The Iraq War 10 Years On Part III


 

 

 

iraq-marines

Part III in our series takes a look at some of the major events of the war trying to assess how they look now that some time has passed.  Be sure to check back in later this week as we conclude are series on the Iraq War trying to answer the question of was it worth it?

The Rationale For War

This to me is critical because the rest of the long, drawn out war is justified by the original rationale for war.  The idea that Saddam was a threat because he had large stock piles of wmd was absurd.  To believe that a man who was singularly focused on one thing, the survival of his regime, would endanger that regime by trying obtain wmd was beyond dumb.  Couple this with the fact that most people are convinced that the administration lied about the evidence before the war and you have a serious problem.  The real tragedy about this was that there were legitimate reasons to get rid of Saddam.  Chief among those were that the West felt so insecure about Saddam and the threat of wmd that they killed more in Iraq by sanctions after the first Gulf War than were ever killed in the entire 2nd Gulf War.  Read this disturbing quote below from 2003 right before the invasion to get an idea of how bad sanctions made life in Iraq.

“More than 3000 children are dying every week in Iraq as a result of the decade long embargo that was enforced on the country after its invasion of Kuwait, a new report says.

It puts the total increase in the number of children who have died as a result of the embargo at around 1.6 million since 1990, with year on year increases.”

I tried to find an official body count from the sanctions but of course that was pretty hard to do.  The numbers I saw ranged from 1-2 million people killed by the sanctions.  The number of civilians killed during entire 2nd war in Iraq ranged from a little over 100,000 to up to 600,000 (by far left groups).  With this in mind it is clear that the sanctions were far more deadly to Iraqis than the actual war itself (not that it was any less horrific).  To me in the final analysis the better rationale for war was to have been based on the idea that the sanctions had to end to save Iraqi lives.

The Invasion

Heralded at the time as one of the great feats of military prowess with a full 10 years to reflect on the event I would imagine most unbiased observers would be less impressed.  The pros were that ground units did rapidly advance (supposedly faster and farther than any before) from Kuwait to the capital of Baghdad, but the to be honest most Iraqi army units decided not to fight, although some irregular units chose to engage and there were some intense fights they were almost all small in size.  The point is that yes the invasion forces may have advanced at unprecedented speed but it’s not as if they fought massive battles with tens of thousands of soldiers squaring off against each other (having said that I have no doubt that for individual soldiers facing even small unit engagements that the intensity, fear, and yes probably some exhilaration of the fights were extremely real).  Cons are fairly numerous.  The small size of the invasion force made it difficult to properly secure even areas that had been supposedly liberated.  This had the effect of leaving the impression to some Iraqis that they had survived the worst the Americans could throw at them, in other words they had not been defeated and still had plenty of fight left in them.  This also had another consequence for the occupation because there were so few troops they could not secure critical infrastructure (most probably remember Iraqis looting government buildings) and also they couldn’t secure the many weapons caches, depots, army bases etc. etc..  All of those mentioned would later go on to help fuel the insurgency.  When Gen. Shinseki testified before the invasion to congress that it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq he didn’t just pull the number out of the air.  He came up with the number based on the US Army’s extensive peacekeeping operations in the Balkans during the 90’s.  Rumsfeld famously lashed out at Shinseki replying that of course it would not take more troops to secure the peace than it did to win the war.  This statement by Rumsfeld showed to all his lack of understanding of modern war, unfortunately both Iraq and America paid for his ignorance.

The Surge

To say the American effort in Iraq was on life support in late 2006 is an understatement.  The American people were tired of the war and fed up with the administration’s oft-repeated line that the media only reported the bad things in Iraq (as if they were missing the real story of progress).  With democrats sweeping to power in congress things were definitely going to change in Iraq.  To most people’s surprise that change was an increase in troops and a change in strategy that called for securing the civilian population instead of remaining on base to avoid casualties.  This change in strategy called for new leadership so Gen. Casey was out as Multi-National Forces Commander Iraq to be replaced by Gen. Odierno.  Gen. Abizaid was also replaced by Gen. Petraeus as the CentCom Commander.  Finally Rumsfeld was replaced by Robert Gates as Sec. Def.. The results were dramatic and a situation that looked hopeless now showed some promise that Iraq might actually have a chance.  The US has only been out of Iraq for only a few short years so its hard to say whether the Iraqi government will continue to progress.  We do know that violence still occurs regularly in Iraq.  In looking at the surge and trying to assess its impact knowing that the final chapter about Iraq still is yet to be written I think its fair to say that the surge did not win the war in Iraq but it did prevent the US from losing it for the time being.

It was my hope to talk about other important events in Iraq like Fallujah, the Mahdi Militia and so on but for the sake of time I limited it to the invasion and the surge.  Tune in later this week as I finish the series as the question of whether the war was worth it is explored.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1169290/

Casualties of the Iraq War – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Iraq War 10 Years On Part I


Hopes were high the day this statue fell in Baghdad.

Hopes were high the day this statue fell in Baghdad.

Wow, it is truly hard to believe that it has been 10 years this month since then Pres. Bush decided to roll the dice with the national destiny and invade Iraq under the pretext of WMD.  So much has happened to both the soldiers who served their and to the nation as a whole since that time.  The big question that will always be asked of the Iraq War is was it worth it?  The answer not surprisingly is quite complex.  Below is a list of some of the people and events that were central to the Iraq war and how they should be remembered.

President Bush

Obviously Bush carries the most responsibility for the war.  I think the most generous statement one could make about his leadership of the war would be something to the effect that he was completely naive about what he was getting himself and the country into.  To say that he was given bad information by the subordinates he appointed would be an understatement.  He was completely clueless as he hurled the nation into the war and seemed to remain that way until the 2006 congressional elections.  Which upon being whipped by the democrats he finally began to take personal responsibility for the war by dumping Rumsfeld and his loser strategy in Iraq.  The result was The Surge which Bush and those responsible for should get a lot of credit.  Having said that its hard to give too much credit to a president that was in essence only fixing what he had originally made a mess of.

Vice President Cheney

Before Cheney served as vice president I used to respect him, however, it seemed almost from his first days as vice president I found myself thinking who is this guy?  Unfortunately for me and the nation as a whole that feeling would only grow.  Of all the individuals to come out of Iraq looking like a loser probably only Rumsfeld looks worse than Cheney.  Remember the fuss about the Bush administration manufacturing intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq?  Well Cheney played a lead role in that effort.  He was even called out for it in a little read article about it prior to the war that said in clear language that Cheney had pressured intelligence analysts to produce more favorable reports that would justify war.  Then his unflinching support for Rumsfeld and his horrible strategy of not enough troops to stabilize the country cost the US and Iraq thousands of dead and billions of dollars wasted.  For these crimes of incompetence he will always be branded a loser.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld

The man most responsible for Iraq becoming the disaster that it was.  This was the man who initially only wanted to invade Iraq with around 75,000 soldiers (there were roughly about 132,000 in Iraq the day the statue fell in Baghdad).  Also remember that Rumsfeld the omniscience refused to acknowledge that there even was an insurgency until finally in a pentagon news conference in August of 2003 newly appointed Centcom Commander Abizaid admitted that there was an insurgency.  Rumsfeld also had a real problem for putting people in key positions whose only qualifications were that they consistently agreed with him.  The list of bad generals that Rumsfeld personally picked is quite long but the more impressive fact is that he often had to go out of his way to find these losers by appointing them before they were ready (Gen. Sanchez).  Or calling them out of retirement and put them into positions they were not suited (Gen. Schoomaker).  Or last but not least appointing someone who was obviously incompetent and whose only qualification was that would not tell him no (Gen. Casey).  There are more generals, as a matter of fact someone could write a book on Rumsfeld’s horrible appointments.  But the number one issue that Rumsfeld should be remembered for is it was his strategy (the less is more strategy) and concept that technology had replaced the need for large numbers of ground troops that led America to near humiliation in Iraq.  Suffice to say that a legitimate case could be made that Donald Rumsfeld quite possibly could have been the worst Sec. Def. in the history of the United States, what a loser.

Secretary of State Powell

To me Powell is a real wild card in the whole tragedy that was Iraq.  On the one hand I always had the sense that he probably had no desire to invade Iraq but he thought he could do the country more good by fighting the problem from within.  Powell was always the lone voice of dissent in the administration but it appeared that he eventually accepted the idea we would invade Iraq and then decided that it was his mission to make sure it was done the right way (or his version of it) by going through the UN (although his testimony now is looked upon as a career low point because of the discredited evidence).  There also was a story done in the run up to the war that showed Powell was greatly concerned about the size of invasion force but in the end there was not much he could do about that from the State Dept.  I feel history will ultimately look upon Powell’s role in the war as a man who tried to do what was right but unfortunately for the country was not able to.

National Security Advisor Rice

Rice appeared to be in way over her head in the first several years on the job but some have argued that she found her footing in the 2nd term as Sec. of State.  My response to this would be that unfortunately for the nation those years in the first term were very important and those successes that she did have in the 2nd term was her trying to correct problems she bears major responsibility for in the first.  Rice, in my opinion, should have aligned more strongly with Powell in thwarting Cheney and Rumsfeld.  Unfortunately she decided to play it safe and stay in between the two groups.  That decision had dire consequences for the nation.  Powell was desperate for allies within the administration to challenge the “dark side”(cheney, rumsfeld), to bad Rice was not up to the job.  To give her credit in the 2nd term the reality of the Bush administration’s deteriorating political position evidenced by 2006 elections combined with her new found desire to take on Rumsfeld helped bring about a change in strategy in Iraq and possibly also prevented a war with Iran.  But as was already mentioned there will always be the idea of what if Condi would have allied with Powell and challenged the “dark side”?

The next post will look at the generals of the Iraq war and their legacies.  While the third part will look at the major events from the invasion to the surge.  Then finally we will attempt to answer the ultimate question, was it worth it?  Thanks for reading.