Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Changing Course in Iraq

Here’s a scathing article on Bush administration incompetency in Iraq, written by a retired Air Force Colonel and Central Command war planner:

To discern the truth about Iraq, Americans must simply look beyond the spin. This war is not some noble endeavor, some great struggle of good against evil as the Bush administration would have us believe. We in the military have heard these grand pronouncements many times before by men who have neither served nor sacrificed. This war is an exercise in colossal stupidity and hubris which has now cost more than 1,000 American military lives, which has empowered Al Qaeda beyond anything those butchers might have engineered on their own and which has diverted America’s attention and precious resources from the real threat at the worst possible time. And now, in a supreme act of truly breathtaking gall, this administration insists the only way to fix Iraq is to leave in power the very ones who created the nightmare.

Ouch. Harsh words, but a lot of it rings true.

Comments

  1. #1 ~DS~
    September 28, 2004

    TY Ed that article was quite useful. Over at the EO my staunch buddy Joe Carter is having a hard time believing that the war in Iraq is going poorly or is any kind of drain on resources anywhere.

  2. #2 jwoolf
    September 28, 2004

    I’m surprised you see anything worth listening to in that rant, Ed. The guy supports the United Nations, repeats the leftist lie that we don’t have any allies in Iraq, also repeats the leftist lie that all of Iraq is a disaster area, and thinks it was Bush’s attitude that alienated our so-called “allies” France and Germany. None of those claims are supported by anything even remotely resembling facts.

    The facts of the Iraq situation are thus: France and Germany both refused to have anything to do with the Iraq war for their own selfish reasons, and nothing Bush or anybody else said was going to convince them otherwise. Bush had a battle plan going into Iraq. Like every other battle plan ever devised, it disintegrated as soon as battle was joined. That’s simply the way things are; it says nothing about the competence of anyone in the chain of command. Yes, we’ve lost more than a thousand dead and seven or eight times that many injured — but would you rather have that, or twenty thousand American civilians dead in a nuclear or gas attack in New York City? Yes, Bush has fumbled badly in the aftermath, but that’s because he listened to people like you and pulled back and tried to play nice with the terrorists, instead of simply steamrollering them as he should have. Our soldiers (who are not as stupid as some would have you believe) have been complaining for months that the administration’s leftist-induced “go slow and play nice” policy against the terrorists is only making the terrorists stronger.

    I was not surprised when the Iraqi Army collapsed as fast as it did. I wasn’t surprised when chaos and looting resulted. I wasn’t surprised when an anti-American resistance formed almost right away. And, sad to say, I wasn’t terribly surprised when the American left began doing its best to give moral support to the butchers and barbarians who are fighting us, giving them the idea that all they had to do was keep the pressure on and we would run away. About the only things that have surprised me about Iraq are 1) the Army bureaucracy’s inability to better support some of the programs that really work to help Iraq rebuild, and 2) the enormous pro-freedom response from the Iraqis themselves. Why do you think the Iraqi Security Forces recruiting stations are such common targets for the bombers? Because there are lots of men there who want to sign up and help protect their country against the terrorists. And the day after each bombing, there are _more_ men signing up, not fewer.

    Oh yeah, one other thing. It’s true that the Iraq operation is a drain on our current military resources, but the primary reason for that is the insanely stupid defense cuts during the previous administration, and the current solid wall of leftist resistance to enlarging the armed forces again. Any objective observer would think they want to see the US lose in Iraq. And everywhere else.

    — JSW

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    September 28, 2004

    I’m surprised you see anything worth listening to in that rant, Ed. The guy supports the United Nations, repeats the leftist lie that we don’t have any allies in Iraq, also repeats the leftist lie that all of Iraq is a disaster area, and thinks it was Bush’s attitude that alienated our so-called “allies” France and Germany. None of those claims are supported by anything even remotely resembling facts.

    I don’t find all of it convincing, but the passage I cited is pretty much accurate. As far as the “leftist lies” goes, I think it is obviously true that we have alienated many of our allies with our bullheaded rush to war in Iraq and that the only significant ally we have there is England. A few other nations have a smattering of people there and that’s about it. I also think that a large portion of Iraq is pretty much in chaos right now, including most of the territory that we had full control of only a few short months ago. I also think this is due to the utter stupidity of the Bush administration in their post-war planning.

    The facts of the Iraq situation are thus: France and Germany both refused to have anything to do with the Iraq war for their own selfish reasons, and nothing Bush or anybody else said was going to convince them otherwise.

    I agree completely, but this has absolutely nothing to do with my position on the subject.

    Bush had a battle plan going into Iraq. Like every other battle plan ever devised, it disintegrated as soon as battle was joined. That’s simply the way things are; it says nothing about the competence of anyone in the chain of command.

    Sorry, that’s nonsense. There were people in the chain of command who predicted what happened and had plans to avoid them; they were ignored completely. The State Department had contingency plans for a post-war Iraq but Rumsfeld won the battle and they went in basically without a post-war plan at all. They didn’t secure the borders, they didn’t secure the ammo dumps, they didn’t stop the looting or even attempt to, and all because they went in without adequate manpower. And the reports are that Rumsfeld wanted even fewer troops than we did go in with. I’m amazed that you can make this statement that it’s no one’s fault, then two sentences later admit that Bush “fumbled badly” in the aftermath of the war.

    Yes, we’ve lost more than a thousand dead and seven or eight times that many injured — but would you rather have that, or twenty thousand American civilians dead in a nuclear or gas attack in New York City?

    Oh come on Jon, do you really think that was the choice we faced, that if we didn’t invade Iraq, Hussein was going to hit NYC with a nuclear or gas attack? To paraphrase Zell Miller, with what? Spitballs? What an absurd dichotomy.

    Yes, Bush has fumbled badly in the aftermath, but that’s because he listened to people like you and pulled back and tried to play nice with the terrorists, instead of simply steamrollering them as he should have. Our soldiers (who are not as stupid as some would have you believe) have been complaining for months that the administration’s leftist-induced “go slow and play nice” policy against the terrorists is only making the terrorists stronger.

    Listened to people like me? Jon, I’m going to try not to take that as an insult and merely suggest that you read what I’ve written on the subject. I am in favor of putting more troops into Iraq, not pulling them out, and I said right from the start that we had to go in much stronger and harder. If we’re gonna do it, we had to do it all the way. But Bush didn’t do that. When his own generals said that the war plan was too light to secure Iraq after the war, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz went out and hammered that general. But he was right. The troops there have also complained hugely that they were underequipped and understaffed for the post-war mission, missing adequate body and vehicle armor. And they’re right to complain about this new policy of sitting back and letting the bad guys take control of Najaf and Fallujah. But for crying out loud, Jon, after telling me that this is no one’s fault, you then list some of the stupid decisions Bush has made. Which is it? Is it no one’s fault or is it his fault?

    I was not surprised when the Iraqi Army collapsed as fast as it did. I wasn’t surprised when chaos and looting resulted. I wasn’t surprised when an anti-American resistance formed almost right away.

    I wasn’t surprised by any of those things either. Unfortunately, the Bush administration was caught completely off guard by them. Rumsfeld tried continually to paint a ridiculous picture of how easy it would be, how we’d be greeted as heroes and we would be able to pull out half the troops right after we took control. They didn’t seem to have the foggiest idea what to expect, yet they had military analysts like Shinseki and Zinni telling them this would happen. They simply ignored them, as well as ignoring the State Department warnings on post-war chaos.

    I happen to agree with Tony Blair’s statement the other day that no matter how you feel about whether we should have invaded Iraq, the only question that matters now is what do we do now. In retrospect, it was obviously a stupid decision to go to war there, but that doesn’t really matter now. At the very least, we have an obligation to stabilize Iraq and come up with some stable long-term solution. I believe the only way to do that at this point is to get other nations more involved, but I don’t think Bush has any chance whatsoever of achieving that even if he was so inclined, and he’s not. The absolute worst thing we can do is pull out of Iraq and allow it to become an Islamic theocracy; that would be disasterous for us and for the stability of the middle east, and it would turn what is already a partial victory for the Islamic radicals into a total victory for them.

  4. #4 jwoolf
    September 28, 2004

    Ed,

    This war is not some noble endeavor, some great struggle of good against evil as the Bush administration would have us believe.

    This passage is accurate?

    I don’t think so.

    In fact, I’d say it’s one of the least accurate parts of the whole piece. “A great struggle of good versus evil” is exactly what’s going on in Iraq, and we have only two choices: total victory over the militant islamists, or total defeat at their hands. If this man doesn’t understand that, then his judgement is worthless and nothing else he says is worth listening to.

    “Rush to war?” Bush tried to get help from our so-called allies for more than a year. He went to the UN Security Council three times. He only gave up on the UN when France stated flatly that it would veto any resolution that authorized the use of force to get Saddam to give up his WMD programs. (Which did exist, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Of all the claims and charges made by Bush prior to the war, the only one which has not been proved true is the one that Saddam had stockpiles of WMDs ready to use. Everything else — the long-range missiles, the UAVs, the research programs into nuclear and chemical weapons — all of those have been confirmed.)

    Yes, I believe that if Hussein had not been taken out, then as soon as the international sanctions were lifted (or ignored by enough mercenary nations like France and Germany), he would have reconstituted his nuclear program and had nuclear weapons within two to three years thereafter. That’s assuming he didn’t simply buy some from renegades in Pakistan or his friends next door in Syria.

    Regarding planning for the war: even if you’re right that people in the State Department tried to warn of this possibility, why would Bush have listened to them? There are strong factions in both the State Department and the CIA that are actively trying to sabotage Bush’s foreign policy (where do you think all these convenient leaks of classified documents are coming from?). I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the “warnings” you cite were written by people known to be anti-Bush, anti-war, and pro-Arab — and therefore obviously unreliable. Bush is not stupid, but he is human, and he places a very high value on loyalty. Backstab him enough times, and eventually he’s going to notice.

    If indeed you were in favor of using more troops, then I misjudged you and for that I apologize. But since I started reading your blog here, all I’ve seen on this topic (before this exchange) is sniping at the President and his policies (and his character), and not a word that indicated you thought the Iraq war was anything but wrong from the get-go.

    In retrospect, it was obviously a stupid decision to go to war there,

    No. Iraq was the only available target, and that wasn’t going to change. It was either strike there or don’t strike at all. It was a foolish decision to do it in the way we did. Well, check that — it was a foolish decision assuming that we had any other choice. There were things going on behind the scenes that nobody outside the chain of command knew about. It may be that Bush really had only two choices: do it this way and take the consequences, or don’t do it at all. Certainly it would have been difficult to commit more troops to the combat phase, for there weren’t any more available to commit. And most of them were still in combat situations when Saddam fled Baghdad and the chaos started. Fifty thousand soldiers who are still in a war zone and whose first concern is survival are not going to have much time or energy to spare for police-work.

    But for crying out loud, Jon, after telling me that this is no one’s fault, you then list some of the stupid decisions Bush has made. Which is it? Is it no one’s fault or is it his fault?

    That depends on what you mean by “fault.” If you mean “the decision was his and now it’s his responsibility to fix what went wrong as a result,” then yes, it is his fault. But if you mean “he should have magically foreseen what would happen and now his opponents have the right to hold him personally responsible for every dead soldier and every lost chance, and to utterly destroy him politically and personally,” then no, it is not his fault.

    I believe the only way to do that at this point is to get other nations more involved, but I don’t think Bush has any chance whatsoever of achieving that even if he was so inclined, and he’s not.

    Not going to happen. Look around the world. Can you find even one nation that a) is willing to get involved on our side (meaning the pro-democracy side); b) has the resources to get involved, and c) isn’t already involved? I’ll bet you can’t, because no such countries exist. France and Germany have already said they won’t get involved, not even if Kerry wins the election. What you see is what there is, and there ain’t no more help to be had. We do it with what we have now, or we don’t do it at all. And what we have now should be enough, if it’s handled right.

    — JSW

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    September 29, 2004

    This war is not some noble endeavor, some great struggle of good against evil as the Bush administration would have us believe.

    This passage is accurate? I don’t think so.

    I think it’s absolutely accurate. Wars are never noble endeavors, anywhere, at any time, by any nation. Wars are fought over strategic interests (land, money, access to resources, self-protection, etc); wars are sold to the public as moral crusades and noble endeavors. Which does not mean that wars are never justified, by the way, it just means you should never take too seriously the marketing campaign used to sell wars.

    The primary way that wars are marketed, and this is true of all times and places, is as a response to an imminent threat, and governments regularly exaggerate those threats in order to keep the population sufficently scared. This has been done by governments for centuries, and it has worked even in the most ridiculous of situations (Hitler managed to convince the Germans that they had to strike first at Poland to preserve their way of life, for crying out loud). And yes, our government does it too, and did it in this case.

    Hussein wasn’t even a minor threat to the United States before this war, much less our first priority. He was kept entirely in his cage by sanctions and the no fly zone and he wasn’t a threat to anyone. That was the Bush administration’s position before 9/11, and both Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice said so, that the sanctions were working and Hussein had been neutralized as a threat. They were right. The administration strong-armed the CIA to produce reports that exaggerated the threat, regularly exaggerated or outright lied about the evidence, and pretended to have factual knowledge that they simply did not have (remember Powell’s performance at the UN, showing pictures of trucks moving WMD around and claiming that we were tracking every movement with our satellites, that this place was a known missile site and that place was where they kept huge stores of chemical weapons? We were tracking their every movement, allegedly, yet when we got there none of those things actually existed).

    They also tried to sell the war as a moral crusade against a brutal dictator, and I think could have made the case solely on that basis because Hussein really was a vicious tyrant. But do you really think for one minute that our government gives a damn about dictators and human rights? History proves otherwise. When it is in our strategic interests to support brutal thugs, we support brutal thugs; when it’s not in our interest to support them, we wax eloquently about freedom and justice. But the overriding factor, the ONLY factor that the government considers, is our interests, not morality. Hussein committed his worst crimes while we were feeding him money, weapons and intelligence information. The same could be said for a long string of satraps – Pahlevi, Pinochet, Montt, Marcos, Noriega. So no one should buy this sudden conversion to morality. We aren’t doing a damn thing about far worse human rights situations than Iraq because those other places, whether it’s Sudan or the Congo or Tibet, are not places where our strategic interests are at stake. The bottom line is that moral crusades and “noble endeavors” are never the reason why we go to war, nor are they the reason why anyone ever goes to war.

    In fact, I’d say it’s one of the least accurate parts of the whole piece. “A great struggle of good versus evil” is exactly what’s going on in Iraq, and we have only two choices: total victory over the militant islamists, or total defeat at their hands. If this man doesn’t understand that, then his judgement is worthless and nothing else he says is worth listening to.

    You’re conflating what is going on there now with the justifications offered for the invasion in the first place. The situation that is there now, a struggle between the US and Islamic radicals who will stop at nothing to destroy us, was a situation that was created by our invasion. Iraq under Hussein was a secular dictatorship and the Islamic radicals were kept in check by his tyrannical reign. We unleashed the long-festering religious hatreds by invading and we created a situation where the oppressed minorities, made up primarily of religious extremists, after 35 years of being kept in check, are now given new life and a target in the US for their pent up anger. We took a relatively stable secular dictatorship, albeit one with some serious human rights abuses, and turned it into a hotbed for Islamic militarism. And there is now a real chance that the new Iraq will end up being an Islamic theocracy and an enormous breeding ground and training ground for new terrorists.

    I agree with you that our only choice NOW is total victory or total defeat. If we leave Iraq now and it ends up becoming an Islamic state, we will have given Bin Laden a victory he could scarcely have imagined. But let’s recognize that the reality we face now was created by the decision to invade in the first place. It didn’t exist before that. We certainly faced a huge threat from Al Qaeda and their various offshoots, but not in Iraq. Now we face the very real possibility of Iraq becoming a theocracy and perhaps joining forces with Iran and the radical factions in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, and becoming a far bigger threat than they ever would have been otherwise.

    Regarding planning for the war: even if you’re right that people in the State Department tried to warn of this possibility, why would Bush have listened to them? There are strong factions in both the State Department and the CIA that are actively trying to sabotage Bush’s foreign policy (where do you think all these convenient leaks of classified documents are coming from?). I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the “warnings” you cite were written by people known to be anti-Bush, anti-war, and pro-Arab — and therefore obviously unreliable.

    Oh come on, Jon. Sometimes I just have to shake my head in astonishment that someone who is so intelligent and such a rational skeptic on every other subject can write something so absurd on this subject. How can those warnings be “obviously unreliable” when they were TRUE? Everything that the state department contingency plans said would happen in post-war Iraq was accurate. Everything that the Pentagon generals like Shinseki and Zinni said would happen in post-war Iraq was accurate. Everything that the CIA predicted would happen was accurate. Everything that I said would happen in post-war Iraq was accurate. It didn’t take the wisdom of Solomon to know that after taking over we would face a massive guerilla insurgency that wanted us out. It doesn’t take a genius to know that you damn sure better secure the arms and ammunition caches when you get in there or the insurgency is going to be pretty well armed too. And you certainly don’t have to be omniscient to figure out that in a nation with significant pockets of Islamic radicals both inside of it and in the surrounding nations, if you don’t control the borders you don’t control the country. All of these things and more were very predictable and widely predicted. If Bush just ignored those warnings because they came from the State department and there are people there who disagree with his policy so they were therefore “obviously unreliable”, then Bush looks even worse, doesn’t it? It means he rejected rational scenarios that were obviously true for an incredibly stupid reason.

    And by the way, those same warnings came from within the Pentagon too, and from numerous retired generals with great knowledge of the area (including Colin Powell within the administration). General Zinni, who was the former head of the Central Command, issued all of the same warnings and predicted exactly what has happened. Was he listened to? Nope. He was hustled out the back door for his retirement and undermined in the media by Rumsfeld and his lackeys. The same was true of Shinseki and Wesley Clark and Brent Scowcroft and several others. The bottom line is that all of those people you say Bush justifiably ignored because they were trying to “undermine” his foreign policy were RIGHT about what would happen and everyone inside the Bush administration was wrong about it. So who is unreliable and who is not?

    Iraq was the only available target, and that wasn’t going to change. It was either strike there or don’t strike at all. It was a foolish decision to do it in the way we did. Well, check that — it was a foolish decision assuming that we had any other choice. There were things going on behind the scenes that nobody outside the chain of command knew about. It may be that Bush really had only two choices: do it this way and take the consequences, or don’t do it at all.

    This is just bizarre. Why was “don’t strike at all” a bad option? There was no imminent threat from Hussein and the threat that we created is far, far worse. The imminent threat to us, both then and now, is Islamic radicals using terrorism in pursuit of their goals. But by pulling out of Afghanistan and putting virtually all of our military assets and building our entire military response around an invasion of a nation that wasn’t involved in 9/11 at all, and was in fact a target of Bin Laden because his dictatorship was largely non-Islamic, we have only fueled that threat all the more. Today we not only face the same imminent threat we faced 2 years ago, but now we’ve destabilized the middle east, helped al qaeda recruiting enormously, and created the very real possibility of having Iraq go from a stable nation that was a very low threat to us, to an Islamic militant state that can form alliances with other such states and factions and turn the nation into a vast training ground for new terrorists.

    And if we just had to have a target after 9/11, why not Saudi Arabia, where almost all of the hijackers were from? Why not Pakistan, another dictatorship full of Islamic radicals, including in the military and intelligence services, but one that is armed with nuclear weapons? Well, because of strategic reasons. There are good strategic reasons not to invade Saudi Arabia (imagine the disruption of oil supplies and what that would do to the world economy), or into Pakistan (which, because it has nuclear weapons, was a greater threat to us in the war). But those are the kinds of considerations one must make when deciding whether to go to war, and they must be made smartly and with accurate information. It’s the kind of reasoning that Bush entirely failed to do in Iraq.

    ME: But for crying out loud, Jon, after telling me that this is no one’s fault, you then list some of the stupid decisions Bush has made. Which is it? Is it no one’s fault or is it his fault?

    That depends on what you mean by “fault.” If you mean “the decision was his and now it’s his responsibility to fix what went wrong as a result,” then yes, it is his fault. But if you mean “he should have magically foreseen what would happen and now his opponents have the right to hold him personally responsible for every dead soldier and every lost chance, and to utterly destroy him politically and personally,” then no, it is not his fault.

    Oi vey, you are becoming the master of the false dichotomy. Are those really the only two choices? Jon, it didn’t take any “magical” foresight to see the results of the war the way it was undertaken. Lots of others, both inside and outside of the Bush administration, foresaw it. Why didn’t Bush and Rumsfeld? Because they didn’t want to. Because they were living in a fantasy land where our soldiers would have roses thrown at their feet and the Iraqi people would instantly embrace a way of life that is entirely foreign to them at the mere sound of our glorious rhetoric about freedom and democracy. Not one thing that the administration said would happen in Iraq has happened. Virtually everything that their critics said would happen has come true down to the last detail. Should that destroy his political career? You’re damn right it should.

    ME: I believe the only way to do that at this point is to get other nations more involved, but I don’t think Bush has any chance whatsoever of achieving that even if he was so inclined, and he’s not.

    Not going to happen. Look around the world. Can you find even one nation that a) is willing to get involved on our side (meaning the pro-democracy side); b) has the resources to get involved, and c) isn’t already involved? I’ll bet you can’t, because no such countries exist. France and Germany have already said they won’t get involved, not even if Kerry wins the election. What you see is what there is, and there ain’t no more help to be had.

    I think if Kerry gets elected (which I don’t think will happen, and I’m not going to vote for him anyway), there is a chance (in the sense of an opportunity, I don’t have a lot of confidence that Kerry will actually do this) to turn that around. A new president would at least have the opportunity to go to the UN and say something like this – “My predecessor embarked on a foolish war in Iraq and the outcome is very much what many of you feared. Unfortunately, we can’t go back and change that. But we also can’t let Iraq slide into either chaos and civil war or into an Islamic theocracy that could join forces with Al Qaeda or with other radical governments to pose a major threat to the stability of the world and to the oil supplies on which we all depend so heavily. The history of US involvement and the passions that we provoke in the region, rightly or wrongly, makes it impossible for us to find a solution to this problem on our own. We need our allies and nations around the world to help us do two things – stabilize the security situation in Iraq and help rebuild that nation. If we help rebuild Iraqi society and give them the chance at economic self-sufficency and do the hard diplomatic work necessary to keep the factions within it at the table to compromise, we may be able to create a stable, workable solution there for the long term without it sliding into civil war. But we need your help in that.” Would Kerry do that? I doubt it. But the opportunity would be there, whether it was for Kerry or whoever else succeeded Bush. But with Bush, there is no chance. And frankly, given how badly he has screwed up the situation to this point, I see no justification whatsoever for thinking he’s gonna do any better in a second term. Part of the problem is our national machismo, which prevents us from ever admitting that we screwed up, and Bush is the personal embodiment of that to an almost infinite degree. His utter lack of humility as a person mirrors our nation’s obsession with pretending that we’re perfect.

    The bottom line is this – by invading Iraq, particularly by doing it as incompetently as he did, Bush has handed the Bin Laden cabal an enormous victory. We’ve helped them recruit untold new holy warriors who are invigorated by our actions, we’ve diverted resources from the battle against them both in Afghanistan and around the world (and our intelligence analysts are now telling us that has given them time to regroup to a significant degree), we’ve turned a stable, low-threat, non-Islamic-radical nation into one that has a good chance of becoming the kind of Islamic theocracy that they could only have dreamed it would become before we invaded, and we’ve made the US an even bigger target for Islamic hatred than it was before. If Bin Laden is still alive (and I doubt he is), he must be thrilled at what has transpired. He must be absolutely overjoyed at seeing how stupidly we’ve reacted to 9/11. In his wildest dreams, he could not have imagined the response would lead to such a perfect result for his dream of an Islamic fundamentalist empire to rival the United States. The only question now is whether we allow it to become a total victory for his side by allowing Iraq to become an Islamic state or not. If we do that, his victory will be complete and we will have set the stage for a much broader war against a much more dangerous enemy in the future.

  6. #6 jwoolf
    September 30, 2004

    Ed,

    I think you’re taking your handle a bit too seriously… ;-)

    Wars are never noble endeavors, anywhere, at any time, by any nation. Wars are fought over strategic interests (land, money, access to resources, self-protection, etc); wars are sold to the public as moral crusades and noble endeavors.

    A touch overly cynical if you ask me. Self-defense is not a noble endeavor?

    Hussein wasn’t even a minor threat to the United States before this war, much less our first priority. He was kept entirely in his cage by sanctions and the no fly zone and he wasn’t a threat to anyone.

    Sorry, not so. Between the oil-for-food scam and the backdoor dealings by French and German and Russian oil companies, Hussein was swimming in cash and more than a few new weapons. After the invasion last year, Coalition troops found a number of foreign-built weapons that didn’t exist yet in 1991 — which meant Hussein must have somehow acquired them while the sanctions were in effect. Even leaving that aside, he was sending money to terrorist groups and giving haven to terrorists within Iraq’s borders. Al-Zarqawi was in and out of Iraq many times during the 1990s, and so were other terrorists. Some belonged to al-Qaeda. Others didn’t. But they were all terrorists.

    Sometimes I just have to shake my head in astonishment that someone who is so intelligent and such a rational skeptic on every other subject can write something so absurd on this subject. How can those warnings be “obviously unreliable” when they were TRUE?

    I’d like to think it only sounds like an absurd conclusion to you because you don’t have all the facts I do and/or we have a few different base assumptions.

    We know now that those warnings were true. We didn’t know it then. I have a suggestion for you, Ed: sometime when you have a few minutes to spare, dig into some really, really good primary sources about the Second World War and learn about what was really going on in the higher command echelons on both sides of the lines. Learn about some of the really horrifying blunders made by the command planners — at Dieppe, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Midway, Operation Overlord, Operation Market-Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, the Bismarck‘s last sortie, Convoy PQ-17 . . . and the list goes on. In almost every case, there were intel agents who analyzed the available evidence and drew what later proved to be the right conclusion, and there were higher-ups who looked at those analyses and rejected them for what at the time seemed good and proper reason. That sort of thing happens in wartime. No one can be right every time. They can only decide based on the best evidence available, and then take whatever comes. Sometimes they make real mistakes, sure, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, they’re just plain flat out wrong, even with the very best of motives and judgement. Judging those decisions after the fact is a complete waste of time and energy.

    It didn’t take the wisdom of Solomon to know that after taking over we would face a massive guerilla insurgency that wanted us out.

    Why not, when that’s not what happened? I wouldn’t call the insurgency “massive.” “Massive” would be large and well-organized insurgent organizations operating effectively against American and Iraqi-government troops in every province in the country, involving hundreds of thousands of people including numerous agents within the Iraqi government. In fact, what we face is a few thousand poorly trained, ineptly organized fighters concentrated in a handful of cities within the Sunni Triangle, who have little support among the locals, who require outside aid to stay viable, who lose large numbers whenever they dare to meet American and government troops in open combat, and who must resort to tactics like car-bombs and IEDs and kidnappings which give large returns for small numbers of personnel involved. The only reason the insurgency has lasted as long as it has is the reluctance of our side’s commanders to commit the forces necessary to wipe them out.

    Why was “don’t strike at all” a bad option?

    Because the goal is not merely to defeat al Qaeda. The ultimate goal is to break the whole culture of violence that pervades the Middle East and turns Islam into a death cult of unbelievable magnitude. The only way to do that is to remove the conditions on which the death cult feeds: the cultural backwardness, the economic stagnation, the lack of economic and societal freedom. In short, regime change throughout the Middle East, and replacement of every repressive regime with a West-friendly democratic one.

    That’s also why your anger at “destabilizing the Mideast” is misplaced. In this case, destabilization is a good thing. We already know what the product of the old “stability” was: terrorism in ever-increasing amounts. We don’t yet know where the new situation will lead, but at least now we have a chance to defeat the terrorism at its roots: the cult of death.

    The bottom line is this – by invading Iraq, particularly by doing it as incompetently as he did, Bush has handed the Bin Laden cabal an enormous victory.

    What victory? Ed, you don’t seem to understand that most of what you claim as consequences of the Iraq invasion are things that were already true long before Bush was elected, let alone before we invaded Iraq. The terrorists and their supporters already hate us. They already want to destroy us. They already have as many recruits as they could want. They already have support from almost every Mideast government, either overt or covert. If you don’t believe that, do a little research and find out what the state-run media and state-supported imams say about the US in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia and Syria and Egypt. None of that is new. They’ve been talking like that for five, ten, twenty years. The only thing the terrorists had before that they don’t have now is two countries in which they could organize and train and plan with a free hand.

    Are those really the only two choices? Jon, it didn’t take any “magical” foresight to see the results of the war the way it was undertaken.

    Yes, it did, because by definition foresight is magical. Don’t confuse “a prediction that has proved accurate” with “certain knowledge of the outcome beforehand.” You are charging that Bush should have had the latter because some analysts had the former, and that is irrational and unfair to the man.

    the opportunity would be there, whether it was for Kerry or whoever else succeeded Bush.

    I disagree. The opportunity would not be there for the simple reason that it has never been there. The blunt fact of the matter is that every nation which cares about what happens to the Iraqi people is already aiding us. The rest of the world’s nations either don’t care at all, or they care only about how they can turn the Iraq situation to their advantage, whether that be monetary advantage as with France and Germany, or global-political advantage as with the other Mideast thugocracies who fear the emergence of a successful, West-friendly Arab democracy as they fear nothing else on earth.

    — JSW

  7. #7 Steve
    October 1, 2004

    http://www.pepeace.org/current_reprints/16/How_Saddam_Happened.htm

    Interesting Article, I think. Maybe it makes the point that it is our mess and we need to clean it up.
    Sincerely

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