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Iraq: where did we go wrong?

With President Bush's speech last night (which I fell asleep waiting for, and missed), I'm forced to track down transcripts, clips, and other reports of what he said. And while others can debate that item, I find myself looking at the bigger picture: was there a single "big mistake" in Iraq, a single point when the wrong choice was made. And here's what I'm coming up with, in no particular order:

1) The invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam was wrong.

No, I don't think so. The plain and simple fact that the sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf War were intended to curb Saddam and bring him back into the community of nations -- after limiting his ability to wage aggressive war, brutally oppress his own people, and restrain his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. As such, the sanctions were a complete and utter failure. He waged war by proxy by supporting, subsidizing, and training terrorists. He continued his massacres of his own people. And he mastered the "cheat and retreat" tactic of thwarting the weapons inspectors.

I seem to recall that, prior to the 9/11 attacks, there was a great deal of pressure from the left here and abroad to end the sanctions. There were repeated accounts of how many Iraqi babies were dying every month from the brutal, oppressive sanctions.

No, Saddam was not involved in 9/11. No one with a lick of sense ever said he was. But he was a danger to world peace, an ongoing terrorist threat to his own people and others, and committed numerous acts of war against the United States. He had to go. Period.

And let's face it -- in the world as it is today (or, even, in 2003), there is one nation and one nation alone that could invade Iraq, sweep aside their military, and depose the entire Baathist government in weeks. And that's us, spelled U-S.

2) The decision to arrange for internationally-supervised free elections and a popularly-crafted Constitution was wrong.

No. No. A thousand times no.

Many critics of the way the Bush administration handled Iraq say that "you can't force democracy on a people" or words to that effect. I reject that argument absolutely and without reservation.

That argument boils down to "the Iraqi people are incapable of accepting and embracing democracy, and making it work." That smacks me of racism -- not the liberal definition of racism, but the one the conservatives started talking about a while ago, and one that really struck me as accurate: "the soft racism of low expectations."

3) The initial invasion was carried out poorly.

No. The initial plan was for a two-pronged assault, from the north and south, but at the last minute Turkey tried to hit us up for more money. Instead of paying the (let's call a spade a spade here) bribe, we took our troops in Turkey waiting to attack, stuffed them on ships, and hauled them all the way around Africa to get to Iraq. Regardless, the actual invasion was carried out quite successfully -- Saddam and his regime were toppled and driven underground with a minimum of civilian casualties and other damage.

4) The disbanding of the Iraqi military was a mistake.

Debatable, but I think not. The Iraqi military was a mess, for a variety of reasons. As we saw in 1991, it wasn't that good a force to begin with. And the "rebuilding" over the following 12 years was pretty feeble, more concerned with preserving its loyalty to Saddam over efficiency and efficacy.

Of course, "good" is a relative term, especially in the Middle East. The standards there are far lower for a military. (unless, of course, you're Israel -- the only force that can be considered anywhere near to our standards.) Saddam's military was adequate for most purposes -- brutally suppressing dissent at home and discouraging hostile neighbors from abroad. But it wasn't anywhere near good enough to do much more than slow us down a little. (Despite the finest military hardware he could buy from China, Russia, France, and Czechoslovakia, among others.)

Sometimes, when you have something that's broken, it's easier and more efficient to simply toss it out and start from scratch. Sometimes the flaws run so deeply, there is no good way to undo the harm and start fresh. And I believe that the Iraqi military was such an institution.

5) We didn't act quickly and strongly enough against certain dissident/insurgent factions.

Yes and no. One of my first postings here was to call for the wholesale destruction of Fallujah after terrorists there butchered American contractors, with the cheerful support of the populace. I, along with a lot of others, were disgusted that their slaughter was left unanswered for so long, while the bad guys made Fallujah a battle cry and rallying point.

And then, after enough of the cockroaches got together, we went back and squashed them. Thoroughly.

Moqtada Al-Sadr is the current head quasi-bad guy there. (I qualify it because he's not purely a bad guy in the eyes of many, but a hero and very popular figure, so he's a bit tougher to handle properly than someone like Zarqawi.) Perhaps it would have been better to simply get rid of him early, when he first showed signs of being a proponent of violent resistance. As we've seen countless times, the concept of "martyr" in the Middle East has a very short lifespan, and corpses are far less likely to inspire terrorism than living, shouting leaders.

On the other hand, he very well might be someone we can "do business" with, under the right circumstances -- the circumstances being "tone it down, or we'll see if your successor is a bit more reasonable." That's a bit thuggish, but that often seems to be the tactic that works most often over there.

6) Our "rules of engagement" were way, way too restrictive.

Another one I'm not certain about. While on the one hand, there are a lot of stories from frustrated US service members who say that, there are also stories where US forces may very well have gone too far in their zeal to kill and/or capture terrorists -- see Abu Ghraib and Haditha for two very-well-publicized examples.

President Bush seems to think so, and mentioned them in his speech last night, I see.

It's a tough dichotomy -- on the one hand, if you are committed to a fight, you should be committed to winning that fight. That means putting your best efforts forward, because in the long run a short but brutal war is less damaging to all concerned than a drawn-out "low-intensity conflict." On the other hand, simply matching or exceeding the enemy's level of ruthlessness can cause more problems for the winner in the long term. It's a very delicate balance, and one I would much rather leave in the hands of those better equipped to judge -- mainly the military, with appropriate civilian oversight.

So, am I in favor of the "surge" or not? I don't really care. I'm in favor of winning, of beating down the terrorists and insurgents until the Iraqi government can step up and take care of itself. For far too long, Iraq has been a festering wound on the world, a source of trouble and turmoil and chaos and carnage. Removing Saddam from power was a good first step. Removing him from the ranks of the living was another. Presenting the terrorists with a big hunk of the hated Americans to fight was another gutsy move -- they are intent on killing Americans anyway, why not present them with those Americans best equipped to protect themselves and hit back even harder? -- that appears to be paying off.

So, if sending more forces into Iraq will help, then by all means let's do it. If loosing the reins a bit and letting our forces do what is needed, then do that as well.

But simply withdrawing is not the answer. I've never served in the military, but many of those who have find it insulting that they signed up to protect us civilians, and now the "cut and runners" are saying they want to protect our warriors by hiding them behind us.

In Viet Nam, we signed a bogus peace agreement that no single reasonable person expected to survive very long -- and it didn't. But the consequences of a loss in Southeast Asia would be nothing compared to a widely-perceived US defeat in the Middle East. That would be a blow to our international prestige and future national security that would be virtually indelible.


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Comments (39)

Good points Jay...although ... (Below threshold)

Good points Jay...although I surmise the trolls will try to thwart them by saying we shouldn't have gone into Iraq to begin with.

Where we go we go again...<... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

Where we go we go again...

WASHINGTON // The thousands of troops that President Bush is expected to order to Iraq will join the fight largely without the protection of the latest armored vehicles that withstand bomb blasts far better than the Humvees in wide use, military officers said.

Vehicles such as the Cougar and the M1117 Armored Security Vehicle have proven ability to save lives, but production started late and relatively small numbers are in use in Iraq, mostly because of money shortages, industry officials said."

Opinion:We have never ramped up production of equipment to protect our troops because we had already won..and the "conflict" was in "it's last thros"(sp)...If our President truly supported our troops he would call for a ramp up of production for equipment to protect them...
In every other war there was (or should have been) serious production of materials necessary for that war...
If we are going to continue to be in Iraq our President needs to make a public commitment for production of materials needed to support our troops....if not...Bring'em Home

1.) The UN was too soft on ... (Below threshold)
LJD:

1.) The UN was too soft on Saddam.
2.) The Russians, French, and Chinese were too busy making money to care.
3.) We waited too long to act. The diplomacy hasn't done us much good, so we probably should have just gone in and gotten it done.
4.) The UN is still worthless, and few countries give a damn about peace in Iraq.
5.) We should have killed Sadr when we had the chance, along with all of his followers.
6.) We should have killed anything crossing the border from Syria or Iran.

More on the ROE:
It is great that our troops will now be able to follow the murdering bastards back to their lairs.

JT- you make one grave error on your assessment of the ROE (6 above): Abu Ghraib and Haditha didn't have a damn thing to do with kiling or capturing terrorists. What was the ROE for that?
Further, being agressive in no way matches the brutality of the enemy. What, did you think our guys were going to strap on bomb vests and walk into areas crowded with cvivilians?

Jay,all well thoug... (Below threshold)
Rob:

Jay,

all well thought out points. The one that I think need a bit more is yours about the disbanding of the military. Your reasoning points to the handling of the military as one in the best interest of administrative ease and efficiency but ignores the local effects. The firing of the military created a large swell of unemployment and left those now without jobs disgruntled, making them ripe candidates to bolster the ranks of the insurgents.

Even if the military were minimally useful at the task of providing security, they could have been out to work on local community improvement projects and infrastructure repair.; that would have kept them busy, kept food on their table and kept our military from having to fill these roles.

I feel the CPA was too reactionary and feared the army was full of Sadaam loyalists and posed a threat. In hindsight to many in the army, it was just a job, a way to get by. Some would argue that the same mistakes in judgement were made during de-Baathification. Bush even alluded to a loosening of that policy in his speech last night.

ah Jay...just wondering...w... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

ah Jay...just wondering...why did you chose not to serve in the military as myself and so many millions of Americans chose?...How many Iraq vets have you personally had conversations with?
..I will not say that people who have not had direct experience with a situation have no right to our opinions...what I am saying is that if we have not had that experience we should preface our opinions..and use caution on the certinty of such opinions..
For example...in Nam we were only forced into one combat tour...I have no experience into what it would be like to be forced into multiple combat tours..
That does not prevent me from having an opinion..in only prevents me from pretending I "know" what is like...

Jay Tea, as always, a good ... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Jay Tea, as always, a good opinion. I would add that the rules of engagement has to be streamlined so the front line troops can be much more agressive. They now have a SEVEN step process before ingaging. That cannot work.

No Go Postal: When the troops do a second tour, they are most likely posted in a safer zone. Say, one tour of combat, one tour of support and security.

ww

Jay,I agree with you... (Below threshold)
Allen:

Jay,
I agree with you about #6. The ROE should disappear, let the military fight this WOT. They are there, they realize and know what has to be done. It's easy for us back here in the US to be armchair generals, but how many of us really knows what is going on?

Nogo, I will qualify as you... (Below threshold)
Diane:

Nogo, I will qualify as you have requested: I am a middle-aged woman, and thus have not served in the military, and definitely not on a battlefield. I also have not taught school or been a superintendant of education, but I have strong opinions (well-thought out I might add) about education, too.

My father & father-in-law, both WWII vets...not only did not have well-armoured humvees in the Battle of the Bulge---they very much lacked warm clothes, and ammunition was low. They have never complained.

My very good friend is going back for his 3rd year in Iraq in July. He re-enlisted after his first deployment knowing he would go to Iraq at least once if not twice more. He was hit by an IED last year, but has no qualms about going back other than he will miss his wife & child.

He was not drafted. This is not VIETNAM, get over it.

The ROE have changed over t... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

The ROE have changed over time since 2003. The bigger complaints have been with a lot of the more recent changes rather than longer standing ones. The most infamous was the recent decision that if individual soldiers were fired at they couldn't return fire unless they could determine if their whole unit was attacked. I can see where a soldier might not feel obliged to ask his attacker if the intent is to kill just him or the entire platoon before returning fire...

Iraq: where did we go wr... (Below threshold)
astigafa:

Iraq: where did we go wrong?

Where did we go wrong? Iraq.

The invasion of Iraq and... (Below threshold)
astigafa:

The invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam was wrong...No, I don't think so.

You got it right the first time: we were embarked on a global war on terrorism, we needed the good will of people in the Islamic world to wage that war, and the invasion of Iraq utterly evaporated that good will, for all time. The leaked White House memo from Cheney, written on 9/11, five hours after the event, asking staffers to make connections between Iraq and al Qaeda, tells the tale. This administration was going into Iraq whether it made sense or not. It didn't.

I seem to recall that, prior to the 9/11 attacks, there was a great deal of pressure from the left here and abroad to end the sanctions. There were repeated accounts of how many Iraqi babies were dying every month from the brutal, oppressive sanctions.

So the invasion was justified because people on the left were concerned about the well-being of Iraqi babies? Another serving in the feast of red herrings. Utterly non sequitur.

No, Saddam was not involved in 9/11. No one with a lick of sense ever said he was. But he was a danger to world peace, an ongoing terrorist threat to his own people and others, and committed numerous acts of war against the United States. He had to go. Period.

This was evident before Gulf War I -- yet he had firm supporters among the neoconservative clique that still runs the country. He was your bulwark against Iran, remember? Warts and all.

And let's face it -- in the world as it is today (or, even, in 2003), there is one nation and one nation alone that could invade Iraq, sweep aside their military, and depose the entire Baathist government in weeks. And that's us, spelled U-S.

And since we alone could do it, we alone should do it? This justifies our invasion of a small country that had not attacked us? And I find this "one nation" reference to be disrespectful of the coilition forces now fighting in Iraq.

He waged war by proxy by supporting, subsidizing, and training terrorists.

What terrorists did Saddam train? Who is your source for this tidbit?

Hang it up, Jay. All of your assertions are flawed, there is no logic here. Having supported the war all along based on your bad information and evil inclinations, you're finding justifications for that war in tea leaves and moon phases.

It was a bad idea, it remains a bad idea, and it has set the GWOT back decades. There's not a terrorist on the planet who wouldn't kiss George Bush on the lips and stick out his tongue.


Jay:I hereby honor... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Jay:

I hereby honorarily credit you with one of my 23 years of service in the AF and AF Reserve. This will not be applicable toward retirement or service-connected benefits in any way - but now you can say you 'served', if only by proxy.

Diane:

I hereby honorarily credit you with one of my 22 years of service in the AF and AF Reserve. This will not be applicable toward retirement or service-connected benefits in any way - but now you can say you 'served', if only by proxy.

To all the 'Chickenhawk' meme slingers - There ya go. They've served. That do it for you, or will you wonderful folks who are very supportive of 'free speech' as long as YOU agree with what they're saying continue to 'suggest' they stifle their opinon because they haven't served?

Jay,Abu Ghraib and... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

Jay,

Abu Ghraib and Haditha had nothing to do with looser or tighter rules of engagement.

Fighting a war by public op... (Below threshold)
Heralder:

Fighting a war by public opinion is an example of where we went wrong.

Fighting a war by media opinion is one of the examples where we went wrong.

Broadcasting our detailed plans for a war is yet another example where we went wrong.

JLawson, I served in the Na... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

JLawson, I served in the Navy during Vietnam. I volunteered. I am not sitting here whining about people who have not served having an opinion on Iraq and the service of our military. I am mature enough to know you do not have to be something to know something. Because I am not a doctor does not mean I cannot know when I need medical attention. Having said that, what you and other lefties need to do is READ the constitution and the history of that era. Our founding fathers specifically DID NOT want the military commanders running this country. We the people, not we the military. GW is commander and chief as stated in the constitution. Congress is not. Thank God. ww

In Viet Nam, we si... (Below threshold)
In Viet Nam, we signed a bogus peace agreement that no single reasonable person expected to survive very long -- and it didn't.

It might have had a chance if we didn't have (a) Watergate, which led to (b) a huge Democratic congressional sweep in the 1974 elections. Even though the terms of the peace treaty called for US reinforcement if North Vietnam attacked, Congress would not authorize funds for President Ford to send troops when the attack came.

4) The disbanding of the... (Below threshold)

4) The disbanding of the Iraqi military was a mistake.

This is definitely a No. The Kurds promised that they would seceed if this happened. There might have been a war with the turks by now if this happened, no to mention an Arab-Kurd civil war in Iraq.

According to Jay, the Bush ... (Below threshold)
BarneyG2000:

According to Jay, the Bush administration did everything right. It must be the media's fault.

I wish my friends from the ... (Below threshold)
Hugh:

I wish my friends from the left would let go of the silly "chicken-hawk" labels, just as I wish those on the right would let go of the "left hates America argument." What does that accomplish?

I am no fan of George Bush. I look forward with joy to his last day in office. I think the war in Iraq was wrong and that it's conduct has been a disaster. That being said, I carefully listened to Bush last night and I watched him closely. My sense is that he was sincere and is earnest in his desire to try and fix the mess. I'm prepared to support what he is doing as long as there are positive results in the next year or so.

No one seems to be able to come up with a viable plan so lest give this one a shot. I certainly don't believe we should just walk away at this point as the consequences appear to be disastrous.
H.

From what I'm hearing from ... (Below threshold)

From what I'm hearing from the guys and gals coming back from there, your second point is either completely true or based on wishful thinking.

Jay you fell asleep waiting... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Jay you fell asleep waiting for the speech.?.that's nothing Bush has been totally asleep for almost 4 years as the commander-in -chief. Some of the somnolent highlites of his address you may have missed.
Bush:"some people's solution is to scale back America's efforts in Baghdad or announce the phased withdrawal of our combat forces. We carefully considered these proposals." Hands up anyone who thinks he carefully considered this proposal, or any of the other Iraq study Group proposal for that matter..
Bush: "Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace..What country is he thinking off? iI seems just the opposite in Iraq, and finally the scariest prediction "These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations  conducting patrols, setting up checkpoints, and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents."... to gain the trust did he say that?...Bush still completely misunderstimates or has never understood the nature of the vicious sectarian strife in Iraq, which is the main reason why we have gone so wrong in Iraq.

So let me see if I have thi... (Below threshold)
mantis:

So let me see if I have this straight, Jay: We didn't make any big mistakes, and you're in favor of winning.

Really putting yourself out there, aren't you?

Where did we go wrong?... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

Where did we go wrong?

The moment we had our first shred of evidence that Iran and/or Syria was helping the insurgency, not moving to bomb them.

Jay said:... (Below threshold)
Larkin:

Jay said:

4) The disbanding of the Iraqi military was a mistake.

Debatable, but I think not. The Iraqi military was a mess, for a variety of reasons... Saddam's military was adequate for most purposes -- brutally suppressing dissent at home and discouraging hostile neighbors from abroad.

Wrong on this one Jay. Throwing 400,000 young Iraqi males out of work overnight into an economy that had massive unemployment was a huge blunder. It's no surprise that many of these men who suddenly had no way to put food on the table for their families turned to the well-funded insurgency.

Your characterization that Saddam's military was a "mess" is also off the mark. It seems to me that they stood up to a numerically superior Iranian army pretty well for many years.

And the idea that the military was just for suppressing the people of Iraq is also off the mark. That was certainly the case for the Republican Guards but was not the case with the regular Army. The regular army was full of average people who weren't connected with the regime and many of whom probably didn't like Saddam. Throwing them out of work was a huge mistake because it also created a security vacuum that we were unable to fill because we didn't have enough troops to police the country.

AND, the Constitution was also a mistake because the Sunnis overwhelmingly rejected it. Therefore, it can't be said that the government/constitution enjoys popular support.

Imagine, if we had forced our own Constitution on states that had rejected it (as 97% of the people in Al Anbar). We probably would have a civil war right at the birth of our country.


Hugh,You'll suppor... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

Hugh,

You'll support the President as long as things go well ???? As opposed to supporting the Terrorists if things don't go well ????

I don't think you'll switch teams ...

I am curious who you might think of as a "replacement" coach instead of Bush & Co. if things "don't go well" ???

Pelosi, Obama ??? Murtha ??? McCain ???

Well the coach has another 2 years on his contract so strap on the foul weather gear and be prepared to be a fair OR foul weather supporter ...

Larkin, I now want you to c... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Larkin, I now want you to consider the possibility that when we invaded Iraq, Saddam and his two killer sons were still alive and well. The army officers were probably fearful that Saddam would return eventually and David Bremmer would not want to have to deal with sorting out the loyalists from the willing. Many battles throughout our history had problems that were corrected. All we need is a will and a spine to see it through. In this age, the enemy knows exactly what the citizens of the USA are thinking. They too have computers and web sites. They know the lefts debate. The hear our news casts. The read the op eds. If they were to hear a unified voice for the most part, I think that would put the fear in them. Unfortunately, I think we have become a country of spineless whiners. ww

The moment we had ... (Below threshold)
Larkin:
The moment we had our first shred of evidence that Iran and/or Syria was helping the insurgency, not moving to bomb them.

No one really knows the depth of official Syrian and Iranian governmental support for the Iraqi insurgency. It's safe to assume they are meddling at some level but I doubt either country wants to see Iraq collapse and an Al Qaeda-type regime established. The Iranians are Shiite and are considered infidels by Al Qaeda. Syria is secular.

I also don't believe that either country could effectively seal their borders and stop their own people from going to Iraq as volunteers. Think about it. We are the greatest, wealthiest country in the world with the most technologically advanced military in the world and WE can't even control our borders. It's not an easy thing.


Personally,I think t... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Personally,
I think that once it became clear that Syria and Iran were likely sources of terrorists and support/supplies, the borders should have been declared no-man lands. Any traffic crossing outside of manned border posts are fair game for Predator drones, helicopter gunships and A-10s.

SCSI - you seem to be forge... (Below threshold)
Larkin:

SCSI - you seem to be forgetting that Saddam had hidden away TONS and TONS of weaponry and explosives. We never even scratched the surface in clearing all that up.

The army officers were probably fearful that Saddam would return eventually and David Bremmer would not want to have to deal with sorting out the loyalists from the willing.

Maybe so, but then we should have had enough of our own troops to establish order if we were going to disband the Iraqi military and we also would have set up some kind of payment system whereby the families of the former Iraqi soldiers wouldn't go hungry.


1. Yes it was a mistake to ... (Below threshold)
blackcat77:

1. Yes it was a mistake to invade. The destabilization of the region which resulted has made things WORSE than it was before, with Iran having much greater power and influence.
2. The election was a good idea, but like many of the other good ideas we've had, it ended up making us look worse. The election was meaningless because the government is powerless. I'm sure there are a lot of Iraqis who are thinking to themselves that THIS is democracy, they want no part of it. They should have achieved stability first and then held the election.
3. It was bad in the sense that we didn't secure the territory we controlled. We left arms caches all over the place and they are still fueling the insurrection today. Additionally, we we didn't put down the rioting that occurred in the aftermath of the invasion which set a very bad precedent.
4. I think it was a mistake. If we had supported the Iraqi military, they probably would have supported us. So we not only created a political vacuum, we created a military one as well, and the various factions and militias filled that void with no opposition. The central government is trying to rebuild the army now but it goes without saying that the insurgents are going to resist efforts to take away their power.
5. Absolutely. I've discussed this above.
6. Depends on how you define the conflict. If Iraq was/is our enemy, then it's within the rules to level the place. But if we're there to help the Iraqi people and establish democracy, then yeah, the rules are pretty tight. We can't "destroy the village in order to save it," to borrow a phrase from Vietnam. Our mission is to transform Iraq, not to destroy it.

Bottom line to all this is that from the moment we crossed the border, we were in deep trouble, but the decisions we made along the way have only made things worse. And adding a few more troops won't solve it.

Easy to set up a few straw-... (Below threshold)
observer 5:

Easy to set up a few straw-man alternative and knock them down, but you left out the big mistakes, as I saw them. You could also read Fiasco by Tom Ricks, or Squandered Victory by Larry Diamond.

How about these possibilities:

7. Failure to provide enough troops to police Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. The CPA and military spent months and millions rebuilding and reequipping Iraqi government buildings which were looted or burned right after the invasion. This delayed the resumption of Iraqi government operations, which delayed social services, policing, municipal services, etc., which pissed off a lot of Iraqis.

There were not even enough troops to secure the huge ammunition supply points (ASPs) in Iraq, some square miles in size, or dispose of the munitions within the bunkers. As a result, the bad guys looted the ASPs of artillery shells and other munitions at will - for months. This is where the IEDs and mortar attacks are coming from now - those stolen and cached munitions.

8. Failure to have adequate relief and reconstruction funds immediately available at the time of the invasion. The invasion was completed in April 2003. At that time, only $2 billion in USAID funds had been allocated. The $18 billion in reconstruction funds was not even appropriated until September 2003, and did not begin to flow into, after the long federal acquisition regulation process, until May 2004 or so. By that time, the shit was hitting the fan, and security costs had to eat up a lot of that money

The delay in appropriation and contracting, and the failure to have a reconstruction plan in place, severely damaged our credibility with the Iraqi people, who began to see the occupation as a incompetent government.

9. Authorizing brutal interrogation techniques which hardened detainees often swept up in error, and led to the public image disaster of Abu Ghraib. Related to #7, in that more troops would have been less stressed and able to take time to distinguish who the bad guys were.

10. Not installing an Iraqi government sooner, and not authorizing elections sooner. I think Richard Perle's point that the occupation was a mistake, and it would have been better to organize and install an Iraqi government immediately, has a lot of merit, although it's debatable.

Larkin, "AND, the ... (Below threshold)
Chip:

Larkin,

"AND, the Constitution was also a mistake because the Sunnis overwhelmingly rejected it. Therefore, it can't be said that the government/constitution enjoys popular support."

According to your logic when 60% of the population disapprove of the Presidents performance with 40% approving then you can't really say he's an unpopular President now can you?

That argument boil... (Below threshold)
jpe:
That argument boils down to "the Iraqi people are incapable of accepting and embracing democracy, and making it work." That smacks me of racism

Not at all; rather, it recognizes that cultures are different, and some have the institutions and values necessary for viable democracy, and some don't. Like any social change, one can't force top-down change and expect everything to work out perfectly.

Jeff: The reality ... (Below threshold)
Hugh:

Jeff:

The reality is, the truth is that Mr Bush has conducted a disaster in Iraq. Yes, the answer is I'll support him as long as his new plan shows that its working. If I saw another alternative, believe me I'd support it. I just happen to be one of those from the left who believes we can't just walk away at this point.

Ironic you should use the term "coach" to describe Mr. Bush. I have no doubt that he was more suitable to be a cheerleader "coach" than president.

I don't know whom I'll vote for 2 years from now. But i guarantee you he or she wouldn't be worse than the muckup Bush has been.

Your terrorist comment is just ignorant.

Larkin,Nope, not for... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Larkin,
Nope, not forgetting Saddam's stockpiles at all. Good to see that you admit he had stockpiles hidden all over the place. I believe that was part of why there was an invasion, that being Saddam violating the sanctions placed on his military (he was limited in the amount of conventional weapons and munitions they cold have on hand, not just WMDs) However, I don't think there were cryongenicly frozen Saudis, Syrians, Yemenis etc in those stock piles. It wasn't Rep. Jefferson's freezer, after all.

However, as soon as it became clear that the foreign fighters and supplies were likely coming over the borders of Iran and Syria, those regions should have been treated as free fire zones. As soon as you are more than 2 miles into Iraq, and not on the allowed and well searched routes, you're doing so at your own risk.
Would it stop all violence? Hell no. But would it cut down on the foreign influence AND make it more clear what Syria and Iran are up to? Yes.

As for your quote... not one of mine, so I'll leave that to the author.

So, to sum up, you didn't r... (Below threshold)
cat:

So, to sum up, you didn't really do anything wrong at all. Wow. With 650,000 dead when you got everything right, God help us when you really screw up.

Incidentally, 650,000 is 216 9/11s. That's why the Iraqis love you. I'm sure some jackass will pipe up saying it was worse under Saddam, that's 650,000 *excess* deaths - 650,000 *more* than were dying before the invasion.

But at least we now know that none of it was your fault.

Double wow...you actually b... (Below threshold)

Double wow...you actually believe that 650,000 number. Hey, here's one, the easter bunny and Santa Claus are fictional too...

and DAMN those restrictive ... (Below threshold)
Lee:

and DAMN those restrictive Rules of Engagement!!!

Associated Press

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - A 101st Airborne Division soldier was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to murdering three detainees during a raid on a suspected al-Qaida compound last year in Iraq.

Spc. William B. Hunsaker, 24, pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder and obstruction of justice during a hearing at Fort Campbell.

Under his plea agreement, Hunsaker got a life sentence but will not serve more than 18 years in prison as long as he testifies against other soldiers accused in the case, said Col. Theodore Dixon, the military judge presiding over the court-martial. He will be eligible for parole in 5 1/2 years.

Hunsaker's family members flooded the courtroom and wept when the sentencing was read Thursday afternoon. They declined to speak to the media.

In testimony during his court-martial, Hunsaker said he took "careful aim" at the detainees and tried to make the killings as "professional" as possible by shooting them in the chest and head. He also said he knew it was illegal but felt he was doing a greater good by killing detainees who might have been al-Qaida agents in Iraq.

and if anyone objects - they're a traitor!

The biggest reason it's gon... (Below threshold)

The biggest reason it's gone bad is because the story was told wrong. At first it was Saddam is trying to get WMDs and George W. Bush is going to stop him. But the WMDs slipped away while nobody was watching and that story couldn't work as intended anymore, and the plot twist became that Bush was a fool, or fooled, or something chimpy along those lines. (Not that I agree with this story, but this is the way the story is told.)

The enemy, even Al Qaeda, is portraying the story as a rebellion against a tyrant, with Bush as the tyrant. This is risible on its face, as the tyrant Saddam killed a million people easy in the Iran-Iraq war, and perhaps another million in the years since he took the reins of Iraq, and all rebellions against him ended tragically (except, perhaps, that of the Kurds).

The alternate narrative, that Bush went in and took out Saddam on the way to find Democracy in Iraq, has also turned on Bush because the story as told depended on Iraqis to take their Democracy and do something other than elect a new tyrant with it.

The traditional narrative form that best fits the facts and Bush's grand strategy is a Daring Endeavor, with Bush as the Herculean hero facing down and conquering the Global Jihad wherever it pops up while freeing oppressed Muslims. The main problem is that Iraq has taken too long. It has become more than an incident in the story, and taken on the characteristics of an entire story on its own.

The other problem is that there are no Muslims saying they like being freed from oppression. Apparently they like oppression, and merely want to be left alone, to live out their miserable lives under the thumbs of their traditionally murderous tyrants.




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