Then and Now: Truth and spin on Iraq
June 30, 2005 6:29 AM   Subscribe

To be successful, an occupation such as that contemplated after any hostilities in Iraq requires much detailed interagency planning, many forces, multi-year military commitment, and a national commitment to nation-building... To conduct their share of the essential tasks that must be accomplished to reconstruct an Iraqi state, military forces will be severely taxed in military police, civil affairs, engineer, and transportation units, in addition to possible severe security difficulties. The administration of an Iraqi occupation will be complicated by deep religious, ethnic, and tribal differences which dominate Iraqi society. U.S. forces may have to manage and adjudicate conflicts among Iraqis that they can barely comprehend. An exit strategy will require the establishment of political stability, which will be difficult to achieve given Iraq's fragmented population, weak political institutions, and propensity for rule by violence.

From the US Army War College in February 2003: Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges, and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario  (PDF). From June 2005, Anthony Cordesman's analysis of factual misstatements in the President's recent address: Truth and spin on Iraq. Foresight is 20/20. Irresponsibility and mendacity are timeless.
posted by y2karl (44 comments total)
The president talked about democracy as a regional panacea, and not as part of a difficult and long-term process of reform that must be coupled to the rule of law and human rights, economic reform, social reform, and demographic change. As usual he cast his call for such reform in ways likely to provoke considerable local hostility from both friendly regimes and reformers. He talked about Libya, but not challenges like Iran, and totally avoided the difficult subject of the linkage between progress in the Arab-Israeli peace process and success in Iraq. He made no mention of the problems in dealing with Iraq's neighbors or how he intends to address them.

The president did not approach honesty in addressing the military burden on the United States, and key allies like Britain and Australia. He talked about thousands of Coalition troops, not the need to maintain a massive U.S. troop presence until Iraq forces are ready. He did not mention that several Coalition allies now plan to leave or are considering doing so. He talked about 17 nations contributing to the NATO training mission without noting that these are at best a few thousands, of which hundreds are actually deployed in Iraq. In doing so, he did not warn the American people that there are thousands of American killed and wounded still to come, or explain and justify this sacrifice.
posted by y2karl at 6:39 AM on June 30, 2005

You really should use tags. That way it would be easier to tell that this is your 14th post about how horrible the Iraq situation is in the last two months.

Don't you ever get tired of lecturing to us?
posted by dios at 6:47 AM on June 30, 2005

Dios, you seem to stick around just to troll posts like this. This is not about how bad things are in Iraq, it's about what your dear Fuerer knows but doesn't tell. Also, this excellent analysis from TomDispatch (are you going to take it down yet again, Matt?)
posted by acrobat at 7:02 AM on June 30, 2005

I'm tired of the war and the administration's lies, does that count?
posted by YurikoKinje at 7:06 AM on June 30, 2005

dios, please tell me about all the good stuff happening in Iraq. This is just sooo depressing, and I need motivation.
posted by gsb at 7:07 AM on June 30, 2005

dios writes "Don't you ever get tired of lecturing to us?"

posted by orthogonality at 7:11 AM on June 30, 2005

Don't you ever get tired of lecturing to us?

your dear Fuerer

I can see this is going to be reasonable and productive.

dios, wait for the conversation to happen a little bit before fouling the waters. acrobat, if your going to Godwin someone, at least learn to spell "Fuehrer" (or Fuhrer) correctly.
posted by jonmc at 7:14 AM on June 30, 2005

You get tired, you go to bed. You have a heart, you're going to have some nightmares about what you're doing to a country that has NEVER harmed you. You have a brain, you should be tired of your pres constantly treating you like idiots.
posted by acrobat at 7:17 AM on June 30, 2005

Derailed and Godwined in 2!! A new record! MeTa-ed in 4! We are on a roll!
Can this discussion be saved?
dios, how about a nice little point-by-point refutation of the matter at hand? You can do that, right? You've got, like, facts and stuff to counter all this doom-and-gloom from our resident nattering nabob of negativism, right? Otherwise, how can you possibly defend the beliefs that you espouse?
C'mon! Step up!
posted by Floydd at 7:24 AM on June 30, 2005

Hey! Saddam's been linked to 9/11! The "evidence is clear!" " must have looked in the wrong places." Rep. Robin Hayes said.

I feel soo much better now.
posted by Floydd at 7:34 AM on June 30, 2005

Funny article on Robin Hayes's claims. Does he also see dead people?
posted by psmealey at 8:14 AM on June 30, 2005

dios, just because you like the feeling of sand covering your head, doesn't mean you should bitch about other people on the basis that they prefer to be aware of the reality we share.

Translation: get bent.
posted by modernerd at 8:43 AM on June 30, 2005

There seem to be two threads to this post - let's break them down simply, taking the last first:

(1) "Bush is/has misrepresented the truth, i.e., he's lying about the facts of the situation in Iraq." This should not come as too much of a surprise as Bush is a politician - politicians oversimplify situations and outright misrepresent them in order to curry favor & support - hence the old joke, "How do you know a politician is lying? - their lips are moving." While I am sensitive to the feeling of "Don't piss down our backs and tell us it's raining," what would you have us do karl? What's to be gained by continuing to bang this drum? Surely you were not so naive as to expect differently?

(2) Going into Iraq implied more than just a militarily victory, i.e. a long-term presence/commitment would be required to stabilize the situation afterwards. Certainly borne out by the analysis in the link you provide and nothing for which the American public or that of the "coalition partners" should have expected any differently, regardless of politicians soothing claims to the contrary.

What's to do? Stay the course in the Iraq until we can create a political & civic infrastructure that leaves some stability in the area. We owe no less to the people there and our national strategic interests are such that we can't leave 1/4 of the wold's oil reserves in turmoil.

Voice your displeasure with the political culture that spawns such "disassembling" by voting the offending hacks out of office.

Nice link....
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:43 AM on June 30, 2005

Ah, but Field Marshall von Rumsfeld doesn't believe in "foresight," apparently.

Q: Should we have better estimated the strength of the insurgency --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh my goodness - the strength of the insurgency is a
function of the success of the Iraqi government people to persuade the
Iraqi people that, in fact, they have a legitimate government and that's
coming; you can see it in the polls. You can see people in Iraq have
greater respect for the government. They have greater respect for the
Iraqi security forces. Now how do you estimate that? How does anyone do
it? You don't have crystal balls in life.
posted by digaman at 8:48 AM on June 30, 2005

The Senate investigation into pre-war intelligence assessments found numerous faults which were blamed for misleading the public and policymakers on the state of the Iraq threat.

What hasn't been fully explored is how senior policymakers used these intelligence assessments to make the case for war, how they cherrypicked favorable evidence that supported their case, and an in-depth look at the planning. The second part of the Senate investigation had been stalled so not to coincide with the November elections, and hasn't yet resumed.

Evidence has emerged that numerous intelligence assessments contradicted the neocon party line on the matters of yellowcake, aluminum tubes for nuclear materials production, UAVs, and many other assertions. There was lively internal debate on the state of the threat Iraq posed, however the public received a very one sided picture, where mere possibility was presented as assured certainty.

These contradictions (and those with the courage to present them) were systematically strongarmed into compliance or brushed aside by senior officials.

Taken along with revelations from the British government that war was pre-determined but planning for the aftermath received scant attention, and there was a strategy to market the war using half-truths and fabrications to drum up public support...the first logical step is to restart the Senate's investigation into the use of pre-war intelligence by administration officials.

The lack of planning is all the more inexcusable given that the invasion happened on their own timeline. There is simply no excuse for unpreparedness, not when this scenario was well foreseen by their own military analysts. The US Army War College report is one piece in a long list of evidence which clearly shows that. But hell, even the Onion predicted the outcome better than Bushco.

Thanks for this FPP, Y2Karl -- the myth that pre-war intelligence assessments got it all wrong and therefore make a worthy scapegoat needs to be chopped down. There is irrefutable evidence that Bushco decieved the people and the Congress and ignored their own military advisors in their march to war. And if the act of systematic deception coupled with inexcusable incompetence doesn't constitute a high crime, I don't know what would.
posted by edverb at 8:49 AM on June 30, 2005

edverb, now THAT should have been a FPP!
posted by mystyk at 9:17 AM on June 30, 2005

Its fascinating to find that our military is full of experts who 'know' how to defeat a determined guerilla resistance against an occupying foreign army when it has never been accomplished by anyone in modern times. The continued confusion issued by our leaders both political and military about the purpose and worth of this adventure makes it clear to me that "winning" is not a possible outcome here unless the term is redefined to include both withdrawal and saving of face, also known as 'honor'. Until the political spinmeisters can wordsmith the proper phrases, many more must die. On the other hand, our leaders may not be motivated to withdraw just because they are being beaten in the battlefield. Control of the oil fields may be enough to make them stay for the decades they are talking about.
posted by Dead Ball Tim at 9:31 AM on June 30, 2005

"Its fascinating to find that our military is full of experts who 'know' how to defeat a determined guerilla resistance against an occupying foreign army when it has never been accomplished by anyone in modern times. "

Didn't the British accomplish this in Malaysia? Pretty sure that they did post WWII.
posted by jperkins at 9:40 AM on June 30, 2005

That was a rather different situation. The Communist insurgency was in majority made up of ethnic Chinese, who had little support among the local population. There are other examples - and here is a round-up.
posted by TimothyMason at 10:09 AM on June 30, 2005

I sincerely appreciate y2Karl's posts on this subject, but then I've been accused of preaching on the subject here, contaminating the beautiful minds of those who would prefer that the Best of the Web be as detached as possible from the Rest of Life. Yep, wish we had more goofy flash cartoons and sites about people who archive every known brand of pasta rather than compelling updates and information about the most important issue affecting the entire world today.

Give 'em hell, y2Karl. The more snark you draw, the more it proves you've got the attention of the censorious guardians of the gates of relevancy.
posted by realcountrymusic at 10:20 AM on June 30, 2005

That was a rather different situation.

The second link that you provided explicitly mentions using the methods employed by the British in Malaysia in contemporary Iraq.
posted by jperkins at 10:22 AM on June 30, 2005

What Pressed Rat with the caviat that I think it's worth posting about the situation in Iraq. I think it should be in flaming letters written accross the sky. People should be angry, and they're not. They should want to hear it over and over and over. They should in fact be obsessed. But instead they're tired of the whining and lecturing (like dios). Why?

Because it's not their kid or their brother or friends coming home in body backs or short one limb. Certainly not their comerades.

So there are people here who need to hear it over and over until they understand what this administration is doing.

Nice one edverb
posted by Smedleyman at 10:35 AM on June 30, 2005

If you want to count that, the werewolf violence in Germany didn't stop until 1947 or 48, killing occupying soldiers and German "collaborators."

They had very little support from the population, no doubt in part because, gosh, everyone remembered that the alternative to being occupied was Bomber Harris's tender mercies, or a big hug from Stalin. It probably also didn't help the werewolf campaign that in the early stages, the reaction of allied forces to being attacked in a town was just to pull out and shell it until they got bored with it.

Not saying that we should do anything remotely similar, just that the lack of support from the population was understandable.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:36 AM on June 30, 2005

TimothyMason's point wasn't to do with the British methods but the fact that it wasn't a popular insurgency.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:37 AM on June 30, 2005

But hell, even the Onion predicted the outcome better than Bushco.

posted by caddis at 10:45 AM on June 30, 2005

Mod note: edited the title tags to not break the front page
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:45 AM on June 30, 2005

Richard Cohen in today's Washington Post: "Echoes of Vietnam"
"About two years ago I sat down with a colleague and explained why Iraq was not going to be Vietnam. Iraq lacked a long-standing nationalist movement and a single charismatic leader like Ho Chi Minh. The insurgents did not have a sanctuary like North Vietnam, which supplied manpower, materiel and leadership, and the rebel cause in Iraq -- just what is it, exactly? -- was not worth dying for. On Tuesday President Bush proved me wrong. Iraq is beginning to look like Vietnam."
"The war Bush declared to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction is not the war being waged. The two have only one thing in common: rhetorical sleight of hand. Yet the consequences of pulling out of Iraq would be awful. The day Saigon fell I was ashamed for my country -- an ugly, disgraceful retreat. I don't want that to happen again. But unless Bush rethinks his strategy, fires some people who long ago earned dismissal, examines his own assumptions (what's the point of continuing to isolate Iran and Syria when we need them both to seal Iraq's borders?) and talks turkey to the American people, he will lose everything good he set out to do, including the example Iraq could set for the rest of the Middle East. I know Iraq is not Vietnam. But Tuesday night it sure sounded like it."
posted by ericb at 11:58 AM on June 30, 2005

The day Saigon fell I was ashamed for my country -- an ugly, disgraceful retreat.

This is the nut. What was disgraceful about Vietnam was the slipshod, unprofessional way we (Nixon/Ford) abandoned the Thieu regime to its fate against a well-supplied NVA.

But securing S Vietnam, with the avenues of infiltration from the N, was essentially an unwinnable mission with the resources we were willing to commit to the battle, and basic facts on the ground.

The #1 lesson from Vietnam (and Iraq) is people need to fight for their own freedoms, it is something earned not given. PKO should be used to separate combatants if & when doable, and actual intervention should only be attempted to fight foreign forces (eg the Chicoms in Korea).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:31 PM on June 30, 2005

The problem here isn't 'not supporting the troops', at least not on the home front. The problem is the same problem that led to the loss of Vietnam: Trying to win a war with lies. This administration, like Johnson's, seems to think those who don't agree with them are the enemy just as Johnson thought of the left as 'the enemy' back then. They thought they lost because they didn't have support at home.
They lost because they lied to the soldiers, they lied to the generals, they lied to those on Capitol Hill that mattered and most of all, they lied to the american people, who reacted accordingly at being treated like children.
That is what is happening here now. Americans are very well aware they are lied to, they are very well aware that those who claim to 'support the troops' are lying out of their asses by ignoring the plight of bad equipment, not enough support out in the field where it counts, too few troop rotations due to fielding too few troops in the first place and ignorant stooges on the home front who parrot a lie without thinking about how that very lie harms America more than it helps it.
posted by mk1gti at 12:46 PM on June 30, 2005

And to those who think these types of topics are featured far to frequently, well these and similar issues are a product of our times. Vietnam, the Korean War, WWII and I, all wars generate discussion. It is how we develop a national consensus and form opinions so that we can deal with the issue as responsible 'muricans rather than consumer-obsessed sheep.
At this time in world history (not just U.S. history) we are faced with a time where one country has more control over other countries like no other time before. It says it is all for 'democracy and freedom' but the results clearly show otherwise. As a human being who cares about other human beings regardless of race, creed, color, religion or political affiliation I can't help but be concerned about this as ultimately it really does concern us all (look at all the jobs being shipped overseas as this country becomes more and more like a third-world country every day.)
Which would you rather have? 'Let them eat cake' or 'I give a damn and so should you.'
posted by mk1gti at 12:58 PM on June 30, 2005

The #1 lesson from Vietnam (and Iraq) is people need to fight for their own freedoms, it is something earned not given. PKO should be used to separate combatants if & when doable, and actual intervention should only be attempted to fight foreign forces (eg the Chicoms in Korea).

This is precisely my argument to this mysterious new brand of Conservative that suddenly had all these deep sentiments for the poor "Iraqi People", feelings that coincidentally materialized right after our invasion of Iraq and when WMD failed to materialize. It was the deep concern of people desperate to assuage their collective guilt.

I tell them this: Fuck the Iraqi's. If they wanted a democracy, if they wanted pluralism, if they wanted MTV or whatever you dipshits assume they wanted - let them die for it them selves. Other wise fuck the Iraqi's they deserve Saddam if that's what they want fine. They can have him.

You can't GIVE oppressed people these kinds of ideals. It's a process of societal evolution and the people have voluntarily DIE for it to last.

You must accumulate the critical mass to sustain these notions - they require a voluntary momentum. Enough people have to stand up and get shot by the tyrant until he realizes he simply CAN'T kill enough people to stop the momentum. It's not worth it.

But here we are. Supposedly giving the the gift of freedom. because we care.

Eventually you can get through to conservatives. Simply appeal to the innate selfishness of the "new" conservatism.


Say this: You old-school original conservatives were right. Nation building DOES suck. Nation Building is expensive and the most immoral invasive form of "social" engineering possible. It is "socialism" on the international scale. So, like, cut it out.

Hey Republicans. You can stop caring now, just let the fuckers be! It's easier NOT to care. Fewer people die.
posted by tkchrist at 2:32 PM on June 30, 2005

The funny thing is that those who are saying "Let them eat cake ", will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

That was a joke.

A bad, bad, silly thing.

Let's not talk about it anymore.

Look, a grenade!!!!
posted by daq at 2:33 PM on June 30, 2005

It was the deep concern of people desperate to assuage their collective guilt.

No kidding. And it's from the same people who were ready to turn the country to glass a year or two ago. Bloody spineless automatons.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:36 PM on June 30, 2005

In regards to the President's speech, Billmon of Whiskey Bar notes

If you go back and look at the old party lines (versions 1.0 and 2.0) you can quickly see that something new has been added. Heretofore, the "anti-Iraqi forces" have consisted of:

1.) Foreign Terrorists (aka "assassins")
2.) Regime Remnants (aka "dead enders")
3.) Criminal Elements (aka "thugs")

But now we have a fourth category, one with a nice neutral name that doesn't allude to hacking people's heads off or gassing your own people or hating our freedoms:

4.) Iraqi Insurgents (aka "negotiating partners.")

and further makes the argument that

By opening negotiations (according to the Sunday Times, the Americans made the first move, not the insurgents) the administration has shown weakness -- every bit as much, if not more, than it would by setting a timetable for withdrawal.

Bush acknowledged on Friday that “the way ahead is not going to be easy” and for once the Iraqi insurgent commander agreed with him.
“It looks like the Americans are in big trouble in Iraq and are desperate to find a way out,” the commander said. “Why else would they have rounds of negotiations with people they label as terrorists?”
The true believers of the Bush cult no doubt can be relied upon to wipe the contradiction from their minds. We'll probably get a post any day now from the Powerline bundists explaining why only liberal traitors oppose negotiating with terrorists. But the silent majority might not be so easy to con. It supported the war when the goal was to defeat the insurgency. It was willing -- much more reluctantly -- to keep the troops in Iraq long enough for "Iraqization" to work, so that Iraqi troops could defeat the insurgency. But you have to wonder whether they'll be willing to keep sending their children to die fighting evil, head-chopping terrorists, when their government is negotiating with those very same terrorists.

And so we arrive at the heart of the problem: To salvage any ending short of total defeat in Iraq, the Cheney administration must act like those spineless, flip-flopping liberals. They have to negotiate with the terrorists, listening to their demands, trying to understand their grievances and goals -- shit, offering them therapy sessions for all I know. But at the same time, Bush also has to keep up the never-give-an-inch macho act, lest the silent majority finally grasp the dismal truth: Their sons and daughters must go on dying in the quagmire so the neocons can find a way out that doesn't involve losing too much face.

That's why I think this story has the potential to develop into a PR debacle that dwarfs Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the Downing Street memos put together. It echoes all too painfully the primal sin of Vietnam as enshrined in popular mythology: that the politicians led the army, and the country, into war, but weren't willing to pursue it to victory.

And here, in an examination of Karl Rove's recent play of the liberals-are-traitors card comes this reflection:

Now that Karl Rove's recent comments have been thoroughly chewed, swallowed and digested by the political blogosphere, maybe it's time to consider what they imply about America's prospects in the war on terrorism.

To me, they suggest it may be time to brush up on my Arabic.

If Rove really believes what he said -- and we've had absolutely no indication from the GOP politburo that he didn't -- then it would appear the Cheney administration has concluded the war is already lost. Logically, the White House should be considering what kind of surrender terms to seek from Osama bin Laden.

The war is lost--cue the Stab In The Back meme. Already. That was quick.
posted by y2karl at 2:41 PM on June 30, 2005

In regards to the President's speech, Billmon of Whiskey Bar notes...

Fascinating interpretation. Regarding the Presidential Address...

42% of Americans would impeach Bush if there was proof he lied about Iraq, Bush got NO bump from Tuesday's speech
The Zogby America survey of 905 likely voters, conducted from June 27 through 29, 2005, has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points.

Just one week ago, President Bush’s job approval stood at a previous low of 44%—but it has now slipped another point to 43%, despite a speech to the nation intended to build support for the Administration and the ongoing Iraq War effort. The Zogby America survey includes calls made both before and after the President’s address, and the results show no discernible “bump” in his job approval, with voter approval of his job performance at 45% in the final day of polling.
And among Red State voters, he's sinking too:
In a more significant sign of the weakness of the President’s numbers, more “Red State” voters—that is, voters living in the states that cast their ballots for the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004—now rate his job performance unfavorably, with 50% holding a negative impression of the President’s handling of his duties, and 48% holding a favorable view. The President also gets negative marks from one-in-four (25%) Republicans—as well as 86% of Democrats and 58% of independents. (Bush nets favorable marks from 75% of Republicans, 13% of Democrats and 40% of independents.)
But what's particularly intersting is that one in four Republicans would support impeachment.
A large majority of Democrats (59%) say they agree that the President should be impeached if he lied about Iraq, while just three-in-ten (30%) disagree. Among President Bush’s fellow Republicans, a full one-in-four (25%) indicate they would favor impeaching the President under these circumstances, while seven-in-ten (70%) do not. Independents are more closely divided, with 43% favoring impeachment and 49% opposed.
posted by ericb at 3:08 PM on June 30, 2005

A guest opinion posted on Informed Comment today:

...It seems to me that even "pessimists" are actually "optimists": they assume that there exists in Iraq and the Gulf some "solution", some course of action which can actually lead to an outcome other than widespread, prolonged violence, with devastating economic, political, and social consequences.

I regret to say that I think this is wrong. There is no "solution" to this mess; it is sometimes not possible to "fix" things which have been broken. I can see no course of action which will prevent widespread violence, regional social upheaval, and economic hammering administered by oil price shocks. This is why so many of us opposed the invasion of Iraq so strenuously in the first place! We thought that it would unleash irreversible adverse consequences for (conventionally defined) US interests in the region. I am very sorry to say that I still think we were right...

Please don't misunderstand me: I am not advocating regional-crisis-cum-oil-price-spike. I simply think that it is probably unavoidable. If we leave, there will be violence, mayhem, slaughter, and instability, and if we stay there will be violence, mayhem, slaughter, and instability. If there is (as I tend to think) a large crisis looming on the horizon, it will certainly be ugly, even hideous. And then-something else will happen. The one thing I don?t think is possible is to avoid it.

So let me close where I began: I think it is delusional to imagine that there exists a "solution" to the mess in Iraq. From this perspective, the folly of Bush, Cheney and Company in invading Iraq is even worse than most informed observers of the region already think. Starting an avalanche is certainly criminal. It does not follow, however, that such a phenomenon can be stopped once it has begun.

"The Iraq Avalanche Cannot be Stopped"
posted by y2karl at 3:48 PM on June 30, 2005

Coming by Labor Day: a policy shift from the ninnies who started this invasion mess.
posted by warbaby at 3:54 PM on June 30, 2005

I wish Colin Powell would quit being the good soldier and speak more openly about this. I was concerned when the Powell doctrine was so blithely ignored by those who thought the special forces/mercenary mix against the Taliban would work.

Had such planning occurred I'm sure the US wouldn't be in the mess it is in. But Powell's credibility is gone for me. It would be interesting to see the administration's reaction though. Would they attack his character? Would America believe him?

Is it possible for the media of today to present America any semblance of the truth?
posted by infowar at 3:58 PM on June 30, 2005

Pft. The Powell doctrine. What a joke. Overwhelming force? Wow. What novel idea!

Well. We HAD overwhelming force for what the Neocons intended — force out an unfriendly, stir up civil war and place a puppet minority stooge in power and secure a permanent base away from the fracas then loot the place four-ways from Sunday.

And we nearly got all that. We should have left fuck-all but the three bases in the north. Until. They started believing their own press releases and actually TRIED nation building.

The other problem was it ain't like the old days where you can let a failed state fester while you loot it... now you create a terror breeding ground you can't isolate or play off on another Superpower like you could forty years ago.

For nation building, lo-and-behold, you DO need international legitimacy because nation building is a political process. Not a military one. And for that inspection had to run their course before you go to any force option... and on that Powell caved like everybody else.

Powell was in on the WMD bullshit and a is fucking sell out and will never go against the Bush administration because he will be implicated in an illegal war. Fuck him.
posted by tkchrist at 5:07 PM on June 30, 2005

Consider. Three years ago, when the Bush administration started ramping up the case for invading Iraq, Afghanistan had recently been liberated from both the Taliban and the al-Qaida terrorists who had attacked the US. There was still a vast amount to be done to make Afghanistan a safe place. Iraq, meanwhile, was a hideous dictatorship under Saddam Hussein. But, as the United States' own September 11 commission subsequently concluded, Saddam's regime had no connection with the 9/11 attacks. Iraq was not then a recruiting sergeant or training ground for jihadist terrorists. Now it is. The US-led invasion, and Washington's grievous mishandling of the subsequent occupation, have made it so. General Wesley Clark puts it plainly: "We are creating enemies." And the president observes: our great achievement will be to prevent Iraq becoming another Taliban-style, al-Qaida-harbouring Afghanistan! This is like a man who shoots himself in the foot and then says: "We must prevent it turning gangrenous, then you'll understand why I was right to shoot myself in the foot."

In short, whether or not the invasion of Iraq was a crime, it's now clear that - at least in the form in which the invasion and occupation was executed by the Bush administration - it was a massive blunder. And the American people are beginning to see this. Before Bush spoke at Fort Bragg, 53% of those asked in a CNN/Gallup poll said it was a mistake to go into Iraq. Just 40% approved of how he has handled Iraq, down from 50% at the time of the presidential election last November. Contrary to what many Europeans believe, you can fool some of the Americans all of the time, and all of the Americans some of the time, but you can't fool most Americans most of the time - even with the help of Fox News. Reality gets through. Hence the new sobriety.

I don't want to overstate this. One is still gobsmacked by things American Republicans say. Take the glorification of the military, for example. In his speech, Bush insisted "there is no higher calling than service in our armed forces". What? No higher calling! How about being a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, an aid worker? Unimaginable that any European leader could say such a thing.

The sobering of America

God help the army that must fight for an idea rather than an objective. After somehow failing to argue competently on behalf of a patently justifiable invasion, and as its more specious arguments were collapsing, the Bush administration then pivoted with breathtaking enthusiasm to nation building, something so Clinton-tinged that it had previously been held in contempt. The more that nation building in Iraq is in doubt, the more the mission creeps into a doubling of bets in hope of covering those that are lost. Now the goal is to reforge the politics, and perforce the culture, not merely of Iraq but of the billion-strong Islamic world from Morocco to the South Seas. That--evangelical democracy writ overwhelmingly large--is the manic idea for which the army must fight.
But no law of nature says a democracy is incapable of supporting terrorism, so even if every Islamic capital were to become a kind of Westminster with curlicues, the objective of suppressing terrorism might still find its death in the inadequacy of the premise. Even if all the Islamic states became democracies, the kind of democracies they might become might not be the kind of democracies wrongly presumed to be incapable of supporting terrorism. And if Iraq were to become the kind of democracy that is the kind wrongly presumed (and for more than a short period), there is no evidence whatsoever that other Arab or Islamic states, without benefit of occupying armies, would follow. And if they did, how long might it last? They do not need Iraq as an example, they have Britain and Denmark, and their problem is not that they require a demonstration, but rather their culture, history, and secret police.

If we could transform Germany and Japan, then why not Iraq? Approximately 150,000 troops occupy Iraq, which has a population of 26 million and shares long open borders with sympathetic Arab and Islamic countries where popular sentiment condemns America. The Iraqi army was dispersed but neither destroyed nor fully disarmed. The country is divided into three armed nations. Its cities are intact.

In contrast, on the day of Germany's surrender, Eisenhower had three million Americans under his command--61 divisions, battle hardened. Other Western forces pushed the total to 4.5 million in 93 divisions. And then there were the Russians, who poured 2.5 million troops into the Berlin sector alone. All in all, close to 10 million soldiers had converged upon a demoralized German population of 70 million that had suffered more than four million dead and 10 million wounded, captured, or missing. No sympathizers existed, no friendly borders. The cities had been razed. Germany had been broken, but even after this was clear, more than 700,000 occupation troops remained, with millions close by. The situation in Japan was much the same: a country with a disciplined, homogenous population, no allies, sealed borders, its cities half burnt, more than three million dead, a million wounded, missing, or captured, its revered emperor having capitulated, and nearly half a million troops in occupation. And whereas both Germany and Japan had been democracies in varying degree, Iraq has been ruled by a succession of terrifying autocrats since the beginning of human history.

To succeed, a paradigm of "invade, reconstruct, and transform" requires the decisive defeat, disarmament, and political isolation of the enemy; the demoralization of his population and destruction of its political beliefs; and the presence, at the end of hostilities, of overwhelming force. With U.S. military capacity virtually unchanged since the Clinton years, and a potentially heavy draw upon American forces in other crises, the paradigm is untenable. Though against all odds it may succeed temporarily in Iraq, it is premised upon succeeding in far too many other places of fierce and longstanding antipathy to what we represent.

OpinionJournal - Written On Water
posted by y2karl at 7:34 PM on June 30, 2005

I find myself agreeing a lot with TkChrist, with perhaps less vitriol towards the Iraqi's themselves. They didn't really ask for this. But in relation to karl's links, I agree--you can't make people want democracy. In fact, as bad as it sounds, maybe we need to fully arm the Shiites and Kurds and let them have their way fully. It would be bloody, but it would end eventually. Their would be a horizon or benchmark of cowing the Sunni opposition into shaping up and stop dancing with the foreign jihadists. (Although I don't think there are nearly as many of them as Bush would want us to believe.)

Of course, Iran would really love that. That's why I was an English major I guess.
posted by bardic at 9:39 PM on June 30, 2005

But here we are. Supposedly giving the the gift of freedom. because we care.

tkchrist, the funny thing is we're buying into the bullshit framing.

The Pentagon Papers revealed that our commitment to Saigon was, and this is a quote, 70% national standing (not backing down to a challenge), 20% to keep the Chicoms out of Indochina, and 10% liberté & freefdom of the SVN people.

I suspect what got the war wheels turning in 2002 was similarly off-line reasoning: 70% geopolitical considerations (displacing the French, Germans, and Russians from those phat oil contracts), 20% keeping the Chinese out of the gulf, and 10% (if that!) peas and liberté & freefdom of the Iraqi people.

What we forget is that when republican-owned corporations win $$$, the republicans in office win, thanks to the peculiar institution we euphemize as 'campaign contributions'.

It's a real virtuous cycle.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:52 AM on July 1, 2005

tkchrist: The Powell Doctorine also called for clear and specific military and political goals and an exit strategy. As I said in my post, Powell has lost all credibility with me. But that's not what I asked. I asked what most people would think. Thanks. I do have your opinion down. Just a few more million.

Your first post nailed my feelings in many ways. In public I would not state it as strongly you.
posted by infowar at 5:20 AM on July 1, 2005

tkchrist, the funny thing is we're buying into the bullshit framing.

*sigh* I know. I know. It makes me want to cry. And then puke. And then puke and cry.

70% geopolitical considerations (displacing the French, Germans, and Russians from those phat oil contracts)

And—this may be contradictory— I grok that. The Realpolitk side of me understands looting peoples shit is the way of history. It pisses off the hippies. But it is the truth.

It's like this. I'm an ok guy, and most of my friends are ok guys, better us than these 13th century assholes that kill women for being victims of rape? Right?

I mean it's a trickle down world if we like it or not — and the west tends to be trickly-er in respect to progressive notions than the rest of the world. Even if it is two steps forward and one step back. So we use these resources to maybe help the world. Maybe.

Anyhoo. I grok the geopolitics of it. And if they wanted they could have sold THAT to me and guys like me. But they lied through their fucking teeth. And then they lost guys like me. Forever.

And the plan. Oooooh. The plan. What? Did they hire Three-Stooges International Strategists or what? Did Bush actually want to win this thing because it sure appears that he did not. Bush was in a big hurry because the lies were so transparent he HAD to be. He wanted the big WWII invasion footage on the History Channel to be associated with his legacy. So we get this stupid rushed invasion plan with no occupation plan.

And now we get an expensive failed client state for the next thirty years that breeds killers who eat and breath hatred for every ideal we believe.
posted by tkchrist at 4:28 PM on July 1, 2005

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