Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 20, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

LESSONS FROM IRAQ....Max Sawicky is reading Babylon by Bus, the story of two slackers who ended up working for the U.S. occupation forces in Iraq. Max comments:

I'm about halfway through. One thing I take from the story is that there was a window in 2003-2004 when the occupation could have been successfully launched, and the subsequent carnage precluded, or at least minimized. This opportunity was lost from lack of serious planning and other types of mulishness. Everyone seems to have realized this, but you get a better feel for it from reading their account.

Actually, not everyone seems to have realized this. In fact, it's a point of considerable controversy, isn't it? Sam Rosenfeld and Matt Yglesias made the opposite point explicitly in "The Incompetence Dodge," arguing that "administrative bungling is simply not the root source of Americas failure in Iraq." I made the same argument myself a couple of years ago, though I remain sort of ambivalent about it, largely because of stories like Babylon by Bus. If you're operating at 80% efficiency and your plan doesn't work, it probably means the plan was just plain bad. But if you're operating at 20% efficiency, it seems at least plausible that better execution could have produced success. It may be that democratization by force is a chimera, but the level of incompetence in Iraq has been so monumental that it seems almost impossible to draw any enduring conclusions from our experience there.

Kevin Drum 2:12 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (99)

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Comments

We shouldn't be looking back at the mistakes that were made in the past, let's look to the future and the spread of democracy throughout the world.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on June 20, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Looking at past mistakes in order to discover what mistakes were made sounds too much like learning and I'll have none of it.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on June 20, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush Administration and the GOP Congress do sort of set a new record of incompetence, don't they? Even in their corruption. And now the fallout is starting: Safavian guilty on 4 of 5 counts, with others to follow. Reminds me of a story...

Posted by: LeisureGuy on June 20, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

It may be that democratization by force is a chimera, but the level of incompetence in Iraq has been so monumental that it seems almost impossible to draw any enduring conclusions from our experience there.

Level of incompetence? Would you call the killing of 15 more terrorists and the capture of a senior terrorist leader today incompetence?

Link

"Coalition forces in Iraq killed 15 terrorists and detained six other suspects and a senior terrorist leader during raids yesterday and today near Baqubah, military officials reported today."

And not only that, but we saved the lives of several women and children involved in the raid!

"Several women and children were present at the raid sites, officials said. None was harmed, and all were returned to their homes once the troops ensured the area was secure, they added."

But you will never hear about this good news from the Liberal Controlled Media because no women or children were harmed.

Posted by: Al on June 20, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

The lesson from Iraq is that there is nothing the Republicans can do that the Democrats can ever take advantage of.

Endless war not connected to 9/11?
Check.

Record surpluses turned into record deficits by give-aways to our donors?
Check.

Markets down / flat, 401(k)s decimated, etc.?
Check.

Florida, Ohio, Diebold?
Check.

Abramof, DeLay, Hastert, Cheney...
Check.

We. Are. Invincible!

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on June 20, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Al nails it! Another day, another 2.3 U.S. soldiers dead, another 12 maimed, another $100,000,000 -- and we got several terrorists! And didn't make a single new enemy!

You losers will never learn!

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on June 20, 2006 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

I've never been involved in an invasion or occupation, but I have been involved in large projects - some that succeeded and some that failed.

Ultimately the ones that failed were ALL due to incompetence. Either incompetence at the top (bad strategy or biting off more than the organization could chew) or by pervasive incompetence ("administrative bungling").

Furthermore, "administrative bungling" never really sprouted on its own, because if the project leadership was smart enough to have a clear, achievable goal, it was also smart enough to rout out lower-level incompetence before it did serious harm. "Administrative bungling" usually resulted when the failure was plain for all to see, and people simply lost heart and stopped trying.

Like I said, I've never been an invader or an occupier, or a decider for that matter. But that's my observation.

Posted by: 2.7182818 on June 20, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Would you call the killing of 15 more terrorists and the capture of a senior terrorist leader today incompetence?

These days I almost always assume it's a fake Al, but on the off chance it's not...

Comments like these are the very essence of Bush's incompetence. It doesn't really matter how many of these guys we capture or kill; there will always be replacements.

The key to Iraq is, and always was, that there be a stable country in place after Saddam went away. That stability is what would prevent Iraqis from killing our soldiers and each other. And nobody in the White House had a plan to achieve it. From their behavior, I'm hard pressed to think they even gave a shit.

Posted by: mmy on June 20, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Al,
I got your good news right here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/opinions/graphics/iraqdocs_061606.pdf
Straight from the administration too! No liberal controlled media distorting this news.

Posted by: Otto on June 20, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

I come down on the side of it being impossible, unless the circumstances are so different as to bear little relationship to the Iraq invasion. From what I have read, the experts said that a successful occupation would have required at least 500,000 troops. That means we would have needed a large, committed international force (not the pretend coalition we had). You need to stop an insrgency before it gets going. You need to convince almost all of the people who live there that it is in their best interests to cooperate (so they have to believe you will go, and without taking their assets with you).

Truly, I think it is better that it is impossible to have a successful invasion and occupation without serious international agreement. Otherwise it would be too tempting.

Posted by: EmmaAnne on June 20, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

but the level of incompetence in Iraq has been so monumental that it seems almost impossible to draw any enduring conclusions from our experience there.

If it didn't happen so often, I would be amazed that statements like this are made without reference to the similar claims (accurate and exaggerated) made during previous wars. A commentator reviewing the large amount of waste and substandard stuff in the Union army said that it was the "Age of Shoddy", and Simon Cameron had already been removed two years before for maladministration. Remember Milo Minderbender of "Catch-22"? Everybody complained about supply in WWII, and that was the war when "FUBAR" was invented and in nearly daily use. When the Americans defending the Bataan peninsula fired mortars at the Japanese, the Japanese threw them back unexploded. Also in WWII, the US spent almost $80B on research and development on aircraft that never flew; with that, someone had the bright idea that turbine engines could not be developed for aircraft in time to affect the war, so development was postponed in favor of piston engines.

On D-Day, the heavy and medium bombers missed their targets, the naval bombardments missed their targets, most of the 101st airborne missed their drop zones and the landing craft at Utah beach missed their landing sites (not the mention the incredible number of landing craft who dropped their loads in water so deep that the soldiers drowned.) That's in addition to the thousands of soldiers who died in training accidents, and the thousands who died of friendly fire (about 5% of all casualties in the European campaign) subsequent to the invasion.

In the Pacific War it was alleged that the assaults on Tarawa and Peileliu were total and costly blunders -- they ought to have been bypassed, like Rabal, it was said.

In the Spanish-American war more men died of food poisoning than combat, and the major combat deaths were after the "mission accomplished" phase of combat, in the hunt for Emiliano Aguinaldo.

In war you have to acknowledge beforehand that screw-ups will happen, and that the enemy will take advantage of decisions that are not screw-ups. The Iraq war does not fare badly when compared to the screw-ups of America's other wars.

One of the major discoveries of the first year of occupation was that the American Iraqis were far more out of touch with their associates, friends, and families than anyone had realized beforehand. Among the many criticisms of the war effort, no one predicted that American Iraqis would be so little help in post-war reorgainization of Iraq.

As in Japan and Germany, all the plans that actually work will be those developed by the Iraqis, and almost the entire government now consists of people previously out of authority due to the oppression by the Sunni-Baathists.

Posted by: republicrat on June 20, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

It may be that democratization by force is a chimera

Judging by the permanent bases we started building right away, the exhiles we brought in to lead Iraq, and the strong level of US control over the interim and current Iraqi government -- maybe democratization by force was only rhetoric.

How can a plan fail when it wasn't really the plan?

The plan was to create a pro-western government by force. A terrorist response was a certainty irrespective of "efficiency".

Posted by: B on June 20, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

As far as the Cheney Junta are concerned, everything IS going just peachey in Iraq.

- Their wealthy mover and shaker buddies in the Oil Ministry, like Chalabi, are pretty much safe, in the Green Zone.

- Lots of Iraqi poor are dying in car bombings, kidnappings, etc. They don't matter. They hate our freedom anyway. If they didn't die, we'd just have to feed them. Cheap labor can always be imported from Pakistan.

- Lots of Iraqi middle-class are getting kidnapped and tortured, or are fleeing the country. Good. Nobody to challenge the new Chalabi elite.

- No serious infrastructure is being replaced. We've bombed them back to the stone-age, and by God, they'll STAY back in the stone-age, and they'll be happy to sell us their oil (just as soon as we figure out how to build a flint-pipeline the insurgents can't blow up).

- They've got a constitution. Never mind that it's one that enshrines Sharia. It's a constitution.

- They've got purple fingers. Never mind that they had to basically shut down the whole country for 3 days to ensure that only a few hundred people were killed. Never mind that the women were free to vote how their husbands told them. Purple fingers mean they're free. Iranians vote, but they don't have purple fingers.

- Lots of insurgents are fighting and dying. If they were fighting and dying in the US, a lot of expensive real-estate would be going up with it. Fighting them over there is good because it will be THEIR country that gets reduced to rubble. Not ours.

- Sure, we've lost nearly as many troops as civillians died on 9/11. That's 2500 less GI's we'll have to put through college or pay pensions for.

- Rednecks love that we're killing and torturing brown skinned muslims. So they'll keep voting Republican.

- Christianists love that we're killing and torturing Islamists. So they'll keep voting Republican.

- Randists love that we're borrowing trillions, and handing it to corrupt contractors, who, in turn donate some back to the Republicans, ensuring more success in future elections, ensuring more tax cuts.

- Rove loves that he continues to succeed at pissing off Liberals.

- FoxNews Corpse is making buttloads of money showing war-porn.

All of the things that one could say are "bad" in Iraq, are really good things, if you look at them from the right perspective.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 20, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

so republicrat seems to be arguing that Iraq was a monumental strategic blunder, not incompetence.

I can accept that.

Posted by: craigie on June 20, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK
Would you call the killing of 15 more terrorists and the capture of a senior terrorist leader today incompetence?

Since pretty much the entire existence of substantial jihadist terrorist presence in Iraq is a result of this administrations incompetent invasion of Iraq, sure, anything that stems from the presence of those terrorists, including the killing of them, is a sign and reminder of the adminsitration's incompetence.

Giving the administration credit for killing a few terrorists in Iraq is like giving someone credit for cleaning up one tile of your kitchen floor after they flooded the whole kitchen, including walls and ceiling, with raw sewage.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 20, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat says:

"The Iraq war does not fare badly when compared to the screw-ups of America's other wars."

Josh Marshall says:

"For the United States, the situation in Iraq is close to unprecedented in the last century in terms of the duration of time an American president has left a war policy on autopilot while more and more evidence comes in that it's simply not working. Even in Vietnam, for all the mistakes the US made there, Richard Nixon kept escalating the conflict. There's at least some strategic movement on the policy brain scan. I'm not saying that's preferable. And I don't want to get into an argument about bombing Cambodia. But it is at least different from letting a flawed policy grind through money and men for three years because you don't have the moral courage to rethink it or adjust course. It's denial elevated to the level of high principle."

Josh wins. Because, like every other troll supporter of this war, republicrat doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about. His denial would be considered high principle, if only one could discern that he possesses any principles at all other than a slavish devotion to George w. Bush.

Posted by: brewmn on June 20, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

What if success wasn't the point? Palast:

A phone call to Baghdad to Saddam's Palace on the night of April 21, 2003. It was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on a secure line from Washington to General Jay Garner.

The General had arrives in Baghdad just hours before to take charge of the newly occupied nation. The message from Rumsfeld was not a heartwarming welcome. Rummy told Garner, Don't unpack, Jack -- you're fired.

What had Garner done? The many-starred general had been sent by the President himself to take charge of a deeply dangerous mission. Iraq was tense but relatively peaceful. Garner's job was to keep the peace and bring democracy.

Unfortunately for the general, he took the President at his word. But the general was wrong. "Peace" and "Democracy" were the slogans.

"My preference," Garner told me in his understated manner, "was to put the Iraqis in charge as soon as we can and do it in some form of elections."

But elections were not in The Plan.

The Plan was a 101-page document to guide the long-term future of the land we'd just conquered. There was nothing in it about democracy or elections or safety. There was, rather, a detailed schedule for selling off "all [Iraq's] state assets" -- and Iraq, that's just about everything -- "especially," said The Plan, "the oil and supporting industries." Especially the oil.

There was more than oil to sell off. The Plan included the sale of Iraq's banks, and weirdly, changing it's copyright laws and other odd items that made the plan look less like a program for Iraq to get on its feet than a program for corporate looting of the nation's assets. (And indeed, we discovered at BBC, behind many of the odder elements -- copyright and tax code changes -- was the hand of lobbyist Jack Abramoff's associate Grover Norquist.)

But Garner didn't think much of The Plan, he told me when we met a year later in Washington. He had other things on his mind. "You prevent epidemics, you start the food distribution program to prevent famine."

Seizing title and ownership of Iraq's oil fields was not on Garner's must-do list. He let that be known to Washington. "I don't think [Iraqis] need to go by the U.S. plan, I think that what we need to do is set an Iraqi government that represents the freely elected will of the people." He added, "It's their country their oil."

Apparently, the Secretary of Defense disagreed. So did lobbyist Norquist. And Garner incurred their fury by getting carried away with the "democracy" idea: he called for quick elections -- within 90 days of the taking of Baghdad.

But Garner's 90-days-to-elections commitment ran straight into the oil sell-off program. Annex D of the plan indicated that would take at least 270 days -- at least 9 months.

Worse, Garner was brokering a truce between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. They were about to begin what Garner called a "Big Tent" meeting to hammer out the details and set the election date. He figured he had 90 days to get it done before the factions started slitting each other's throats.

But a quick election would mean the end of the state-asset sell-off plan: An Iraqi-controlled government would never go along with what would certainly amount to foreign corporations swallowing their entire economy. Especially the oil. Garner had spent years in Iraq, in charge of the Northern Kurdish zone and knew Iraqis well. He was certain that an asset-and-oil grab, "privatizations," would cause a sensitive population to take up the gun. "That's just one fight you don't want to take on right now."

. Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 20, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously we can never know whether the occupation of Iraq could have succeeded if it had been better managed. But that is not the strongest argument against the incompetence dodge on the question of whether we should have gone to war or not.

The strongest argument is that at the time the US invaded it was clear that the administration was incompetent, the US was lying, and did not have a plan in place for a successful occupation. Evidence - in 2003 the US was already failing to successfully rebuild Afganistan. Lying - the day after Colin Powell's speech the foreign media shredded his speech and highlighted the 4 major lies. No Plan - there was no plan presented - just airy platitudes - thus it was quite clear that they didn't have a plan, because if there had been one it would have been presented.

In addition, by the time of the invasion it was clear that the factors needed for a successful occupation were not in place. Support from major allies - not there. Surounding countries all had an interest in US failing. Arrogant military that clearly wasn't listening to anyone. etc.

And of course, a President who could barely put together a coherent sentence and seemed to wilfully ignorant of the military or the Middle East.

So, there you had it - at the time of the invasion it clear that the US did NOT have almost any of the ingredients for a successful mission. But no liberal hawks just spouted garbage - like my invasion (Tom Friedman) or blabbered on about how terrible Saddam was (Bienert), or whatever. But the plain fact was that almost all the DC politicians and intellectuals just ignored the plain facts that stared them right in the nose.

And now we have a disaster.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on June 20, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Would you call the killing of 15 more terrorists and the capture of a senior terrorist leader today incompetence?

I think that's what's usually called "what the administration should have been doing on September 10th, 2001," but we usually abbreviate it "washbds10."
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 20, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

The plan was to create a pro-western government by force.

And this is different from terrorism ... how?

A terrorist response was a certainty irrespective of "efficiency".

Or perhaps they were flattering Bush by imitating him.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 20, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

so republicrat seems to be arguing that Iraq was a monumental strategic blunder, not incompetence.
I can accept that.
Posted by: craigie on June 20, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

That really is the essence of this whole argument.
The incompetence was strategic (upper-management, the CEO, the Decider and his cronies). Not tactical (ie. "you don't support the troops, you america-hating terrorist!).

Conservatives LOVE to conflate the two, so they can play the McCarthian game of character assassination on Liberals.

Aside from incidents like Haditha, and Abu Ghraib, I see few examples, if any, of Tactical Incompetence. Even Haditha and Abu Ghraib, it can be argued, were examples of Strategic Incompetence : Abu Ghraib was supposed to be a prison, managed by soldiers trained in detention. It was converted into an interrogation center by Intelligence, and the soldiers weren't trained to do that, so of course some of them fucked up. Haditha - is less clear, and arguments for this being a Strategic fuck up amount to saying basically that we're asking too much of our soldiers, or not giving them proper ethics training.

In any case, the First Rule of Leadership is: It's ALWAYS your fault.

There's also a good argument to be made that the Strategic Incompetence was intentional.

Consider the benefits to the leadership as a result of their own blunders. Bush got re-elected, republicans took more seats in congress, more SCOTUS seats, etc. Contractors making more money, their base is charged because we're fighting a war, they're able to tap everyone's phones (including Howard Dean's) with impunity, profits at their supporters' companies (oil/defense/cablenews) are at an all-time high. And at the end of 2008, they get to retire in comfort, and do cushy speaking tours and write books. You don't seriously think that a single one of the upper echelon is going to jail, do you?

The Incompetence is really just a cover for War Profiteering. I've been saying this since before the Iraq invasion. The gullability is just astounding.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 20, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

One of the major discoveries of the first year of occupation was that the American Iraqis were far more out of touch with their associates, friends, and families than anyone had realized beforehand. Among the many criticisms of the war effort, no one predicted that American Iraqis would be so little help in post-war reorgainization of Iraq.

Get your head out of your ass. So you laid your trust in convicted felon Chalabi and his chief aide "Curveball" and got burned? Who could have predicted these guys saying were full of crap? They were so convincing.

Theres a place called Ouja, near Tikrit. Its a peninsula of sand dunes. I saw with my own eyes bunkers that move from place to place inside the dunes, underground. It is simply unbelievable. It is done by remote control. . . They built a ceiling and put chemical and biological weapons inside. The Russians followed, and there were Chinese inside. The Russians tested the strength of the structure. They fired at it and set off explosions. But nothing happened to the Chinese inside. They did not die. I saw the Chinese leave the complex one by one and in one piece.

The floors of Saddams main palace, the Sixth Force Palace in Tikrit, and the paths of its outer courts are made of glass. Underneath, sharks and tropical fish swim in a giant artificial lake

http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=245
http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=247
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curveball_%28informant%29

Maybe Robert Davi could play Saddam in the movie version.

Posted by: B on June 20, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Osama_Been_Forgotten >"...The gullability is just astounding."

And certainly NOT unprecedented in U.S. affairs, military or otherwise

"...Democrats are for people, Republicans are for things..." - Oilfieldguy-firedoglake.com

Posted by: daCascadian on June 20, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

John Murtha was on Meet The Press Sunday.

He suggested the US move our troops from Iraq to Okinawa.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA !!

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on June 20, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

He suggested the US move our troops from Iraq to Okinawa.
Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on June 20, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

That is pretty stupid.

I think we should move them to Saudi Arabia.

You know.

Where they were for the previous 10 years.

And if the Saudis have a problem with it, FUCK them.

And if Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden has a problem with it, FUCK them too. In both eye sockets.

It's beyond me why Bush sucked up to Osama's demand that US troops be removed from Saudi Arabia. Fucking stupid. I would have put MORE in there, and publicly told Osama to fuck off. (then I would have increased airline security and arrested the 9/11 hijackers we already knew were in the country. But that's just me.)

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 20, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Frequency Kenneth: He suggested the US move our troops from Iraq to Okinawa.

At least on Okinawa they would be protecting real American interests.

In Iraq, they are doing nothing for America or Americans and they're getting killed.

Apparently, this is what Kenneth wants: lots of dead American soldiers to provide political cover (in the form of emotional blackmail) for George W. Bush's incomptence.

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 20, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Some of the "enduring conclusions" we can draw from the war:

Period US UK Other* Total Avg Days
6-2006 33 0 2 35 1.75 20
5-2006 69 9 1 79 2.55 31
4-2006 76 1 5 82 2.73 30
3-2006 31 0 2 33 1.06 31
2-2006 55 3 0 58 2.07 28
1-2006 62 2 0 64 2.06 31
12-2005 68 0 0 68 2.19 31
11-2005 84 1 1 86 2.87 30
10-2005 96 2 1 99 3.19 31
9-2005 49 3 0 52 1.73 30
8-2005 85 0 0 85 2.74 31
7-2005 54 3 1 58 1.87 31
6-2005 78 1 4 83 2.77 30
5-2005 80 2 6 88 2.84 31
4-2005 52 0 0 52 1.73 30
3-2005 35 1 3 39 1.26 31
2-2005 58 0 2 60 2.14 28
1-2005 107 10 10 127 4.1 31
12-2004 72 1 3 76 2.45 31
11-2004 137 4 0 141 4.7 30
10-2004 63 2 2 67 2.16 31
9-2004 80 3 4 87 2.9 30
8-2004 66 4 5 75 2.42 31
7-2004 54 1 3 58 1.87 31
6-2004 42 1 7 50 1.67 30
5-2004 80 0 4 84 2.71 31
4-2004 135 0 5 140 4.67 30
3-2004 52 0 0 52 1.68 31
2-2004 20 1 2 23 0.79 29
1-2004 47 5 0 52 1.68 31
12-2003 40 0 8 48 1.55 31
11-2003 82 1 27 110 3.67 30
10-2003 44 1 2 47 1.52 31
9-2003 31 1 1 33 1.1 30
8-2003 35 6 2 43 1.39 31
7-2003 48 1 0 49 1.58 31
6-2003 30 6 0 36 1.2 30
5-2003 37 4 0 41 1.32 31
4-2003 74 6 0 80 2.67 30
3-2003 65 27 0 92 7.67 12
Total 2506 113 113 2732 2.3 1189

Posted by: steve duncan on June 20, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

"It may be that democratization by force is a chimera, but the level of incompetence in Iraq has been so monumental that it seems almost impossible to draw any enduring conclusions from our experience there."

But let's just say, I don't care to give them another chance to try the theory out elsewhere.

Posted by: demtom on June 20, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently, this is what Kenneth wants: lots of dead American soldiers to provide political cover (in the form of emotional blackmail) for George W. Bush's incomptence.

Remember Bush quoting bin Laden saying he wanted us in Iraq as a justification for being in Iraq? Surreal.

Bush is bin Laden's bitch.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 20, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

I think the principle lesson learned from, or rather underlined by, Iraq (and, for that matter, the Bush Administration more generally) is this:

...and where men build on false ground, the more they build, the greater the ruin.

Hobbes, Leviathan

Posted by: cmdicely on June 20, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

I lean strongly toward the view expressed in "The Incompetence Dodge"... the war was simply a strategic error that never had a chance in hell of achieving its stated objectives.

But I think the entire non-troll population should probably be able to come to an agreement with Kevin on this one... "the level of incompetence in Iraq has been so monumental that it seems almost impossible to draw any enduring conclusions from our experience there."

Posted by: ajl on June 20, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

A) I thought the war in Iraq was a mistake and knew it had nothing to do with 9/11 or WMD, long before it actually happened.

B) I thought it could still be done effectively. With enough troops, with a good plan to secure the borders and the cities. I did not think Bush would execute such a plan well, because to him the military is just there to make money for GOP companies.

C) I would have never guessed there actually was no plan at all, outside of who would be responsible for "winging it". I could have never imagined the military would stand by while the entire infractructure was looted and burned. I could have never guessed they'd disband the Iraqi army. I could have never guessed they would refuse to employ Iraqis for reconstruction.

D) So I don't think the problem was incompetent execution of a plan. It was an incompetent plan from the start, and the incompetents they had in charge to "wing it" incompetently "winged it".

E) I still think it could have been done effectively - if we had left the profiteering out the equation, and really tried to rebuild Iraq and keep everyone employed and generally improve their standard of living and not rounded up tens of thousands of people and imprisoned and tortured them and not continued dropping bombs on houses on the weakest of "tips" and ... well you get the picture.

Posted by: Mysticdog on June 20, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

I lean strongly toward the view expressed in "The Incompetence Dodge"... the war was simply a strategic error that never had a chance in hell of achieving its stated objectives.

It'll be at least another decade before we know whether the Iraq War achieved its stated objectives.

Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

How many troops would it have taken to put the entire country under martial law? 300k? 400k? 500k? More? Where might they have come from? And who is to say they wouldn't just have been more targets for a budding insurgency to pick off?

You might have been able to pay off senior Baathists with rich new gigs in the oil sector, or somewhere else, or you might not. You might have been able to put a lot of those poor Shiite and Sunni kids - potential troublemakers - to work sweeping the streets and rebuilding the country, or you might not: a lot - it would seem - depends on basic security.

I'm dubious that any American army - however large - would have been able to "secure the borders" in a matter of weeks or months, if at all. The Soviet Union did so not just with fences and patrols that take years to put in place but by restricting internal travel, and with a surveillance state that was all encompassing. A ten year colonial occupation of the country and double the number of boots on the ground (as well as no insurgency) might have made that possible, but it was never going to be possible under the conditions likely to develop, or the mindset of the occupation leadership.

Posted by: Linus on June 20, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

GOP: It'll be at least another decade before we know whether the Iraq War achieved its stated objectives.

We already know it failed to achieve one: securing Saddam's massive stockpiles of WMDs.

We didn't even have to wait a year for that.

Funny how conservatives have steadfastly refused to give any Clinton initiatives 13-14 years to see if they would achieve their stated objectives.

Hey, let me run the country for eight years and I promise, I swear, that you will have an answer as to whether it was all worthwhile in 15 years.

Really!

Just trust me and 15 years down the road all your dreams and prayers will be answered!

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 20, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK


al: Level of incompetence? Would you call the killing of 15 more terrorists and the capture of a senior terrorist leader today incompetence?

"We are not killing them faster than they are being created." - Brig. Gen. Robert Caslen, the Pentagon's deputy director for the war on terrorism. 3/2/06


"We can't kill them all. When I kill one, I create three." Lt. Col. Frederick Wellman Detroit Free Press - 6/13/05

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 20, 2006 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how long it would take for GOP to fall over laughing if Kerry or Gore had said: "I need eight years, then eight more, before you judge whether my policies are a failure or not."

The level of narcotic drugs it must take to induce this amount of rationalization of and obsessive obsequiousness to Bush must be absolutely as massive as the imaginary stockpiles of Iraqi WMDs were supposed to be.

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 20, 2006 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Funny how conservatives have steadfastly refused to give any Clinton initiatives 13-14 years to see if they would achieve their stated objectives.

Iraq had 8 years of economic sanctions under Clinton. The result was hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, and Saddam still in power. Way to go, Bill.

Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how long it would take for GOP to fall over laughing if Kerry or Gore had said: "I need eight years, then eight more, before you judge whether my policies are a failure or not."

By the time of the invasion in 2003, the economic sanctions against Iraq had been in place for 12 years. There wasn't the slightest indication that they were working, and they had caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

GOP: Iraq had 8 years of economic sanctions under Clinton. The result was hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, and Saddam still in power.

The result was Saddam disarmed and a halt to his genocide, committed primarily under Reagan and Bush 41 who supported, funded and armed Saddam, helping him to kill those alleged hundreds of thousands.

Given that the GOP was against intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo to stop a similar killing spree, it is pathetic that you suggest that the primary goal, or even a goal at all, of Bush and the GOP in invading Iraq was to stop any such killing, even assuming it was still ongoing, a claim that remains unsupported by evidence.

BTW . . .

Another of Menchaca's uncles, Ken MacKenzie, lashed out at the government Tuesday on NBC's "Today Show," saying it didn't do enough to bring the men home safe, The Associated Press reported.

How long before Ann Coulter, Queen of Conservatives, calls Menchaca's uncle a traitor?

When are you going to speak out against her, GOP, and continue doing so night and day until she stops her shameful tirades against the family members of our troops?

As you know, failure to forcefully speak out against someone is the same as supporting and agreeing with that someone - at least, that's the standard that conservatives insist on applying to liberals who don't spend each and every minute of each and every day preaching to the choir about how bad the terrorists are.

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 20, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

[A]n unnamed CIA briefer . . . flew to Bush's Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president's attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

This will play well with Middle America and the families of the 9/11 victims.

LOL.

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 20, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Advocate,

The result was Saddam disarmed and a halt to his genocide,

Nonsense. Saddam had been neither disarmed, nor persuaded to stop killing his own citizens. Clinton's sanctions killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.


Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

It'll be at least another decade before we know whether the Iraq War achieved its stated objectives.

Not true. The Republicans made gains in 2002 and 2004, which was the objective.

Posted by: craigie on June 20, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Advocate,

it is pathetic that you suggest that the primary goal, or even a goal at all, of Bush and the GOP in invading Iraq was to stop any such killing

More nonsense. The Bush Administration's justification for the invasion explicitly included regime change to stop the killing of Iraqis by Saddam, and the humanitarian purpose of ending the death and injury caused by the sanctions.

Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

- Iraq had 8 years of economic sanctions under Clinton. ... Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

- By the time of the invasion in 2003, the economic sanctions against Iraq had been in place for 12 years. ... Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

- Clinton's sanctions ... Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 5:37 PM

I'm sorry, how many terms did Clinton serve? Come back when you can keep your hate on straight.

Oh, and don't bother pretending you give a fuck about Iraqi civilians.

PS, the 1998 authorization to use force in Iraq specifially prohibited Clinton from deposing Saddam, so blame it on those obstructionist Republicans in Congress.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 20, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

gop: There wasn't the slightest indication that they were working, and they had caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

"Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament." - G.W. Bush 3/6/03


got wmds?

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 20, 2006 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

GOP, the poster here, like the GOP, the party, is impervious to facts and logical arguments.

Posted by: nut on June 20, 2006 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

GOP: Nonsense.

Exactly how Bush responded when the CIA reported in early 2001 that bin Laden was going to attack the US and how most conservatives, especially ones like GOP, respond to any truth.

Well, GOP has proven himself/herself a liar on numerous occasions and as vile as Ann Coulter, so we expect nothing less.

There wasn't the slightest indication that they were working . . .

Yep, there was plenty of indication: no stockpiles of WMDs, no extant WMD programs, and no ongoing genocide against the Kurds or Southern Shiites.

As usual, you lie.

. . . and they had caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

For which you have absolutely no proof.

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 20, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

GOP: The Bush Administration's justification for the invasion explicitly included regime change to stop the killing of Iraqis by Saddam, and the humanitarian purpose of ending the death and injury caused by the sanctions.

Saying it don't make it true.

Just like saying that Winnebagos are WMDs doesn't make it true either.

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 20, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, how many terms did Clinton serve?

Two. I'm sorry, and your point is....?

Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

For which you have absolutely no proof.

Who needs proof when you have a concrete need to cover for Bush replacing Saddam as the 'Butcher of Baghdad'? Saddam leaving people to starve or die without medicine while he built lavish palaces is Clinton's fault. Bush blasting civilians to force political change (otherwise known as "terrorism") is also Clinton's fault.

Simple, see? Then again, for them it has to be.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 20, 2006 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

GOP: . . . and your point is....?

As has been pointed out before, yet you continue to lie, they can't have been Clinton's sanctions when they were implemented prior to his taking office and continued thereafter for 12 total years, four years longer than Clinton served.

In other words, the point is you are a hateful liar who is obsessed with Clinton in a negative way and obsessed with Bush is a positive way, but obsessed nonetheless.

Now, get your head out of Bush's ass so you can get a glimpse of reality and truth.

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 20, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, and your point is....?

That two presidential terms

What? Is the Republican party hiring trolls in Mumbai? What country are you posting from?
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 20, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Should read, "that two presidential terms equal less than 12 years," but the program read my inequality sign as stray code.

Guess I won't be quoting any Prince lyrics on this site.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 20, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, GOP, Saddam would never have had the power or means to implement his killing sprees or 1980's WMD production if it had not been for the support and financing of American conservatives, who continued to support, arm and fund him even after he butchered the Kurds.

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 20, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

gop: The Bush Administration's justification for the invasion explicitly included regime change to stop the killing of Iraqis by Saddam


you wouldnt be the first supporter bush hung out to dry....

"Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament." - G.W. Bush 3/6/03

very clear....

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 20, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Careful, Advocate. The fact that Saddam was Reagan's man has gone down the memory hole. All citizens are now instructed to despise Saddam. It's important to be up-to-date on this kind of thing.

You wouldn't want to become an unperson, now would you?
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 20, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

gop: the humanitarian purpose of ending the death and injury caused by the sanctions.


not even the recent gassing of innocent kurds seemed to move dick...when he was def. secretary


"How many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? The answer is not that damned many." -Dick Cheney, 1992

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 20, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

It'll be at least another decade before we know whether the Iraq War achieved its stated objectives.

Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Al -- actually we might never know the truth even after Presidential records are released, unless some fat canary sings. What we DO KNOW is that most "stated objectives" (which in themselves have shifted), except for the suppression of Iraqi military and topping the government, remain unachieved long after their predicted time and far, far in excess of any administration prediction of cost, and those achieved have taken too long and are sub-par (the constitution, the governement, security forces).

I'd call that a failure. Now they are hoping to recover from the spill. Not doing much, just hoping.
==========================

I don't know when this exactly happened, but people here are conflating terrorists with insurgents. They are distinctly different.

Even the administration has declared the US Armed Forces an Occupying Power. Now that there is a democratically elected government it gets muddier.

The civilian violence can be broken down religiously and ethnically with subsets of power centers, but they are almost all engaged also in the political scene. Civil war it is, even if some is criminally based.

Attacking a foreign military occupier is another matter. Insurgents, freedom-fighters? Depends which end you are. Doesn't matter if some are foreigners, the intent is to force the US out.

From the US end, terrorists are those trying to destroy our society violently or by threat of violence, whether from the inside or outside. In Iraq, these people don't fit that bill.

Al -- By the way, those 15 "terrorists", the Iraqis say they were chicken farm workers sleeping outside. It's the heat, you know. Of course, we'll never know the truth.

Posted by: notthere on June 20, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

By now it should be obvious that "democratization" was just the hood ornament on a vehicle of theft and corruption.

The plan to steal the oil has failed, or at least hit a serious bump in the road.

The plan to feed hundreds of billions to the military-industrial complex has succeeded.

As for the rest of the "plans", well, failure is their business, failure's what they do. Leaving a mess is the easiest way for the Republicans to make it hard for Democrats who follow.

The second half of the 20th century is just one long story of Democrats being forced to deal with failures (Cuba, Vietnam, the Shah, Afghanistan, Iraq) created by the actions of the Republicans who went before.

Posted by: serial catowner on June 20, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

"The fact that Saddam was Reagan's man has gone down the memory hole."

Not to mention that Cheney has the receipts

Posted by: The Unperson that drinks the Uncola on June 20, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Advocate,

and no ongoing genocide against the Kurds or Southern Shiites.

There is overwhelming evidence that Saddam's human rights abuses continued after the sanctions were imposed. This includes his 1991 crackdown on Kurds and Shiites that is estimated to have killed tens or hundreds of thousands of people.

Clinton's sanctions against Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of people. UNICEF estimates that 500,000 children under five were killed by the sanctions just through 1998. Iraq was rapidly becoming a third world country, its infrastructure was collapsing, and people were dying of malnutrition and disease in massive numbers. Saddam was still in power, still killing and persecuting his own people.

Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, supposedly Clinton's enforcement of sanctions was a tough thing for the Iraqis. At least, it seemed that way until Bush "liberated" them.

Now they look back nostalgically on the freedoms and prosperity they enjoyed under Saddam, even with the sanctions.

Heckuva job you're doing there, Bushie.

Posted by: serial catowner on June 20, 2006 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Advocate,

For which you have absolutely no proof.

As I said, UNICEF estimated that the sanctions against Iraq had killed 500,000 children just through 1998. In October 1998, Dennis Halliday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad, resigned from the UN after a 34-year career in order to have the freedom to criticise the sanctions regime, saying "I don't want to administer a programme that satisfies the definition of genocide".

Saying it don't make it true.

Right. And saying it's false don't make it false. It's a matter of public record.

Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "It may be that democratization by force is a chimera, but the level of incompetence in Iraq has been so monumental that it seems almost impossible to draw any enduring conclusions from our experience there."

Just because the execution of the "plan" was very poor doesn't mean the plan itself was excellent. Since the plan execution was terrible, we will never know for certain. But the plan, good or bad, could have been very well carried out and Iraq may not have been much better off today. It beggars belief that anyone can think that a concept like democracy can be militarily implanted in a foreign and supposedly sovereign nation, especially in one with as many centrifugal forces as Iraq has.

Posted by: Taobhan on June 20, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

GOP >"There is overwhelming evidence that..."

Oh bull manure

the only "overwhelming evidence" available is that you, Grand Old Propagandist, are a Tool of Fools & full of cow dung of the male variety

Bleat on as you head back to your village & be sure to change those knee pads since they appear to be worn out

"Before the Internet, the idiot tended to stay in his own village." - unknown

Posted by: daCascadian on June 20, 2006 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Ask Dr. Hemlock or any other soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who was sitting on his/her arse in the desert in the summer of 03, waiting for some kind of signal from someone in authority that there was something to do now that mission was accomplished, and you'll get the same answer --

OF COURSE there was a window of opportunity in the summer of 03. But WE DON'T DO NATION-BUILDING. We freed those people, didn't we? Now we were supposed to build their country? C'mon -- we've got soldiers on welfare back home.

Dr. Hemlock and his soldiers were actually told not to unpack their bags because they'd be going home no later than August 03 -- the war would be over and democracy would be busting out all over. In the meantime, if we wanted to hire some Iraqis to clean our tent, that wouldn't be frowned upon.

And THAT, dear friends, was the Bush Administration plan for rebuilding Iraq.

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on June 20, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK


gop: There is overwhelming evidence that Saddam's human rights abuses continued after the sanctions were imposed.


yet...

at saddam's trial....one of the few of the many crimes he could be charged with...

was from the 1980's...

america didn't have a problem with it...

at the time...

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 20, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Clinton's sanctions against Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of people

George H. W. Bush was president of the United States when the sanctions were imposed and the U.N. was the body that imposed them.

On August 6, 1990 the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 661 which imposed stringent economic sanctions on Iraq, providing for a full trade embargo, excluding medical supplies, food and other items of humanitarian necessity, these to be determined by the Security Council sanctions committee. After the end of the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi sanctions were linked to removal of Weapons of mass destruction by Resolution 687.

UNICEF estimates that 500,000 children under five were killed by the sanctions just through 1998

The two most reliable scientific studies on sanctions in Iraq are the 1999 report "Morbidity and Mortality Among Iraqi Children," by Columbia University's Richard Garfield, and "Sanctions and Childhood Mortality in Iraq," a May 2000 article by Mohamed Ali and Iqbal Shah in The Lancet. Garfield, an expert on the public-health impact of sanctions, conducted a comparative analysis of the more than two dozen major studies that have analyzed malnutrition and mortality figures in Iraq during the past decade. He estimated the most likely number of excess deaths among children under five years of age from 1990 through March 1998 to be 227,000. Garfield's analysis showed child mortality rates double those of the previous decade.

Garfield has recently recalculated his numbers, based on the additional findings of the Ali and Shah study, to arrive at an estimate of approximately 350,000 through 2000. Most of these deaths are associated with sanctions, according to Garfield, but some are also attributable to destruction caused by the Gulf War air campaign, which dropped 90,000 tons of bombs in forty-three days, a far more intensive attack than the current strikes against Afghanistan. The bombing devastated Iraq's civilian infrastructure, destroying eighteen of twenty electricity-generating plants and disabling vital water-pumping and sanitation systems. Untreated sewage flowed into rivers used for drinking water, resulting in a rapid spread of infectious disease. Comprehensive trade sanctions compounded the effects of the war, making it difficult to rebuild, and adding new horrors of hunger and malnutrition.

Sadly, child mortality rates in the Basra region are now much higher than they were during the time of sanctions.

Posted by: trex on June 20, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

...This includes his 1991 crackdown on Kurds and Shiites that is estimated to have killed tens or hundreds of thousands of people....

Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

As I remember, the President in 1991 was Bush, Sr. and the Shiite revolt, particulalry, was brought about by encouraging noises from the administration, hoping that the revolt might be a toppling push on Saddam following the war, but with no intent to help. Didn't work. The Kurdish rising was followed by expanding and enforcing the no-fly zone that allowed the Kurds to become self-governing.

As to the sanctions on Iraq killing civilians.
1) they weren't Clintons sanctions. Not even US sanctions. They were imposed by the UN at the instigation of the Bush, Sr. US-led coalition to make sure Iraq could no longer fund war.
2) As with any number of (particularly dictatorial) countries, mis-allocation of their funds has led to unfortunate results.

Iraq is one among many, both past and present. International law prevents nations just jumping in to change other countries' domestic policies. Something W Bushnut conveniently forgot in the case of Iraq, but has equally conveniently allowed him to drag his ass over Uzbekhistan, Zimbabwe, Darfur, Ethiopia, etc. --any number of instances where domestic policy is inhumane -- and to encourage policies that significantly lower health outcomes in Gaza and the West Bank.

But don't be looking consistency or humanity from your own. It's not there.

P.S. Clinton worked hard on the N. Ireland and Israeli-Palestine problems, and wasn't working with the full cooperation of all 3 branches of government. W hasn't worked hard one day in his life.

Posted by: notthere on June 20, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

There is overwhelming evidence that Saddam's human rights abuses continued after the sanctions were imposed. This includes his 1991 crackdown on Kurds and Shiites that is estimated to have killed tens or hundreds of thousands of people.

Who was President in 1991? Someone named Bush, wasn't it? And who was Secretary of Defense? Some guy by the name of Cheney, right?

Posted by: Stefan on June 20, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

This includes his 1991 crackdown on Kurds and Shiites that is estimated to have killed tens or hundreds of thousands of people.

Let's see what Dick Cheney felt about stopping this massacre when he was asked in 1991 whether we should overthrow Saddam Hussein:

"The notion that we ought to now go to Baghdad and somehow take control of the country strikes me as an extremely serious one in terms of what wed have to do once we got there. Youd probably have to put some new government in place. Its not clear what kind of government that would be, how long youd have to stay. For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over whos going to govern in Iraq strikes me as a classic definition of a quagmire."

Huh, seems Dick didn't care too much about those tens or hundreds of thousands of people Saddam was killing.

Posted by: Stefan on June 20, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

stefan --
or that Cheney remembered his own advice. So I wonder if that was Bush, Sr.'s or cabinet attitude.

What happened between 1991 and 1997 to change his mind?

Posted by: notthere on June 20, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

notthere You're forgetting : Clinton could work because of qualities like intelligence and optimism.
Bush ? Yeah, well, not so much.
The budget for sending in the requisite number of troopes must have been available : how else was so much stolen ?

Posted by: opit on June 20, 2006 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat, deeply in denial:

Among the many criticisms of the war effort, no one predicted that American Iraqis would be so little help in post-war reorgainization of Iraq.

BS. Everyone not a Bush-cultist predicted this. Even the State Dept predicted this, they just were ignored, along with rest of the reality-based community.

Posted by: Disputo on June 20, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

To notthere's response from 6:39pm, I would add:

3) the U.N. Oil for Food program, despite the allegations of corruption, still delivered enough food for 60-70% of the Iraqi population from 1996 to the end of the program after the Iraqi Provisionl Authority took over. It significantly reduced the rate of malnutrition and low-birth weight babies and improved other health measures.

While there was still significant suffering among Iraqi civilians after the start of the program, the bulk of the deaths occured in the 1991-1995 period.

4) the methods used to make the estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths are remarkably similar to those used by the Lancet study published in October, 2004 that estimated excess deaths due to the invasion at 98,000.

Note, that this study was based on estimating total deaths from ALL causes during the periods before and after the invasion. So any deaths that were still being caused by sanctions prior to the war were matched and exceeded during the first 18 months after the war.

While it is possible that the estimates GOP cites on pre-war deaths are accurate and the Lancet study is not, no specific flaws in the Lancet study have been identified that would support such a conclusion.

Posted by: Tanj on June 20, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

it seems almost impossible to draw any enduring conclusions from our experience there.

In 2000 Bush was opposed to the use of US forces for "nation building". The argument has since been made that "nation building" (not necessarily by that name) is an essential part of the global war against the terrorists, and Bush has accepted that argument as it applies to Iraq: building the nation of Iraq is an essential part of the global war on terrorists. The difficulties in Iraq show once again how hard nation-building can be, and how much merit there was in Bush's 2000 position. Nation-building is not proceeding a lot more smoothly in Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo or Macedonia either.

There is definitely an "enduring lesson" for anyone who wants to contemplate an intervention in Darfur or Somalia. Whatever the intervention, however it is conducted, and whatever the goals, there will be mistakes, humiliations, setbacks, and an active intelligent opposition. Wherever the US intervenes in Africa or the Middle East, Islamist jihadists will come from around the world to oppose the US, and a principal tactic that they will use will be brutalizing and bombing the civilian population, especially journalists; another will be torture and beheading of American captives.

If you ever make up your mind that the U.S. should intervene, make sure that you are prepared to persevere through the mistakes, real and imagined. No war has ever been won without a lot of mistakes and acrimony along the way. Parenthetically, Republicans are paying now for a lot of the criticisms they voiced against Clinton in the cases of Bosnia and Kosovo; like the Democrats now (some of them), those Republicans were partisan hypocrites. Partisan hypocrisy is par for the course; it's part of what must be overcome in order to win a war, it's been a part of every American war, and it won't go away.

Posted by: republicrat on June 20, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

Well I, for one, am not a partisan hypocrite. My partisanship has been completely consistent.

Posted by: craigie on June 20, 2006 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

trex,

George H. W. Bush was president of the United States when the sanctions were imposed and the U.N. was the body that imposed them.

Bush was defeated by Clinton the following year. Clinton was a strong supporter of the sanctions throughout his presidency. In 1996, Madeleine Albright, the Clinton Administration's Ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on the television program 60 Minutes to defend the Clinton Administration's policy towards Iraq, including the sanctions. When presented with an estimate that 500,000 children under five had died because of the sanctions, Albright did not challenge the figure, but instead replied "we think the price is worth it."

I don't understand your point in quoting from that Nation piece, since it supports my point that the sanctions killed hundreds of thousands of people. As the very first paragraph of that article puts it, the sanctions were "a humanitarian disaster" and their effects "horrifying."

That's Clinton's legacy in Iraq.

Sadly, child mortality rates in the Basra region are now much higher than they were during the time of sanctions.

Er, your link is to a news report quoting a single doctor claiming an increase in child mortality in Basra. Even if that claim is true (and I somehow doubt you'd be so uncritically accepting of the undocumented claim of one individual if it undermined, rather than supported, your preconceived notions about the effect of the war), Basra is only one city, and it was the scene of intense fighting during the war, so an increase in child mortality in that particular location wouldn't be terribly surprising.


Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

notthere,

As I remember, the President in 1991 was Bush, Sr.

What has that got to do with it? The issue was whether the sanctions stopped Saddam Hussein's mass killings of his own people. As Saddam's attacks on Kurds and Shiites in 1991 illustrate, they did not. He went on killing anyway. He'd most likely still be slaughtering his own people now if we hadn't removed him from power.

1) they weren't Clintons sanctions. Not even US sanctions.

The Clinton Administration strongly supported the sanctions and strongly defended them in public. See, for example, Albright's defense of the sanctions I described above.

Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

tanj,

Note, that this study was based on estimating total deaths from ALL causes during the periods before and after the invasion. So any deaths that were still being caused by sanctions prior to the war were matched and exceeded during the first 18 months after the war.

The Lancet study compared only 14/17 month periods before and after the start of the invasion. Since the 17 months after the start of the invasion were the period of major combat operations it is hardly surprising that the Iraqi mortality rate would be higher during that period than immediately before, even though conditions in Iraq before the invasion were terrible. Moreover, if, as you say, the bulk of the deaths caused by the sanctions had occurred during the early-mid 1990s (when Clinton was president), and the mortality rate immediately before the invasion was lower than that in previous years, the "excess" post-invasion deaths found in the Lancet study may have been less than the "excess" deaths caused by the sanctions even during a single 17-month period during the 1990s, and are almost certainly much, much less than the cumulative count of deaths caused by the sanctions during the 12 years they were in effect, a number that is almost certainly in the hundreds of thousands, and may be more than a million.

Posted by: GOP on June 20, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Bush, Clinton, Bush -- The US has been waging war against Iraq almost continuously since 1991. Liberation of Kuwait, sanctions, no fly zones, cruise missile attacks, OIF. In 1998 the Congress voted that the US aimed to remove the Baathist regime, by methods short of force; in 2002 the Congress voted to authorise force, pending one more effort at diplomacy; in 2003 the Congress voted to support the invasion, and commended Bush's diplomacy; in 2006 the House has voted twice and the Senate once not to require an early withdrawal from Iraq; the Senate vote was particularly lopsided 93-6. Support for the war is substantially bipartisan; although Democrats do not strongly support the president, they also do not support any alternative that has been written down.

There are no good public health statistics for Iraq for the last 15 years of the Baathist regime, as there are no good statistics on medical care or potable water. There are still no good health statistics, outside the Kurdish regions. The public health ministries were perverted to serve the political interests of the Baathist regime, and the de-Baathification of the government means that the ministries are now staffed by people with little experience. On the whole, there is better information now, but nothing as reliable as American or European public health statistics.

Posted by: republicrat on June 20, 2006 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

80% efficiency equals failed planning. 20% efficiency promises failed implementation.

Where would Cheney's 1% fit in this scheme, one wonders...

Posted by: Jackson Braider on June 20, 2006 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

The Clinton Administration strongly supported the sanctions and strongly defended them in public. See, for example, Albright's defense of the sanctions I described above.

STFU Chico man. I love your revisionist history. GHWB OKs the use Iraqi helicopters in the no fly zones and has his well positioned army stand by while the Kurds and Shiites willing to stand up to Saddam are massacred. He then goes on to push a repressive sanctions regime through the UN.

Through the 90's the Republicans in control of congress were the ones that would have made the greatest stink if someone suggested ending sanctions. The far left were the only ones that consistently called for their end. Saddam, through his secrecy and deception (uncovered by successful inspections) left little political room for ending them. The effects were not at all clear for the first half of the 1990's and even now one is hard pressed to determine how the infant mortality rate was changed by sanctions and other occurrences (i.e. water diversion projects, decreasing oil/food distribution to the far north and south).

As for Albright. She wasn't Secretary of State at the time she made the statement and Albright quickly and adamantly stated that it was "the stupidest thing [she] ever said". Hardly a ringing endorsement of sanctions at any cost.

Posted by: toast on June 20, 2006 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand your point in quoting from that Nation piece, since it supports my point that the sanctions killed hundreds of thousands of people.

I was simply pointing out that more rigorous studies show a number of casualties potentially almost two-thirds of what you quoted if you extrapolate out the timeline from the UNICEF study to match up to Garfield's study.

That's Clinton's legacy in Iraq.

You stated that the sanctions were "Clinton's." They were not Clinton's sanctions. They were in effect for a full two and a half years before Clinton was inaugurated, and furthermore they were U.N. sanctions agreed upon and enforced by the U.N. Security Council.

In point of fact, as Tanj pointed out above, the Clinton administration introduced the Oil for Food Program as a humanitarian means of mitigating the suffering indirectly brought about by the sanctions that the U.N. created at the behest of the first Bush administration.

To try and lay the deaths from sanctions at the feet of Clinton is sophistry that's two levels deep.

Posted by: trex on June 20, 2006 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

The Clinton Administration strongly supported the sanctions and strongly defended them in public.

So did the Bush administrations, both those of George the Competent and George the Incompetent. Bush the Lesser was inaguarated Jan. 2001, and could have called for an end to sanctions anytime, and yet he never did.

Posted by: Stefan on June 20, 2006 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

If Republicans were such adamant opponents of genocide how come they fought US and UN involvement in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo?

Posted by: toast on June 20, 2006 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: We can't conclude that the modern Republican party is a passel of boobs? Rats! I was sure we could at least conclude that.

Posted by: pjcamp on June 20, 2006 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan on June 20, 2006 at 11:13 PM

the important point is that it has been an American war on Iraq, not exclusively a Republican war on Iraq. The policies have been formulated, carried out, and reformulated by three presidents, of both parties, and several SecDefs and Secretaries of State. Exactly which party or president is responsible for killing the most Iraqis of any particular group (GHW Bush killing Shi'ites and Kurds by not supporting them after encouraging them, for example) can not be determined with even a 50% precision. Half the Democrats in congress voted for the war resolution of 2002; more than half voted for the resolution of support in 2003. In the most recent Senate vote, more than half of the Democrats voted with the Republicans not to issue an order to withdraw; in the House, about a fourth of the Democrats voted with the Republicans.

GHW Bush, Clinton, GW Bush have all had some successes and failures; they and members of their administrations have all said or written regrettable things, and praiseworthy things.

Stefan, on another thread you posted a bunch of regrettable utterances about Kosovo by Republicans. I left a note for you, praising that effort, and possibly elaborating it, on that thread. That was a good post.

Posted by: republicrat on June 21, 2006 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

trex: In point of fact, as Tanj pointed out above, the Clinton administration introduced the Oil for Food Program as a humanitarian means of mitigating the suffering indirectly brought about by the sanctions that the U.N. created at the behest of the first Bush administration.
...
To try and lay the deaths from sanctions at the feet of Clinton is sophistry that's two levels deep.

Yet the fact remains that the Oil for Food program was a failure from the start; its only effect was to give the Baathist regime enough cash to increase its military power and living standards. I give Clinton credit for a good effort, but his administration was still responsible for any deaths that may have followed from its enforcement of the sanctions. Bush, Clinton, Bush; all have some responsibility for deaths from sanctions, and all took some steps to alleviate the plight of the Iraqis. There are not unambigusoulsy good options against dictators like Saddam Hussein (Bashir, Mubage, etc.)

Posted by: republicrat on June 21, 2006 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

I give Clinton credit for a good effort, but his administration was still responsible for any deaths that may have followed from its enforcement of the sanctions.

Quite simply untrue. Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athists were responsible. Clinton was no more responsible for the deaths of Iraqis at the hands of their leaders than Eisenhower was responsible for the deaths of Soviet dissidents in gulags.

Your endless efforts to make false equivalencies are getting to be tiresome. "Everyone" does not share blame equally in the Iraq debacle. Not even close. All wars are not the same, and just because mistakes were made before does not excuse mistakes now nor does it make them equivalent, unimportant, or exempt from accountability.

Those sentiments are just misdirection for political purposes under the guise of being fair.

Posted by: trex on June 21, 2006 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

If the goal of the invasion of Iraq was to create an enduring war so W could continue to be a "war president," then it hasn't failed at all but is a resounding success.

Posted by: Brian Boru on June 21, 2006 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

GOP --
you spin your wheels so much you are disappearing into your own swamp of repugnut fecal matter.

We'll just say it one more time.
THE SANCTIONS ARE NOT CLINTON'S.

The UN voted them in under G. Bush, Sr. and were supported by the Security Council, the coalition countries, and a majority of the UN General Assembly. Many countries continued to support them throughout the next 12 years. There was never any serious attempt among the UN members to remove them.

If not you then plenty of other repugnuts including your inglorious leaders have tried to claim that all the prior UN resolutions regarding Iraq somehow sanctioned the US 2003 invasion, so UN resolutions do have some validity, even with repugnuts.

There's some common denominator between you and GW. I'm just not quite getting it . . . something about lack of intellectual rigor . . . intellectual honesty . . . dissembling . . . .

Hello? HELLO? Yeah. The line's dead.

Posted by: notthere on June 21, 2006 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan, on another thread you posted a bunch of regrettable utterances about Kosovo by Republicans. I left a note for you, praising that effort, and possibly elaborating it, on that thread. That was a good post.

Oh, thanks very much, that was extremely nice and very gracious of you. I appreciate the gesture.

Posted by: Stefan on June 21, 2006 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

If you've worked for the governement, you'd seriously doubt thing could have played out much better (without 20/20 hindsite).

Posted by: aaron on June 21, 2006 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

republicrat - Yet the fact remains that the Oil for Food program was a failure from the start; its only effect was to give the Baathist regime enough cash to increase its military power and living standards.

This is not correct. The oil for food program increased average caloric intake for Iraqi's from 1200 to 2200 Calories per day. It reduced malnutrition among children under 5 by more than half, produced significant reductions in chronic malnutrition and reduced acute malnutrition and underwight children to near pre-war levels.

http://www.un.org/depts/oip/sector-nutrition.html

The levels of corruption, mismanagement and transparency in the Oil for Food Program all compare favorably to either the U.S. run Iraqi Provisional Authority which couldn't account for nearly $8 billion in spending, or to the Katrina relief effort which has been marred by fraud, inefficiencies and poor oversight.

Posted by: Tanj on June 21, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

More nonsense. The Bush Administration's justification for the invasion explicitly included regime change to stop the killing of Iraqis by Saddam, and the humanitarian purpose of ending the death and injury caused by the sanctions.

This is more of the same nonsense from GOP. Clinton relaxed the sanctions. By the time he left office, Iraqi oil revenues were 20 billion a year. If the food and medicine did not get to the people, how is that Clinton's fault?

Posted by: bblog on June 21, 2006 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Tanj: The oil for food program increased average caloric intake for Iraqi's from 1200 to 2200 Calories per day. It reduced malnutrition among children under 5 by more than half, produced significant reductions in chronic malnutrition and reduced acute malnutrition and underwight children to near pre-war levels.

And yet there was persistent pressure even during the Clinton administration to end the sanctions, and widely believed reportage about all the damage they were doing. Pre-war health figures from Iraq all depend on Iraqi health ministry reports, and those were consistently fudged in order to send whatever message the Baathist govt. wanted to get out. There was no independent verification of anything, and visitors/inspectors were not permitted to visit anyplace without Iraqi govt minders, and most places were never visited even under that restriction. Although you cited the UN, and although the UN tries hard, the fact remains that there are no reliable health data from Iraq from the era 1991-2003.

Three U.S. presidents enforced the sanctions regime that was created by the UN. The Baathist regime used the sanctions to enrich itself and increase its power over other Iraqis, and to wage a public relations campaign to evoke sympathy from the rest of the world, especially the Arab world. If there is American "blame" for Iraqi deaths under the sanctions regime, then the blame is bipartisan.

The levels of corruption, mismanagement and transparency in the Oil for Food Program all compare favorably to either the U.S. run Iraqi Provisional Authority which couldn't account for nearly $8 billion in spending, or to the Katrina relief effort which has been marred by fraud, inefficiencies and poor oversight. In terms of scale, and the fact that the Katrina disaster was a fairly sudden event, I think that you have the rank orderings wrong. The Oil for Food program inadvertantly enabled Iraq to sell about 50% more than its allowed oil quota, and all the extra revenue went to maintain the Baathists, especially at the highest levels. It gave them the cash they needed to contuously upgrade their air defense system which was involved in a continuous shooting war against American and British aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones.

All three presidents and leaders of both Congressional delegations have made mistakes. The biggest mistake by bush I was allowing the Baathist regime to use the remnants of its air force to wage war against the Kurds and Shi'ites. However, the Democrats had the majority in congress, and a majority of Democrats had spoken against and voted against Desert Storm; Bush had gotten minimal domestic backing for the war, and international cooperation, by promising not to do more than necessary to force the Iraqi troops out of Kuwait; he probably felt that his support would evaporate if he got the US involved in the civil war; only after the reconquest by the Baathists was it clear what a mistake that was, and even then there was not universal agreement that it was a mistake. The no-fly zones were created, but after a time only the US and GB enforced them. Most American politicians said that it was unfortunate that the Baathists won, but it was better for the US to have stayed uninvolved.

Only after 17 UNSC resolutions could a president get Congressional support for stronger action, and that support has been strongly but not universally bi-partisan.

Posted by: republicrat on June 21, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

This will be remembered as the Seinfeld of administrations: No hugging, and no learning.

Posted by: Kenji on June 21, 2006 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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