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Iraq War

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I love the smell of burning oil wells in the morning!
When peace makes them bored, people declare
War
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A view to a kill

The Iraq War refers to either of two recent conflicts: a) the liberation of Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's regime (codenamed Operation Desert Storm) which was a splendid war, or b) full-bore invasion in 2003, codenamed "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (after the name "Operation Iraqi Liberation" was scrapped due to the obvious name issue), an error of the highest magnitude.[No, not The Onion]

Indeed, the latter was "the worst foreign policy disaster in American history"[1][2][3] and "a case of national stupidity."[4] The U.S. was mired in Iraq for a good eight years, at a cost of half a million Iraqi lives (by one estimate),[5] and $2 trillion dollars.[6]

The Onion's op-ed in '03 hit the nail on the head and managed to get right what all the "Real" News didn't.[7]

Gulf War[edit]

Because if we’d gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn’t have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off.
—Then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney sensibly explaining why the US didn't topple Iraq's government in 1991.[8]

Background[edit]

A President Bush with troops in the Middle East, a sight that would become depressingly common in later years.

Threatened by Iran's Islamic Revolution,[9] Saddam ordered an invasion of the country in 1980, leading to a devastating eight year tussle called the Iran-Iraq WarWikipedia's W.svg. Afterwards, Iraq was mired in $37 billion worth of debt, much of it owed to Kuwait.[10] Hoping to fix this, they decided to call up OPEC to raise the price of oil and asked Kuwait to please kindly drop that whole debt issue.[10] Saudi Arabia and Kuwait rejected this idea, and in 1990, Iraq retaliated by invading Kuwait after citing an island dispute.[10]

Sanctions and coalition-building[edit]

The UN ordered Iraq to back the fuck off, and when Saddam predictably didn't do that they imposed a destructive worldwide ban on trade with Iraq.[11] Iraq proceeded to annex Kuwait and occupy the province with 300,000 troops.[12] This act of aggression combined with the probable threat towards Saudi Arabia, prompted the US and NATO to station almost a million troops in the Arabian peninsula.[13] The US also assembled a coalition of 34 nations to oppose Saddam, including the UAE, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Senegal, South Korea, Qatar, Oman, and also Honduras for some reason.[14] Following more defiance from Saddam, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 687, which authorized the coalition to use "all necessary means" to uphold the previous resolutions and liberate Kuwait.[15] Now with the green light from the UN, the coalition prepared for war.

Operations Desert Storm and Desert Sabre[edit]

The badass-ly nicknamed Highway of DeathWikipedia's W.svg.

Military action commenced with a massive US-led air campaign known as Operation Desert StormWikipedia's W.svg, which would persist for the duration of the war. The attack successfully destroyed Iraq's air defenses and did heavy damage to its communications systems, government buildings, weapons plants, infrastructure, and oil refineries.[12] The coalition subsequently shifted their focus to the front lines in Kuwait to prepare for Operation Desert SabreWikipedia's W.svg. This was a huge allied ground campaign which pushed north from Saudi Arabia into Kuwait and southern Iraq. By the end of February 1991, US and Arab forces successfully pushed Iraq out of Kuwait.[16] The remaining Iraqis were bombed to bits during the retreat to Baghdad.[17]

The rapid victory appealed to US military planners, and they began to hope to end the war a mere five days after the initial ground invasion, which would surpass Israel's prestigious success in the Six Day WarWikipedia's W.svg.[18] Thus, the ceasefire was set for February 20th. However, US military ground commander sounded the alarm that such an early ceasefire would allow Saddam to keep a large amount of his military strength intact. These warnings ended up being accurate,[19] and there were consequences.

Some 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.

Aftermath and mishandled peace[edit]

Kurdish children in a standard Middle Eastern playground.

The never ending war[edit]

The coalition controversially decided to keep Saddam in power. In order to prevent another conflict (ha!), the coalition decided to maintain sanctions on Iraq until the country had divested itself of chemical weapons and any other variety of WMD.[12] Fearing that removing Saddam through violence would create a vacuum for Iran to exploit, the US instead settled on the hope that internal turmoil following his loss would do in the regime on its own.[18] However, the war had been halted unnaturally early, and Saddam had been able to preserve much of his army, allowing him to suppress any domestic opposition. The US was forced to maintain a constant sanctions and occasional military response regime throughout the Clinton years.[18] Saddam's status as a permanent thorn in America's side had severe consequences. After 9/11, Bush ordered his advisers to search for evidence of Iraqi culpability, with predictable results.

The uprisings of 1991[edit]

Before the invasion, President Bush had encouraged Iraq's minorities to rise up against Saddam's tyranny. Unfortunately, this actually happened. Kurds rose up in the north while Shiites rose up in the south. However, the rebels were vastly outgunned by Iraq, defeated though it was, and Saddam's forces were able to brutally suppress the rebels using helicopter gunships.[20] The situation was exacerbated by the Bush administration's lack of vision for what kind of Iraq they would create, and this created situations of indecision and inactivity. During the uprisings and the slaughters, US commanders were frustrated with the lack of direction from above on how they should respond and protect people.[21] In the process of putting down the rebels, Iraqi forces summarily executed thousands of civilians by firing indiscriminately into residential areas and attacking hospitals.[22] The lack of US aid did enormous damage to the image of the West, especially among Shiites, which is a big part of why so many Iraqis weren't quite as thrilled to be "liberated" in the second war as US strategists had expected.[18]

Cheney meets with his Saudi pals in 1990.

Saudi Arabia and Al-Qaeda[edit]

In the early days of the war, Saudi diplomats and leaders feared that Saddam would follow up his success in Kuwait by invading their country. To deter him, they broke with tradition and invited American and Western troops to garrison their country.[23] The aftermath of the war saw unprecedented trials for the Saudi royal family, as an economic slowdown and domestic bubblings over the foreign troops saw the rise of an increasingly radical Islamist political opposition.[23] The failure of foreign troops to withdraw from sacred Saudi land (the country has two of Islam's holiest sites) sparked increasingly furious response from the Islamists, especially towards the royals, who they saw as complicit in a Western occupation. Meanwhile, the relations between America and Saudi Arabia had rapidly cooled after Washington brushed off the royal family's offer to purchase $20 billion of US military goods.[24]

In 1996, Osama bin Laden gave a rambling manifesto declaring war on the United States, citing the foreign presence in Saudi Arabia as his primary grievance.[25] Al-Qaeda proceeded to launch a variety of terrorist attacks against the United States and finally reached its pinnacle with 9/11. This leads us directly into...

Iraq War[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Project for a New American Century
Rummy shaking hands with Saddam in 1983. It's one of the shittiest, yet also best pictures of the latter 20th Century.
At an annual dinner of the American Enterprise Institute in February 2004, Fukuyama sat listening first to a speech by Vice President Dick Cheney and then the columnist Charles Krauthammer, who declared a “unipolar era” had begun, which, of course, the U.S. would lead. “All of these people around me were cheering wildly,” Fukuyama remembers. But in his view, Iraq was fast becoming a blunder. “All of my friends had taken leave of reality...I have not talked with Wolfowitz since.”
—Andrew Bast interviewing Francis Fukuyama[26]

Back in the nineties, a group of hardcore neo-cons including Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, and Donald Rumsfeld (Dick Cheney came onboard almost at once, but it's unclear if he was part of the original group) cooked up the idea of invading Iraq as a way to bring about a new Pax Americana. Iraq is located next to Iran and Syria; with Afghanistan invaded, the planners thought it would bring "freedom" to the ME and isolate Iran.[27]

Also, they were resentful that Bush the Elder hadn't gone all the way and crushed Saddam when he had the chance.[28][29] The drum-beat to invade Iraq began in 1998, when Bill Clinton took the bait on Operation Desert Fox.[30] They publicly tried to get Clinton to take military action against Saddam, claiming he was producing weapons of mass destruction.[31] It almost reads like Cato's "Furthermore, Carthage must be destroyed" with regards to Iraq.[32][33]

Mind you, not a single one of them had the slightest bit of expertise on the subject. Recall all those asinine claims made before the war: "We will be greeted as liberators."[34] "Five days."[35] "Oil revenue will pay for it." [36] These people actually believed all of it.[37] And when they did consult an actual expert on Iraq, Gen. Tony Zinni (the person in charge of keeping Saddam contained), he said that they underestimated the Iraqi insurgency and how long it would take to stabilize the country. After this mob slimed their way into the White House, Zinni resigned from the military.[38]

Terminology[edit]

When Coalition forces led by the U.S. 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."

The invasion of Iraq was advertised as being part of the wider-reaching War on Terror (although that phrase was eventually jettisoned by the UK administration for sounding too "Hollywood"). 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.

Justifications[edit]

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[39]

The establishment needed a slew of excuses for invading Iraq (without consent from the UN). So Cheney had his people tell a bunch of Tall Tales to support this military adventure.[40]

  • 9/11: Saddam was the sitting president of a recognized nation with an (albeit pathetic) air force and army. Using passenger jets as suicide bombers was the work of Islamic terrorists, aka Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and everyone knew it from the start. The White House claimed that Saddam, who had a major beef with the U.S. (and the Bush family specifically) going back a decade, was backing the terrorists.
Evidence is good that the government actually believed this propaganda, as well. The CIA had been seriously politicized by the Bush White House; they were told to ignore anything that suggested Saddam wasn't packing heat, or in league with al-Qaida.[41][42][43][44] So they ignored the mountains of evidence that said otherwise. (CIA Director George Tenet famously said the case against Saddam was "a slam dunk.")[45] Many al-Qadea fighters were captured and interrogated about ties between Saddam and bin Laden. They thought the interrogators were joking, nobody could actually believe something so ludicrous.[46]
Finally, they resorted to torturing people until they got a "confession". The CIA's star witness was subjected to mock burial in a box 20 inches high, just days after the start of the war. He later recanted. Afterwards, he was disappeared.[47]
Colin and his vial.
  • WMDs: It was a known fact that Iraq was given chemical weapons by America to use against Iran in the 80s.[48] Nobody disputed that. The administration knew about the older weapons and admitted that they were not dangerous. Bush and Cheney were claiming newer, active stashes of weapons as a reason for going to war. Moreover, they claimed Iraq was trying to manufacture nuclear weapons.[49] Back in 2002-2003, a conservative talking point was that opponents of invading Iraq were "peaceniks".
Colin Powell, who never quite believed all this nonsense,[50] made a famous speech before the UN where he waved around a bottle of white powder which he claimed was anthrax. Powell also claimed, based upon the testimony of an informant known as Curveball, that Saddam was sending unmanned aerial drones to spray poison over American cities.[51] Unfortunately, when it was later revealed that his entire speech was bogus, that was pretty much the end of his career.[52] (Curveball was later the target of a CIA burn notice, as he was a liar.)[53]
The White House also claimed that Iraq tried to buy uranium ore from Niger. However, those documents were forged. Nevertheless, President Bush uttered the infamous sixteen words in his 2003 State of the Union Address, claiming that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium. Joe Wilson, an American diplomat who claimed that this was a forgery, had his CIA-agent wife outed.[54][55] That NSC guy, John Bolton, also intimidated and helped remove an official from the warpath to Iraq.[56]
  • Humanitarianism: When the WMDs failed to materialize, they made up new fictions. Bush and Tony Blair preached the importance of spreading democracy to the Iraqi people or, in the words of the Post, "establish an orderly European-style state on the Tigris and Euphrates".[57] Subsequently the capture of Saddam was hailed as a major success, as was the Arab Spring, though Bush and Blair differ on that last point.[58][59]
Blair is another odd fish. Crypto-catholic while in office, then converted after he resigned. Vaguely-apocalyptic in his views on Iraq and the ME in general; he seems to fervently believe he was doing God's work in supporting the invasion.[60] He didn't just support it, he actively advised Bush on how to manipulate public opinion.[61]
The invasion of Iraq shattered a nation built on an authoritarian foundation, but more importantly on a personality's foundation. If they really wanted to "nation build", they wouldn't have “permitted—and frequently encouraged—the flow of money...chemicals, and weapons to Iraq” that were used against the Kurds decades ago,[62][63] they would have supported the generals who wanted to overthrow Saddam,[64] etc. Instead they waited after hundreds of thousands died from sanctions (see below), destroyed the very tenuous link between all those groups, and banished his entire ruling party and everyone associated with it, basically overnight, with no plan to replace them.[65] Even during Saddam's 'absence', the country had not devolved into chaos. That vacuum was created by Coalition Provisional Authority Order 2Wikipedia's W.svg, months after the invasion. It was that action which threw the country into chaos, because there was no one in charge. Not just a figurehead or leader in hiding. Literally no more police. No more government anything. Just roving mobs of people with guns.
As an aside, the infrastructure in Iraq was never rebuilt: Baghdad had regular blackouts when we left, something which rarely happened under Saddam.[66]
  • Preemptive war: In retrospect, the "intelligence" wasn't as strong as it seemed,[67][68][69] so the new argument is that Iraq was attempting to develop WMDs, and they needed to be stopped before it was too late to do anything about it. So it should come to absolutely no one's surprise that they didn't find any.[70][71]
Realistically, at any point, most developed countries could be within "years" of developing a bomb. Under international law you need a reason to go to war, and the reason claimed (preemptive strike due to illegal weapons) turned out to be false. The US and UK went to the UN to get backing for a strike and got a resolution, but needed a second one. They didn't get it but went anyway.[72] So using this strict definition of war, our actions in Iraq (and Afghanistan) cannot legally be called a war. In fact, if you pay attention to the legalese politicians often use, you'll hear the phrase "combat operations" used a lot.[73]
The Bush Doctrine's pre-emptionWikipedia's W.svg was at the very best a tiptoe around—and at worst a blatant disregard for—the most basic norm in international relations which is you can't just invade other nations. It's been the bedrock of international diplomacy since the 1640s, so the question becomes, what's the threshold at which it's acceptable to violate national sovereignty? This kind of argument is self-perpetuating. So, the West intervened in the past and today people view many of those as mistakes. This justifies the West intervening again. Presumably if the West make more mistakes this justifies another go, and so on.[74]
Prior examples of "preemptive war" include:
1. Caesar argued his invasion of Gaul and Germania was to pre-empt Gaulish invasion, if not of Roman territory then of allied Gauls.
2. Cao Cao launched a foray into Wuhan (tribes north of China) to prevent their support of the Yuan clan in the civil war prior to the Three Kingdoms.
2. Pretty much all of WWI thanks to Germany, and their insane daisy chain of political alliances.
3. Nazi Germany vs. USSR, which ended poorly for the Nazis.
4. That time the US fought a preventive war with a Communist country propped up by a superpower in the far east. Went super well and was super short and clean if we remember correctly.[75]

Spice must flow[edit]

The UN Oil-for-Food program was created to allow Iraq to buy provisions (food, medicine, infrastructure components, and so forth) with oil revenue, This caused a sharp decrease in the price of oil under Clinton economy, which powered the 90's economic boom. Oil went as low as $9 a barrel. (500,000 dead Iraqi children were "worth it".) Bush and his friends are in the oil business (Cheney in particular), so they knew that as long as Iraq was under sanctions and occupation, oil would be cheap. But the euro was rising against the American dollar, and Saddam Hussein was refusing to sell the black stuff in dollars i.e. what got Saddam invaded the first time, and that would have made oil more expensive.

This has to be seen in the context that, in 2002, Iraqi oil imports made up 4% of total US oil imports.[76][77] Also, petrodollars force countries to maintain a substantial amount of dollars on hand, keeping its value propped up. In 2007 Alan Greenspan admitted more-or-less the same thing.[78]

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 "Honest" John Howard), who reassured the media that democracy and preventing the spread of terrorism was his main concern.[79] As part of the coalition, Australia had 1500 troops stationed in and around Iraq.

More primal explanations[edit]

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."[80] Rumsfeld himself said that invading Afghanistan was boring because there was nothing good to bomb.[81]

Timeline[edit]

Initial deployment[edit]

US tanks at the Hands of Victory monument in Baghdad. Geddit? Because we won the war so quickly!
We are in a war against terrorists, to have a blame meeting isn't, in my opinion, constructive.
—Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) on misplacing $8.8 billion dollars of Iraqi money[82]

Eric Shinseki said that they needed "several hundred thousands" of soldiers to invade Iraq and "win the peace."[83] Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld dismissed his warnings. They were obsessed with a notion of "Kinetic warfare" wherein American technology would eliminate the fog of war, allowing them to proceed with as little as 50,000 American troops.[84] The Pentagon was still reeling from Vietnam and the quagmire which ensued.[85]

Modern warfare allowed armed forces to take over the country at unprecedented speed. Victory was declared very quickly. However, there was no plan to win the peace. They had no idea how to secure the population. Wolfowitz sent in his lackey, Paul Bremer, to run the entire country. Bremer decided on his own to disband the Iraqi police and the military. He also wanted to "de-Baathify"Wikipedia's W.svg the government: Under Bremer, all former Baathists were banned from the new government of Iraq, effectively alienating the military and a vast majority of the experienced public officials.[86]

This and the lack of investment in infrastructure turned public opinion against the provisional authority. Tens of thousands of newly-unemployed men with assault rifles were left on the streets. Foreign fighters (with Iranian support) flooded Iraq, killing many in the crossfire. The population quickly turned against America, as it couldn't even protect them from thugs.[87] Bremer was strutting around the Green Zone in his Brooks Brothers suit as his men were torturing prisoners.[88][89] After the Abu Ghraib scandal was uncovered, 92% of Iraqis told pollsters that they considered the U.S. a hostile occupying force, a massive shift in public opinion in only weeks.[90]

Soldiers' families were buying body armor and Humvee panels and sending them to Iraq and Afghanistan.[91] That's not corruption, because Cheney could have positioned himself to make money supplying that stuff, just like Halliburton was raking it in with facilities, logistics, and oil work[92] (not to mention hiring out Blackwater to be Bush's and Cheney's private bodyguards).[93] But the White House was incompetent in setting up a supply chain or any plans lasting longer than a day and a half. Bremer also managed to lose track of 9 billion bucks and 190,000 guns.[82][94][95] Now you have Shiites and Sunnis trying to kill each other; suicide bombings and beheadings became commonplace.

"This guy was really under-qualified for the role of governor of a combat zone. His resume is from business and while he was a real "go-getter" he never had any experience with international affairs and didn't even bother to take any Arabic-speaking aides with him....Bremer was the fat kid in the candy store whose mother told him, 'You deserve this, Honey.'" — Jon Davis[96]

"I am beginning to feel some sympathy for those American officials who led the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq ten years ago and immediately began destroying existing political parties, standing armies, and traditional institutions of political consultation and authority. The deepest reason for this colossal blunder was not American hubris or naïveté, though there was plenty of that. It was that they had no way of thinking about alternatives to immediate—and in the end, sham—democratization. Where should they have turned? Whose books should they have read? What model should they have relied on? All they knew was the prime directive: draft new constitutions, establish parliaments and presidential offices, then call elections." — Mark Lilla[97]

By this point the war was becoming unpopular in the UK, and their presence in Southern Iraq was causing unrest, so the decision was made to pull the British troops out.[98]

Surge[edit]

US troops clearing a house in a country that had been defeated years ago.
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[99]

In 2007, we turned a corner. Not only did we get a "surge" of tens of thousands American troops,[100] we also had the Iraqis revolting against foreign fighters: Sunni rebels were sick and tired of foreign fighters slaughtering Iraqis, so they joined up with the American forces. Generals Petraeus and McChrystal switched gears to form a counter-insurgency to win the hearts and minds of the Iraq people. There are also drones that wiped out hundreds, if not thousands, of insurgent fighters.

In 2008, the U.S. entered in a status of forces agreement with Iraq and agreed to leave by 2011. Tony Blair declared the world "a safer place."[101] Obama took over as President in 2009, and pulled troops out as planned.[102][103] Everyone assumed that Iraq could protect itself.

In 2014, a civil war broke out, fracturing the Iraqi Army.[104] The Shia are the majority population in Iraq,[105] and the minority Sunnis, who had been the favored guys under Saddam Hussein (who was Sunni), rejected the Iraqi government. Sunnis attacked Shias. Syria blew up. DAESH gained power, and recruited many former (and disgruntled) Baath officers.[106] This so-called "surge" appears to have only worked in the short term.

But wait, there's more![edit]

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[107]

The Arab Spring was a spectacular failure. Each of those states apart from Tunsia have either failed, regressed into totalitarian regimes, or suppressed those dissidents and stayed the same.

In 2014, disturbing news arose in a country which no one had paid attention to for quite a while. ISIS, 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.[108] The American-trained Iraqi army deserted en masse when faced with ISIS forces,[109] and the Bush/Blair gang popped up on various talk shows to defend their creation.[110][111]

US airstrikes are again a reality.[112] 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.[113]

Mission Accomplished (we think?)[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Moving the goalposts
Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech.
And finally, and most importantly, the next time we go to war, don't give a specific reason for the war that the left can seize upon and later flog us with it ad nauseam, just do it.
—Dennis Miller, Hannity & Combs 27 June 2003[114]

Unlike the Gulf War, which technically ended with Saddam's retreat from Kuwait on 28 February 1991, the Iraq War did not have any universally-recognized objectives.

  1. No-fly zones are a thing of the past. No more risk of Saddam sparading a beaten and raped pilot 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 on mustard gas that we gave Saddam in the 80s.[115]
  4. Sunni Arabs have rejected al-Qaeda in Iraq and stabilized the gigantic Anbar region
  5. Iraq is the second democracy to take root in the Middle East
  6. The Iraq-US coalition has deterred Iran from its nuclear adventures
  7. The well-armed Iraqi army has seen to it that ISIS/Daesh has no hope of taking over the region D'oh.
  8. The US is now positioned between Iran and Israel, and can reach out to strike at Syria at any time.[note 1]
  9. The Saudis are no longer dependent on the US for defense against Iraq, of course.

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

"This is a mission accomplished."[116]

"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."[117]

"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."[118]

McCain said he'd rather lose an election than lose a war,[119][120] implying that Obama wanted America to lose. 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. McCain was really talking about Obama "losing" our permanent superbases in Iraq, which Wolfowitz and co. (the dummies who got us into this mess) planned to use to project military power into Syria, Iran, and any other country that threatens Little America out there in the Middle East.

The irony of all of this is that Iran is the natural hegemon: it's perfectly situated, it can be secularized and democratized much easier than our other pillar in the ME, Saudi Arabia, whose population is much more radical than the monarchy and has deeper divides along geographic, religious and ethnic lines that also complicate political matters since they parse up the lands rich in oil. Obama's real achievement was going to be the "pivot" to Iran, but his work is currently "under review" by the Republican administration.[121][122]

Political fallout[edit]

It is painfully evident that not only were there no meaningful consequences for botching the most important foreign policy call of the last 20 years, it was actually a smart career move to do so. There was no movement to discover, raise up, or hire Iraq War critics after the war became an inarguable disaster. On the contrary, the power elite and arbiters of conventional wisdom generally shunned or passed them over, because they were living testimony to the fact that status quo thinking was (and remains) strategically and morally bankrupt.
—Ryan Cooper[123]

The run up to Iraq was uniquely bad, particularly the cheerleading by sensible liberals who were transparently scared of a stab-in-the-back story about Vietnam,[124] and the ugly jingoistic attitudes towards countries and the U.N. who failed to see the necessity in removing Saddam.[125][126][127] It's forever amazing that the Democratic presidential aspirants—Clinton, Kerry, Biden—think that being outsmarted by GWB is a compelling argument.[128][129] You had all the heavyweights on the "left" like Hitchens, Cohen, Hari, Chait, and others acting as if this complete mockery of liberal internationalismWikipedia's W.svg was justified. It was a very obvious sign that they'd disregard the tenets if it buttressed U.S. power.[130][131][132][133][134]

Senator Byrd gave a stirring speech, which summed up the position of the anti-war movement at the time. They marched in the streets, drawing very large crowds; they were snubbed by Pelosi and Reid. They bought the ranch next to Bush's; they were ignored.[135] Ultimately enough people gave up and the anti-war movement, which started during Vietnam, was crushed by indifference.[136][137] The Democrats' reward? Perceived now as fraudulent and warmongering, their standing in the polls as low as Republicans'. It doesn't help that people like Jonathan Chait still won't admit that the Iraq War was a mistake and answer lefty criticism of it by saying, ah but you can't offer a perfect theoretical solution to this problem the US caused through decades of illicit intervention, so your opinions are idealistic. So many are forgetting how quickly we segued from WMD "smoking gun" to literal 19th century White Man's Burden and civilizing the savages when it came to justifying our continued disastrous war in Iraq, so they think they need to praise Bush to criticize Trump.[138][139]

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.[140] Theories focused over the question of whether Kelly could have bled to death from the wound he apparently inflicted upon himself.[141] 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.[142]

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.[143]

See also[edit]

Videos[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. 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.

References[edit]

  1. How Just Were America's Wars? A Survey of Experts, International Studies Perspectives
  2. Iraq in Retrospect, Stephen Saideman
  3. William Odom of all people
  4. Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur, "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.
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