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Iraqmire: Five Glorious Years

Where did the time go? It’s been almost five years since we liberated the Iraqi people. And what a cakewalk it was. Our soldiers were greeted as liberators. They were showered with candy and ice cream by throngs of grateful Iraqis. Democracy and prosperity have been blossoming throughout the Middle East ever since then. And best of all, it didn’t cost us a cent. The entire operation was paid for by Iraqi oil revenues.

The scary part is, nearly 20 percent of Americans still believe the bullshit in the above paragraph. (That’s about the same as the percentage who believe the sun revolves around the Earth.) If you’re not part of that knuckledragg ing 19%, please be aware of Winter Soldier: (H/T to KWW at The Dishpan Chronicles for posting about this.)

From March 13th through 16th, U.S. veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan will be testifying about what’s really happening there. Please check this site for information, events, media outlets and a very grim video.

Groups taking part in Winter Soldier include: Iraq Veterans Against The War, Veterans For Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against The War, Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families Speak Out.

Again, everyone involved in this 4-day event is a veteran. Anyone who is still in favor of the madness in Iraq — you are hereby summoned.

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19 Responses to “Iraqmire: Five Glorious Years”

  1. Mr. Harper,

    What is your source for your claim that nearly 20% of Americans believe that we liberated the Iraqi people nearly five years ago; that it’s been a cakewalk; that democracy and prosperity have been blossoming throughout the Middle East ever since then; or that it didn’t cost a cent, the entire operation being paid for by Iraqi oil revenues?

    I think it much more likely that the percentage of Americans, including those in the White House, who believe what you wrote in that first paragraph is exactly 0% but if you can show me a poll that asked those questions and got 20% yes response, I’d be glad to admit that I’m wrong.

    What seems much more likely is that you’ve just made that all up to rhetorically slime anyone who might not agree with you about leaving Iraq, when, and under what conditions. I guess such rhetoric has its place — although I’ll be damned if I can think of a valid place for it in a forum that purports to want open discussion among people of many different points of view — but — and this is just a ‘heads up’ — it doesn’t exactly put you or your movement in quite the positive light that I imagine you hoped it would be received.

    Of course, some in Iraqdid greet us as liberators, celebrating the defeat of Saddaminitia lly after the fall of Baghdad. Of course, also, things fell apart shortly thereafter.

    Craig R. Harmon

  2. Regarding our troops being welcomed as liberators, lest we forget…

    Craig R. Harmon

  3. As for actual poll numbers, according to an ABC News/Washing ton Post Poll taken spanning Feb. 28-March 2, 2008, when asked, “All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war with Iraq was worth fighting, or not?”, 34% answered that it was worth it, 63% answered that it was not worth it and 2% were not sure. Admittedly, that 34% figure has been falling and the 63% figure rising, but at the time of the last poll, the above figures are accurate.

    In the same poll, when asked, “Do you think the United States is or is not making significant progress toward restoring civil order in Iraq?”, 43% answered yes, 51% answered no, and 6% were not sure. By the way, that 43% number has been steadily rising, that 51% number has been steadily falling.

    In a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates Internationa l between Feb. 20-24, 2008, when asked, “Do you think the U.S. made the right decision or the wrong decision in using military force against Iraq?”, 38% said it was the “right decision”, 54% said it was the “wrong decision” and 8% were not sure. The numbers for those answering “right decision” are, alas, trending downward.

    In that Pew poll, when asked, “How well is the U.S. military effort in Iraq going . . . ?”, 48% answered “very well” (12%) or “fairly well” (36%), and 48% answered “not too well” (25%) or “not at all well” (23%) while 4% weren’t sure. By my tally, that makes the country exactly split on the question. The percentages answering very well are on a straight upward trend, those answering fairly well are generally trending upward also. That will probably give a clue as to the trending on the percentages of people who answer either not too well or not at all well. They’re downward.

    In the same poll, when asked, “Do you think the U.S. should keep military troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized, or do you think the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible?”, 47% answered “Keep in Iraq Until Stabilized”, 49% answered “Bring Home As Soon as
    Possible” (a difference within the margin of error), and 4% were unsure.

    I could go on but you can click through to the web page that reports these and other poll reports and check them out for yourself. I did this, primarily, to show how one ought to report poll statistics, showing dates, polling company, quoting actual questions asked and percentages of those answering one way and another. That way you can avoid the kind of bullshit you reported in the first two paragraphs of your post.

  4. By the way, I can’t figure out why the first comment I left shows up in my Firefox browser but not in my Internet Explorer. Anyway, I shall attempt to resubmit it in slightly altered form to see if it shows up. If it does, it should be read as though it were my first comment in this thread.

  5. Mr. Harper,

    What is your source for your claim that nearly 20% of Americans believe that we liberated the Iraqi people nearly five years ago; that it’s been a cakewalk; that democracy and prosperity have been blossoming throughout the Middle East ever since then; or that it didn’t cost a cent, the entire operation being paid for by Iraqi oil revenues?

    I think it much more likely that the percentage of Americans, including those in the White House, who believe what you wrote in that first paragraph is exactly 0% but if you can show me a poll that asked those questions and got 20% yes response, I’d be glad to admit that I’m wrong.

    What seems much more likely is that you’ve just made that all up to rhetorically slime anyone who might not agree with you about leaving Iraq, when, and under what conditions. I guess such rhetoric has its place — although I’ll be damned if I can think of a valid place for it in a forum that purports to want open discussion among people of many different points of view — but — and this is just a ‘heads up’ — it doesn’t exactly put you or your movement in quite the positive light that I imagine you hoped it would be received.

    Of course, some in Iraq did greet us as liberators*, celebrating the defeat of Saddam** initially after the fall of Baghdad. Of course, also, things fell apart shortly thereafter.

    * http://www.s fgate.com/cg i-bin/articl e.cgi?f=/c/a  /2003/04/10  /MN296783.D TL

    ** http://news. bbc.co.uk/1/ hi/world/mid dle_east/293 4011.stm

    Craig R. Harmon

  6. Mr. Harper,

    What is your source for your claim that nearly 20% of Americans believe that we liberated the Iraqi people nearly five years ago; that it’s been a cakewalk; that democracy and prosperity have been blossoming throughout the Middle East ever since then; or that it didn’t cost a cent, the entire operation being paid for by Iraqi oil revenues?

    I think it much more likely that the percentage of Americans, including those in the White House, who believe what you wrote in that first paragraph is exactly 0% but if you can show me a poll that asked those questions and got 20% yes response, I’d be glad to admit that I’m wrong.

    What seems much more likely is that you’ve just made that all up to rhetorically slime anyone who might not agree with you about leaving Iraq, when, and under what conditions. I guess such rhetoric has its place — although I’ll be damned if I can think of a valid place for it in a forum that purports to want open discussion among people of many different points of view — but — and this is just a ‘heads up’ — it doesn’t exactly put you or your movement in quite the positive light that I imagine you hoped it would be received.

    Of course, some in Iraq did greet us as liberators, celebrating the defeat of Saddam initially after the fall of Baghdad. Of course, also, things fell apart shortly thereafter.

    Craig R. Harmon

    P. S., I had to omit several links to see if they were what was causing my comment to not show up.

  7. Craig: OK, in that first paragraph I was taking some “poetic license” or whatever you want to call it. I was just making fun of all the wildeyed predictions our government was making five years ago and the fact that so many people believed them. I’m sure you’re right that nobody believes any of those things now, since they clearly aren’t true.

    I don’t know if you watched the video on the Winter Soldier site, but several of the Marines interviewed said that when they first got to Iraq, it seemed like a lot of Iraqis welcomed them. But after Hussein was overthrown, the consensus among Iraqis seemed to change to “OK, you did what you came here to do. Why are you still here?”

  8. Tom,

    I haven’t viewed the video but I have no doubt that many asked why we were still there after getting Saddam. I’m even open to supposing that, having caught him, we should have turned him over to…well, to whom, exactly? To the government? What government? At that point, WE were the government. To the people at large? That would be a bit too much like vigilante, mob justice for my taste? That may well be Iraq’s cup of tea but should we have just washed our hands of the country, let it happen and say, “It’s no business of ours what they do? I would have had a hard time with that because we would have been responsible for unleashing whatever would have ensued. For what would have ensued following crowds tearing apart Saddam, see the next paragraph.

    I’m open to the argument that having secured Saddam, instead of waiting, we should have set Chalabi and Company in charge or someone and said, “To hell with nation-build ing, let them sort out the next government” but, well, I’m not sure that wouldn’t have simply exploded into genocide, Kurds and Shia against Sunni. My guess is, with Sunni as about 20% of the population, the Sunni would have lost. There have been more than enough genocides in my life-time or slightly before for my tastes.

    I’m even open to arguments that we should not have gone in but, well, at this point, having gone in, that argument is rather academic, I think. Pointless.

    In short, although I would rather we had waited until a firm resolution had been reached in Afghanistan and the pursuit and destruction of Al Qaeda before entering Iraq, I supported the war to remove Saddam. Having done so, rather than leave it up to Iraqis to sort things out via genocide discussed above, I supported trying to allow the Iraqis to institute a more democratic form of government. The chaos having broke out, although I think we had too few troops and the way-wrong approach to anti-insurge ncy, I think it would have been irresponsibl e for us to simply have turned around and left; we needed to try to bring stability to Iraq. Quite obviously, nothing turned out as I hoped that it would when the decision was made.

    Craig R. Harmon

  9. I suppose we could have turned him over to The Internationa l Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands or some such tribunal for the trial of war-criminal s but, well, we officially have been critical of the court and have not signed onto that treaty. I don’t know why we couldn’t have done that anyway, even not being signators. The idea was to allow Iraq to bring him to justice through a fair trial rather than removing him from the jurisdiction . I guess if we’d have decided that removing Saddam was sufficient before bugging-out, that would have been the most just thing, since there’s no way, absent our presence or the presence of the UN or someone else, that Saddam would have received a fair trial.

  10. http://www.z wire.com/sit e/index.cfm? newsid=19360 824&BRD=1776 &PAG=461&dep t_id=6365&rf i=8

  11. Lisa,

    I don’t think it’s any more helpful to suggest that those who disagree with one are suffering from a psychologica l disease, particularly as that disease is not recognized and described in DSM-IV but made up by an ideological pundit such as Krautheimer, than suggesting that they believe things that are patently not true. The gist of the letter, I agree with, namely that Clinton pushed Congress into going on record as favoring the removal of Saddam Hussein and his replacement with a democratic form of government — although it is questionable whether Congress or Clinton envisioned an all-out invasion to accomplish this — and that Bush went through hoops, both domestic (obtaining congressiona l authorizatio n) and internationa l (obtaining new U. N. resolutions) before engaging in an action that he viewed as in consonance with that Clinton-era congressiona l resolution and with a number of U. N. resolutions. I’d have left of the whole ‘BDS’ thing. It divides us, sets opponents against one another rather than drawing us closer to agreement. It’s like saying that those who disagree with one are deranged, mentally unbalanced, crazy. One can’t very well expect someone whom you’ve called a nut-case to listen to anything one might say next or take one seriously enough to even want to be thought of as being in agreement with one.

  12. Craig,
    I have to agree that it’s too late to argue about whether or not to invade Iraq.

    There are some points that make it worth analyzing and discussing to avoid future wrongs or mistakes - i.e., let’s try to make sure we improve oversight of the executive branch so future administrati ons won’t be able to get away with the kind of dishonest rationale this one presented to the American people and the world to justify future wars, and let’s remember that no one gave us the right to gallop around the globe on our white steed removing governments of which we disapprove if they aren’t threatening or hurting us or our allies.

    Iraq was not a threat, and they knew it. The Bush administrati on was involved in talks with the major oil companies even before 9/11 about how to split up Iraq’s oilfields (see part 1 of the book American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips), and 9/11 gave them a pretext; it was a bonus that the Bush family had a personal grudge against Saddam. Everybody in a decision-mak ing position knew that Saddam’s military was a hollow shell, and the intel services had told the White House that there were no meaningful connections to Al Qaeda or terrorism and no WMD program capabilities .

    Also, I think your idea about turning Saddam over to the Hague would have been the best way to go - yes, we’d have had to change course and sign on to it ourselves, but that would be a good thing too, if we’re sincere about wanting a world with a rule of law rather than might making right. To the arguments that doing so would leave Americans open to kangaroo-cou rt trials orchestrated by hostile governments, one need only point to the way the UN Security Council is set up as an example of how we’ve managed to engage with other countries on an equal basis while protecting our interests and our citizens’ rights.

    Regardless, having acknowledged that we should analyze the past to avoid repeating this kind of blunder, the bigger question is, what do we do now? We may have created a problem without a good solution.

    Simple majority rule in Iraq would indeed probably result in the Shi’ite majority oppressing the Sunnis and Kurds, maybe even in a vengeful genocide of Sunnis. That could, in turn, trigger a wider war if other Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia stepped in to stop that, and other Shi’ites like the Iranians next door jumped in too. One of the countries that would ultimately be sucked into that, Pakistan, does have nukes, and a situation like that would strengthen the hand of the Islamic fundamentali sts who are threatening to take over that country anyway. Bad juju.

    Partitioning the country would run into other problems - letting the Kurds be autonomous in name as well as in day-to-day functioning could trigger war between Kurdistan and Turkey, Iran, and/or Syria. Turkey is our NATO ally, and we’ve actually been cooperating at a grassroots level with Iran to keep the lid on in central Iraq. Also, there are enough Iraqis who developed a strong sense of nationalism, rather than identifying mainly as Sunnis or Shi’ites, to resist partition violently. So that’s not a neat solution either.

    Maybe we would do best to look to a number of responsible Moslem governments, ones with vested interests in avoiding war, and ask them to form some kind of coalition to sort things out, then transition power to them.

    The only thing that does seem clear is that it’s not a solution to put our heads down and bull ahead on the same course as we’ve followed so far.

    It’s a truism that to keep doing the same thing and expect different results is insane. It’s also a hallmark of addictive thinking to decide that if what you’re doing isn’t working, the answer is to do more of it or do it harder. Those seem to be the only two options the present administrati on has seen, and I haven’t heard anything from McCain indicating that he has any fresh ideas. If for no other reason, I wouldn’t vote for him because of that.

    We will hit another tragic number soon, that of 4,000 dead, if we didn’t get there today while we’re writing this - the NY Times reported this morning that a suicide bomber had killed five more American soldiers in Baghdad, and that brought the total dead in this war to 3,979.

    A final truism, something I learned in my training as a family therapist; when a family is stuck in a pattern that’s not working for them, change something! A lot of times, that jogs people out of their ruts and frees them to form some new patterns that work better for all concerned. We need to change something, though not blindly or randomly.

  13. LJ,

    You wrote: “let’s remember that no one gave us the right to gallop around the globe on our white steed removing governments of which we disapprove if they aren’t threatening or hurting us or our allies.”

    In my opinion, he WAS hurting our ally: Israel. He was paying between $10,000 and $25,000 per suicide bomber to surviving family members. Well, that’s an incentive to take the big bang to 72-Virginvil le up in the sky. Unless we’re just throwing Israel to the wolves. Plus, by refusing to fulfill the responsibili ties set by the UN resolutions, he was providing internationa l legal cause for what we did. Plus, by regularly firing upon our jets that were flying over parts of the country in fulfillment of UN mandates, he was committing acts of war. These are not things that I think can be argued against. You can argue that none of them were, in your opinion, sufficient cause to invade but, then, I could argue that, in my opinion, they were sufficient. But my point is, he was harming an ally of ours.

    Now I’ve got a migraine so I won’t be able to get into it with you right now, maybe later, but I just wanted to react to that one point in your comments.

    As for the rest, that will have to wait.

    Thanks for chiming in because I do think that you’re right in that, for the sake of future decisions that may come up, learning from our past mistakes is vital..

    Craig R. Harmon

  14. Craig BDS is not just disagreeing on Iraq it’s everything.

  15. Lisa,

    BDS does not exist as a recognized clinical diagnosis. Even if it did, no one should be throwing around psychologica l diagnoses about anyone who has not been personally and thoroughly examined by a competent psychologica l diagnosticia n and, even then, as I argued, it is counterprodu ctive; it divides and assures that no common ground will ever be found.

    My advice is, don’t do it, ever, for any reason.

    Craig R. Harmon

  16. Craig,
    I concede the point about Saddam’s rewarding the families of suicide bombers who attacked Israelis; while it didn’t do enough harm to endanger the nation of Israel, it did terrorize the populace and should have been considered an act of war. And although I think we should be leaning hard on Israel to clean up their act, and improve their own compliance with U.N. resolutions and internationa l law, I don’t advocate abandoning them, both because it would be wrong and because it might lead to their being backed into a corner enough to start a nuclear war in that part of the world.

    Since we carried on an ongoing bombing campaign against Iraq between the end of Gulf War I and the 2003 invasion, I can’t fault the Iraqis for shooting back, though. The UN never mandated the no-fly zones - we did that unilaterally  , against internationa l law, using the argument that we were just enforcing the UN’s requirements - but that is not a valid argument; if the UN wanted or needed its rulings enforced in such a way, it would be up to the UN to do it themselves or to ask member states to do it. The declaration of no-fly zones was a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, an act of war in and of itself. A case could be made that it was a necessary part of the containment strategy - but even so, if we shoot at people - or, to analogize, regularly kick in their door and conduct armed patrols in their living room - it’s reasonable for them to shoot back. For us to portray ourselves as the victims and them as the aggressors is not reasonable.

    And I don’t think we can argue with a straight face that we were enforcing the will of the U.N. - Bush lied in his speeches about Saddam’s compliance with inspections, and Bush himself took the opposite tack from the U.N.’s WMD experts and refused to give them the time they needed to actually find out - at a time when Saddam was cooperating - whether he actually had any WMDs or WMD programs.

    And again, the rationale for the invasion was dishonest. Bush, Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld stated as certainties that Saddam had massive stockpiles of WMDs - they gave specific amounts, and Rumsfeld cited specific locations where they were supposedly stored. They weren’t. They also stated as fact that Saddam’s government had significant ties with Al Qaeda - something they also knew wasn’t true when they said it - and that we faced the risk of Saddam giving WMDs to terrorists. That was preposterous . Bin Laden and Al Qaeda loathed Saddam Hussein as an apostate, and if he’d given them one of the WMDs he didn’t have anyway, they’d have been as likely to use it on him as on anyone else. Dictators don’t, as a rule, share significant sources of power, like WMDs, with people who aren’t strongly under their influence, especially people who actively dislike them.

    Finally, the way the whole thing was carried out was a tragic farce. General Zinni, the commander of CentCom before Franks, had a plan his staff had developed for the invasion and reconstructi on of Iraq should that become necessary. It had extensive sections on the reconstructi on. After Franks took over CentCom, they just threw that plan out - later on, when Zinni asked an officer on Franks’ staff what they’d done to update the plan, that guy had never seen it and didn’t even know it had existed. When the time came, they knocked over Saddam’s government, then sat on their thumbs while things fell apart. Franks waited just until it was time to start the serious work, then retired and left the mess for someone else to deal with. If they’d done it right, say with a plan like Zinni’s staff had written, we’d probably have kept a lot more of the goodwill of the Iraqi people, and avoided creating a power vacuum, and those two factors would have made it a lot harder for this insurgency to get going.

    So we had an invasion carried out incompetentl y, under dishonest and illegal pretexts, followed by a totally incompetent occupation. Lots of ifs, lots of missed opportunitie s we won’t get back. But we do have the chance, especially with a change of administrati ons, to start doing some things differently, and it’s hard to picture anything we might realisticall y do that would be worse than more of the same.

  17. LJ,

    I guess we could argue about whether UN resolutions, once made, should, well, be carried out or if they are just, as is usually the case unless made against Israel or the United States, not worth the paper or the ink that goes on the paper or whether we were bombing because fired upon or being fired upon because we were bombing but my head’s exploding so I think I’ll pass this time around.

    I grant that there were many claims made that turned out to have been unsubstantia ted or later debunked and that the occupation was made a complete and total hash of until the surge and change-over to the Petraeus counter insurgency plan that, in my opinion, seems to have been helping immensely. I’ve no desire to defend either the administrati on’s sales job or the management of the post-fall-of -Baghdad, pre-surge era.

    Discussions such as these are valuable learning exercises for future administrati ons not to follow in the Bush example and for Congress about the pit-falls of authorizing presidents to use military force or the people and their representati ves in the press to be more skeptical of what they hear from the government or read in the New York Times but rehashing administrati on errors/lies/ whatever seems pretty pointless for a discussion of what to do next, in my opinion.

    Now that the surge seems to be working, though, I find Clinton and Obama’s (and yours, to be frank) rhetoric about the need for radical change in course from one that has finally brought the violence down and has brought about some bottom-up changes in alliances between lots of Sunnis from against us to working with us against Al Qaida and which has seen Shiite militia actions calm down considerably  , and has seen some top-down action on laws that were demanded by Congress…rad ical change, particularly rapid pull out of most of the troops presently in the country seems almost designed to result in a failure of the government of Iraq and a guarantee of post pull out slaughter. I can’t imagine what could prompt Obama to suggest that we pull out and then reinvade if things go south. Now that’s utter folly. Clinton is not worse but not much better, calling for drastic reductions of troops without suggesting a re-invasion if things go south. Do either of them really suppose that leaving a minimal number of troops to protect the embassy and help train Iraqis won’t result in there being not enough troops to protect the embassy or to prevent things from going south in Iraq?

    I don’t.

    Both Clinton and Obama are, pardon the language, completely in far-far Left field on what to do in Iraq once in the White House. Unless they’re just giving the anti-war Left what the anti-war Left wants to hear to keep their support until gaining the WH, when they’ll reveal their entire how-to-deal- with-Iraq plans as discussed to date to be empty air, nothing scares me so much as either a Clinton or Obama presidency. It’s possible but I have no intention of giving either of them the chance to carry out their plans for Iraq that they’ve revealed to date.

  18. To clarify something in the above comment, I do find your call for change in course troubling, as I think we’ve finally settled on one that will ultimately help us win in Iraq, but I was really commenting on and arguing against Clinton and Obama, not you. The thing is, I kind of know what Clinton and Obama are calling for (at least openly and for now) but I don’t have a clue about what you are calling for in a change in course in Iraq. Anyway, I did not mean to suggest that I thought your plan, whatever that might be, would inevitably lead to failure of the Iraqi government and total descent into bloodshed. I simply don’t have a clue as to what you are suggesting in the way of a future course in Iraq so I can’t evaluate it.

    Sorry if what I wrote above get’s your hackles up…unless you’re advocating what Obama’s been advocating, in which case, I can’t help your hackles. ;-)

  19. Well, sometimes, especially when my head is hurting, I say stupid things that I regret later. It’s happened again. I described both Hillary’s and Obama’s position on Iraq as far, far Left. The fact of the matter is I just read a very recent poll in which the nation’s split between “get out of Iraq as soon as possible” and “stay until Iraq is stabilized” are split roughly down the middle with “get out” percentages being some ways ahead of the “stay” percentages. The fact is that, at least as measured by the polls, both positions are very much mainstream and, given that the “get out” numbers are higher, it’s no surprise at all that Hillary and Obama are leaning more toward the “get out as soon as possible” camp. I don’t agree with that position. I think it would be a serious mistake, but it was thoughtless to label it as being anything but mainstream, politically.

    So I apologize.

    I really need to make a resolution and stick to it; I will not blog while hurting. It just makes me way too conducive to thoughtless comments.

    Anyway, I’m taking my own advice and getting out until I recover.

    Craig R. Harmon

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