Battleland

Iraq: Ten Years After

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RAMZI HAIDAR / AFP / Getty Images)

The 2003 Iraq war began 10 years ago Tuesday with an intense "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad.

The U.S. invaded Iraq 10 years ago Tuesday. It was almost déjà war: the nation had done pretty much the same thing 12 years before, but the goal that time was limited to kicking Saddam Hussein‘s forces out of Kuwait and destroying the Republican Guard in that country, not toppling the dictator – our friend during the 1980-88 war he launched against Iran – from his Baghdad lair.

So that first war was quick – only 100 hours on the ground! – and relatively painless (149 U.S. KIA, with nearly the same toll– 145 – killed in accidents). “The specter of Vietnam has been buried forever in the desert sands of the Arabian Peninsula,” President George H.W. Bush said in March 1991, shortly after Saddam’s forces had abandoned Kuwait under fire. “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”

Iraq War II was different. Although bizarrely launched by a President whose father had launched that first, limited war, this time the U.S. decided Saddam had to go. And it ended up looking a lot more like Vietnam than either president Bush could have imagined, or feared.

(PHOTOS: A Decade of War in Iraq: The Images That Moved Them Most)

It cost a lot more the second time around. A total of 4,485 Americans died in the nearly decade-long war, along with more than 100,000 Iraqis. It cost U.S. taxpayers, including our kids and grandkids, ultimately $4 trillion. On the positive side of the ledger, it cost Saddam Hussein his life (good riddance!).

Saddam Hussein was a vicious tyrant, who used chemical weapons against his own people, and who had long flouted UN commands that he disarm – and prove it. President George W. Bush warned in 2002, a year before the invasion, that such behavior was unacceptable. “The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes,” he said, “to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”

But that’s not true.

Both Iran and North Korea have been doing so for decades, seemingly with impunity in the face of global – and U.S. – opposition.

So what made Iraq a war of choice, unlike – thus far — Iran and North Korea?

As someone who covered both wars from inside the Pentagon, there was a cloud of unfinished business from 1991’s Gulf War hanging over the U.S. political leadership. President George H.W. Bush, taking the firm advice of his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, declined to go to Baghdad to topple Saddam.

Many senior U.S. military officials thought the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation was folly; several said one in three senior U.S. military officers opposed it. Yet none spoke publicly against it. Many lower-level troops and intelligence staffers fervently believed Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction with an almost child-like faith.

(MORE: Ten Years After: A National Disgrace)

The Iraqi leader’s purported plot to kill the elder Bush during a 1993 visit to Kuwait – and the 9/11 attacks – combined to give George W. Bush the push he needed to end Saddam’s reign.

It’s tough to recall now – even if you lived through it – how shaken the U.S. public was by the 9/11 attacks. The second Bush Administration kept connecting them to Iraq – even though there was scant evidence to justify such a link – and tying up the entire package with a pre-tied weapons-of-mass-destruction bow.

The U.S. government willfully sought to scare the nation despite the paucity of hard evidence. “We don’t want the smoking gun,” then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice infamously said, “to be a mushroom cloud.”

The press, too, had a supporting role in the march toward war. The Bush Administration played the New York Times like a Stradivarius, leaking evidence of Saddam’s WMD programs, and then commenting on the resulting story as if it had nothing to do with creating it.

That cowed much of the rest of the media into following in the Times’ wake, save for the valiant and intrepid reporters in Knight-Ridder’s Washington bureau, from which Battleland covered the 1991 Gulf War.

Congress too gave Bush too much deference, preferring to subcontract combat out instead of declaring war, as the framers intended. The war never would have happened if Congress had been forced to declare it; the nation flouts such Constitutional guidance at its peril.

The bottom line: Bush I kicked the Vietnam syndrome so that Bush II, in part to avenge Iraq’s plot on his father’s life, could launch a war that re-infected the nation with it. “My guess is…that it’ll be 20 years before we undertake something like this again,” Marine General John Allen, who played a key role in calming western Iraq, told a Foreign Policy gathering last week.

Why the rush?

MORE: The Yellow Birds: An Iraq Veteran’s Novel Gives a View from the Inside

9 comments
beth.pyles
beth.pyles

"The press had a role too. . ." - and still do, 10 years later, as Fareed Zakaria, who serves as an editor-at-large for Time, posted at CNN his 5 lessons learned from Iraq, none of which even mention the underlying decision, focusing instead on how to do it better next time.  Sigh.  Space here does not permit me to fully respond.  If you'd like to read more on Zakaria's piece & my response, check out http://ifbethhadablog.blogspot.com/2013/03/forest-trees-how-fareed-zakaria-and-so.html

BelgianFries
BelgianFries

" The press, too, had a supporting role in the march toward war..."

Time Magazine as well, among others!

survivor1962
survivor1962

This war was a mistake from day 1.  Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but the Bush administration exploited that tragedy to sell the idea of attacking a sovereign nation with no provocation.  WMDs never existed, which they knew going in.  So then they said we were there to get rid of a bad man, Sadam Hussein.  Of course, there were worse despots in the world, but, amazingly enough, Iraq was the only one with oil.  And then there was Cheney's company Haliburton, who made many billions off of the war.  The Iraq war also inflamed the Middle East against the U.S., so we have the current situation there to thank the Bush administration for.  And then the cost, omg the cost!  Well, we know how that contributed to the second worst financial meltdown in U.S. history.  Thank you, Mr. Bush, for your epic legacy...

Kafantaris
Kafantaris

The one with the power to stop the cycle of revenge is the one who has been wronged last, and whose turn it is to avenge. He could use his turn and strike back, thus continuing the cycle, or he could forego it -- both now and next time until it stops. Such is the utility of turning the other cheek we had not thought of before Christ.

It is wrong for Muslims to kill Muslims -- no matter what sect. And it is time to put an end to sectarian violence. Applying the original ideas of Christ might help.

We are all in this world together, and but for a short time. We should strive to find ways to get along.

Nor is there an end to this endeavor -- or even a time out. Strife is inherent in our being, and we could just as easy pick a fight with our own clothes when there is no one else to fight.

CerebralSmartie
CerebralSmartie

" The press, too, had a supporting role in the march toward war."

Mark ThompsonSo true. Among other things...Where were the screams of protest at  the way that President George W Bush conducted Press Briefings that were completely scripted? Too cozy!




shepherdwong
shepherdwong

"But I remember being able to tell that something wasn't right in the way the war was being sold."

First, there was Joe Wilson's brave challenge to the yellow cake lie; and the outing of a clandestine Middle East anti-WMD team in retaliation. Then the new, unsubstantiated and highly dubious claims of a link between Al Qaeda and Saddam. Then, as an obvious pretext and preparations for war were being made, the constant claims that no decision had been made about going to war. By the time the Bush/Cheney regime kicked UN weapons inspectors out of Iraq, ostensibly to enforce UN weapons restrictions, it was crystal clear that the Administration had engaged in a willful campaign to deceive the public.

AlanMacDonald
AlanMacDonald

All senior Bush administration officials responsible for this illegal "war of aggression" should be prosecuted to the fullest level of the law and be at the bar in the Hague today! --- and Obama should also be prosecuted for international war crimes and crimes against humanity for his drone assassinations (without a declared war being in effect), for his deceitful cover-up of the Bush administrations war crimes of " launching an aggressive war" (and all subsequent wars crimes from that war), and a special trial on an indictment of abject stupidity for any supposedly constitutional lawyer saying "let's look forward instead of back".

What a massive and treasonous 'tool' of EMPIRE, Obama is.

“Empire abroad entails tyranny at home” Hannah Arendt

In disguising an Empire, Two Vichy Parties are better then one.

If your country is treating you like shit, and bombing abroad, look carefully --- it may not be your country, but a Global Empire only posing as your former country.

"It's the Empire, stupid"

The cancer of Empire in our 'body politic' (like actual cancer) uses disguise as its best weapon to escape diagnosis.

As Zygmunt Bauman hauntingly puts it, “In the case of an ailing social order, the absence of an adequate diagnosis…is a crucial, perhaps decisive, part of the disease.” [from Berman, Morris. “Dark Ages
America: The Final Phase of Empire”]

Join the fast expanding 'Occupy the Empire' movement against this deceitful EMPIRE, which can't so easily be identified as wearing Red Coats, Red Stars, nor funny looking Nazi helmets ---- quite yet!


Liberty, democracy, justice, and equality
Over
Violent/'Vichy' Rel 2.0
Empire,

Alan MacDonald
Sanford, Maine

We don't MERELY have; a gun/fear problem, or a 'Fiscal Cliff', 'Sequestration', and 'Debt Limit' problem, or an expanding wars problem, or a 'drone assassinations' problem, or a vast income & wealth inequality problem, or a Wall Street 'looting' problem, or a Global Warming and environmental death-spiral problem, or a domestic
tyranny NDAA FISA spying problem, or, or, or, or .... ad nauseum --- we have a hidden EMPIRE cancerous tumor which is the prime CAUSE of all these 'symptom problems'.

AdamWill
AdamWill

"It’s tough to recall now – even if you lived through it – how shaken the U.S. public was by the 9/11 attacks. The second Bush Administration kept connecting them to Iraq – even though there was scant evidence to justify such a link – and tying up the entire package with a pre-tied weapons-of-mass-destruction bow."

 I don't know... I distinctly remember being confused and whip-lashed when Iraq came up out of nowhere, to suddenly be everywhere. I remember the voices saying, shouldn't we slow this down, we don't have real evidence. I remember thinking there was no way this was going to happen this way.

I remember being in the other room when one of the most offensive commercials to ever air came on TV, for a video game, that stated, 'The Iraq War Has Begun', and I felt like the only person in the world offended by a game willing to use a commercial as we were about to go to war.  And I remember being just as startled when we actually did go to war. And not startled at all when it turned out a lot of our government's preconceptions were wrong.

I remember being hyper aware every time a plane or helicopter flew over in the months after 9/11. I remember confusion and fear.  But I remember being able to tell that something wasn't right in the way the war was being sold.  I don't think we can all just lay down the blame so easily.
Read more: http://nation.time.com/2013/03/18/iraq-ten-years-after/#ixzz2NutXQFkS

CerebralSmartie
CerebralSmartie

@AdamWill And did you watch the constant Chris Matthews' TV Show "Hardball: where at college campuses there were  debates about going to war? Did you protest "No blood for oil"?


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