Posts Tagged ‘Iraq war’

The real winners in Iraq and Syria

January 2, 2018

Pipeline map via Southfront

Russian-backed forces have defeated the so-called Islamic State in Syria.  U.S.-backed forces have defeated the Islamic State in Iraq.  Peace may be at hand.

The winners in these wars were Russia, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the Shi’ite militias in Iraq.  The losers, in addition to the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL and Da’esh), were Al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates and Israel.

The United States was in a contradictory position.  By invading Iraq and overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. gave power to Iraq’s Shi’ite majority, which is aligned with Iran.   This went against long-range U.S. goals, which are to support Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Also, the official justification for intervention in the Middle East was to fight Al Qaeda terrorists.  But the regimes attacked by the U.S. government—Saddam’s Iraq and Assad’s Syria—were enemies of Al Qaeda, as was the Ayatollahs’ Iran.  No matter what U.S. did, it would either strengthen Al Qaeda or strengthen Iran.

Given the inherent contradiction in U.S. policy, I think the current outcome was the best that could be expected.   Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump deserve credit for not escalating a new war to keep Russians out of Syria and Iranians out of Iraq.   I’m not sure Hillary Clinton, given her record of starting wars, would have shown the same wisdom.

LINKS

As guns fall silent, Russia to shape Syrian endgame by Sami Moubayed for Asia Times.  [Added 1/3/2018]

Iraq War 3.0, the War to End All Wars, Is Over by Peter Van Buren for We Meant Well.

Are the Wars in Syria and Iraq Finally Coming to an End? by Patrick Cockburn for Counterpunch.

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Jeb Bush blames Obama, Hillary Clinton for ISIS

August 15, 2015

Gov. Jeb Bush blamed President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the rise of the bloodthirsty Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL) because they abandoned the policies of his brother, President George W. Bush.

In fact, Obama and Clinton contributed to the rise of ISIS by following the policies of George W. Bush.

jebbush-hillaryclintonThe Islamic State’s predecessor, Al Qaeda, had no presence in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.  Al Qaeda and later ISIS were able to establish themselves in Iraq because the U.S. invasion destroyed the governmental structure of Iraq, and nobody was able to put it back together again.

But didn’t the withdrawal of American forces open the door to ISIS?  Whether it did or not, the withdrawal was begun under an agreement negotiated by President George W. Bush in his last year in office with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.   The reason for the agreement was that the American occupation was highly unpopular in both countries.

Realizing this, President Bush stopped listening to Vice President Dick Cheney and replaced Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld with Robert Gates.   President Barack Obama retained Gates and implemented the Bush agreement.

President Obama’s most important foreign policy innovation was to make interventionism politically sustainable by finding a substitute for American boots on the ground—flying killer drones, Special Forces assassination teams and subsidies for Arab fighters.

During the 14 years since the 9/11 attacks, radical Islamist terrorists have grown stronger, and they gave grown strongest in those countries in which the U.S. military has been most active.  This includes Libya, which Hillary Clinton reduced to the same state of bloody chaos and ISIS-friendly environment as Iraq.

She and Jeb Bush are both war hawks.  She is the more experienced and knowledgeable war hawk, but there is no reason to think either would change the bad course of American foreign policy.

LINKS

Memo to Jeb Bush: It was W’s surge that created ISIL, not Hillary by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.

Republicans Can’t Face the Truth About Iraq by Eric Margolis via Unz Review.  [Added 8/16/2015]

George Bush didn’t know anything about Maliki, but put him in charge of Iraq anyway by Zack Beauchamp for Vox.

The Planned Destruction of Libya by John Wight for Counterpunch.

Hillary, the Ultimate Hawk by David French for National Review.

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.

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Why the Iraqi army won’t fight

October 21, 2014

The Iraqi army is retreating, often without firing a shot, from the forces of the Islamic State (ISIS), which they vastly outnumber.

This comes after a decade in which the U.S. government spent $25 billion to train and equip the Iraqi troops.

It is not necessary to know a lot about the Middle East to understand why.  Troops won’t put their lives in danger for someone to whom they feel no loyalty.  They will feel no loyalty to a government that is completely corrupt.  Any government that is set up to serve the interests of a foreign power (the USA) is almost inherently corrupt.

These are not problems that could have been solved by keeping a token American force in Iraq for a few years longer.   They might possibly have been solved if the existing Iraqi army had not been dissolved right after the U.S.-led invasion.

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Investing in Junk Armies: Why American Efforts to Create Foreign Armies Fail by William J. Astore for TomDispatch (via The Unz Review).   Highly recommended.

The Iraqi Army That Never Was by Kelly Vlahos for The American Conservative.

There are worse things than an evil tyrant’s rule

October 13, 2014

Although I had misgivings that the U.S. rationale for invading Iraq in 2003 was based on lies, I thought the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a good thing, not a bad thing.

Saddam HusseinHe had massacred his own people, the Kurdish people in the north and the Marsh Arabs in the south.  I felt ashamed that the U.S. government in 1991 called upon these people to rise up against Saddam and then left them to their fate.  I thought the invasion could be a way of making things right.

One thing that stuck in my mind is that Saddam issued an edict that those who insulted him or his sons would have their tongues cut out.  Amnesty International tracked down someone who suffered that fate.  Surely, I thought, nothing could be worse than such a tyrant’s rule.

But I was wrong.  The people of Iraq are worse off now than they were under Saddam.  At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed in the fighting in Iraq, and some claim as much as a million.  Nobody knows.  There are a million Iraqi refugees.  The age-old Christian community in Iraq is threatened with extinction.

There is something worse than the rule of an evil tyrant, and that is the collapse of governmental authority and, in extreme cases, the whole structure of society.   When people are faced with chaos and unpredictable, uncontrollable killing, robbery and rape, they will turn to anybody that offers protection and order—even the Taliban in Afghanistan, even (perhaps) ISIS in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Going to war for oil doesn’t make any sense

October 9, 2014

infographic.ime.oil.gas

One of the justifications for going to war in the Middle East is to make sure we Americans have access to oil.

During the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War, Secretary of State James Baker said the issue was “jobs, jobs, jobs.”  He didn’t explain, but what I and other Americans took him to mean that if Saddam Hussein cut us off from the oil of Kuwait, our industrial machine would falter.

But there was no danger of that happening.  Saddam Hussein was perfectly happy to sell Iraq’s oil, and would have been perfectly happy to sell Kuwait’s oil.

oilcorridorThe oil-producing nations have just as much need to sell their oil as the oil-consuming nations have to buy it.

U.S. interventions in the Middle East have reduced American access to oil, not secured it.  The sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s, the continuing sanctions against Iran and the new sanctions against Russia have been intended to prevent these nations from selling their oil and natural gas.  The invasion of Iraq destroyed much of that nation’s oil-producing capability, which is only now recovering.

All this made oil and gas prices higher, not lower.

The only time U.S. access to Middle East oil was cut off was during the OPEC oil embargo of 1973.  But the embargo was broken without military action.  It was broken by the international oil companies who sold the oil to whoever wanted to buy it.  [1]

Since then there has never been another threat to U.S. oil imports.  The most strongly anti-American leaders, Libya’s Qaddafi and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, never refused to do business with the United States.  Politics was one thing; business, another.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Iraq war veteran says Manning is a hero

July 29, 2011

PFC Bradley Manning has been imprisoned for 14 months on charges of leaking secret government information, including the tape for the Collateral Murder video, to Wikileaks.  He was held at Quantico Marine barracks from July 2010 to April of this year under conditions of solitary confinement and maximum security that resemble Soviet-style brainwashing.  He is now being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  No trial date has been set.

Specialist Ethan McCord, who served Bravo Company 2-16, the ground troops depicted in the video, told blogger Glenn Greenwald that if Manning was the leaker, he is “a hero of mine.”  Here is his statement.

Serving with my unit 2nd battalion 16th infantry in New Baghdad Iraq, I vividly remember the moment in 2007, when our Battalion Commander walked into the room and announced our new rules of engagement:

“Listen up, new battalion SOP (standing operating procedure) from now on: Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire. You kill every [expletive] in the street!”

We weren’t trained extensively to recognize an unlawful order, or how to report one. But many of us could not believe what we had just been told to do. Those of us who knew it was morally wrong struggled to figure out a way to avoid shooting innocent civilians, while also dodging repercussions from the non-commissioned officers who enforced the policy.  In such situations, we determined to fire our weapons, but into rooftops or abandoned vehicles, giving the impression that we were following procedure.

On April 5, 2010 American citizens and people around the world got a taste of the fruits of this standing operating procedure when WikiLeaks released the now-famous Collateral Murder video.  This video showed the horrific and wholly unnecessary killing of unarmed Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists.

I was part of the unit that was responsible for this atrocity.  In the video, I can be seen attempting to carry wounded children to safety in the aftermath.

The video released by WikiLeaks belongs in the public record. Covering up this incident is a matter deserving of criminal inquiry. Whoever revealed it is an American hero in my book.

Private First Class Bradley Manning has been confined for over a year on the government’s accusation that he released this video and volumes of other classified documents to WikiLeaks — an organization that has been selectively publishing portions of this information in collaboration with other news outlets.

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