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Five Years of Mission Accomplished!


You know, I was a real critic of the idea of going to war. I thought it would be long and drawn out and that our mission was unclear. Were we there to remove Saddam Hussein? Were we there to find and disarm WMDs? Were we there to fight al Qaeda? Little did I know that the whole mission would come to such a swift conclusion. I mean, honestly, 3 months for military operations was really exceptionally fast.

But what was more unexpected for me was how prepared the State and Defense Departments were to engage in their very thorough and well planned postwar operations for stabilization and rebuilding. I know, I was really critical of the Bush administration back prewar and I realize how foolish I was now. Now it just seems so self-evident that if you are going to war with the world's largest military that of course you are going to have a strategic plan that makes sure that your military success can be followed up with peace and reconstruction. It just makes sense, doesn't it?

I was also a critic of us going into Iraq unilaterally without the support of the community of nations. I thought this would make us look like a bully and a pariah on the world stage. I guess I didn't understand that we were leading a coalition of countries and that the world would fall in line behind us once they realized the stability and prosperity we were bringing to Iraq.

And, I'm ashamed to say, back prewar I was concerned that our invasion of Iraq would create a breeding ground for terrorists who would be unified and emboldened by our presence there and that we would foster the very thing we were trying to defeat. Boy, was I stupid.

Also I was worried that civil society in Iraq might break down along old ethnic and religious fault lines and that we might end up trying to reconstruct a country ripped apart by civil war. I should have known that our presence would only stabilize Iraqi society and they would greet us like liberators.

Well, now in 2008, all my doubts back in the build up to war look amazingly naive and short sighted. I'm sorry I doubted you, Donald Rumsfeld, and congratulations on your decisive primary victories. I have no doubt, now, that with Bush campaigning for you and your reputation as the architect of our Iraqi victory you will have no problem securing victory in the fall, and deservedly so.


The only trouble is this is demonstrably not what the antiwar movement was saying prior to the Iraq war. As someone who spent some time sorting through the stated opposition to the war before it broke out, none of it had the foresight or omniscience you accord yourself and your fellow partisans. The actual complaints (among those considered "mainstream") ran along these lines:

Ted Kennedy, between shots, fretted the war "could run through battalions a day at a time" (incomprehensibility in original), and taking on Saddam's mighty Republican Guard would look "like the last 15 minutes of the movie Saving Private Ryan."

Sen. Robert Byrd and others worried the war would chip into their plan for socialist spending at home. "What about my health insurance? What about us older folks? What about prescription drugs? You do not hear much about that now. Everything is turned to Iraq." (He got the prescription drug benefit anyway, and we got the resulting deficit.)

Illinois State legislator Barack Obama, in the "great" speech that's supposed to prove what a foreign policy visionary he was by opposing the war from the beginning, stated: "What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression." So, he opposed the war because it was a massive "Wag the Dog" operation. Genius!

Rep. Pete Stark complained this would allow evil Amerikkka to "exercise brute force anywhere in the world." Like much of the sophisticated antiwar discourse, he also lampooned Saddam Hussein's attempted assassination of George H.W. Bush, saying GWB launched the war "for revenge for the threat once posed to his father." Peerless foresight!

Finally, Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Jim Moran worried that dem joos was buhind dis hyurr war:

  • "While I am not privy to this administration's war plans, I am of the belief the administration is...preparing for a potential enlargement of the conflict with Israel or other allies. I am concerned this issue has not been adequately addressed." (Wyden); and
  • "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this...The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should." (Moran).

Not a single dissenter said Saddam posed no threat; all believed he had WMDs and must not be allowed to continue developing them. Which is why most Senate Democrats voted for the war, and Al Gore initially supported it.

Always glad to set the record straight.

Not a single dissenter said Saddam posed no threat? Were you even listening or were you just watching Fox News? All believed Saddam had WMD's? True, there were far too many gullible people who didn't comprehend the government's willingness to lie. (They forgot the Gulf of Tonkin, apparently.) Still I recall a lot of discussion prior to the invasion about how it was going to look when they go in and find no WMD's. Some of us speculated most Americans wouldn't care they'd been lied to...and indeed Bush made jokes about it with his "where're them WMD's?" comedy bit.
Besides deflecting the blame from war supporters (such as yourself, I gather) you're citing a few comments as the message of the entire antiwar movement (mostly from people who weren't even part of it) and ignoring everything else. But implicit in your message is the admission that yes, the war was a big mistake. So now what? Do we agree it's time to get out?

I would not agree that it was a mistake to invade Iraq. Saddam killed more than 500000 men women and children. If had remained in power he would more than likely continued killing. What if Hitler hadn't invaded any of the other countries surrounding him but he just sat in his little ole country killing the jews in his concentration camps, should we have allowed him? Was Saddam or was he not a monster that needed to be dealt with?

Unfortunately, most Dems bought into WMD hype and were at the same time were afraid of voting against a war that was thrown at us as the only patriotic thing to do (oh, pardon me .. I forget shopping) in the wake of 911. Only Paul Wellstone had the courage and foresight to stand up against this patriotic b.s. Terri - So, it's not OK for Saddam to kill half a million people but we can kill upwards of 300,000 and that is OK? Please, help with your line of reasoning? Isn't a child of God that's murdered still dead - no matter who killed them? And yes, unfortunate but true - had Hilter stayed in Germany chances are very great that his little semetic-cleansing routine would have continued.

Ok so is there a difference between how many Hitler killed and how many we killed in WWII. They weren't all soldiers. Was that war any less justified. We're talking the difference between the horrible casualties of war and those people that were murdered by a bloody dictator's whim.

FB, N.B. my words: "among those considered 'mainstream.'" There were certain nuts, like Michael Parenti, who raved that the great Saddam provided "free" health care and achieved "80 percent" literacy! Heck, he was even at that moment buying hot meals for the people with his Oil-for-Food revenue (oops). These weren't really the guiding stars to which one would willingly hitch his wagon.

"[T]here were far too many gullible people who didn't comprehend the government's willingness to lie."

Well, this gets us back on track. Lawrence now must simply provide sources pre-dating the war (2002-March 2003) on how very, very many mainstream antiwar activists shared all these concerns. This would distinguish them from the throngs of unwashed (literally) protesters who just screamed that Bush was fighting a war because Saddam "tried to kill his daddy," and to enrich Halliburton, the banks, the Jews, or whomever.

And you, FargleBargle, can set about finding unimpeachable sources proving a) "the government" knew there were no WMDs in Iraq; and b) lied about it, anyway. I'd hate to think you were...lying...and as you are making the allegation, the burden of proof falls on you.

Please also explain how the president "lied" when the CIA daily briefings were more alarmist than the case he made to the American people. For bonus points, FB, explain why an incompetent Clinton-era holdover would "lie" to help Neocons wage war. For extra bonus points: tell me you didn't vote for the man who appointed him CIA director.

And before any of us get too caught up...AHEM.

Ben, I find it hilarious that you would defend the incompetency of this administration by blaming the lack of prescience of the opposition. I will put forward Paul Wellstone's speech against the war as proof that the antiwar movement was extremely concerned with Bush's "go it alone" policy and that the opposition was concerned that our war on Iraq would "take our eye off the ball" so to speak.

One thing that I will grant you, though, is that I had no idea prior to the war how unprepared the Bush administration was to rebuild Iraq. I find the administration's lack of foresight negligent to the point of being criminal. I really had no idea back in 2002 how truly incompetent Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Haliburton would turn out to be. So I cede you that.

What I remember from the early anti-war comments was the (justifiable) fear that we would end up with another Vietnam, where thousands of our soldiers and innocent civilians (and, honestly, your average Joe Iraqi soldier) would be killed in a war that would stretch on for years without our leaders having any real way of determining progress or getting out. The first Gulf War had an objective and, once it was achieved, we got out--the wisdom of which was questioned for years. Now it seems prescient. When we invaded Iraq, I thought it was a bad idea, but also could see how good could come of it, if we were able to help the Iraqi people by getting rid of an evil regime and rebuilding whatever damage we caused--then getting out to allow them to govern themselves. I didn't forsee the chaos that would ensue, but you know, the US govt and military should have. Now, frankly, it doesn't really matter who was right, or who was wrong, or who lied, or who voted for or believed what. Those are things that will (in many cases) come to light eventually, to be debated by historians ad nauseam in popular books, scholarly journals, dissertations, documetaries and Oliver Stone films for yrs to come. All that matters now is that we figure out a way to extricate ourselves, make infrastructural amends to the Iraqi people, and deal with this region differently in the future. It would be nice if we could just senf in the troops to liberate people from evil leaders (and I do believe Saddam was evil, and not in any form of paradise right now), but we don't always have the knowledge, the manpower, the money, the international support to do so. The UN needs to have more clout and more guts to take on issues like this, and smaller international groups focussing the world's attention, criticism and money on these situations can also accomplish more, I think, than bombs. People do need to be helped in those situations--after all, it could happen in any nation--but the world (not just the US) has to help people help themselves. (Does this make sense?). It's better, I think, and lest chauvinistic to help, say, the Iraqis to help themselves get out from under the heel of a Saddam, than for us to do it for them, as if they are not adults who can, with the help of God, determine their own destinies. I also firmly believe that when nations have a certain level of economic prosperity and security, they are less likely to be either politically unstable or to choose nutso leaders who promise to give them security/prosperity by focusing their frustrations on minority groups or "Great Satan" nations. Hope this makes sense. I've just spent the weekend traveling to see the grandmas and dealing with an outbreak of stomach virus (so much vomit, so little me), so I might be out of my mind.

Leah, so sorry to hear you've been sick. My friend Maria was down with tummy issues too. It bites. Get well soon.

To whom is BB's "ahem" directed? Seems like he should take his own throat-clearing advice. (I suppose we at least can agree that we can argue this til our typing fingers go numb and it won't make a dang bit of difference for the long-suffering troops and citizens in Iraq.)
I find a much better "ahem" here.
For the record I never voted for Clinton, I voted lunatic fringe back then, and once again history has proven the lunatic fringe correct. (I did vote for Kerry but I held my nose.)

Dingdangit, my link didn't work. I was referring to "Blogger X- A Drama" on this website.

Fixed it, FB. You forgot to put the quotation marks in.

Lawrence, have you been so long out of philosophy class that you forgot this chap? My post said nothing about reconstruction, "incompetent" or otherwise. In fact some sagacious, magnetic fellow spent several pages in a newly released book specifying some of Bush's errors. All I actually wrote above is that your post is demonstrably unsupported by prewar rhetoric.

No one in the mainstream claimed going in that "we might end up trying to reconstruct a country ripped apart by civil war," nor did the late Sen. Wellstone in the speech you linked. Yet you state above you had this thought five years ago.

You write that you worried Iraq would become "a breeding ground for terrorists." Wellstone's speech says the opposite: that al-Qaeda "operatives have scattered, their will to kill Americans still strong"; thus, we can't invade Iraq, because we need Arab help to track down terrorists all over the world.

I don't see him worrying the administration is unprepared for reconstruction, though, like Kennedy, he worries about losing "countless lives of U.S. soldiers" in the war itself. As that book notes, there was one official who warned Pentagon officials against believing they were in "mopping-up phase" in 2003, saying, "They fail to see we're in a major battle against terrorists in Iraq." That man was Dick Cheney.

As for "going it alone," see below. But in all, I think trying to justify poor behavior (claiming insights you never had) by citing other poor behavior (flawed strategy) doesn't wash.

Leah, all you write makes sense, though at the present rate of casualties, it would take 71.25 years before we lose as many U.S. soldiers as in Vietnam.

FB, the "Blogger X" drama happens to be irrelevant. I simply presented facts and invited you to do the same, with a caveat that we not lose our social lives over it (Geek kings and all). The invitation still stands for you to make good on your various calumnies and incriminations, namely:

Please also explain how the president "lied" when the CIA daily briefings [which he received] were more alarmist than the case he made to the American people. For bonus points, FB, explain why an incompetent Clinton-era holdover would "lie" to help Neocons wage war.

For that matter, those who wish to broaden the subject to the merits of the war (apparently Lorenzo, not me) must navigate this scenario:

The CIA states, and every intelligence agency in the world confirms, Saddam Hussein has retained "stockpiles" of biological and chemical WMDs and may be producing more; that with fissible material, he would develop nuclear weapons in at most a year - that they consistently underestimated Saddam's nuclear programs in the past, and that Pakistan developed the bomb while "fully compliant" with IAEA inspections for the Non-Proliferation Treaty; that Saddam has ties to Sunni and Shi'ite terrorists around the world and is presently harboring, among others, the man who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993; that he has repeatedly fired upon U.S. planes enforcing the "no-fly zone"; that the CIA has evidence he has entered into an entente with Osama bin Laden to provide al-Qaeda with WMDs; that multiple al-Qaeda personalities have been spotted operating freely from Baghdad since 9/11, the CIA believes with Saddam's approval; that al-Qaeda "chatter" indicates a strong desire to strike America with WMD ASAP; and that the NIE report that contains this information was drawn up by a man who opposes the war (Bob Walpole).

Factor in that Saddam Hussein promised, as a condition of the ceasefire ending Operation Desert Storm, to verify his disarmament (not to allow UN inspectors to "search" for WMDs); that he has never done so; that he has defied 16 prior UN Security Council resolutions on WMDs; that the UNSC passed Resolution 1441 demanding compliance by a firm deadline and promising "serious consequences"; that Colin Powell believed Res. 1441 provided "everything we needed" (quoting from memory) to launch the war; that the major powers gave assurances to Powell to support war if Saddam violated 1441; that the above nightmare scenario was confirmed by the intelligence agencies of those same nations, which then refused to make good on their promises because they had been bribed with funds diverted from the UN Oil-for-Food program.

Most (though not all) of this intelligence, provided by every nation in the world, turned out to be false - an argument for massively increasing CIA funding and manpower (surely no one in the antiwar movement opposes that). Nonetheless, by all declassified intelligence, this is exactly the situation the president encountered from 9/11 until the war with Iraq 18 months later.

Then help me understand how the 45-year-old college student shouting, "No War for Oil!" acted more responsibly.

Thanks in advance.

(Groan) BB, you could do this research yourself rather than wasting everyone else's time. A quick Google search turned up these, though I'm sure you'll find some way to discount them. (These are lefty websites but if you can challenge their facts go for it.)
First off the CIA repeatedly warned the Bush administration that the evidence of WMD's was very shaky.
Yet the administration kept making false statements.
Actually Cheney & Rumsfeld, etc. drew up these plans to invade Iraq back in 1993. They just needed an excuse.
They got us into a war for false reasons. If they didn't lie, they are criminally incompetent. Which do you prefer? And my question still stands, do you think the war was a mistake and should we stay in it, and if so for how long?

FB, your links do a good enough job discrediting themselves. There are so many red herrings Duluth could eat kippers for a year. (Saddam was contained in 1997? Inspectors had not found WMDs? No evidence exists that Saddam has given WMDs to al-Qaeda? BFD.) If Cheney really wanted to invade Iraq, he had the chance in 1991 and argued against it.

The source of the "cherry-picked intelligence" comment about the OSP is Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski. According to the Senate Intelligence Cmte. report on prewar intelligence, Kwiatkowski "could not provide any examples" of cherry-picking, "had no direct knowledge to support any claims that intelligence analysts were pressured, and much of what she said is contradicted by information from other interviews." Not shocking, since she first gave her story to the LaRouche cult. (What was that you said: "you could do this research yourself rather than wasting everyone else's time"?)

Rather than relying on partisan hate sites, let me point you to then-CIA Director George Tenet's memoir, At the Center of the Storm. It's revealing, because it's a full-blown CYA effort from an utterly incompetent Democrat, and it scorns any outside info in its bureaucratic turf war over intelligence. Yet it still discusses the potent (and false) intel Tenet gave Bush, such as:

  • "Our analysts believed that there was a solid basis for identifying three areas of concern with regard to Iraq and al-Qa'ida: safe haven, contacts, and training...[B]y the spring and summer of 2002, more than a dozen al-Qa'ida-affiliated extremists converged on Baghdad, with apparently no harassment on the part of the Iraqi government...More al-Qa'ida operatives would follow...Credible evidence told us that [one of these] was willing to strike U.S., Israeli, and Egyptian targets sometime in the future...[F]rom an intelligence point of view, it would have been difficult to conclude that the Iraqi intelligence service was not aware of their activities. Certainly, we believe that at least one senior [al-Qae'ida] operative maintained some sort of liaison relationship with the Iraqis." (pp. 350-351.)
  • "[S]everal of Bin Ladin's lieutenants had urged cooperation with Iraq, believing that the benefit of possible training, safe haven, and help with al-Qa'ida's WMD efforts outweighed any risks." (p.352.)
  • "The intelligence reports and analysis used over the years on the WMD issue, and repeated in the NIE, were flawed, but the intelligence process was not disingenuous nor was it influenced by politics. Intelligence professionals did not try to tell policy makers what they wanted to hear, nor did the policy makers lean on us to influence outcomes...Even though the daily reports the president saw in the run-up to the production of the NIE were uneven and assertive in tone, and at times more assertive on some issues than the NIE, they were a reflection of honest analysis." (p. 336.)
  • "Given what we knew then, the NIE should have said: 'We judge that Saddam continues his efforts to rebuild weapons programs, that, once sanctions are lifted, he probably will confront the United States with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons within a matter of months and years. Today, while we have little direct evidence of weapons stockpiles, Saddam has the ability to quickly surge to produce chemical and biological weapons and he has the means to deliver them.'" (p. 338.)

There's also the little matter that all the world's intelligence agencies corroborated these views. And that Saddam had violated 16 prior UN resolutions and had used Oil-for-Food money to bribe "our allies."

Of course, the facts are much less exciting than fevered imaginations, and they block off the emotional need some have to think the worst of their political opponents.

But now I'll quit before I violate my own cartoon.

Besides, all this is a (let me use a phrase you will endorse) huge distraction from our original purpose: waiting for Lawrence to provide some citation that he specifically, and the antiwar movement in general, were warning "we might end up trying to reconstruct a country ripped apart by civil war" five years ago. Still haven't seen that.

Well, that last exercise kept you busy for a while, even if it didn't make you any wiser.
The first two "partisan hate sites," in case you didn't notice, merely cite mainstream media sources and Bush Administration officials. The third is William Rivers Pitt, but only a very skewed point of view would deem him a hater. As if George Tenet were an objective and trustworthy source.
All this argument over who said what when is a huge distraction from the slightly more relevant question of where we go from here.

FB, as much as I appreciate your thoughtful ad hominem attacks, I can't help but see you refusing to engage "an inconvenient truth" and changing the topic. You're right that Tenet has an agenda: to cover for his own incompetence. If he could blame it on others, he would have. His admissions are more damning that the intel was bad, not hyped or twisted. Unless you think Tenet is the Democratic/Realist wing of the Vast Neocon Conspiracy - in which case "Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter."

The exercise took me no time at all. Much of this is already in an insightful, thoughtful, penetrating, inspired, must-buy-five-copies-for-your-mother book available in finer bookstores now. I just blew the dust off Tenet's yawner, which anyone with a grounding in research would have done. (Who might know what the CIA was telling Bush before the war? The director?) Refuting these claims takes absolutely no intellectual sophistication whatsoever.

I just have better things to do than reply to strangers on the internet.

Go thou and do likewise.

If not for the sake of a social life, please be considerate: we need to clear the floor so Lawrence can produce his five-year-old prophecy about civil war coming to Iraq. :)

Go thou and suck an egg. And next time when a war's impending and people protest, pay attention so you don't need to claim afterwards they didn't say anything.

Thank you for showing us the compassionate and loving spirit of the Left.

Do you have the elusive citation proving either that Lawrence or the antiwar movement warned of civil war following an American invasion?

Best regards.

And thank you for showing us the pompous hubris of the right.
The left didn't have to warn of civil war, you chucklehead. That's exactly why Bush Sr. didn't overthrow Saddam in the Gulf War.
But here are a few examples anyway.
Sen. Joseph Biden: I have not been very enamored with the way half this administration has gone about this effort without thoroughly going into what happens the day after Saddam is down. The president said that, “What could be worse than Saddam?” Well, what could be worse than Saddam would be a major civil war in the region. [CNN Larry King Live, 10/9/02]
Sen. Robert Byrd: What plans do we have to prevent Iraq from breaking up and descending into civil war? [Congressional Record, S10006-10007, 10/7/02]
Sen. Barbara Mikulski: The end of Saddam Hussein could mean the start of a civil war. [Congressional Record, S10078, 10/8/02]
Joseph Wilson, Nov. 2002: Former US diplomat Joseph Wilson warns in an interview with Knight Ridder that a post-Saddam occupation could turn into “a very, very nasty affair.” He explains: “There will be vengeful killings against the Sunnis, against the Tikritites [Hussein’s clan], against the Ba’aths. There will be Shi’ia grabs in the south and probably Baghdad. There will be Kurdish grabs for power…. And in the middle of that will be an American occupation force…. This war is not going to be over when we get to Baghdad. In fact, the war will have just essentially begun.”
Barack Obama, in the speech you selectively referenced: Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors… I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.
Phillip Gordon, Brooking Institute, March 2002: "Removing Saddam will be opening a Pandora's box, and there might not be any easy way to close it back up."
And how can we forget Janeane Garofolo on the Bill O’ Reilly show? "If we invade Iraq, there's a United Nations estimate that says there will be up to a half a million people killed or wounded.”
Not to mention the CIA's own warning in Jan. 2003: Senior CIA analyst Paul Pillar produced a high-level report on the potential challenges US forces will experience in post-Hussein Iraq. Pillar’s paper argued that imposing democracy on Iraq will not be easy. He warned that the country may fracture along ethnic and religious lines and explode into violence. He also said that the US will not be able to finance reconstruction with Iraq’s oil revenue. An administration official told him that his paper was “too negative.”
Just for good measure a few other sources:

Here is an interesting WSJ OpEd by Douglas Feith, Secretary of Defense for Policy (2001-2005), on how Bush rebranded the war.

And here comes former Bush press secretary Scott Mclellan's own memoir, titled “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception."
Notable quote: “The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”
My, they're coming out of the woodwork now. Where were they when it counted?

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