On Iraq: Told You So

Yeah, yeah. I know many of you with a conservative bent will say I’m a knee jerk liberal. That’s an easy way to deal with people like me: make me fit into a box or stereotype and dismiss me. After all I hardly ever watch Fox News. Well sorry to disillusion you but I’m not a knee jerk anything. However I do read a lot. The debacle of our war with Iraq was clear to me and many others well before it began.

But I don’t want to piss those of you off who have or had a different opinion about this war. What I want you to do is think real hard about the future. Think in particular about the choice you will make in the voting booth on November 2nd. Think hard, think real hard before reelecting this president in November.

Here are excerpts from my various blog entries on Iraq. You can read all of them by selecting the politics category pages for each year. Call me lucky but really folks it wasn’t that hard. Unlike our president I look at the world the way it actually is, not through the glasses Bush wears that apparently only see things in black and white.

February 12, 2003

I can see the future and it is not pretty. I can only hope that within six months after our invasion of Iraq, after enough Americans come home in body bags, after hundreds of guerilla attacks on our troops over there, we finally come to our senses, bring home our troops and scale back our presence over there.

March 6, 2003

In this case I believe it will actually make us far less secure by inflaming more Muslims against us. There has been a huge amount of opposition to this war. Tens of millions have demonstrated here and across the globe. Bush doesn’t seem to hear them, or if he does he just discounts them. He is convinced his morality is right and the rest of us are fools or are wrong.

March 17, 2003

Ideology is dangerous. If you have ideology, you don’t have to worry about whether an action is advised or ill advised. You know you are right because your ideology tells you that you are right. That’s the sort of immovable force that is George W. Bush. Morality has become a substitute for critical thinking. Circled by his coterie of advisers who only reinforce his inclinations, he does not feel dissent. When antiwar protesters come to town he is conveniently at Camp David.

If you have ideology you can pretend that our forces spread out across Iraq won’t be a target for every fanatical Muslim in the region, and there are plenty. You can pretend that because we can “liberate” Iraq that the Iraqi people will love us, even though they hold us responsible for years of sanctions. You can ignore the minor problem that Muslims will consider our occupation something like a holy war, and that they will see us as Christians on a Crusade.

We will not have peace, we will only be throwing more gasoline on the fire. Why do they hate us? We will be giving them plenty more reasons, rest assured.

March 28, 2003

This will not be a nice, clean and short war. Instead it will be a long and messy war. I do think we have the capability to win it. I am not sure there is the political will and stomach to win it. As much as Bush says he won’t, I can see even him six months for now anxious for some sort of exit strategy. With unemployment shooting up, with the economy back in recession, with his own party revolting under him and mindful of a coming election he’ll need some sort of way to get out. Maybe he’ll accept a cease-fire. We’ll see.

It’s going to be a protracted, expensive and ugly mess without a happy ending. It is a needless, pointless war caused by excessive hubris, false expectations and insufficient understanding of the real world. If our leaders were wise they would cut our losses and get out now. But we’re committed and now we have to prove ourselves at any cost.

April 30, 2003

Where was I right? Well, based on a month of so of searching, and based on interrogating those high level ex-Iraqi officials we could find, it appears that we aren’t going to find any weapons of mass destruction. Right now we are too busy celebrating our stunning victory to appreciate what this really means. The WMD issue was the reason that we went into Iraq in the first place. Or did you forget? The vitriol by the administration right before the invasion was amazingly high. According to our administration Iraq was on the brink of using these weapons against us therefore we had to invade in order to maintain a peaceful world. Iraq also probably had a nuclear weapons program and was close to developing a nuclear bomb.

All this appears to by hyperbolic piffle. In addition the links to al Qaeda were simply not there. That terrorist training camp in Northern Iraq, outside of Saddam’s control, was actively working to remove Saddam from power, not working with him to spread more terrorism. These Islamic fundamentalists were very upset that, among other things, in Saddam’s Iraq women had many more rights and could do things like attend universities. Clearly Saddam was an evil man, but there were some advantages for women and others because of his secular state.

June 30, 2003

My first prediction is easy: our occupation of Iraq will turn into a quagmire.

Why is this prediction so easy to make? Just go a thousand miles to the east and look at what we are doing in Afghanistan. At least there we effectively limited our occupation to Kabul and got mostly foreign troops to do the police work. But there simply wasn’t the will to really make a genuine peace and there won’t be the same will in Iraq.

July 4, 2003

The war on terrorism is unlikely to improve. Actually it is likely to get much, much worse. In Iraq we currently have over half of our Army occupying the country. It won’t be going anywhere, for years. So there is no way we can invade Iran, for example, without abandoning Iraq. It also means that if we take action against rogue states like North Korea the Air Force is going to have to do the job because we won’t have sufficient troops to win that war and occupy countries. In reality our forces are now stretched very thin. But even worse our troops in Iraq are already getting very demoralized. It is impossible to tell friend from foe. We need more peacekeepers but let’s face facts: they’re not peacekeepers. If they were peacekeepers they wouldn’t be dressed in full battle attire and being sniped at all the time. Since Bush went out of his way to piss off our traditional allies in Europe and elsewhere we can hardly expect these countries to feel obliged to send troops to help us keep restore some semblance of order. The most likely reaction will be “you made your bed, now lie in it.”

July 27, 2003

In retrospect I believe it will be shown that Bush jumped the shark on May 1, 2003. On this day he landed on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, somewhere off San Diego, emerging from a fighter aircraft in a flight suit. Pompously parading down the flight deck with a huge banner in the background that said “Mission Accomplished” Bush basically said we had won the war and there was just a little cleaning up to do. You know small things like bring civil order, turn on the lights, prevent looting and instill democratic values. Small stuff apparently. Just a few addendum to the nation’s checklist, hardly worth mentioning really!

Since that time more soldiers have died or were wounded in Iraq that occurred during the war itself. Last week, unfortunately, saw more American soldiers dying in Iraq that any week since Bush proclaimed “Mission Accomplished”.

The carrier episode, particularly in hindsight, was the defining moment. You can rest assured as this war of attrition drags on and on that you will see this video clip used endlessly against Bush in the general election next year. Michael Dukakis’s moment emerging from the turret of a Massachusetts’s National Guard tank has nothing on this wholly preventable photo op.

September 3, 2003

In retrospect are your mistakes clear yet? Probably not, but let me lay them out for you:

– Even the largest military in the free world has its limits. We apparently can occupy but not actually control one country the size of California with the bulk of our Army, which is about 150,000 men and women. Better put those dreams of an American empire on hold.
– The United Nations may be a disagreeable organization to you and what you perceive to be our national interests, but it is not irrelevant. In fact it is the only organization on the planet that can speak for the world. Because it can, it has legitimacy the United States does not. When the UN speaks, people and other countries listen.
– You don’t launch wars based on what you believe the truth to be. Decisions of this magnitude are based on actual facts and credible intelligence. You discounted your own intelligence community because it wasn’t telling you what you wanted to hear, and you gave credence to known Iraqi expatriate flakes with known criminal backgrounds like Ahmad Chalabi.
– They are not either with us or against us. They are with us when it meets their selfish needs, and against us when it doesn’t. Actually most of the time “they” don’t give a damn. The fact that terrorists attacked us on 9/11 is our problem, not the government of Botswana’s.
– If you tell terrorists and insurgents to “bring ’em on” they are likely to rise to the challenge.
– For some reasons countries behave a lot like people. Perhaps that is because countries consist of people, and their leaders have feelings just like you do. So telling France and Germany effectively to piss off does not build good will; it makes these countries react in more extreme ways than they would otherwise.
– As I told you before diplomacy does not mean “we get things our way or we leave”. It means coming together in good faith and without bad feelings and making necessary compromises so that all parties can find a “win-win” solution. It means going in to negotiations with a genuine willingness to listen and to take the positions of other parties seriously. The United Nations is not irrelevant, George. Rather than proving it irrelevant, you have proved it is needed now more than ever.
– Wars can’t be won on the cheap, and are much harder to win when large and ill advised tax cuts are bleeding the treasury of the money it needs to run the government. Tell us taxpayers again how, in a bad economy, it is more important to rebuild Iraq instead of restoring the cuts to fully fund your “No Child Left Behind” law.
– Maybe contracting out essential services on the battlefield is a terrible idea. Your contracting out nonsense means that our soldiers cannot get spare parts they need to keep their Bradley vehicles running. Haliburton employees apparently aren’t going to risk their lives to get spare to our forces when our army isn’t sufficient to ensure their safety. They are contractors, not soldiers. They cannot be compelled to put their personal safety at risk.
– Maybe it’s not a good idea to open up a second front while the first front is still engaged in heavy action. Maybe we should have demonstrated we could find and kill bin Laden, destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda and bring democracy to Afghanistan BEFORE we rushed into Iraq to topple a despot who was no threat to us.
– In fact, maybe to run a war on terrorism, we should concentrate on those terrorists who are an actual threat to OUR citizens. There is no doubt Saddam terrorized and killed his own people, but he was NO threat to our citizens. Al Qaeda is a demonstrated threat to our national security. Hezbollah is not. Let Israel deal with Hezbollah and if we ever destroy Al Qaeda then let’s then think about those lesser known terrorist organizations with other axes to grind.
– Maybe it’s a good idea to listen seriously to divergent opinions before starting a major war. We were out there holding peace rallies and marching on the Mall. You were in Camp David isolated with your parroting advisors. We were wasting our breath protesting. You had made up your mind months earlier to invade Iraq and wouldn’t let some “misguided” fellow citizens deter you from your own pompous convictions.

November 3, 2003

The United States will not prevail in Iraq, and likely won’t prevail in Afghanistan either. Both are noble endeavors to try to remake the world into a saner and more peaceful place, but both efforts are doomed to fail. The underlying reason that we will fail will be our inability to understand the complexity of both regions of the world. We acted out of instinct and prejudice instead of knowledge and wisdom. Consequently we will fail, and the failure will change the nature of our nation profoundly.

What to expect in the future? It’s not too hard to figure out, but the longer our army occupies the country the more resistance against us will increase.

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