Get ready to see some goalposts moved around...
Five years ago this month, American troops liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein. Then came the hard part.
American intelligence had been wrong about Saddam’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction: They were nowhere to be found. Most academic experts had failed to perceive the currents of religious extremism and sectarianism running just beneath Iraq’s secular surface. State Department consultants and U.N. advisors proved unequal to the task of building democratic political institutions quickly from scratch.
The media had understated Saddam’s barbarism: It had been too risky to report in depth on the mass graves Saddam filled with dissidents; the tens of thousands of Kurds gassed to death in their villages; the camps where Saddam trained terrorists for assignments abroad. As a consequence, few anticipated how severely Iraqis had been traumatized.
First of all, Cliff May is insane. He is a neocon without a fucking soul. Any person with even a shred of self-awareness would shut up about these things and try to hide. The truth of the Iraq war is wrapped up in the fact that these people have gotten 4,000 Americans killed for their own fantasy of an oil-rich state in the heart of the Muslim world, adorned with permanent bases and run by corrupt sycophants.
Who publishes this crap? The reason why "State Department consultants and UN advisors" proved unequal was because Don Rumsfeld shut them completely and utterly out of the process and did not allow them to participate in any meaningful way. People from the State Department quit because the policy was flawed. Many more have retired rather than pound sand. A good number of people have bravely tried--many UN personnel have died trying to help the US in Iraq. They were not "unequal." They were unable to operate inside of the whirlwind of chaos created by the failed strategies of Don Rumsfeld. Second of all, everyone and their brother knew Saddam gassed the Kurds--it was widely disseminated information. Third, those "international terrorists" have never really materialized because they really didn't exist. It was all Pentagon propaganda to help grease the skids for war. All now disproven, of course, by a Pentagon that was forced to come clean.
And America’s military, so adept at bringing down a dictator, was unprepared for the “small war” that would follow: terrorist attacks on innocent Iraqis that the “international community” would blame not on the perpetrators - but on America.
Like most military strategists of the late 20th century, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld envisioned wars of the 21st century as akin to computer games. Advanced technology, more than blood and sweat, was supposed to be decisive. And in a place like Iraq, it was believed, the U.S. “footprint” should be as light as possible because close proximity to American soldiers would surely incite the natives to violence.
It's nice that May realizes the only way to get through this column is to throw Rumsfeld under the bus. But where does he talk about Feith, Wolfowitz and all of the other neocon chickenhawks who never served in the military or in combat? Where does he admit that a cabal of incompetent sons of bitches smashed our military on the rock of and Iraqi insurgency? Where does he talk about Richard Perle and Bill Kristol, who opined that the Sunni and Shia were secular and have always gotten along? All of the assembled thinkers on the right were WRONG. Utterly and completely. You don't get something this wrong very often. And they were as wrong as possible. And that doesn't matter?
The result of so many errors and misjudgments was catastrophic. Three years after the liberation of Iraq from Saddam, much of the country had been taken over by al-Qaeda. Other areas were under the sway of Iranian proxies, in chaos, or close to civil war.
Absolutely, totally and completely WRONG: al Qaeda in Iraq is a loosely affiliated organization that was created to engage the Americans in Iraq. It is not the same "al Qaeda" that hit us on 9/11 or in Africa. And it has NEVER been responsible for more than 10% of the attacks on the US. Our main opponents are Sunni insurgents and Shia militiamen.
Iraq’s military had been disbanded by the American envoy, L. Paul Bremer. America’s forces were cooped up in heavily guarded Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) waiting for actionable intelligence that seldom arrived. When it did, they would drive their vehicles to battle down roads their enemies had lined with bombs.
Finally, after the 2006 election rebuke to President Bush, a new Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, was assigned to the Pentagon, and a new commander, Gen. David Petraeus, was deployed to the field of battle. American forces set out to liberate Iraq - for a second time.
Bremer had nothing to do with the "strategy" of disbanding the army or cooping up troops in bases. That was all Rumsfeld, Myers, Franks, Abizaid, Sanchez and Casey. They made the calls. And it was the Pentagon hacks like Feith and Wolfowitz who were the civilian controlling authorities that forced these policies onto the backs of the military commanders. Bremer was a stooge, nothing more. He didn't make a single decision that didn't have the stamp of approval from Washington DC. And it was those incompetent idealogues that staffed Bremer's CPA with young Republicans who didn't have a fucking clue as to what they were doing.
There have been dozens of generals who have fought in Iraq. And out of that group, Petraeus was a division commander far down the line who came back to Iraq to "train" the Iraqi police. And he failed at that. So after dismal failures and a wave of retirements from the men who fought in Iraq during the first two years, all they had left was Petraeus.
The Petraeus strategy was nothing if not counterintuitive: He gave the enemy more targets and assigned them to more vulnerable positions - outside the well-guarded FOBs and in the shadowy streets. But once the Iraqis understood why the Americans were there - to defend them from terrorists - they provided a wealth of intelligence. Before long, Americans and Iraqis were fighting side by side against their common Islamist enemies.
That was historic. It should have been big news. But the media were not much interested. As one well-known reporter told me: “It doesn’t matter.” The important action, he said, was taking place not in Baghdad but in Washington, where politicians were reading the polls and finding Americans discouraged and ready to cut their losses.
No, they weren't fighting "side by side" and they certainly won't ever again get that opportunity again--thanks to the fact that we've failed to pay the Sunnis their ten dollars a day. Too many of the Iraqis that have tried to fight alongside US troops have turned their weapons on our troops. Too many of them are militiamen in disguise. And far too many of them cannot organize themselves into units and sustain the fight for themselves. How many Iraqi battalions can stand up and fight on their own? We cannot know that number until it is briefed to us next month, if anyone remembers to ask at all. But for three years, one a handful of Iraqi battalions have ever reached that status and the number has actually declined.
What’s more, such groups as MoveOn.org - heavily invested in an American defeat they could blame on Bush, Cheney, and the “neo-cons” - had a well-funded plan, “Iraq Summer,” that was to make it politically untenable for members of Congress to continue to support the Iraq mission.
MoveOn.org doesn't have that kind of clout. Far more powerful was the group called the American voter that threw Republicans out of office. If the American people are savvy, they'll figure out that the only way to end the war--which they have wanted to do in overwhelming numbers--is to keep throwing Republicans out of office AND to elect better Democrats, like Donna Edwards. No question--Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid should pack it in and make way for new blood after just one year of setbacks and failures. But you cannot argue that a heretofore unheard of obstructionist Republican minority has mortgaged its own future by covering the President's ass.
What this perspective failed to take into account: the startlingly rapid progress that Petraeus and his troops would make against al-Qaeda and the Iranian backed militias. That was coupled with a battle of ideas on the home front: Tenacious pro-mission groups - e.g. Vets for Freedom, Families United, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Move America Forward, Freedom’s Watch - formed a loose but effective coalition that matched MoveOn.org congressional contact for congressional contact, and told the stories most reporters would not.
One can say the invasion of Iraq was unwise. Before committing troops to battle, a president should have a realistic understanding of what can be achieved, in what time frame, and at what cost. One can say the occupation of Iraq was bungled.
Unwise? Try "the worst foreign policy disaster in the history of the United States of America." And that loose but INeffective coalition couldn't for air out of a paper bag. There is no pro-war movement or anti-war movement in this country. There are just a few thousand cranks on one side acting out their childish fantasies, in the face of a liberal anti-war group that organizes online as opposed to the streets of Washington DC.
What one can not say is that regime change in Iraq was unjustified: Not if you know Saddam’s record, his clearly stated intentions, and his ties to international terrorists - including, as a new Pentagon report reveals, a group headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, now al Qaeda’s second-in-command.
Bullshit. There was no link between Iraq and al Qaeda. Already disproven, move along, nothing to see here. Just another wingnut dementia episode. Thanks for trying.
Nor can one say that the outcome in Iraq - the heart of the Muslim Middle East - will be inconsequential to the outcome of the wider war being waged by militant, supremacist Islamist movements intent on nothing less than the destruction of America and the West.
Really? Talk about a wingnut fantasy of Lord of the Rings proportions. And how are they going to destroy us? By invading America with their ten million man army of tanks and planes? With their non-existent nuclear weapons?
They don't have to try and destroy us. Thanks to wingnuts like Cliff May, our own government has already done more damage to the US than the Islamic militants ever could.