Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Perspective on the War in Iraq

First of all, a little mood music. Just hit play, then continue the read:

I've been bouncing this post around in my head for a while. But, with the official end to combat operations in Iraq and a presidential address about something that, while important, hasn't been in the national spotlight for over a year and a half, I'm not getting upstaged by a POTUS speech that will most likely take credit for ending the war.

Just a note, I'm going at this from the perspective of the average person, not the political fanatics that too many of us in the blogosphere are. So I'm also going to cover much of this from memory. Thankfully, this is an area where my memory is not as faulty as a government program.

First of all, for quick history checks, here's the Wiki link.

Snacky Smores presents... The March to War
(wish I could have found an accompanying pic)

The prelude to the invasion of Saddam's Iraq was in the rush to strike back in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.  We had already moved to take out Al Qaeda and their Taliban enablers in Afghanistan.  We were in the process of expanding the government with a new cabinet position and department.  And with the optimism that we weren't going to end up in another Vietnam (especially after the 1990 Gulf War), the Bush administration set their sights on Iraq as part of the "Axis of Evil," which included Iran and south Korea as well.

(I do note that it has never included the source of more Islamic terrorists than any other country, our "friends" in Saudi Arabia, but I guess they act nicer.)

The evidence was presented to Congress and to us that 1. Saddam had WMDs, 2. he would use them (because he had) and 3. he might also give them to terrorists, making it easy to kill a city instead of just a couple of buildings.  This was bolstered by two things.  First, Saddam was gathering stockpiles of things that could build nuclear weapons.  And second, he was toying with UN inspectors over what WMDs he did have.
Plus, there was that shit from 1990, so we knew he was a bad mofo.

Obviously, some of the intel proved unreliable after we were already in there and were committed.  First of all, the WMDs were nowhere to be found.  There were traces, pieces, and remnants, but no massive stockpiles (which some had said was the case, but were dismissed because we had already started steering toward war.  And the Al Qaeda link proved to be tenuous at best, coincidental at worst.  So that brings me to the first questions:  Why did President Bush attack, and was he either mistaken or a liar?

First, I think he was convinced it was the right thing to do.  He didn't expect personal gain by doing this.  But he saw a threat that also dovetailed with a personal dislike, had enough evidence to justify the attack, enough assurances that it would be Gulf War II, and a good amount of popular support.  In most of this, he erred.  Severely.  It was the same mentality that got us into the mess that became Vietnam:  An inability to back down, to keep pushing the war machine forward.  And the cost has been significant.

But for those of you who like to fling out the label of "War Criminal," I doubt you'd find a president that didn't suffer as he watched our soldiers come back in body bags, or hear the reports of fields littered with bodies, or watch them bleed and die.  I can't think of a single one that was cavalier with lives, even as he took actions that ended many.  In this, Bush (and even Obama) is no exception.


So having committed to a fight that would prove to have been a waste had we known beforehand, we marched in and kicked ass.  No surprise there.  Unfortunately, the advantage of a dictatorship like Saddam had is that you suppress all opposition and internal politics by a good mix of killing, torture, rape, and paranoia.  We don't do that.  As a result, we popped the cork on a bottle of bad champagne that was strapped into a paint mixer.  Once we swept away the check that was Saddam's Ba'ath party, all the sectarian violence, the worst of human nature, and the anger of a country with foreign soldiers in the street could produce unleashed in what was part an attack on invaders, part civil war, and part riot.  And then the foreign terrorists, who were also few and far between due to Saddam, came pouring in.  So we had wiped out everything bad that maintaining order.

Of course, this didn't go over well, especially after the ill-conceived "mission accomplished speech.  But we did achieve our first goal of eliminating Saddam and Co.  We shot his sons, rounded up his command bitches, found his dumb ass in a hole, turned him over to the Iraqis, and watched him swing.

Ok, since we're now to the part where we've gotten rid of Saddam, let's give him a final tribute (and some more background music) courtesy of Gwar:

(yeah, totally unnecessary, but when else would I get to add that vid?)

So that left us with roughly three options in Iraq, because we were already ass-deep by this time. First, we could have cut and run.  Obviously, this would have meant a power struggle and a dictator who blamed all the problems on America.  Genocide would have ensued (especially if the new dictator was a big fan of the peaceful and serene religion of Islam).  The second, and other extreme would have been to reduce the country to a sheet of glass.  We have never done this.  The only time we've gone for big civilian casualties was in Japan, and ONLY to save a million American lives that would have been lost in the invasion.  So the only practical option, sadly, would cost billions of dollars and thousands of American lives (in addition to the inevitable civilian casualties (still less than the genocide options).  And that option was to help rebuild the political infrastructure and police, as well as a good chunk of the physical infrastructure that we blew up.  The goal of this was to give Iraq the time to create a democratically elected constitutional republic.

So the only question was how to proceed.  And Bush chose poorly, initially.  We went with the idea of just enough forces to maintain some degree of stability.  In other words, the country was being held together with barbed wire and duct tape.  And the democratic process, being the mess that it always is, led to little progress. for three years.

Surge Baby Surge!

Finally, with no end in sight in Iraq, the Bush administration finally changed its course and went with the surge strategy.  The plan was to flood enough troops in to give the local populations time to clean up their messes, establish governments, push out the terrorists, and get enough forces trained to take over so we could get the fuck out of Dodge (or, more accurately, Baghdad).

 I'll admit that even I was becoming disillusioned with the chances we could get out of Iraq with some degree of honor.  It didn't help that I had begun blogging and had to listen to a lot of crazed rantings about how evil Bush and Cheney were.  Plus, nothing had worked there yet, so I was preparing for a Cronkite-style "the war is lost" moment.

Thankfully, with the surge came an uprising of the people who were sick of constant fighting.  With the increased troops and the will of the Iraqi people, the violence fell off greatly.  And our evolved strategic goal (a stable, relatively free republic) was finally achieved.  So by the end of 2008, we were set to leave.  For managing to bring us to the point we could prepare to leave, President Bush gets credit, as well as his general in charge, David Petraeus, the architect of the surge.  And that brings us to this month, and the end of combat operations in Iraq.

In short, we achieved most of our mission goals and will likely leave behind a shaky but real ally in the Middle East.  Even shorter, we won.

What Barry Did

This brings us to the speech, which as I write this, is hours away.  A good leader would realize that he was wrong when he opposed the surge, that despite some of the mistakes, the strategy did work in the end,

Of course, Mr Obama opposed the war, Senator (and candidate) Obama opposed the surge, and he kept saying we should pull out, originally immediately, then in 18 months.  Which brings me to a point of fact.  Giving the same timeframe over and over until it becomes true doesn't make you "right."  It just means you finally got your shit to stick to the wall.  It was probably best that Bush ignored your ignorance.

But I'm magnamninousous (Yes I intentionally misspelled that. Try pronouncing it and find out.) enough to give President Obama a little credit.  Despite his political blather, he's had enough sense to NOT mess with the strategy in place and let the war wind down properly.  And he did have sense to try to rectify the Afghanistan mess with the same man President Bush tapped to bring victory in Iraq.

Of course, a real leader would know that you give credit where credit is due.  We'll see if the speech avoids the ridiculous use of the word "I"

Ok, end of my gallows humor, because while making jokes about Saddam's dead ass and Obama's dumb ass is fun, war has costs.

The Costs

We have yet to see whether the seed of freedom we have planted will continue to flourish. Until that is recorded, we will not know whether the costs we have paid were worth it.

Those costs include:

$700 billion to fight the war (according to the Congressional Budget Office, plus benefits for those who served, those who were injured, and the families of those killed.
Over 4,000 American soldiers killed.
Over 15,000 American soldiers wounded.
An approximate 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed since the beginning of the war.

Taken as a whole, when we have fought for freedom (ours or others'), and for the preservation of our Constitution, our wars have been justified.  When we have not, may have died with honor, but for a flawed cause.  And while our history says this may have been worth it, it was only a part of the greater war against Islamic terror, and that goes on....

Let me then conclude with a reminder of why we should always hesitate before we call upon our brave young men and women to go off and offer their lives in exchange for anything:


dmarks said...

Actually, if you look at the reports, between 50 and 500 WMD were found.

"enough to give President Obama a little credit. Despite his political blather, he's had enough sense to NOT mess with the strategy in place and let the war wind down properly"

Yes. He campaigned on ignorance and disdain of these issues. It's clear that once he got in office, he found out what's what, and began to operate in a more sane fashion, leaving the "terrorists are really nice guys" Kucinich wing of the Left fuming.

Another thing that should be pointed out that the average conflict-related death toll post-2003 is lower than the average starve/slaughter/massacre death rate of the Saddam regime. That was the pre-2003 bloodbath that was the "status quo" touted by the so-called peace movement. And in the last year of the Bush "Regime" the death rate dropped off dramatically.

Bush told the truth, and saved lives.

BB-Idaho said...

In addition to Petreaus, we should consider Robert Gates..both appointed by Bush..and both retained by Obama. I was very much against preemptive invasion, the WMD thing not sitting well with my
experience as a chemical officer in the old Army.
That sort of stuff requires
substantial and peculiar
architecture..not a semi truck. So I wrote my congressman. He ignored me. Glad its over. Be interesting to see how they make out. Glad my neighbor kid, my nephew and my son-in-law are back home now.

Jerry Critter said...

The winner of the Iraq war was the terrorist. It was the greatest recruiting tool they had.

Anonymous said...

The terrorists lost big time. The lost a major leader, funding source and benefactor. Far from being a recruiting tool, the retaliation against Saddam showed that terrorist aggression has a price.

Toad734 said...

Why did we invade Iraq? What did Bush have to gain??


Iraq was intent on and about to stop the sale of their oil in Dollars and switch it to the Euro which would have A. Taken the US and the US banking system out of the loop completely and B. Probably meant that there would be no more food for oil or that Iraq would not sell their oil to the US any longer.

Bush being a TX oil man and his big oil TX constituents of Exxon and Texaco, Halliburton, etc. He had plenty to gain by enriching them and ousting Saddam, who nationalized Iraqi oil and kept companies like Exxon out. Not only that, his other big contributors and friends of his father and Cheney in Halliburton, KBR, blackwater,UDI, etc. all stood to make billions if we were to go to war there. Aside from a few oil pipelines, there was little for these companies to gain in Afghanistan.

You can't be so naive to the revolving door that is private business, especially defense contractors and the Federal Government...its why we invade places like Iraq and Vietnam and why toilet seats cost the government $2000. I see it every day in Chicago; street lights not being timed means Mayor Daley has a brother in law who owns a break shop.

I mean, American troops only guarded the Ministries of Oil and the Interior in Baghdad, even as looters pillaged museums and other areas of Baghdad. It was obvious why we were there.

Toad734 said...


There you go again with phony facts and fantasy.

Bush lied, and 4000 Americans and thousands more Iraqis lost their lives.


Wait, didn't you say IRaq also invaded the US?? Wow, what color is the sky on your world?

Toad734 said...


Terrorist attacks and activity and recruitment was never at higher levels than when we were in Iraq. For every citizen in Iraq a US bomb killed, we created another terrorist.

It couldn't have played in to Bin Ladens hand any better, not only did Iraq kill more Americans than 9/11 but it was a world wide call to jihad that proved Bin Laden had been right all along; the US is and imperialist nation of Christians who will ally with Israel to kill the Muslims, take their oil, convert them into capitalists, kill their leaders and try to convert them to Christianity...Just like Ann Coulter said we should do.

dmarks said...

Toad: Nothing but the facts. Bush told the truth, and stopped a terrorist menace. The death toll has for a while been a lot lower than the average of when Saddam was in power.

Iraq did not invade the US. But Saddam Hussein fired upon and targetted peacekeepers in the "no fly zones" hundreds of times. Peacekeepers from the US and UK, who had perfect rights to be there under the treaty. Saddam firing on them was naked aggression.

It would have been folly not to fight back.

It's like if in 1947, the Japanese Government orders its troops to ignore the peace and shoot at Americans.

Terrorist activity was much worse before the retaliation in 2003. Saddam exported terrorism and funded efforts abroad. His "Republican Guard" was pretty close to being like Iran's Revolutionary Guard (classified as a terrorist group).

We have greatly reduced the number of terrorists. Before, they were able to operated without consequences.

"the US is and imperialist nation of Christians who will ally with Israel to kill the Muslims, take their oil, convert them into capitalists,"

Bin Laden was recruiting terrorists before the US retaliated against Iraq. But now, thanks to wise policies started by Bush and continued by Obama, we are discouraging terrorism by going to the root of the problem.

Toad734 said...

No, Bin Laden started recruiting terrorists when we invaded Iraq the first time. He specifically said that was why 9/11 happened.

Saddam fired at planes of countries who were occupying his country; we would do the exact same thing. Saddam never attacked the US. Also, you should have learned something since the Gulf of Tonkin. Just because the White House says something happened doesn't mean it happened. WMDs is a perfect example of this. So you are really saying someone is "attacking you" when you are on their soil?? I mean, that worked when we said the Indians were attacking whites but most of the populace was uneducated and illiterate so it worked.

Show me the numbers of Saddam sponsored terrorist attacks before we invaded Iraq and how that number was higher than all the terrorist activity during the invasion of Iraq and after. Good luck!

If Bush would have captured Bin Laden, only then can you say Bush stopped a terrorist. And the only way one could call Saddam a supporter of terrorism is that he donated money to the families whose members blew themselves up in suicide attacks in Israel. No one with a straight face can say Saddam engaged in terrorist activity against the US or anyone else other than giving support to families of terrorists in Israel...Which is none of our business.

dmarks said...

So what if 9/11 happened because the US fought back against earlier Iraqi aggression?

As for the peacekeepers, Saddam fired at patrols which had every right to be there under the treaty. He had no right to fire on them: every instance of it was aggression. He DID attack the US with these acts of aggression. You are not telling the truth when you deny this. Add to this his attempt to assassinate a US president, and his funding/control/promotion of terrorist groups which liked to kill American targets.

The Gulf of Tonkin has nothing to do with this. I checked the facts. I know, that now more than ever, lies come from the White House.

Bush did not capture Bin Laden. but he did stop a large number of terrorists, and has greatly reduced the problem.

Anyone with a straight face who is informed on the issue knows that Saddam engaged in terrorist activity against the US and others. 9/11 taught us it was foolish to let terrorist keep attacking us with no consequences.

Also, Saddam's attempt to exterminate the Jews is of course our business. We stood by during WW2. Remember, Jews are people too.