Here is a very long guest post about the situation in Iraq. Most be will below the fold:
What is Going on in Iraq- Adam L. Silverman, PhD*
John asked yesterday “what is going on in Iraq?” After communicating with him offline, he asked if I would do a guest post with my answer. What we are seeing in Iraq is that the Iraqis are reorganizing, or attempting to reorganize, themselves. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the al Qaeda affiliate in the Levant, which is fighting against the Iraqi government and the Shi’a, is basically capitalizing on Sunni discontent and disenfranchisement. This looks like, and at one level is, settling scores. It is true that the Sunnis are outnumbered and I have had conversations with informed observers who argue the Iraqi Sunnis know they cannot win, unfortunately no one seems to have told the Iraqi Sunnis that!
Iraqi Sunnis have been telling us, explicitly, since as far back as 2007 when we started partnering with the Anbar Awakenings guys that as soon as they had a chance – read as soon as we were gone and conditions were right – they were going to go after the Shi’a. They are specifically and especially interested in going after the expatriate Shi’a that we had empowered and put in charge: Maliki and his Dawa Party and the Hakim’s and their ISCI Party and its Badr Corps militia. The Sadrists are not too high on their list of favorites either. By not actually listening, and by listening I mean hearing what they said and observing their behavior in order to get a fuller understanding of their messaging, we have helped to make this worse.
First we seem to have, as policy and strategy, defaulted to and decided that democracy was really just voting and that majority rule was great, so what if it created majoritarianism. We compounded our problems from not actually understanding the message from the Awakenings and Sons of Iraq folks, by empowering the expatriate Shi’a. These Shi’a, PM Maliki and his Dawa Party and Ayutalluh Uzma Hakim and his ISCI Party and Badr Corps, where established in Iran as opposition to Saddam Hussein and are still closely tied to Iran. An important secondary effect that we do not like to think about is that when we brought the Badr Corps personnel into the Iraqi Army we were rebuilding, we did not let their ties to Iran stop us from including them. And I cannot emphasize enough about distrust of Iran among both Sunni and Shi’a Iraqis. Iran is like the black helicopter idea for Iraqis! During my first in depth interview with a Shi’a sheikh who was also an Imam, he told me that the Dawa and ISCI folks were not really Iraqis and that they were not even really Muslims, let alone Shi’a. He told me they were Zoroastrians – adherents to the ancient Persian monotheistic religion. I heard variations of this over and over again from Iraqi elites and notables, and not so elites and notables, who could not have coordinated their messages to me.
Another self-inflicted wound was how we handled the Sons of Iraq handoff in 2008 when the Maliki government decided it was going to take over administration of the program from Coalition Forces. I was in regular contact with a number of the most influential Sons of Iraq and Awakening leaders in my brigades Operational Environment (OE) as part of my cultural engagement work for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team/1st Armored Division as a lot of these leaders were also the tribal, community, and/or religious leaders in the OE. No one was happy with how they were being treated, and this went beyond the usual complaining about losing control and prestige, let alone money, in the handoff. Rather, this was an honor and pride issue. I listened to an influential local Shi’a leader, who had joined the Awakenings movement assert that the Maliki government was going to turn his Sons of Iraq personnel into walid shab chai (the boy that brings the tea). It is the Iraqi’s country, and their government made a legitimate request, but we had ample reason to recognize that PM Maliki’s government was planning on targeting the Awakenings and Sons of Iraq, which should have influenced how we did the handover. At the time that we turned over administration, PM Maliki was already rolling up Awakenings and Sons of Iraq leaders in Wassit and Diyala Provinces in advance of the 2009 provincial elections in order to neutralize opposition and coup proof himself. In the most recent national elections he did the same thing with members of Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiyya List. He was able to arrest or force into hiding enough Iraqiyya List members to reduce Allawi’s plurality and overturn its constitutional right to attempt to form a governing coalition.**
The Iraqis rolled us in the 2008 Status of Forces negotiations and the deliberations on establishing the provincial and then national election processes. Once they realized they could run out the clock on us, they did. As a result we are no longer there to play referee and other events have diverted our attention. That is why now is a good time to settle scores. Syria is stuck in a Civil War, which provided the Levantine al Qaeda affiliate a way back into Iraq. They have capitalized on the dashed hopes and angers of a lot of Iraqis and scores are now being settled. Some of this is just vengeance, but some of it is also the process of state and societal formation, regardless of whether we like the potential outcome of that process. For all that we do not like to think about these things, state and societal formation, or reformation, is usually violent. It is often serially violent as well. There will be periods of violence – challenges to the established order or by the order to consolidate power, as well as to determine who gets to be included within society and who is to be partially or fully excluded. These periods will be interspersed with periods of calm. It is not, however, a quick or even easy process. The US has gone through this, though we like to ignore or forget it unless we have no other choice. For everyone who knows Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion and the War of the Rebellion (now doing business as the Civil War) there have been well over a hundred smaller and localized rebellions, violent challenges to state and society, etc.
State and societal formation and consolidation is a long process. It is often ugly and violent and it is what we are witnessing in Iraq. Right now the Iraqis are working out just who gets to be considered an Iraqi, as well as who gets to be in control and how state and society are going to be organized. And when this wave passes, eventually there will be another one. Expectations will have been raised, but whoever emerges will not be able to meet them, until one day they finally are able to do so and things will settle down. We have been watching this in Egypt for almost three years now.
And this does not even account for what the Kurds may do. I fully expect the Kurds to declare independence as soon as they think everyone is sufficiently diverted with the Sunni versus Shi’a Arab violence in Iraq, the Civil War in Syria, and other events in the region that they can create a fait accompli on the ground. Given that Turkey’s governing party is increasingly divided and internally conflicted, the time may be ripe for independence from a Kurdish perspective.
* Adam L. Silverman is the Cultural Advisor at the US Army War College. He served in Iraq in 2008 as the Cultural Advisor to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team/1st Armored Division as the Human Terrain Team Iraq 6 Field Social Scientist and Team Lead. The views expressed here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Army War College and/or the US Army.
** For full disclosure: I know two of the Iraqiyya List members that PM Maliki targeted to flip the elections. One was the acting mayor of Salman Pak, south of Baghdad. The other is a retired Iraqi Army brigadier general who helped to form the Awakening movement and Sons of Iraq in our Operating Environment. Both of them, as is the case with most Iraqis, come from mixed kinship and tribal affiliations. They were Shi’a and Sunni respectively, but both had close familial relatives, as well as extended tribal kin in other parts of Iraq that were from the other sect. The real fight in Iraq, while now galvanized around Sunni versus Shi’a, has always been about resources and who gets to control. The extremists utilize sectarian religious differences to capitalize on these resource disputes and turn them into an existential religious fight.
Zoroastrians from Kenya, I bet.
More on Iraq – Shit’s fucked up and bullshit.
Great post — kudos to both John and Dr. Silverman.
Now if ever would be the time for a military coup against Maliki. There might be a clue in the fact that the Iraqi army forces, though greatly outnumbering the Sunni insurgents, have put up so little fight.
Villago Delenda Est
You know, what Iraq needs is a Sunni strongman to bring the disparate peoples of Iraq together, by force.
You know, someone like, well, Saddam Hussein…
A most excellent description.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
Very informative post. Thanks.
@Baud: lol! The 27% is everywhere, man.
Well, I knew it was going to be a shit storm, I just hoped it would be a low level, long running shit storm.
Villago Delenda Est
Here’s the thing about Dr. SIlverman’s post. It’s just too, well, complicated for the Manichean shitheads who are the Neocons to fathom, let alone the deserting coward, who didn’t know about Sunni and Shiite when he was preparing for his great adventure in Mesopotamia.
This was a great primer! Like everyone else it seems, I stopped paying as much attention to Iraq as the world turned and got behind on what recent events were transpiring that propelled it into the news again this week.
There’s a long, long tradition, going back to the (Sunni) Abbasids of accusing enemies or suspect people of being “fire worshippers” or some other variety of zindiqism. I am not surprised that it would have been revived today in the turmoil of Iraq.
We have really fucked up bad over there, haven’t we?
Can we assume the distinguished Senators from AZ and SC know all this? That they know that Maliki’s been ignoring our constant warnings about freezing the Sunnis out and liquidating their leaders?
Then why didn’t they back Obama’s decision to not knuckle under to Maliki’s blackmailing demands. Why didn’t they support our pull out of Iraq — rather than give even more cover for what he was doing to Maliki (which I assume is what Maliki would’ve extracted from us in exchange for a Status Of Forces Agreement).
Or if they had to oppose Obama, why not for principled reasons: demand the US confront Malik and Dawai for undermining stability and democracy w/the murderous vendetta against the Sunnis.
Maverick and Huckleberry — always holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, and accepting both of them.
Thank you for your insights and perspective.
It should also be noted that the immediate post-WWII period in Europe was also the occasion for a fair amount of violent score settling, most notably in Italy where a several month’s long free-for-all against fascists and others suspected of participating in German atrocities. My father’s most vivid memory of the liberation was of a seeing a group of communist partisans crucify a pair of collaborators before throwing them in the Po, pretty much under the noses of the Americans. The incident inspired him to join the PCI as an adult because he saw them as the party that fought for the people.
Villago Delenda Est
Domestically, that’s always been what this is about. Any move Obama makes must be attacked, even if its one that they demanded he that he make. See the Bergdahl situation, for example, where the apparatchiks immediately went into the erasing of old twitter feeds and facebook posts mode when the WH made the announcement of Bergdahl’s release.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
No, I don’t think we can assume this. We should be able to expect that senators who are viewed as foreign policy experts know things like this, but life frequently disappoints.
Yep. Anyone think the Kurds are going to give Kirkuk back?
What’s the Kurdish for “Come and take it!”?
Villago Delenda Est
@? Martin: Not likely.
The Kurds know that they have a window of opportunity here, when all this shit is going down, to make a move for independence. Their enemies in Ankara, Tehran, Baghdad, and Damascus are all preoccupied with their own closer to home problems, so now is the time to strike.
@1weirdTrick: The obtuseness of Maverick and Huckleberry borders on criminal negligence. Tens of thousands of human lives have been lost because too many of our politicians have treated our military and Iraqi civilians as props in a low-rent reality show. Basic morality dictates that if you go to war, you must take that war very seriously. I think this is what has always bothered me the most about the whole enterprise.
@Morzer: Molon Labe?
Cole, you’re SO much cooler of a BlogLord when you invite people who actually know their shit to post something actually intelligent and informative, than when you reflexively ignite a flame war by sucking up to Glenn Greenwald for the eighty gazillionth time, just because you can.
/just cuz I’m evil
Remember that the Zoroastrians, in period propaganda (700-1200 AD, IIRC), are evil Magian fire-worshipers. Unlike Christians and Jews, who were usually just surcharged on their taxes by Muslim rulers, Zoroastrians were driven out — or sometimes massacred. They were considered to be marginally better than Hindus and ‘way better than Buddhists. When their artifacts are found in Afghanistan and Iraq (whence Zarathustra came), folks like the Taliban destroy those artifacts rather than allow them to be studied.
Yeesh, this brings back some coursework from upwards of 30 years ago.
@Villago Delenda Est: Turkey is the main concern regarding Kurdestan. Its military, unlike its civilian government, is not in disarray, and ceding territory to the Kurds may provoke a reaction similar to Russia’s in the Crimea.
Your Kurds seem to have received a surprisingly thorough education in Ancient Greek.
Villago Delenda Est
@beltane: It wasn’t very copacetic in France, either. Then you’ve got the forced deportation of millions of ethnic Germans from lands they had dwelled in for centuries…Farther Pomerania, East Prussia, Silesia, the Sudetenland, etc. All part of the general score settling that took place across Europe in the general chaos of the collapse of a major world power. Not pretty at all.
I’m having trouble seeing any positive outcome from intervention from us. If their military is this ineffective, then airstrikes or financial support is just a waste of effort. It’s not a question of what’s right, it’s a question of what would achieve the desired goal, and I don’t think anything will. Sure, we could redeploy troops, but eventually we need to leave, and eventually this will likely repeat.
Oh Lordy. You just had to dive headlong into that particular thornbush, didn’t you? Don’t you know that the Great and Powerful Greenwald denounced us all, just yesterday, as one of the world’s most anti-Muslim comment sections? Admittedly, he got his ass whupped and scurried off into an unusually prolonged silence, but still….
Villago Delenda Est
@? Martin: Please, don’t let practical, realistic concerns bother you with this. It won’t bother Maverick or Huckleberry.
~ Chris Matthews
Agreed. I just listened to Barney Frank taking McCain to the woodshed, but you’d think that there would be one Villager brave enough – just one – who would point to McCain and just flat out say “why is anyone listening to this old cranky guy”. Who wouldn’t love to hear that?!
@Villago Delenda Est: Agreed. Unfortunately, too many American policy makers only associate the post-war period with newsreel images of ecstatic crowds and pretty girls kissing GIs. When you don’t know history you can’t learn from history.
@Villago Delenda Est: Well, yeah. I’m figuring Obama will come to a similar conclusion. Maliki is going to get rolled.
Agreed. Excellent post. What was left out was of course- what woudl be America’s interest in stepping into this Game of Thrones nightmare?
None so far as I can see.
@beltane: Not just Americans. Here’s the perceptions from the French on who did the most to defeat Germany, taken in 1945, 1994, and 2004.
I would expect to see that from American polling. Very interesting to see it from the French.
Yeah that really worked out well.
I don’t think we should do anything. Let the Iraqis work out their own problems, like the guest poster says they will do over the years. It won’t be pretty, but we need to stay out of it.
Viva Bris Vegas
Doesn’t the walid shab chai also provide, shall we say, more personal services than just tea?
Which would make the comment rather more emphatic.
The important question now is, does Maliki have his personal jet on standby and are the engines warmed up?
If not, then he expects the Iranians to pull his chestnuts out of the fire. If yes, then he doesn’t trust the Iranians.
@? Martin: It’s interesting to see how 45 years of the Cold War caused perceptions to be turned on their head. Too bad there is no polling on the subject from the decades between 1945 and 1994. Also, based just on what I’ve observed with my own family and in-laws, the influence of Hollywood and other forms of American mass media cannot be overestimated. Our superpower status owes almost as much to our film industry as to our military.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
@Mary G: I doubt, at this point, that we could do much that would do any good. We should get people who worked with us out for their own safety, and we should walk away. We broke it, but we can’t fix it.
Shorter Adam L. Silverman, PhD:
“Iraq has dissolved into chaotic civil war as a result of America’s foolish and counterproductive 2003 invasion, which destroyed a functioning state and left nothing in its place.”
This confirms military historian Martin van Creveld’s assertion that we are living in a new medieval period where the state has lost its legitimacy. Supranational groups like religious factions and the UN are now more influential than the failing nation-states, and today’s world is characterized by multipolar conflicts. When nation-states use military force in today’s multipolar world, they destroy the states they invade and leave nothing to replace it, producing increasing chaos and stateless NGOs in charge around the world.
This same process is going on internally inside the first-world nation-states, by the way, as in America’s ghettos, where police increasingly act like military invading forces and break the society and economy of the underclass apart, leaving nothing in its place, so that each new police crackdown leads to more disorder and a decrease in the perceived legitimacy of local and national government.
Amazingly, van Creveld wrote this article in 2000: “Naming a new era: the new middle ages,” Martin van Creveld, 2000.
Source: Van Creveld, op. cit.
@David Koch: Is there a Mt. Shitheel?
@David Koch: And since his gamble was not successful does it mean that his image deserves a place on Mt. Caca?
I’d be happy just for once if the U.S. does anything that doesn’t involve propping up dictators and selling them chemical weapons, airstrikes, shock’n’awe, no fly zones, bootsontheground. You know, something different.
@Mary G: yeah. But that’s not likely. We always do something. And unfortunately the lesson our elite will learn is that the Mideast neeeeeds us.
jake the anti-soshal soshalist
I have been certain that general American knowledge of Europe after WWII is very limited and likely mostly wrong. I also suspect there was a lot of score settling with Tories after the American Revolution the has been ignored, if not intentionally covered up in our textbook histories.
“My team is working around the clock to identify how we can provide the most effective assistance to them. I don’t rule out anything, because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold,” he said.
I’ve been watching CNN and/or FOX all damn day; I learned more from this blogpost than the entirety of learnings from all the Talking Heads.
@jake the anti-soshal soshalist: I believe most Tories had their property confiscated with many of them being forced to flee the country for good. Tarring and feathering was a real thing back then.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
@beltane: Prominent ones. The quiet ones just adapted.
“I have wanted to give Iraq a lesson in democracy—because we’re experienced with it, you know. And, in democracy, after a hundred years, you have to let your slaves go. And, after a hundred and fifty years, you have to let your women vote. And, at the beginning of democracy, is that quite a bit of genocide and ethnic cleansing is quite okay. And that’s what’s going on now.”
I would argue that the Drunk-Driving Coke-Snorting C Student belongs on Mount Rushmore regardless of his colossal blunders and gross incompetence.
The man couldn’t speak a coherent sentence and skidded through life on his daddy’s money and rep, but that doesn’t change the fact that George W. Bush transformed America far more than all but a handful of U.S. presidents.
Washington turned a bunch of struggling colonies into a nation. Lincoln asserted the power of the central government over the states in a definitive and final way. Teddy Roosevelt projected American power into the world for the first time in a way that made America into a potent international player in realpolitik.
And George W. Bush?
George W. Bush transformed America from an open society into a gray dull rule-crazy let-me-see-your-papers-mein-herr East German-style panoptican surveillance-obsessed police state.
George W. Bush took a nation largely at peace and transformed it into a garrison state at eternal war forever, under undeclared martial law.
George W. Bush took a nation that thought of themselves as free citizens and convinced them to hand over all their birthright of civil liberties to muggers with badges, and persuaded your typical Americano to regard himself as a serf who must cringe and crawl whenever some thug with a uniform kinks his little pinky.
America after George W. Bush is a nation of torture and endless unwinnable wars, a 1984-like Oceania run by propaganda and patrolled by thought police who scrutinize everyone’s phone conversations and emails without consent and without surcease.
America after George W. Bush is a nation where reality has warped and twisted inside-out and people who cite the consitution are ridiculed as “insane” and “in need of therapy” while officials who call for more endless war and more surveillance and more crackdowns on U.S. citizens for non-crimes like copyright infringement are hailed as heroes and guardians of our eternal freedom.
What more would any president have to do to qualify for a place on Mount Rushmore?
George W. Bush is a sinister monument to the power of sadism and incompetence and lies in the service of creating a kingdom of wannabe-slaves. Few people in history have accomplished as a great a transformation in their societies.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
@J.Ty: OTOH, one could try to learn from our mistakes. And the mistakes the French made. And not just repeat them.
He told me they were Zoroastrians – adherents to the ancient Persian monotheistic religion. I heard variations of this over and over again from Iraqi elites and notables, and not so elites and notables, who could not have coordinated their messages to me.
Yeah, well, they sort of are Zoroastrians – in the sense that they are Muslims who are very heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism. (See In Search of Zarathustra: Across Iran and Central Asia to Find the World’s First Prophet – nifty book.) Hussein, being a history buff himself, played this up, particularly during the Iran-Iraq war.
For all that we do not like to think about these things, state and societal formation, or reformation, is usually violent. It is often serially violent as well.
Yep. I keep seeing the argument that we never should have left. We should have left *sooner* and stop wasting everyone’s time and blood.
Given that Turkey’s governing party is increasingly divided and internally conflicted, the time may be ripe for independence from a Kurdish perspective.
Iraq the entity is a dead state walking, and the Kurds have been reliable, so I don’t see why we should bitch.
The only relevant thing here is what about ISIS. It doesn’t matter if the Sunni of central Iraq rebel and form their own entity. It does matter if it’s (the Sunniland part of Iraq, or at least Anbar) a new home base for the terrorists this whole thing was supposedly about originally.
[‘We can let just about everything slide but that.’]
Can we permit this to happen? Are we going to stand by and watch this tragedy? Shouldn’t we send somebody in to stop it?
WD-50 is closing.
Think of the children!
There are some who still haven’t gotten power drills run through their kneecaps by opposing religious sects…
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
Ahem, my reply to MikeJ got eated: I am not a fan of molecular gastronomy. I get the intellectual, artistic point. I just don’t like the food; ultimately, the food matters more than the concept.
What’s happening in Iraq?
The fruits of the invasion, occupation, and installation of a puppet government by your boy Dubya.
Strangely enough, the Iraqi army has no interest in dying to prop up their neocon-installed “democratic” regime.
Hillary Clinton is, exactly as I predicted, now banging the war drum by warning about the evil evil eeeeeeeeeeeeevil possibility of an Islamic fundamentalist state emerging from the chaos of [fill in the blank: Syria, Iraq, whatever].
Clearly, time for another war.
Prediction: Hillary will get us into at least four endless unwinnable wars during her tenure in the Oval Office. My guess is probably low.
Prediction: Hillary will be the first American president to order a drone strike on alleged “terrorists” on American soil.
Prediction: Hillary will be the first American president to deploy paramilitary units against accused downloaders of copyrighted material.
Prediction: Hillary will be the first American president to appoint a cabinent composed entirely of billionaires.
Prediction: By the time Hillary exits the Oval Office, both she and Bill Clinton will be billionaires themselves, along with Chelsea.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
Cole has been wearing a hair shirt for that for a while now. I know that his past colors my views of his current opinions, but let’s not beat him up about his previous idiocy unless it is actually relevant to the discussion. it isn’t here.
@Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name):
Have you ever had fish ‘n chips with the fish coated with beer batter by a whipping siphon, and the french fries cooked sous vide before getting dunking (twice) in frying oil?
If you haven’t, kiddo, you haven’t lived.
Molecular gastronomy rules. And you can do it on the cheap with nifty widgets like a $79 whipping siphon and a $175-homebrew sous vide cooker and the new el cheapo CSO-300 combi oven from Cuisinart ($300).
Not forgetting the rose-pink Himalayan sea-salt!
Who coulda predicted the Shia and Sunnis wouldn’t get along in Iraq?!
Well, if the terrorists were in the vicinity of Bundy ranch, I may not mind so much.
@Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): It’s not what I’d ant to eat every night, but some things are important to have around.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
@mclaren: Sorry, fois gras foam and things like that do not appeal to me.
ETA: Techniques coming from it may be valuable.
Well, I draw the line at that Himalayan sea-salt crap. Doesn’t taste any different than regular sea salt. But a whipping siphon genuinely does produce much lighter fluffier batter, which cooks the fish differently and better when you dunk it in frying oil.
And cooking the french fries sous vide in vacuum-sealed plastic before you fry ’em actually does make a huge difference. The fries become fluffy inside yet crispy outside.
It’s not all just hype. A lot of these Modern Cuisine recipes really do taste different and better. But then, I’m a fan of home-cooked dishes like bami goreng and Persian chicken fesenjan stew and chicken tikka masala with malai kofta and paneer paratha, so your mileage may vary…
But the neocons were going to make centuries old ethnic hatreds disappear in less than 10-years, because America is exceptional.
~ William Kristol
~ John McCain
American military contractors will have a field day, the Pentagon will gear up for new endless unwinnable wars that will punch lots of tickets for lots of important promotions, the U.S. military will expand yet again, the national security organizations like CIA and NSA and DHS will yelp for more cash because “This will create even more terrorists who will try to hurt us!”
And of course U.S. politicians will be able to run on the platform of protecting us from yet another potential enemy we created.
Positive outcomes galore.
Just not for the bottom 99% of the American people… But, as recent history shows, they don’t count in the glorious New America post-9/11.
@David Koch: stop it. What they needed was a flat tax.
Sounds like Nixon’s southern strategy. Split white working class voters away by pissed them off over jooos getting free tuition at City College and blahs getting affirmative action.
Everything he just said up top is right on the money.
The shorter, Grunt version: There’s nothing to win, no way to win it, and anything we do will likely make it worse.
@Cacti: we needed to stay there longer. That’s all. As long as it took. Now granted, our armed services are vast, expensive, and we haven’t successfully pacified an insurrection since 1910. And the constant warfare will eventually get to the best of us. But come on. Let’s give it a go.
Therefore America needs to ball in hard with overwhelming military force!
Wait for it: Hillary’s campaign platform in 2016…
Ahem. Quoth one Richard Bruce Cheney:
That is all.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
Word. I am, as you know okay with interventions if the juice is worth the squeeze. It isn’t here: it never was. We cannot have a positive effect by doing any intervention. Walking away and saying we fucked by invading is the best thing we can do as a nation.
~ Thomas Friedman, May 30, 2003
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
@David Koch: Aside from the appalling sentiments, the use of “could of” rather than “could have”* is appalling from a professional writer.
*Assuming that the quote was accurate. There was no link.
~ John McCain
@Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): … Linky
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
@David Koch: I might just be a purist, but I think that a link is appropriate if one quotes someone. Thanks for providing it later.
@Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): David isn’t writing in his own voice. He is channeling his inner Bowery Boy.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
@Suffern ACE: “Could’a” is one thing; “could of” is another.
I’m going through some old Rummy quotes and I may have to take back my response to David Koch.
I don’t have a problem with Silverman, he posts at Pat Lang’s site too. But HTS has a bit of controversy associated with it.
It’s time for Iraq and some other retrograde asshole countries to get their act together and grow up. I honestly don’t care at this point if all of them just burn themselves to the ground and commit mass suicide in a fit of religious insanity. Yes, it’s tragic, but I am not interested in spending American lives and money to try to stop them. Not a dollar, not one soldier. If people like John McCain have a problem with that, I gladly offer him to them in their time of need. Maybe he can help them train their pilots? Or have his wife open a beer distributorship over there.
There are some real doozies here. Okay, so everybody I’m sure remembers:
How about this one:
This may very well be the winner though:
@Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name):
Sooner’s comment and your response says it all.
Forest for the trees.
This is about suckering the Iranians into a tar pit.
I’d put my money, and US interests, on Pan-Arabism over Pan-Shi’aism.
Some Baathist warm-over will end up in charge, and the the Iraqi people will continue to get the shit end of the stick.
plus ça change…
Dude, Bush really harshed your compassion gene.
Don’t make Stormy’s ghost cry.
~ George Bush
If you will…………
Funny. I figured she was running an AA meeting in Fort Worth or something these days.
What is it with the American former Iraq War players and shitty paintings?
~ Bill Kristol
Thanks for this, Dr. Silverman (and you too, Cole).
Since nothing else positive will come of Operation Iraqi FreeDUMB, I’m kinda hoping the Kurds finally get their state. Of course, that hope relies on the Turks failing to act like, well, Turks — but maybe we’re due for one of those interludes where the Turks are too busy killing each other to pay serious attention to slaughtering their neighbors.
And I’m more grateful than ever that America is effectively an “island”, protected geographically by isolation…
As John Cole said in 2005, we don’t owe Iraq anything:
Well, it would be nice if we could focus on our own religious arsonists for a change. Ted Cruz, for example.
Aren’t a lot of countries in the Mid East, particularly Iraq and Syria basically made up countries that came about by Europeans drawing lines on maps with no real understanding of life on the ground? And isn’t that a big part of the problem? We are basically dealing with the fallout from that history?
Yes, I meant to include Texas in my rant.
Jim Webb came kinda sorta close to announcing a run for president on Colbert tonight
John (MCCARTHY) Cole
@srv: Should I delete the archives, or does it just give you too much fucking fun to keep throwing shit in my face?
I was wrong. I deeply regret my votes and my ignorance and foolish choices. I look back and I do not know what I was thinking. I have apologized 1000 times, and now these days I get blamed for being too much of a pacifist.
Go fuck yourself. Accept my apology and penance or go eat a bag of salted dicks. I am seriously sick of having this shit thrown in my face. I already live with it. If you were as open with your thoughts and opinions over the last decade I bet I could have some documented fuck-ups on your part I could shit all over you with whenever I was up late and feeling like an asshole, as you are obviously feeling right now.
I’m sorry. I was wrong. So was the overwhelming percentage of the country. I left the record up there in the archives because it happened and maybe someone else can learn from my fail. But I am seriously sick and tired of being sniped at in the comments section about this. There is nothing I can do to change what has happened, and the only reason someone would continuously bring it up is because they have no argument, no substance to add, or are just feeling like a malignant asshole.
Yes. And it’s a huge problem all over the world, not just in the Middle East.
@KG: The short response is yes, yes, yes. Not everybody in the Middle East is the same faith. Heck what they view as the same lineage. Google Sunni and Shiite. It is reading that is worth the time.
Jesus. Digging up a post from 2005 says way more about you than anything you link to. Get a fucking life.
ETA: I’ve just seen that post #106 said it far better than me.
Keep the framing on this correct. Since the Iranian Army actually has troops on the ground and they’re actually fighting, any chickenhawk demand for military interventions should be described as:
“Senator X wants to risk American lives to help the Iranian army take control of Iraqi cities and Iraqi oil”
It’s literally true. Grind their noses in it.
Thanks for an informative guest post.
@mclaren: Hillary Clinton is, exactly as I predicted, now banging the war drum by warning about the evil evil eeeeeeeeeeeeevil possibility of an Islamic fundamentalist state emerging from the chaos of [fill in the blank: Syria, Iraq, whatever].
Sure. They’re going to want to invade Syria and Iraq, because that’s how they think. They think they can Americanize the place or in the more extreme versions turn it into libertarian Disneyland.
This is never going to fucking work, and if you do things because that’s your expected immediate end result, you are doing it fucking wrong.
In this situation, ISIS is a very nasty crew and we have wound up feeding them munitions and money because we’re trying to help the (now) non-existent Syrian moderates take over. (In practice that would mean a mass purge of Alawiites, Xtians and Jews in the Syrian Levant. The moderate/liberal Syrians have been scattered to the four winds since the middle of 2012 at the latest.)
On the other side of the desert, we’ve spent years trying to create a unified Iraqi nation out of a set not-unified nations held together only by Saddam’s iron fist. Now the entire is crumbling, and I’m OK with the crumbling part, as long as the Shia & Kurds get the governments/nations they want without massacring/suppressing the Sunnis. That means Iraq goes to pieces. (I’m still OK with that, because that’s probably the only route over the long-term to any actual democracy in the region – not the pseudo-democracy imposed by upper-middle class Americans who still think they’re at Model UN day.)
Unfortunately, ISIS is smack dab in the middle of this, and they’re trouble. We have, in the current scenario (like Libya, unlike Syria) the capability of inflicting serious damage on them from the air. And I say we should do that part (and just that part) because otherwise we’re going to fucking get sucked in again *later*. Just the the Bush the Junior administration got sucked into a serious ground war trying to rehash the results from the previous Bush administration.
The interesting point to me is that the situation actually now has come full circle, with changes, to the situation we had on our hands in 1991. At that point we refused to let the Kurds out of the box, and we refused to help the Shia when we had encouraged them to revolt. The change is now the Shia have a fucking army and can likely hold the Shia areas (great!), and the Kurds can finally stake their claim. The Sunni are revolting, and the only fly in the ointment is ISIS.
There aren’t many of them, and the fact of the matter is we’re hitting AQ in Syria and Pakistan, so I don’t see a problem with awarding a ISIS a nice pounding.
That’s fine by me. Air strikes have a decent chance of success in this situation over a short time frame, as long as they stick to the deserts, supply lines and the armor that ISIS has apparently acquired. They should probably add eastern Syria to list, because it’s not like Assad is going to complain about us bombing his enemies.
The alternative is we do nothing, and then the Presidential campaign is all about Iraq III, and I wasn’t in favor of Iraq I or Iraq II, so I’m pretty sure I’m not going to like Iraq III either (‘Democracy and free markets or bust!’)
@KG: He would be interesting.
He was against the war and he’s hates the 1%
60 minutes had a great feature on him two weeks ago.
@KG: My understanding is that the Europeans who drew the lines knew full well the realities of life on the ground and were determined to divide and conquer those realities as long as possible under cooperative dictatorships.
@Mandalay: A perfect example of this is the Kurdish people. A group of people in the north of Iraq. A group Saddam savaged. But a group that seemed to be pointed to as a success story after we invaded them. They have wanted their own nation for decades. Centuries maybe. Heck they want the northern part of Turkey.
Guys, only the most extreme neocons are going to support going back in again. The whole point of american exceptionalism is the expectation that we’ll be victorious. I think many of them think that there’s any chance of a victory at the end of this.
Yeah, a few war profiteers will cheerlead into it as well, but they don’t carry much clout on their own. It’s only when these various groups all see some common benefit that they band together. There’s going to be effectively zero support among Dems for going in, and even a lot of opposition from Republicans. There’s nothing sexy about this one – no B-2s and tomahawks. There’s really not much profit to be had here.
The only thing that might happen is drones, and I’m no longer expecting even that. Drones don’t do much without an army behind them, and Iraqs army took their ball and went home.
@John (MCCARTHY) Cole: Actually, I don’t do it at all to pick on you, as you rarely read the comments. So your fee-fees aren’t really applicable.
If you are going to read the comments, then, like, follow the link. It’s a win of TZ, Darrell, Stormy, Ancient Purple arguing about what we do and don’t owe, and what the future holds for Iraq.
Back then, the liberals argued what we owed, and today:
Ironic, that. I guess not, in today’s compassionate liberalism.
We owe Iraq the 101st, the 82nd, and whatever bodies it requires now.
@Villago Delenda Est:
Donald Rumsfeld has experience courting and propping up such a figure with cash and weapons during the Reagan Administration. Perhaps he could be sent as an envoy. Even better if his flight should make an emergency landing at The Hague on the way back.
@Joseph Nobles: My gosh I can’t recall the documentary film. Trying to recall it. Well it was all oil related. We sliced and diced the area for oil. I feel like I am a far left liberal saying that. But it is in fact what we did.
@John (MCCARTHY) Cole:
all I disagree with is thinking the vast majority of the country was behind it.
I know it’s in the land of “nobody I know voted for Nixon”
but there were huge protests, phil Donahue got fired for it etc. there was serious political elite pressure and desire and corporate desire for war and they dragged some people along, but not an “overwhelming percentage.”
(quotes from )
President Bush said today he would not be swayed by the massive crowds of anti-war protesters who marched in cities around the world over the weekend. The president said a new UN resolution would be helpful, but in the same sentence, he said that such a resolution is not necessary. NPR’s Don Gonyea reports from the White House.
Pres. BUSH: First of all, you know, size of protests–it’s like deciding, `Well, I’m going to decide policy based upon a focus group.’ The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon, in this case, the security of the people.
as for the current events, it’s hard not to think whatever we do will make things worse. there’s always the Machiavellian route of try and pick and support the winner and screw the humanitarian impacts, which is unacceptable because that way lies genocide.
Toward what end? Look, I’m not uncompassionate about this. I want Iraq to succeed, but our best 10 year effort so far led us to this result. Unless someone can articulate a plan that will lead to a better outcome, I’m not sure we won’t just fuck it up again, and probably worse the 2nd time because there’s no political or public will to achieve a better outcome.
They’re called windows of opportunity for a reason – they close as much as they open, and this one is now closed, even if we do owe them. So it’s not that we shouldn’t do something, it’s that I don’t see anything that we could do that would have any meaningful impact. It’s effort for the sake of saying we did something, rather than for actually achieving anything.
@srv: I do not understand what you are trying to say.
@Tommy: Was it Maddow’s ‘Why We Did It’?
I thought it was a bit sensational, but then I’ve regularly underestimated how manipulative and craven were the people hat pushed that war.
[Edit] Should add, and/or Maddow’s Hubris that preceded it. But one of those covered the oil angle of it pretty thoroughly.
@? Martin: I am a military brat. I want to fight. Honestly that is my defunct position. But I would be wrong.
@gian: There were demonstrations with thousands of people protesting against the invasion. I was in a few of them. But we protesters were in a minority. Found link to Gallup that says in 10 months before the war support was between 53% and 63% for invasion. Maybe not overwhelming, but in politics, a stable very solid majority supported it. 75% of the polls has support 55% or greater.
@jl: Forgot the link
Public Support for Iraq Invasion Inches Upward
@srv: “We” need to go kill another few thousand Iraqis and Americans because you are holding a grudge against some commentors from 2005?
Penance. Destablizing countries and the predicted result or Civil War is something you just can’t walk away from.
Seriously? Our best?
The John Cole’s of the Left are fleeing the Pottery Barn.
Not sure what you are saying here, but for the record, I basically said that IraqWar2 was a colossal mistake from the first moment I heard that Bush was headed in that direction. I mean, one only has to read the history of the region to know that it was a fool’s errand. To say nothing of the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with 911, and as for WMDs, if they had had them, they were buried and not presenting any danger to anyone that required intervention. So the whole thing was just a ridiculous idea, short term, mid term, long term. I don’t think the US “owes” any other country anything, generally speaking. We owed our troops plenty, and still do, but that’s another context.
@John (MCCARTHY) Cole:
Relax. We all declared you cured, and sufficiently repentant, years ago. Take off the hair shirt, it’s summer, it’s hot. Keep fighting the good fight.
@Anne Laurie: I guess you, like others at that link, feel you are so much more nuanced today than you were in 2005?
Or you were wrong then?
Pick one, but don’t blame me for your flip-flopping.
@Viva Bris Vegas:
They already are:
Perhaps a brave reporter will pass this information on to John McCain, and then press him on what specific action the Administration should be taking.
@Thymezone: Dude, I know you were right, I was there. But being right about where all this was ultimately headed doesn’t mean we should get to walk away from it.
Particularly after aiding and abetting the clusterfuck in Syria.
If you meant to highlight or bring people’s attention to “the win of TZ, Darrell, Stormy, Ancient Purple arguing about what we do and don’t owe, and what the future holds for Iraq,” you could have said that. Instead you just pulled an inflammatory quote from Cole, and the impression given was that the link was merely a source for that.
@srv: I do not see myself commenting on your link back to 2005. Not sure I had heard of a John Cole or Balloon Juice in 2005. Do you have an argument for the rest of us?
” pass this information on to John McCain, and then press him on what specific action the Administration should be taking. ”
We know the response already: resolve, will, firmness, give arms to somebody or other to shoot and blow stuff up, or do it ourselves in case it needs to be done right. Oh, yeah, any Democrat, especially Obama, will do it wrong, whatever it is and no matter the outcome.
No, you’re quite right. That position is defunct.
Yeah, I get that. Nothing we said ten years ago is a reason to walk away.
The reason we walk away is that staying does no fucking good. It simply delays the next phase of Iraq’s history, and costs us more blood and treasure. There is no reason, none, zero, nada, to believe that one day or one year or one decade or a century of staying in there is going to change the outcome. When I say reason here, I mean evidence. History. We get out and stay out, because that’s the only way that the next episode in their shitty soap opera is going to happen.
I am reminded of Jerry Seinfeld’s old routine about going to China and watching them eat with chopsticks. “Uh, have you SEEN the fork??”
Well, I wasn’t on Balloon Juice in 2005, but I was vociferously anti-Iraq-war, and had been as soon as Bush’s handlers announced their plans. However, the fact that other people were more optimistic about the neocons’ imperialist phantasies then doesn’t mean “we” need to double down on the waste of blood & treasure now.
You ever hear the quote, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind“?
So your reasons are purely selfish. So much for compassion.
From a leadership perspective, you’re advocating throwing good money after bad. If I screw up and hurt someone else and feel guilty for it, my instinct is to jump in and try again. But that’s often the wrong reaction. That me responding to my needs, not the needs of the people that were hurt. The best thing for them might be for me to live with my guilt and stay out. That’s a hard lesson for many people to learn.
The problem with your suggestion is that there is no reasonable path to a better outcome being presented. It amounts to ‘do stuff, and things will get better’. Well, this isn’t a Disney movie. Some problems don’t have solutions. When the asteroid is heading for you, you’re just straight up fucked. But I’m all in favor of shooting Bruce Willis at it just in case.
The working theory going into Gulf War II was that once we kicked out Saddam that a new government and new army would be formed and trained and would take over. We did that. And the army decided to go home to watch World Cup. So let’s say we do this again. How do we get a better government? Where does the next army come from, and is there really any likelihood that it will be better? Yeah, there were problems around the edges of what happened when we left, but many of those problems were out of our control, and they will remain out of our control. We can’t dictate how Sunnis and Shias will treat each other. Iran and Saudi Arabia might be able to, but they don’t seem interested in the job.
So what’s the working theory for how Gulf War III will turn out better? I’m open to it, but I suspect right now it’s ‘do what we did last time, but better’. That won’t cut it. If we carve up Iraq along sectarian lines and poop out 3 countries, that might work. I’m seriously skeptical that they won’t just keep shooting at each other over resources, but it’s at least worth discussing. But ‘penance’ doesn’t cut it. We have to come to terms with our own failures. We can’t bomb our guilt away.
Yes, that was our best. We had 10 years to elect better presidents, better Congress, and not piss money away. Instead we embarked on a campaign of tax cuts and doing our level best to pretend that no war was taking place. We got the result that we earned.
Do you have reason to think the American people have learned their lesson from 2003-2012 and will do the next one differently? Personally, I think we’ll do an even shittier job of it.
@John (MCCARTHY) Cole:
You know that deleting the comments archive would just bring more haters. You have the all too rare, looking at the world these days, strength to say you were wrong in the past and actually change things about yourself about the really big and important things. It sucks to know you are wrong, it hurts to change course and still move forward, but it is finest thing you can do as an individual for yourself and the wider world. We need a lot more people like you to keep the world from getting even more screwed up.
Y’all are missing the mother of all Iraq War quotes.
George W. Bush
defunct=default … that IS one magic lugey.
We can’t bomb our guilt away.
You are making John McCain cry.
You’re right, we can’t walk away … we should run away. As fast as our little feets can take us.
The British learned the lesson … they drew a line around the sandpile and called it Iraq and said fuck it. History, forget, repeat, doomed, etc.
“The John Cole’s of the Left are fleeing the Pottery Barn.”
@mclaren: Prediction: Since your medication is becoming ineffective, involuntary mental incarceration will sadly become unavoidable.
Well, I’ll give a little more nuanced answer.
Obama gave a good explanation for why he opposed Iraq but later voted for funding for it. There’s a concept in social psychology or whatever for ‘reversible’ vs ‘irreversible’ decisions. The initial decision to go in was reversible up until the time that we touched Iraq soil. It’s not that there wouldn’t be consequences for not going, but not going wouldn’t be worse than the status-quo, and it degrades into a host of other decisions – diplomacy, containment, etc.
But once we decide to go and get there, then the decision is irreversible. We’re there. We’ve set shit on fire and displaced people. We committed to a course of action and we can’t put things back the way they were by just walking away. So we need to fund the effort and see it out until such point as we determine that we can’t make things better by staying than by going. I think we exceeded that point by quite a bit, but whatever.
I think srv is making the argument that we haven’t exceeded that point, that the original commitment to a course of action still applies. I disagree because we did not leave Iraq without a functioning government. They had several elections. They had an army. But they didn’t have the cohesiveness needed for it to endure. And so we face a new decision – whether to re-intervene. And I argue that we are back at that original 2003 decision. We’re not there now, and doing nothing maintains the status quo.
So the discussion we had in 2005 is very different than the one now, just as Obama’s votes in 2003 aren’t inconsistent with his later votes for funding. He recognized that he didn’t get his way in 2003, and when faced with a new decision in a new set of conditions, he came to the (I believe correct) conclusion that walking away with no plan, no government, no army would be worse than continuing. My view is that without a plan to address the shortcomings of the last effort and a true commitment to success, we’re probably going to fuck it up even worse than last time. Srv seems to disagree.
@Thymezone: Yeah, that really does twist the knife in him, doesn’t it?
@Anne Laurie: The thread, and BJ, was filled with pro and against at the time. That is the point.
There are now ~160K dead Syrians due to a civil war our gov’t implicitly supports.
As long predicted (here, by many, including people on this thread – even if their handles have changed), Iraq is headed for civil war.
The celiphate that Osama couldn’t build is now literally being constructed as we watch.
Yes, it’s all W’s fault. I, for one, as the last true progressive, can sit back and watch Iraq burn without guilt or responsibility.
@Villago Delenda Est:
Side note not really related to anything here, but… while most of the crazy I’ve read on the Internets in the last couple days was from the “we never should’ve left” crowd, it also blows my mind to’ve read people saying “Saddam was terrible, but at least he kept those sectarian tensions bottled up.” He did nothing of the kind: Saddam was Team Arab-Sunni all the way, and the way he treated the Kurds and the Arab Shi’a during his entire time in office reflected that. He “bottled up” ethnic/sectarian tensions was by making sure his group had all the power and the others got stomped on, which means really, he did a lot to keep those tensions alive. Saying that he kept them under control is like saying that the Southern Democrats preserved racial harmony.
(None of which is meant to justify our toppling Saddam, to be clear. It wasn’t our responsibility to solve that mess, and even if it was, it’s not like the people who led us into Iraq ever intended to do so in any event).
another Holocene human
@beltane: I’m sort of troubled this is being cast as the scouring of the shire because what happened a few days ago sounds more like 16th century Geneva with religious fanatics finally being handed the keys to the city and the reign of fire begins.
Villago Delenda Est
@Chris: Saddam’s methods of holding Iraq “together” only exacerbated tendencies that were already there. Our removal of him allowed the Shiites to let their freak flags fly. As Dr. Sivlerman points out, this is what happens when states are being formed. It doesn’t really make the popular histories, but a lot of ugly things happen until the change is resolved…it’s a violent, difficult process that can go many different ways. It took France a very long time to sort out the collapse of the Ancien Régime into a viable French Republic, and the birth pangs lasted nearly two full centuries, and one can say that they’re still in progress. We here in the US are still sorting out a lot of things that haven’t been resolved…we talk about them every day…voting rights, for example, and attempts to limit them by our own “ancien regime” that finds itself beset by demographic changes.
That’s nice, dear. But I’m not seeing how your suggestion that we send in a bunch more “volunteers” with accelerants is going to help either the Iraqis, their neighbors, or our consciences.
This is more like “The first rule when you find yourself in a deep hole is, stop digging.”
During the actual war itself, there was far more sense of it as a battle between left and right. The fascist rise to power was inextricably linked with their promises to crush communism, socialism and pretty much anything left wing, and assisted all the way by traditional elites, while the people leading the fight against fascism from the beginning were usually leftists, with other groups hopping on board the train fairly late. (The Spanish Civil War, in which Germany and Italy backed one side, Russia backed the other, and England and France stayed the hell out of it and weren’t all the fussed when the Republicans were crushed, captures it pretty well).
What all that means: you’d have a lot more people at the time who remembered the communist vs fascist dimension of the war, and therefore who would be less likely to forget the Soviet contribution (both from resistance people who thought the Soviets were heroes, and pro-fascist/Vichy people who thought Hitler was their last rampart against the evil hordes).
After that, of course, we spent the next half-century whitewashing it all into a Great Patriotic War and downplaying the shit out of the work done by both the Soviets and leftist partisans. And… that graph is the result.
You know, I’ve thought for quite a while that from a cold, heartless, realpolitik perspective, the U.S. would probably be far better off washing its hands of places like Iraq and Afghanistan and letting others like Iran, Russia and China move in and try to “control” the situation.
Take that 2000s dynamic with us sucking hind tit in Iraq and Afghanistan while Iran reaped the benefits, and reverse it.
I think srv is making the argument that we haven’t exceeded that point
That’s okay for srv, one is entitled to one’s opinion. But we exceeded that point for me a long time ago. Hey, I know what throwing good money after bad is about, who among us hasn’t done that? But Iraq is a lost cause. It was a lost cause before we went in there. They can save themselves, but our “help” isn’t going to be the thing that gets it done. Their own ability to get their act together has to come first.
@Villago Delenda Est:
Right. Like I said, he kept them alive. Didn’t create them, but happily perpetuated them.
I would say the only thing our removal did was to reverse the dynamic by allowing Shi’a chauvinists to be the ones in charge rather than the Sunni ones.
Agree with everything else, though.
Remember the scene when the original lineup of the three amigos flew into Iraq for a fact finding mission and the distinguished Senator from AZ started to pronounce to the press about his conclusions only for the distinguished Senator from Conneticut having to whisper into his ear that the thing with the Sunnis and the Shiites was the other way round.?
Start from there, consider his ever expanding list of adopted temporary nationalities, and, while you’re at it, marvel once again at the sagacity of the fellow regarding Sarah Palin being presidential material.
Should probably also belatedly mention that I very much appreciated reading the whole original blog post. Thanks for hosting it, JC.
It is a mistake to talk about Iraq as if it is isolated. We are seeing a Sunni-Shia war – call it Iraq-Iran II if you wish. I\d say to the interventionists: what is the strategic objective? Do we really think we have effective intervention options, given the strategic situation? We focus on ISIS-as-Al-Qaeda, but that is mistaken. ISIS is the vanguard of a larger Sunni-Shia struggle that has not yet fully developed. Believe me, the Shia will have their versions of ISIS, and they will be every bit as bloodthirsty.
Maybe the correct response is to wait until there is an opportunity to actually affect the strategic situation, if in fact there is that opportunity. It clearly isn’t now – the Iranians will protect the Shia, the Sunni states will protect the Sunni.
This war is just starting.
J R in WV
So you disapprove of W Bush’s period of rule in America?
Don’t hold back, let us know what you really feel about the deserter coward…
I agree with all you have said about the little treasonous git… tar and feathers should be his daily wardrobe!
@KG: he would win
@mclaren: Yes, there is that is there not. I think much of the Beltway detestation of Obama (and to be fair about it, Rand Paul), has to do with the fact that in ending first Iraq and now Afghanistan and starting to trim the military budget he has cut back (not ended, just reduced the gushing from the firehose) of billions of dollars to military defense contractors and their apparatchiks in D.C. The wars of the last 13 years have been very good for them.
P.S. something to think about is this: There are 18 and 19 year old kids now humping the hills of and mountains of Afghanistan who were 5 and 6 when 9/11 happen. Just like Oceania, for these kids the United States has always been at war. It is just the background of their life.
Higgs Boson's Mate
The media, many politicians and the Military-Industrial complex will pin “losing” Iraq on Obama because they desperately want to distract us from the fact that we’ve been in three protracted wars that we didn’t win – despite spending obscene amounts of money on military hardware. That simple fact can not be allowed to sink into the consciousness of the American people. So a Democratic Congress gets the blame for losing Vietnam and Obama will get the blame for losing Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s easier, and more lucrative for some, than admitting that we never actually won in any of those places.
Thanks for posting your thoughts, but the (seeming) underlying thesis leaves me uneasy. You mention several things that “we” did wrong, but it seems to me you mix together the Bush and Obama administrations. It was clear in 2008 (maybe in 2007) that if Obama won we were going to leave – status of forces agreement or no.
And we were right to leave.
What leverage did we have, or should we have had, on Maliki and the rest? Isn’t suggesting what should be done and warning about the consequences the reasonable extent of what we should have done? Unless we were willing to stay there for generations, how were Maliki’s decisions our responsibility?
Short of implementing something like the Biden Plan early on (like in the early months of the occupation), it seems to me that a split of the country into various factions (that seems to be happening now) was a given. We all know the story of the Kurds and the Shia – since the Sunni ruled under Saddam it would make sense that they would want their Sunnistan as well. Having them all under a federal system made (and makes) a lot of sense, but given that the majority of the population was oppressed for so long under Saddam, us imposing such a federal system would have been very difficult.
So, again, thanks for the post. I just continue to feel that there was little we could do to determine a positive outcome in this disaster without a nearly perpetual occupation with a few hundred thousand troops – something that we were (rightly) unwilling to do (and something the majority of the population there would not accept).
We Americans of the last half century are a rather solipsistic bunch. The two poles of the DC imperial elite, as represented by McCain, Kristol, Fred Hiatt, Joe Scar, etc. who like to think we can go into a country, John Wayne the place, and turn it into another Federal Republic of Germany or Japan (forgetting the actual deals we cut with the local elites who decided when confronted with a choice between the us and the Russians, we were the preferable foreign devil, particularly since we were willing to leave them in charge) and Glenn Greenwald/Noam Chomsky vision that the U.S. is the source of all evil in the world. On both counts, we are so wrong. These foreigners are human beings to, with cultures, interest, and histories going back thousands of years. Even Bush and Cheney are not probably as much as fault for the current clusterfuck that is the Middle East than Churchill, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and the other British and French Imperialists who decided that liquidating the Ottoman Empire and taking the spoils was a good idea (or for that matter, the Young Turks thinking joining with Germany in WWI was a good idea (no regime had less business in that war). That this is fractured land with deep animosities was fact long before the United States existed. The people who live in the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates and the peoples who live in the highlands to the East have trading and fighting and taking turns conquering the others since the days one place was known as Sumer and other as Elam, 6,000 years of shit back up in everyone’s accounts. The British tried for 40 years to create a stable regime in Iraq that would serve their interests. It did not work out, so my question to the Kenneth Pollacks, Fred Hiatts, John McCains, Reiham Salaams, etc. is do we have to stay 80 years to make it work? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Iraq#British_mandate (I also note that for some strange reason the British people in the 19th and early 20th centuries seem to glory in being sent to strange far away places to kill and die for Crown and Country. We Americans not so much. We enjoy a brief bit of shock and awe, but get bored with routine savagery of guerrilla war.)
As for the reasons our elite is so enthusiastic for U.S. involvement in an endless war in the Middle East, a war they and their kith and kin would not be fighting in and which none of their taxes would be raised to pay for, Driftglass points to the obvious reason: http://driftglass.blogspot.com/2014/06/a-belated-update-from-our-commander-in.html#links
“.. And that was all the way back in 2004! Imagine how much better things must be now that we know how many tens of billions of additional dollars the United State has given to companies like Halliburton over the course of an entire decade just to make double-damn sure that everything in Iraq is ship-shape and Bristol fashion!
Report: Halliburton Subsidiary Received $39.5 Billion For Iraqi War Alone
1, April 8, 2013 by jonathanturley
Many of us who opposed the continuing Iraqi and Afghanistan wars, it has been difficult to imagine how politicians and others in Washington could continue to sacrifice lives and hundreds of billions in these conflicts. Now there is a report giving an insight into just how profitable these wars are for key companies. For just Iraq alone, some $138 billion went to private companies with an army of lobbyists eager to keep the pipeline of cash flowing. What is rarely striking however is that some ten contractors received 52 percent of the funds and one company received $39.5 billion. That company is Houston-based KBR, Inc., which is an extension of its parent, Halliburton Co. in 2007. That of course is Dick Cheney’s firm.
Many of those contracts going to KBR lacked any competitive bidding process. This includes the $568-million contract renewal in 2010 to provide housing, meals, water and bathroom services to soldiers — a contract that the Justice Department now says is rife with corruption and kickbacks.
For $40 billion, a single company may be willing to do a lot to keep a war alive. In the very least, it may not be eager to see it end.
Now if the President or Padishah Emperor or King of the Andals or whatever the head of our puppet government in Iraq is weak and corrupt, well shit, just sack him and put in someone else. Hell, Ahmed Chalabi is currently “at liberty” as the vaudevillians used to say, and I hear he works cheap!!”
As if to answer the question about whether US tactics in Iraq radicalized the locals…
Without having read all the commentary…
FIRST: Excellent analysis.
SECOND: One piece of the Iraq fiasco is that the Shrubbery went in thoroughly disliking and distrusting both the major players: the Sunni, represented by Baath (led by Saddam), and the Shi’a (which Shrub assumed were toadies of Iran, another AoE member). They liked the Kurds, but there weren’t enough of them to let them run things without abandoning the Freedom™ and Democracy™ Shrub expected to foster. So without a definable majority on which to build the new Free Capitalist Democratic State™, and with majorities that were neither desirable nor trusted, of course failure was virtually guaranteed from the outset.
I still think that the Shrubbery expected to take over, annex the entire country, trample dissent in the name of the GWoT and turn the place into a cash cow for Halliburton, Blackwater and ExxonMobil – and the Permanent Republican Majority they were convinced was real would have supported that.
My guess is that the rigid class system had something to do with it. Forget the masses, if you were not the first born son of a nobleman, serving the Empire was probably your only chance at glory.
The stupidity is that they really seemed to think Chalabi et al could summon a happy secular modern and democratic state into being.
Villago Delenda Est
@boatboy_srq: The problem with the deserting coward’s definition of “democracy” is that it is about as true to the original concept as Kim il Sung’s definition.
@? Martin: Maliki’s request for airstrikes isn’t for support. Maliki is asking the US to kill his enemies for him – because his bigger, better-equipped, better-trained and far-better-funded military is so disinterested in the task (and so unwelcome among the locals in the northwest) that they aren’t up to the job. A few tactical bombs aren’t the plan: he’s looking for the irradiated glassy plain of a full-on nuclear carpetbombing.
The two problems with this are a) the Reichwing isn’t nearly as interested in the religious lunatics as they are in the OIL; and b) the combatants there are entirely likely to spill the conflict over into the rest of the region (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Libya are all in varied disarray, and the situation is not getting better). So we’re back to Drill Baby Drill and why does [anyone who thinks dependence on foreign resources, especially energy, is bad] hate Ahmurrca?
@Chris: One reason I can never trust the MSM again is because they enabled the weapons grade stupidity of Dubya and company.
@Chris: And to this day I cannot determine whether Chalabi’s expected wizardry was foreseen as a low-grade “loaves and fishes” moment or Disney-Witch-grade magic. But either way the fairy-tale scale of the thing was possible only to a mind that isn’t capable of grasping reality. I’m less surprised that Shrub fell for it than he managed to sell the US on it too.
Great, great, post, John! Many thanks to your friend for stopping by and putting it up. I really learned a lot.
@srv: Thats crazy. Literally crazy.
I think it was a combination of willful ignorance (as with everything about Iraq, they were able to blind themselves to facts that they didn’t want to believe with sheer belief, “we create our own reality” and all that) with the fact that it didn’t really matter. No matter how badly Iraqi reconstruction was fucked up, the Republicans got their public opinion boost for 2002 and 2004, and their military contractor buddies made out like bandits. Whether the war fulfilled any of the objectives they pretended it was about for the benefit of the public was immaterial.
Why anyone would listen to John McCain on any issue involving the middle east is beyond me. At this point he is advocating bombing Sunnis in Iraq while arguing that we should arm them in Syria. He doesn’t have the faintest idea what is going on over there. The fact that the MSM still puts a microphone in front of his face every time he wants to throw a political shit fit is astounding.
Malaki called this upon his own head. The US wasn’t willing to be an overt puppetmaster. Preferring instead to do so covertly. Such was the logic of dubya & his pack of grifters (every single one of them had money involved I have no doubt).
And now the Chickenhawk (loyal?) opposition to President Obama blames Obama. Really there is nothing shocking about any part of this.
Me? I’d just as soon Iraq was partitioned. I would prefer the US play peacemaker between the factions but that would entail the US treating Iran & Syria’s Assad as equal partners and FSM knows, the Chickenhawks can’t have that.
Shit is going to hit the fan and there is very little we can do about it. Here in the US we libs need to point out this was pre-destined from the Bush43 Administration and not our fault.
What do we owe the citizens of Iraq? An open door immigration policy. Any displaced Iraqi citizen and their family should be able to come to the US or to any of the coalition forces’ countries no questions asked. We wrecked the hell out of their country we didn’t just break it, we broke it and hammered the rubble. More military intervention only means more hammering. We owe the Iraqis a peaceful country to live in, like they had for the most part before the US invasion. If we can’t give it to them there, we should give it to them here.
The other thing we owe them is a thorough investigation of the Bush administration, with the goal of identifying, indicting and convicting anyone found to be a torturer, bald faced pro war liar in the MSM or military, or war profiteer that got us involved in Iraq in the first place.
So we need to kill and torture them some more? Is this some sort of penance by proxy, where we absolve our sins by transferring them to prisoners at Abu Ghraib?
This life-long civilian is most grateful for Dr. Silverman’s informative post. Thanks for taking the time to compose it, sir!
Outside of Atlanta, but they don’t call it that.
Wow, that sounds like a Domino Theory. There’s a monument to that in DC, called the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Uh, whatnow? Beware the blogpost generator, it’s untested software.
@srv: “I, for one, as the last true progressive, can sit back and watch Iraq burn without guilt or responsibility.”
You’re full of shit. Last true progressive my left hind foot.
@Thymezone: Domino Theory was based on CapitaloDemocracy vs Marxist/Leninist Communism: it was one or the other. What we’re seeing now is the arrival of chaos: not caring equals massive unrest and upheaval across the entire region (which inconveniently enough is a significant source of petroleum). There’s no singular Them for an Us to oppose, just hundreds of small camps with lots of guns (that get bigger by the year). Fighting Communism is not the same as resisting Total Chaos.
The Reichwing might just realize that owning one strongman is cheaper (in dollars) than having to pay off and/or defend against a few dozen just to get the oil fields up and maintained in something like running order.
I’m not suggesting that the US should get involved again. I’m just saying that doing nothing at this point is likely to guarantee an ungovernable, depopulated Middle East, North Africa and South Asia that nobody will like, and that the Reichwing doesn’t give two hoots for the people, but will push for whatever it takes (short, mind you, of a rational energy independence policy) to make sure “their” resource is secure. If you can figure out how to prevent either of those without having another power step in, let us know.
@Thymezone: Some of us have day jobs and can’t sit on this post all day to see what every halfwit writes.
@mclaren: In the immortal (paraphrased) words of Vito Corleone, “Bush is a pimp. He never could have outfought Gore. But I did not know until this moment that it was Cheney all along.” Bush was a figurehead who would be otherwise employed in Walmart if his name were not “George Bush.” What a poor excuse for a President he was, and I do hope the history books are just as unkind to him and his Misadministration as they should be.
@KG: Yeah, I’m surprised no one mentioned that first. This nation-building is happening now because Iraq has been held together by either foreign occupation or proxies for foreign powers (both Hussein and the royal family come to mind, at least originally). Saddam Hussein was actually somewhat unique in how he went kind of rogue and maintained his brutal power for himself. Of course, that didn’t last long, as foreign occupation quickly replaced that (again).
Basically, if we let Iraqis have self rule, we have to expect that borders we (and the UK) drew will be redrawn, and that’s virtually always a bloody process. Add on to that score-settling for all of the collaborators with proxies, occupiers, etc etc etc, and it’s going to be a bloodbath. We created the conditions for it though.
@Villago Delenda Est:
I’m afraid he’s not available. Any other suggestions?
Kudos to Balloon Juice.
Prior to reading this extremely well informed and insightful post. I was at the Great Orange Satan reading some idiotic CT drivel about how the Pentagon is employing social scientists to manipulate progressives into sheep-like submission, lest we protest Global Warming. What a relief to hear a really concise explanation for what is going on in Iraq written by a Social Scientist who had served with the Army in Iraq and seems to have acquired a wealth of knowledge about Iraq, it;s people and its neighbors.
This is a much more productive way to spend one’s time.
Good call. Because I am, in fact, the last true progressive.