Hey, look! Some our favorite villains from the Iraq war are back! There’s Paul Wolfowitz. And Bill Kristol. And Doug Feith. And Paul Bremer. Aw, and they’re talking about Iraq again—so nostalgic.
Iraq exploded back into the news last week. It seems a group called ISIS—or ISIL, depending on the news source—a band of determined folks who want to join Iraq and Syria together under radical Sunni Islamist rule, have done a bang-up job of wresting control of much of Iraq from the current, Shiite-centric government. Baghdad’s in danger. It’s a gigantic humanitarian crisis in the making, and it threatens to spread beyond Iraq’s borders and engulf the broader region. It’s a colossal shit-storm.
And guess what: Our old friends Wolfowitz, Kristol, Feith and Bremer, among others, are blaming President Obama because he followed through with a plan hatched during the Bush administration to end the U.S. war in Iraq in 2011. That’s so rich.
The blame for this mess lands in the laps of Wolfowitz, Kristol, Feith, Bremer, Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Richard Perle, Robert Kagan, Donald Rumsfeld, Stephen Hadley, Elliot Abrams, Condoleeza Rice, George Tenet and George W. Bush—the architects of the invasion of Iraq.
By early 2003, the players mentioned above had fooled the American public into thinking that Saddam Hussein played a key role in the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001, and had plans to attack again with nuclear or chemical weapons. Despite plenty of reasons for skepticism at the time about claims of weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration got Congress to go along with an invasion. Then- Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki told Congress that “something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would be needed to do the job right. Nah, the architects said. Cheney said we’d be greeted as liberators, and Rumsfeld said the war would last six days or six weeks, but he doubted six months.
When the invasion forced Hussein from power, Bremer famously and foolishly disbanded the Iraqi army and removed all members of Hussein’s Ba’ath Party from government jobs and banned them from future public-sector work. These moves alienated countless people who could have been useful for security and stabilization and have been widely credited for playing an immense role in the years and years of sectarian bloodshed that followed.
The architects were so zealous about regime change that they disregarded the region’s cultures and history. Iraq’s borders were haphazardly and nonsensically drawn 100 years ago by the British, and the place was held together as a secular country with an iron dictatorial fist by Hussein—much like how Marshal Tito held Yugoslavia together before he died in 1980 and that country disintegrated amid unspeakable violence.
Obama did the right thing when he pulled the U.S. out of Iraq. It was doomed to disaster from the start. There was never any strategy for longterm success in Iraq other than mere hope that it would work itself out peacefully. It didn’t work itself out, other than violently. It cost the American treasury trillions of dollars that it didn’t have and resulted in the deaths of nearly 4,500 U.S. service members, hundreds of service members from other countries and countless Iraqi citizens. It also changed forever the lives of many thousands upon thousands of gravely injured military men and women—the Department of Veterans Affairs stopped reporting the number of vets from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who sought medical treatment after it reached 900,000.
Now these idiots—these liars, these psychopaths, these war criminals—are saying we should go back in and fight. The public has no appetite for a never-ending occupation of Iraq, we can’t afford it anyway and not one more American should be killed, injured or psychologically scarred in a war that should never have started in the first place.
No, leaving Iraq on its own isn’t ideal. But sending Americans back in en masse isn’t an option, so the only hope is to work on a solution with the United Nations (good luck), Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and, yes, Iran. Diplomacy is the only way.
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