“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”
- from TS Eliot’s great poem: “The Hollow Men”
[Warning: This is a long piece…it was a long war. If you don’t want to read it, don’t! Books (with worlds like “fiasco” in the title) have been written about this war and many more are to come. The Iraq War helped to speed up the current decline of America and symbolizes its self-inflicted fate. - R.W.]
THE LONGEST WAR -
The utterly inappropriate Pearl Harbor - 9/11 analogy was just one of many “patriotic” World War Two references used to rush history-challenged Americans into a really inappropriate (to say the least!) war---the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Now, in December 2011, our troops are “coming home”---and it’s completely unlike the ending of our war with Japan. There is no counterpart to “VJ Day” (Victory Over Japan) with its dancing in the streets and celebrations and girls joyfully kissing random soldiers, sailors and Marines. No latter-day Bing Crosby singing: “I’ll be Home For Christmas.“ Our troops (although not all our various personnel) are departing Iraq---and about all we can manage is a terrible whimper.
There was an Associated Press story by Lolita C. Baldor and Rebecca Santana (“US ends Iraq war,“ Anchorage Daily News, December 16th, 2011) “Will $800 billion price tag, 4,500 soldiers killed prove worth it?”
An online comment went right to the point: “Okay. So…who won?”
Another comment says: “THERE IS NO GLORY IN THIS FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. NONE.”
Okay…so what was the real cost in money? Obama himself mentioned “a trillion dollars.” Maybe he was rounding up, but independent researchers calculate the ultimate costs of the combined Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan wars at a hefty three trillion!
A WAR FOR ALL REASONS -
When it came to the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, most Americans didn’t know what had hit them. According to poll numbers about seventy percent favored the invasion. Now, nearly a decade later, most Americans just want to forget about it.
Justifying the invasion and occupation was a moveable feast. The Bush Administration trotted out various, assorted and sundry reasons for the Iraq invasion-occupation. Anxiety-riddled Americans could choose from among a variety of rolling, revolving and interchangeable motivations. Iraq was a war for all reasons---which, of course, is counter to the most fundamental military strategy of having a focused and well-defined set of goals before choosing to open fire and attempting to conduct the successful armed takeover and occupation of another country. Touted as “easy,” this little escapade lasted longer than World War Two and went awry in almost every possible way despite the lopsided U.S. military superiority.
THAT WHICH BEGINS BADLY…
Prior to the invasion, retired U.S. military officers---secretly recruited by the Bush Administration---appeared on TV as if they had come forward of their own volition to tout the ease, wonder and logic of the neoconservatives’ petroleum war plans for Iraq. Ex-generals stood with folded arms, speaking in military tongues, and stepped like gods from country to country on over-sized maps of the Middle East painted on the floors of TV studios.
AN HONEST GENERAL GETS SIDELINED -
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2003, the U.S. Army's top general, Eric Shinseki, stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be required to secure Iraq. Two days later, U.S. Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that the number of occupation troops required would be less than the number of troops needed to win the war. "…the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces is far from the mark," said Rummy. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called General Shinseki's estimate "way off the mark," because other countries of the coalition would send in lots of troop to take part in an occupying force.
But America was fearful and in no mood for counting or logical calculations. Previously, in a September 8, 2002 interview with Wolf Blitzer, President Bush's National Security Adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, whipped an already anxious Nation into a further frenzy: "The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
In March 2003, U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix reported that "no evidence” of illegal weapons or activities had been found to date in Iraq. Final verification of these initial findings through further inspections could be completed in “months,“ he said.
However, with a bogus announcement that "diplomacy has failed," the U.S. government indicated it would get those darned weapons of mass destruction by going to war immediately with a coalition of allied countries---the so-called “coalition of the willing.” Those pesky UN weapons inspectors were advised to leave Baghdad pronto!
EVERY LESSON NEVER LEARNED -
Now, in 2011, we come to the end of official military involvement in Iraq---the longest war. So what had America failed to learn before getting involved? Let’s review:
By trying to fight a war on the cheap and with borrowed money, the neoconservative military geniuses finally “got” Saddam---but they also “got” America. The oil companies “got” their oil (as long as the pipelines don’t get blown up). But aside from any considerations of morality or economics, Iraq was also a great military blunder. By invading Iraq---and doing it in the overconfident manner we did---America not only forgot the lessons of Vietnam, a war we “lost;” also the lessons of the Gulf (Kuwait-Petroleum) War, a war we “won.” That first Gulf War was a set piece war---flat desert, overwhelming numbers of “coalition” (mostly U.S. and some British tanks), overwhelming troop numbers, long and careful preparation, lining up allies well beforehand, having clear objectives and then stopping when those objectives were achieved.
The Iraq War was supposed to be fought on the cheap. Which meant not enough troops. Limited amounts of military power were applied piecemeal. And those who conducted this huge blunder held a blindingly ignorant view of Iraq, its culture, and the region.
ALL THE “INTELLIGENCE” THAT POLITICAL INFLUENCE CAN CREATE -
Dick Cheney was supposed to provide foreign policy expertise for the inexperienced young G. W. Bush. Instead, he led Junior into the most idiotic military misadventure of the new century. Intelligence (as in information) is traditionally generated by intelligence agencies without input from the “consumer“---to make sure it is accurate and unbiased. But instead of allowing our intelligence services to do their jobs, Cheney was a frequent attendee at intelligence agency offices---like a housewife picking out color samples in a paint store.
Cheney cooked the intelligence. He can argue he did it to fight the terrorists and can act all indignant because he had the “security” of the Nation in mind---but the truth is he cooked the intelligence.
The Bush Administration talked Secretary of State Colin Powell into testifying before the U.N. to present their phony “evidence” of weapons of mass destruction. This was the General Powell of the “Powell Doctrine”---which touted the use of overwhelming military force. There had been talk of him running for the presidency. But Colin Powell kissed his political career goodbye when he was fooled into appearing before the UN with crooked “intelligence” that Saddam Hussein’s eviscerated and fatally-wounded Iraq was loading up with weapons of mass destruction. According to Wikpedia, Powell later recounted how Vice President Dick Cheney had joked with him before he gave the UN speech, telling him, "You've got high poll ratings; you can afford to lose a few points."
THE OCCUPATION BUNGLED -
U.S. officials appointed as administrators in a militarily-defeated Iraq were sometimes chosen on qualifications based on such things as their views about abortion. Ideology trumped competence. Paul Bremmer, the US-appointed Administrator of Iraq, disbanded the Iraqi Army, and effectively put 400,000 out-of-work soldiers onto the streets to work against our occupying troops. This administrative genius also removed all Baathists from their civil service positions---those Iraqis who knew how to run the country were effectively kicked out. Rampant violence, corruption and chaos ensued. Roadside “flowers” were strewn at the feet of our troops.
THE “SURGE” WAS AN ADMISSION OF MILITARY STUPIDITY---NOT A STROKE OF MILITARY GENIUS -
From the archives of the New York Times:
“With the subsequent years in which Americans battled ethnic insurgents, and after President Bush agreed in January 2007 to a ‘surge’ strategy of more troops, General Shinseki was effectively vindicated, and military officials, as well as activists and politicians, publicly saluted him. By then, however, General Shinseki had been marginalized on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and quietly retired from the Army.” — Jan. 20, 2009
Americans---so quick to go to war---have no idea how war works. The so-called “brilliant” strategy of the so-called “Surge” was nothing more than an admission of failure of the original idea to just attack this country based on cooked up intelligence, ideological arrogance, oil-greed, borrowed money and not enough troops. Having made the dumb decision to invade, the “Surge” should have come at the beginning…but it came toward the end. “W” was a slow-learner…when he bothered to learn anything at all. And let us not forget that there was also a simultaneous “Surge” of U.S. dollars to the Sunnis so they would call off their fighting of us. It was a “Surge” of troops and money!
Again, I know it is completely un-American to actually ask the question…but I will ask it anyway: Why? Why, really, did the U.S. invade Iraq?
THE OBVIOUS AND SIMPLE ANSWER---OIL!
The only, main and primary cause, motivation, incentive and driving force behind our military attack on Iraq was, of course, oil! Along with the political power and influence derived from controlling this energy source and the region where much of it lies. Everyone knew it…if only for a brief moment.
This was not “Oops! Wrong country! The Bush Administration was going for the “gold”---
“liquid gold.” Cue the “Beverly Hillbillies” theme song:
“And up through the ground came a bubblin crude.
Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.”
All the rest of the other “reasons” were to get the public to go along with the war-for-oil. That includes the simple, mindless desire to “kick ass“---beating a helpless nation and killing helpless people just to make yourself feel better. The “bar talk” was unmistakable and the Texas table-dancer and former college cheerleader knew the code----just as he knew the code words to incite his religious “base.”
KILLING IN GOD’S NAME -
“…you're not worshipping me you're worshipping yourself
And you will kill in my name and heaven knows what else…
…so get over yourself” - from Todd Rundgren’s anthem: “God Said”
Some religionists were excited by the mass murder of Muslims and were glad to lend their political support to this cause. It was the Armageddon factor. All very old testament-y.
There was quite a bit of beating about the bush (pun intended) regarding quotes from other statesmen saying that George W. Bush informed them that God had told him to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. In the emotionally overheated and prophetically-frustrated world of post Y2K-right-wing religionists, these coded references were sufficient to gain their unholy political support.
IRAQ AND NOT ARABIA PRODUCED THE 9/11 BOMBERS -
The other big thing, of course, was the notion that Saddam had something, anything whatsoever, to do with 9/11. There was probably not a single Al-Quaida terrorist in all of Iraq when the Commander-in Chief and Cheney-in-charge charged into Iraq. Saddam Hussein hated Al-Quaida, naturally fearing them as a threat to his regime, and even offered to cooperate with the U.S. Not because Saddam was a good guy---but because he didn’t want Al-Quaida in his country.
OVERTHROW OF THE DICTATOR AND THE SPREADING OF DEMOCRACY -
Lots of Americans bought into the notion of “getting Saddam”---the brutal dictator. The dictator the Western powers had set up in the first place and the same one the U.S. had supported in his hideous (chemical agents) war against Iran back in 1980.
Then there was the “spreading democracy” ploy. There are, to give Bush credit, elections in Iraq…but with our handpicked candidates like Prime Minister Maliki. We’ll see how long he, and the elections, last.
More honest was the justifying phrase “national security” or “energy security”…meaning oil, of course.
THE BIG SCARE---THE MUSHROOM CLOUD -
The big scare thing was “WMD.” Which turned out to be a few inaccurate conventional SCUD missiles. None, or nearly none of which, by the way, were actually shot down by our Patriot missiles as gleefully reported at the time. Those bright streaks in the skies were the missile parts burning up in the atmosphere. Not a small lie, either, because it is still used as proof that a “missile defense system” can actually hit another missile in real life.
Anyway, that’s just a taste of the crazy panoply of reasons people got talked into the Iraq thing! I know, the religious prophecy stuff seems totally whacked---but don’t forget, the contingent that believes in this kind of stuff was the political “base” of George W. Bush. That is, no matter how bad he was…they voted for him. In politics these days, a small, dedicated, consistent minority---combined with an apathetic and ignorant public---can carry otherwise despicable and incompetent candidates into office. If you don’t think so, just think: Tea Party candidates!
THE “LEFTY FRINGE” HAD IT RIGHT -
“There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars” - from “The Hollow Men”
The American invasion and occupation of Iraq was, and still is, based on lies and ignorance of Earth-shattering proportions. At some point, everyone on the Planet must have known---if only for an instant---that America invaded Iraq because of its oil. The lie was in the pretense that we were doing it for other reasons. The proof was that the oil companies and the war destruction-construction industries would come to be the only beneficiaries of this ill-conceived and ill-conducted war.
Even the slowest minds on the Planet must have realized that the U.S. would never have invaded Iraq if that Nation hadn’t been sitting on a huge pool of that most precious of commodities, petroleum. After a storm of propaganda, most Americans---but not the rest of the World---were conveniently able to forget about the oil. However, at the time and to this day, some Americans still believe that invading Iraq was about the oil---and that it was a good thing. Honest neoconservatives for the most part! Others remain oblivious to the obvious…
Alan Borras wrote a to-the-point, straightforward, well-documented, well written and very honest column: “Oil production was always the greedy goal of the Iraq War” (Anchorage Daily News, November 4th, 2011).
Reading some of the online comments to Alan Borras’ column reveals that the underlying blindness that led America into Iraq is a chronic condition. As one omnipresent wag said of the Borras column: “Conspiracy theory central driven by fringe lefty agenda. No proof offered at all in this piece. Zero.”
Well, at least he didn’t call him a “traitor!” The irony is that, of all the various political and religious groups and factions in America just prior to the invasion of Iraq, “fringe lefty” was certainly the most honorable of all when it came to figuring out and denouncing the moral, military and economic implications of invading the wrong country…or any country at all! Of course there were extreme right-wingers who saw immediately that invading Iraq was a dumb move on its face. Not everyone went along on the joyride into Iraq---but the far-out, radical, left wing fringe spoke out most consistently against this fiasco in the making.
THE CENTER WENT NUTS -
The mental trick for war-hungry Americans was pretending that something else (say, 9/11) was causing---nay, forcing us---to brutally invade a country on the other side of the Planet that posed no military threat and only a miniscule terrorist threat to the United States and had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. Just because the U.S. center-middle-moderates-independents-etc. went quietly along with the war doesn’t mean the Nation had not gone crazy. Insanity doesn’t have to be a wild-eyed-weapons waving thing---a quiet and resolute waving of weapons in a crazy cause also qualifies as nutty.
This National psychosis was accompanied by a deep moral denial---assuaged by the Bush imperative for the Nation to consume like there was no tomorrow. Spend like your life depended upon it. Borrow money and use up resources. Take out a mortgage or two (more on this later). America seemed to embrace this “consumption doctrine”---a prelude to the poetic justice of the economic hollowing out of the American middle class that was soon to come.
THE WAR ON TERROR -
To this day on the evening news I hear the Iraq War referred to as “the war on terror.” That is, in itself, terrifying…
Among the many ironies is that President Barack Obama has been a far more effective fighter against terrorism than George W. Bush ever was---and not just because he “got” Osama---but because he went directly after Al-Quaida instead of attacking entire nations. When Obama sends a missile or a drone into Afghanistan or Pakistan, sure, some innocents die. I’m not a big fan of the new face of anti-terrorism, but it seems to get the job done. Not that Obama will get much credit for it. Americans love the bombastic “shock and awe” of “Bad Aim” Bush---huge explosions and lots of killing in the wrong countries. Precise, targeted drone, missile attacks and midnight raids against actual terrorists are so boring.
GUNS AND BUTTER/MISSILES AND MORTGAGES---THE ECONOMY AND HOW TO WRECK IT -
The Iraq War sucked us economically as well as morally dry. Pallet-loads of U.S. currency arrived by plane in Iraq and disappeared without accounting. And that was just the cash! Other hidden costs are not represented in official estimates. The Brown University “Costs of War” project said the total for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be at least 3.2 to 4 trillion dollars, U.S. currency. The report specifically rejected previous estimates of under $1 trillion, saying the Department of Defense's direct spending on Iraq alone totaled at least $757.8 billion. The Brown study counted the costs at home, such as interest paid on the funds borrowed to finance the wars and a potential nearly $1 trillion in extra spending to care for veterans returning from combat through 2050.
Typical estimates published before the Iraq War were based on a shorter involvement. In a March 16, 2003 Meet the Press interview of Vice President Dick Cheney, held less than a week before the beginning of the Iraq War, host Tim Russert reported that "every analysis said this war itself would cost about $80 billion, the recovery (rebuilding) of Baghdad, perhaps of Iraq, about $10 billion per year. We should expect as American citizens that this would cost at least $100 billion for a two-year involvement."
Remember, during the Vietnam War, when President Johnson promised “Guns and butter?” That was the crackpot notion that we could fight a costly and bloody war in Vietnam and still retain our big, fat, buttery lives. As I recall, however, it was at Khe Sanh where the U.S. supply line was reduced to “beans and bullets” for embattled U.S. Marines in the longest battle of that ill-fated war.
Now, fast-forward to the Bushmeister and his war plans of missiles and mortgages. George W. Bush asked nothing of Americans to fight the Iraq War. In fact, his Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan wrote in his book, "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World," that the Bush administration was so captive to its own politics that it paid little attention to fiscal discipline. He described Bush's first two Treasury secretaries, Paul O'Neill and John Snow, as essentially powerless. Bush, writes Greenspan, was never willing to contain spending or veto bills that drove the country into deeper and deeper deficits. Meanwhile, Congress abandoned rules that required that the cost of tax cuts be offset by savings elsewhere. "The Republicans in Congress lost their way," wrote Greenspan, a self-described "libertarian Republican."
"They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose" in the 2006 election, when they lost control of the House and Senate.
But Greenspan went along with encouraging Americans to take on mortgages that were increasingly designed to fail, thus helping plunge us into the worst recession in memory. So, the total disregard for the economy---and the encouragement of wild financial speculations and housing investments---broke our economic backs.
The housing bubble and its collapse was the result. Since around 1998, subprime mortgage loans accounted for about a quarter of US home sales. People with low or bad credit ratings got to purchase homes, and that easy credit resulted in a housing boom and bubble between 2000 and 2005 which was hyped as a major part of Bush’s “ownership society.” The effects of this nonsense lending and speculation were put off for a period of time. The housing market went up and the value of homes (including those financed by subprime loans) steadily increased until Ameriquest, the largest subprime lender, went bust after getting caught for deceptive lending and marketing practices (former Ameriquest CEO, Robert Arnell, was appointed Ambassador to the Netherlands by George Bush). Other subprime lenders soon joined the plunge. The fallout from the housing bubble collapse will be with us for years.
HEARINGS FOR THE NEOCONSERVATIVES -
Dick Cheney was recently on the “View,” where he growled affirmatively at Barbara Walters---who dared ask if Iraq had been “worth it.” Not a very in-depth interview. Clearly, what this Nation needs are public hearings into the events that led us by the nose into this most abysmally evil and self-destructive of national acts.
So, where are the hearings? Where are the fact-finding commissions? And where are the war crimes trials? I don’t want more blood. I just want to know why Bush and his accomplices have not been called to account for their lethal lies. What I want is something like a South African Truth Commission. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize, was chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The torturers and murderers were spared their lives---in exchange for coming clean. Not to worry, miscreants---it ain’t gonna happen in America!
Get your “willy” washed in the White House and get impeached. But when two former oil-industry executives in the White House engage in a deliberate, calculated war to plunder Iraqi oil fields---a plan based on lies and resulting in mass deaths---hey, it’s off to Crawford to cut brush in the sunset. For Condoleeza “Mushroom Cloud” Rice, it’s fancy luncheons at the Biltmore.
George W. Bush strapped a gigantic suicide vest onto the entire nation of America and sent us into Iraq. What began with a bang---”Shock and Awe---is now ending with the terrible whimper of a particularly evil war fought for and over nothing but the gratification of economic greed, political power and ideological hegemony. The Bush Administration chose to attack a defenseless, helpless and already crippled nation---and most Americans went along with this misbegotten action. Then---despite possessing the military means to finish the job efficiently and mercifully ending this fundamentally evil war as quickly as possible---the Bush Administration chose to do it with inadequate forces, a poor military plan and a totally botched occupation. Thus extending the death and suffering for years! And, worst of all, America is now whining about its own precious “economy”---mindless of the evils it has committed. If I were a biblical person I would conclude that God is punishing us for our greed, arrogance, self-righteousness and downright, stinking and murderous evil.
IT AIN’T OVER BY A LONG SHOT -
John McCain is right! We ain’t out of this yet. According to a December 12, 2011 report by Ted Koppel on NBCs ”Rock Center” it is still because of the oil that we will have 16 to 17 thousand U.S. personnel remaining behind. And an “embassy” that looks, according to Koppel (and the photos), like a huge maximum security prison. This biggest and most expensive of any embassy in the world is nearly as large as Vatican City. Replacing the former embassy, one of Saddam‘s palaces, the Baghdad complex is reminiscent of the huge U.S. Embassy in Saigon in South Vietnam.
In an interview, the U.S. Ambassador squirmed when Koppel reminded him of the fate of the Saigon embassy. I’m sure he can already envision the helicopters, once again evacuating U.S. personnel from the rooftops of yet another embattled U.S. embassy…this time In Baghdad.
Just being on the streets in Iraq is “more dangerous than it was in 2005,” said Koppel, who was there at that time. Moreover, America has lost control of the regional situation. Iraq is now exchanging bodies of war dead with Iran from the old and bitter Iraq-Iran War (September 1980 to August 1988---the longest conventional war of the 20th century). So, as U.S. troops are departing, Iraq is making peace with its old enemy, Iran. We’ve lost the war!
Koppel said there is now the same talk about terrorism and “the bomb” as we heard just before we invaded Iraq. Except now it’s Iran, which is now more or less Iraq‘s ally. As Ron Paul said on Jay Leno, the propaganda about Iran (nuclear bomb development…they don‘t have it, he said) is the same as the propaganda leading up to the Iraq war.
ONE MAN’S DISASTER IS GOOD FOR ANOTHER MAN’S BUSINESS. “HARD TIMES” ARE GREAT RECRUITING TOOLS -
Of course, America still abounds with a sizable number of people, institutions and businesses which thrived during and even prospered from the Iraq War. Aside from the energy companies and war contractors, many Americans have escaped the economic downturn (or whatever it is) and are now sitting pretty, living high off the hog, and able to draw from a growing pool of cheap and desperate labor and to hire servants willing to work at slave wages.
Also, some religions thrive when hard times drive desperate people into their congregations---that’s why Doomsday religionists love it when mass disasters occur. Some political movements also gather the disillusioned unto themselves during confused times. Both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement would not exist if so many things had not gone wrong. I’m not saying most of these factions deliberately seek disaster (except for the Doomsday whackos)---but there are disincentives for not feeling the pain of others, especially pain inflicted upon foreigners of the Muslim persuasion.
IT WAS TOO EASY -
What really disheartens me is how easily America was stampeded into a thoughtless and evil war. I always figured it would take masterminds, elaborate conspiracies and highly competent operatives to fool the greater American public. Boy, was I wrong! The bum’s rush into Iraq was led by a pack of incompetent fools---barely smarter than the rest of the herd. They actually seemed to believe in it themselves! And it was mostly done right out in the open!
Remember General Shinseki---the guy who correctly predicted (actually calculated using accepted military principles) the correct number of troops it would take to get this Iraq thing over with quickly and efficiently and with minimum loss of life? Well, he met the same fate as all in the Bush Administration who ever got anything right---he was sidelined and went on to an early retirement. Meanwhile, the idiots cheered the great “Surge” as some sort of stroke of military genius and forgot the name of the general who actually got it right. The fools not only got fooled by fools, but they cheered and praised the fools who had fooled them.
It turns out that the mass of American people---so highly praised by pundits and politicians alike for their intelligence and essential decency---were actually more ignorant than intelligent; more superstitious than religious; and more self-righteous than virtuous. That’s why there is no great clamor for a “Truth Commission”---the people have just enough sense to realize that they were in on the war crimes. That’s why “the truth” in America is now considered “subversive” and to be avoided.
The great moral question of our time, perhaps of all times: If you believe in a falsehood---really, really hard and with all your might---is it still a lie? If something has been shown to be incorrect, proven over and over to be false---and yet you nevertheless, and very sincerely, believe it with a religious fervor---is it still taking the truth in vain?
George Santayana (Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás) said it: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." He also said, "Only the dead have seen the end of war."
- Rudy Wittshirk