Thursday, December 15, 2011

End of the Iraq War - Permanent Devastation

As the War in Iraq winds down, after eight and a half years of conflict and occupation, it's an opportune moment to take stock of this military adventure, to ask why we undertook it, and to estimate its cost in lives, materiel, cash, reputation, and future strategic advantage.

It is now well-established that Iraq was not a breeding-ground for Muslim terrorists. Even if it had been, it's doubtful that any direct military action would have resulted in its eradication, since Islamic terrorism knows no borders, and, as has become abundantly clear, Al Quaeda was not territorial--it was an ideological franchise, free-floating and transportable. Arguments made at the time by the Bush Administration that Iraq was linked to the 9/11 bombings were erroneous.

It is now well-established that Iraq did not possess nuclear weapons, and also that it was not secretly conducting research or attempting to construct nuclear devices or delivery systems for them. This was made abundantly clear by the failure to locate any such devices or substances, or other evidence of their existence, after the country had been military subdued and occupied. Arguments made at the time by the Bush Administration that Iraq was threatening to drop a nuclear device in America ("a mushroom cloud" as Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice put it) were proved to be erroneous.

It is now well-established that the Bush Administration had no clear idea about what a post-war Iraq would look like, or how it might go about creating a context in which a so-called Western style democratic government (friendly to the West) might take root there. Once the country had been subdued, and the Saddam government dismantled, the American military was suddenly in the position of attempting to figure out what it was supposed to be doing there, as it became clear that a protracted guerrilla war would develop in the succeeding years, which shows little signs, even now, of simply dying away.

Estimates of the true costs of the Iraq War to the United States are now $845 billions of dollars, with the total cost to the American economy of three trillion dollars, and given the future medical and support costs to wounded soldiers and their families, that figure will undoubtedly rise.

Though accounts differ, a reliable estimate of the number of Iraqi civilian deaths is put at or near 130,000, with an additional 500,000 collateral casualties. Coalition forces deaths 4800.

American money was thrown around with abandon. In one report, neat bundles of six billions in American hundred dollar bills were airlifted into Baghdad in C-130 cargo planes by the Bush Administration; all of the 12 billions of such infusions of "mad money" are now unaccounted for, amounting to what some have called "the largest theft of funds in our national history."

The nation of Iraq is now in a state of flux. Our puppet government, headed by Nouri al-Maliki, seems weak and vacillating in the face of widespread unrest and threats of ethnic, religious and regional factional conflict. Like our departure from South Vietnam, there are expectations of a general collapse of authority once the American military is no longer present to prop up our opportunistic fair-weather friends. There are those who believe the new Iraqi regime's days are strictly numbered. Privately, my own guess is that the nation will descend into general civil war within a matter of weeks, resulting in the reestablishment of a new military ruler (as Saddam had been), or a theocratic establishment, headed by an "Ayatollah" or ruling Muslim priest-class. The Iraqi populace has little or no loyalty to the ideals of America, or its interests in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, our relations with neighboring countries, including Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the Emirates, and Kuwait are all seriously compromised. Military invasions and occupations are messy affairs. Despite all the best efforts of our soldiers and aids-people, we will be remembered as invaders by the Iraqis.

From a purely selfish point of view, the price of oil has quadrupled since 2003. The interruption of Iraqi oil production caused a world wide crisis in supply, which continues to some extent right through to the present. Much of the oil which was once earmarked for the West, will now be routed East to China and India.

Saddam Hussein had been America's ally during the years of Iraq's war with Iran. It suited our purpose to entertain his dictatorial regime when Iran was our enemy. But the Bush Administration had been planning an Iraq invasion even before 9/11; in fact, it was reported that Bush and his cronies met in Texas while his first (fraudulent) election was being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, to firm up plans to mount a campaign for the invasion of Iraq, to "finish the job" his father had left undone in the Kuwait War.

The tidal wave of lies and false justifications perpetrated upon the American Congress and the American people to build support for the invasion was not without precedent in American history. But our preemptive military incursion, on this scale, amounted to a new level of corrupt exploitation of public opinion, and an unimaginable squandering of resource and man-power.

Bush II inherited a booming economy, and in six short years, turned our nation into a sad shadow of its former greatness. The Iraq war wasn't the only cause of this, but it was the centerpiece of Bush's presidency. He made Americans ashamed to be Americans.

President Obama has been doing the usual patriotic thing, welcoming our returning soldiers, and giving speeches about America's honorable service, our departure "with honor" from the distant Middle East battlefields. I remember the same speeches we heard by the Nixon Administration during the disengagement from Vietnam. They have a familiar ring.

The Iraq War was a totally unjustified adventure, expensive beyond measure, with catastrophic consequences which will continue for decades. It was fought in vain, and all of the sacrifices and casualties suffered for it will have been for nothing. Iraq will not become a democracy, and its people will not be better off. I was against the Iraq War from the beginning, and I have seen no reason to change that opinion at any point since.


Sunny West said...

Well Said!

מבול said...

George W. Bush lied about WMD as Lyndon Johnson lied about Tonkin, as the Pasty Faced Fuhrer lied about the Polish Corridor, and there followed six or eight years of incompetence at the hands of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, pretty much as you describe. Bad as it was, though, it was not the Vietnam debacle, and at a critical juncture it was the reverse. Why is it that Jack Kennedy and the beautiful people ( or their proxies ) got the Tet Offensive, while George W. Bush and the ugly people got the Sunni Awakening? How can this possibly be?

Curtis Faville said...

The histories of these respective regional conflicts are very different, and the way our entanglements began were entirely different.

But once Vietnam was begun, the progress of our official policy was measured by the same standards and principles as our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We got into Vietnam by stages, by inexorable "escalations" which finally ended in complete defeat.

Both Iraq and Afghanistan began peremptorily, were initially "successful" but then dissolved into a thousand compromises. Suffice it to say that once we're gone from both places, they will descend into chaos--unlike Vietnam, which, once unified, managed to put itself together in a reasonable manner. The Middle East is still the cobbled-together mishmash of nationalities which the West created in the first half of the 20th Century. There is little reason to hope for a peaceful future in that part of the world for the balance of the present century.

מבול said...

The War in Vietnam was made by the Tonkin Resolution of Lyndon Johnson, because Jack Kennedy, if he had lived, would have cut his losses and gotten out, just as he did after the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba. Johnson could not get out of Saint Jack’s war, he had to get in, otherwise Brother Bobby would take the presidency in the 1968 Democratic primary. The Tonkin Resolution was Lyndon’s way of making Jack’s war his own. The president said something along these lines after leaving office. He said Tonkin was a crock of shit. Remember, before the Tet Offensive, Bobby was the junior fascist. “He hates like me,” said old Joe.

The Tet Offensive changed everything. It forced Johnson to resign. It caused Bobby to lurch sickeningly from the right wing to the left wing of the Democratic Party. But again, if Bobby had lived he would have gotten us out of Nom better than Nixon and Kissinger did.

Osama bin Laden believed that if we were stupid enough to blunder into the Arab Street that there would another Nom, another Tet, another Ho Chi Minh trail, all of which would vindicate al Qaida. But there was no Nom, there was no Tet, there was no Ho Chi Minh trail, even though any of Turkey, Syria or Iran could easily have created such. Tut, tut on you, Osama.

Ed Baker said...

I just last week bought an one-hundred percent army surplus wool blanket
from The Sportsman's Guide for $14.97!
Original cost? most likely $3,547.50 !

I wonder what one of those bull-dozers
that shoveled the dead people and the rubble/garbage into those trash dumps and pits will cost ?

big boost to our economy selling military surplus

Curtis Faville said...

To the poster with the Hebrew avatar: What does it mean in English?

My take on Al Quaeda is that we did exactly as they had dreamed. We were drawn into two big protracted "police actions" which drained our coffers and destroyed our image throughout the Middle East. We fell right into the trap laid for us. Our economy may never recover.

Military meddling in our delightful little wars was never in the cards for Turkey, Syria or Iran. Their interests would never have been served by doing anything like that.

Al Quaeda was never a "military presence" by itself. It was--and is--a terrorist organization, designed to inflict isolated strikes which stir up sentiment and incite revenge. Bush's declaration that we were involved in an open-ended "war on terror" (he pronounced it "tear" with his fake twang) played precisely into bin Laden's hands. They were like two bridge players whose coded messages were nearly identical in intent: Both men wanted these wars, but for different reasons. Both were corrupt, ruthless, and completely selfish.

When the Soviets tried to subdue Afghanistan, the U.S. stood behind the "underdog"--but the Soviets lost. And we'll end up "losing" in the same way. Six months after we leave, the Taliban will be reinstalled, and they'll be sitting on blankets with the Pakistanis laughing about how they ousted the great American Army.

If you live long enough, you see every treaty broken, and every honorable gesture turned sour. And we didn't even "win" the oil--those contracts, which we fought and died and paid for, are going to the Chinese, who didn't even lift a finger. Smart, those Chinese.

מבול said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curtis Faville said...

I see Bush and all of his handlers as completely corrupt carpet-baggers, who regard the Federal Government as land lying fallow, easy pickings. The Bush Family has been under the employ of the petroleum industry for three generations. Cheney is a shill for the war materiel industry--including the "civilian contractors." Rice an Aunt Tomasina. Rumsfeld a Defense Department front man. Everyone ultimately working for multi-national corporations. The Republican strategy has been to bleed the government dry by siphoning capital into the coffers of the rich power-brokers, and thereby strangling all "domestic spending" priorities.

We had no business invading Iraq or Afghanistan. There was no strategic or diplomatic purpose. They were just pretexts for moving money around. A few thousand killed, a few trillion wasted--it's all good, according to the Conservative mantra. Every penny spent on bazookas is better than a penny spent on food stamps, or a new bridge.

Now that we're a debtor nation, our military influence around the world is steadily decaying. With its resources, China can field a fully equipped army four times the size of America's. Do I hear sabre-rattling?

Americans are stupid, and endlessly gullible. Visit Kansas or Kentucky and see what the lower middle class people believe. Our nation has been betrayed.

Kirby Olson said...

I think we rebuilt their nation and I wish them the best. We gave them the chance to recover from Saddam. Yes, there was collateral damage. But there was, also, when we took on the British and vanquished them at Yorktown. Iraq and Afghanistan now have tasted democracy. If they don't like it, let them spit it out and find another Saddam, and another Taliban. We tried. There were 4500 casualties. At Gettysburg there were 30,000 for the north in one weekend.

What is the price of freedom? Are we going to stand for universal human rights, or not?

Curtis Faville said...


Thanks for this comment. I can't think of any meaningful refutations. Your comment is based on hope and resignation--always the fallback of the failed policy-choice.

We do share a common sentiment about the problematic nature of Islam. That question will become more pertinent as time goes on.

Maybe, in the breast or brain of some young Arab, there burns the fire for freedom and opportunity, and that may fuel a future Islamic revolution. But we daren't hope for too much.

Peace would be a start, and an abandonment of opportunistic violence.

מבול said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirby Olson said...

God never abandoned the people of Iraq, and God knows if W. was the new Jonah. Jonah in the OT was called to go to Ninevah, whose current name is Mosul (northern Iraq). There are still Aramaic Christians and Jewish people living there. They've been killed in staggering numbers since the invasion as retaliation. You can read more about them by looking up Assyrian Christians. God knows what we're going to be called upon to suffer to bring about universal human rights. But God never abandoned the people of Iraq. Electrical production has doubled since our invasion. Education is far better. There is voting, and many many many have signed on to the American innovations. There are old women who thought they would never see the day when they would vote. They have voted in surprising numbers. This is not a God-forsaken people. It is a perfectly decent country that is no longer in the realm of the axis of evil. N. Korea is also about to come to our side. Christianity will find them. I'm sure of it. This video by a young N. Korean woman points to the leaven that she will bring to the lumpenproletariat of North Korea.

There are many Jonahs, and W. was but one of them.