereffects on the entire Middle East. The Department of Defense reported that slightly more than four thousand Americans were lost in the fighting, but a cumulative total for the death count for Iraqis is much more difficult to evaluate, for as General Franks famously remarked, “We don’t do body counts”. Various sources, however, have estimated the total number of deaths of Iraqis to be well above one million, with a significant portion of the death count composed of innocent civilians – a staggering figure further emphasized by the millions more Iraqis displaced by the conflict. The harmful effects of this violent struggle extend beyond death in combat alone. United States military personnel were discovered to be committing brutal human rights violations in the overcrowded and torturous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where appalling, morbid photographs documented the use of cruel FBI-authorized interrogation tactics – the use of dogs, temperature extremes, sensory deprivation, and more – and gruesome executions. As this scandal was revealed to extend outside of just Abu Ghraib, to prisons elsewhere in Iraq, Afghanistan, and as far as Guantanamo Bay, the clear hypocrisy of American discipline abroad left a dark stain on Washington’s global reputation, earning condemnations from multiple international organizations, including the Human Rights Watch and the Red Cross.
The hatred for America, sparked in the Middle East in part because of the horrible disrespect and mutilation of the Iraqi people by their Western invaders, has further destabilized the region, and this destabilization was only intensified by the sectarian conflicts, domestic anti-American insurgency, and civil war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that marred Iraq in the years following the initial month-long invasion. The U.S. led coalition was successful in removing Hussein and establishing a new constitutional government, but the state has remained weak on the whole, allowing its neighbor, Iran, to become emboldened with its recent gains in relative strength and burst onto the global news front within the last few years, boasting growing nuclear weaponry production capabilities, to the great concern of many other nations.
The instability of Iraq following the total American departure from the state also opened a gap for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) to launch an offensive and take a stronghold in Iraqi territory, and to this day, ISIS gathers support to its base from individuals still infuriated by American wartime atrocities and spreads its terror and unrestrained violence throughout the Middle East and to the rest of the globe.
However, the most devastating revelation regarding the integrity of the entire campaign in Iraq was the discovery that Iraq was neither creating nor concealing any WMDs of any kind that violated UN Resolution 1441. After Hussein was fully ousted and the new provisionary government established, President Bush formed the Iraq Survey Group, tasked to search Iraq for any stockpiles of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. The ISG did come across some sparse munitions, but it was determined that all of these stockpiles originated from wars predating 1991, when UN Resolution 687 initially forbade Iraq from possessing WMDs due to its belligerent invasion of Kuwait in the previous year. No evidence was found that Hussein attempted to revive his previous nuclear program, and the rare stockpiles that were found, consisting mostly of chemical weapons that were too old to be functional, were deemed likely forgotten since the Iraq-Iran War of the 1980s, during which the United States actually exported weapons to Iraq. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a report stating that post-9/11 hysteria created conditions that allowed faulty evidence of the presence of WMDs to mislead the opinions of Bush and other top officials into an inadvisable war, and Bush himself would later admit that the Iraq War was one of the worst mistakes of his presidency.
As I delved deep into the intricacies of the debate on the morality of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the subsequent US occupation, I was increasingly mortified to see the photographic documentation of the harsh realities of the eight-year war, especially the images released to the public depicting the deplorable conduct of American service men and women in the Abu Ghraib prison. After reading numerous materials detailing the build-up, course, and aftermath of the Iraq War, I have come to believe that American military actions in Iraq constitute the worst debacle in American foreign policy in the 21st century, if not its entire history, because of the decidedly-unnecessary disregard for human life and dignity, the terrible effects it brought upon the power balance in the Middle East, and the disdain for American interventionism on the global front – all elevated to astounding heights in part due to hysterical panic among Americans regarding the new threat of Al-Qaeda.
If I could change the progression of this obvious blunder, I would rather see President Bush wait to receive a full report of the UN-led investigation into possible violations of Resolution 1441 before hastily running into a war that was declared – as early as 2004 – to be an illegal undertaking and a direct violation of the United Nations charter. Lives, both American and Iraqi, could have been saved, and the threat of attacks by weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East could have been mitigated, both in the early 2000s and today.”
We’re happy to announce that we’ll be continuing the scholarship in 2020 and beyond. For more information on the next entry period which will be for Fall 2020, please see our law firm’s scholarship page. Congratulations again, Andrew! May all your dreams come true.