Posts Tagged ‘Iraq Invasion’

Learning the lesson of Iraq (or not)

April 7, 2017

[Correction 4/8/2017: Sarin, as peteybee of Spread an Idea pointed out, is a liquid, not a gas.]

Back in 2003, I thought the U.S. invasion of Iraq might be a good idea.

I thought we Americans could atone for all the suffering we had caused the Iraqi people by the low-level war by the Clinton administration by overthrowing the evil tyrant Saddam—and, yes, he really was evil and a tyrant—and allowing the Iraqis to choose their own government.

The United States would then, so I thought, have a democratic ally in the Middle East whose people were genuinely pro-American, and would free ourselves from dependence on the Saudi monarchy.

The U.S. invasion made things worse, both from the standpoint of the Iraqi people and of us Americans.   Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed, hundreds of thousands became refugees.

Maybe there would have been a different result if the U.S. occupation authorities’ priorities had not been to get control of Iraqi oil and create money-making opportunities for American contractors.

We have to recognize that policy is going to be carried out by the government we’ve got, not the government we wish we had.

I think an invasion of Syria would have the same bad result as the invasion of Iraq.

I think a stepped-up bombing campaign in Syria would increase the suffering of the Syrian people, but would not punish the individuals responsible for the gas attacks—if such attacks occurred.

(more…)

What we knew back then about Saddam

May 18, 2015

Matt Taibbi thinks it is silly to question Jeb Bush about what should have been done about Iraq “in the light of what we know now.”  Any sensible American knew enough then to realize what a bad idea invading Iraq was, he wrote.

The Iraq invasion was always an insane exercise in brainless jingoism that could only be intellectually justified after accepting a series of ludicrous suppositions.

dick-quizFirst you had to accept a fictional implied connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. Then you had to buy that this heavily-sanctioned secular dictator (and confirmed enemy of Islamic radicals) would be a likely sponsor of radical Islamic terror. Then after that you had to accept that Saddam even had the capability of supplying terrorists with weapons that could hurt us (the Bush administration’s analysts famously squinted so hard their faces turned inside out trying to see that one).

And then, after all that, you still had to buy that all of these factors together added up to a threat so imminent that it justified the immediate mass sacrifice of American and Iraqi lives.

It was absurd, a whole bunch of maybes piled on top of a perhaps and a theoretically possible or two. O.J.’s lawyers would have been embarrassed by it.

via Rolling Stone.

(more…)

Andrew Bacevich on the lessons of Iraq

June 21, 2014

Andrew Bacevich is a retired career Army officer, a combat veteran of Vietnam and a self-identified conservative.  I have great respect for him and for his views on American foreign and military policy and his recent interview by Bill Moyers is well worth watching.

Bacevich has been writing about military and foreign policy since the 1990s, and generally has been proved right by events.   It would be good if he was asked for his opinion by TV interviewers more often.

You can find links to transcripts of Bill Moyers’ interview of Bacevich by clicking on the following.

Full Show: Chaos In Iraq

Extended Interview: Andrew Bacevich

Next are articles on the pros and cons of neoconservative foreign policy.

Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire: what our tired country still owes the world by Robert Kagan in The New Republic.

A Letter to Paul Wolfowitz by Andrew Bacevich in Harper’s.

Counting the costs of the Iraq war

March 21, 2013

Bush administration spokesmen said the invasion of Iraq was going to be a cakewalk, and the cost would be paid out of Iraq oil revenues.  Ten years later, we know the true costs.

iraq_war_web1

IraqWar_fig2

Click to enlarge.

For details, click on The Iraq War Ledger by the Center for American Progress.

Also click on Invading Iraq: What We Were Told at the Time by James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly.

(more…)

A politician who was right about the Iraq invasion

March 20, 2013

The invasion of Iraq by U.S. troops and allies began 10 years ago today. Senators Hillary Clinton and John Kerry voted in favor of the resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to use force, and ex-President Bill Clinton heartily supported the invasion.   One person who spoke out against the invasion was Illinois State Senator Barack Obama, who said the following in a speech in October, 2002.

I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein.  He is a brutal man.  A ruthless man.  A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power…. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors … and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

via Speech by Illinois State Senator Barack Obama in October, 2002.

I read a lot of complaints about how pundits, politicians and government officials who were wrong about Iraq are still as powerful and influential as they were before, while those who were right about Iraq are still marginalized.  Barack Obama is the exception to this.  If he had not spoken out against the Iraq invasion, he would not be President today.

Obama, the state legislator, manifested a lot of wisdom about the dangers of open-ended Presidential authority to engage in military action, and about why the United States should not start wars with countries that are not a threat to us.  I hope that President Obama can recapture some of that wisdom.

(more…)

Why I was wrong about the Iraq invasion

March 20, 2013

George Orwell wrote somewhere that a good way to maintain a sense of humility is to keep a diary of your political opinions.  Looking back on what you thought five or ten years before will remind you of your fallibility.

Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein

The United States and its Coalition partners began military operations against Iraq 10 years ago today.  I didn’t keep a diary, but I well remember what I thought then.

I was aware that the claims that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction were based on faked evidence.  I knew that far from being implicated in the 9/11 attacks, the secular nationalist Saddam was hated by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.  I feared that starting a war on the basis of a lie could come back to haunt us Americans, and yet I hoped it might turn out well.

This would not have been the first war launched by the United States on the basis of a lie.  The Mexican War was started on the basis of the lie that Mexican troops had fired on American troops on American soil.  The Spanish-American War was started on the basis of the lie that the Spanish blew up the battleship Maine in Havana harbor.  The Vietnam intervention was authorized on the basis of the lie that the North Vietnamese had attacked American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.  Yet the first two of these wars turned out well—that is, well from the American perspective, not from the point of view of the victims of aggression.

iraq_oil_map485I thought it possible that the Iraq invasion would turn out well for all concerned.  Iraq was ruled by a cruel and hated dictator.  I thought that after U.S. forces liberated Iraq from the dictator, Iraq would become a country whose people were friendly to the United States, and whose rulers would be more dependable military allies and oil suppliers than the royal family of Saudi Arabia.

In addition, the United States had been waging a low-level war against Iraq for more than 10 years, following Operation Desert Storm in 1991.  All through the Clinton administration, Iraq was under economic blockade, with intermittent bombing, which had caused enormous hardship and suffering.  I thought that the human suffering from a quick invasion.

The George W. Bush administration quickly proved me wrong.  Military forces occupied the Iraqi oil ministry and oil fields, and let the rest of the country sink into chaos.  Local Iraqi leaders were pushed aside, and U.S. appointees installed in their place.  For some reason, the Iraqi military was disbanded, but individual soldiers were allowed to keep their weapons, when the obviously sensible thing to do would have been to confiscate the weapons but keep the soldiers on a payroll and under control.  American commanders installed themselves in some of Saddam Hussein’s old palaces, and sent prisoners to his old torture chamber in Abu Ghraib.

But even if the Bush administration had been sincerely interested in creating a democratic Iraq, this probably would not have been feasible for a foreign invading army to do.  I went through the same stages in my thinking about Iraq that I did about Vietnam, but over a shorter period of time—from thinking U.S. policy was flawed but justified to thinking that U.S. policy was a big mistake to thinking that U.S. policy was a crime. Of course it should have been obvious in both cases that unleashing total war on a small country that does not threaten you is a crime.

I was wrong about Iraq, and wiser friends of mine were right.  Now I was not a decision-maker, or even, in those days, a blogger.  My wrongness had few consequences.  But I am an American citizen.  Politicians ultimately answer to the citizens.  I have my small share of the responsibility for the Iraq tragedy.

(more…)