Fiasco

One of my projects for the winter break has been to read some of the Iraq War books that keep showing up in the local Barnes and Noble. First up: Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas Ricks, senior Pentagon correspondent for The Washington Post.

The book makes for strange reading. On the one hand it is very hard to put down. The story it tells is gripping and it is written with considerable skill. On the other hand it is difficult to take for more than a few pages at a time. The story it tells is one of unrelenting arrogance and incompetence on the part both of the military’s civilian leadership and of the generals running things on the ground.

You could open the book to a random page and find something quotable. For example, in a section entitled “Rumsfeld vs. Reality”:

The root cause of the occupation’s paralysis may have been the cloud of cognitive dissonance that seems to have fogged in Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials at this time. They were not finding what they had expected: namely, strong evidence of intensive efforts to develop and stockpile chemical and biological weapons, and even some work to develop nuclear bombs. Meanwhile, they were finding what they had not expected: violent and widespread opposition to the U.S. military presence. There were no big battles, just a string of bombings and snipings that were killing U.S. troops in ones and twos, and also intimidating the Iraqi population.

But U.S. officials continued to speak about Iraq with unwarranted certainty, both in terms of WMD and the situation on the ground there. “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we will find the weapons of mass destruction,” Marine Gen. Peter pace, the vice chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff, said as Baghdad fell.

For weeks in the late spring and early summer, Rumsfeld and other officials declined to say they were facing a continuing war in Iraq. His exchanges with reporters during this period underscored what one defense expert termed the “institutional resistance to thinking seriously” about the situation. Rumsfeld’s refusal to say he was facing war sent a signal downward across the military establishment, that most hierarchical of institutions, built to act on the words and views of those at the top. (p. 168)

Or this:

The U.S. civilian occupation organization was a house built on sand and inhabited by the wrong sort of people, according to many who worked there. “No clear strategy, very little detailed planning, poor communications, high personnel turnover, lots of young and inexperienced political appointees, no well-established business processes,” concluded retired Army Col. Ralph Hallenbeck, who worked at the CPA as a civilian contractor dealing with the Iraqi communications infrastructure. Personnel was an especially nettlesome issue. Hallenbeck said that in addition to being young and inexperienced, most of the young CPA people he met during his work as a contractor were ideologically minded Republicans whose only professional experience was working on election campaigns back in the United States. (p. 203)

Or the distressingly blunt:

The Bush administration offered three basic rationales for the U.S. intervention in Iraq: the threat it believed was posed by Saddam’s WMD; the supposed nexus it saw between Saddam Hussein’s government and transnational terrorism; and the need to liberate an oppressed people. In the spring of 2004, the first two arguments were undercut by official findings by the same government that had invaded Iraq, and the third was tarred by the revelation of the Abu Ghraib scandal. (p. 375)

Page after page of this. Most distressing is the documentation of the numerous blunders made by the military in response to the insurgency. Ricks points out that there is a large literature on the subject of waging an effective counterinsurgency, but the commanders on the ground seemed completely unaware of it:

It is striking how much of the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign in the late summer and fall of 2003 violate the basic tenets of such efforts. (p. 264)

Ricks documents the unbridled arrogance of many of the statements made in the lead-up to the war, the willingness of the administration to present a highly misleading version of the relevant intelligence to Congress and the public, their contemptuous dismissal of senior military leaders who warned of precisely the eventualities that later occurred, and their complete lack of seriousness in giving any thought to what would happen after the Hussein regime collapsed. He documents the sheer incompetence of the people on the ground in Iraq, the brutal tactics used by various Army divisions which drove many Iraqis to the insurgency, and the inability of many in the civilian leadership to adjust to new realities.

Basically, no matter how bad you thought the administration was, the reality is much worse.

In fact, one place where the book really changed my own thinking is about whether the current chaos in Iraq was inevitable. Prior to reading the book I tended to think that it was, but Ricks’ provides some reasons to think that wasn’t the case. He points to several places where individual commanders had great success in persuading the Iraqis to accept a U.S. presence, where law and order was restored quickly, and where there didn’t seem to be much hostility towards the occupying force. These were commanders who seemed to understand the realities of the situation, and what was needed for the U.S. effort to be a success, but they were few and far between.

Most of the book deals with events on the ground in Iraq in the first year and a half after the fall of Baghdad. But there is also some discussion of the build-up to the war. And here there is something I found especially interesting. Remember those cruise missiles President Clinton lobbed into Iraq at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the ones Republicans (the same ones who now tell us you must not criticize the leadership in times of war) casually dismissed as ineffective and “wag the dog”? Well, guess what:

Some congressional Republicans were deeply suspicious of President Clinton and suggested that the strikes were simply a ploy to undercut the impending impeachment proceedings against him. As the bombing began, Sen. Trent Lott, then the Senate majority leader, issued a statement declaring, “I cannot support this military action in the Persian Gulf at this time. Both the timing and the policy are subject to question.” Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, a California Republican, called the military action, “an insult to the American people.”

Yet the raids proved surprisingly effective. “Desert Fox actually exceeded expectations,” wrote Kenneth Pollack in The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, his influential 2002 book. “Saddam panicked during the strikes. Fearing that his control was threatened, he ordered large-scale arrests and executions, which backfired and destablizied his regime for months afterward.

[Marine General Anthony] Zinni was amazed when Western intelligence assets in Baghdad reported that Desert Fox nearly knocked off Saddam Hussein’s regime. His conclusion: Containment is clearly working, and Saddam Hussein was on the ropes. A U.S. military intelligence official, looking back at Desert Fox years later, confirmed that account.

When I read things like that I am infuriated anew by people who think it’s clever to say there is no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. There are big differences, and those differences matter.

What is especially infuriating is that the reality of American politics is the precise opposite of the stereotypes. In popular mythology the Republicans are the hard-headed realists, the foreign policy geniuses, the ones who understand how to use the military. The Democrats are supposed to be the ones who have their heads in the clouds, the ones who thnk negotiation can solve everything, and the ones who are too naive too recognize evil in the world. But compare the military operations in Desert Fox and in Bosnia to the Republican handling of the war in Iraq. It looks to me like Democrats use the military in calm, measured and effective ways based ona sober assessment of the facts on the ground. Republicans, meanwhile, say things like this:

“The Clinton administration was totally risk averse” on Iraq, Richard Perle, a leading Iraq hawk, would argue later. &ldquoThey allowed Saddam over eight years to grow in strength. He was far stronger at the end of Clinton’s tenure then at the beginning.” Perle made those assertions in July 2003, just about the time they were becoming laughable to those who understood the situation on the ground in Iraq. (p. 19)

But didn’t many Democrats support the war? Indeed they did. Some simply agreed with the Administration, while others made a cold political calculation. But I suspect that for most Democrats the issue was far simpler. They simply assumed that you wouldn’t send your Secretary of State to lecture the U.N. about WMD unless you really had the goods. They assumed that when Congress asked for a National Intelligence Estimate summarizing what was known about Iraq, they would get the real thing and not some administration propaganda piece stripped of all nuance and uncertainty. That is, their mistake was in thinking that even an administration as ideological and vicious as this one would not play fast and loose with something this important. Well, they were wrong.

Speaking of Powell’s speech, let me close with one last quote:

Powell didn’t know it, but his bravura performance was a huge house of cards. It is now known tha talmost all of what he said that day wasn’t solid, that much of it was deemed doubtful even at the time inside the intelligence community, and that some of it was flatly false. The official, bipartisan conclusion of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s review of the prewar handling of intelligence was, “Much of the information provided or cleared by the Central Intelligence Agency for inclusion in Secretary Powell’s speech was overstated, mislesading, or incorrect.” The assertion about chemical weapons would be proven flat wrong. The assertion about the nuclear program was based heavily on the belief that Iraq was seeking aluminum tubes for centrifuge to enrich uranium for a nuclear program. The key question was whether the tubes were of a lower quality alloy suitable for military rockets, or more finely made for nuclear work. “It stirkes me as quite odd that these tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that far exceeds U. S. requirements for comparable rockets,” Powell said. But the State Depertment’s own intelligence office had contradicted that very assertion two days earlier in its critique of a draft of Powell’s speech. It objected to the statement about manufacture. “In fact,” it stated in a memorandum, ”the most comparable U.S. system is a tactical rocket – the U.S. Mark 66 air-launched 70 mm rocket – that uses the same high-grade (7075-T6) aluminum, and that has specifications with similar tolerances.” Worst of all, the assertion about biological weapons was based largely on the statement of one defector, codenamed Curveball, whose testimony already had been discredited. There was a second source for the statements about biological efforts – and that source had been formally declared a fabricator ten months earlier by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which was handling him, but no one had told Powell about that. (p. 90-91).

On and on and on it goes….

Comments

  1. #1 Tyler DiPietro
    December 29, 2006

    But compare the military operations in Desert Fox and in Bosnia to the Republican handling of the war in Iraq. It looks to me like Democrats use the military in calm, measured and effective ways based ona sober assessment of the facts on the ground.

    The difference between Clinton and Bush 43 is that Clinton knew when to pull the plug on a botched intervention. Although the intervention into Somalia was instantiated by Bush 41, Clinton inherited the situation when it (much like Reagan’s intervention into Lebanon in the 80’s) ended up as us fighting as one side in a violent civil war. We lost a small number of American casualties, and Clinton, like any foreign policy realist, avoided a quagmire by pulling out.

    The same thing happened during the Kosovo bombing campaign. Setting aside the fact that I think the rationale for the war was pernicious at best, Clinton did not send in ground troops to a situation that almost certainly would have climaxed in such a fashion. We lost no casualties, and thus public opinion did not turn against a Vietnam-esque foreign policy quagmire.

  2. #2 SLC
    December 30, 2006

    Re DiPietro

    Well well, isn’t that nice. Mr. DiPietro thinks Clinton was right not to send in ground troops while his pal Alon Levy has stated on his blog that Clintons’ bombing campaign was immoral and he should have sent in ground troops. Actually, of course, Clinton was lucky in that the KLA got their act together a week or two before the war ended and posed enough of a threat so that the Serbian army troops in Kosovo were forced out of their hiding places where they could be attrised by air bombardment, thereby rendering the need for US ground troops unnecessary. Prior to that time, the air compaign had been ineffective against those Serbian troops.

  3. #3 Tyler DiPietro
    December 30, 2006

    SLC, your indignation on these topics is getting rather tiresome. Nothing you said in your post is even topical to anything I wrote, which was not about the effectiveness of the bombing campaign in achieving anything but in it’s avoidance of a quagmire on the ground. I still stand against the Kosovo intervention completely. And no, Alon and I do not have not bound ourselves in a pact to agree on everything SLC disagrees with.

    Grow up, or my killfile beckons.

  4. #4 wolfwalker
    December 30, 2006

    (Apologies if this appears twice — my browser choked, and I think the first time didn’t go through)

    First up: Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas Ricks, senior Pentagon correspondent for The Washington Post.

    Rule number one on books of this sort: any book on current events written by any senior member of the mainstream media is unreliable.

    Example:

    The Bush administration offered three basic rationales for the U.S. intervention in Iraq: the threat it believed was posed by Saddam’s WMD; the supposed nexus it saw between Saddam Hussein’s government and transnational terrorism; and the need to liberate an oppressed people. In the spring of 2004, the first two arguments were undercut by official findings by the same government that had invaded Iraq, and the third was tarred by the revelation of the Abu Ghraib scandal. (p. 375)

    Wrong on all three counts.

    1) The reports of the postwar inspection groups supported most of the prewar accusations about Saddam’s WMD programs. The only thing we expected to find that we didn’t find was ready-to-use stockpiles of WMDs. If you don’t believe me, go read David Kay’s interim report and Charles Duelfer’s final report on the inspection program.

    2) Saddam’s government was indeed supporting terrorism. He sent money to Palestinian suicide bombers. He offered asylum to wanted international terrorists like Abu Abbas of Achille Lauro infamy. His people worked with the terrorists who staged the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and may have somehow helped in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He even attempted to assassinate former US President George H.W. Bush.

    3) The Abu Ghraib affair, as vile as it was, was perpetrated by members of one squad of soldiers on one guard shift. The Army had known about the abuses for months before it went public, and was already close to filing charges against the soldiers involved. It is simply not true that Abu Ghraib was typical of the system or of the Army.

    Ricks has no credibility. You wasted your money.

  5. #5 SLC
    December 30, 2006

    Re DiPietro

    Mr. DiPietro appears to suffer from the same deficiency as most conservatives; that is, they can dish it out but they can’t take it. As Mr. DiPietro points out, there is a question of whether the intervention in Kosovo was justified. He thinks not. I think yes. Based on the information available at the time, it was clear that Milosovic was conducting a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. I think he had to be stopped, just as Hitler had to be stopped. As it turns out, both Serbia and Kosovo came out of the conflict ahead as Milosovic was removed from office and the ethnic cleansing was stopped.

    Re Wolfwalker

    Mr. Woldwalker claims that the war in Iraq is justified and that Mr. Ricks’ book has incorrectly described the justifications and therefore lacks credibility. Fine; however, that’s ancient history and we are now into current events. The fact of the matter is that, whether or not the war is justified, it has been royally screwed up by imcompetence in Washington.

    1. The project was doomed from the start due to Mr. Rumsfeld ignoring the advice of his top army commander, General Shinseki, the chief of staff of the army, that several hundred thousand troops would be required. For his trouble, General Shinseki was retired early and an inadequate force was deployed which was unable to provide security after the invasion force reached Baghdad. We are still living with the fruits of Rumsfelds’ idiotic decision.

    2. As Mr. Ricks documents, political hacks whose only qualifications were their participation in the 2000 GOP campaign, were sent to Iraq to oversee various aspects of the occupation.

    3. The Iraqi army was disbanded. We are now trying with very limited sucess to rebuild that army to assist our inadequate force in supplying security.

    Currently, the administration is considering increasing the committment of troops by some 20,000. This number is so inadequate that the only thing it will acomplish is to provide the terrorists more targets to attack. The fact of the matter is that, due to the aforementioned screwups, it is probably too late to do anything to redeem the situation. I think the administration should carefully consider the suggestion of Daniel Pipes, not noted as a left wing pinko commie, that the American force be withdrawn from Baghdad and redeployed in the lightly populated desert areas.

  6. #6 Tyler DiPietro
    December 31, 2006

    Mr. DiPietro appears to suffer from the same deficiency as most conservatives; that is, they can dish it out but they can’t take it.

    Nice cheap shot. Except for one problem: What I “dished out” in my initial post here had nothing to do with what you wrote. You took what I wrote as an opportunity to start a pissing contest, something you seem quite fond of. I think that’s rather childish. But never, you backpedaled and changed the subject for the better, so let’s move on.

    As Mr. DiPietro points out, there is a question of whether the intervention in Kosovo was justified. He thinks not. I think yes. Based on the information available at the time, it was clear that Milosovic was conducting a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. I think he had to be stopped, just as Hitler had to be stopped.

    Very good then, it doesn’t seem to bother you though that the NATO installed government in Kosovo continued the very ethnic cleansing upon installation that we accused Melosevic of, driving (among others) Jews and non-Muslim Albanians from their homeland. Nor does it seem to bother any of the tub-thumpers for “humanitarian intervention” that it Kosovo is currently a hotbead of Islamic terrorism, White slave trafficking, drug lords and the Albanian mafia. But nevermind, we can feel good about ourselves for, erm, intervening on behalf of a separatist minority in a civil war that was none of our business.

    As it turns out, both Serbia and Kosovo came out of the conflict ahead as Milosovic was removed from office and the ethnic cleansing was stopped.

    No, Melosevic’s campaign of ethnic cleansing may have been stopped, but no one had a problem turning a blind eye to the war crimes of the NATO installed government in Kosovo, or the KLA as they were beforehand. That’s not what I’d call a success. That’s Iraq without significant American casualties.

  7. #7 wolfwalker
    December 31, 2006

    The fact of the matter is that, whether or not the war is justified, it has been royally screwed up by imcompetence in Washington.

    No argument there. It has indeed. Many decisions could have and should have been made differently, at several different command levels.

    However…

    In criticizing the conduct of the occupation, you should take care that you don’t fall into either of two different traps. One is known as “20/20 hindsight” — ie, it’s easy to tell a decision was wrong after you’ve seen the consequences. If the decision-maker couldn’t have known the decision was wrong when he or she made it, then there’s no valid grounds for criticism.

    The second trap is one for which I’ve never seen a convenient label, but which might be called ‘tunnel criticism.’ (I can think of another considerably less innocuous name, but I’m trying to be reasonable, not start a fight.) Basically, it means that no matter what happens or who takes what actions, the critic always constructs a chain of if-thens that pins the ultimate responsibility where he wants it to be — in this case, on decisions made by somebody in the Bush administration. He doesn’t makes any allowance for decisions by other agencies that might have screwed up the works. Doesn’t any of the blame for the current chaos in Baghdad rest on the power-mad scum who are training, paying, arming, and leading the insurgents? Doesn’t any of the blame fall on the journalists who insist on reporting only bad news from Iraq — a habit which insurgent leaders have said they use extensively in their campaign to demoralize the American public? The autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq stands as a shining example of what Iraq could become under a strong, peaceful central government — but Shia and Sunni Iraqis are choosing instead to kill each other as well as Americans in a mindless orgy of pointless violence. And yet, you and Ricks claim that the whole fault lies with the Americans? That’s irrational.

    Oh, as for General Shinseki, he was already planning to retire well before the argument over the troop numbers. Again, Ricks plays fast and loose with the facts in order to support the conclusion he wanted to reach. I’d also point out that if the Turkish government hadn’t unexpectedly reversed itself, the invasion force would have had at least fifty to a hundred thousand more men, attacking from Turkey into Iraq from the northwest, through the autonomous Kurdish region. The initial plan for the invasion of Iraq was a pretty good piece of military strategy, a classic pincer movement writ on a regional scale. But when the Turks unexpectedly denied permission to attack through Turkey, the northern pincer was lost, just like that, with no time to adjust or compensate for it. Essentially, the southern pincer had to do the whole job by itself.

  8. #8 Greg Byshenk
    December 31, 2006

    I object to the attempt to portray Powell as innocent in the last
    quoted paragraph. Indeed, I submit that Powell was guilty of either mal-
    or misfeasance, in that he knew, or should have known, at the time,
    that “his bravura performance was a huge house of cards.”

    It was clear at the time that “his bravura performance” contained no
    actual evidence, but based only on guesswork (at best) and reports from
    sources of doubtful veracity. Of course, it is now clear that there
    was no real evidence, but even at the time the absence of public
    evidence was clear. And indeed, shortly thereafter, the inability of the
    US to provide sufficiently convincing evidence to garner support from even
    a simple majority of the UNSC at least suggested that such evidence was not
    available.

    But Powell’s position is still worse. Some have argued that he was “too
    trusting” of others in the Bush Administration, but this position is extremely
    difficult to sustain. After all, the “aluminum tubes” story was already known
    within the State Department to be at least questionable, which at least
    arguably should have been known to Powell. More tellingly, the defector
    information had already been demonstrated to be of doubtful veracity. Such
    information included the location of various WMD sites, none of which
    had shown to be correct when such sites were searched by the UN inspectors.

    “Oh, but he was only misled!” say the Powell defenders. Perhaps. But if
    so, then he was willingly misled. Recall that at the time, the Hawks
    were continuing to push the “Uranium from Niger” story, which was already
    known to be false. Indeed, it was known to be false by Powell, which
    is why he refused to use it in “his bravura performance”. But this in turn
    means that Powell was willingly accepting “on faith” information from
    sources in the adminstration that he knew — already — to be untrustworthy
    .
    And as Dubya himself said, “fool me twice… won’t get fooled again!”

  9. #9 Greg Byshenk
    December 31, 2006

    Is there anything in wolfwalker’s post above that is anything other
    that diversionary argument?

    The issue of “20/20 hindsight” is simply not applicable, here. It is
    simply not the case that no one could have known better. It is
    plain that many, both within and without the government, could and
    did know better. Indeed, it was known better in 1991!

    The issue of Turkey is simply a red herring. It is certainly true that
    the actual invasion would have been different had it been possible to send
    troops through Turkey. But the actual invasion is not the issue, as the
    invasion itself was completely successful. Indeed, there was never any
    real doubt that the invasion would be successful. To be sure, no one
    could know beforehand how easy or difficult it would be, and if the Iraqi
    strategy had been different, then the invasion might have been more
    difficult or taken longer, but there was never any real question as to
    whether a first-rate military with total air superiority could defeat a
    third-rate military in a desert environment.

    Finally, the rhetorical question “And yet, you and Ricks claim that the
    whole fault lies with the Americans?” would seem to be nothing but the
    building of a straw man. Is there anyone who claims that the
    whole fault lies with the Americans” — to the extent of denying
    the fault of others? The issue is actually a different one, summed up in
    Powell’s “Pottery Barn Doctrine”. That is, one is held responsible for
    the reasonably foreseeable results of one’s actions. And it seems clear
    that those planning and running the Iraqi occupation are guilty of at
    least what would legally be termed “reckless disregard”. If one hires a
    known pedophile to work in one’s preschool, the pedophile may be guilty
    of the molestation that follows, but you are also at fault, as the
    situation was the foreseeable result of your action, and would not have
    occurred absent your action.

  10. #10 SLC
    December 31, 2006

    Re Wolfwalker

    Mr. Wolfwalker accuses me of applying 20/20 hindsight. The fact is that not only General Shinseki, but a number of retired army general (e.g. Barry McCafferty) stated before the war even started that the force level was inadequate.

    1. Mr. Wolfwalker conveniently forgets that General Shinseki was retired early.

    2. Mr. Wolfwalkers raises the issue of the Turkish late refusal to allow troops to invade Iraq from their territority. That comment is a red herring. There is no denying the fact that the invasion force was grossly inadequate from the get go and would have been so even if the Turks had not reneged. The fact of the matter is that General Shinseki, whose expertise in these matters is at least equal to Mr. Wolfwalkers, recommended several hundred thousand troops. Mr. Rumsfeld overruled his recommendation and went in with 140,000 irrespective of what Turkey did or did not do. Subsequent events prove beyond any doubt that Shinseki was right and Rumsfeld was wrong. End of story.

    3. Mr. Wolfwalker takes a page out of the Charles Krauthammer playbook and blames the current situation in Iraq on the Iraqis, in order to whitewash the incompetence of the Bush administration. The fact of the matter is that if General Shinsekis’ recommendation had been adopted, the force level might have been adequate to provide security and prevent the chaos now enveloping Iraq. As the old saw goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    4. Mr. Wolfwalker takes a page out of the far right wing Sean Hannity/Bill O’Reilly playbook and blames the media for alleged misreporting of events in Iraq. This is, of course, nothing more then kill the messenger and is the usual attempt at whitewashing a failed policy. There is nothing new here, the same crap was attempted in Vietnam.

    5. Supprisingly enough, I am in agreement with Mr. Wolfwalker relative to the situation in Kurdistan. In fact, I have recommended on other blogs that the entire US force be withdrawn to Kurdistan and that the US support an independent Kurdistan Republic. The current US force is entirely inadequate to fulfill its mission in the whole of Iraq but should be sufficient to provide protection for an independent Kurdistan. An independent democratic Kurdistan would at least salvage something positive from the wreakage of the Iraq adventure.

  11. #11 SLC
    December 31, 2006

    As an aside to the current turmoil over the events in Iraq, the following column in todays Washington Post indicates how distracting the Iraq issue is from other disasters looming on the horizon.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/29/AR2006122901238.html

  12. #12 SLC
    December 31, 2006

    Re DiPietro

    Mr. DiPietro makes some excellent points relative to the current situation in Kosovo. However, I think it is fair to ask the question as to what extent the US inattention to the events occurring there is due to the distraction of 9/11 and the current fiasco in Iraq. This is not to point fingers at the Bush administration as clearly, from a US security point of view, these latter situations are more important. Thus, it could be argued that the initial decision to intervene in Kosovo was correct but the follow up was was not properly accomplished, partly due events not under our control.

  13. #13 wolfwalker
    December 31, 2006

    Quoth SLC:

    1. Mr. Wolfwalker conveniently forgets that General Shinseki was retired early.

    No, he wasn’t. He served his full term, like any other Chairman of the JCS, and then retired. For much of that time he was at loggerheads with his superiors, and certainly they had means and motive to undercut him. But that’s not what you claimed, is it, SLC? What you claimed is a lie, pure and simple.

    There is no denying the fact that the invasion force was grossly inadequate from the get go and would have been so even if the Turks had not reneged.

    You should be ashamed of such simplistic thinking. The force was adequate — barely — for the invasion, as evidenced by the fact that we won the invasion, conquered the enemy army, and overthrew Saddam’s regime. The available force was inadequate, perhaps even grossly so, for the occupation. However, with the advantage of hindsight (see, I admit it), it appears that we couldn’t possibly have fielded a force big enough to successfully keep order during the initial stages of the occupation. Therefore I’m not sure how much blame accrues to the administration for this failure.

    Here’s a fun little game for you: calculate the total armed forces available to the US in January 2003. Remove the forces needed for our commitments in Korea, Afghanistan, Europe, and elsewhere. Next, remove those troops that were needed for bases at home and to maintain a strategic reserve. Finally, remove the forces that were already committed to the Iraq invasion. Then see what’s left. If I recall what I read at the time of the Iraq invasion correctly, then you’ll find that there were no more forces to send to Iraq. Certainly not enough to make any substantial difference. That’s right, friend lefty: the United States, home of that gigantic military machine you cut so drastically ten years ago so you could transfer government funds to your pet programs, didn’t have enough troops to do the job.

    3. Mr. Wolfwalker takes a page out of the Charles Krauthammer playbook and blames the current situation in Iraq on the Iraqis, in order to whitewash the incompetence of the Bush administration.

    You have GOT to be kidding me! Are you really so far gone as to believe that suggesting the Iraqis might be at least partly responsibile for their own actions is just a political ploy? That other term I might have used, but didn’t out of a desire to avoid offense, is looking more applicable with every word you write.

    4. Mr. Wolfwalker takes a page out of the far right wing Sean Hannity/Bill O’Reilly playbook and blames the media for alleged misreporting of events in Iraq. This is, of course, nothing more then

    the truth. Or have you perhaps missed the numerous cases, reported on a variety of blogs and occasionally even briefly surfacing in mainstream media, of paid ‘stringer’ reporters for Western news agencies living and working with the insurgents, carefully staging photo-ops and timing their “news reporting” to create the maximum possible public impact? It is a plain and simple fact, verifiable by any of a huge number of milblogs and Iraqi blogs, that the Western press does not report a lot of the good news that is coming out of Iraq. All we ever hear about is the violence.

    In fact, I have recommended on other blogs that the entire US force be withdrawn to Kurdistan and that the US support an independent Kurdistan Republic.

    Then you know nothing about the relevant geopolitical situations, and should not be taken seriously. A US-protected Kurdish nation would trigger a war between us and Turkey, and possibly also one between us and Iran, since both those nations have substantial Kurdish populations who would immediately rebel against their present occupiers and try to join the Iraqi-Kurdish nation. Meanwhile, the enemy would complete the job of wrecking southern and central Iraq, and turning it into an overt terrorist state similar to Afghanistan under the Taliban. Your plan would gain nothing and lose quite a lot.

  14. #14 wolfwalker
    December 31, 2006

    Oh yeah, one more thing, in response to Greg’s comment:

    Is there anyone who claims that the “whole fault lies with the Americans” — to the extent of denying the fault of others? The issue is actually a different one, summed up in Powell’s “Pottery Barn Doctrine”. That is, one is held responsible for the reasonably foreseeable results of one’s actions.

    If anyone with any credibility predicted that the result of the Iraq invasion would be a sustained insurgency with support from neighboring nations and the Western Left despite its habit of murdering vast numbers of innocents, a media so biased and/or incompetent that it talked us into surrendering when victory was within reach, and a domestic political situation that made it impossible for our troops to effectively fight back, then I never heard a word about it. And I think I would have, even if it had only been in the form of right-wing commentators and bloggers ridiculing such notions.

  15. #15 Ginger Yellow
    December 31, 2006

    “Basically, no matter how bad you thought the administration was, the reality is much worse.”

    Jason, meet DeLong’s Law: “The Bush Administration is always worse than one imagines, even when taking into account DeLong’s Law.”

  16. #16 SLC
    December 31, 2006

    Re Wolfwalker

    Mr. Wolfwalker, in his response to Mr. Byshenks’ comment shows his true colors. According to him, the problem in Iraq is not the incompetence of the Bush administration. Its the fault of the left wing press, the Western Left, and a “media so biased and/or incompetent that it talked us into surrendering when victory was within reach, and a domestic political situation that made it impossible for our troops to effectively fight back.” Where have we heard this type of rhetoric before? The late, unlamented Mr. Hitler used to warble this tune, to wit, “the German army won the 1st World War on the battlefield and was deprived of its victory by the traitors back in Berlin.” I did Charles Krauthammer, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity a grave diservice by indicating that Mr. Wolfwalker operates from their playbook. I was seriously in error. He operates from Mr. Hitlers’ playbook.

  17. #17 Greg Byshenk
    December 31, 2006

    wolfwalker wrote:

    That’s right, friend lefty: the United States, home of that
    gigantic military machine you cut so drastically ten years ago so you could
    transfer government funds to your pet programs, didn’t have enough troops
    to do the job
    . [empasis in original]

    You do realize that you are now arguing for the incompentence
    of the war planners, right…?

    That is, you are saying that there weren’t enough resources for the
    plan to succeed, yet the war planners blithely went ahead anyway. In
    my job (where the stakes are lower, obviously), if I went in with a
    project plan that couldn’t succeed, then I would be sent off to make a
    new plan. Rummy’s assertions to the contrary, it is not true that
    one must “go to war with the army you have”. If one is forced to
    fight, then one fights with what is available. But if one chooses
    to fight, one is an idiot if one does so without a strategy that has some
    reasonable chance of success.

    As for the response to me…

    Of course an insurgency was expected. That was the reason for
    Shinkesi’s “several hundred thousand” troops. Exactly how large and how
    “sustained” the insurgency would be would of course depend on the way
    the occupation was structured. And of course interference from
    at least Iran was expected; such was discussed publicly before the
    invasion. But I suspect that saying even this much is pointless, as
    the rest of your response devolves into incoherent ranting.

  18. #18 Tyler DiPietro
    December 31, 2006

    Wolfwaker,

    That’s right, friend lefty: the United States, home of that gigantic military machine you cut so drastically ten years ago so you could transfer government funds to your pet programs, didn’t have enough troops to do the job.

    This is borderlining on delusional psychosis at this point. You seem to find it convenient to ignore the fact that the United States has the biggest military budget in the world, spending as much or more anually as every other nation in the world combined. If that can’t get it done, then what can? Or could it possibly be incompetence on the part of war-planners, or the fact that Iraq is an inherently volatile region to implement an inherently volatile act of nation building.

    the truth. Or have you perhaps missed the numerous cases, reported on a variety of blogs and occasionally even briefly surfacing in mainstream media, of paid ‘stringer’ reporters for Western news agencies living and working with the insurgents, carefully staging photo-ops and timing their “news reporting” to create the maximum possible public impact?

    It is always funny that conspiracy theorists feel that their grandiose “alternative explanations” have a monopoly on “truth”. The fact of the matter is that the bloggers Mr. Wolfaker so venerates focused in on a single instance where they could not identify the source of a single reported crime, and in fact most have since backed off. Mr. Wolfaker seems painfully oblivious to the fact that the vast majority of the incidents of violent killing, ethnic cleansing, etc., are corroborated by the U.S. military body operating in the region. Yet somehow, everything in Mr. Wolfaker’s world ends up being a big conspiracy by the AP to make it look like it is civil war, because for whatever ends they absolutely hate America.

  19. #19 wolfwalker
    January 1, 2007

    [chuckle.wav]

    You people are really rather amusing, you know. Or at least, you would be if the stakes weren’t so high. Against creationists you’re savage in your disdain for unfounded accusations and non-credible claims, and rightly so. You demand evidence for everything, and rightly so. But let some bozo in a $500 suit come along and make some airy allegation that you agree with, something that supports your side of a [spit] political controversy, and everything you ever learned about skepticism goes right out the window.

    I started out by saying that Ricks was not a credible source, and proved it with links that directly contradicted things that Ricks wrote in his book. Did any of you try to counter the links I posted with evidence of your own? Failing that, did any of you admit that Ricks had indeed made mistakes? No. Instead, you jumped all over me with more arguments drawn from the same sources that I’d already shown to be unreliable. I don’t (and hopefully, you don’t) accept new claims from some hitherto-unknown “evolution critic” just because I can’t instantly prove everything he says is wrong. It’s enough for me to see that he uses some of the old long-disproven creationist canards like “no transitional forms” and “mutations are always negative.” I see no reason why I should treat Ricks any differently. He repeats several claims that I can prove to be false. Why should I believe anything else he says has any validity? And given that you’ve demonstrated yourselves to be less than objective on this topic, why should I believe a word any of you say about it either?

  20. #20 SLC
    January 1, 2007

    Re Wolfwalker

    “Or have you perhaps missed the numerous cases, reported on a variety of blogs and occasionally even briefly surfacing in mainstream media, of paid ‘stringer’ reporters for Western news agencies living and working with the insurgents, carefully staging photo-ops and timing their “news reporting” to create the maximum possible public impact?”

    How about giving some addresses of these blog sites which Mr. Wolfwalker claims support the crap posted above.

  21. #21 Tyler DiPietro
    January 1, 2007

    Wolfaker,

    Are you even reading the links that you posted above. In the final “key finding” of the Duelfer report you link to it says that Saddam not only lacked a program devoted to WMD, he had no written plan for starting one. And of course there is updated data that you feel free to ignore. But it’s okay, keep peddling your conspiracy theories and beating your chest like a monkey. I’m sure there’s someone out there who will take you seriously.

  22. #22 Tyler DiPietro
    January 1, 2007

    Jason,

    Just a notice, I have a post in the pipeline. I don’t know why it was held up for approval. Approve it as you can please!

  23. #23 Tyler DiPietro
    January 1, 2007

    In the interim:

    2) Saddam’s government was indeed supporting terrorism. He sent money to Palestinian suicide bombers. He offered asylum to wanted international terrorists like Abu Abbas of Achille Lauro infamy. His people worked with the terrorists who staged the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and may have somehow helped in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He even attempted to assassinate former US President George H.W. Bush.

    If this is the “proof” you’ve offered that Ricks is not credible, it leaves quite a bit to be desired.

    We know that he did support groups opposed to Palestinian settlement, but I’ve seen no evidence anywhere of any of the other accusations. We know Saddam supported “terrorism”, but mostly against his regional enemies. There is no evidence linking him to terrorists groups that focus attacks on the United States (like al Queida), and furthermore, he supported secular terrorist groups, which puts him at odds with our primary enemy in al Queida (a radical Wahhabi Sunni organization). Have any links supporting these innuendos?

  24. #24 Michael Ralston
    January 3, 2007

    I suspect wolfwalker is a paid troll for some right-wing thinktank.

    It’d be vaguely interesting to find out what his ISP is.

  25. #25 SLC
    January 3, 2007

    Actually, I think Wolfwalker is really Ann Coulter.

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