Currently viewing the tag: "Iraq war"

Everyone but Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol is now claiming they never thought going to war in Iraq was such a good idea.

Most of them are full of it, of course.  War fever, as usual, swept up almost everybody back in the spring of 2003.

But not me and not the paper I worked for, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Unfortunately, not enough power people in the Bush Administration were reading the enlightened, prescient and principled op-ed pages of the Trib in 2003.

They were too busy studying where to drop their smart bombs. Not to mention  promising 1,000 years of peace and democracy in the Middle East if we invaded Iraq, took out Bad Saddam and his invisible weapons of mass destruction and began teaching the Iraqi tribes how to act Swiss.

We at the Trib, including the publisher Richard Scaife, knew better. We, like Pat Buchanan and a lot of other smart non-interventionist Cassandras who understood the traditional limitations of invading other lands, knew the decision to go to war in Iraq was the stupidest American international move since Vietnam.

A lot of people in DC not named Bush and Cheney have a lot of blood on their hands. They’ll all go free. What’s 5k dead Americans and $1 trillion down the drain?

Iraq was a bipartisan blunder — a predictable tragedy (and an epic war crime)  that many predicted.

How to punish the guilty?

My idea would be that every political dickhead in Washington who had anything to do with promoting or voting for the Iraq war should do the right thing — go to the Capitol steps and  publicly apologize  to the families of the dead and wounded Americans, ask forgiveness from the whole country and quit whatever job they have.

Soon they’ll be holding a war tribunal to round up all the hawks who thought Iraq was such a great idea. They won’t come looking for me. I was against the war 1000 percent.

For the record, this is drawn from just one of the dozen or so columns I wrote pointing out how foolish, immoral and futile the war in Iraq was. It’s from July 0f 2003, when we were still celebrating our great victory and still looking for Saddam and his invisible weapons of mass destruction.

Stuck in Iraq’s mess

Having second thoughts about the war yet?

….

Sure, it’s early yet. Baghdad wasn’t built in a day. Neither was a democracy. But cities and free societies are notoriously hard to build from the top down by the most enlightened of conquering armies, especially when the natives don’t buy into the master plan.

Unfortunately, the price of occupying Iraq will only get higher. A few years from now, sooner if there’s regime change in Washington, we’ll find an excuse to leave or hand Iraq over to the United Nations. Meanwhile, why is anyone surprised things aren’t going well?

Long before the smart-bombing started, the most principled anti-war critics — left, right and libertarian — warned over and over that the hardest part of going to war would be the occupation afterwards.

Everyone knew our preemptive intervention in Iraq was inevitable a year before H-Hour. The Bush administration only did what governments of every ilk and every political party do after they decide to go war — use exaggerations, scare tactics and fibs to make their moral/political case to the people.

No biggie. That’s how governments operate. What was most annoying about our inevitable march to war was that so many conservatives in Congress and the media were so gung-ho about it. They saw war with Iraq not as folly but as a really neat way to transplant democracy, free markets and the rule of law into a strategically vital region that needed all three.

STUPID, RISKY

Many of these conservative war hawks believe devoutly in limited government, or pretend to, and they understand why government programs at home rarely work the way they are intended. When they see Washington declare war on poverty or set out to nationalize health care, they denounce it for what it is – social engineering by Big Dumb Government.

Yet what is mounting a massive expeditionary force and setting out to remake a Muslim penal colony in the image of Switzerland? It’s social engineering of the most ambitious and insane kind.

Trying to graft Western ideas and values onto a culture halfway around the world – by military force – is so stupid, so risky, so costly, so fraught with unknowns, so likely to fail, only a government would try it.

If a Democrat administration had dreamed up such a boondoggle, conservatives would have fought it tirelessly, not cheered it on. Maybe conservatives lost their selective distrust of big government because Iraq was invaded in the name of national security. Maybe it had to do with simple party partisanship or the delusory side-effects of war-making and patriotism.

Whatever it was that made a federal government takeover of Iraq look like such a swell idea to conservatives a year ago, it doesn’t look so smart now. We’re stuck with a big mess. And it’s not un-American to start saying “We told you so.”

  • r4ru2qdrwzm954iylcmrNathan Salsburg, the fellow now in charge of the Alan Lomax archive has brought back his Root Hog or Die radio show, which can be listened to this a-way on Tuesdays from 3 p.m. EST to 4 p.m. Do it.
  • That very same fellow has also written up for The Oxford American a good look at the massive, Jack White-produced 400 dollar (so that’s not happening) box set Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Volume One (1917–1927).
  • My previous experience with Root Hog or Die is this amazing playlist (forever a grateful hat tip to Jim Epstein) which contains my first experience with weird-ass shapenote singing and other important thing like that.
  • My friend Rodge has weeks and years of killer radio shows. I’ll never get through them all, but he’s a great, weird, diverse, but country and old time-loving DJ.
  • Oh hey, there will finally be a Hank Williams Sr. biopic and a…British guy will play the lead. He looks right, but will he sound right? (On a side note, British people doing bad American accents remains one of the funnier damn things in the world. We all sound like John Wayne Valley Girls, it seems.)
  • In my dreams, there’s a site like Jezebel except it only reports on documentaries about conjoined Vaudeville twins. I very much watch to watch this.
  • How to dress like Gary Cooper
  • Overwrought VICE Motherboard piece on the fax machine brings up interesting points — maybe analog right before the internet is the only way to truly, securely communicate. Also, I do — mostly while wandering in antique or vintage stores, sometimes starring at eight tracks — wonder about all the stuff not old enough to be interesting, yet useless in the digital age. (On another note, I don’t get the hipster love for cassettes, I really do not. But then, I don’t understand 1990s nostalgia either.)
  • I haven’t yet clicked all the way through Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time, but I did laugh for a solid 30 seconds upon discovering the song title “She’s Actin’ Single, I’m Drinkin’ Doubles.” Perfect.
  • In honor of Tuesday Apocalypse: io9’s Vincze Miklos collected some of the most amazing, eerie Soviet Civil Defense posters possible. I desperately want them all. If I were rich, I would have the creepiest house in the entire world, I really would. I would have a room of gas masks, terrifying nuke pamphlets, and old weapons and everyone would think I was a serial killer. I know this. I accept this about myself.
  • Further Tuesday Apocalypse: The Nuclear Secrecy Blog’s Alex Wellerstein on the nuanced and myriad meanings of Robert Oppenheimer’s “I am become death, destroyer of worlds”  thoughts post-Trinity Test. (He may not have thought that all in the moment, but realized it sounded all epic and full of gravity more than a decade later.  He was right.)
  • This is not related, but a plea for your strong female character to actually do something for the plot. I approve. And on a side note that is more related, if you don’t understand why this matters to anyone, read Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, then watch the 1990s movie. Compare and contrast the portrayal of “Mary” between the two mediums after 50 years of what we all thought was progress. Sob into your pillow. Thank you.)
  • Also unrelated — unless 2003 is old timey — but I was pleased to see some fight in The Independents re necon bullshit. Former Ambassador John Bolton starts off the scuffle by accusing libertarians of being pro-Saddam Hussein and it goes down from there. (I also love that even when the show is at its most cable news-ish talking over each other, the yelling is about George Orwell and Iraq war casualties. Classy.)

Today’s video: Ketch Secor and Critter Fuqua singing an unrecorded Fuqua number, to get us all jazzed for the new Old Crow album next month:

(and not to cry too much over it being sans Willie Watson — whimper). I did not see this show, nor have I seen them play this song, but I did catch their reunion tour, and it was amazing.

Oh, okay. Here. My hat is basically the first thing you see.

Iraq is returning to the hellhole of civilization it’s been for three thousand years.Iraq_Dec05_Elect

Anyone who says he’s shocked at what’s about to happen there is a fool or a liar.

Smart people knew this would happen, just as smart people knew that the assholes in Washington who took us to Iraq in 2003 were making a huge mistake.

It was the same mistake the Brits made in the early 1920s when for geopolitical purposes they invented Iraq by combining three provinces of the Ottoman Empire into one dumb country where each third hated the other two thirds and they all wanted to kill each other for stupid religious reasons — just like Europe’s religious nuts did in the 1500s.

Sadly, Iraq is just America’s latest travesty of interventionism.

We wasted $1.7 trillion on trying to turn it and its moronic tribes into another Switzerland.

We lost 5,000 Americans and killed X-tens of thousands of innocent Middle Easterners.

We’ll be paying for our wounded and maimed soldiers for another 70 years.

The major-party assholes who run Washington will point to each other and say it was Bush’s fault for taking us there and Obama’s fault for pulling us out too soon.

But Iraq — like all our misguided foreign misadventures starting with World War I — was brought to us by Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, who’ve never read a history book and can’t understand that dropping bombs on foreigners and taking over their countries with tanks, soldiers and dreamy democratic ideals never works as planned.

Back in 2005 smart guys like Ivan Eland and Peter Galbraith, and even dumb guys like Joe Biden, were trying to convince the powers  in DC that the only long-term solution to the mess we had gotten ourselves into was to partition Iraq into three autonomous parts.

There would be one part for the Kurds to screw up, one for the Sunnis to screw up, and one for the Shiites to screw up.

They’d have to figure out the problem of sharing the oil revenue, which would have taken a few wars and a hundred years. But decentralizing an artificially created and wobbly Humpty Dumpty state would have been better than trying to keep it together by American force.

No one listened to Eland, Galbraith and Biden, of course. Now Iraq is being partitioned by an army of Muslim extremists in pickup trucks who already are imposing sharia law.

But in case you want to know what Eland and Galbraith thought, and what I thought about their idea, below is what I wrote about the idea to partition Iraq back in 2006, when it was probably already too late to fix the country we invaded and broke.

Here’s an op-ed column I wrote about the partition idea based on my conversation with Peter Galbraith, the Kurd expert, son of John Kenneth and former ambassador to Croatia:

Time to partition Iraq

Turn the channel. Except for the final score, the war in Iraq is over.

We played hard and did many good things. But we had a lousy game plan and really bad coaches. We lost.

After three years, the grand illusions the Bush administration foolishly took us to war for — to free Iraq, to defeat the terrorists in their own backyard, to seed democracy in the Middle East, whatever — are less attainable than ever.

The bloody sectarian and ethnic violence of the last few weeks may or may not signal the start of the oft-predicted civil war between the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. But some experts say the violent unraveling of Iraq — plus the inability or unwillingness of its new leaders to create a working central government — are signs that the nation of Iraq is breaking apart.

That’s the last thing the Bush administration wants. It’s still stubbornly wedded to its original, unrealistic idea of re-creating a strong national government in Baghdad that can keep the three factions happy and from cutting each others’ throats every other holy day.

But Peter Galbraith, a former ambassador to Croatia, and Ivan Eland, a senior fellow at the libertarian Independent Institute, have a better idea: They both think the best way to “rebuild” a better post-Saddam Iraq always was, and still is, to partition it.

Galbraith, betraying his Democrat genes, calls his plan “a managed breakup.” But he and Eland both advocate decentralizing government power in Iraq, an artificial country whose borders and Sunni-dominated power structure were created after World War I by British diplomats.

The more you know about Iraq’s history, people and geography, and the more you talk to Galbraith and Eland, the more sense partition makes.

Iraq is similar to the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union, which Galbraith says were both “killed by democracy.” Partitioning Iraq — i.e., allowing its major ethnic and religious groups to set up and rule their own turf — would create many messy political, economic and security problems. Who gets how much oil revenue is the big one.

The U.S.-leaning Kurds up north and the Iran-leaning Shia down south favor a breakup, Eland says. The Sunnis (Saddam’s home tribe, centered around Baghdad) are against it. But if the Sunni get a cut of the oil wealth, Eland suspects they’ll play along. Meanwhile, what all three groups fear equally, he says, is a central government with a strong military that can be seized by a future Saddam and used to oppress them.

A breakup of Iraq is inevitable, Galbraith and Eland both agree, so why fight it? As Galbraith says, “If we seek to maintain an unitary Iraq, we will commit ourselves to an endless occupation of the country and we’re not likely to succeed.”

Unfortunately, neither Galbraith nor Eland sees any interest for a partition inside the Bush administration. Eland thinks Washington is still pushing a unified Iraq in part because of the president’s unwillingness to give up the idea of having permanent military bases there.

What the Bush administration wants or hopes for in Iraq has been moot for a long time, however. Partition will happen eventually anyway — violently or peacefully. The best thing for us to do now to salvage our blunder in Iraq, Eland says, is help the breakup process and work for a peaceful and stable Iraq, not thwart it.

Then, Eland says, we could tell the Iraqis: “We’ve toppled Saddam. We’ve helped you mediate this settlement. We’ve provided incentives for various groups to do things. And now we’re saying goodbye.”

Here’s the interview I did with Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute.

Why not partition Iraq?

Why does Iraq — an artificial country invented by British diplomats after World War I and composed of three religious and ethnic groups that pretty much hate each other — have to have a unified national government? Why not let Iraq do what Czechoslovakia and most of the Soviet Union did in the 1990s — carefully and peacefully partition itself? Why can’t the Kurds have their own democracy, the Shiites their own religious theocracy, and the Sunnis their own strongman, if that’s what they choose?

Ivan Eland is author of “The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed” and director of the libertarian Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty. A longtime advocate of partitioning Iraq, he argues it’s the best and probably only way to avert the bloody civil war he says is just getting started. I talked to him Wednesday by phone from his offices in Washington.

Q: How do you define a partition of Iraq?

A: My observation is that Iraq is already partitioned. You have all these militias running around with guns and the U.S. hasn’t disarmed many of them because they are helping with local security. But the problem is that this thing has turned into “sectarian violence,” as the president likes to call it, or “civil war,” as other people like to call it. What they need to do is have a conclave and manage the partition of the country. Iraq is going to break up because it already is broken up, and it can either be done on a peaceful basis or one that is very nasty and violent. I think a “managed partition” is the best way.

Q: Are we talking about breaking Iraq into three parts — for Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis?

A: Not necessarily. I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. What’s going to happen is that they are probably going to have a bloody civil war. It’ll be wherever the armies are. If one beats up on the other one, then the boundaries will be changed. When you have a war, it’s hard to determine what will happen. A peaceful partition would probably be three or more parts.

Q: Can this partition be imposed on Iraq by the United States?

A: No, I don’t think so. You have to let them sort it out. They should have done this before. It may be too late now, but it’s still the best hope for the place. The Kurds and the Shia don’t really want to be a part of Iraq. When you have 80 percent of the population that doesn’t want to be in the country, that’s a problem. The Sunnis are the only ones who don’t want to break up the country. The main reason is that they think they will be a rump state with no oil. If the Shia and the Kurds give the Sunnis some oil, they will be willing to go their own way, too.

Q: What’s the principle behind the partition — decentralizing power and local autonomy?

A: Yes. Decentralization. The main fear of each group, the reason the Kurds and Shia want their autonomy and the reason the Sunni are fighting an insurgency, is that each group fears that the central government will be used to oppress the other group. So they either want control of the central government, or if they can’t get that, they want to be removed from it.

Q: What are the upsides of a partition for the U.S.?

A: If every group were confined to its local areas and they all knew what the boundaries were, and they would police people of their own ethnic or religious group, then it might reduce the chances of civil war. And of course then the al-Qaida terrorists would be the outcasts. If they were still bombing, even in the Sunni areas, the Sunni militias would turn against them because they are outsiders. I think you could actually reduce Iraq as a haven for al-Qaida, as well, because the security would be increased. This also provides the Bush administration with a way of saying, “Well, we toppled Saddam Hussein and we gave the Iraqis the best change for peace and prosperity.” If there is peace in Iraq, people aren’t going to care if there’s one Iraq or three or four Iraqs.

Q: Would we, the United States, play a role in the partition?

A: I think we can mediate it, but I think it must be done fairly quickly. We see these negotiations dragging on now because nobody has an incentive. Negotiations can happen real fast if there’s an urgent need. If the U.S. declares it’s going to pull out, I think you will see the Kurds and the Shia become very receptive to negotiating a settlement.

Q: Is there any interest in the Bush administration for a partition?

A: I don’t know. I think they would do this only as a desperation move. The problem is, if they wait too long, even a partition isn’t going to work because the civil war is already started. Unless they stop it, it’s going to get worse.

Q: Why is the Bush administration wedded to re-creating a strong central government?

A: The president is still holding on to the idea that we’re still going to have military bases there. They want them on the Gulf, but the Shia areas are not going to allow that, and they’re the ones closest to the Gulf, and that’s where the significant amounts of oil are. I think that’s one reason the administration is still clinging to the idea of a unified Iraq. The other is just probably bureaucratic inertia.

Q: What’s Iraq going to look like in 2008? President Bush said our troops will still be there.

A: I liken it to the pilot with two engines on fire who does not look for an alternate landing strip but tries to continue on his course to his original destination. He’s probably going to crash and burn, and I think that’s what’s going to happen in Iraq. I don’t think we’re going to make it for another three years there. I think there’s going to be a civil war in Iraq if the president doesn’t change course. The public won’t stand for U.S. forces being caught in a civil war. If all hell breaks loose in Iraq, those forces will be coming home much, much sooner — to the electoral peril of Republicans. I don’t think they have another three years to wait.

Presented with little commentary or excuse, the young libertarian poet’s thoughts during the feverish Bush years. (Even the horrible line breaks are accurate. The capitalization is also as written. I am so sorry.) I would like to say this make me feel better about my progress in the past 12 years, but good God is this painful and funny both. I sound a lot dumber than I thought I was back then.

I was super into not using “we” when talking about America during this time. (Which is a good rhetorical point, that I have admittedly dropped entirely now.)  I was also pretty sick of “United We Stand” as a rallying cry. You can see that as I subversively add a question mark to the poem’s title. Look, there were a lot of flags around all the time and I was getting mad.

I actually remember reading this to my homeschool English group to some amount of awkward silence. Once Iraq came along, my terribly edgy sentiment was a little more welcome, if only because these good Christian conservatives weren’t all jazzed about that whole invasion business either.

 

United We Stand?

Tell us what We are

Pawns for Public Service

We Support

When you give us words

What he says — They do

and They make us We

Broadcast as the mood

Love it or leave it

Or cry quietly to be heard by

The arrogant freedom fighter

When there’s nobody like you

Then tell us we stand united

And lean us over the edge

Pray for the chance

For I told you so’s

Here we are, so we’re taken with the tide

– Anarchy anyone?

So maybe they fight

For the nation and the world

But what’s paving that road?