Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Iraq war ends with a whimper ...

The ill-advised burden of GWB's pointless war on Iraq has come to end.  Its end kinda sneaked up on me.  I'd forgotten the timetable for withdrawal, but we now have withdrawn, finally.  The end of this agony is long overdue, and of course, it's another war that should never have been fought.  No ticker-tape parades, no final victory.  Just withdrawal - a whimper.

GWB's father chose not to remove Saddam Hussein at the end of the first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait.  I can't pretend to know why he made such a choice, but I have to believe he understood what it would have involved and chose wisely not to follow that path.  GWB, on the other hand, justified the war based on little more than lies about weapons of mass destruction and about the actually non-existent ties of Saddam to terrorism.  It had no valid justification other than GWB's strange neo-conservative obsession with removing Saddam Hussein and installing democracy at the point of a gun.  The Iraq War featured a classic blitzkreig campaign to seize the nation and remove its leader, but the army that accomplished that feat was not equipped or prepared to stay on as an occupying force.  It would have taken many, many more soldiers to police Iraq after the "regime change" and to occupy them than it took to conquer it.  Our all-volunteer military has been stretched to its limits by our wars, with many of them serving multiple deployments and having their deployments extended involuntarily.

Our troops have paid a heavy price for this war.  Not just the thousands of US military deaths, the tens of thousands of injuries, the hardships on families, the lingering poison of post-traumatic stress (with all its impacts on soldiers, their friends, and families), and its hundreds of billions in dollars in costs (with its huge contribution to our national economic malaise).  Some of our troops have participated in vile acts (e.g., Abu Ghraib), which is an inevitable price we pay in any war, even while the majority of our soldiers serve honorably, of course.  War is always ugly and our politicians have disgraced the nation and let its warfighters down by leading us into this one for no good reason.  We surely should be thankful it's finally over.

Perhaps the most difficult pill to swallow is that our troops have endured this agony for no good reason.  They have not been defending our freedom in America.  With the exception of the blitzkrieg campaign at its beginning, our troops haven't even been fighting another army.  It's been yet another war with negligible justification against "insurgents" (a guerrilla war), where we suffer casualties without any strategy for "winning" that conflict.  History has shown repeatedly that when one nation invades another, and the invaded nation is forced into guerrilla tactics, the war becomes unwinnable for the invader.  Casualties continue to mount up, but the insurgency goes on indefinitely.  Nationalism (a form of tribalism) always trumps political ideology.

As a Vietnam veteran, it has been painful for me to watch this war unfold.  I even had to endure my son's deployment there, with its awful sense of deja vu.  We have GWB and his neo-conservative politics to blame for this disgraceful mess.  The christian nationalist party's (i.e., the GOP) politicians have taken the stance that withdrawal from Iraq has been a mistake.  Show them how you feel about this "mistake" in the next election!

Although there's more direct justification for battling terrorism in Afghanistan, the history of that nation makes it clear that the war there is another unwinnable one.  We need to stop being the world's self-appointed police.  Get our troops out of that mess, too!

It was a tragic mistake to remove a sovereign nation's regime unilaterally when that nation actually posed no valid direct threat to us.  The threat of terrorism is not anywhere near enough to justify the price we're paying - not just in ruined lives and dollars, but in the increasing willingness of a fearful US population to be more willing than ever to trade our freedom for what amounts to only an illusion of security.  The terrorists are winning because they're forcing us to pay the disproportionate cost of responding to their terrorist actions.  I say "disproportionate" because the actual impact of terrorism is minor.  It's a tactic for the weak, and we should be strong enough to not give in to the fear being shoved in our faces by politicians for the sake of political gain.


larrycosgrove said...

I get the impression that this war was a response to Saddam's attempted assassination of the senior Bush. In any event, we will be fortunate if Iraq does not devolve into civil war -or- become dominated by Iran and Shia theocracy. I am as conservative as you can get but this conflict had only one good outcome: the removal of a murderous tyrant (Hussein).

Let's just hope no other tyrants come into power in this fragmented excuse for a nation.

Chuck Doswell said...

I heard that speculation about why GWB was so dead set on invading Iraq, but I don't think it has much credibility.

If the majority in Iraq wants it to be an Islamic theocracy, then it's likely that's what it will become. Whatever happens to Iraq should be determined by Iraqis, not us. If they can't settle their disputes peaceably, then civil war is certainly possible. After all, we've had a civil war here in the US.

I don't think we should be in the tyrant removal business, unless it's here at home, or poses a direct and valid threat to us.

gordon_carrie said...

I remember the 80's when we supported Saddam Hussein. He wasn't a problem when he gassed civilians, paved over mass graves, delivered political enemies to the family doorstep in body bags, and lobbed missiles into our ships (remember the Stark?) He was a problem when he invaded the Kuwaiti oil fields.

pcannon said...

"They have not been defending our freedom in America. " A good starting point indeed. Unfortunately, the mantra of defending freedom and humanitarian intervention has been deeply etched within the psyche of many in the "bewildered herd." I think any meaningful conversation on American foreign policy has to begin with a sufficient accounting of the development of the public relations(some are so bold as to call it propaganda)industry in the U.S. I suspect if we remove the direct and valid threats from our current world enormous amount of profiteering will vanish.

John Monteverdi said...

I still honestly believe GWB was to a certain extent bamboozled by his naiveté and his advisors. On the latter, they utterly convinced him that there were WMD...and he so wanted to believe that....and also believe their shameful ridicule of our allies and the UN.

And then these far right people actually believe the mythology that our form of government is a one size fits all cure all. And they believe that with gleaming eyes and patriotism that is linked to that incorrect notion.

These two things, I believe, let GWB down the awful path he took...and dragged the country mostly kicking and screaming too...except for the far right. The far right believes that gunboat diplomacy is our God-given right as Americans, after all.

Chuck Doswell said...

To "pcannon" - I let your comment through, but you need to know that any future comments without a full name signature (that isn't some sort of pseudonym) won't be published. Thanks for your input, but please sign your full name in the future.

John - you may be right, of course, but you're evidently more forgiving of GWB's behavior during the eight looooong years of his corrupt, crypto-fascist administration than I'm willing to be. I suspect his public stupidity was a ruse and that he had full knowledge of what he was doing.

Chuck Doswell said...

A postscript: The biggest threat to freedom here in America is not from abroad. It comes from the neocons, who choose to trade our liberty for security, such as the recently-passed bill to allow the military to detain American citizens indefinitely without charge or trial - negating habeas corpus. Losing our freedoms for the illusion of security is a far bigger concern than some dirt-poor muslim in Afghanistan.

Chris Webster said...


I have been struggling with my thoughs on the Iraq War; how to express my outrage. You have done that perfectly. Thank you - well said!

To add insult to outrage, I would love to see an independant, university-sponsored study that shows exactly who profited from the war (earning their ill gotten gains off the backs of our fine servivce men and women). A few made millions, and I am sure billions, but the rest of us are feeling the negative effects of the lack of domestic investment during these war years.