Sunday, August 28, 2005

Where Do We Go From Here?

I've written a lot about Iraq in this space, but I want to fill in a few gaps that pre-date this blog's inception. First, I supported the invasion and removal of Saddam. I felt a twinge of disgust when I saw the first bombs fall on Baghdad and the computer screens in front of me at work showed that the reflexive reaction of many Americans to the carnage was to buy stocks. But that's another issue, and based on my professional experience it was both understandable and predictable. I had little doubt military action was necessary in light of 9/11 and the intelligence that was presented in the months leading up to the war. But there's the rub. Of course, we now know a fair amount about how the prewar intelligence---as well as the public debate via the Plame outing---was subverted, hand-picked, shaded, crafted, manipulated, or flat-out fabricated to support an objective that had been conceived well in advance. At this point, this simply cannot be denied by any reasonable, clear-thinking person.

I am certainly not an expert on intelligence issues, but I have read many excellent books on the subject, most recently James Bamford's Body of Secrets which I review here. Based on what I've read, it is utterly implausible that agencies like the NSA did not know the real deal about Iraq's WMD or lack thereof before the war. Our intelligence agencies can read a license plate or hear a mouse fart at 50,000 feet. The chasm between our capabilities and the shameful dreck that Colin Powell presented to the world at the UN is simply too great. (And by the way, if you know someone who is immune from feelings of regret or shame, sit them down in front of two televisions simultaneously showing a replay of Colin Powell's speech to the UN on one, and our initial "Shock and Awe" bombing of Baghdad on the other. We haven't seen too many replays of the latter in the mainstream media over the past two years, have we? Conversely, the opening salvo of Desert Storm was replayed in the MSM for years afterward.) Scott Ritter---ridiculed, attacked, and all by his lonesome---got it right, and our entire intelligence community and its hundreds of billions of dollars in annual budgets just got it wrong? Fascinating. And speaking of those who got it wrong, what memory hole have they been shunted down? Remember characters like Laurie Mylroie? Where is she these days? What about Khidir Hamza, a.k.a "Saddam's Bombmaker", who seemed like he slept on a cot at Fox News in the months leading up the war? Did he turn into a frog at midnight the day we started bombing Baghdad? Of course, the Richard Perles and the Michael Ledeens are still at it as we see here, plying their trade and using the same playbook for Iran that they foisted on us to justify Iraq.

I know two things with certainty: we cannot simply decamp from Iraq en masse immediately, nor can we sit in the desert for the next few years at our current force level losing dozens of troops each week to death and permanent injury. In my first job out of school, I had a boss who told me that there is nothing wrong with realizing one's career path is not the right one and taking action; only losers unhappily stay in the same job year after year, citing time already spent as justification for staying the course. Over the years I have learned this to be true and applicable in many other ways. So where do we go from here?

First, we must dispense with the myriad dubious and false assumptions that currently underpin both our conduct and our self-imposed options. Though I agree we cannot simply pick up and leave right now, I am wary of the assertion that doing so would result in complete chaos and a civil war. This may be true. But a full-blown civil war---essentially one step away from the low-grade civil war taking place right now---may be inevitable no matter what we do. And let's not forget that the "after us, chaos" argument was a favorite of both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, and the Vietnam hawks used it to justify the last five years or so of that war. Want to see what eventually became of Vietnam after those pillaging hordes of communists poured over the border and into Saigon? Read a bit about it here. They magically figured it out for themselves, after we left and after we buried almost 60,000 troops. And thirty years later, Vietnam's five-star hotels and world class restaurants are stops on luxury tours of Southeast Asia. Not bad for a fallen domino. Conservatives traditionally have favored limiting welfare programs on the theory that welfare destroys the incentive to work and be self-sufficient. Does that argument somehow not apply when we are essentially supporting an entire foreign nation?

I am also wary when I hear the president repeat that "setting a timetable for withdrawal will send the wrong signal to the enemy." This is one of those mantras that threatens to gain acceptance through sheer mindless repetition. It is specious and irrelevant. It relies on the false assumption that the insurgents will fight less hard---or, to the extent they are foreigners, they will decide to pack up and go home---if they think we are in Iraq to stay. That's really credible, eh? Claiming that we shouldn't set a timetable because the "enemy will simply wait us out" is akin to someone whose house just burned down from a carelessly-placed cigarette not calling his insurance company because he's worried his rate will increase. It's citing an immutable but irrelevant reality to justify compounding past mistakes and enduring an even worse fate.

The choices we make in Iraq obviously must move us quickly toward the objective of bringing home troops in regular and significant increments. Two qualifications here. First, if it becomes absolutely necessary, we can send them back for specific operations. Second, if we continue to train and equip Iraqi forces for another six months or so and see little progress, our loyalty must be to ourselves and our own men and women in uniform. The goal for our military right now should be the four R's: rest, regroup, retool and recruit. For now, however, I agree with the Bush administration that a phased withdrawal should coincide with the training and readiness of Iraqi troops. That's precisely why there must be a measurable standard for this training, as well as public accountability for those responsible for overseeing it. But does this inexplicable disaster of a press gaggle demonstrate that any such accountability exists? Or, like so many other devil-is-in-the-details failings of this administration, is it a perfect manifestation of what former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill called "kids rolling around on the lawn"?

The kids-on-the-lawn syndrome may be as good an explanation as any for what ails us. In The Price of Loyalty, O'Neill describes how, during the Nixon and Ford administrations, a special department prepared well-researched and extremely detailed internal papers on major issues before policy was formulated. And everyone in those administrations---right up to the president---knew them stone-cold, front to back. The current administration represents the primacy of pure ideology over pragmatic, fact-based policy. But you can't fight a war (particularly a preemptive one in which every mistake is second-guessed and debacles like Abu Ghraib destroy the aggressor's moral high ground) and engage in nation-building on ideology and faith alone; it takes planning, and an obsession with and command of details. This is one of the reasons I voted Democratic in a presidential election for the first time in my life last year. Bush---single-minded, unwavering, "with us or against us"---was exactly what this country needed at a specific and extremely important moment in time. But it has always been obvious that the thirst for details is not in him. It wasn't in Ronald Reagan either, but the only war we fought under Reagan was ideological. This one's the real deal, with real troops and civilians dying by the thousands while the kids roll around on the lawn back in Washington.

Vietnam was a disaster, as was Lyndon Johnson. But at least Johnson and his top aides went to bed at night in full command of details like troops levels and bombing targets. Yes, that was symptomatic of the micromanagement of the war from Washington. But just as defeat can result from micromanagement, it can also be born of aloofness and detachment---not sending enough troops, not securing the major weapons caches, disbanding the Iraqi army, not paying the civil servants, and not planning for an insurgency. Oh, and throw in not knowing or not caring about how the one thing that will actually allow our troops to come home---yes, the training of Iraqis---is progressing. In this administration, carelessness and negligence wear the mask of "faith."

I am not unsympathetic to those who are working on this every day. Unlike those in the oft-snarky blogosphere opining about this stuff with the benefit of distance as well as frequently utilized hindsight (and I include myself in that group), our political and military leaders toiling on this in the maw of the beast have an extremely tough job. It is indeed "hard work" as President Bush is fond of saying. But that does not absolve them of the responsibility for getting us into this mess in the first place, nor does it obviate the need for accountability that thus far has been sorely lacking. In my world, even a relatively minor mistake can mean losing one's job; a single sufficiently serious one can be career-ending. In this administration, committing a series of colossal historic blunders is a prerequisite for receiving an Orwellian, Soviet-style "Freedom Medal." This, from the MBA president who promised to restore an ethos of corporate accountability to the White House. By the way, this is the main reason I support Cindy Sheehan. I don't agree with everything she's saying. But she represents the ability of the average citizen to hold our highest elected officials to account for their actions; since this administration has proven itself unencumbered by self-evaluation or introspection, now more than ever this must be done. Exactly who has been publicly held to account for the utterly improbable series of intelligence and policy mistakes of the past few years? And has a physicist been consulted yet about the memory hole---apparently stronger than any black hole in the cosmos---in the basement of the White House?

That's the crux of my criticism of this administration. The ones who got us here are mostly still running the joint, some have actually been promoted, the ones who were proven right were fired early on, and the few who left did so with medals on their chests. That gives me zero confidence in the ability of this bunch to pull off Iraq, Iran, or anything more challenging than organizing the White House's annual Easter egg hunt. And if its continued unforgivable reliance on mantras, platitudes and bromides is any indication, our political leadership has about the same level of confidence in its own ideas and abilities that I do.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats a great post. I don't know why you continue linking to TBD though. The nonsensical fantasies of GD are a million miles away from your considered analysis.

Ultimately America is going to lose in Iraq, the pro war people dreams of bases and democracy will be ground down by the reality of a resistance movement that has no choice to stay and fight.

The Spanish lost their empire in Latin America that involved literally taking gold from the ground as the costs of occupation became too great. The same thing will happen to the US in Iraq. You are better realising that sooner than later and going home. Then the collective guilt of the more intelligent members of the US could be channelled into helping a genuine liberal Iraq emerge.

But I won't hold my breath.

8/28/2005 7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent read, thanks for this TCR.

8/28/2005 7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like you, I don't agree with everything Cindy is saying or with some of the crowd around her. But the core of her protest is indeed accountability which is why I too support her.

8/28/2005 8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Based on what I've read, it is utterly implausible that agencies like the NSA did not know the real deal about Iraq's WMD or lack thereof before the war. Our intelligence agencies can read a license plate or hear a mouse fart at 50,000 feet."

The disconnect is that while the technical collection capabilities of NSA and the other agencies are very good, it gets so much raw data that it completely overwhelms the analysts. Most of what they get are not looked at because of the sheer volume of data. The analytical arm of the IC is its achilles heel. While there are some very good analysts, there are also some truly awful ones who shouldn't be allowed to put stuff out. Add to that the interagency rivalry that continues unchecked to this day after the 9/11 commission report. It is a disgrace. As for the licence plate quote, it is sheer myth. No can do.

8/28/2005 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You leave out the most direct evidence we had that the information issuing from the Administration during their sales campaign for the war was false: the hundreds of UN weapons inspectors on the ground who were unable to find even as single weapon of even moderate destruction in Iraq.

It's simply not credible that Rumsfeld could state that the US knew Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and that we knew where they were located while the UN inspectors couldn't find a single missile, launcher, vial, or barrel of any precursor.

This was the primary reason why any reasonable person (by which I mean to exclude those people who reflexively dismiss any statement with the initials UN attached to it) should have known that no WMDs would be found in Iraq.

It's hard to know what the people at the top of the Bush Administration were thinking when making those claims. They must have believed some part of the nonsense they were spewing since they made very specific claims that they would have known could be proved false. If they really understood the situation in Iraq I'm sure they would have made it their business to ensure that at least some material made it into Iraq for the American inspectors to find.

8/28/2005 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The people you speak of, like Rumsfeld, Feith and Cheney, are actually insane. They believe it when they say it because they believe those people to be so bad that they actually must have something bad. Reality doesn't matter to them.

They also believed Iraq would be such a great success the only problem they had was getting the army there in the first place and then all would be forgiven. No that idiot of a president doesn't know what to do: the army are saying we can't carry on like this and the hawks are pretending they are winning.

8/28/2005 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't add another syllable to your excellent post! That's why I've passed it on, marked "ABSOLUTELY MUST READ."

8/28/2005 10:48 AM  
Blogger Mark Jones said...

The basic thrust of this post seems to be that the decision to invade Iraq was the right thing to do ( “First I supported the invasion and removal of Saddam.” ) And that only because of the intelligence fiasco, is it now looked upon as a poor decision. This theme has also been expressed by other pro-war types :

From Andrew
“My own evolving view of what's happening in Iraq is that there's still a reasonable chance of a pretty depressingly illiberal constitution, followed by low-level civil war, policed in part by young Americans. Better than Saddam? You betcha. Better than a crumbling regime under Saddam's sons during an Islamist upswing? Absolutely. But a long way from what many of us had hoped for.”

When will we get an unequivocal admission that the decision to invade Iraq was extremely unwise/short-sighted/ stupid (take your pick). Even if there had been a weapons program discovered and it was subsequently dismantled/destroyed, would the current situation on the ground be any different? Would the Kurds, Shites and Sunnis now be getting along, with no Sunni insurgency?? Would the U.S. not now be facing a long term commitment of money and troops? No, no and no. There is no way, by any reasonable standard, that Iraq (or the U.S.) is “better” off now without Sadadam. (and please don’t start talking about the 300,000 [?] Kurds that Saddam killed, and buried in mass graves. How many Kurds have been killed by the Turks?? Should we invade Turkey next?) And what about comments (from Sullivan) that “there's still a reasonable chance of a pretty depressingly illiberal constitution” What constitution? Illiberal or otherwise! As it stands now, it takes 2/3 of the voters, from just 3 provinces to vote down (reject) any “constitution” when it goes to a vote in October (that’s assuming that they can even come up with a “constitution”). Constitution my ass. Iraq will end up being run, the way it has always been run. The only difference is, the person with the most power will have a name other than Saddam Hussein. And for this outcome, the U.S. has spent (will have spent) the better part of a half a trillion dollars and lost (to date) close to 2,000 servicemen and women, as well as tens of thousands of seriously wounded.
When will people face this reality?

8/28/2005 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well-written. I enjoy coming here to read your posts. It's a relief to find a blogger who doesn't post out of anger and doesn't just post the same old rhetoric, whatever side he or she is on.

8/28/2005 12:55 PM  
Blogger Bravo 2-1 said...

I agree with all of the praise that has been and will be posted for this entry. It took some guts to evaluate your pre-war stance and then to do that same evaluation on what is happening now -- on those that won't look into the mirror and see what they have wrought. Further, this was so damn well written and important to say, and I have not seen it articulated better anywhere.

I have also been evaluating my pre-war stance. I was a coward, in college, not willing to say that I thought this war was sh*t and poorly planned.

If you read Sun Tzu, you'll know that we are going to lose this battle, in Iraq. A battle that is central to the war on terror that will be fought well into this century. I ask that you review my thoughts here, Warfare is the greatest affair of the state... and comment if you deem it worthy.

I wish we had an Abraham Lincoln.

8/28/2005 1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent, excellent post -- a thorough de-bunking of the war and the current administration's leadership, perhaps most importantly, using conservative principles. You quote dissenters like O'Neil but your argument does not rely on their testimony, only logic. If only more conservatives were as clear-headed.

Unfortunately, the vast bulk of conservatives (and quite a number of middle-conservative Democrats, too) are caught up in this caveman macho mindset of "We got hit four years ago, so we have to hit somebody back. Doesn't matter if we hit the right person, we just have to show the world that we hit back. Or else there will be moral chaos, cats and dogs sleeping together, Satan walking the streets openly," blah blah blah.

Not only will people with such a mind-set never realize that _our country's actions_ are contributing to the moral chaos... but years later, long after this whole misadventure has collapsed with terrible consequences, these unenlightened primitives will still be grumbling under their breaths, "We coulda won in Iraq if only we had bombed those damn towelheads a little harder." They're gonna blame the media for sapping our morale, as if all the strategic problems TCR just identified, never existed.

History may be written by the winners, but nobody wants to identify themselves as a loser, and so people like that don't learn from history and make the same mistakes again. I bet that even as late as 20 years ago (before that generation died) there were probably still elderly Germans who grumbled, "Hitler made some mistakes but nobody is willing to admit that the Jews really were a problem."

Second after the appalling loss of life (on both sides of this conflict), that's what I find most depressing.

8/28/2005 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'When will we get an unequivocal admission that the decision to invade Iraq was extremely unwise/short-sighted/ stupid' - Never.
Ben Stein was on CBS Sunday Morning show not long ago comparing Bush to Nixon. He said what we learned was don't ever admit your mistakes. I came away from that CBS segment thinking Ben Stein is immoral and an idiot.

You hit the nail on the head - accountability, to be straight with us. Cindy was on Bill Maher's show and her response to Bill's question on what more would you expect the President to say was something like, I would hold him accountable. I would not let him get away with BS.

Tony Blankley, Washington Times, a Republican paper, predicts we'll have a draft in 5 years because we have overextended ourselves. The word is spreading among those that joined that perhaps the recruiter embellished (i.e., get everything in writing, including the promise of future college money); plus a lot of knowledgeable folks are leaving when they finally can.

Most people understand Afghanistan, heck the world understood it, but it is the depths of the deception regarding Iraq and the continual lack of straightforwardness and ineptness of the leadership that is troublesome. This admins continual incompetence and inability to face reality head-on, definitely erodes public confidence in their ability to aid in the creation of a peaceful or stable Iraq, and their incompetence puts us all in danager. Stomping on the Geneva Convention didn't help matters. I think Nation building should be a serious event, and the entire "Shock and Awe" parade was frightening because they made a mockery of it by making it "entertainment". Afghanistan was about terrorism. Iraq was about Nation building, maybe. Gov. Bush campaigned against Nation building; President Bush is for it; Just be honest about! The folks from PNAC and in the admin used and abused 9/11 to push us into a Nation building preemptive war in the absolute worse ways. The admin opposed an 9/11 investigation.
It took the 9/11 widows to fight for the "commission", and then Bush still played games. What the heck was that all about?

Read the 10-point plan mentioned in this TPM blog. General Wesley Clark is going to be a guest blogger at TPMCafe. There is going to be a webcast of an event in Sept, with a diverse group, looking for real long-term solutions to terrorism other than perpetual war.

8/28/2005 2:26 PM  
Blogger zen said...

I find your analysis extremely well reasoned and applied to the current situation. Over at my blog I've attempted to make the arguement that there are essentially 3 groups of opinions about the war—the anti-war, the pro-war and a loose hybrid of reluctant supporters.
This third group is where I see you TCR. And I think it's this group that originally supported the war, but is now losing faith in the administration's ability to competently execute, as being the realization of Iraq becoming unwinnable. The fact that Bush has failed is obvious. And the evidence that this third group is proving to be the tipping point, is apparent in the declining polls, and eloquent bloggers such as The Cunning Realist.

8/28/2005 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frank Rich had another good article, The Vietnamization of Bush's Vacation talking about Presidential-hype and the irrelevance of the Democrats.

8/28/2005 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush---single-minded, unwavering, "with us or against us"---was exactly what this country needed at a specific and extremely important moment in time.

How do you figure???

What exactly did this macho bullshit get us? It certainly didn't get us Bin Laden. A smarter president, a president who wasn't shooting from the hip, a president who wasn't all swagger and no substance, a president who hadn't surrounded himself with psychopaths, incompetants and sycophants, would have chosen a course of action far more appropriate to the circumstances. Maybe it wouldn't have had the nice macho ring to it, but this isn't some adolescent boy's video game, as we are sadly finding out.

(Otherwise, I agree with your conclusions here.)

8/28/2005 3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Provacative post. Forwarded to several people.

8/28/2005 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very insightful; esp. the part about Cindy Sheehan. You hit the nail on the head here: There is no accountability anymore. The press doesn't hold the government accountable nor do most citizens. That is why we get the government we deserve.

8/28/2005 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would just like to ask this question: Bill Clinton believed Saddam had WMDs, so did the Russians, the French and almost everyone else. Were they all fabricators and liars?

With everything that has come out, even though grossly underreported by the MSM, I am surprised that Joe Wilson is even showing his face.

Let's just cut through all the rhetoric for one minute and ask: If your wife was really in a sensitive covert position in the CIA, and recommended you for the investigation, would you become a Kerry advisor and write the misleading Op-Ed in the New York Times about it like he did?

Joe Wilson "outed" Valerie Plame.

The next thing you know, the "covert agent" is posing for the cover of Vanity Fair!

Liberals use the "victimization" thing as a cover for lies and a radical agenda. Don't look too closely at the facts uncovered by Joe Wilson, only his conclusion because his wife has become a victim. Don't look to closely at what Casey Sheehan stood for, ony pay attention to a "grieving mother" and don't scrutinize her rabidly left wing agenda because she is a victim too.

What would Casey want? Madam Sheehan has not produced one piece of evidence that he was anything but an American Patriot. He was a patriot and reenlisted during this war. He volunteered for the mission that resulted in his death. Would Casey want his name for all time be associated with what is going on in Crawford? I think not!

Give us one fact that points otherwise.

Why did Clinton announce that "Regime Change" in Iraq was official American policy in 1996?

Now everyone on the left goes into a tither when Bush carries out what Clinton said was his policy.

Notice how Hillary is staying well-clear of any of this. Why?


8/28/2005 4:52 PM  
Blogger Automax4000 said...

I don't find Bush's 9/11 performance compelling. What did he give us? That morning he sat stunned and read a children's book and then flew off to the hinterlands to hide. His Administration later floated the idea (which is to say "lied") that AF1 was targeted by the terrorists. Later he flew to NY to grandstand with the rescue workers at WTC. He did launch a war on the Taliban, but very few people were opposed to that action--Howard Dean supported it--so where's the bravery there? And that war had serious strategic mistakes: OBL, Zawahiri and Mullah Omar live on. Finally, in the following years Bush squandered the national unity for partisan gain. I'm completely underwhelmed by this clown.

8/28/2005 5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PenDragon if you honestky believe anything you write you need professional help... seriously

8/28/2005 6:01 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

C.R., No one can fathom what the Bush administration's plans are without knowing its intentions towards Iran. Nor can anyone legitimately discuss US foreign policy (including the war on Iraq) without considering US strategic energy interests. Unfortunately, those very real interests will never be publicly acknowledged by the Bush administration.

Here's a clue about Iran from Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" today:

Mr. Russert: Why is it in Iran or Syria's interests to help us? Why not let the current status quo continue and they can take full advantage of having a radical Islamic state in Iraq, which is fueled by terrorism who can help destroy the United States?

Hillary Clinton, in a speech to AIPAC in May 2005, identified Iran as the biggest threat to both the United States and Israel. (see AIPAC website).

What is your opinion about Iran as a threat to the US? Will the Bush administration opt for military action in Iran? Perhaps we will see "Shock and Awe II".

One reason for the increasing hostility towards Hugo Chavez is his alliance with the Iranian government. From an March 2005 article on Alexander's Gas & Oil website:

"The president of Iran, a big oil exporter near the top of the US enemies list, is coming for a three-day visit with President Hugo Chavez, the leftist leader of a prime supplier of crude to the United States who claims Washington is out to kill him.
Mohammad Khatami's visit is intended to bolster industrial and energy cooperation between Iran and Venezuela, two of the world's largest oil exporters, and strengthen their common position against the United States....

Venezuela and Iran are both members of OPEC, which controls about 40 % of the oil supply and a large portion of the reserves in the world. Although Washington has poor relations with Tehran and Caracas, it nevertheless is aware of the importance of Iran, the second-largest producer of crude in the world, and Venezuela, the fifth-largest exporter of oil in the world and fourth-largest supplier to the United States..."

Regarding pre-war Iraq, the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy's Strategic Energy Policy report (April 2001)on Iraq:

"Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to U.S. allies in the Middle East, as well as to regional and global order, and to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets..."

As an aside the Baker report made this intriguing comment:

" Another problem with easing restrictions on the Iraqi oil industry to allow greater investment is that GCC allies of the United States will not like to see Iraq gain larger market share in international oil markets. In fact, even Russia could lose from having sanctions eased on Iraq, because Russian companies now benefit from exclusive contracts and Iraqi export capacity is restrained, supporting the price of oil and raising the value of Russian oil exports. If sanctions covering Iraq’s oil sector were eased and Iraq benefited from infrastructure improvements, Russia might lose its competitive position inside Iraq, and also oil prices might fall over time, hurting the Russian economy. These issues will have to be discussed in bilateral exchanges."

Hmm...sounds like a darned good reason for foreign sponsorship of the insurgency to me.

Putting aside the issue of Saddam and WMDs, I found the claim that Saddam was a state sponsor of terrorism perplexing. Bremer's 2000 report on terrorism did not identify Iraq as a threat although it identified Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Greece! as problem countries.

Re "Shock and Awe" bombing -Thanks for bringing it up. I was so upset watching the bombing, I was brought to tears. To this day, I am livid about the Wall Street Journal naming its coverage of the Iraq war "Bombs Away!" And if I ever meet Peggy Noonan, I will punch her in the face for her essay on why an war on Iraq will bring a much needed lift to Americans.

8/28/2005 6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there are some of us who knew we were being lied to. we spoke out and were summarily labeled traitors and "unamerican" by those who simply wanted to go to war, to "throw some little shit country up against a wall and show how tough we are".

true strength is in self control and the use of power to be gentle.

true power in the world is speaking the truth and being heard and acknowledged even if you only whisper.

the only power we have anymore, now that all auspices of potency have been pissed away by the neo-cons, is the power to destroy, and that aint power, it's evil.


8/28/2005 8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was very impressed by your command of the facts and your cogent argument.


8/28/2005 8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 227fla,

After reading your tear-filed wimpy post, I hope you don't ever run into Peggy Noonan. She will kick your butt!

8/28/2005 8:55 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

CR said: (And by the way, if you know someone who is immune from feelings of regret or shame, sit them down in front of two televisions simultaneously showing a replay of Colin Powell's speech to the UN on one, and our initial "Shock and Awe" bombing of Baghdad on the other...)

I don't know Broccoli but from his post, he seems to have immunity.

8/28/2005 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you begin to see the results of the actions, and you ask why and begin to look into it....every step was predicted by history.
Faith is not a basis for a government.
Never was.
Never will work.

8/28/2005 11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yes, many others thought Saddam had WMD and that he was a danger. But they didn't claim unequivocal proof of it (it is a little to the north and east, and south and somewhat west of Tikrit, hah), nor did they lie their asses off in order to get the backing to launch a war.

Regime change doesn't require a war, not tens of thousands of lives, not hundreds of billions of dollars. Diplomacy and patience are far cheaper. There is a reason we didn't attempt to take the Soviets head on. Containment isn't the same as appeasement, a distinction apparently lost to those on the rabid right.

Now I'm sure the response of many would be: dumbass, you can't apply the logic of containing the soviet state to that of fighting terrorists. True, but the argument is a non-sequiter. Regime change in Iraq has little to do with fighting terrorists; it has to do with dumping Saddam, installing US military bases, and casting a long shadow on the rest of the middle east. The very real threat of terrorism is an altogether different problem than the one we are fighting (eg, in four years spending less securing our ports than we spend in a day in iraq).

8/29/2005 12:27 AM  
Blogger Steve Sailer said...

Well said.

Still, "And let's not forget that the "after us, chaos" argument was a favorite of both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, and the Vietnam hawks used it to justify the last five years or so of that war. Want to see what eventually became of Vietnam after those pillaging hordes of communists poured over the border and into Saigon?" would seem to ignore what quickly became of Cambodia from April 1975 onward.

8/29/2005 4:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott Ritter may have been all by his lonesome, but there were people that believed him. There had to be, since some spent so much energy marginalizing them as "un-American'. Even now, the crux of the argument comes down to one of a few sound-bites: "cut-and-run" "Most Democrats voted for war" (an embelishment, Congress voted to authorize force if needed, the Administration made the decision all on their own) "Shehan has a left-wing agenda" "The liberal media only report bad news" "fight them there so we don't fight them here". There is still no discussion, just opposing mantras.

8/29/2005 10:36 AM  
Blogger zen said...

I appreciate that you touch on the vital role of Cindy Sheehan—not all that she says, her personal life, who's using her, what other mothers are saying—that's all irrelevant. Sheehan has been the only person to focus the public on the president's (lack of) accountabity.
This has to be related to the dropping poll numbers. Now there is reason for people to pay attention, and consider that she may not stand for all they do, but she brings up an important point.
Her critics may think, she's out of touch, but yet say to themselves, "I am rational, I supported this war based on the belief that the president wouldn't mislead me. But things have come out showing he was wrong. Now I too have questions, and why is he treating me like a child? Where is the substance?"
So Bush is losing this group of people, which could have been completely avoided by addressing realities, not spin. By sitting in the oval office and seriously addressing the public about the situation. Instead he stands before friendly, cheering crowds and continues the bromides. It's offensive and transparent that he's nothing left, so..."Stay the course."

8/29/2005 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, everyone's missing the point here. You can't contemplate any sort of half-hearted withdrawal from Iraq withiut giving up Israel. As long as America is an ally of Israel, our troops will occupy Iraq and sustain losses until such time as the insurgents realize we're not going away. That would be concurrent with about the time hell freezes over.

So... unless you're willing to wave bye-bye to Israel get used to your kids and your kid's kids being tied up over there.

8/29/2005 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, TCR.
Speaking as someone who has been out of the country for 40 years, and has come back - thinking conservatives are afraid to speak out. The "conservative voice" in America sounds mostly lunatic because this administration has managed to silence any intelligent voice coming from the conservative side. They're all afraid to be labeled unpatriotic.

So I thank you for your bravery. You are a true patriot, as are the small but growing number of sane conservatives who are willing to call this administration on their utter incompetency and complete lack of wisdom.

What a shame that the legacy of George Bush Sr. who was by objective accounts a very fine president, has been overshadowed by that of his weakling son.

8/29/2005 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this was a great quote by Dick Cheney. Evidently they still don't have answers to these questions, 14 years later.

"Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you do with it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that's currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when it's there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave? " — Sec. of Defense Dick Cheney, April 1991

8/29/2005 2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I notice that my new close personal friend pendragon is back here, attempting to drag down the cunning realist to another propaganda shoutfest of deranged rightwing talking points that make no sense. what a shame.

meanwhile, back on a higher level, i agree with the cunning realist that bush's performance between 9/14/01 and his christmas vacation in '01 was superb and what the country needed. So did the country, since that was the period of Bush's 80 - 90% approval ratings.

However, it turns out that that period contained within it the seeds of bush's own failures: suddenly, he became a utopian fantasist, and the people around him assisted, enabled, and guided him in those fantasies. It is amazing - simply amazing - in retrospect to read what they had to say prior to the war, but the single most important thing to be said about them is that they believed that we could get down to 30K troops by september, '03.

Conservatives used to be the people who warned us about the costs of good intentions. What has gone wrong with the conservative movement?

8/29/2005 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a very good point. And interesting read is the history of the neocon movement in America and Britain as written by a group of British historians... can't remember the website but it should be easy to find. It speaks to the point you raise.

8/29/2005 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daou Report, by Peter Daou, has an interesting review of our problem, "The Ethics of Iraq: Moral Strength vs. Material Strength".

I just don't think you can go to war on deception, do away with the Geneva Convention, have an Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, excessive spin, and no substance, not support the troops as necessary, and yell moral authority. It has never been more true, that actions speak louder than words. If we don't hold this administration accountable, they are setting a precedence for future administrations. I'm with Cindy, never again!

But like Thomas Friedman said, if you break it you own it. We have to take actions now to rebuild Iraq; those "actions" are what need to be determined. The big thing is the feuding parties of Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, and "other". I think we need to let Iraqi's do as much as possible for themselves, and that includes policing and rebuilding (i.e., contracts go to Iraqi businesses not US).

This article reminded me of a Times article, "First Stop Iraq". I read it back in March 2003... I highly recommend this magazine issue.

Where is Ahmad Chalabi and the other exiled Iraqi's that lobbyied for the US to take out Saddam. Don't they have a plan for the peace. Shouldn't they take more responsibility now... like we took out Saddam just as you wanted, here's your country. Go for it. I always thought it was odd that people come to us to bring their government down, but they don't have what it takes in the first place to change their country and gather enough support and people, and so they just leave.

8/29/2005 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, gotta disagree on bush being what we needed post 9/11/01.

i know too much first hand and have too much invested in this country to agree. there was no inspired leadership, no strength of real conviction or truth of purpose. bush and his fellows saw an opportunity to push through every fear induced revision of our constitution and national fabric to support his and his handlers ideology. he didn't go after the ones who instigated and carried out 9/11. he didnt want to know the truth of the situation. he saw the opportunity to hit iraq. he did it. he ignored his buddies in saudi arabia and the realities of afghanistan and called anyone who dared to question or, heaven forbid, oppose him a traitor... and has been the stuffed shirt with "common man values and resolve" for the ideologues to wave in the air, when he is actually a man who is kept in a bubble and fed his diet of what he wants to hear.

no, he let us down before, and since.
he is no man to trust or admire.
and his crimes have been adding up to losses not even recognized as yet.

am i a flaming liberal who sees evil in every republican heart? nope.
i'm a citizen of the USA. and i passionately disagree whith the track we've allowed ourselves to be led down.

shame on us, and shame on this administration.


8/29/2005 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent and interesting post CR thank you.

8/29/2005 5:42 PM  
Blogger Siryn said...

A big "Yeah, That" to you, feral.

Still a good post, TCR, but I tend to line up more with feral.

8/29/2005 9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I had little doubt military action was necessary in light of 9/11 and the intelligence that was presented in the months leading up to the war. But there's the rub. Of course, we now know a fair amount about how the prewar intelligence---as well as the public debate via the Plame outing---was subverted, hand-picked, shaded, crafted, manipulated, or flat-out fabricated to support an objective that had been conceived well in advance."

There's the rub. Many (most?) conservatives ran into that trap. The key to understanding the situation was not to listen to the facts that were presented, so much as the way they were presented. What we were hearing was not reasoned debate; it was propaganda. Then the line of reasoning is clear: government is using propaganda => it really wants something. In this case, as in many others, what they want is a war.

We must all learn to recognize propaganda, whether from the "babies thrown out of incubators" in Gulf War I to the Serbian atrocities in the Balkans, or just how evil Saddam was, or Qadaffi, or Kim Song Il, or Noriega, or ... In most cases, the charges are at least somewhat true; the very best propaganda based on the truth. Again, it's not what is said but how and why that is the interesting bit. And it doesn't matter what party.

Right now the official propaganda is "everything's OK, all the statistics show robust economic growth, there is no inflation, the war is winnable." This is what they are absolutely desperate to have us believe.

8/30/2005 12:20 AM  
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8/30/2005 9:18 AM  
Blogger zen said...

In a show of non-partisian leadership in the best interest of the nation, when should Bush can Donald Rumsfeld? The obvious answer is long ago. I think it would start to send the clear message that Bush is serious about retaining support for the mission.
What about replacing him with Wes Clark?

8/30/2005 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deepak Chopra had an interesting blog. He lists 9 qualities each for "being part of the problem" or "being part of the solution", in regards to to war, Iraq and peace.

We have behavioral finance, do we need behavioral politics; argh, guess we have that already.

8/30/2005 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my question for those who say we can't just pull out now: What are your grounds for believing that our staying even a little while longer will make things better for the people in what used to be Iraq, for the US, and for the world in general?

8/30/2005 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post as usual, but let me join the chorus of posters who want you to come clean and admit that the war was a terrible idea in the first place. Don't hitch your horse to the hypothetical WMDs----no sensible person believed Saddam was a serious threat.
You're doing a great job.. don't be a Kevin Drum or G D(from BD.. i can't spell his name). Clear thinking demands that you accept that the original decision to go to war was fatally in error.

Best regards,

8/30/2005 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wmr, you don't get it, do you? Pulling out of Iraq would decouple our 50 year alliance with Israel. Is that what you want?

8/30/2005 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is becomming a great blog.

You just can't dodge the fact that Bush ran on his record and was re-elected.

The American people have spoken on this. Looking at any temporary approval polls is silly. Guess what? The Dems will not be running Bush in 2008. They are like the French, always trying to refight the last war, with exactly the same results.

The Democrats better start thinking about fielding a candidate that can break the Red-State juggernaught that won the last two elections because, if the Republicans hold serve, it's already over.

Just picture the US trying to fight WWII with the conditions that exist today like the MSM , and the NY Times & Co. Could we have done it?


8/30/2005 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reality boys, reality. Blow your smoke somewhere else...America is looking behind the smoke and mirrors and it ain't about partisianship -its about fundamental right & wrong.
And its wrong to invade a sovereign nation on trumped up charges. What we have done in the prisions-it's wrong boys, it's wrong.
And we-the people-are noticing.

8/30/2005 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are you going to do about what you're noticing, ruffian? Pull out of Iraq and surrender Israel? Have you thought this through? That's reality.

8/30/2005 10:10 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

C.R., Thanks for your thoughtful words. I've read this post three or four times because each time I read it, I pick up on something I missed the first time around.

E.g. I missed your reference to Ledeen and Perle and the link to your previous post about Iran. So I think I know where you stand on Iran. Too bad that both Dems and Repubs at the top are so set to do "something" about it.

I am still puzzled about why you had little doubt military action was necessary in light of 9/11...Did you think that Saddam was behind 9/11?

Me,I bought off on the Saudi link to Al Qaeda and I still think that those weasels in the UAE have something to answer for. Assuming, of course, that the basic 9/11 story is true.

BTW, the 9/11 report referred to Al Qaeda financing by the "Golden Chain" which was made up of Saudi financiers whose names are publicly known but omitted from the report. Shortly after 9/11, a consortium of Middle East banks led by one of the Golden Chain members hired Jack Abramoff. Another reason why we'll never get to the bottom of 9/11.

Isn't this a great country? Where else in the world can you read on a government website how your military plotted to start a war using you? Umm...our current secretary of defense has already told us that he believes in disinformation campaigns.

You laughed about Able Danger but as it looks now, the Pentagon was doing a fair amount of spying on US citizens even before 9/11.

I'm not as crazy nuts for the Vietnam success story as you are. It seems to me that like China, people tend to confuse capitalism with democracy.

For another four weeks, I am working for one of the biggest defense contractors. At a conference recently, a vice president got snippy when I pointed out that China was still communist but I suspect that's because he would very much like to sell arms to China.

For all of the administration's talk about promoting democracy, it doesn't seem to be a big issue when it comes to those capitalistic but still communist countries or even Burma. Dare I mention other abuses such as child labor?

Oh, and call me naive but the fact that the Saudis opened the highway to Iraq before 9/11 told me that they weren't afraid of Saddam so why would I be? Besides, if anyone read the official Iraqi website like I did (the English version of which has disappeared without a trace from the internet wayback machine), Iraq was hosting trade fairs practically every other week. In April 2002, Saddam let all of the US media into Iraq to cover his birthday bash (which I watched on Iraqi tv on the website). Leslie Stahl even interviewed Abdul Rahman Yasin, the participant in the 1993 WTC bombing and who Saddam offerd to hand over (BTW,where is Yasin today?). Didn't seem like a country looking to start trouble with the US to me.

And that's another thing. Baghdad was so wide open after 9/11 that I bet that US intelligence contacted the top guys in the Iraqi military and told them what the deal was. One day we're going to find out that the US knew well in advance that the Iraqi army would melt away. Which would mean that Shock & Awe was a spectacle produced for the rubes back home. It also meant lots of repairs for those contractors to get fat on.

And about those Kurds? Didn't they kill 30,000 of each other in the 1990s and didn't Turkey kill another 23,000? And I'm not defending Saddam but those Kurds did support Iran in the Iraq-Iran war.

8/31/2005 12:56 AM  
Blogger 277fia said...

Pendragon: Just picture the US trying to fight WWII with the conditions that exist today like the MSM , and the NY Times & Co. Could we have done it?

What are you talking about? Do you even read the paper? The NYT was one of the biggest promoters of the Iraq war in MSM. From Maureen Dowd to William Safire to Judith Miller and her WMD stories, not a peacenik among them. By 9/24/01, Safire was warning everyone about Iraqi nuclear scientists working feverishly in underground laboratories. I forget where he said the bio and chem weapons guys worked but they were there, according to Bill.

The Knight-Ridder papers were about the only ones that provided balanced pre-war reporting.

FYI, Republican isolationists were against entering WWII. Pearl Harbor kind of forced their hand.

8/31/2005 1:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Bush did not run on his record in 2004. He ran on fear and on Kerry's record. Not once did this administration talk about progress being made during that campaign, they talked about how horrible a Kerry presidency would be.

Keep trying. Eventually, you MIGHT find a compelling argument for why your guy should be considered anything but incompetent.


We propped up Saddam in the 80's and Israel did not fall. We took him down and left in the 90's and Israel did not fall. Why would all of the sects in what is now Iraq drop their internal struggles to attack Israel if we were to leave now? Like you say, I must be blind, because I do not see the connection.

8/31/2005 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott_api, I'm not saying leaving Iraq would lead to Iraq attacking Israel. It's not so simple. Rather, leaving Iraq without imposing some sort of democracy there would embolden the entire Muslim world in their struggle to get rid of Israel.

8/31/2005 9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


That I can understand. Thanks for helping me get my head around the crux of your argument.

8/31/2005 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What I "get" is that you are a jerk who is too quick at assuming questions are hostile. If that is the persona you wish to present, fine; if not, ditch the defensiveness and answer these questions:
Are you arguing that we can never leave Iraq or that there are circumstances in which we can leave without emboldening the Muslims to attack Israel? If the latter, what are those circumstances and what are your grounds for thinking that we can achieve them?

And just so you know, "we will win because we cannot afford to fail" is not an acceptable answer.

8/31/2005 2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>Are you arguing that we can never leave Iraq or that there are circumstances in which we can leave without emboldening the Muslims to attack Israel?<<

Yes, we can leave Iraq once we've imposed a democracy on them. If you catch the irony in that statement you'll see why young Americans will be dying for many generations in the Middle East.

Iraq is but one piece of the bigger picture. Since 1948, Arabs have avowed to destroy Israel and we have avowed to support Israel. That is the essence of this entire exercise.

So the bigger question - one that is never discussed - is do our kids continue to die for Israel? If they do, all this hand-wringing over the peripheral issues is largely a lot of hot air and a waste of time.

It's time to call a spade a spade in this story.

8/31/2005 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, the bigger question is: what are your grounds for thinking we can ever impose a democracy in Iraq?

Other questions also come to mind. What will we do when we run out of troops? Will the American public accept this as the newest rationale for the war? If they do accept it, how long will they continue to accept it?

8/31/2005 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wmr, see my answers under "Shifting Rationales, Emerging Truths"

8/31/2005 4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was very interesting reading day 5 of Sean Penn's trip to Iran.

Note when Penn talks about the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq Organization, MKO, and they are soliciting our government and perhaps are the source of misinformation on a number of occasions. It reminded me of how accurate the exiled Iraqi Ahmad Chalabi was on Iraq. He's the guy NYT's Judy Miller quoted from to justify the war.

At the end, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said:

"We must be patient. To reform too quickly would cause a deep backlash. You see about the bombings today, and we expect them now to continue. This process must move slowly or not at all. We need reform, not revolution."

This made me think of Iraq, and was the war the best option or was it just the expedient one to make Bush the "war" President and to enrich his base.

Penn's day 4 was equally as good as Penn attended a demonstration for women rights. This was my favorite part. It a picture with Penn and Iranian students. The comment for the picture is, "Sean Penn with students at Tehran University. One student espoused the U.S. ideals of democracy and separation of church and state.".

Isn't it ironic that the young generation in Iran value our democracy and separation of state and yet the Republican party is trying to make us a theocratic state. Do we have to go backwards in time, in order for the Iraq and Iran to go forward in time?

8/31/2005 5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am wondering, this is supposed to be a blog by a conservative republican. Are you guys sure? You all sound too levelheaded and intíllegent, for that, and you all seem to have noticed that the emperor has no cloth, and pointing it out in spades. No hero worship of our great leader, no worship of that great ethical christian leader.
Are you sure you are republicans?
You all must be those anti-war terroists undermining our great democratic, freedom loveing country.

9/01/2005 6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe you supported the Iraq invasion, you seem like such a smart guy. Did you really believe the claims about Saddam Hussein? I supported Afghanistan 100% but I could tell at once the rationale for invading Iraq was pure bullshit.

9/02/2005 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thirdeye said: you don't get it, do you? Pulling out of Iraq would decouple our 50 year alliance with Israel. Is that what you want?

Thirdeye (or anyone), I have a serious question for you. What does America get for it's support of Israel? In the '70s we got gas lines and heightened stagflation. We get a hundred thousand "facts on the ground"in the West Bank that we are opposed to. Our support of Israel is at least a factor in 9/11. It is probably the major reason for the neocons adventure in Iraq. Honestly, I'm having a hard time coming up with anything good for America that our support of Israel gets us. Our population is 1.8% Jewish, and I'll grant that they are mostly in favor of our support of Israel, but by that logic we should be sending about a hundred billion dollars a year to Mexico... Can anyone come up with a good reason for this continuing vast expenditure?

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In addition, permit us be acquainted with the other snow boots model - CGM exceptional.

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11/20/2012 9:04 AM  
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7/23/2021 4:06 PM  

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