An American correspondent emails me: "We erred thinking that the Iraqis would prefer freedom to Saddam. Some people are freedom-loving and some aren't...Like in WWII, we came to Iraq as liberators, not conquerors. But the Iraqis didn't get it.
My response: No, the Americans didn't get it. Many if not most Iraqis were indeed, initially, happy that Saddam was gone, but were suspicious of the motivations of the Americans. Then they watched as the Americans rushed in to guard the oil fields, fire the Baathist police force, the army, the bureaucracy, and dismiss the Baathist party which had ruled since 1963. The Baathists, for all their brutality, at least knew how things worked, had maintained order and the power grid. Without them, law and order fell apart and disorder prevailed. (See "10 Mistakes of the Iraq War," from the perspective of Col. Ted Spain.)
We sent only about 100,000 troops to Iraq. We probably needed about half a million troops to restore and maintain order, but President Bush could not rally or muster support from the American people for that strong a commitment, especially after no WMDs were found. As Iraq descended into civil war, he finally understood the need for more troops in 2006. With the troop surge, we were able to pull the Iraqis back from civil war and re-establish enough order so we didn't leave Iraq with an ignominous defeat. However, now that we've left, Iraq seems to have returned to if not large-scale civil war, small scale civil war. Not a good outcome for them, or us.
You are exactly right......I have said for years that it was dumb to disband the Iraqi army. Turns out that the idiot who was put in charge (US envoy Paul Bremer) did that without Presidential approval...Bush didn't know it happened until after it happened. Things started going wrong when Bremer told his predecessor who was working with the sheiks, etc. to form a government to thank the Arabs, but they could go home..."This is an American show."
Factually incorrect. Bremer communicated with President Bush and the Joint Chiefs of Staffs in advance stating that the plan was to disband the army; they acknowledged his plan and didn't object to it. Bremer's decision was rational at the time because the U.S. certainly didn't want to trust Saddam's army and Saddam's bureaucracy. This revealed how poorly thought out the whole operation was because there were few Iraqis we Americans trusted to run the country.
So, you're saying, due to America's poor planning, Iraqis saw their country dissolve into violent chaos?
Yes. Looters and criminals had free reign. Al Qaeda, which Saddam had not tolerated, saw a great opportunity, and rushed into sew more chaos. The Sunni minority, feeling displaced by Saddam's ouster and the growing political power of the Shias, organized an insurgency. Al Qaeda moved into the power vaccum to create further chaos by launching car bombs.Then as the American army was placed in charge of the country in order to restore order, the Iraqis knew it was an occupation not a liberation.
You know, Americans made mistakes in their occupations of Germany and Japan after World War II as well. But that didn't prevent the Germans and Japanese from creating what everyone now agrees were "economic miracles." It's past time for the Iraqis to stop blaming the Americans, take responsibility and pull themselves up after all the largesse we've given them.
So this is your response to a war that cost American taxpayers $767 billion and was a strategic victory for Iran?? A war in which the Inspector General has determined that at least eight billion of $60 billion spent on Iraqi reconstruction was completely wasted?? You might not take such a forgiving attitude if you read We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, by Peter Van Buren. It's an American foreign service officer's caustic account of his time in Iraq. The first chapter is available for free on Amazon.com. All you can do is laugh at the absurdity of the American mission and how ungrounded in reality it was. As an American taxpayer, you should be absolutely appalled at the waste, fraud and abuse.
The waste of resources was phenomenal -- unqualified contractors were paid $250,000 a year to go to Iraq without even being interviewed first -- former yoga instructors became "women's empowerment specialists"; $80,000 was spent to translate American classic books into Arabic, only to be dumped into garbage bins because the Iraqis had no capacity to teach or understand such books. As a taxpayer, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
I have no doubt billions were wasted and that the operation probably should not have taken place as it did. Not my argument. My argument is to give them credit for trying to do something worthwhile.
You give them credit?? Where is your outrage as a taxpayer? $767 billion was spent on an operation that wasn't just a failure of American aspirations to rid Iraq and the world of a ruthless dictator and impose democracy on Iraq. IT IS, most probably, A STRATEGIC VICTORY FOR IRAN. It isn't just a terrible misjudgment if not dishonest assessment of wmds that did not exist, in that the President and his advisors were close-minded and pressured the CIA and other agencies to tell them only what they wanted to hear. They ignored or buried intelligence from high-level sources close to Saddam that WMDs had been destroyed, and ignored former Marine and weapons inspector Scott Ritter's very public declaration that all Saddam had was "harmless goo."
It might. But aren't our leaders accountable for their decisions? In Britain at least they launched an inquiry and held hearings on the mistakes in Iraq, and forced Tony Blair to defend his judgments. I daresay George W. Bush could not defend himself as well as Blair.
Yes, I think 9/11 rattled and spooked Bush and co. They panicked in a crisis, and demonstrated very poor judgment in Iraq. Shouldn't they be held to account? Or does America's leadership prefer not to look back and learn from its many mistakes?