Democrats & Liberals Archives

The End of The Iraq War

I was fresh out of college when we went to war in Iraq. Now, I’m almost a decade out of it. Long wars don’t tend to be good wars, and this was one of our worst. Now it’s finished.

At the time, though I had previously had my doubts, I had been convinced by the Bush Administration that there was some kind of actual threat there. See, that was all that had me thinking it was a good idea. Without some actual terrorists already there to wreak havoc, or some actual WMDs to pose a threat, there was no point to that war, at least at that time, and in that manner.

I'm not a pacifist, nor somebody who feels comfortable with the world "imperialism" being thrown around about my country. It helps to understand that I was raised during a time after the Vietnam War which went from folks fearing that every war would turn into Vietnam, into everybody assuming that every war would be like Panama or Desert Storm, a rout for the other side. I was one of those folks. I still think America's got a strong, powerful military, I just think it took a massive hit, both in actual power and prestige that it never should have had to.

I mean, the real problem wasn't that we were outmatched in force. That's never been the problem for the American military. The problem is, those in charge at the time failed to register the critical reality that things don't get simpler or better in a war, all things being equal, given greater and greater lengths of time.

The GOP liked to push itself as the stronger defenders of the realm, but they were so passive-aggressive on this war, it wasn't funny.

The Bush Administration judged this war necessary mostly on sentiment, rather than on evidence. They had a conclusion, they just wanted to gather the evidence to make their case for that. To do that, they accumulated an impressive looking pile of intelligence reports which unfortunately weren't at all what they were cracked up to be. I mean, it's one thing for a few facts in your case for a war to be false, but what does it tell you that almost none of the assumptions put forward by the Bush Administration as a reason for war panned out? To be that systematically wrong requires one of two things: Either somebody actively lied, which I don't believe is entirely the case, or more likely, somebody forced the matter through the agencies involved, and ran over anybody who had a dissenting point of view, who wasn't going to buy the company line on the war.

That they did this is as bad, if not worse, than if they actually lied. Why? Because there is nothing so harmful in government as a well-intentioned partisan who gets to set policy. We got committed to an almost nine year war, and distracted from a war already in it's tenth year now. I bet you recruiting for the armed forces is much less now than it was, and America's position in the world much degraded. It will take decades to recover from what has happened, and that galls me. It especially galls me that I didn't see Bin Laden dead a year or two after he attacked us, even though we managed to get Saddam Hussein within a year or two of invasion.

Don't get me wrong, I loved to see that bastard fall. But you know, there's more than one way to skin a cat, and Obama demonstrated that in Libya over the past year. What Libya's future is, is up for debate, but so is Iraq at this point, and Iraq cost us trillions in dollars, much more international prestige, thousands dead, and tens of thousands wounded. So, on the balance, Libya did the same thing for much less cost to this country. I would have liked to see something like that happen in Iraq, to be honest. Have Iraqis overthrow Saddam, let them take ownership of their country, rather than us.

Meanwhile, we could have focused much more effort on permanently defeating the Taliban, finding Bin Laden, and defeating that threat once and for all.

Instead, we took this unnecessary detour, a malignant plot tumor for the War against al-Qaeda.

Worse yet, the politicians of the GOP mortgaged the unity of this country in order to go into Iraq, and then kept on taking second and third mortgages on it in order to avoid being discredited in the public eye on the war.

I remember a time when it felt that we had a challenge to rise to, that the old partisan differences no longer mattered, when there was something genuine and unforced about the patriotism displayed, and nobody was telling people like me that we couldn't be proud, real Americans, too.

Then came the lead up to the war, and all the bullying to get the war they wanted, all the charges of treason and whatnot leveled at people who merely thought that another war at the same time as the one in Afghanistan was a bad idea. I know many people glorify the two-front aspect of WWII, but that was a two front war because two different enemies had declared war on our country. Here, we took an old enemy, who really had nothing to do with the other one, and cast them as being a second part of the overall war. America was needlessly diverting its attention, it's public focus, it's strength on the battlefield away from those who actually attacked us, and aided those who attacked us.

Only that case for war justified it, in my view, and if I had known then what I knew just a few months after the invasion, I would have never approved of the war, and I think many Americans would have thought the same.

Ah but then we got into it. Pottery Barn rules. We broke it, we bought it.

And boy did we ever buy it. I know some will try to tack on whatever good we managed to do near the end of the Bush Administration, that some have a personal stake in that redemption of their war efforts, but let me be frank: we had the invasion of Iraq basically won within a month or two of going in. Whatever the strategic senselessness or meaninglessness of that war, we were not in a bad position when we initially went in.

Trouble is, the Bush Administration and company were more interested in redeeming Vietnam than they were in redeeming their strategy in Iraq. Why else the media strategy? Why else the refusal to acknowledge the failure of the strategy on the ground? Ironically, in trying to vindicate those approaches in Vietnam, they made Vietnam's basic errors. they created a situation in which nobody was willing to face the truth. The bad coverage of Vietnam wasn't a product of media bias, it was a product of uncomfortable, unfortunate, and inconvenient truths about the success of the policies in that country bubbling to the surface. All the media bias claims did was help keep the brass and the politicians deluded about a policies whose failures could not be covered up.

They also recommitted the error of believing that simply going around and winning every firefight, bringing overwhelming firepower to every fight was the way to win a war. It's a fine way to win battles, and no, I wouldn't advise anybody to fight a war with inferior firepower, but war is not a video game. You don't get your victory when the final boss starts exploding all over the place. Real world war, as Von Clausewitz said, is policy carried out by other means, and in this case, we were trying to convince a nation full of people to sit down, and work together peacefully.

Running around playing whack-a-mole, or doing what we did in Fallujah, stirring up the hornet's nest, going away, and then coming back with the hornet's swarming, is not the way you win a war of occupation. I know the Republicans were averse to admitting that this is what it was, but we really weren't fooling anybody. The Republicans would say that we emboldened the terrorists by complaining about the war, and that supporting the troops meant sitting down and shutting up about things ourselves, but if you go in, decide to take control of a country, even go so far as to disband any alternatives to your old system, well, you are an occupying power, and by failing to bring in enough manpower to compliment your firepower, YOU, not somebody complaining about it, are emboldening the terrorists and the insurgents.

And emboldened they were. Years drug on in the war, and thousands of Americans died, and it wasn't until after the combination of a lost election and the eruption of a sectarian war in Iraq that they finally changed policy, finally admitted that the war could not be allowed to drag on forever. Six years of that, and until today, we were still in that war.

What do I think will come of it? I have no idea. See, we didn't create the conditions for certainty early on, and wars don't get less complicated as they aged. If we had acted sooner, rather than later, if we had snuffed out the insurgency in its infancy, rather than waiting for it to become the American-killing monster it became, we might have had the chance to leave behind a definitively stable Iraq, the way we left behind a definitively stable Europe and Japan. Unfortunately, we lost that opportunity, and thanks to those circumstances, it is entirely possible that things will get worse for our having left. That said, things weren't getting better for our staying, and we could not afford an indefinite mission in that country. I know the Republicans like to hang the trillions of dollars in new debt around Obama's neck, but the trouble is, trillions of those dollars they're now hyperventilating about came from the Iraq war, and more would have followed if we hadn't ended the war like we did.

As is typical, the Republican leadership will probably try to hang the blame for the debt they created and the chaos of what remains behind us in Iraq on Democrats, and Obama in particular. The trouble is, those were their responsibility. That war was their political goal, when they went about the process of calling any Democrat who dissented a traitor, back in 2002 and 2003. They might have been joined by weak-willed Democratic Party politicians, but they were still wrong, just wrong with company.

I'm glad the war's over, and look forward to the end of another war that was dragged on way past it's expiration date for success. There as well, years of procrastinated resolution will leave us little choice but to make deals with the folks we were killing earlier in the war, rather than dictate terms to them.

Some will still say that the lesson to be drawn is that the media and the public must be manipulated into support, but for my part, I think this is the stupidest approach in the world. You read your military strategists, and few will tell you that it's a good idea to needlessly divide your country back home. If you haven't been straight, if you've just played things for the camera, for the photo-op, to market the war despite the facts on the ground, you're only setting up the conditions for people to become disillusioned with (and outraged about) the war.

We should only go to war when it's necessary from a the straight point of view of most people in this country, or if there is a real argument that can be made to justify things after the fact. When we go to war simply to push a policy objective, to win a political battle, we incur costs in blood and treasure that only serve to make us more hesitant in the face of later wars that might be more necessary, more needful. It's part of the reason we were so slow to stop appeasing Hitler, so quick to bury our heads in the sand. The absurdity and tragedy of the First World War made people hesitant to confront a real threat, because of the fresh memory of what confronting a false one cost.

Our war in Iraq is finished. I pray that the error of going to war the way we did dies with it, that we learn our lesson, and that America's strength recovers from what, well-intentioned or not, was a disaster of the first order for our country.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at December 15, 2011 7:22 AM
Comment #333089


It seems that Obama doesn’t share your negative view of the war. Speaking of both its success and it intent, he spoke high praise of what the war in Iraq showed the world…

Because of you, because you sacrificed so much for a people that you had never met, Iraqis have a chance to forge their own destiny.

That’s part of what makes us special as Americans. Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or for resources. We do it because it’s right.

There can be no fuller expression of America’s support for self-determination than our leaving Iraq to its people. That says something about who we are.

Because of you, in Afghanistan we’ve broken the momentum of the Taliban.

Because of you, we’ve begun a transition to the Afghans that will allow us to bring our troops home from there. And around the globe, as we draw down in Iraq, we have gone after al-Qaeda so that terrorists who threaten America will have no safe haven and Osama bin Laden will never again walk the face of this Earth.

So here’s what I want you to know and here’s what I want all our men and women in uniform to know: because of you we are ending these wars in a way that will make America stronger and the world more secure. Because of you.

That success was never guaranteed. And let us never forget the source of American leadership: our commitment to the values that are written into our founding documents and a unique willingness among nations to pay a great price for the progress of human freedom and dignity.

This is who we are. That’s what we do as Americans, together.

The war in Iraq will soon belong to history. Your service belongs to the ages.

Never forget that you are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries - from the colonists who overthrew an empire, to your grandparents and parents who faced down fascism and communism, to you - men and women who fought for the same principles in Fallujah and Kandahar and delivered justice to those who attacked us on 9/11.

here’s the entire speech

Between extending the Bush tax cuts and now extolling the values of the wars (and creating another) Obama seems to be adapting his opinions towards much of Bush’s record.

Posted by: adam at December 15, 2011 10:33 AM
Comment #333090


“As is typical, the Republican leadership will probably try to hang the blame for the debt they created and the chaos of what remains behind us in Iraq on Democrats, and Obama in particular.”

It’s a sad commentary when your opponents do a better job of selling what you’re not, than you do selling what you are. The right has done such a good job of creating the narrative of Obama being everything that is wrong in this country, all the while Obama has tried to play nice, and that is Obama’s fault.

My view of Iraq isn’t much different than yours.

I saw going in that it was a vast mistake, especially when faced with massive protests, both here and overseas, Bush’s comments were that he knew what he was doing, and then he compounded it with that dumb ass “Mission Accomplished” sign.
However, once we were there I thought we should go “all in”, do what we needed to do, and get out. Unfortunately we didn’t do that, and just like in the Vietnam War, we allowed the politics of the war to become more important than the war itself. The American military, that brought two of the best militaries that the world had ever seen to their knees in a space of four years, allowed an inferior opponent to take us to the brink before we even began to think of changing our tactics.

BTW, more of our troops died after that stupid sign, than died taking Baghdad.


What do think Obama should say to the troops? Should he tell them it was all just a waste of time, and the deaths of their comrades was for nought?


Posted by: Rocky Marks at December 15, 2011 11:40 AM
Comment #333091

Obama’s words, if you noticed, were directed toward veterans returning from the war. He wasn’t going to give my blunt assessment of the war to them.

As for the Tax cuts? If Republicans hadn’t filibustered a bill given permanent tax cuts to the middle class but not the rich, Bush’s tax policy would not have endured.

Your policies were wrong on the facts. The question of whether a politician comes to agree with them after the fact, (which I don’t believe Obama does) does not affect whether it’s right or wrong.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 15, 2011 12:49 PM
Comment #333092


I don’t think he should say anything at all. In fact, it amazes me every time he has the audacity to show his face in front of the troops after they have risked their lives in what he ardently referred to as a “dumb war”(2002 speech)

“This war distracts us from every threat that we face and so many opportunities we could seize. This war diminishes our security, our standing in the world, our military, our economy, and the resources that we need to confront the challenges of the 21st century,” Obama said. July 2008

So in 2008 the war made us lees secure and hurt our standing in the world, but in 2011 the war made us (and the world) more stable and improved our international standing?

Basically, you are free to feel however you want about the war(s), I only find it hilarious that he would put himself out there and illustrate his change of position so profoundly.

Maybe your right, and he doesn’t really believe what he is telling these soldiers. But is that the image you think he should adopt immediately prior to the election cycle? One where the other side can graphically show where you change your stance (at least verbally) based on the audience…

Posted by: adam at December 15, 2011 12:56 PM
Comment #333093

Questions never answered about Iraq:
How many Iraqis died?
The official number is 150,000. However, that number only counts violent deaths that were reported in Iraqi newspapers and then translated into English. The actual number is certainly much larger. Along the same lines, the number of wounded are unknown. As for refugees, over 4 million Iraqis fled the country, and another 1.25 million remain internally displaced, i.e., homeless.

What was the opportunity cost?
For the cost of the War in Iraq, we could have purchased cradle to grave medical care for every American; or, free education for every qualified American through Univiersity level.

Where did the money go?
Billions upon billions of dollars disappeared due to corruption, and despite demands, the Republicans refused to investigate in most cases, and in a few others, refused to release the findings. My favorite example involves a $2 billion cash payment delivered by two American Blackhawk helicopters to a Kurdish contact. A guy showed up at the rendezvous point with a truck and took the money. No one knew his name, and fate of that man and that money remains unknown. Isn’t that amazing? “Take the money and run.”

Craziest moment in a foolish war?
“The Soldiers of Heaven,” an Iraqi apocalyptic movement over 1,000 strong, sprang up as a resultof the war. They were followers of a kind of Messiah. They believed spreading chaos would hasten the arrival of the Hidden Iman, and spread chaos they did. Many were slaughtered in a tank and aircraft bombardment in 2007. The rest were captured, a few hanged, and the rest imprisoned.

Number of statues of George Bush erected in Iraqi town squares?

Posted by: phx8 at December 15, 2011 1:05 PM
Comment #333094


Your link doesn’t work, and oh, BTW, perhaps you should read the whole 2008 speech.

There is a vast difference between a Senator who was against a war, and a President who has had one dumped in his lap.
If you can’t see the difference, perhaps you need to look with better eyes.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at December 15, 2011 1:11 PM
Comment #333095


Why would he not give the veteran’s a ‘blunt assessment’ of the war?

He has, in the past, had absolutely no problem recognizing America’s mistakes from the past in any other part of the world, so why would an this audience be any different.

During his ‘apology tour’ the entire narrative from the left was that it is completely possible to acknowledge our countries past mistakes and shortcomings without diminishing the overall merit of the nation. Why would that same stance not work now. Basically, if he still believes the statements from 2002 and 2008, why not just say something to the extent of: the veterans are amazing in their abilities and service to the country, even when the basis, goals, and purpose of the mission was less than ideal?

As for the tax cuts, whatever the circumstances you want to use to justify it, the fact is that Obama’s policy doesn’t match what he said during his last campaign…

Posted by: adam at December 15, 2011 1:17 PM
Comment #333096


I’ve read the entire speech, and my eyes are fine.

The stark difference is that Obama flip-flops his stance based on his audience. He normally does so with nuance and grace, but apparently when enough time goes by, he no longer worries about the glaring inconsistencies.

(sorry the link didn’t work: I’m trying it again below)

Posted by: adam at December 15, 2011 1:29 PM
Comment #333098

Taking into consideration the difference between a Senator and a President, I agree with Adam that Obama is a flip flopper. Most politicians are.

I also agree with those who say, what was he supposed to say to the troops. The soldiers did their job and they did it well and I don’t think that speech was the proper venue to discuss a political disagreement.

There is one sentence that Obama should have left out because it isn’t true.

“That’s part of what makes us special as Americans, Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or resources, we do it because it is right.”

That could have come from Bush or Cheney.

Some Americans are benefiting quit nicely expatriating profit from Iraq’s resource. Bush, Cheney and probably Obama are among them.

Aren’t we wonderful people! Who’s next? Iran? Pakistan? Palestine? North Korea? Venezuela?

Control and stability for profit.

Posted by: jlw at December 15, 2011 2:21 PM
Comment #333099

Phx8, plus war orphans, hundreds of thousands, possibly a million.

Posted by: jlw at December 15, 2011 2:23 PM
Comment #333100

adam, The cat was out of the bag in 2011. Obama did the right thing in ‘02 by opposing the war for the reasons stated in his speech. He did the right thing in 2011 when he told the troops, that sacrificed so much, of the good job they did.

“I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.”

The war was a political war, the military did what they had to do despite this and deserve the credit Obama has given them in his 2011 speech.

Obama’s comments are spot on in ‘02, in ‘08 and in ‘11 IMHO. Because the war was and is a “dumb war” does not negate the job our troops did. I haven’t seen in any of these speeches where he degraded the military for following orders.You may not be able to understand the critique of the war and the praise for those fighting the war but it is very logical and easy to understand. You seem to think it is audacity to make the ‘11 speech but I think it is honorable.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 15, 2011 2:26 PM
Comment #333101

As a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, I have plenty of experience of what happens when you add too much blunt assessment with disregard of the mood. I’ve had plenty of painful lessons in when to be starkly honest and when not to be. It doesn’t always naturally occur to me that being honest doesn’t require insisting on bringing a disagreement to any forum I can.

I suspect Obama still thinks Iraq was a dumb war. The difference is, he was bringing it to a close here, and making a speech towards those who actually had to fight it. Was that the time to speak of the uncertainties, of the unnecessary damage, of the controversial beginnings and conduct of the war during those first few critical years?

I wouldn’t say so. I would say that with the war coming to an end, it’s a moot point. He wasn’t going to lecture soldiers coming home about what a screw-up the Iraq War was, with folks just coming home from it.

It’s not a flip-flop to do this. It’s common courtesy, which too many on the right, in their misguided equating of outspokenness with honesty fail to take into account.

He was thanking the soldiers for their service. The history lecture, the lessons learned can be saved for their children.

I would draw your attention to what Americans believed the war was about when it was first began: They thought it was about protecting America from a threat. They thought they were liberating the Iraqis, to later leave them their self-determination after a period of reconstruction. They thought that the priority was finding WMDs and confronting terrorists.

Nobody sold the war on the basis of profiteering off Iraqi oil, at least not to the general public. It’s justifiable to question the motives of those who lead us into that war. Americans, though, had other purposes in mind, that unfortunately were subverted by those who ran the war.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 15, 2011 2:27 PM
Comment #333103


You state your opinions well and it is very easy to see what could go wrong after they have done so.

There is one significant factual error, however. You repeat the charge that U.S. forces thought that winning firefights was sufficient. This was never true. In fact, we probably would have been better off being a little more aggressive going in.

We tried very hard to build support among Iraqi people and after/because of the surge in 2006, we did it right. We and our Iraqi friends destroyed Al-Qaeda on the battlefield of their choosing. Their defeat and the horrible way they treated the Iraqi people (murder, rape and banal cruelty was the method of Al Qaeda) discredited them in the larger Muslim world. Beyond that, thousands of foreign terrorists poured into Iraq where they were killed by American forces or local tribes. They had been willing to cross borders to attack Americans. It was better to take care of them in in the featureless desert where they couldn’t hide.

I would agree with you that if we knew what we do now back in 2003, we would not have chosen to go into Iraq in the way we did. At the time, however, things looked different. And once we got in, the only way out was through victory (whether or not you want to use that word. I mean here the defeat of the terrorist insurgents. We did that).

The surge and the behavior of Al Qaeda permitted us to defeat the insurgency. It was done with a combination of hard fighting, determination and creation of alternatives for many of the people. All these ingredients were needed.

IMO – one of the biggest errors we made going into Iraq was because we were too convinced that we had to do “right”. We excluded all the Baathist from power. Many were indeed bad guys, but some had just joined for career reasons or family ties. Excluding competent fighters and administrators from all power rarely works. Successful transitions always allow compromise. We didn’t go after ALL the Nazis after WWII. In Eastern Europe, they didn’t go after ALL the communists. In fact, they allowed many of them quickly to come back, having seen (at least ostensibly) the error of their ways.

The other mistake, also made for “good” reasons, was to demand inclusion. We ensured that various ethnic groups should live in close proximity and we insisted on a form of proportional representation to guarantee places for women and previously oppressed minorities. These are great goals, but not the first priorities when trying to make peace. In post-war Europe, many ethnic enclaves were “exchanged”. It was a horrible process, but it resulted in greater tranquility than the continent had enjoyed since the end of Pax Romana. In Iraq, BTW, this happened anyway, but it was a lot more bloody than it needed to be, as we tried to impose American inclusive values on people with a warrior outlook and lots of automatic weapons at their disposal.

The need for security always comes before the “higher values”. We sometimes got the order wrong.

I learned to be flexible and forgiving.I sat across the table in friendly conversation with men who might have tried to kill me a few months before. They were not terrorists, but some had been insurgents, as I would be if a foreign army invaded Virginia.I learned to respect and even admire Iraqi bravery, honor and resilience.I often depending on these guys; put my life in their hands.

I do not believe life will be easy any time soon in Iraq. was told by Marines who knew the place told me that the place was a shithole before I got there and it would still be when I left, but it could be better and more peaceful. Iraq has abundant oil, phosphates, water, good soil and an enterprising people. They also both enjoy and are cursed by a location that is a keystone of the whole region. The U.S. and coalition involvement in Iraq broke the mold of Arab despotism. We are seeing the results now.

Was it “worth it”? Probably for the region; Maybe not for the U.S. Iraqis are better off then they were under Saddam and the region may progress. This came at a cost.

I will remember forever the young man, Aaron, who was killed as he stretched his legs in a little town Americans hadn’t heard of before. (I wrote to his mother. She wanted him to be remembered and he is.) And there is the image of the father and his eleven year old son beheaded by Al Qaeda and thrown in the ditch for the “crime” of selling food in the marketplace.Or the soccer field where AQI murdered dozens of policemen.I am glad all that is over. I hope that we stayed long enough to mean it won’t come back.

The history of our Iraq action will not be written for many years. Historians will see it from the vantage point of events we have yet to experience.

Posted by: C&J at December 15, 2011 4:15 PM
Comment #333105

I was against the Iraq war even before it began, and have remained against it ever since. And I marched against it before it began, when it began, and numerous times since.

It seems necessary to state the obvious:
1. The government lied us into the Iraq War.
2. This War was wrong and a huge mistake in every way possible.
3. History Repeats.
4. It took the president too long to end this war.
5. Bin Laden is dead. There is no reason whatsoever to remain in Afghanistan.

Posted by: Adrienne at December 15, 2011 5:31 PM
Comment #333106

Al-Qaeda would have never had the chance to choose Iraq as a battlefield if we hadn’t needlessly invaded. The Insurgency wouldn’t have come about if we hadn’t disbanded the police force and the army, and if we had brought in sufficient forces to keep security.

We had a set of goals there, and most of them ended up getting revised later on, because doing things like creating a Democracy we’d tolerate living under weren’t an option. The damage we’ve done is permanent. It may accidently turn out to be a positive turning point, but I hardly think that reliance on luck is a good approach to fighting a war. A positive change should have come because we were prepared, and what we couldn’t forsee was dealt with promptly.

You tout the strategies that came with the surge and everything, but many of those strategies constitute a case of the stone the builders rejected becoming the cornerstone. After disbanding the police and the army, after rejecting the idea that more soldiers were needed, that we needed to clear, hold, and build, that we needed to co-opt and gain cooperation from the leaders in the Anbar province and other places, your side, desperate for some kind of change, changed your position.

Even so, it was a little late to get the originally intended results. I insist on pushing my critiques so that we don’t repeat these mistakes.

By insisting that the worsening image of the war was just a media phenomenon, conservatives created a situation where proper political pressure to improve things in the war didn’t come soon enough. That cost lives and progress.

By insisting on bulldozing the case for war forward, the Bush Administration failed to heed the warnings that might have told it that the war wasn’t such a good idea.

Al-Qaeda’s actions might have burned up goodwill towards them, but we didn’t really come out all that popular as a consequence. Pro-western movements had to contend with the awful spectacle of Abu Ghraib, which unfortunately the conservative media either minimized, or glorified as appropriate treatment for prisoners in that war.

Long story short, you can’t unring some bells, but you can stop yourself from ringing them again. Or as somebody else put it, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The last ten years represent ten years I could live the rest of my life without repeating.

My philosophy is, if Republicans haven’t learned not to repeat that history, I’m going to fight to make sure they don’t get the chance to have the power to make those mistakes again.

So far, it doesn’t seem like you have candidates who can learn from those mistakes, or who have the political room to act on the understanding of those errors, if they have it. Until Republicans break down the rigidity on policy that keeps them from moderating and ending these bad policies, it’s my opinion that Democrats should more vigorously oppose them, and offer them less concessions in any compromises.

You got about a decade and a half of real deference from our side, after you won 1994’s election. I would submit that your side squandered the privilege of that deference, and that from this point forward, it should be the habit of the Democrats, in fact of all citizens, Republicans included to challenge your policies. The conservative movement is in bad need of a rethink of its basic platform.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 15, 2011 5:37 PM
Comment #333108

Stephen, you may draw my attention not to what the American people thought at the time, but what the people were told to think, and what they are told to think is happening is often what the policy makers want them to think and more often these days, that is creating a dual reality.

Was that American ideal on display when George Bush Sr. encouraged the Iraqis to revolt then offered them no assistance, even though our military was right there on the scene, while allowing Saddam’s forces to crush those in revolt. No, it was not, because Bush thought that he had taught Saddam a lesson that would reform him and bring him into the fold, and Cheney among others convinced him that a revolution in Iraq would open Pandora’s box.

Obama knows what the truth is.

As Adrienne stated, we were lied into this war.

A majority of Americans were opposed to the Iraq war, and quite frankly aren’t real interested in spending their wealth on liberating other peoples from their governments or paying the lions share for policing the world.

What we did in Libya is help people liberate themselves. That is not what Iraq was about and that was proven by the Bush Administration when they vetoed Iraq’s first new constitution and forced the oil agreement on them.

We replaced their government with one that is as corrupt if not more so than our own. It wasn’t a hard think to accomplish and we made absolutely sure that it would be corrupt.

With us out of the way, are the Iraqis now free to deal with their corrupt government, reinstall their social democracy constitution, re nationalize their oil, have a civil war over religious differences, unite with Iran to form a great oil Caliphate, open the box? All of which those in power can claim are grave threats to our security.

As with any empire, what is considered a grave threat to the empire is constantly upgraded as the power of the empire grows and it’s borders, areas of influence, expand.

The American people will be paying for that war for many years to come and there are probably other preemptive wars down the pike for this empire.

Posted by: jlw at December 15, 2011 7:07 PM
Comment #333109


You are right that Al Qaeda would not have chosen Iraq as their battlefield. They would have chosen somewhere else and all those Al Qaeda fighters that died in the Western Desert would have fought somewhere else of their choosing. I am glad they went where we could get them.

You are right about the army to some extent. I explained that, IMO, it was because we were too quick to want to get rid of all the Baathists, who were in positions of authority in those institutions. It was a bad plan enacted for good, if not smart, reasons.

Re Anbar - I don’t think it would have worked two years earlier. These are warriors. They had to satisfy honor and fight for at least a while. It is also true that they needed time to see how truly savage AL Qaeda was. In 2003, they thought Al Qaeda was okay.

Re “Republicans” learning - you recall the Democrats got us into Vietnam. Each war has its own problems. Everybody goes in with idea that prove incorrect. The enemy adapts and the situation changes.

The thing I learned from this war is that you have to be flexible in your responses. You also need to take allies that are imperfect. I also learned personally what we all claim to know - that war is savage but violence is not always avoidable.

You bring up abu Ghraib - that was a crime. I have said that a thousand times. Nobody minimized it or - worse - glorified it. It is insulting for you to remain willfully ignorant of this.

Re deference from you - I don’t need it. I was trying to share with you insights for an uncommon experience. You don’t know what it is like to walk in crowds when you believe that some of those people might want to and have the means to kill you. Harder still, you don’t know what it is like to send your colleagues out after a fatal attack. I remember the feeling. You insult me by implying that I support war for the sake of … I am not sure what. In fact, I abhor violence, but understand that the road to less violence is sometimes not as easy as just saying no.

This still bothers me three years later. Sometimes I feel like the guy in the ancient mariner, who has to tell the tales to people who don’t understand. I take some solace in that I am morally certain that my personal activities saved innocent lives during the late conflict.

The lessons of conflict are not partisan. If you don’t understand that the experience is wasted on you. I have changed my mind and adapted to changed circumstances. You have remained in 2003.

You really should update your knowledge base and attitudes.

Let me sum up my history. I supported the initial invasion (as did many Democratic senators and experts). With information I have now, I think it was a mistake. I also believe that our strategy was wrong until 2006, for reasons I explained, perhaps too subtle for you to understand. In 2006 we had the choice of getting out and leaving a bloody disaster or surging, which included military, diplomatic and social efforts. The surge was correct. I believed this so necessary that I volunteered to leave my wife and kids for a year and personally go to Anbar, so I wasn’t talking about risking only the lives of others. Anbar was dangerous, dusty and overall the most unpleasant place I ever lived (people like you have no idea about such things), but the experience of working with the Marines and our Iraqi allies made it worth the danger and discomfort.

I saw the surge work and contributed to it. I did all this while you were writing the same - never changing - old crap and still are. I don’t think you actually write anything new about Iraq. You just recycle all the old stuff. Given our respective experiences, what do you think I have to apologize to you for? What other lesson I am supposed to learn? What in your vast experience gives you the wisdom to explain conditions in Iraq to me?

Posted by: C&J at December 15, 2011 7:14 PM
Comment #333110

C&J, I commend your service to the nation. Your response to SD was well reasoned and appreciated.

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 15, 2011 8:08 PM
Comment #333116


We made a terrible mistake in invading Iraq. You seem to agree with that.

We made a terrible mistake in purging the Baathists. You seem to agree with that.

We eventually made peace with the resulting Baathist insurgency in order to avoid an even worse disaster. You seem to agree with that.

Along the way we lost a lot of American and Iraqi lives, maimed tens of thousands and spent billions. Do you disagree?

Posted by: Rich at December 15, 2011 9:10 PM
Comment #333119

I’m talking about what the American people want by default. I know Newt accused Obama of being anti-colonial, as if that were a bad thing, but it really sums up the typical attitude of Americans. We don’t like being colonialists, and I think it can be better ascribed to having just a glancing familiarity with the nation’s policies that let it be tolerated.

Americans didn’t want to take over Iraq permanently, which posed certain difficulties. We could have openly taken over their oil resources, and taken the proceeds from that strictly for ourselves We didn’t. Why? Because Americans wouldn’t have stood for that. Doing business with folks in Iraq, they could stomach. After all, we do business with Germany and Japan now. But truly colonialist policy has to be filtered through several layers of bull**** before American will tolerate it.

I won’t argue that the Iraqi people didn’t need to be liberated from Saddam Hussein. I would argue that we went about it the wrong way, and that meant we suffered the wrong results, and improving things at the end doesn’t undo all the damage that was done.

Fight them there so we wouldn’t have to fight them elsewhere? Trouble is, al-Qaeda could chew gum and walk at the same time, pulling off major attacks in Bali, London,, Mumbai and Madrid, while at the same time sending folks to die in Iraq. So, the flypaper theory was wrong. If you really think about it, logistically speaking, they never really needed all that many people to pull off a successful attack. 19 hijackers, remember?

This isn’t like tying up Rommels fifth division, where the effectiveness of the fighting force goes down considerably through attrition. They just need a handful of people setting a bomb off in a crowded place to be successful, and to look at it another way, we ended up giving the jihadis, whether they survived or not, plenty of chance to kill Americans without having to cross an ocean and get through security to do it. We played into their hands, in my view. They may have miscalculated by causing the bloodshed of so many Iraqis, but we didn’t come off much better in the view of many in the Middle East.

Re Anbar - I don’t think it would have worked two years earlier. These are warriors. They had to satisfy honor and fight for at least a while.

The way I hear it, Generals in our armed forces were making progress along those lines, and got shot down by those further up the chain of command.

As for Abu Ghraib?

There was a lot in Abu Ghraib that came from Gitmo, and Gitmo’s practices came from a deliberate reverse-engineering of the SERE training programs, which helped American soldiers to learn how to deal with torture techniques from our enemies.

What some of your people called enhanced interrogation, a term which is not only a minimization, but one that the Nazis used. I heard and read many of your fellow Republicans and conservatives complaining that the pictures showed something no worse than a frat-hazing, rationalizing “enhanced interrogation” techniques. Your folks were treating waterboarding as if it were a walk in the park. That is, those that didn’t receive the treatment themselves. Those that did usually had a change of heart.

Folks under Dick Cheney made it a policy to go to the dark side, to be willing to use torture techniques that didn’t leave visible marks (the reality of what Enhanced Interrogation techniques are) Abu Ghraib was just the end result of that.

I am not ignorant of any lack of rationalization on the part of the GOP or the conservatives. I am very aware of the presence of such rationalization, which is why I don’t buy your line on it.

As for deference?

Democracy is the art of gaining deference from others to what you want out of government. Are you wondering why you’re having such trouble with getting budgets passed, or why your candidates seem to popular within the GOP, or popular beyond it, but not both?

You’re right that I’ve never had to walk in those crowds or whatever. I’m talking policy here at home, but a parallel can be drawn. The parallel is this: if we had gotten the military situation taken care of early in the invasion, if we had pacified or kept pacified any trouble makers, the deference we needed to do postwar operations smoothly could have been had.

Without such deference, though, everything became like pulling teeth.

The deference to authority is what allows the policy to patrol a neighborhood of thousands of people with only a handful of officers. Realistically, if folks didn’t want to abide by the law, they could easily outgun and overpower those few men and women.

At home, the lack of deference costs. You need people to agree with you easily. If they don’t, it becomes difficult to form majorities. This nation uses majorities as the critical threshold for many decisions and policy changes. That the Republicans have to filibuster to get or keep the things that they want is not a good sign. It means they don’t trust simple majority decisions in the Senate to go their way anymore.

The question is, why should I defer to your judgment on Iraq? That some Democrats and some experts agreed with you, only means you were wrong with company. As for my maintaining of my attitudes?

Well, you would like to think that because you went there, and put your money where your mouth was, that I would defer to you. But tell me, did your experience there change the nature of the evidence which showed up concerning the case for war? No. Why should I defer to you on that point? I shouldn’t. Logically, it makes no difference.

Your service also does not change the fact that many vehicles there were underarmored for combat zones, and people died as a result. It does not change the huge blunders that piled up in the first months and year of the war. It doesn’t change that going into Fallujah over the mercenaries who got killed was a mistake, and so was failing to carry that battle forward to its conclusion, rather than withdraw when it got bloody and then wait six months for the situation to get worse.

I respect that you took the risks you did, but that doesn’t give me reason to remember many of the facts I remember differently. If the facts have not changed, why should my arguments proceeding from those facts change?

I’m open minded enough to consider that you and others there did some good, and created some goodwill. But open minded doesn’t mean you get to see the grey matter fall out. I consider those things in balance. The package of strategic changes in the surge did work to cool down the violence and improve the political situation. But the damage from all the years before that surge remain. It’s going to be a question of what forces dominate in the coming years, and I wish we had the situation left a lot less ambiguous than that.

What should you apologize for? Apologize to those who gave this government and their neighbors good advice, those who made the correct intelligence assessments, but were brushed aside or even ruined for not following the party line. Apologize to those who were called traitors for thinking that we should focus on Afghanistan, rather than go into a new war. Apologize to those who were accused of wanting America defeated as they pointed out we didn’t have enough armor, didn’t have enough troops, didn’t have enough good diplomacy or internal negotiation going on, back when it could have been the stitch in time that saved nine.

The lessons you should learn? That even those of best intentions can screw things up. That even those who oppose you politically can be right, and woe to you if you ignore something important, simply because it’s them saying it. That technology cannot replace all the functions that overwhelming manpower can provide. That simply straining the system you have so you don’t have to start a draft, or put money and effort into bulking up your volunteer forces is not a good idea. That torture, no matter what euphemisms you apply, will still look bad on the national resume, and still bankrupt your moral capital when it comes to dealing with other countries.

As for vast experience? What you should value out of a young whippersnapper like me is my memory. I quote many of the pieces of information I reiterate to you right back out of memory. I remember seeing a McNeil-Lehrer Newshour report about the chemical attack on Halabja, remember them talking about the sticky coating on people, and how it lead those who touched it on bodies to fall ill or die.

That’s from an eight or nine year-old’s memory.

It’s not a perfect memory, but you have to understand that your claims and your wisdome instantly come into competition with a whole bunch of other views and recollections that I’ve read recently. If I don’t get a good reason to change my mind about something, I won’t. I also won’t rely on a new argument if there’s a perfectly good old argument that still applies.

When you talk about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, my memory flashes back to Michael Lewis’s “The End”, the Frontline concerning the battle over derivatives in the nineties, and the recent Knight-Ridder article that detailed how much those two secondary market competitors had been marginalized by other players in the market I also recall the dates of the different Congressional majorities, the lead times and legislation required for various recent failures of the market to take place.

It’s not my wisdom you should be concerned about, It’s my memory, because I can bring other’s points of view, and other’s wisdom on the topic to bear, not merely my own fairly limited perspectives alone.

I remember what your people were saying in 2002 and 2003, especially concerning dissenters. I remember a whole raft of campaign appearances that Bush did during the summer of 2002, concerning that prospective invasion of Iraq. Democrats weren’t blameless, but Republicans were leading the parade, and that is not something I’m going to forget or otherwise misremember.

I’m not going to forget all the promises your people made about tax cuts, nor the fact that for all your tax cuts, your job creation rates were abyssmal in the last decade.

I’m also not going to change my arguments or points of view because somebody seems to see fit to try and put me in my place. You did a brave thing, and showed the courage of your convictions, but you’re going to have to do more than simply ask for blanket deference when it comes to conditions on the ground, because from my point of view, there are dozens of other sources I’ve read who can claim the same privilege, and they don’t all agree with you.

Long story short, you are just one of many people whose experiences I’ve read on the matter, and yours is just one part of a larger war, and a larger campaign. We have divergent points of view of the weight your experiences should have on my judgment. Not that I blame you. Everybody weighs their personal experience above others, to a certain extent. How can we not?

But I don’t have to overturn all my points of view, forsake what I’ve known and heard, just because you think what you do about your experiences. You still have a lot of convincing to do, and in my case, a lot of ground to cover to do so.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 15, 2011 11:19 PM
Comment #333124


You make decisions based on the best information available. You apply moral values and often material calculations. You never have complete information (otherwise there is no decision, simply a fact). ALL decision will produce good and bad results. The same is true for not making a decision. And everything you do or do not do will create new problems and activities. There is never an end to it.

I agree that those things you mention had bad results. But we really do not know what the alternative would have looked like. Beyond that, we don’t have options to go back. We are left making decisions that affect future events.

That is why I got so annoyed with some critics in 2006. We were in Iraq, good or bad. The best option was the surge. But so many armchair generals wanted to not do the right thing because we had done the wrong thing before.

If you want to improve decisions, you actually have to study the process and not the result. Random events can make a good decision produce bad results and the reverse.

We made the decision to go into Iraq based on hysteria left over from 9/11. We acted out of fear to a greater extent than we should have. I know you want to blame Bush and say he lied, but this is not true. Most of the American people and the majority of the then Democratically controlled Senate agreed with him.

I thought it was a necessary thing at the time, based on what I knew and what we had recently experienced in 9/11. I am not stupid and I was not making a decision based on greed. I thought it was the best decision to protect the American people. I knew that there would be fearful costs on either side of the decision. You can write whole books on this and people will.


We should not underestimate Al Qaeda nor overestimate them. They are a small organization with a limited number of fanatics who will sacrifice their lives to kill others. If they deploy them to Iraq, they don’t have them to deploy elsewhere. In fact, Al Qaeda is no longer the force it was in 2003. They have been defeated. Unfortunately, terrorism never really goes away. But the Al Qaeda we faced in 2003 has been physically eliminated. This was one of the results of the aggressive policy against them.

Re Abu Ghraib - You just do not know what you are talking about. No point in trying to explain it to you again. You lack the background and the open mind. Sorry. I know this seems insulting. It is not meant to be. It is just a statement of frustrated fact. You cannot change you mind given what you think you know and you will seek new information. You are welcome to think the same about me if you want. We will agree on that and disagree on the facts.

I made decisions based on what I thought to be true. My decision, good and bad, were made in ways I feel were morally sound. In pursuit of what I thought were the good ends, I endured physical suffering and risked my own life. I saw the results of war, smelled death. Fortunately, I have never personally killed anybody, but I spent lots of time with those who did. For most good people, it is the most terrible thing possible. And I have made decisions that risked and I think sometimes saved lives. I live with what I did and what I failed to do. I understand these things as much as I can. Words in a blog will not help me with this and my words on a blog cannot convey it all to you.

You seem like an earnest and good young man. I think it is admirable that you want to understand these big events and make morally correct decisions. I would ask you to be more flexible in your thinking. Things rarely happen because one person, or a few people, make and carry out a step-by-step plan. There is a great deal of uncertainty. There are bad guys and bad decisions and good ones, but usually not real villeins or heroes in the bigger picture. And much of the world is counter intuitive,i.e. you try to do one thing that results in actually producing the result you were trying to avoid.

We need constantly to assess the process of our decisions, knowing that there is no correct action all the time.

You are asking moral question, which is good. But the moral universe you are entering into is more complex than you seen to think it is. I hope you really do not believe that your opponents are not doing the same or that they are stupidly or lightly making decisions of life or death.

We probably do not have anything left to talk about on this thread. It has become painful for me.

Posted by: C&J at December 16, 2011 5:28 AM
Comment #333127

How will the left respond to Iran taking over Iraq. It will happen, you know…

Posted by: Mike at December 16, 2011 12:46 PM
Comment #333130

Mike, if Iran takes over Iraq, it won’t happen by invasion.

How will the right respond if Iraq and Iran develop a close relationship. Keep in mind the many times that Bush and Cheney said we were giving the Iraqis freedom and democracy, the right to make those decisions for themselves.
We may not like their decisions, but two administrations have repeatedly said we have given them the freedom to make them for themselves.

It would present the perfect opportunity for the right to roll out the WMD’s imminent threat to America mantra again and attack the left wouldn’t it?

C&J, we have been arguing the Iraq war for as long as I have been at WB and in all that time I have often presented
documented factual evidence supporting my position, while in that same period, you have offered nothing but opinion and right leaning rhetoric in return. Check the archives.

The Bush Administration entered office in Jan. 2001, determined to end the sanctions regime and invade Iraq, That is fact supported by evidence. By March of 2001, the administration was sending emissaries to foreign governments, carrying maps of Iraq’s oil fields and soliciting for coalition allies for the invasion. Fact supported by evidence.

Ask the Pols why they joined the coalition. unlike other coalition governments they did not lie - ‘Access to Iraq’s oil fields for their oil companies and their partners, Kellogg, Brown and Root’ (Halliburton).

The neocons had planned to flood the market with Iraqi oil to take out OPEC. That didn’t work out so well.

Moral Universe? People use morality as if it were modeling clay.

Posted by: jlw at December 16, 2011 4:46 PM
Comment #333133

Sorry, but I just can’t buy any justifications for the Iraq War. It seems like the majority of Americans now understand that the government lied this nation into the war, and that it was nothing but a huge mistake — on so many levels.

Many people in the Bush administration, including Bush and Cheney should definitely go to jail for what they did.


It has become painful for me.

Well, you’re far from alone. The Iraq war has been painful for a lot of people. Most especially those who have lost loved ones — American and Iraqi.

Personally, I agree with what jlw wrote above. There is absolutely no reason at all that we cannot honor the service and sacrifice of our military members who served so well and bravely in Iraq, while at the same acknowledge the reality of the war and how wrong it was.

Posted by: Adrienne at December 16, 2011 4:56 PM
Comment #333135

“There is absolutely no reason at all that we cannot honor the service and sacrifice of our military members who served so well and bravely in Iraq, while at the same acknowledge the reality of the war and how wrong it was.”

Well said Adrienne!

Posted by: Rich at December 16, 2011 5:17 PM
Comment #333137

The problem with that statement is it is “feel good”. While the left disdains the military, would cut their pay, and would cut their support; at the same time they say how much they honor them. It’s hard to separate love for the military from what they are paid to do. I remember the nasty hippies (prelude to the OWS) who spit on the military and called them baby killers; when I walked through the airports in uniform in the late 60’s and early 70’s. That bunch of nasty people in the airports are the same people who call themselves liberal/progressives today.

You guys can peddle your BS somewhere else, I was their when you showed your love and respect for the military.

Posted by: TomT at December 16, 2011 5:32 PM
Comment #333140
While the left disdains the military, would cut their pay, and would cut their support


I remember the nasty hippies (prelude to the OWS) who spit on the military and called them baby killers; when I walked through the airports in uniform in the late 60’s and early 70’s. That bunch of nasty people in the airports are the same people who call themselves liberal/progressives today.


Posted by: Adrienne at December 16, 2011 5:52 PM
Comment #333146

If there is one thing that is obvious after the GOP debate last night, it’s that the GOP learned nothing- nothing- from Iraq. With the exception of Paul, the candidates spewed regurgitated neocon hatred for Iran. They can’t wait to start another war.

Iraq was not an “insurgency,” as C&J so quaintly put it. It was a complex, multi-factional civil war. Al Qaida in Iraq was only one relatively minor faction among many, as were the Soldiers of Heaven I mentioned earlier in this thread. In general, there were three ethno/religious groups in conflict: Kurds, Sunnis, and Shias. The Sunnis split yet again into religious fundamentalists and Baathists, with the Baathists being a comparitively secular group. The Baathists supported Saddam Hussein. We overthrew them, and when we realized it was a colossal mistake, we allied with those Baathists in order to restore order in central Iraq.

It is reasonable to assume the Shias of southern Iraq will side with Iran. That is certainly NOT true of the Sunnis in central Iraq, nor the Kurds of the northern portion. It was an important reason why Bush #41 chose to let Saddam Hussein stay in power.

Posted by: phx8 at December 16, 2011 8:46 PM
Comment #333149

Adrienne, so your evidence is a liberal hack:

“Socialist professor of sociology at Holy Cross College and anti-war activist
Engages in historical revisionism that valorizes the Vietnam era anti-war movement
Lectures that post-traumatic stress disorder was a political invention to discredit the anti-war movement

Born in June 1943, Jerry Lembcke is an associate professor of sociology at Holy Cross College in Massachusetts, where he is regarded as a “nationally recognized expert on the Vietnam War and Vietnam veterans.” Lembcke graduated from Augustana College in 1966 with a B.S. degree in mathematics. In 1978 he earned his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Oregon.

For the socialist Lembcke, the Vietnam War is a consuming interest. His mission is to persuade students of his view that the Vietnam War, along with all wars wherein the United States is a lead actor, are “neo-imperialist” manifestations of America’s militaristic ideal, and therefore to be opposed.

Lembcke’s views are made explicit in his 1998 book, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam. The book, which is required reading in several sociology classes at Holy Cross, mounts two major arguments. The first is that the stories of Vietnam veterans returning from the war only to be spat upon by obstreperous anti-war activists are nothing more than “myth[s]” invented by the Nixon administration. Lembcke claims that the only documented instances of spitting involved belligerent Vietnam veterans unloading on those of their disillusioned comrades who joined forces with the anti-war movement. Lembcke’s claims are undermined by the testimony of countless veterans who have reported being spat upon by peace activists; nevertheless, his book was well received by mainstream media outlets upon its release, and many credulous journalists persist in unquestioningly recycling its claims.”

If anyone wants to rad more about this socialist they can go to this link:

Sorry Adrienne, but I was there and contrary to your socialst evidence, I personally saw it happen.

You have given no evidence to debunk anyone. But I will offer further proof; the same type of nasty OWS people who pissed and deficated on police cars, the streets, the sidewalk, and in office buildings are the same type of people who protested Vietnam. Perhaps in another 40 years, another socialist professor will again try to revise history, and another ignorant liberal will be trying to offer the revisions as proof…

The left has always despised the military. This is a fact of life. When a white person talks about having a friend who is black, the left says they are really racist with a token black as a friend; when a liberal starts talking about how much they respect the military, it is a token attempt to make themslves look like they like the military, but the opposite is true.

Posted by: TomT at December 16, 2011 9:19 PM
Comment #333151


Excellent summary of the dynamics of the Iraq post invasion conflict.

I doubt that Iran will take any overt action to “take over” Iraq. Why would they? They are not in conflict and have made increasing efforts over the past few years to improve their diplomatic relationships. This is no longer a Sunni Iraq vs. a Shia Iran. In fact, Iraq is now a Shia dominated country. The conflict to be concerned about is between Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Rich at December 16, 2011 9:29 PM
Comment #333154

“The left has always despised the military.”


What absolute nonsense. What the left “has always despised” is militarism. There is a vast difference. On that score, the “left” is in good company. Our founding fathers also despised militarism and distrusted large standing armies. Why do you think that there was a constitutional prohibition against funding a standing army beyond two years? Thomas Jefferson: “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.” James Madison said, “A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen.” Elbridge Gerry (Vice President under James Madison) called standing armies “the bane of liberty.”

Posted by: Rich at December 16, 2011 9:52 PM
Comment #333155

I am a leftist. I served in the military as a volunteer. Six years. Captain, B-52 Radar Navigator.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Posted by: phx8 at December 16, 2011 10:20 PM
Comment #333156

I know of two other leftist bombardiers: Joseph Heller, author of “Catch 22,” and Howard Zinn, author of the classic socialist work, “A People’s History of the United States.”

And among all those neocons agitating for an attack on Iran, you’ll have a very very hard time finding any who actually served in the military. They are what you call ‘chicken hawks,’ people like Cheney and Krauthammer and Limbaugh and Beck and Hannity and Romney and Gingrich and Santorum and so on and so on.

Posted by: phx8 at December 16, 2011 10:33 PM
Comment #333158

I don’t believe all this “hippie spitting” ever happened. The fact is, I’ve seen that claim being made on the internet so many times that I too, am now totally convinced it’s nothing but a made up rightwing smear.

Rich and phx8, good replies.

Posted by: Adrienne at December 17, 2011 1:49 AM
Comment #333177

Although I never was physically spit upon when returning home from the service during Nam, Adrienne, the reseption we got on returning was like getting spit in the face. We were called all sorts of names such as Baby killers and the like and very much looked down on.

Posted by: KAP at December 17, 2011 4:26 PM
Comment #333180

Adrienne, incidents like that did happen, but they weren’t as common as some would have us believe.

Rich, more leftist distortion of our Founding Fathers intent? Militarism? More trickery, militarism’s intent is included in the definition of patriotism? Preemption is as well.

Phx8, I think the right, might be amazed at how many veterans are lefties. It is not an insignificant number.

After they finish doing poll taxes perhaps they will devise a political examination for new military volunteers.

‘Chicken Hawks’ make good talk show propagandists, but they are even better as liaisons between the people and the Military Industrial Complex.

Posted by: jlw at December 17, 2011 5:51 PM
Comment #333194

To all the deniers of spitting and other assaults on servicemen.

It happened and a lot. I was part of it. I burned flags, I spat at servicemen, but never hit one.

My reason for doing so was I was gathering intel for authorities. I had to do things that were repulsive to me, but I had to stand tall to do them. I am not sorry for what I did. People went to prison for some of the info I gathered.

The people who were behind the anti-war movement were a litany of organizations on the left. There were Congresspersons who were in the thick of it. It was not just some snot nosed hippies doing it. The people who were fomenting the problems were criminals. It is sad to say that some people benefited from their criminal activity and did not go to prison, but went on to even become members of Congress. That is shameful.

Today things are not all that different. The powers that be still get their way.


Posted by: tom humes at December 18, 2011 2:41 AM
Comment #333197

That is the kind of world we live in, 5 million dead Vietnamese and the anti war protesters were criminals, Congresspersons included.


Posted by: jlw at December 18, 2011 12:23 PM
Comment #333202

Regarding Abu Ghraib, I’m not a big fan of people telling me how ignorant I am without introducing new information to prove there was something, between the two of us, that you knew and I didn’t.

It’s patronizing. I’m basing my opinion on the investigations that traced a lot of the policies to Dick Cheney’s office, and his friends. Abu Ghraib wasn’t some isolated atrocity caused by slipshod command. It was bad policy that became inconveniently public.

As for my ignorance? You really ought to research that kind of claim before you make it. After all, you and Rush Limbaugh seem to have a difference of opinion. You’re not minimizing it, but Bill-O is. Hannity was rationalizing things as well.

Long story short, my ignorance is not the ignorance you need to worry about.

As far as al-Qaeda goes, I don’t care what shape they are in, it needs to get worse. There needs to be a history book a half century or century from now that says “al-Qaeda attacked the United States, and on account of this, the poor dumb ****ers were wiped off the face of the planet.” It’s not something I’d like to leave to chance, especially with what came of your people saying that al-Qaeda and the Taliban were defeated once and for all. The judgment of whether to abandon or maintain a mission was never a strong suit of the administration you worked for. They always gave up too fast on the fights they needed to fight, and too slow on the ones that needed to be set aside.

As for my moral universe? I had a lot more to consider in 2004 and beyond that you could only guess at. I knew that I was not a soldier, a diplomat, or whatever, but I listened to the opinions of plenty of people who were, and considered things with my own knowledge and perspective on things. I question some of the ideas about the war you hold most dear, but like I said before, I was never a pacifist, nor a big fan of the dictator they took down.

But for my part, I think it was idiocy for the Bush Administration to abuse people’s trust the way they did. Reading Von Clausewitz, he offered that one of the critical things in terms of prosecuting the war was the support of those back home, and what Bush did left people deeply divided, and the war itself controversial. Not admitting to problems made it worse. He accused the media of being the dividing force, but when your case for war falls through, and yet you move people to use peer pressure to quiet the dissenters, you’re not unifying anybody.

The failure to answer certain critical problems early is responsible, by all indications, for much of the complication that followed. There are genies you can’t put back in the bottle once they’re out, and they blatantly ignored the advice of others when it came to these decisions, even going so far as to endanger the careers of dissenters. There were a lot of people with good intentions, lots of certainty, but not that much competence who made critical decision on the war.

If you go through my earliest commentary on the war, the question was always one of how we achieved victory. I wanted reform to the war effort, even if it had been an ill-considered, ill-begotten war. I was always conscious of the complexities involved in ending the war, which is why I’ve been patient with a Bush plan that began reducing the casualties and the violence, and Obama’s continuation of the plan. I know that if the war does flare up again, we’ll either be left facing another trip back there to send
Americans to die, or we’ll have to watch things fall apart there as we saw them fall apart after Vietnam.

I understand counter-intuitive results. I figure the only way to deal with that is through experience. The question is not whether you can be perfectly right. Nobody can be. I take strong positions mostly because I don’t believe much of anything halfway The question, instead, is whether you correct things when they go wrong. I didn’t see corrections being done by the Bush Administration, not even when things were going seriously downhill. They were still trying to win political battles with folks like me, with their other critics, rather than acknowledge problems.

To me, this a primary concern in politics today: the abstraction of political measures of correctness from real-world measures. Math should determine budgeting, not an unreliable political theory. Science should dictate policy in regards to global warming, not conspiracy theories about scientists being socialist frauds.

Consensus shouldn’t be based on unfounded propaganda. There has to be a critical component of empirical and otherwise disciplined decision-making. That would be my point to you. In a world filled with uncertainties, only real evidence, the true nature of real world events can work well as a part of a deliberate plan to do things right. Everything else will be deflected by the nature of events and things as they are.

I think you’re a person of good conscience, but as I have emphasized over and over again, even people of good conscience can be mistaken. That is what people like us must guard against.

This Democracy doesn’t work all that well if a large segment of the population are kept artificially ignorant of reality. This is why I give FOXNews and all those people such a hard time, because quite frankly, I think outlets like that, that care more about the balance of ideology, and not the balance of the facts, do your movement and this country a disservice. Conservatism will only long prosper when it’s applied in accordance with realities, when mistaken beliefs in the movement are checked by the facts, rather than reinforced by special interests and powerbrokers within the party. When the Republicans finally decide that their party is going to be built more on policy that does empirical good, they’ll lose a lot of the bad reputation and the problematic legacy of failed policies.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 18, 2011 2:52 PM
Comment #333208


You just said you have more confidence in biased reports than from a person that has spent time on the ground and amongst the people and has presented his case on the level. That says a ton about your lack of integrity in dealing with the truth.

You were not there. We have a contributor who was there. You read reports from people you don’t know and believe them. WOW!! Unbelievable!!


Posted by: tom humes at December 18, 2011 4:07 PM
Comment #333217

t h, some of us on here go back in time to when jack supposedly was doing all of these mysterious things.
There wasn’t a lot of convincing done then, and there still isn’t now.
You weren’t here at that time… have nothing to say about those “questionable” reports.

Posted by: jane doe at December 19, 2011 12:36 AM
Comment #333234


I was going to leave this thread alone, since nothing more could come of it. But you have attacked my integrity.

I spent a year in Iraq. I wrote at the time about what I saw and what I thought. You can disagree. You can say that my observations were superficial or misguided. But I do feel that people like you ignored the reports of real experience.

I tried to tell you the truth as I saw it. I understand the disagreement, but I resent the ignorance that you display in rejecting out of hand actual experience.

I have tried for a long time to cast my pearls before the swine who just crush them into the mud.

Stephen, as misguided as I think he is about this subject, tells me that he treats my observations as a source, but he thinks he has better ones of similar primary importance. I accept that. Your implication is something else.

There was nothing questionable about my reports. If you disagree, I understand. It is your opinion. If you question my integrity, you can go to hell and take with you your worthless powers of analysis. I will not be lectured to by idiots. I paid too much for the Iraqi experience in ways your sort cannot understand. If the Watchblog editors want to kick me off for this, let it be. But what I am telling you is true and I will not recant.

Posted by: C&J at December 19, 2011 4:47 AM
Comment #333236

Jack, I couldn’t agree with you more. Many thanks for your service to our country.

Posted by: tdobson at December 19, 2011 10:23 AM
Comment #333243

C&J, for me this isn’t a matter of questioning your integrity or the truthfulness of what you have told us of your experiences. It is a matter of context. Many people have reported their experiences, Some are quite similar to your own experiences and some differ considerably. One person’s experience will not give us a clear perspective of the reality of the war. Especially one Americans.

Posted by: jlw at December 19, 2011 1:34 PM
Comment #333244


I accept your type of criticism. It may be I was just really lucky and saw mostly positive developments.

What I object to is the innuendo “supposedly was doing all of these mysterious things… those “questionable” reports.”

This implied that Jane is calling me a liar. This I do not have to take from anybody and I will not allow this.

I have been extraordinarily honest and polite on this blog. I have given people the benefit of doubts. I have never lied to anybody here. Never.

I understand disagreement with what I say. My guess is that many people disagree with me. But I have always stated my opinions honestly.

If some people are too stupid or too malevolent to see that after so many years, they can - as I said, go to hell.

If I misunderstood Jane, she can explain and I will apologize. But I would caution her to use language more precisely. I suspect, however, that she understood and meant what she seemed to have said.

Posted by: C&J at December 19, 2011 2:28 PM
Comment #333311

I don’t know whether or not you’ll object to my own criticisms or not, but I do think you need to get real here. People (like myself and many others) who have stood against the Iraq War don’t owe you praise or agreement with your views. Watchblog regulars who have been reading your comments for a long time know you’ve supported this war every step of the way, even to the point of willingly going there yourself and then coming here to talk in glowing terms about your views on the war and what you experienced.

Just to contrast what you’ve written, I’ll give you an overview of my own views on this war, and what it has done to Iraq, as well as to our own country.

In my view, the Iraq War has been a completely unnecessary war. This shameful, glaring fact places it among the most morally reprehensible and disgusting moments in American history.
Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. There was no WMD. America invaded a sovereign nation we didn’t need to invade and what has been the result?
A Nightmare. An Outrage.
We’ve wrecked the Iraqi’s people’s nation and set their entire society back by decades. We killed large numbers of people and damaged the lives of so many. We leave there a destroyed and collapsed society with a Civil War looming on their horizon.
This unnecessary war did not bring their nation stability or civic order, or any hope that there will be prosperity any time soon. They’re now faced with water systems that don’t function properly, there is a widespread lack electricity and refrigeration in some areas, and power on for a few hours per day in others. Schools are closed, and they can get shot now simply trying to buy food.
The Iraqi people HATE us for destroying their nation and their lives — and who in their right mind could blame them?

We have completely shattered a nation of twenty some million people and we should have never gone there. To our shame, our leaders knowingly lied to us and took our nation into their war of choice anyway — shattering and destroying the lives of many of our own citizens, as well.

As if those things alone aren’t utterly horrific and shameful enough, it doesn’t stop there. Those dishonest leaders also borrowed most of the money for that war of choice, while at the same time lowering taxes — creating a colossally gigantic national debt that is eating us alive. A debt so massive, that it now chokes out everything else in the national budget, creating serious economic chaos.

The economic events of 2007-2009 that came on the heels of their unpaid for and unnecessary war has further devastated us in every way possible, bringing us the greatest downturn since 1929, and 10 percent unemployment levels. (That was all thanks to the 1% Criminals on Wall Street, but our government ignores this and continues to act as though what they did was perfectly fine.)

Even a total idiot knows that if you have unprecedented expenditures, you have to have more revenues. You don’t cut taxes. You have to at the very least maintain their level — however logically, you would raise them. But this is not what has been done. Indeed, dangerously moronic politicians on the right (including all of the Republican Primary Candidates) are still demanding tax cuts and trying to convince people that everything is going to be okay. As if the nation hasn’t been utterly bankrupted when it HAS BEEN.

Therefore, people who continue to try to defend the morally reprehensible and economically devastating Iraq War and assert we should keep cutting taxes (especially on the wealthy), and keep hurting our own people by cutting every and all social expenditures that have made our society a healthy and civilized one don’t only just seem dishonest, but completely INSANE.

Such a clear display of dishonesty and insanity — over the wars, and regarding our economic collapse have given rise to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. It is nothing other than Americans demanding transparency, honesty and sanity from our nation’s leadership — because they clearly haven’t been providing anything of the sort for many years.

Posted by: Adrienne at December 20, 2011 12:32 PM
Comment #333347


I do not require praise or agreement with my views. Lord knows I have talked to you all on all sorts of levels.

What I do tell you outright is that I have always told the truth. You can disagree with my interpretation of what I saw, but those who call my posts “questionable” or imply that I have told lies about this are simply full of shit and do not deserve even my contempt.

There is an important distinction. I had some experiences in Iraq, which I truthfully transmitted to you all. I made no attempt to mislead you about the experiences. You may disagree with my interpretations and you may even believe that I am stupid. But I have NEVER lied to anybody here. NEVER.

I knew part of Iraq for one year. I saw the changes there and knew the problems. I never claimed to have special knowledge about the whole country. But there are parts of Iraq that I knew better than any living American, since I had extraordinary access. For example, I wrote the Wikipedia on Akashat. Nobody else who went there cared to write and it now out of date. I aslo knew more about places like Haditha, Hit, Al Qaim and Rutbah, since I used to go there, walk around and talk to the people. You can choose to disregard that if you want. But you cannot say that I did not try to tell the truth as I saw it.

I had a truly unique experience in Iraq. I was very lucky with my timing. I arrived just as the war was winding down in September 2007. You can question my interpretations, but I walked in all the major cities in Western Anbar province. I walked in market places among Iraqis. They could have killed me if they had wanted to do so. I am still alive. The offered me food and invited me into their houses. We drank tea together. They told me that they were grateful for the Marines protection.

I also arranged for some good things, such as the planting of thousands of trees as windbreaks to stop the dust. We did this in cooperation with Iraqi friends and brought in agricultural experts to help them grow. I touched many of these tree with my own hands and I know they were planted correctly, since I also have experience in forestry.

ALL these things are true. Those who say they are not are shitheads and below my contempt. These are facts and facts are not interpreted by those who don’t know. Those who disagree with my interpretations are entitled to their opinions, but they are not entitled to call me a liar.

Let me be clear. I believe what I do about Iraq strongly. So strongly that I was willing to eat dust for a year and risk living in a war zone. I think people who disagree with me are misinformed. BUT I respect that they have opinions based on different interpretations. I am liberal (small l) in this sense.

In all the times we have discussed any subject, I have never lied to you. There is no reason for me to do so. I have never lied to Jane either. I assume you all also tell the truth. We can disagree w/o questioning each others’ characters.

Posted by: C&J at December 20, 2011 7:35 PM
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