We broke Iraq. Do we own it?

Kurdish Peshmerga in Kirkuk

Kurdish Peshmerga in Kirkuk

You break it.  You bought it.

==The Pottery Barn Rule (per General Colin Powell)

Of all the arguments for sending troops back into Iraq, the most plausible (to me) is that we owe it to the Iraqi people—and in particular the Kurdish Iraqi people—to clean up the mess the original U.S. intervention created.

The people of Kurdistan and Baghdad would not be menaced by the would-be Islamic Caliphate (aka ISIS) if the U.S. invasion had not broken down orderly government in Iraq, and opened up an opportunity for these murderous fanatics.  So do we Americans not have a responsibility to fix the situation before we leave the Iraqis on my own.

But it was that very argument that led me, 10 years ago, to support the original invasion of Iraq.  I thought to myself that we Americans had supported Saddam Hussein in the first place.  Our government provided him with weapons, encouraged him to attack Iran and protected him from international sanctions when he used poison gas against the people of Kurdistan.   Then we turned against him, and waged a low-level war of blockade and bombing through the Clinton years.

So it seemed to me (wrongly) that by invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam, we could partly make up for the harm we had done to the Iraqi people.

And even now I sometimes think (wrongly) that the U.S.-led invasion would have worked out—

  • If the U.S. forces had recognized the local governments the Iraqi people spontaneously chose and worked with them, instead of installing puppets of U.S. choosing.
  • If the American authorities had not discharged the Iraqi army, had kept control of weapons and armories and had not allowed the country to disintegrate into anarchy.
  • If the United States had employed the Iraqi people in rebuilding their own country instead of turning Iraq into a vast cash cow for American contractors.
  • If Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had not excluded everybody in the government who knew anything about Iraq from the planning.

But when I think that, I am just fooling myself.  I am fooling myself when I think that the U.S. government had any goal in Iraq other than getting control of Iraq’s oil supply and establishing military bases on Iraq’s soil.

And even if American intentions were wholly good, democracy and freedom are not something that any country can give another country.  Every free country has to win and maintain freedom for itself.


Arming the Kurds could be a big mistake for the U.S.  Here’s why by Timothy McGrath for Global Post.   The Kurds are admirable people who’ve frequently been betrayed, but this writer points to the complications to forming an alliance with them.

General Majid, Who Gave His Life for Others by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.   General Majid Ahmed Saadi, who was in charge of training for the Iraqi air force, took time off from his job to personally fly Yazidi refugees, in danger of massacre by ISIS, to safety, and died in a helicopter crash.

Reading about his heroism makes me feel bad about wanting to wash my hands of the whole situation.  But then, bombing from the air and maybe using flying killer robots is not the same thing as rescuing children.

That problem from Hell Again by MaxSpeak.  A argument for intervention.

Congress Must Vote Before Iraq War III by Patrick J. Buchanan for The American Conservative.  I stand with Buchanan on this one.

Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “We broke Iraq. Do we own it?”

  1. peteybee Says:

    Regarding the “pottery barn rule”

    I thought it was “if you break it, you *bought* it”… Otherwise I’m a fool and I could’ve gotten all my broken crockery for free and saved a bunch of money 🙂

    Also, I thought it only applies to stuff that’s for sale. Might not apply to your neighbors dog, for example. No matter how cute he is.


    But I understand the argument. We most certainly do owe the Iraqi people a lot. At the very least, a public apology. Then a whole lot of humanitarian and reconstruction aid. There was a bunch, but obviously not nearly enough.

    Do we owe it to them, to rid them of the terrorist / islamic extremists, who were completely absent prior to operation Iraqi Freedom? Yes. I’m actually starting to be really sympathetic to this argument as well.


    Do we have the ability to do such a thing? So far, everywhere the US has gone in the middle east, we have only made it worse, and extremists have either multiplied, or appeared where they weren’t even there before.

    I mess up my neighbor’s car by accident. I’d like to fix it for them, I enjoy working on cars, but I’m not that good at it and I break lots of stuff while I’m doing it. What’s the right thing for me to do?

    How about this: My pet killer snake escaped and is somewhere in my neighbor’s backyard, is eating his pets, and terrorizing his kids. The only anti-snake tool I have is a flamethrower, and a pack of killer snake-eating tigers (who also eat pets and kids). What should I do?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: