Browsing the archives for the Iraq War category.


Vanity Foreign Policy

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Iraq War, Obama Administration

Anyone who thinks a President Hillary Clinton would be less of a hawk than was Senator Hillary Clinton might want to take a look at Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview of her. Yeah, I know, its Jeffrey Goldberg. And a lot of what HRC is saying here is obvious pre-campaign posturing and not necessarily what she really thinks. As Betty Cracker wrote,

That said, my major concern about HRC is her hawkishness. That’s why I supported Obama instead of HRC back in 2008 — he recognized the Iraq War as “stupid shit” from the beginning; she didn’t.

The remark highlighted above doesn’t tell us much about Clinton’s organizing principles. When Goldberg questioned her directly on it, her response was “peace, progress and prosperity,” which could have come from a Miss World pageant script.

Like I said, pre-campaign posturing. She’s creating some space between herself and the Obama Administration she served as Secretary of State.

Digby wrote of the interview, “This is a very scary interview. Much more hardcore than I expected.” I don’t know what to expect from HRC, but she seems to be staying in what is (to her) familiar hawkish territory, so that her opponents can’t attack her for being some kind of leftie peacenik. This ought to tell us that we can’t assume she’s not the same HRC of 2002 who voted for the Iraq war resolution.

Goldberg also wrote,

Much of my conversation with Clinton focused on the Gaza war. She offered a vociferous defense of Israel, and of its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well. This is noteworthy because, as secretary of state, she spent a lot of time yelling at Netanyahu on the administration’s behalf over Israel’s West Bank settlement policy. Now, she is leaving no daylight at all between the Israelis and herself.

“I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets,” she told me. “Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”

I so hope she’s not the nominee in 2016.

HRC’s prime criticism of the Obama Administration is that the current crisis in Iraq arose because the U.S. did not do enough to support Syrian rebels. However, via Booman, Patrick Cockburn makes a strong argument that just the opposite is true. HRC says that events in Syria would have turned out differently had we done more to support Syrian moderates and work with our regional allies. Cockburn pretty much says that’s a fantasy.

The foster parents of Isis and the other Sunni jihadi movements in Iraq and Syria are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and Turkey. This doesn’t mean the jihadis didn’t have strong indigenous roots, but their rise was crucially supported by outside Sunni powers. The Saudi and Qatari aid was primarily financial, usually through private donations, which Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, says were central to the Isis takeover of Sunni provinces in northern Iraq: ‘Such things do not happen spontaneously.’ In a speech in London in July, he said the Saudi policy towards jihadis has two contradictory motives: fear of jihadis operating within Saudi Arabia, and a desire to use them against Shia powers abroad. He said the Saudis are ‘deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shiadom’. It’s unlikely the Sunni community as a whole in Iraq would have lined up behind Isis without the support Saudi Arabia gave directly or indirectly to many Sunni movements. The same is true of Syria, where Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to Washington and head of Saudi intelligence from 2012 to February 2014, was doing everything he could to back the jihadi opposition until his dismissal. Fearful of what they’ve helped create, the Saudis are now veering in the other direction, arresting jihadi volunteers rather than turning a blind eye as they go to Syria and Iraq, but it may be too late.

I’ve been saying that the Saudi monarchy can’t possibly want ISIS to keep getting stronger, because eventually it will come after them.

But if you read nothing else today (beside this post) be sure it’s U.S. Actions in Iraq Fueled Rise of a Rebel in the New York Times. And let us be clear which U.S. actions we’re talking about. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was radicalized during the American occupation of Iraq during the Bush Administration. U.S. forces actually picked him up with other jihadists in 2004, although there is disagreement whether he was released or kept in detention.

At every turn, Mr. Baghdadi’s rise has been shaped by the United States’ involvement in Iraq — most of the political changes that fueled his fight, or led to his promotion, were born directly from some American action.

In other words, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is George W. Bush’s war baby.

Finally, we come to that other morass of shameless pandering known as Sen. Lindsey Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) doesn’t think the public has been sufficiently frightened about what is going on in the Middle East. On Sunday, he urged President Barack Obama to give a speech warning Americans that the United States faces a possible terrorist attack from Iraq or Syria.

Speaking to host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Graham repeatedly insisted on addressing his answers to Obama instead.

“So Mr. President, you have never once spoken directly to the American people about the threat we face from being attacked from Syria, now Iraq. What is your strategy to stop these people from attacking the homeland? They have expressed a desire to do so,” he said.

No one with any actual knowledge of what’s going on in the Middle East thinks “these people” are capable of “attacking the homeland,” even if they have expressed a desire to do so. “Expressing a desire” and “capability” are two things our adventures in Iraq ought to have taught us to be clear about, since the current threat happened because the Bush Administration insisted Saddam Hussein was a direct threat to the United States at a time when there was actually not much left of him but bluff and bluster.

In short, if we hadn’t let the Bushies frighten us into invading Iraq we wouldn’t be talking about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi now. And I suspect Lindsey Graham is bright enough to know that. But like many other righties he has built his political career on bluff and bluster, so if he wants to keep his job he’s got to keep fanning the flames.

And wouldn’t it be nice if our foreign policy could be based on something beside shameless pandering and posturing to gain election advantage at home? If it could be based on, you know, what is actually true of those troublesome foreign places? This may be representative democracy’s greatest weakness — it’s easier to get elected by stoking ignorance than by being honest.

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Not Enough Bell Jars

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Dick Cheney, Iraq War

Dick the Dick has slithered out from wherever he keeps himself and offered his opinion on Iraq. The widespread reaction from news media has been, “Really, Dick? You went there?” So that’s something. He even caught a hard time from Megyn Kelly.

[Update: I didn't see the Megyn Kelley encounter myself; apparently it wasn't as tough as was hyped.]

Yet I understand the old neocon crowd is turning up on the teevee. Apparently they still think they are owed a victory parade.

Back in 2006 I wrote a post called “Save Us From CEOs” which is more or less about the phenomenon of high-level executives and politicians who are pathologically incapable of perceiving their own failures. Dick and his pal Shrub are featured prominently, and I think it holds up pretty well.

The problem is that, as a species, we seem always to allow the self-confident, assertive types to be in charge whether they actually know what they’re doing, or not. I don’t think this is a new thing (see, for example, the Civil War and General George B. McClellan). The Dickster is such a perfect example of such a specimen that for a time “Dick Cheney” became a kind of euphemism for “arrogant clueless empty suit.” See also “The Agony of Dick.”

Watching Dick parade his magnificent lack of self-awareness today is both fascinating and horrible, like watching pythons trying to swallow alligators. He’s wrapped himself in so many layers of bullshit I doubt there’s a force on this planet that could get through to him that he failed.

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Three Little Words

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Democratic Party, Iraq War, Obama Administration

If Hillary Clinton intends to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, questions about Benghazi!!! may be less likely to trip her up than questions about Iraq. A little candor on her part might go a long way toward putting her support for the invasion to rest, but I’m sorry to say candor isn’t her strong suit.

These days she is saying her vote to authorize the invasion in 2002 was a mistake, but she couldn’t recant the vote because she couldn’t “break her faith” with the troops. See George Zornick, “Hillary Still Doesn’t Get It on Iraq.”

CLINTON: I kept trying to say “Well if we knew then what we know now it would not have ever come for a vote,” all of which was true, but just sort of avoided the fact of my saying “You know I just got it wrong, plain and simple. I made a mistake.” I thought a lot about that, because people said well—“You’re not saying you made a mistake for political reasons.” Well in fact, in the Democratic Party at that time, the smart political decision, as so many of my colleagues did, was to come out and say “Terrible mistake, shouldn’t have done it,” and you know blame the Bush administration. I had this sense that I had voted for it, and we had all these young men and women over there, and it was a terrible battle environment. I knew some of the young people who were there and I was very close to one Marine lieutenant who lead a mixed platoon of Americans and Iraqis in the first battle for Fallujah. So I felt like I couldn’t break faith with them. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to anybody else but me, but that’s how I felt about it. So I kept temporizing and I kept avoiding saying it because I didn’t want there to be any feeling that I was backing off or undercutting my support for this very difficult mission in Iraq.

“I was wrong” would have been a better answer. Instead this comes across as “I avoided admitting my mistake and calling for a change in direction because we were sending all those troops over there to die and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings.”

Combine that with something Robert Kagan said a few days ago

But Exhibit A for what Robert Kagan describes as his “mainstream” view of American force is his relationship with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes. Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor, and that he had served on her bipartisan group of foreign-policy heavy hitters at the State Department, where his wife worked as her spokeswoman.

“I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

That’s exactly what worries me.

A few days ago radio interviewer Terry Gross pressed Clinton to explain the evolution of her thinking on same-sex marriage, and Clinton later criticized Gross for being persistent. All Clinton had to say was “I used to oppose it, but then I realized I was wrong and changed my mind.”

This is not difficult. It might even be true.

Where I see enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton in 2016, it appears to be coming mostly from women who really, really want to see a woman president. But that’s not good enough. After all the bellyaching about how Barack Obama isn’t progressive enough, why are we even thinking about Hillary Clinton, who is arguably even more corporatist and less progressive than Obama? It’s not like the Republicans are going to nominate someone who won’t scare the bejesus out of most folks, and we have to settle for name recognition.

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The Neocon Legacy

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Bush Administration, Iraq War

David Atkins, The Brutal Neoconservative Legacy in Iraq, pretty much says the same stuff I wrote here. Very basically, Atkins points out that the neocons have continued to justify the invasion of Iraq by claiming that getting rid of Saddam Hussein would be good for America in the long run.

But over a decade after the invasion and with Iraq seemingly entering a disastrous sectarian civil war, it seems abundantly clear that whatever the long-term effects of the invasion may be, the near to mid-term result has been to empower Shi’ite theocrats in Iran, and to radicalize Sunni factions in Iraq. As of this writing, Sunni extremist groups expressly intent on establishing a global caliphate are threatening to overrun Baghdad. The corrupt Shi’ite government of Nouri Al-Maliki is counting on and receiving support from the Ayatollahs in Iran.

Neither of these developments have even a silver lining behind them.

It wasn’t just the invasion, but the gross mismanagement of the occupation/nation building phase that came after pretty much guaranteed that the invasion of Iraq will always be counted as one of the greatest foreign policy bleep-ups of all time. I’d say it’s got Napoleon’s invasion of Russia beat by a mile.

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No, Warhawks, We Told YOU So

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Iraq War, Obama Administration

It appears Iraq is about to fall to a faction of militants who could make the reign of Saddam Hussein seem like the good old days. The usual hawks — Grandpa John McCain, that mighty nimrod of warriorness Lindsey Graham, et al. — blame Obama for leaving Iraq to be defended by Iraqis (after spending countless billions building up their military so they could do that). We told you so, they said.

No, warhawks, we told you so. We warned that sending American troops into a Middle Eastern country, especially for obviously phony reasons, would inspire more radicalism and more enmity toward the U.S. and would bite us in the long haul. And we warned all along that making the Iraq invasion “work” would require pouring unlimited resources we couldn’t afford to pour into Iraq, forever and ever. There would be no end to it until we declared victory and went home.

And we were right.

If I were president, I’d call up the leaders of surrounding nations (the Saudis first) and say, good luck with this. I hope you guys can handle it. Let us know if you need anything, and we’ll consider it. I assume it’s in your own interest to not be seized and beheaded if this spreads, so I’m confident you will make a good effort without us.

Leslie Gelb makes some good points here —

The U.S. fights in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya and Vietnam and other places (maybe next in Syria), provides billions of dollars in arms, trains the friendly soldiers, then begins to pull out—and what happens? Our good allies on whom we’ve squandered our sacred lives and our wealth fall apart. That’s what’s happening in Iraq now.

Yes.

And before the U.S. government starts to do the next dumb thing again, namely provide fighter aircraft and drone attacks and heaven knows what else, it should stop and think for a change. If America comes to the rescue of this Iraqi government, then this Iraqi government, like so many of the others we’ve fought and died for, will do nothing. It will simply assume that we’ll take over, that we’ll do the job. And when things go wrong, and they certainly will, this cherished government that we’re helping will blame only America. Don’t think for a moment it will be otherwise. Don’t think for a moment that the generals and hawks who want to dispatch American fighters and drones to the rescue know any better today than they’ve known for 50 years.

How many times do we have to re-learn this lesson? The horrible truth is that as far as American security was concerned, we were better off when Saddam Hussein ran Iraq. Stephen Hayes’s fantasies to the contrary, Saddam was no friend of jihadists and clearly had given up plans to expand his territory after he was smacked down in the Gulf War. Yeah, he was a nasty piece of work, but it’s about to get a lot nastier.

See also Fareed Zakaria, “Who lost Iraq? The Iraqis did, with an assist from George W. Bush.”

The prime minister and his ruling party have behaved like thugs, excluding the Sunnis from power, using the army, police forces and militias to terrorize their opponents. The insurgency the Maliki government faces today was utterly predictable because, in fact, it happened before. From 2003 onward, Iraq faced a Sunni insurgency that was finally tamped down by Gen. David Petraeus, who said explicitly at the time that the core element of his strategy was political, bringing Sunni tribes and militias into the fold. The surge’s success, he often noted, bought time for a real power-sharing deal in Iraq that would bring the Sunnis into the structure of the government.

A senior official closely involved with Iraq in the Bush administration told me, “Not only did Maliki not try to do broad power-sharing, he reneged on all the deals that had been made, stopped paying the Sunni tribes and militias, and started persecuting key Sunni officials.” Among those targeted were the vice president of Iraq and its finance minister.

But how did Maliki come to be prime minister of Iraq? He was the product of a series of momentous decisions made by the Bush administration.

Mao Zedong took China largely because the Chinese had come to genuinely hate “our” guy, Chiang Kai-shek. Our propped-up puppet leaders in Vietnam didn’t exactly inspire devotion, either. Ngô Đình Diệm was such a disaster the Kennedy Administration approved his assassination. And Kennedy’s “best and brightest” at least had measurable IQs, which beats out the crew running things for Dubya.

And like Steve M, I’m waiting for Rand Paul and the teabaggers to stand up to the establishment hawks and demand we not compound the mistakes by
defending Maliki. Wait … do I hear crickets chirping?

I also think that if McCain, Graham et al. think the GOP can take back the Senate by demanding we re-invade Iraq and blaming Obama for having “lost” it, they may be surprised. 9/11 is ancient history, and who needs to be afraid of potential jidahis when our chain family restaurants are being taken over by halfwit armed domestic goons? I don’t think most Americas give a hoo-haw what happens to Iraq, and most of those who do care probably realize there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it without hurting ourselves worse. And I am genuinely sorry about that, because it’s possible we’re about to witness atrocity on a historic scale.

Via Digby, see also (from 2011) U.S. Troops Are Leaving Because Iraq Doesn’t Want Them There.

And see also Juan Cole. Our best hope for beating back the jahidis in Iraq may be … Iran.

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Stuff to Read

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Iraq War

The NY Times is publishing a four-part series called “The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld” by Errol Morris that is brilliant, and I think most of you will enjoy it. Here are the links:

Part 1: Three Reporters

Part 2: The Known and the Unknown

Part 3: A Failure of Imagination

Part 4: Absence of Evidence Isn’t Evidence of Absence

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Michael Kelly Is Still Dead

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Bush Administration, Iraq War, News Media

Michael Kelly, a prominent cheerleader for Bush’s War, died just over ten years ago. He was in Iraq to cover his glorious little war when his Humvee overturned and plunged into water. Kelly drowned.

Kelly was the worst kind of smugly infuriating propagandist, leading the pre-Iraq War assault on reality and reason. A lot of my early blogging amounting to griping about Kelly. And then he was gone. And I haven’t even thought of him for years.

See Tom Socca, A Stupid Death in a Stupid War: Remembering Michael Kelly

The premise of Kelly’s argument for invasion was that escalating the war, carrying it to Baghdad on the ground, would settle the problems “easily and quickly.” Like his fellow poets, Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens, he presented his romantic vision as clear-eyed advice. Evil must be opposed. Good would triumph. Anyone who disagreed was benighted, mistaken, immoral. …

… Perhaps, like Sullivan, he would have changed his position on Iraq, had he lived to see our military might losing control, the easy liberation collapsing into hell, Saddam’s torture prisons reopening with American torturers. What might he have written, if he’d had the chance to engage with the terrible truths of this past decade? What might a hundred thousand other people have done, if they’d lived too?

And we’ve never properly mourned, have we?

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We Did This. We All Did This.

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Iraq War

Via Digby, Dan Froomkin’s description of

Calling it a case of “collateral murder,” the WikiLeaks Web site today released harrowing until-now secret video of a U.S. Army Apache helicopter in Baghdad in 2007 repeatedly opening fire on a group of men that included a Reuters photographer and his driver — and then on a van that stopped to rescue one of the wounded men.

None of the members of the group were taking hostile action, contrary to the Pentagon’s initial cover story; they were milling about on a street corner. One man was evidently carrying a gun, though that was and is hardly an uncommon occurrence in Baghdad.

Reporters working for WikiLeaks determined that the driver of the van was a good Samaritan on his way to take his small children to a tutoring session. He was killed and his two children were badly injured.

In the video, which Reuters has been asking to see since 2007, crew members can be heard celebrating their kills.

“Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” says one crewman after multiple rounds of 30mm cannon fire left nearly a dozen bodies littering the street.

A crewman begs for permission to open fire on the van and its occupants, even though it has done nothing but stop to help the wounded: “Come on, let us shoot!”

Two crewmen share a laugh when a Bradley fighting vehicle runs over one of the corpses.

And after soldiers on the ground find two small children shot and bleeding in the van, one crewman can be heard saying: “Well, it’s their fault bringing their kids to a battle.”

I watched enough of the video to see for myself what was in it. It is a hard thing to watch. In short, a few men milling around in the sunlight in the middle of a plaza were assumed to be insurgents, and the camera equipment carried by a couple of them were assumed to be weapons, and the passer-by with his children in a van who stopped to help was assumed to be carrying weapons. And the troops in the helicopter — who were in no danger at the time — opened fire.

From the New York Times:

Late Monday, the United States Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, released the redacted report on the case, which provided some more detail.

The report showed pictures of what it said were machine guns and grenades found near the bodies of those killed. It also stated that the Reuters employees “made no effort to visibly display their status as press or media representatives and their familiar behavior with, and close proximity to, the armed insurgents and their furtive attempts to photograph the coalition ground forces made them appear as hostile combatants to the Apaches that engaged them.”

If you watch the video, you see what a crock that statement is. Clearly, the troops in the Apaches were too far away to tell camera equipment from Ak-47s; exactly to whom were the cameramen supposed to “visibily display their status as press”? What “furtive attempts to photograph coalition ground forces”? It was a small group of men hanging around an open area; what were they doing that made them appear as “hostile combatants”? Nothing that appears in the video. Yes, the video is edited down, but it goes on for a while before the shooting started, and there was nothing shown in the video that warranted shooting.

At least one other man appears to be carrying a rifle, but (a) it could be something else, and (b) maybe he’s carrying a rifle to protect himself form insurgents.

There are various ways to view this. One is knee-jerk, blindfolded apology. But I also agree with Oliver Willis that knee-jerk denigration of the troops isn’t called for, either.

The truth is, we’re all responsible for this. We’re responsible as a nation, because as a nation we put toops into this situation. We’re responsible even if we opposed the war from the beginning and marched against it and wrote out congress critters about it. We did this.

We send soldiers into situations in which they are under horrific stress and become desensitized to killing. And people who are desensitized to killing are very dangerous people. But we made them that way. We did this.

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Iraq = Fail 2

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Bush Administration, Iraq War

I’ve written in the past about how the wingnut political cosmos is something like old Greek mythology (see, for example, “Why Sarah Palin Is a Goddess.”) In rightie mythology, many presidents — Republican ones, anyway — are gods with the power of bending mortals to their will with simple words and the occasional lightning bolt.

For example, in rightie myth, President Ronald Reagan went to Berlin in 1987 and called on the Soviets to “tear down this wall.” And then, in 1989, the wall came down. And if you listen to righties, you’d believe it came down entirely because of the godlike will of Reagan, who wasn’t even President in 1989. In the Real World, there were, um, lots of other things going on that caused the Berlin Wall to be dismantled. Brave people all over eastern Europe were rising up against Soviet dominance. And at long last the once-mighty Soviet Union was too depleted by its own blunders to maintain control.

So the Berlin Wall came down, as it surely would have done anyway, even if Saint Ronald of Blessed Memory had never made the speech. But saying that out loud is blasphemy in Wingnut World.

Lately some of the losers who were gung-ho to invade Iraq in 2003 are crawling out of the woodwork to declare victory (see, for example, “Iraq=Fail“). As I have written before, these declarations never take into account (1) the original, stated objectives of the invasion were never met; (2) the U.S. considerably weakened itself militarily and economically, possibly permanently. And, as of the most recent count, 4,382 American soldiers have been killed during their tours in Iraq.

Now we’ve got Jeff Jacoby, in a column headlined “Mission Accomplished, Indeed,” arguing that George W. Bush is responsible for “the transformation of Iraq from a hellish tyranny into a functioning democracy.” And then later he wrote, “Where Saddam once ruled a ghastly ‘republic of fear,’ Iraqis live today in democratic freedom and relative peace, dispelling daily the canard that democracy and Arab culture cannot co-exist.”

OK, so in the recent elections about 100 bombs went off, killing 38 people. I would say Jacoby’s standardas of “relative peace” are pretty low.

I also liked this part:

“Iraqis are not afraid of bombs anymore,’’ a middle-aged voter named Maliq Bedawi told a New York Times reporter as they stood amid the rubble of a Baghdad apartment building destroyed by a Katyusha rocket.

See, back in the days of Saddam Hussein’s hellish tyranny Iraqis were afraid of bombs because they were so rare. But according to some figures, by 2007 about 78,000 Iraqis had been killed by coalition airstrikes. I suppose you have to get numb after awhile. And thanks to the invasion and occupation, Iraq became a lightning rod for terrorist hotheads.

Further, I can’t tell from here whether Iraq is truly a “functioning democracy” or not. Voting by itself does not a “functioning democracy” make. The real test of a “functioning democracy” is whether the people of a nation are really governing themselves through elected representation, or whether the elected officials are mostly serving their own ends and just going through the motions of representing the people. One could ask the same question of the U.S., of course.

But if Iraq truly does become a functioning democracy, the primary credit has to go to Iraqis. If they can dig themselves out of what was done to their country and make something positive come of it, this would be a monumental accomplishment. I also think there were many ways the U.S. and the rest of the world could have hurried Saddam out and helped Iraq become democratic that would have been much less costly and violent.

Yes, there were some things the U.S. occupation did long after the invasion that were helpful to Iraqis, but this was not accomplishing our “mission.” This was cleaning up after our mess.

But in Wingnut World, if Iraq becomes a functioning democracy, it will be because the well-protected George W. Bush bravely sat in front of a camera and declared the U.S. would invade Iraq. The simple brown people of Iraq are now enjoying the benefits of Bush’s godlike beneficence.

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Iraq = FAIL

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Iraq War

There is nothing more pathetic than someone who continues to grasp at his delusions after the real world has told him he’s a fool. A good example is the hack economist sited in the last post, who approvingly repeated a Wall Street Journal claim that a rise in teenage unemployment was caused by minimum wage increases.

Apparently someone pointed out to him that, um, dude, unemployment is up everywhere. He writes in a newer post, “It’s true that unemployment rates for all groups were rising over that period, and the rising jobless rate for teens might have been because of the general economic slowdown and not necessarily as a result of the minimum wage hikes, and that’s a valid criticism.” Actually unemployment rates for teens did not increase as much as unemployment as a whole.

Anyway, then the economist writes, “However … ” and follows this with a bizarre word salad of a “rebuttal” that boils down to “because I said so.” He still refuses to compare teen unemployment increases with unemployment increases among other Americans, including skilled workers, for the same time period, which the most basic logic dictates is the first thing he should have done before drawing conclusions of any sort.

Now we’ve got Marty Peretz, the man who turned the once-fairly-decent New Republic into mostly a suckfest, writing “Sorry, But The Verdict Is In On The Long American Excursion In Iraq. And It Is Favorable.” I’m serious.

First, a number of bloggers have already smacked Peretz for blatant racism against Arabs in this piece; see Jeff Fecke and Glenn Greenwald. I have nothing to add to what’s already been said about this, so I’m wading further into the article.

Peretz implies, but weasels around arguing directly, that the decision to invade Iraq will be justified by the eventual outcome — “Iraq is on its way to making its own inter-ethnic and inter-sectarian history, and it will be a relatively democratic history.” He bases the argument that invading Iraq was “right” on three “pronunciamientos” — his word, not mine —

  1. Gordon Brown said so.
  2. Tom Ricks thinks it’s too soon to evacuate. (To me, the question of when and how to leave is separate from the question of whether we should have gone in the first place.)
  3. Fouad Ajami said so. Fouad Ajami is the new Ahmed Chalabi. In fact, he’s an old pal of Ahmed Chalabi who no doubt noted the, um, opportunities to be had in playing the role of “good Iraqi” to delusional neocons.

Robert Dreyfuss:

More than anyone else, it was Chalabi who convinced the neocons that he and his Shiite religious friends would install an American-friendly democracy in Iraq, and they suggested that the US invasion of Iraq would create momentum that would topple the domino next door, in Iran. Unfortunately, Chalabi and his allies, including the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Islamic Dawa Party — that would be the party of Prime Minister Maliki, who supports the purge — were Iran’s friends and allies, and in some cases, outright agents. Oops!

Over the past several months I’ve tripped over a bucketful of arguments that the invasion of Iraq should be considered a success because Saddam Hussein is dead and Iraq is now more or less a republic. Yes, but as I remember our objectives at the beginning of the invasion were (1) destroying al Qaeda — didn’t happen — and (2) saving the world from Saddam Hussein’s dreaded weapons of mass destruction — which didn’t exist.

Basically, the apologists are saying that the invasion was justified because we’ve cleaned up some of the mess we made doing it.

Or, put another way, we wanted to set a fire in the fireplace and burned down the house, but we saved the photo album and the silver candlesticks, so it’s all good.

But in the great chess game of international relations, the truth is that Iraq was a bad move in our part. We were lured into taking a pawn so we could be checked by the rook. And after we were lured there was no “good” move left to us that wouldn’t damage us further.

Since the rest of Peretz’s column is just repeating the dubious claims of the self-interested Fouad Ajami, I want to move on to the comments. A commenter named roidubouloi wrote,

Let us grant for the sake of argument all of the wonderful achievements recited by Peretz above. If Bush, or Peretz for that matter, had said to the American people in 2003 that we will go to war in Iraq to achieve these ends at the loss of some 4,000 American lives and many more grievous injuries, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives lost, a cost to the United States of roughly $1 trillion, the exhaustion of our military, and the erosion of our diplomatic stature in the world, including … our ability to deal with more threatening problems including terrorism, what do you suppose the reaction would have been? Anyone suggesting such a thing would have been branded forever as insane. That, however, is the most favorable possible description of what actually occurred.

I dimly remember that in some college political science course the professor told us that nations had a hierarchy of interests, and that sensible nations don’t rush off to war over every foreign policy objective. For one thing, costs and risks have to be weighed against potential gains. The history of human civilization is littered with once great nations that exhausted themselves through war.

So sensible nations only go to war when the survival of the nation and its most vital institutions are facing a real and present threat. They don’t go off to war, suffer the loss of lives, weaken the economy through debt, deplete the military, and erode relations with other nations because some tinpot dictator on the other side of the world who was no direct threat to us is a bad guy who once insulted the President’s daddy.

No, the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq are not a “success.” They are a fail. The only thing history has to determine is the size of the fail.

Other stuff to read, unrelated: the New York Times, “If Reform Fails,” and Barry C. Lynn and Phillip Longman, “Who Broke America’s Jobs Machine?

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