Bronze-level articleIraq War

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What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!


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Don't believe us?
Oh, we're sorry, were you looking for Vietnam?
US could fail to find WMD on the ground in Iraq and be unpersuasive to the world... it could take eight to 10 years, thereby absorbing US leadership, military, and financial resources... Recruiting and financing for terrorist networks could take a dramatic upward turn from successful information operations by our enemies, positioning the US as anti-Muslim... Iraq could experience ethnic strife among Sunni, Shia, and Kurds...
Donald Rumsfeld's "Iraq List of Problems" memo, 15 October 2002[1]
Vietnam was bad enough, but to repeat the same experiment thirty years later in Iraq is a strong argument for a case of national stupidity.
—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.[2]

The Iraq War can refer to either of two recent conflicts — the short term invasion under George H.W. Bush by the United States in order to "revert" Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait (Operation Desert Storm), or the long-term full-bore invasion, again by the U.S. under George W. Bush, originally named "Operation Iraqi Liberation" (O.I.L.).[3]

The former (more commonly known as the Gulf War[4]) was a relative success at restoring a despotic absolute monarchy (which is strange given that the United States was founded on a revolution against monarchy), especially if you don't buy into the theory that the U.S. could have prevented the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by using less bloody means. The retreating Iraqi army was, however, mercilessly slaughtered as they tried to return to Baghdad.[5]

The latter appears to have been, in the words of some, "the worst foreign policy disaster in American history."[6][7][8] The U.S. was mired in Iraq for a good eight years, with a steady "trickle" of dead U.S. soldiers, a horrible flow of maimed U.S. soldiers, a disastrous flood of tortured, dead or displaced Iraqi civilians (half a million, by one estimate[9]), and ongoing monetary costs that boggle the mind.[10] The war was "ended" in December 2011, following plans by Dubya and then-President Obama. While the Afghanistan War can be argued as necessary due to the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War was started based on false pretenses.[11]

Notably, the architects of the latter war (chickenhawks to a man) completely misjudged the extent, costs, and results of this adventure. What follows is a discussion of the second U.S. Iraq debacle.


[edit] Terminology

When Coalition forces led by the United States of America invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003, news media heralded the initiation of the Iraq War. When George W. Bush announced the end of major combat operations on May 1, 2003 the war "ended" and the formal occupation of Iraq began, the media began to refer to U.S. and U.K. efforts to administer the nation as "the Occupation of Iraq."

Some people relate the Iraq War to the Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991), and name it the Second Gulf War, even though the vast majority of combat did not occur along the sea.

The American government gave the Iraq War the code name "Operation Iraqi Freedom" after the name "Operation Iraqi Liberation (O.I.L.)" was scrapped due to the obvious name issue.

The American and British military presence in Iraq is commonly linked to the wider-reaching "War on Terror," although that phrase was eventually jettisoned by the UK administration for sounding far too "Hollywood."

[edit] Justifications

It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran... the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.

—David Manning in the infamous "Downing Street memo," 23 July 2002[12]

The American establishment offered a number of "justifications" for breaking the sovereignty of Iraq without obtaining consent from the evil United Nations. Before, during, and immediately after the invasion, Coalition forces were tasked with recovering Saddam's stockpile of non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Worthy of note was the popular pun on this phrase "Weapons of Mass Distraction," alluding to the now patently false accusations made by the U.S. and U.K. establishments that such weapons existed.

When the non-existent WMDs... well, failed to exist, Dubya and Tony Blair began to preach the importance of forcing spreading democracy onto the Iraqi people (literally "attempting to establish an orderly European-style state on the Tigris and Euphrates"[13]), apparently unaware of the ironic (yet again) nature of such a notion. By definition, democracy must be chosen by the people, not "given" to them by lack of consent.

After the war, attention was also turned to the existence of potential programs of Weapons of Mass Destruction — in other words, "Saddam would have had them if he could." While this is certainly true, the fact that Saddam didn't actually have Weapons of Mass Destruction (and had no prospect of obtaining them) at the time of the invasion rather weakens the case. This was then repeated in arguments to attack Iran when the Dinner Jacket was in charge.

Subsequently the capture of Saddam was hailed as a major (and apparently the only) success — however this was not the main objective at the start of the war and looks very much like looking for justification after the event. Considering the Arab Spring could have gotten rid of him without the huge body count (or at least a good excuse for the US to intervene), it's some pretty shitty logic in hindsight.

The U.K. military withdrew from major population centers in southern Iraq, stating that its presence encouraged violence and disorderly conduct. Meanwhile, the U.S. splurged billions more dollars on shipping many thousands of soldiers into the nation, believing that a larger military presence would hasten the restoration of peace and civility in Iraq. This so-called "surge" appeared to have worked in the short term, largely moving Iraq out of civil war. However, shortly after the official US withdrawal at the end of 2011, suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism — fueled by increased sectarian strife facilitated by Nouri al-Maliki[14] — became a regular feature of Iraqi life. And then came ISIS.

[edit] Global War on Terror

See the main article on this topic: War on Terror

The invasion of Iraq was advertised as being part of the War on Terror. Whilst the U.S. and U.K. insist upon maintaining a presence in the Middle East and introducing laws that erode civil liberties within their own nations as effective steps towards "winning" this war, critics often observe that these actions have worsened security both abroad and domestically. It would appear to many that the War on Terror is also ambiguous in its aims, as there does not appear to be any universally accepted end point to such a campaign. Unlike the Iraq War, which technically ended with the fall of Baghdad on 9 April 2003, the global War on Terror does not have any universally recognizable objectives.

Of course, the most important justification was 9/11, as immortalised in song by Darryl Worley. One of the landmark recordings of the decade![15]

[edit] Oil?

Many anti-war protesters believe that, contrary to the assertions of the American and British establishments, the real impetus for breaking Iraq's sovereignty was its vast quantity of oil and Saddam Hussein's refusal to sell it in dollars, preferring instead to sell the black stuff in euros. Because euros were rising against the American dollar, that would've made Iraqi oil more expensive for the United States. This should be seen in the context that, in 2002, Iraqi oil imports made up 4% of total US oil imports.[16][17] Also, world trade in oil taking place in dollars forces countries to maintain a substantial quantity of dollars on hand, creating demand for the currency and helping keep its value propped up. A shift to trade in euros would undermine this.

Australian Defense Minister Brenden Nelson said that oil was a key factor keeping Australian troops in the US-led war in Iraq. He was, however, hastily reprimanded by his boss (former Prime Minister John Howard), who reassured the news media that democracy and preventing the spread of terrorism was his main concern.[18] As part of the coalition, Australia had 1500 troops stationed in and around Iraq.

In 2007 Alan Greenspan admitted more-or-less the same thing.[19]

Others say that as far as Big Oil was concerned, the Iraq War was not about getting the oil out, but making sure that it stays in, thereby keeping the price of oil up. The casus belli for them had been that Saddam was trying to sell more. So they had stood in opposition to the neocons, who wanted the oil fields to be privatized (which would have boosted production); but both parties were in agreement that Saddam had to go.[20]

[edit] More primal explanations

In 2013, New York Times reporter Peter Baker quoted a former senior White House official who suggested that America went to Iraq just to "find somebody's ass to kick."[21]

[edit] Benefits

Supporters of the Iraq War, particularly in the U.S., have suggested these "benefits" of the war:

  1. Our no-fly zones are a thing of the past. No more risk of Saddam shootin' down one of our birds and parading a beaten and raped female Air Force captain on Al Jazeera.
  2. Saddam is gone, along with his two spermazoid sons.
  3. The Marsh Arabs have their land again, and the Kurds aren't sucking the mustard gas that we gave Saddam in the 80s.[22]
  4. The Sunni Arabs have rejected al-Qaeda in Iraq and stabilized the gigantic Anbar region. Fuck.
  5. Iraq is only the second "real" democracy to take root in the Middle East. Fuck.
  6. The strong Iraqi democracy and its armed forces along with US military success has deterred the Iranian Ayatollahs and their cronies from their nuclear adventures, threats against Israel, and weakened Iran's position as a regional power. Fuck.
  7. The well disciplined and ferocious Iraqi army has seen to it that ISIS/Daesh has no hope of taking over the entire region. Fuckity-fuck.
  8. Training exercises can never take the place of actual combat. American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, and the technology of their weapons, have been honed to such a keen edge that China or North Korea would be insane to even contemplate taking us on now, bitches.
  9. Iraq is no longer a threat to the region. There will be no Iraqi participation in the next Arab-Israeli war.[note 1]
  10. The US military is now positioned between Iran and Israel, and can reach out to strike at Syria at any time.[note 2]
  11. Saudi Arabia is no longer dependent on the United States for its defense - against Iraq, of course. If war broke out between Saudi Arabia and Iran,[note 3] the Saudis would be in heaps of trouble.

The rest of the world should note that "our" and "us" in the section found above seems to refer to the USA. OK, keep reading.

[edit] John McCain on the Iraq War

John McCain, the Republican nominee for the 2008 Presidential Election, shared a few bon mots about the War:

This is a mission accomplished.
—John McCain on the Second Iraq War, in 2003.[23]
I don't know if you could ever say, quote 'mission accomplished,' as much as you could say 'Americans are out of harm's way.' And that's the key to America's concern — casualties.
—John McCain on the Second Iraq War, in 2008.[24]
My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will -- that will then prevent us -- that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.
—John McCain on why the US started the Second Iraq War.[25]

[edit] More criticism

I have my detractors in Washington. There are bastards who spread things around, of course, who planted nasty things in the media [to discredit me], not that I cared very much.

Hans Blix, the man who almost saved the lives of hundreds of thousands[26]

Many in both the U.S. and the U.K. have criticized the war for this, that, or the other reason. One rather large criticism (that has led to plenty of conspiracy theories) is the use of "private contractors" to perform military tasks. One such (that may soon be leaving Iraq) is Blackwater.

McCain said he'd rather lose an election than lose a war,[27][28] implying that Obama wanted to lose the Iraq War.[29] McCain was really talking about Obama "losing" our permanent superbases in Iraq from where the dummies who got us into all this plan to project military power into Syria and Iran and any other country that threatens "Little America" there in the Middle East.

In 2011, a CIA source nicknamed "Curveball," Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, admitted that he had fabricated statements used in Colin Powell's statements before the UN.[30]

The U.S. has been criticized for losing 190,000 guns brought into Iraq.[31] It is possible that this was a back door attempt to provide "Second Amendment" rights to the citizens of Iraq.

[edit] As a distraction from Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is a stomach cancer operation, and Iraq is a nose job. About halfway through the procedure on the stomach, Michael "Dubya" Jackson told the surgeon to stop working, but keep the area irrigated, while he devoted his time and $12 billion a month working on the nose. The doctor kept making mistakes, and Michael's nose kept getting more and more lopped off until it looked like one of those little noses in a Japanese cartoon. Then the surgeon said he was going to quit in a few months, but the taxpayers could pick his replacement. An old white-haired surgeon said he liked the idea of just working on the nose, for a hundred years if that’s what it took. A young black doctor said the stomach cancer was about to metastasize and he promised to shift the whole operating team away from the nose job and just work on the stomach cancer. The nose started to fall off.

[edit] End of the war?

In October 2011, Barack Obama finally announced that the remaining troops in Iraq would be coming home by the end of 2011 and that the nearly nine-year war could come to an end following the timetable set out in a 2008 agreement signed by Bush.[32] The final troops left in December 2011.[33]

[edit] But wait, there's more!

The events for which the Iraq War will be remembered by us and by the world have not yet happened.
—Thomas E. Ricks in 2009[34]

In 2014, disturbing news emerged for people who had not been paying attention to a country that had been engaged in a low-level civil war for quite a while. In June, ISIS — the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a Sunni group that broke away from al-Qaeda because the al-Qaeda leadership thought they were too extreme — captured Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.[35] The American-trained Iraqi army deserted en masse when faced with ISIS forces,[36] and the Bush/Blair gang popped up on various talk shows to defend their creation.[37][38]

US airstrikes are again a reality.[39] Meanwhile, up north, the Kurds (fighting ISIS) captured the key city of Kirkuk. Facing pressure from everyone at that point, Maliki finally stepped down in favour of an emergency government.[40]

[edit] David Kelly and sexy Alastair Campbell

In the UK one of the most notorious outcomes of the war was the death of David Kelly, a British government scientist who leaked to the media claims that the British government had exaggerated the dangers of Saddam Hussein. Specifically, he told BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan that Tony Blair's office, and spokesman and media chief Alastair Campbell, had "sexed up" a dossier of arguments for the war by adding the incorrect claim that in the event of war Saddam would be able to deploy weapons of mass destruction to the battlefield in just 45 minutes; the actual intelligence available did not support this claim.

A few days after Kelly was revealed as the source, he was found dead in a field near his home. There was speculation by conspiracy theorists that Kelly was murdered to prevent him revealing the truth about the Iraq War.[41] Theories focused over the question of whether Kelly could have bled to death from the wound he apparently inflicted upon himself.[42] Tony Blair set up the Hutton Inquiry to investigate, or possibly to whitewash. It found that Blair and his government had done nothing wrong; Kelly had killed himself; the government hadn't deliberately leaked Kelly's name, victimised him, or driven him to suicide; the BBC was wrong to claim that Blair or Campbell had exaggerated the threat of Saddam's WMDs; the BBC's procedures were defective; Blair was right and his critics were wrong, the end.[43]

Gordon Brown later set up the Chilcot Inquiry to further investigate the wider background of the Iraq War. It was even more expensive, slower, and more inconclusive.[44]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Notes

  1. Unless these guys gain control of Iraq, of course.
  2. Unlike previously, where the US would have to ask permission of its NATO ally, Turkey, to launch land forces against Syria and could use any of a number of regional bases and/or aircraft carriers to launch air strikes.
  3. A war against the "heretical" Shi'as is something the fundamentalist Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere would really enjoy - as for their prospect of actually winning... For a notion of how bad such a war might be, try picturing a combination of the Thirty Years' WarWikipedia's W.svg and the Iran-Iraq WarWikipedia's W.svg

[edit] References

  1. The 29 possibilities, have fun! (Full context from The Washington Post)
  2. "History and National Stupidity," New York Review of Books, April 27, 2006, quoted in Jacoby, Susan, The Age of American Unreason, p. 643. 2008, Pantheon Books.
  3. Ari Fleischer referring to "Operation Iraqi Liberation"
  4. The term Gulf War is by itself problematic as the term "First Gulf War" initially referred to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s and hence there are either two or three "Gulf Wars" with the first one being counted or not depending on whom you speak to, making this whole thing rather... messy
  5. Peter Turnley's 'Unseen Gulf War', NPR
  6. How Just Were America's Wars? A Survey of Experts, International Studies Perspectives
  7. Iraq in Retrospect, Stephen Saideman
  8. William Odom of all people
  9. Iraq study estimates war-related deaths at 461,000, BBC
  10. Iraq war costs U.S. more than $2 trillion: study, Reuters
  11. The Invasion of Iraq: A Balance Sheet, RAND Corporation
  12. The full thousand words
  13. Was Obama wrong to withdraw troops from Iraq?, The Washington Post
  14. How Maliki Ruined Iraq, Foreign Policy (As expected.)
  15. The Top 5 Everything of the Decade (For Better and Worse), Cracked
  16. U.S. Imports from Iraq of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products, Energy Information Administration
  17. U.S. Imports of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products, Energy Information Administration
  18. Australia 'has Iraq oil interest', BBC
  19. Greenspan: Ouster Of Hussein Crucial For Oil Security, The Washington Post
  20. Greg Palast: How Bush Won the War in Iraq - Really!
  21. No Surprises Here, Esquire
  22. Yes, this was all preventable. (Or, in Chalmers Johnson's words, "We know Saddam at one time had weapons of mass destruction because we have the receipts!")
  23. Yay!
  24. ...yay?
  25. Oh.
  26. Hans, you bweaking my bawls!
  27. Win the Battle, Lose the Election?, Politico
  28. McCain Would Rather Lose an Election Than a War?, The Washington Post
  29. You can't win someone else's civil war so it follows that you can't lose it. By the Bush administration's logic, the US already "won" the Iraq War when Saddam was toppled and they've been an occupying force ever since. You can't win an occupation, only end it.
  30. Iraqi defector Curveball: 'I had to do something for my country', The Guardian
  31. Uh, anyone see 190,000 weapons we lost in Iraq?
  32. Obama: All US troops out of Iraq by end of year, NBC News (Note the irony of wingnuts that didn't want us to get out by then.)
  33. Last U.S. troops leave Iraq, ending war, Reuters
  34. The Book that Foretold the (Possible) Collapse of Post-American Iraq, PopMatters
  35. A Rogue State Along Two Rivers: How ISIS Came to Control Large Portions of Syria and Iraq, The New York Times
  36. The Iraq Mess: Place Blame Where it is Deserved, The New Yorker
  37. The Neocons Are Back to Relitigate the Invasion of Iraq, The Atlantic
  38. Three Lines I Don't Need to Hear on Iraq, The Washington Post
  39. Obama authorizes air strikes in Iraq, Reuters
  40. Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki Says He Will Step Down, NPR
  41. David Kelly: An end to the conspiracy theories?, Robert Lewis, The Guardian, 2013
  42. David Kelly – what is behind the conspiracy theories?, The Telegraph, 2011
  43. See the Wikipedia article on Hutton Inquiry.
  44. Chilcot Inquiry: Findings at a glance, BBC
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