Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pajamas Media at the Iraqi Parliament Blast

Richard Miniter was at the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad when it was bombed killing 8 and injuring over 20. His report is at Pajamas Media. Here's an excerpt:

Heavily-armed men from Triple Canopy, mostly Peruvian, escorted every one inside the building into a parking lot ringed with a 10-foot high chain-link fence. This became a holding pen. An American Triple Canopy employee told me that they suspected the bomber may have had an accomplice in the building. Therefore, everyone was going to held and searched. ... No one here has any confidence in Iraqi security, which is responsible for maintaining security around the convention center.

The war is being fought at every level. Bill Roggio comments on the split of the Islamic Army of Iraq from al-Qaeda. "There are no optimal solutions in ending an insurgency - the most practical solution to end the Sunni insurgency is to cause the it to fracture and turn on itself." Part of the process of internecine fighting is playing out at the highest political levels.


Blogger Pierre said...

This is getting uglier and uglier. Being mixed up in sectarian violence is not exactly what I had in mind when I advocated going in to depose Saddam. Becoming less and less sure that we can fix the unfixable tribal wars of Islam.

If the Bush administration is losing folks like me then the Iraq battle in the war against Islam is finished.

4/12/2007 09:56:00 PM  
Blogger Harrison said...

Roggio is right in saying that neither of these trends of continuity of intra-sectarian internecine infighting even hints towards the over-optimistic objective of reconciliation.

Our best bet would be to let the intra-sectarian rivalries play themselves out, while keeping in consideration that whatever entity emerges from the skirmish, we are ready to take them on without empowering them in the process.

I do not believe for a moment that these Sunnis are sincere when they say that they believe that the Iraqi Army is acting in the best interests of the Iraqis, and therefore aQ should be condemned; yet we must acknowledge that events are not always controlled by humans, and however the tide turns, we would be best-suited to grasp the time window and sideline aQ further.

Besides, sidelining aQ would considerably negate external intervention in terms of funding and arming the insurgency by foreign actors such as KSA and Iran - at least for the time being. Whether the remaining Sunni groups would be tempted to receive similar assistance by KSA and Iran is left up in the air.

4/12/2007 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...

I am afraid that the beginning of a collapse has already begun. It is very ominous that the Turkish military is making noises about Kurdistan.

If the US cannot defend parliamentarians in the Green Zone, they cannot protect anyone anywhere in Iraq. Thinking of DaNang as it was in 1966, I thought it incredible that the NVA and VC could have ever overrun it, but they did, and captured it with most of the equipment intact. The South Vietnamese dropped their equipment and ran. Does anyone think the Iraqi police or army are better prepared than the South Vietnamese were? A collapse happens fast when a collective moment of despair and hopelessness arrives. What possibly could be giving the Iraqis hope for a future Iraq?

There is little political discussion in the US that can be giving much comfort to those believing in a continued US presence. Even the enablers of the Bush Administration are throwing in the towel.

At this stage, it is time for serious people to consider what the US and others should or can do when the collapse of the Iraqi will arrives. It is a perfect nightmare.

4/12/2007 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger Ticker said...

In a newscast I just saw (passing by a TV) the reporter said that security for the Iraqi Parliament had been removed from US troops "because their searches were too intrusive" to more culturally sensitive Iraqi security men. But when the bomb blew, it was the Triple Canopy people who, through some Darwinian process, took charge and nobody seemed to mind in the least.

4/13/2007 12:44:00 AM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...

Wretchard it begs belief!

4/13/2007 01:48:00 AM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

If the noble purple-figered freedom lovers cannot be trusted to protect their own Parliament in their own capital city and have to rely on US-paid Peruvian mercenaries - what's the point?

Bush and the neocons - along with Pentagon suck-ups that happy-talked the situation for 3 years -will be properly dealt with in the history books for the 3rd most expensive, 1st most badly managed war in US history.

As 2164th said, it is time to start seriously considering the consequences of Iraq's collapse and US withdrawal from trying to save the noble purple fingered ones from other noble purple-fingered ones. The economic and political consequences and impact on US security of losing this war are greater than our exposure when the feckless S Vietnamese managed to lose the Vietnam War.....but though Bush has destroyed a significant part of the military's equipment and not replaced it so his tax cuts can continue to the wealthy, he hasn't yet collapsed the military's morale as it was post-Vietnam.

Senator Webb noted though, that Service Academy attrition - those officers who elect to leave the military at 1st opportunity - is now as high as it was in the early 1970s. While huge new bonuses are attracting and retaining desired classes of soldiers, standards have begun to be lowered significantly. Worrying signs are there. He noted that American military morale was lower following the Communist victory than the year we left (1973).

And Nixon was far more competent than Bush II. His Vietnamization was actually a well thought out, comprehensive plan he had adequate troops for and a slowly improving, but still half-ass military drawn from the less affluent Vietnamese. They weren't blowing each other up, and many ARVN units were truly crack and well-respected.

We "left with honor", as the saying went then. Leaving a reasonably stable military and government behind, just one not as committed as the Commies were. The loss of Vietnam was more on them not us, though it was still a huge blow to US prestige and influence.

Leaving Iraq will not be a "leaving with honor" will be an outlasted military withdrawing and leaving the noble purple-fingers free to do some serious killing, with help from their Sunni and Shia sponsors...and perhaps Turkey coming in to supress the Kurds and control the northern oil fields.

One - Gigundo - Fiasco.

In another day, Feith,Franks, Wolfowitz, Bush II, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Gen Myers, Bremer, Ledeen, Kristol, Perle, Rice would be escorted to a room, given a pistol with one round in it (or a seppuku sword), and asked to do the honorable thing.

4/13/2007 02:24:00 AM  
Blogger vbwyrde said...

It is always striking how the Liberals back bite the Administration from its first day in office in 2000 ("Bush stole the election from that good honest man, Al Gore"), thereby sending crushing blows to the morale of the nation (just look at their hate-Bush vitriol - jeeze!), and in particular the troops, and then when the after effect of years of this are seen in lower moral and a stymied war effort, they then turn and blame ... guess who? Never in a million years do they acknowledge their own culpability in destroying morale. It's all Bush's fault! Hahha. What a joke.

Well the last laugh will be on the Liberals who will be first in line for the Islamofascist Death Squads. Of course, they will go down to their graves blaming Bush, instead of themselves. "Bush ... did ... it ... to ... me ... aaaggg"

Gotta just love the self-righteous trumpeting - "See see!?! We're LOSING the War!! Ha ha ha!! George Bush SUCKS!! We're Losing!! Ha ha!! I was right!! Look at me!! You're stupid! Ha ha! I'm so brilliant!! You're stupid!! Ha ha. LOSING!!"

I suspect the actual Enemy will have the last laugh, because it looks a lot like our Libs are in the process of destroying any chance we had of defeating them (which would be very difficult to do even in the best of circumstances). At least until the Islamofascists try their next wave of State-side death-dealing. Then maybe we'll get a second shot. And if not, welcome to Burkah-World, folks. ETA: Five Years.

And remember Libs: Blame George. HE's the culprit. Not Al Qaeda, or Iran, or N. Korea, or anyone else. ONLY George! Very important to keep focused on George. HE is the great Sith-Moron, after all.

Of course after his term is over and ZERO percent of their dire hate-mongering predictions about his taking over the world for oil come true, well, it will all be forgotten (the lies that is). Instead they'll stand around smugly congratulating themselves.

"Nice Burkah, Mary."

"Thanks, Bob. At least George Bush is out of office!"

"Thank God for that. Allah Akbar!"

"You too, and Death to America!"

"Thanks. Let's do lunch later. DTA!"


4/13/2007 05:11:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

This is totally predictable. If you have been reading the Kagan artciles and Bill's own pieces, you know that the new face of the insurgency is Sunni attacks on Sunni.

The combination of the new "clear and hold" tactics and the fact that the Sunnis lost the Battle of Baghdad against Sadar means that an increasing number of Sunni sheiks have turned against the insurgents. Their previous policy was getting them killed and the No Safe Haven approach meant that more of them would be killed. And their allies in the U.S. won an election and then more of them got killed. They eventually decided that getting killed was a bad thing. As Winston said, the threat does tend to focus your mind.

4/13/2007 06:09:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...


I see that you suffer from BDS (Bush Defender Syndrome).

Seek help!

4/13/2007 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

The economic and political consequences and impact on US security of losing this war are greater than our exposure when the feckless S Vietnamese managed to lose the Vietnam War.....

Agreed, but the follow-on statement attempting to indict the President for a future destruction of military morale--in the face of continued political opposition to both the President and this mission--is what truly beggars belief. And let us not forget that while we arguably "left [Vietnam] with honor", as the saying went then. Leaving a reasonably stable military and government behind, just one not as committed as the Commies were, it is not at all fair to place the loss more on "them" than the Democratic Congress who denied the continued support and funding without which they didn't stand a chance.

As little chance, one might add, as Feith, Franks, Wolfowitz, et al would stand were you in a position to ennact the Stalinist tactics you so blithely advocate.

4/13/2007 07:31:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

Anyone want to bet this has nothing to do with Iran?

Its Beirut all over again.

The USA is Iraq's Leviathan.

If we don't stay, Iran will move in like Syria did into Lebanon.

Yes, its ugly. But the alternative is so much uglier.

We have to grunt it out.

4/13/2007 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

It was the Congress of the United States, sirius sir, a small "d" & small "r" democratic, republican Congress.

Chosen by the people, the voters, of the United States. Not some foreign entity made up of "them" but duly elected representitves of the people of the United States.

As per design.

That those representitives chose to abandon the South Vietnamese government speaks to the United States, not a political party within it.

4/13/2007 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

And who controlled that small 'd' democratic congress? The Democrats perchance? (Setting a precedent, perhaps?)

4/13/2007 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The Armed Forces Journal has an interesting story:

Beyond the surge
An Iraq plan should be in place now for what comes next

"Strategists have long agreed with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Plans are nothing; planning is everything." ...

All strategies flow from objectives and the context of a given situation. In Iraq, our objectives are likely to continue in the same vein as President Bush's: a unified Iraq that can govern, defend and sustain itself, and ultimately become an ally in the war on terrorism. Standing in the way of our efforts is a high level of sectarian violence, a multifaceted insurgency and rampant lawlessness.
Planners might consider a number of alternative strategies. More surge? If the surge is successful, it should be maintained as long as we can man it. My estimates suggest that the surge can be manned and maintained with some difficulty for up to 24 months. But it might not survive that long.

The surge can succeed militarily but fail politically. Our allies may not deliver on their promises, or sectarian reconciliation may not take place. The surge may even succeed on the ground but too slowly to stem the tide of U.S. domestic politics. Opponents of the surge will also be able to cite declining military readiness as a point in their favor.
Full Iraqization? As the surge ages or unravels, our planners might want to craft an option that puts more weight on the Iraqis and gradually reduces U.S. force levels. This option would move U.S. combat forces out of cities and feature the steady buildup of Iraqi forces. The U.S. would abandon offensive counterinsurgency operations and shift its main effort to equipping and advising Iraqi forces, while also maintaining maneuver units to protect those advisers or prevent the Iraqi regime from suffering serious defeats.

To succeed, this plan would require a force of about 32,000 troops in Iraq, as well as a regional stability force of 35,000 troops in Kuwait. Along with regional air and naval assets, forces in Iraq would be divided into an advisory element of 10,000 officers, NCOs and civilians to train and advise Iraqi military and police forces; an in-country protection and support force of three mobile brigades (roughly 15,000 troops) to serve as in extremis combat force and as a second line of U.S. protection for advisers and reconstruction teams; a 2,000-soldier Special Forces element to combat foreign terrorists in Iraq; and a 5,000-person headquarters, logistics and air-support element. ..."

An end game very similar to what I advocated, for a number of years now.
Read more for yourself.

Mr Bush should announce a November or December '07 security mission hand off to the Iraqi Government, then, with Mr Maiki, draft a planned reduction in US forces to the levels mentioned above, timelined to December 2010.

It would change the entire tone of the debate, cutting the Dems off at the pass, while still allowing US participation in the conflict for three more years, and beyond.

Declare success and the completion of the original mission, then move forward to the next phase of the adventure.

4/13/2007 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The voters controlled the Congress.
They chose the Representitives, knowing full well who and what they were voting for.

4/13/2007 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

A current example is in Virginia, '06. The voters in Virginia knew full well the differences between Mr Webb and Mr Allen.

They chose Mr Webb.

The voters of Virgina have the both the authority and responsibility for that decision.

4/13/2007 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

Did the voters this time vote for defeat, too?

Just asking, since you seem to know.

4/13/2007 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger Pierre said...

And remember Libs: Blame George. HE's the culprit. Not Al Qaeda, or Iran, or N. Korea, or anyone else. ONLY George! Very important to keep focused on George. HE is the great Sith-Moron, after all.

You know at the end of the day the people who most get on my nerves are those who defend Bush no matter what he does. And before your knickers get twisted up to much consider that I might be convinced he is one of the greatest Presidents of the 20th century.

But he makes mistakes. Blaming the liberals for our failure is tantamount to the Cowboys blaming the Steelers for beating the crap out of them in Super Bowls. It is a true statement but not a useful statement since the Cowboys can only control themselves. It is the Cowboys who lost those games by not playing better than the Steelers...the Steelers were only doing what they do best...playing to win. This is exactly the same situation that we see ourselves in vis a vis Democrat vs Republican.

I am sick to death of hearing people like Sean Hannity endlessly bleating about how mean the Democrats are...pleeeeease. Instead of complaining how mean the Democrats are how about complaining how incompetent the Republicans are to not have beaten the Democrats around the head and shoulders with the obvious cowardice that the Demos suffer from? How about complaining about the incompetence of the Conservative philosophers who lost years ago the battle for the hearts and minds of the opinion makers in the schools, colleges, press and the rest of the opinion centers.

We need to stop complaining about the other team and start beating the other team. Sheesh whats next we complain about how the Jihadist play dirty....oh wait we already do that.

4/13/2007 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

They voted, seems to me, for a new course. That the general consensus is that the present course, as Mr Bush said after the Election, was leading to "Slow Failure".

I think the public would like to have Victory defined, then achieved. Just as Mr Cheney described in 1993:

Before you commit U.S. forces, there are certain questions you need to be able to answer. You need an objective that you can define in military terms. Our military knows how to liberate a country, destroy a navy, take down an air force; those are militarily achievable objectives. But if you say, "Go in and stop the bloodshed in Bosnia," that's not sufficiently clear to build a mission around. ...
The soldier or marine in the trenches needs ground rules -- what we call "rules of engagement" -- about how he is to achieve his mission. Whom does he shoot? How much force can he use, and under what circumstances? That's very difficult to define in this nebulous kind of civil war that's been raging in Bosnia. Who's the enemy? And how do you tell the good guys from the bad guys? Is this a three-sided conflict among Serb, Muslim, and Croat, or a two-sided conflict between Muslim and Serb? That's never been very well defined.

You also need to know what constitutes victory. How would you define it? How would you know when you had achieved it? And finally, how do you get out? What's the end game? How do you wrap it all up? And what's the cost in terms of American lives in that involvement? Nobody answered these questions with respect to Bosnia.

Is there any reason to expect that an age-old conflict based on animosities that go back for hundreds of years is going to be ameliorated or ended by the temporary presence of U.S. military force? I don't think so. And for all of those reasons, I was, and still am, very reluctant to see us rely on U.S. forces to solve Bosnia's problems. I am afraid we would have an ill-defined mission, we would take significant casualties, and would get involved without knowing how we were going to get out.

Perhaps that is what the public voted for.

4/13/2007 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

first time listener, first time caller...nice level of discourse here.
desert's my understanding that that is essentially the meat of the supplemental bill congress has passed and bush has promised to veto...fall back and transition to a training and advisory role. i'm not sure how that cuts the dems off at the pass...but as i don't see this as a football game between the dems and the reps it doesn't matter to me.
the reality is that our policies have left us between a rock and a hard place...we cannot leave whistling que sera sera...but we cannot sustain troops at this level for long. nor is it right to keep expanding the tours of our troops. bidens plan for federalization...which he has been touting for a long time and has been discounted by the administration...may give us the best hope for an edgy stability. one problem no one seems to be talking much about, and the article you pasted doesn't mention, is that the best and the brightest of the iraqis have left. not to make a gross generalization...but what's left in iraq can't be pretty...and probably not the best foundation to build a nation upon.

4/13/2007 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/13/2007 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

I say, "cut the Dems off at the pass" in regards a "quick" withdrawal, without a viable end game. Which is what many of the advocate.
Out by March '08, for the most part.
A partitioned Iraq seems inevitable, we should embrace the idea. Mr al-Sadr's people in the Ministry of Health do not need to control hospitals in Anbar or Kurdistan. The people in those regions will fight to stop that kind of governmental management plan. The Iraqi National flag does not fly in Kurdistan.

4/13/2007 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger Pyrthroes said...

Keep your eye on the ball... Coalition forces are in Iraq due to global Islamic terrorism that attacked America on 9/11 and will seize any opportunity to wreak biological, chemical, even nuclear havoc once again.

The best defense is a good offense, and the best offense is to extirpate tyrants like Saddam Hussein, provide security to civilian populations in a representative democratic context, believing that over time Light and Life will trump Islam's Wahabist death-cult of darkness and despair. Is that so complicated?

When American and Coalition forces depart Iraq, an artifice of WWI in any case, we hope that Iraqi Shia and Sunni alike will adopt peace-and-prosperity as their birthright. Those who dismiss this goal, characterizing fundamental human values as mere Western imperialism, bourgeois consumerism, insensitivity to Mullahdom's bigoted sectarian dogmatists, have much to answer for.

We have just read an illustrated history of Second Manassas (Second Bull Run), fought in August 1862. Lee and Jackson ran rings 'round the overconfident General Pope. Over three days, casualties reached five figures. Many units lost near 90% of their effectives, in horrendous circumstances of massed artillery barrages, bayonet and cavalry charges, mile-long battle lines blasting each other 60 yards apart. Lincoln wept.

The troops themselves, post-adolescents from North and South, attacked each other with a fury inconceivable today. Postponed for decades, when war came Second Manassas "chill(ed) the body but not the soul"... the mind recoils.

This conflict was not "Lincoln's War" any more than exterminating brutal jihadists belongs to one George Bush. Had McClellan and his Copperhead "Peace Democrats" prevailed in 1864 --sundering the Union, embracing chattel slavery-- all would have had to be done over, likely to pacify a bloodbath engulfing all the Old South's delusive cavaliers. Today's parallels strike close to home.

Should America retreat in haste from Iraq and Afghanistan, depend upon it we shall experience catastrophe that risks "insensate spasm" in retaliation. Reactionary passive-ists spout words, mere words, as did the League and Neville Chamberlain, as does the dishonored, maleficent UN today. Blitzkrieg looms.

After Carter's hostage debacle in 1979, Brezhnev's emboldened Soviet Politburo took mere months to mount a coup in Kabul and surge south. Do today's Blue State delegations know or care that Peking's squalid Commissars await their chance to move in massive force against Taiwan? After Vietnam's boat-people, the Khmer Rouge democide that destroyed near 60% of that abandoned country's populace (April 11, 1994: Happy Anniversary, Rwanda, from Kofi and the gang), how could our Seventh Fleet stand by?

Chaos lingers... envision Teddy Roosevelt fighting Third Manassas, with young Douglas MacArthur in Pope's place. Prevention is the only cure. Take heed.

4/13/2007 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

A little simplistic maybe but still it gives a quick overview, comedic mind you, of our Progress in Iraq

4/13/2007 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

that was a tremendous display of conflation, starry-eyed optimism, and in the case of our own civil war...amazingly bogus analogy. and while i appreciate the effort it took to compose...the overwhelming problem of today is that foreign policy based upon conflation, starry-eyed optimism, and amazingly bogus analogy is what got us into the disaster we currently have on our hands.
the challenge we face is to examine reality as it currently exists, and determine a way forward that will allow us to re-address religious extremists that wish to do us harm, while extricating ourselves from the civil war the civilian leadership of this nation allowed to take hold in iraq. i'm afraid that will take a lot more than conflation, starry-eyed optimism, and bogus analogies.

4/13/2007 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Tom_Holsinger said...

We're winning in Iraq. Ethnic cleansing of the Sunni Arabs by their Shiite victims is doing it for us. Foreign terrorists as well as Sunni Arab terrorists operate only from Sunni Arab areas.

The SOP is for American forces to go into Sunni Arab areas and suppress the Sunni Arab militias that keep out the Shiite death squads and militias. Then Iraqi govt. paramilitary and police forces (almost all Shiite) come in and eliminate the Sunni Arab militias.

Then the American forces leave and the Shiite death squads and militias come in to drive out the Sunni Arabs. This is a constantly repeated pattern now. At least half the Sunni Arabs who used to live in Iraq have fled, mostly in the past year.

Here is what Jim Dunnigan said of this on Strategy Page yesterday:

"... The movement of thousands of terrorist personnel from Baghdad resulted in many of them being caught or killed. In the last two months, three senior al Qaeda leaders have been caught, and over 500 terrorists killed or captured. Lots of documents and other evidence was also scooped up, and many of the captured terrorists are in a talkative mood. Sunni Arabs are showing the effects of four years on-the-run. While many of the captured terrorists express despair, and believe they have no choice but to fight to the end, they do seek a less dismal outcome. But Sunni Arabs in general know that the majority of Iraqis hate them, mainly for what Saddam and his crew did. While Saddam was in power, the Sunni Arabs prospered, and everyone else suffered. Now it's time for payback.

Most senior government officials, going against popular sentiment, don't want to kill or expel the entire Sunni Arab population. That's over two million people, and would be a disaster on several levels. The Sunni Arabs are a disproportionate number of Iraqis university trained professionals. Without them, Iraq would have to import foreigners to do a lot of these jobs until, a decade hence, enough Shia Arabs and Kurds could be trained. Less of a problem is the worldwide condemnation for the "group punishment" of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs. But on the street level, most Iraqis note that the Sunni Arab community has not been able to stop the terrorists living in their midst. This, plus the sins committed when Saddam was in charge, merit expulsion of the entire Sunni Arab community. If it were put to a vote, the Sunni Arabs would be gone."

Iraq's Sunni Arabs are dead men walking.

4/13/2007 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Sounds like AQ has bigger PR problems than GWB. Wars end when one side sees extermination as a more likely outcome than victory, or in the alternative gets exterminated. The sooner the Sunnis get there, one way or the other, the sooner things will quiet down enough to go Shia on Shia for a few months.

After that we'll have something resembling a national Iraq government and we can shift to worrying about keeping the F-22s on our mega Iraq airbase properly maintained. Keeping a thumb in the eye of the Persians, the Turks, the Russians and the Arabs is the best we're ever going to get.

4/13/2007 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Eric said...


cedarford's comments strike me as (political science) "realist", rather than "liberal". Domestic opposition to OIF has been so strong because it mixes pressure from influential political theory from both the political left and right.

In 2006, was the voters' message in support of a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, as spun by OIF opponents, or simply a message of discontent against the GOP? The two don't imply the same thing. The voters' message may actually be for our nation's elected representatives to lead better than the GOP-led government has done. I point at Lieberman vs Lamont. The Conn election was the definitive case of an OIF supporter who's not a GOPer and is critical of the Bush admin running against a candidate defined by OIF opposition. Lieberman won. So, what does that say? Is the consensus of the American people that we want out of Iraq NOW, no matter what, or do we actually want our nation's leaders to *succeed* in Iraq, and then get out?

BDS as Bush Defender Syndrome - I'll indulge. I am an OIF supporter who, since 2002, had grave doubts but supported OIF because I believed we were caught in a set of bad choices. That set of choices was not the fault of President Bush.

During my 97-01 Army service, as we tracked the Iraq situation, it was pretty much consensus that our returning to Iraq was a matter of "when" and "how", not "if" ... and it was going to be a hard, ugly affair when we went back.

I served mostly in Korea. At the time, USFK constituted supposedly our most forward deployed units that were prepared to go to war as-is at any moment with nK. Therefore, *nothing* that has gone wrong in Iraq surprises me. Everything that has gone wrong is what I predicted would go wrong in Korea if we went to war with nK. Even as a lower enlisted GI, it was obvious to me we could win the war (though I would die, most likely), but we had little-to-no planning nor institutional system for ops beyond Phase 3. Worse, the military was culturally opposed to prepare for operations other than war beyond the most cursory level required to manage a hand-off to the hypothetical next guy, whoever that might be. That's an older and deeper systemic issue than the current President; problems with our Army revealed in Iraq were not caused by him. If the Bush admin can be faulted regarding the state of the military, it should be as a war-time Commander in Chief not micro-managing enough in terms of systemic reform, and not acting quickly and aggressively enough to push deep - even radical - changes of the military as our weaknesses, hidden by peace-time, have been (skillfully) exposed by real-world enemies in real-world situations. The same can be said of our diplomatic failings - the negative international reaction to President Clinton's Op Desert Fox in 1998 is eerily similar to negative international reaction to OIF.

In other words, President Bush was dealt a losing hand. He inherited our problems with Iraq and the region in general, a military designed for major combat and little else, and an international community already unwilling to resolve the Iraq dilemma. Meanwhile, 9/11 forced Bush - all of us - to reevaluate the US relation with the entire region, starting with our mission in Iraq. I won't blame President Clinton (my CinC, when I served), either. Clinton inherited the disarmament, then containment/punitive Iraq mission, too. Blame Bush the elder? Coming out as the victors of the Cold War and leaders of the Free World in 1990, what choice did President Bush the elder have other than intervene in Iraq-Kuwait? Maybe if the international community had been better able to protect the Shah in Iran (Carter) or intervene in the early 1980s (Reagan) to stop the Iran-Iraq war before it escalated ...

Be that as it may, it's amazing to look back now and recognize that so much of our fate after Desert Storm depended on compliant behavior from Saddam Hussein. When we didn't get that from him, no surprise, the course to 9/11 and where we are today was pretty much charted.

9/11, by itself, didn't radically change our relationship with Iraq. 9/11 just forced us to confront what we had done our best to avoid - the negative development of our relationship with the region during the decade we managed the US/UN mission in Iraq.

It's easy to forget now that the original post-Desert Storm disarmament mission wasn't about regime change. It was about de-fanging Saddam Hussein enough so he could continue to 'stabilize' Iraq without again threatening regional stability. But the disarmament regimen, as we all know, collapsed. In 1998, US policy for Iraq was re-set at "Iraq liberation". President Clinton, in announcing Op Desert Fox, effectively made the crossover from disarmament to containment/punishment when he stated "Iraq has abused its final chance". Whereas the original intent had been for Saddam to bail himself out of trouble on our terms, which would have been the best outcome for us, over the years, the US/UN mission had evolved to the point that it was practically impossible for Saddam to submit to the terms of the international community and retain power, even assuming he was willing and able to do so. If Saddam was willing and able, his best chance to meet the conditions of his 'probation' was in the early 1990s, but even before the US and UN piled on the conditions, it's debatable whether Saddam compliance was a realistic prospect after the 1991 Shia uprising. We were demanding of Saddam that he weaken himself at the same time he needed all the strength he could muster to stay in power. If there was any room to resolve the situation with Saddam in power, it was certainly gone by 1998. Saddam was stuck and he made the best of the situation, the best way he knew how. Unfortunately, we were stuck, too.

After Op Desert Fox set the bar, we only had 3 choices - all bad - concerning Iraq:

Choice A: Continue the status quo containment/punitive mission indefinitely.

Choice A, the pre-OIF status quo, incorporates the unwillingness both to set Saddam free and to immerse ourselves in the violent and age-old conflicts of the region. However, what was the end-state of the pre-OIF mission in Iraq? By 2002, certainly not disarmament any longer. That ship had sailed. If the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act can be accepted at face value, the end-state was to weaken the Baathist regime to the degree that civil war could take place, which implies sectarian violence, Iranian intervention, Kurdish separation, Sunni extremist intervention, secondary effects of Iraq collapse ... basically, all the doomsday stuff applied to the current situation in Iraq, except without our (attempt at) managing the post-Saddam Iraq and any secondary regional effects. Note, when the Shia did revolt, after we encouraged them, the US declined to support the revolt out of fear of the consequences of an Iraq collapse.

BTW, Muqtada al-Sadr's father was one of the revolutionaries who was killed for believing in broken American promises. Keep that in mind when we consider breaking more American promises and the cost of betrayal.

What was the long-term forecast for Choice A? The best outcome, assuming we could sustain the containment/punishment mission in perpetuity, was that the end-state would never be reached. Saddam and we would have found a comfort zone - an unoffical agreement - whereby he stayed in control of Iraq, while not threatening his neighbors, and the US/UN containment/punishment mission could have continued, well, forever. In that outcome, we accept in perpetuity all the costs, harm, secondary effects, and risks that came with the status quo mission.

Choice B: Unilaterally end the containment/punishment mission and (possibly) seek to make Saddam a 'secular' security partner in the region.

Choice B, in a post 9/11 evaluation, would have recognized that the costs of the containment/punishment regimen outweighed the benefits, and opted for diplomacy to negotiate with Saddam so we could end our pre-OIF mission in Iraq. Choice B is what a lot of folks *rhetorically* prefer now, but was it ever a realistic choice, considering where we were? Or even a wise choice, considering who we're talking about and the implications and consequences of this choice?

Choice C: Give Saddam a hard deadline to comply with the US/UN conditions, and if he failed to do so, move ahead with regime change.

Like Choice B, Choice C recognizes that post 9/11, the costs of the containment/punishment regimen outweighed the benefits, but unlike Choice B, Choice C is not willing to forgive/forget the preceding decade of Saddam's failure to comply and give American sanction to a re-empowered, victorious Saddam. As well, Choice C, in theory, holds forth that the international community can mitigate the end-state consequences of Choice A by managing an Iraq post-Saddam transition, as opposed to the uncontrolled Iraq collapse implied by the Iraq Liberation Act.

** Choice D, made possible only with OIF: End the containment/punishment regimen, remove the Saddam threat, and rather than pay the costs of managing Iraq transition, heap all responsibility onto a political scapegoat (President Bush) for any consequences from abandoning Iraq.

No matter what choice - A, B, or C - we made, it was going to be a hard one, but they were the only choices we had left.

OIF has been derided as a war of choice, but the status quo of Choice A was a choice, too. If 9/11 hadn't happened and spotlighted the Iraq mission, I believe President Bush would have settled for maintaining Choice A and passed on the Iraq dilemma to the next guy, spun as a successful containment mission. At least, that's how Clinton spun Iraq and how Bush spun it when he first took office. Like it or not, after over 10 years of disarmament/containment/punishment, we were already sharing much responsibility and bearing costs for a bad situation in Iraq. One of those costs was the Al Qaeda phenomenon that focused next-generation Islamic extremist rage on the US, no matter how justified the pre-OIF Iraq mission may have been in our context as a world leader.

When I talk to anyone who opposes OIF (Choice C), I ask them to choose either Choice A or Choice B and defend their decision. Even knowing what we know now, should we have maintained the pre-OIF status quo in Iraq in perpetuity or 'diplomatically' withdrawn from Iraq and empowered a victorious Saddam? For me, what emerges from that debate is that Choice C is the best, or at least most responsible, of a set of bad choices. Our fault lies not in making the choice, but not reforming our systemic weaknesses fast enough and not executing the mission well enough. For me, the right answer is to make the necessary improvements in order to succeed in this mission, whoever leads our nation, not Choice D.

In 2007, we can now make a new choice, Choice D. Or we can reaffirm our commitment to Choice C and do what we must, reform/change what we must, in order to successfully achieve the end-state described by President Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003: "The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq."

We've been victorious in overcoming tough circumstances before. At the same time, we've also surrendered, broken promises, and abandoned allies to their deaths before, too.

You can be a harsh critic of President Bush and still advocate for victory in Iraq - SEN Lieberman proves that. To paraphrase Peter Parker in Spiderman 2, there are bigger things happening in the world concerning us than the local competition between Democrats and Republicans. Perhaps, the biggest decision as an American people that has been thrust upon us by OIF is whether we choose to be a world leader, with all the costs and responsibilities that implies, or not.

4/13/2007 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

lieberman won a close election in conn. largely because the challenger had little experience and people felt that at least lieberman could still get things done...he made the dubious claim of saving jobs at the sub base for instance. i have little doubt he would lose if it was re-run today.
as for choices abc...while i would stop short of calling them false choices...i'm still not sure i buy it. just on the face of it i can imagine methods of regime change that didn't necessarily require oif, as you call it. plus this ignores the facct that the neo-cons had been itching to go after saddam since the '90s. 9.11 provided an excuse for what they wanted to do, not a deadline.

at any rate it's all spilt milk.

4/13/2007 01:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric, thanks for providing the context, logic and choices that faced and will face us. Nice run-down.

4/13/2007 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger vbwyrde said...

I would just like to make it clear that my comment did not in any way actually Defend President Bush's policies. My comment is exclusively focused on the fact that the so-called Liberals are attacking him with a vitriol that is bound to have a negative effect on morale overall. How can you serve in the military and feel confident when half the country appears to be saying "BushChimpHitler"? Frankly, what I am objecting to is not the reasoned arguments of the Democrats / Liberals. I am objecting to the hideously divisive vitriol and mocking attitude they have expressed toward the President of the United States. It is disgraceful, whether or not the President is competent or not. Even if he is not competent, the vitriol itself makes the rational discussion of policy highly problematic. Sure, Liberals, for whatever reason, believe that the President is secretly some sort of Sith Lord / Imbecile. Fine. He isn't, but that's ok. You can believe what you want. But when you come out in the public arena and call him BushChimpHitler in front of the entire world community you do the entire Nation a dreadful disservice, and undermine our collective cause. As a result the enemies of the United States are encouraged and heartened, while our own people are demoralized. The Liberals refuse to admit their culpability and instead bray ceaselessly about how Horrid and Stupid and Disastrous the President is. They started the bray-parade immediately after he was elected, well before 9/11. The total accumulation of Bush-Hate has had its (unintended?) effect.

That is my point.

As for the President, I wish him well because I wish our Nation well. That's all.

What I find most gauling is that the so-called Liberals think that they're so in the Right that they can justify any extreme of language or action, just so that they can exercise their Bush-Hate (which is really Conservative-Hate because they believe that Conservatives are hell-bent-for-leather on taking over the world and creating The Roman Empire III. I appreciate the concern - but I think the fear has overwhelmed all common sense - This President is not the Sith Lord, sorry.)

And to the American Military and its Allies - Thank you. The Free world is depending on you to ignore the braying and pull victory from the slack-jaw of defeat. Thank you!

4/13/2007 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...


Here are comments by former President Clinton in July 2003 about OIF, on Larry King's show, that helped inform my perspective on OIF. I don't use President Clinton's views in any 'gotcha' sense of a Dem agreeing with a GOPer, but rather to highlight the perspective of the President's immediate predecessor who had access to the same information about the Iraq situation. As well, I'd like to highlight President Clinton's view of the proper perspective and end-state goal in Iraq. "Dole" is former SEN Robert Dole.

KING: While I have you both here, let me get in just a couple of quick questions about the day's events, starting with President Clinton. What did you make of the killing today of Saddam Hussein's two sons?

CLINTON: Well, I think it's good news for, you know, trying to get the situation under better control there and I'm really happy. I'm happy that, you know, that the military did their job, as they always did, and, do, and, you know, those guys were pretty foolish not to give up, I think, but that's not the first stupid mistake they've made. And I hope that it will give the Iraqi people some sense of reassurance, and I hope it will reduce the number of attacks on our men and women over there who are still working trying to pacify the situation. I think it's got to be on balance, quite good news for us.

KING: Your reaction, Senator?

DOLE: Mine's the same. I think these are terrible people, and they inflicted punishment and death and everything they could think of, humiliation on Iraqis for I don't know how many years. And this, I think it's going to put the focus back where it should be.

We're at war with Iraq and next big target is Saddam Hussein. And the Iraqi people, as the president indicated, will start to understand that we're there. We are liberators. We are not trying to occupy Iraq. But it's going to take a while. And this demonstrates again -- you just -- I want to pat the military on the back. These men and women are doing a great job.

KING: President, maybe I can get an area where you may disagree. Do you join, President Clinton, your fellow Democrats, in complaining about the portion of the State of the Union address that dealt with nuclear weaponry in Africa?

CLINTON: Well, I have a little different take on it, I think, than either side.

First of all, the White House said -- Mr. Fleischer said -- that on balance they probably shouldn't have put that comment in the speech. What happened, often happens. There was a disagreement between British intelligence and American intelligence. The president said it was British intelligence that said it. And then they said, well, maybe they shouldn't have put it in.

Let me tell you what I know. When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for. That is, at the end of the first Gulf War, we knew what he had. We knew what was destroyed in all the inspection processes and that was a lot. And then we bombed with the British for four days in 1998. We might have gotten it all; we might have gotten half of it; we might have gotten none of it. But we didn't know. So I thought it was prudent for the president to go to the U.N. and for the U.N. to say you got to let these inspectors in, and this time if you don't cooperate the penalty could be regime change, not just continued sanctions.

I mean, we're all more sensitive to any possible stocks of chemical and biological weapons. So there's a difference between British -- British intelligence still maintains that they think the nuclear story was true. I don't know what was true, what was false. I thought the White House did the right thing in just saying, Well, we probably shouldn't have said that. And I think we ought to focus on where we are and what the right thing to do for Iraq is now. That's what I think.

KING: So do you share that view, Senator Dole?

DOLE: Oh, he's exactly right. Let's put the focus where it belongs.

I never got to be president. I tried a couple of times. But President Clinton understands better than anybody that he gets piles and piles of classified, secret, top secret information, and I don't know how many, maybe the president can tell me. I don't know how much of this goes across your desk every day. It probably shouldn't have been in the message.

But that's history. It's passed. We can't change it. And we need to focus on the real problem.

KING: What do you do, Mr. President, with what's put in front of you?

CLINTON: Well, here's what happens: every day the president gets a daily brief from the CIA. And then, if it's some important issue -- and believe me, you know, anything having to do with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons became much more important to everybody in the White House after September the 11 -- then they probably told the president, certainly Condoleezza Rice, that this is what the British intelligence thought. They maybe have a difference of opinion, but on balance, they decided they should leave that line in the speech.

I think the main thing I want to say to you is, people can quarrel with whether we should have more troops in Afghanistan or internationalize Iraq or whatever, but it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks...

DOLE: That's right.

CLINTON: ... of biological and chemical weapons. We might have destroyed them in '98. We tried to, but we sure as heck didn't know it because we never got to go back in there.

KING: Yes.

CLINTON: And what I think -- again, I would say the most important thing is we should focus on what's the best way to build Iraq as a democracy? How is the president going to do that and deal with continuing problems in Afghanistan and North Korea?

We should be pulling for America on this. We should be pulling for the people of Iraq. We can have honest disagreements about where we go from here, and we have space now to discuss that in what I hope will be a nonpartisan and open way. But this State of the Union deal they decided to use the British intelligence. The president said it was British intelligence. Then they said on balance they shouldn't have done it. You know, everybody makes mistakes when they are president. I mean, you can't make as many calls as you have to make without messing up once in awhile. The thing we ought to be focused on is what is the right thing to do now. That's what I think.

BONUS: Link to President Clinton's Op Desert Fox speech in 1998.

I'd say President Bush fairly well plagiarized his case for Op Iraqi Freedom from President Clinton, but then, that's just the nature of one American president passing the baton to the next American president. I said in 2002-2003, and I'll say it again now: President Bush should have enlisted President Clinton as a spokesman, Democrat liaison, and advisor for OIF, because OIF is as much President Clinton's war as President Bush's war. Just because American presidencies run in 4-8 year increments, that doesn't mean our foreign issues stop and start in those increments, too.

4/13/2007 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger rsilver said...


The facts are it wasn't just the neo-cons who favored removing Sadaam. In 2002 Kenneth M. Pollack published, THE GATHERING STORM: THE CASE FOR INVADING IRAQ. Pollack was director for Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council under President Clinton. Then he went to the Brookings Institute, hardly a hotbed of conservatism.

Your cheap shot about the neo-cons "itching" to invade Iraq is not helpful. There was bi-partisan support for OIF. It was a tough call. The President made the call.

The bigger picture here concerns the nature of the world we now live in. Dr. Richard Swenson practically predicted 9/11 in his 1999 book, HURTLING TOWARD OBLIVION. His thesis is that more and more powerful technology is becoming available at lower cost to anonymous individuals and small groups. It now takes few resources to create huge catastrophes affecting many people. The trends are continuing in that direction. Deterence doesn't work anymore where there is no state that has something to lose. The only rational defense is to identify potential threats and neutralize them in advance, before they take thousands or millions of lives.

We may not like this reality. And there are problems with this solution, of course. But adults have to make a choice. The world has changed. Many of the critics seem both clueless and vindictive.

4/13/2007 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

It should be obvious to anybody with an IQ above 80 that if you are engaged in a war with Middle Eastern countries/proxies that Iraq is essential ground. Even if you cannot own it you must do everything to deny it's full use to the enemy.

People still spouting the old talking points, particularly the WMD tune, really need some reading and analytical skills.

4/13/2007 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Frog Man said...

That's quite a Cheney quote Desert Rat posted:

Before you commit U.S. forces, there are certain questions you need to be able to answer. You need an objective that you can define in military terms. Our military knows how to liberate a country, destroy a navy, take down an air force; those are militarily achievable objectives. But if you say, "Go in and stop the bloodshed in Bosnia," that's not sufficiently clear to build a mission around.

It's almost too obvious to substitute "Iraq" for "Bosnia," but here's the kicker:

You also need to know what constitutes victory. How would you define it? How would you know when you had achieved it? And finally, how do you get out? What's the end game? How do you wrap it all up? And what's the cost in terms of American lives in that involvement? Nobody answered these questions with respect to Bosnia.

Again, change the names, and this is as succinct a critique of his own administration's blunder as any that has been made on left or right. Whatever else you may say about him, he's no dummy. So why was he not able to take his own advice?

4/13/2007 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Well, frog man, chew on this one from Mr Cheney, when he was Sec of Def, in 1991:

"I think for us to get American personnel involved in a civil war inside Iraq would literally be a quagmire,"
"Once we got to Baghdad, what would we do? Who would we put in power? What kind of government would we have? Would it be a Sunni government, a Shi'a government, a Kurdish government? Would it be secular, along the lines of the Ba'ath Party? Would it be fundamentalist Islamic?"

"I do not think, that the United States wants to have U.S. military forces accept casualties and accept the responsibility for trying to govern Iraq."

4/13/2007 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger JML said...


"And remember Libs: Blame George. HE's the culprit. Not Al Qaeda, or Iran, or N. Korea, or anyone else. ONLY George! Very important to keep focused on George. HE is the great Sith-Moron, after all."

Well, the fact of the matter is that this war (occupation?) in Iraq is one that W chose to have. I'll be among the first to acknowledge that Saddam was a problem that needed to be dealt with. However, I knew that if Saddam's regime was toppled, at the very least there would be a three-way struggle to fill the power vacuum. I had this figured out in 2002 when the Bushies first started to talk about invasion. What the hell is W's excuse? At one point post-invasion, I believe there was something like 40 separate factions fighting coalition forces and each other for stake in post-Saddam power.

My point is that W had a number of choices to make. One such choice was to ignore the advice of those who said that a much larger invasion force would be needed in order to provide security once Saddam's regime was truncated. W's Administration has been in denial ever since, assuming that things would simply work out for no reason other than We are Good and the Terrorists are Evil. Even as recently as this year, when W was asked why he thought the Surge would succeed (let's hope it does, but I'm not holding my breath...), he replied, "Because I said so."

It seems to me that W has taken the whole Faith-Based thing too far. The world isn't going to bend itself to W's will just because he belives it will.

Sasrdonic, I was really going to rip into you until I read your second post. I agree with you that vitriol for the sake of vitriol really doesn't do anybody any good. However, you conveniently omitted from your argument the fact that a good number of conservatives engage in exactly the same sort of mud-slinging that you accuse Liberals of. Listen to your favorite conservative media outlets for a few minutes (Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, et al) and all you will hear is how everything is the Liberals' fault. (When you stop to think about it, this is really odd because the Liberals haven't had anything remotely resembling power until just this year...). To this end, you might be well served by some of the sentiments in your second post and abstain from the useless attacks on Liberals that pervades your first post, in which you just come off as a Right Wing nutjob, when you might actually have something substantive to share with us all.

Perhaps if W's administration was more competent, you wouldn't have so many nasty criticizms to complain about.


I appreciate your thoughts. While I agree that W inherited a nasty situation regarding Iraq, I have huge problems with the handling of the situation. Again, W had choices. To me, this is a "do it right or don't do it at all" situation. Thanks to the decision to topple Saddam without taking appropriate measures to ensure post-Saddam scurity, we are faced with few options, one worse than the next.

It seem to me that if we're going to "win" in Iraq, we need a much larger force to stem the sectarian fighting. Neither the Bush Administration nor the American public seems ready to acknowldge this. Remember, we're talking about a president who basically told the American public that the best way to contibute to the Iraq war (which is often referred to by Bush supporters as a fight for the West's survival) is to go shopping and thereby support the economy. I don't think that the Administration or the public wants to face the realities in terms of the numbers of bodies needed to make our occupation of Iraq effective.

And what would we "win" anyway? The fantasy of waltzing in and creating a western-style democracy in Iraq is, well, fantasy.

The great irony (Irany?) in all of this is that the big winner here might end up being Iran, as the newly "free" shiites align themselves with their neighbors to the east.

One other thing, Eric: Thank you for your service.

4/14/2007 12:02:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Pierre Legrand

"We need to stop complaining about the other team and start beating the other team. Sheesh whats next we complain about how the Jihadist play dirty....oh wait we already do that"

I agree. I am reminded that when Grant was first put in charge of the army of the potomic to fight against lee, his new commanders where running around fearfully stating "Lee is going to do this. Or, Lee is going to do that."

Grant replied something along the lines, "I am tired of this talk about what Lee is going to do. How about we start thinking what we are going to do to him."

4/14/2007 06:34:00 AM  

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