In an absolutely stunning development President Obama has now decided that he will go to congress to seek authorization for strikes against Syria. Now to be fair I have to say up front that I have been riding the fence about whether or not we should strike Syria, not because the crime doesn’t fit the punishment but because what the president is proposing wont accomplish anything but to say that he kept his word. Also lets not lie, America isn’t exactly very strong right now. Borrowing 40 cents of EVERY dollar spent by the federal government, mostly from those thugs in China, should make all of us hesitate at least a little before starting another middle eastern adventure. Having said that the fact that Obama has now gone to congress to seek political cover (something no president has ever done for a limited military action in the modern era, not even Carter was that weak) after trying to talk tough against Syria has made America look pathetically weak to exactly those people who need to fear us. America has not looked this weak and vulnerable since the failed bid to rescue the hostages in Iran. Furthermore the president’s about face has had just the opposite effect of what the strike was supposed to have done, it has now emboldened ALL of our enemies in the region. To say that this is amateur hour in the White House is an extreme understatement. Our country now desperately needs someone with a new vision and decisive leadership to fix our many problems at home and abroad because it sure isn’t going to come from this White House. God have mercy on this nation because we have incompetents in charge of us now.
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.
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.
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.
Part II of our series on the Iraq War looks at the generals and their legacies. Will they be remembered as heroes of the nation or will they be synonymous with failure. Also stay tuned for part III when we take a look at the major events in the war like the invasion and the surge and try to answer the question of was it worth it?
No general came out of the war looking better than Petraeus. He started the war during the invasion as a 2 star general commanding the famed 101st Airborne Division. As invasion turned to occupation Petraeus was one of the few generals that understood the US military was facing a legitimate insurgency and he actually had ideas about how to deal with it effectively. His embrace of counter insurgency warfare from the start meant that he would go on to play a key role throughout the long war. After commanding the 101st he was then assigned several tasks including writing the army’s manual for counter insurgency warfare and also leading the effort to train Iraq’s new army. It should be noted that his effort to train the Iraqi military was not a stellar success. Whether it was because Rumsfeld and the pentagon never fully bought into the concept or maybe he just didn’t get the job done, what ever the reason there is that blemish. Of course it was later when Petraeus was appointed by Bush as CentCom Commander that he gained his real fame leading the surge and preventing total humiliation in Iraq for America. History will look back on him as an innovative commander who when offered a significant command when his nation was in dire need he was able to use that position to reverse a disastrous situation.
To me Odierno really represented the US Army as a whole because he was there during the initial invasion (as commander of the 4th Infantry division that was late getting into the fight because the Turks would not allow them access) and frankly probably did some things wrong, overly aggressive around civilians etc. However he was able to transform and help lead the change as the lead general in Iraq during the surge. To me that is no small achievement and I think he deserves great credit. He currently serves as the US Army Chief of Staff where unfortunately he has stained his record by offering no resistance to women in the infantry but that is another matter entirely. Also of note his son served in Iraq as a young officer and was seriously wounded losing an arm. I think it is always a good thing when those who send our sons and daughters into harm’s way also have their own family members sharing the same risks.
Abizaid took command of CentCom in late summer of 2003 when Rumsfeld still refused to acknowledge that there was an insurgency. To his credit at his first news conference he quickly reversed course for Rumsfeld by admitting we were in an insurgent war. Unfortunately Abizaid would be crippled by incompetent commanders in Iraq (remember as CentCom Commander Abizaid would not be the general in Iraq leading the effort on the ground). He had the misfortune of having two duds (courtesy of Rumsfeld) to carry out the war effort in Iraq. He was a big proponent of using fewer troops arguing that the more Americans that were in Iraq the more hostile the populace would become. Unfortunately for him that strategy was ultimately disproved by the surge.
He was one of the two duds I referred to that Abizaid was cursed with to run the war in Iraq. He was quickly appointed as the ground commander in Iraq after the initial invasion while he was still only a 3 star commander. It was said that because his command had only been a 3 star command that he did not have nearly enough support staff to run his new 4 star appointment (I believe this came out of the book Fiasco by Tom Ricks but it has been so long I can’t say for sure) which meant that America’s lead officer on the ground was both inexperienced and under staffed to run a 4 star command. This was not unusual for a Rumsfeld appointment, frankly it appears that Rumsfeld liked people who wouldn’t stand up for themselves against him (Sanchez replaced Gen. Wallace who was a real 4 star because many speculated that he didn’t get along with Rumsfeld). The end result of Sanchez’s tenure was the insurgency picked up steam partly as a result of his aggressive intelligence gathering techniques which relied on picking up suspects and sending them to Abu Ghraib (we all know how that ended up).
The other dud that Abizaid was cursed with to lead the war in Iraq. Another Rumsfeld appointee whose only real qualification was that he wouldn’t tell Rumsfeld no (we are beginning to see a pattern here). His major contribution to the war effort was an idea that to win the war we had to keep casualties down so he ordered troops to stay on base instead of conducting security sweeps. The results were a total disaster for Iraq and America. The insurgents ran wild killing civilians and humiliating America. After his time in Iraq he was rewarded with the Army Chief of Staff position and Sen. McCain famously said that based on his time in Iraq he didn’t deserve to be rewarded with the position.
Much like Colin Powell Tommy Franks to me is another wild card, whether he was hero or villain is quite complex. The case against Franks is that the insurgency took root while he was still in command. In his defense it appears that Franks was told that he did not have to worry about Iraq once Saddam had been toppled. That a whole separate command was to be in charge of post-war Iraq. If this were true (once again I believe this came from Fiasco by Tom Ricks) it would be hard to blame Franks for this. Also supporting Franks case for hero was that he had to fight Rumsfeld tooth and nail for even the bare minimum of forces necessary to win the invasion. This is no small accomplishment and in my opinion Franks probably helped avert a national disaster by insisting on more troops (moron civilians in the pentagon were calling for only 75,000 troops). The fact that Franks was even the commander for the invasion is evidence of Rumsfeld’s tough time getting along with army generals. Franks was due to rotate out of command of CentCom before the invasion. In an article in Time or Newsweek before the invasion it detailed how Rumsfeld couldn’t find anyone he had confidence in to replace Franks so he asked him to stay on for the invasion. This sounds ok at first but the fact that Franks did not want to stay past the invasion(he was tired after having already led the fight in Afghanistan) was the reason Rumsfeld came up with idea of shifting responsibility for post war Iraq to a whole different command. It was that decision that paved the way for the insurgency to take hold because Franks planned his invasion without post war Iraq in mind.
I wanted to briefly mention Shinseki who was army chief of staff at the time of the invasion. Remember it was Shinseki who testified to congress before the war that it would take several hundred thousand troops to occupy Iraq effectively. He was then savaged in the worst way by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. Of course Shinseki was ultimately proved right and to many he has become a hero for standing up to those bullies.
In closing, we have mentioned only the major players in the war. Basically all (except Shinseki) were either CentCom Commander or Mult-National Forces Iraq Commander. There are many others who made significant contributions to the war, but it is these men who held the command positions to influence the war the most. Because of this it is these men that history will hold accountable for the war effort in Iraq.
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.
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.
Egypt, what can you say about it as you watch what is happening over there? As we all watch Morsi grab for more power acting very much like the dictator he replaced, with talk of bringing Sharia Law to Egypt, the obvious conclusion here is that everything the US has tried to build on since the Camp David Accords is literally crumbling before our eyes. The peace that the Carter administration (one of the few positives for them) brokered between Egypt and Israel, literally bought and paid for with your tax dollars to the tune of roughly about $2 billion a year for a little over 30 years looks to be in serious jeopardy.
Worse still comes the realization that much of that $2 billion every year has been spent arming Egypt with advanced US weaponry. From Apache attack helicopters to M-1 tanks Egypt is now armed with some of the best weapons your tax dollars could buy. So if this disaster in the making in Egypt maintains present course and leads to an Egypt less free, at odds with Israel, and armed with some of the best US weapons in the American arsenal can any sane individual not think of this as the total collapse of American foreign policy in the mid east?
The Associated Press did a revealing story recently that exposed the Israelis as the worst US ally for spying on America. What was disturbing about the story was how it seemed that Israel made it a point to let CIA officials know that Israel was spying on them almost taunting them.
“The CIA station chief opened the locked box containing the sensitive equipment he used from his home in Tel Aviv, Israel, to communicate with CIA headquarters in Virginia, only to find that someone had tampered with it. He sent word to his superiors about the break-in.
The incident, described by three former senior U.S. intelligence officials, might have been dismissed as just another cloak-and-dagger incident in the world of international espionage, except that the same thing had happened to the previous station chief in Israel.”
Some might read the above story and think it’s just the Israelis being aggressive, having a little fun. Unfortunately the above was far from the only example, Israeli intelligence operations run the entire spectrum from spying on suspected terrorists in the US (which may be somewhat understandable) to industrial espionage, thats right they steal from us routinely.
“The CIA considers Israel its No. 1 counterintelligence threat in the agency’s Near East Division, the group that oversees spying across the Middle East, according to current and former officials. Counterintelligence is the art of protecting national secrets from spies. This means the CIA believes that U.S. national secrets are safer from other Middle Eastern governments than from Israel.”
The above quote is kind of a sad statement to make about an US ally that the story says has received about $60 billion in aid from US tax payers since the 1980’s. I am generally a supporter of Israel but have also known about their extensive intelligence operations they have run against the US so to be honest I am glad someone is once again exposing them for what they do. Its one thing to spy on some terrorist who happens to be in the US quite another to steal US military secrets about advanced fighter aircraft, missile defense technology, nuclear weapons and so on. I believe its long past the time that we hold Israel accountable for their over zealous spying they do to us.
Vladimir Putin once again the president of Russia recently spoke to Russian diplomats and was reported to have said that the West was in decline. He also went on to point out that the decline of the West was much more than just the current Euro crisis. Even though Putin had his own reasons for talking about the decline of the West, such as trying to make himself look better, the fact of the matter is that irregardless of his reasons he is essentially correct. The West for all its talk on Syria and Iran and what needs to be done in both places is beginning to find that nobody is listening. Why should Russia take us seriously when they know we are broke and there is no stomach for another military adventure. We keep telling everyone what they should do but they know now that they do not have to listen anymore.