Bush Redux

Repeating a now ubiquitous Republican assertion, Jeb Bush recently claimed that President Obama was responsible for ISIS because he pulled American troops out of Iraq too quickly. This is nonsense for two reasons. First and more obvious, it was his brother President George Bush (or more correctly, the undead who manipulated him) who invaded Iraq for no compelling reason and eliminated a stable and secular regime that was holding Iraq together. Yes, Sadam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but when has that ever got in the way of American foreign policy? We supported him during his ineffective war against revolutionary Iran, and he was a Sunni, like all our hillbilly friends in the Gulf. Baghdad was one of the places where Saudi princes went to get a drink or a woman. And he was a priority target for al-Qaeda, second only to the Saudi royal family.

Saddam

Saddam

Jeb

Jeb

W

W

As everyone except Vice President Dick Cheney now knows, Saddam was absolutely no threat to the United States, and we entered what passes for a major war these days with no casus belli. We in effect waged a war of aggression and were forced to come up with some nonsense about Iraq violating the terms of the Gulf War armistice. Why we did this is not at all clear to me, but Bush’s neocon advisors seemed to have some new program for the Middle East. I expect the generals, the military contractors and the Israelis were all whispering in the President’s ear.

 

Incompetence prevailed during the course of the war, and the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, should have been prosecuted. Crushing Saddam’s military was efficiently done – we do have an excellent military – but everything else, especially in the postwar period, betrayed a criminal lack of planning and an unbelievable lack of understanding of Iraq. It did not take a towering intelligence to see that disbanding the Iraqi army and firing every single administrator, bureaucrat and teacher because they were members the Ba’ath Party would leave Iraq without its state infrastructure. Ignoring warnings, the administration supported as Prime Minister and our man in Iraq Nouri al-Maliki, who quickly emerged as a Shiite tyrant, disaffecting the Sunni minority and completely ruining the American-trained (and paid for) Iraqi army, whose best Sunni officers are now working for ISIS. Unwilling to fight for the oppressive government in Baghdad, the well-armed Sunni tribesmen stood aside as ISIS seized town after town in western Iraq.

"Screw the Sunnis."

“Screw the Sunnis.”

"I am Death."

“I am Death.”

"Known unknowns and unknown unknowns"

“Known unknowns and unknown unknowns”

Second, it was impossible to reach a Status of Forces Agreement with Baghdad. Iraqis in general wanted US forces out of their country, and the government resisted granting the US military and its contractors the extensive immunity from local prosecution desired by Washington. Consequently, if we stayed, we would be an occupying army, which some Iraqis were convinced was already the case. And a majority of Americans supported withdrawal, sick of this costly war that did not seem to be serving any national interests beyond transferring tax revenues to companies like Haliburton.

 

To be sure, Obama (though more likely his military and intelligence people) might have taken notice of the rise of ISIS sooner, but the prime reason for the appearance of ISIS was the power vacuum and incompetent “democratic” government created in the wake of America’s unjustified and illegal invasion of Iraq. And that was your brother’s administration, Jeb, not Barack Obama’s. The Syrian civil war played a role of course, but it was the regime change and disbanding of the Iraqi army that opened the door to the Caliphate of Doom. Had that ruthless bastard Sadam still been around, who knows what might have happened?

Some of the major beneficiaries of the Iraq War:

"Thanks for all the military equipment, infidel dogs."

“Thanks for all the military equipment, infidel dogs.”

"Hey, we made money."

“Hey, we made money.”

"Ready to kill!"

“Ready to kill!”

Candidate Bush should know all this of course. For all his statements about being “his own man,” 19 of his 21 foreign policy advisors previously worked for his brother and/or his father. This fun group includes some fairly unsavory characters, behind the scenes professionals who never seem to lack for a job no matter how much they screw up. At the top of the list is the infamous and disgusting Paul Wolfowitz, Bush II’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, who created an office in the Pentagon to push for an invasion of Iraq, deliberately delivering false information to the media and government and obscuring the skepticism of the intelligence community. Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley also ignored warnings from the CIA and FBI, allowing Bush to make false claims; he was subsequently rewarded with promotion to National Security Advisor. And how about Meghan O’Sullivan, perhaps the top advisor to Paul Bremer, the man now recognized for his utter incompetence as the Imperial Viceroy of Iraq.

"No Ba'athists, no army and if you don't like the constitution I wrote, you can shove it."

Bremer “No Ba’athists, no army and if you don’t like the constitution I wrote, you can shove it.”

"We are the world."

Wolfowitz “We are the world.”

"You can rely on me."

Hadley “You can rely on me.”

So, much of the team that brought us the Iraq war is presumably working on how to deal with ISIS. This should be good.

 

Incidentally, allow me to throw in a telling statistic that puts the whole War on Terror in perspective. Between 9/11 and now 74 Americans (exclusive of the military) have been killed by people identified as terrorists; in that same period 150,000 Americans have been murdered with firearms. I suppose one way to look at this is that the War on Terror is working.

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Ten Years Ago On a Lone Dark Night Someone Got Killed…

(On the occasion of the ten year anniversary of our invasion of Iraq I am posting an updated version of a piece written in December 2011 when the President announced the “end” of the war.)

On 19 March 2003 the United States bombed the Presidential Palace in Baghdad, beginning an eight year war in Iraq. Those eight years came at a stiff price. 4486 American military personnel were killed and 30,327 were wounded, 500 of them amputees, and it is estimated that some 20,000 veterans of the war now suffer some sort of psychological problem. 1487 coalition troops died, along with 281 media and aid workers; 10,569 were wounded. The war cost us about $1.7 trillion, and we are still paying, despite the fact that Iraq is now producing more oil than Iran. The war quickly eliminated the world-wide support for America in the wake of 9/11, fomented more anti-American feelings in the Muslim world, blew our reputation for moral behavior and distracted the US from serious operations against al-Qaeda.

evil

evil

The price for the Iraqis was much greater. The butcher’s bill is very hard to calculate, but while the media now regularly tosses off 100,000 dead, a variety of investigating NGOs has set that as the absolute minimum, suggesting 600,000 as more realistic; some estimates exceed a million. And they continue to die, as the expended depleted uranium ordinance and other toxins of modern war produce birth defects and cancers. Almost two million people fled the country, and a million internal refugees were produced. What little infrastructure the country possessed under Sadam was utterly destroyed, and it appears that the Sunni dictator has simply been replaced by a Shiite one. Meanwhile, all those billions in aid from the US flow into the pockets of the increasingly autocratic Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his completely corrupt government apparatus. Even their very country is falling apart, as the north has emerged as a more or less independent Kurdistan.

And what do we all get in return for this massive expenditure by the American and Iraqi people?

incompetent

incompetent

It is clear now, as it was to many then, that Saddam was absolutely no threat to anyone except his own people, and rather than “protecting” America the conflict has only exacerbated the terrorist problem and immensely strengthened the position of Iran. Iraq, once a bulwark against Iran (remember Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam?) is under its emerging Shia dictatorship already falling rapidly under Iranian influence. Only two states in the region have refused to go along with the Arab League and condemn the bloody Syrian government: Iran and Iraq. Indeed, Iranian aid to the Syrian government appears to be moving through Iraq. Under the guise of a program of reconciliation Baghdad is even releasing prisoners accused or convicted of murdering Americans, and as the economic frosting on this ineptly baked cake, it is primarily non-American companies that are signing up to exploit Iraqi resources, should that ever be possible.

Meanwhile, American diplomatic personnel will be hiding out in the biggest and most heavily fortified embassy on the planet, a target so protected that even American journalists are not allowed to see it. Bereft of troops, we will be hiring 5000 mercenaries to protect these people, further enhancing our wonderful image in the region. We get to look like an imperial power and pay mightily without enjoying any of the benefits associated with such a status. And outside the walls of Fortress America, euphemistically called the Green Zone, the life of the average Iraqi is, unbelievably, worse than it was under Sadam.

We got nothing out of the war. (Well, if you are Haliburton or Blackwater Mercenaries or the armaments industry, you actually got plenty, and the Pentagon certainly had a grand time.) Perhaps we learned something from this mistaken adventure? Not likely.

traitor

traitor

We promptly repeated the whole thing in Afghanistan. Trashing the Taliban for harboring our enemies was fine, but then, as if Iraq had never happened, we determined to create a democracy among people who have not a clue as to what that or nationhood means. The ill-advised and ineptly conducted war of aggression against Iraq appears almost sensible compared to our current hemorrhaging of lives and money for an unbelievably corrupt and ineffective government of an area that is even less of a country than the one time Ottoman province.

Even now, that blatant and shameless cheerleader for the war, the national media, is hypocritically discussing the mistakes of the war while saying virtually nothing of its own disgusting role. Perhaps as a measure of their ignorance and certainly of their arrogance, the neo-con architects of the war are unrepentant. Donald Rumsfield, who should be in prison for criminal incompetence as Secretary of Defense, at least had the good grace to resign and disappear. Dick Cheney, another of those hawks who somehow never found the time to serve (“I had other priorities in the 60s than military service”) and who appears to have been a prime mover in launching the war, even now claims it was justified, though he seems unable to say exactly why. (Perhaps I am biased: his wife put me on an academic black list of “Americans behaving badly.”) Paul Wolfowitz, recognized as the major architect of this stupid policy, continues to defend it, though Richard Pearle, another neo-con mover of the war, now denies he had any serious role, which is simply laughable. (Perhaps I am biased again: in a recent interview he responded to questions about the war by stating that looking back on history does not teach us anything. So much for my profession – and his intelligence or honesty.) These are the bozos who implemented a disastrous and dishonest foreign policy, yet they all still prosper, unlike the 4500 dead American soldiers and the entire country of Iraq.

traitor and idiot

traitor and idiot

So, happy anniversary. The date should be remembered, because this is when American seriously began to shed its historic image as the good guy, the protector of the weak and defender of freedom, the foe of brutality and torture. And in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somali and god knows where else the beat goes on.

our democrat in Baghdad

our democrat in Baghdad

I Fought in Iraq and All I got Was This (Bloody) T-Shirt?

On December 12 President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the end of the war in Iraq.  Those eight years of war came at a stiff price.  Approximately 4500 American troops were killed, and some 33,000 received significant wounds; how many thousands will suffer psychological problems in the future can only be guessed at.  The war cost taxpayers a trillion dollars, and the expenses continue despite the departure of our military.  The war quickly eliminated the world-wide support for America in the wake of 9/11, fomented more anti-American feelings in the Muslim world and distracted the US from operations against al-Qaeda.

The bill for Iraq is far greater.  Saddam is dead, but so are more than 100,000 (perhaps many more) Iraqis, and 1.6 million are still refugees abroad.  Over one million internal refugees were also created.  What little functioning infrastructure the country possessed before the invasion has been mostly destroyed, and 23% of Iraqis live in utter poverty, earning $2 or less a day.

And what do we all get in return for this massive expenditure by the American and Iraqi people?

It is clear now, as it was to many then, that Saddam was absolutely no threat to anyone except his own people, and rather than “protecting” America the conflict has only exacerbated the terrorist problem and immensely strengthened the position of Iran, beckoning the US into another armed conflict.  That the new democratic Iraq would be a beacon of freedom and hope in the region has not played out, and the present toppling of authoritarian governments in the Arab world owes absolutely nothing to American efforts.

Whether or not Iraq now has a functioning democracy remains to be seen, and in any case the current government is unable to provide even basic services for its people, who are still being blown up on a regular basis.  Unfortunately for the US, Iraq has also failed to become a compliant “ally” and serve American interests in the region.  Quite understandably, the Iraqis refused to continue granting the American forces immunity from Iraqi law and prosecution, which with the war officially ended would go a long way to marking the American military as an occupying force.  Predictably, Obama took credit for removing our troops, though he actually had no say in the matter, and the Republicans, seemingly unaware of the meaning of “national sovereignty,” complained that we were leaving without having finished the job.

It is not even clear if Iraq can succeed as a country, whatever the nature of its government.  The Kurdish north is already on the brink of becoming a separate state and is increasingly under the influence of Turkey.  Iraqi Sunnis are somewhat less than enthusiastic about the Shiite dominated government and its ties to Iran, and Sunni insurgent activity threatens to turn into an outright civil war, especially if the government proves unable to alleviate the miserable conditions in which most Iraqis live.  Being a province carved by the Ottomans out of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious area is hardly a strong foundation for a nation state.

And for all our blood and treasure and newly enhanced imperial reputation?  Iraq, once a bulwark against Iran (remember Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam?) is already falling rapidly under Iranian influence.  Only two states in the region have refused to go along with the Arab League and condemn the bloody Syrian government: Iran and Iraq.  Under the guise of a program of reconciliation Baghdad is even releasing prisoners accused or convicted of murdering Americans, and as the economic frosting on this ineptly baked cake, it is primarily non-American companies that are signing up to exploit Iraqi resources, should that ever be possible.  Few outside Washington would consider this a successful foreign policy outcome.

Meanwhile, American diplomatic personnel will be hiding out in the biggest and most heavily fortified embassy on the planet, a target so protected that even American journalists are not allowed to see it.  Bereft of troops, we will be hiring 5000 mercenaries to protect these people, further enhancing our wonderful image in the region.  We get to look like an imperial power without enjoying any of the benefits associated with such a status.

On the other hand, this ill-advised and ineptly conducted war of aggression appears almost sensible compared to our current hemorrhaging of lives and money for an unbelievably corrupt and ineffective government of an area that is even less of a country than the one time Turkish province: Afghanistan.