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Back to the future in Iraq

Every day reports emerge of new violence in Iraq with large numbers of people being forced to flee their homes and roam the country looking for safety, carrying whatever meager belongings they can. The pictures and stories of these internally displaced people are both pathetic and infuriating to read. It is hard to imagine that before the US invaded Iraq, it was one of the most modern countries in the region with good infrastructure and public services. Now much has been destroyed and the people deeply impoverished.

You would think that the people who steamrolled the US into a disastrous and criminal war of choice against Iraq would have the decency to shut up and stay out of sight now that things are going sour in a major way. But no. These people have no shame and they are back dispensing further advice on what should be done and, to no one’s surprise, they are arguing for more war and more bombing, because there is nothing they like better than bombing Muslim-majority countries that Israel and its lobby perceive as enemies.

Here are neoconservatives Frederick Kagan and William Kristol, two of the major cheerleaders for that war, arguing that the US should once again send troops and air support to Iraq.

It’s widely agreed that the collapse of Iraq would be a disaster for American interests and security in the Middle East and around the world. It also seems to be widely assumed either that there’s nothing we can now do to avert that disaster, or that our best bet is supporting Iran against al Qaeda. Both assumptions are wrong. It would be irresponsible to embrace a premature fatalism with respect to Iraq. And it would be damaging and counterproductive to accept a transformation of our alliances and relationships in the Middle East to the benefit of the regime in Tehran. There is a third alternative.

That alternative is to act boldly and decisively to help stop the advance of the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—without empowering Iran. This would mean pursuing a strategy in Iraq (and in Syria) that works to empower moderate Sunni and Shi’a without taking sectarian sides. This would mean aiming at the expulsion of foreign fighters, both al Qaeda terrorists and Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah regular and special forces, from Iraq.

This would require a willingness to send American forces back to Iraq. It would mean not merely conducting U.S. air strikes, but also accompanying those strikes with special operators, and perhaps regular U.S. military units, on the ground. [My italic-MS]

Yes, this is a great idea considering that the same idea worked so well the first time around. These odious people have no problem being ‘bold’ and ‘decisive’ when it is other people being killed. Notice that the justification given is ‘American interests and security in the Middle East and around the world’. Gone is the earlier fig leaf of concern for the plight of the Iraqi people. At least they didn’t call their campaign “Shock and Awe II”.

And it now appears that president Obama has sending 275 troops back to Iraq and an aircraft carrier and two battleships are already in the region. The troops are supposedly meant to provide extra security for the US embassy, the largest US embassy in the world, where some of the personnel have already been relocated to consulates around the country and to neighboring states.

David Ferguson provides a list of warmongers whom he says should just shut up about Iraq, given that they were so disastrously wrong the first time around. It is a good list. It includes Andrew Sullivan, Judith Miller, Thomas Friedman, the New York Times, Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Peter Beinart, Ari Fleischer, and John McCain but is nowhere complete and can never be complete because the number of political and media personalities who wanted to have their glorious war was large, among which we can include enablers such as Hillary Clinton, Lindsay Graham, and those members of Congress who voted in October 2002 for the Authorization of Use of Military Force in Iraq.

Of course this does not include all those who should rightly be in the Hague defending themselves from charges of being war criminals. This includes George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, David Addington, and Douglas Feith, and their UK equivalents consisting of the odious and unctuous Tony Blair and his own crew of war criminals. It is when thinking of these people that I yearn to believe in the concept of hell except that I cannot conceive of a hell horrific enough to mete out a punishment harsh enough to suit the crimes they committed.

The list of people who were dead wrong is almost endless. But these people never pay any price for being wrong. They have no shame and our pusillanimous and complicit media will continue to trot them out as if they have something useful to say rather than turning away from them in disgust.

To his credit, televangelist Pat Robertson (yes, that crazy person) has ripped into George W. Bush and his crew for lying the country into war, saying that it was a big mistake to go into Iraq and that we were lied into it.

“And so to sell the American people on weapons of mass destruction, he had WMD and was getting [concentrated uranium] yellowcake out of Africa and all of that, it was a lot of nonsense,” the TV preacher said. “We were sold a bill of goods, we should never have gone into that country!”

His solution is to wait for the End Times and let Jesus sort it all out, which is a better plan than the Kagan-Kristol one.

Comments

  1. colnago80 says

    To be fair about this, Andrew Sullivan has admitted he was wrong in 2003 and now opposes any further intervention in Iraq.

  2. colnago80 says

    Let’s not leave out the Washington Post and its editorial page editor, the odious Fred Hyatt. And there stable of columnists, including Charles Krauthammer, shill for Fox News and the Rethuglican Party.

    By the way, just for the information of Prof. Singham, the man who was Prime Minister of Israel in 2003, Arial Sharon, when appraised of the plan for the invasion of Iraq by Colin Powell and his deputy Lawrence Wilkerson, informed them that, in his opinion, it was a bad idea and would only increase the influence of Iran in the region. Seems like he was on the money on that one.

  3. says

    It’s not funny, really, but what I think is the most – um – amazing part of the whole thing, is that the neocons apparently expected that throwing a few billion dollars at the Iraqi army would produce an effective 2nd world military. Because that has worked so well ever since Vietnam, right? Of course the Iraqi army cut and ran — they took that job because they needed food and money; they have absolutely no interest in giving their lives for the state. And, why should they? It takes generations to build a modern military like the US’, heavily propagandized and gobbling down a heinous chunk of the GNP.

    The neocons appear shocked that their toilet paper tigers dropped their gear and ran; I’m amazed that they showed up at all.

  4. kraut says

    “The neocons appear shocked that their toilet paper tigers dropped their gear and ran; I’m amazed that they showed up at all.”

    Nice for you to insult the Iraqi soldiers as paper tigers when the loss was due to the fact that the officers did not order an attack (30 000 against about 800 ISIS combatants) and were in collusion with the enemy.

  5. colnago80 says

    Nice for you to insult the Iraqi soldiers as paper tigers when the loss was due to the fact that the officers did not order an attack (30 000 against about 800 ISIS combatants) and were in collusion with the enemy.

    Would Kraut like to provide a citation to this rather serious charge. I have read a number of commentaries on what happened at Mosul and haven’t seen this one so far.

  6. raven says

    Here are neoconservatives Frederick Kagan and William Kristol…

    Kristol is a chickenhawk who has never, ever been right. You can do the opposite of what he wants and be almost certainly right.

    If being wrong was a crime, Kristol would be doing multiple life sentences.

  7. raven says

    1. It looks like Iraq is heading for partition. The Kurds have been gone for a long time. The Shiite army can’t keep the Sunnis down.

    So what is left?

    It worked sort of in former Yugoslavia and the former USSR.

    2. It’s no panacea though. As in the India partition with Pakistan, or Bosnia, there always seems to be the obligatory civil war. Just to establish the borders I guess.

  8. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    It is hard to imagine that before the US invaded Iraq, it was one of the most modern countries in the region with good infrastructure and public services.

    …especially the secret police. Saddam Hussein had indiscriminately attacked Kurdish citizens of Iraq with poison gas and invaded Iran in what became one of the bloodiest wars of the late twentieth century.
    “It’s a pity they both can’t lose.” said Henry Kissinger of the Iraq-Iran war. Perhaps the same philosophy governs US policy here- it doesn’t matter who gets bombed; they’re all bad guys.

  9. raven says

    IMO, the Shiites are by no means finished, nor is ISIS going to get too far.

    1. The Iraq army ran because they were an occupying force of Shiites (mostly) in the Sunni area. They were afraid of a popular uprising.

    2. It’s quite likely that they will defend the Shia areas. Why not? They are then cornered rats and have no where to go. Besides which, at that point, they are defending their family, neighbors, and homeland.

    3. The Shiites have many militias who were and are definitely competent fighters. They killed quite a few American troops during the Iraqi war. They have already been activated.

    4. Iran is sending troops. They are Shiites and don’t much like Sunnis either. The USA is also sending a small force to do something. IIRC, we may or will send some drones.

    So, you have the Iraqi army (minus the Sunnis who probably defected), the Shiite militias from the majority sect, Iran, and the USA. Against a ragtag militia of 12,000 thugs that even the Sunnis don’t much like.

    We could just let the locals fight it out. They will hammer out their borders and mark them with the blood of the civilian population. Or we might be able to negotiate a partition with guaranteed borders in some sort of loose confederation. Otherwise, this could drag on for decades unless one side massacres the other like Ghengis Khan did.

    PS I’m not seeing much enthusiasm on the ground to get sidetracked into Iraq again, among the American people. 11 years, 5,000 US lives, $2 trillion bucks and nothing to show for it. It’s throwing good money after bad.

  10. Dunc says

    @9: And who was Saddam’s biggest supporter during the Iran / Iraq war? Oh yes, the good ol’ US of A… Who, at the time, colluded with Saddam in blaming the gas attacks on Iran, despite knowing full well what had actually happened.

    And people wonder why they don’t trust the USA…

  11. noastronomer says

    @Marcus Ranum #3

    … neocons apparently expected that throwing a few billion dollars at the Iraqi army would produce an effective 2nd world military

    A fairly typical approach in US management circles nowadays. Apparently understanding the issues and considering the best way to solve them is old hat. The modern way to do things is to do whatever has the best elevator pitch. When that doesn’t solve the problem blame everything on the staff, bury the losses in a charge against earnings and get promoted.

  12. says

    Pictures I keep seeing on the front page of google news are of volunteers loading into trucks to go fight ISIS. Standing room only mobs in the back of soft vehicles – they’ll suffer casualties just getting there (wherever there is) and attrition like crazy if their logistics are that bad. Other pictures show no end of incompetence – volunteers standing with light machine guns, ammo belts wrapped around their bodies rambo-style (this virtually guarantees a jam when the belt, which is actually fairly fragile, gets bent from being curved, and kinks as the gun is feeding) another volunteer is festooned with 2 belts of 7.62NATO, zapato-style, and is carrying a clip-fed kalashnikov in a different calibre.

    ISIS look like thugs who are probably skilled enough to form firing squads against civilians, but civilians is what these volunteers are. The overall tone is reminiscent of the movie “Black and white, in color”.. And where are the leaders?

    Another picture on the front of google news is an “iraqi security forces patrol” – consisting of 4 guys with guns in a tight cluster, 2 light machine guns (mandatory belts worn as decoration) standing in the middle of the road. An amateur sniper could down the entire lot in 2 seconds; they are nowhere near battle and have never heard shots fired in anger. If they are led, they are led by someone with zero experience.

  13. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    :

    And who was Saddam’s biggest supporter during the Iran / Iraq war?
    Up to a point, Dunc.
    In fact the U.S.S.R. was Iraq’s main weapons supplier, with lesser contributions by China and France. The U.S.S.R. found themselves in an awkward situation because Iraq couldn’t or wouldn’t pay for weapons and the U.S.S.R. did not dare withdraw their support. Financially the Arab Gulf states supplied enormous amounts of money: one reason Saddam invaded Kuwait was because he thought it cheaper than paying his debts to them.

  14. raven says

    Iraq: Signs emerge of reprisal sectarian killings
    By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA and SAMEER N. YACOUB 31 minutes ago
    Associated Press Videos

    Raw: Deadly Blast Hits Baghdad

    BAGHDAD (AP) — Signs emerged Tuesday of a reprisal sectarian slaughter of Sunnis in Iraq, as police said pro-government Shiite militiamen killed nearly four dozen detainees after insurgents tried to storm a jail and free them northeast of Baghdad. etc.

    Looks like the shining future of Iraq. The ISIS massacred a bunch of unarmed people in the Sunni north. The Shiites just massacred a bunch of Sunnis in a prison.

    There is at least one argument for an intervention based on a multinational, perhaps UN force. By the time the Sunnis and Shiites finish their eye for an eye massacres, who knows how many people will be killed. It could be hundreds of thousands easily. It’s already been that many since the US invaded. Maybe millions more.

  15. raven says

    From the link, Colnago80:

    Iraq’s Shi’ite rulers defied Western calls on Tuesday to reach out to Sunnis to defuse the uprising in the north of the country, declaring a boycott of Iraq’s main Sunni political bloc and accusing Sunni power Saudi Arabia of promoting “genocide.”

    Sheesh, we spent $2 trillion and all we got was a lousy al-Maliki? I’ve gotten better prizes out of a Crackerjax box.

    This guy is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    There aren’t any good guys here. The Sunnis, the Shiites, al-Maliki, the Iranians are all toads.

    It is starting to look like the big winner of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld disaster is….Iran. But they aren’t going to win much. I doubt that the Iranians will find occupying Iraq any easier than we did. Despite the fact that Iran is Shia, Arabs and Persians have historically hated each other.

  16. colnago80 says

    Re raven @ #20

    Au contraire, I think the Kurds are good guys. Independence for Kurdistan!

  17. Trebuchet says

    Au contraire, I think the Kurds are good guys. Independence for Kurdistan!

    Not if Turkey can help it.

    @SLC1: I couldn’t wait to see your responses. Then found myself agreeing with most of them. Screw Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bremmer, and their toady GWB for getting the world into this mess.

  18. mnb0 says

    @Raven: “We could just let the locals fight it out.”
    This is probably the sensible thing to do. ISIS’ Algerian counterpart is dead too.

    “who knows how many people will be killed”
    Sure, but I don’t see how any intervention is going to reduce that number. Same for Syria.

    “I doubt that the Iranians will find occupying Iraq any easier than we did.”
    They won’t, except perhaps for the southern part, where the Sunni’s form the majority. That’s interesting enough, because it means controlling the Tigris and Euphrate mouth. We live in interesting times indeed, as the Chinese saying goes.

    “Arabs and Persians have historically hated each other”
    I’m not aware of much animosity between Arab and Persian shiites. A lot will depend on how the Iranian ayatollah’s will deal with the local sheiks.

    @Colnago: “Independence for Kurdistan!”
    Nice to see that you advocate extending the civil wars to Turkey and Iran – plus that the Kurds from the four different countries don’t exactly form a unity either. There has been a short civil war in Iraqese Kurdistan, until the two parties came to an agreement. Add a few more Kurdish parties and before you know everyone will fight everyone.

  19. says

    Colnago@#16 – yeah, I was thinking Obama’s solution to the war powers act is similar to Leonidas’ – put a guard force in harm’s way and see if they become a causus belli.

    With the Benghazi manufactroversy he’s going to have trouble if “he” loses the embassy when Baghdad falls. The problem is that this is a momentum fight, and if Baghdad goes the guys in the embassy could wind up in a siege condition against a victorious exploitation. If Maliki personally shows cowardice (like, going for a quick meeting in, um, Zurich) Iraq could collapse surprisingly quickly. If the US embassy closes, that’d be huge for ISIS. Like Leonidas’ decision – it’s all gonna suck, avoiding a replay of the British disaster at Kut would be good. If there is a strategist behind ISIS he’s fantasizing about pictures of US assets scrambling for helicopters, Saigon-style.

  20. colnago80 says

    Re Trebuchet @ #23

    Obviously, independent Kurdistan will have to find a way to appease Turkey.

    Re mnb0 @ #24

    The Kurds deserve their own state. Independence for Kurdistan is the best way to go about it. If they can make a deal with Turkey, Iran and Syria will just have to suck it up.

  21. colnago80 says

    Re Marcus Ranum @ #25

    IMHO, people are overestimating the power of ISIS. They really don’t have that many boots on the ground and they lack heavy weapons like APCs and tanks. The best bet for Iran and al-Makiki is for the deployment of Hizbollah fighters in Iraq. Those guys are as fanatical as the ISIS guys. They gave heavily armed IDF forces in Lebanon all they could handle.

  22. says

    IMHO, people are overestimating the power of ISIS. They really don’t have that many boots on the ground and they lack heavy weapons like APCs and tanks

    Yes, but…
    They have light artillery and if they have any idea how to use it, that’s bad news. There were already reports of a mortar attack by ISIS. And they have RPGs and a fair amount of heavy MGs.

    Maliki’s problem is that he’s not going to just deploy some other military force – because, if he does so, he cedes control over the country. He’s already ceded too much. Having Al-Sistani raise troops (who will be basically useless) means that now he has troops that will go home when Al-Sistani tells them to; his hands get further and further tied.

    My impression of the quality of all the troops involved (with the possible exception of a few of the Pesh Mergas) is that they’re all extremely lightweight. That means that warfare there will be largely a momentum play – whoever is doing best will do better and better. That’s a serious problem. Maliki has totally ceded the initiative. The guy is a complete dipshit.

  23. colnago80 says

    Re Marcus Ranum @ #28

    Like Bashar Assad, al-Maliki may not have much choice if the Iraqi Armed Forces can’t get the job done.

  24. Nick Gotts says

    My impression of the quality of all the troops involved (with the possible exception of a few of the Pesh Mergas) is that they’re all extremely lightweight. – Marcus Ranum

    The rebels are certainly not just ISIS; basically, most of the Sunni population seems to have had enough of Al Maliki’s sectarianism, and those fighting are said to include former members of Saddam Hussein’s forces, and of the Sunni tribal militia who at one time opposed Al Qaeda in Iraq (ISIS are basically the same people, but have fallen out with Al-Zawahiri). The rebels may find things more difficult once they reach majority Shia areas. Probably the least bloody outcome possible is a stalemate and subsequent 3-way partition along sectarian and ethnic lines, no doubt with plenty of massacres and forced migration.

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