Long Burden of Iraq Mistake

This originally appeared as a response to a column published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. It is reprinted with the author’s permission.

In response to the column by Rep. Greg Steube on June 26: The carnage, death and destruction brought about by the Iraq invasion and occupation are heart-wrenching, not only for those who served, like Rep. Steube, but for all Americans.

Steube correctly recognizes that President Bush made a mistake in invading Iraq. The occupation was also a mistake. Although American troops occupied Iraq for eight years, the Iraqi political process never stabilized.

Steube nevertheless blames President Obama for the collapse of the Iraqi army and the fall of a large part of Iraq to the Islamic State of Iraq.

He sets out President Obama’s mistakes as: failure to negotiate an Iraqi status-of-forces agreement and failure to help moderate Sunni insurgents fighting the al-Assad regime in Syria, thus letting al-Qaida take over the insurgency and decimate the moderates.

Steube further argues that Bush redeemed himself "when he green-lighted Gen. David Petraeus’ surge strategy and finally made victory for Americans and Iraqis a reality … and improving Iraqi forces knocked out the insurgency."

To reach the conclusion that America was victorious, Steube oversimplifies issues and overlooks critical facts and policy considerations.

A central fact is that America invaded Iraq, a weak country unable to defend itself from the most powerful country on earth. The invasion resulted in the death of Iraqis by the hundreds of thousands and massive physical devastation. Many, if not most Iraqis, viewed America as an aggressor.

Worse, the invasion and occupation have generated more enemies than friends. America may have won some hearts and minds, but most Iraqis learned to hate us and wanted us gone. A March 2008 ABC/BBC poll found that 46 percent of Iraqis said attacks on U.S. forces were acceptable. Tellingly, only 4 percent believed that U.S. forces were responsible for a drop in violence and 61 percent thought that the presence of U.S. troops worsened security.

In view of the Iraqi people’s attitude, is it surprising that their elected representative would not negotiate a status-of-forces agreement?

Other factors than the surge, such as ethnic cleansing and a tribal revolt, may have played a significant part in the insurgency’s abatement. In any event, pinpointing the cause for the decrease in violence is irrelevant because the Bush administration’s expectation for political progress as a result of the surge never happened.

As for supporting the moderate insurgents in Syria as Steube suggests, we need to ask who are the moderates and who are the extremists?

We should have learned from Iraq that a supposed friend one day is an enemy the next. Lest we forget, the insurgents we armed and financed to fight the Russians in Afghanistan attacked us on 9/11.

Another issue always looms large when considering aid to insurgents. What should be supplied: intelligence, money and material, weapons, air strikes or boots on the ground, and how much of each?

Steube states that we achieved victory in Iraq and then goes on to say that when we left Iraq, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki predictably returned to the old ways." If his crackdown on Sunnis the day we left was predictable, what was won by the surge that was supposed to open space for political progress? How long would we have had to stay until a return to the old ways was not predictable?

The most important issue that Steube overlooks is the cost of unnecessary war and foreign occupation to America. Sadly, the Iraq folly has cost us over 4,000 brave troops. Hundreds of thousands more have been maimed, injured and damaged psychologically. According to Nobel Prize Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the financial cost may end up to be $5 trillion. The current cost is a major contributor to our national debt.

When politicians want troops to fight in foreign lands, they should have the courage of their convictions and declare war. The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to make wars and to fund them. Since World War II, Congress has left these decisions to the executive branch, thereby abdicating its constitutional obligation. Nevertheless, when the wars and occupations fail, the politicians blame the executive.

We never declared war before we invaded Iraq and we borrowed trillions to fund the war instead of paying the cost, including care for the veterans, by raising taxes.

Apparently, Rep. Steube wants more of the same while he blames President Obama for the loss in Iraq.

Gene Jones is president of Florida Veterans for Common Sense Inc. a nonprofit/nonpartisan veterans group formed in opposition to the Iraq invasion.

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23 thoughts on “Long Burden of Iraq Mistake”

  1. Gene Jones said, "According to Nobel Prize Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the financial cost may end up to be $5 trillion. " That's the reason for the war right there besides, oil, Israel, and logistics! Steube is attacking Obama while defending the indefensible actions of his team. If the surge worked as promised Iraq wouldn't be so sectarian divided. He frames it from an imperial perspective. I suppose Steube is arguing that the US should fund salafi jihadist in Syria just not the ones that get bad press. He compartmentalizes the great game to avoid discussing the desire of US's masters in the Middle East and their desire to destroy Shia power. Does he think there is a well of liberal salafi jihadist out there that aren't conservative religious fanatics that are going to fight for gay and women's rights over there? Does he think there is a huge population of jihadist there that loves Israel and America and wants to jihad for the western financial empire? I think he smells blood in the water and is sticking it to the other team. Perhaps the war (the great game) against Shia and the encirclement of Russia and China isn't such a brilliant idea if he is getting so upset about the unpredictable nature of war. He isn't going to discuss the great game in the compartmentalized redmeat he throws out at the Republican rabble. The Republican rabble can say "Oh yeah baby we won with the surge but then that Kenyan messed it up" and parrot that ad nauseam.

  2. Previously, the U.S. had triggered the war in Iraq was a mistake, and that the country is not quite over, they now have to rebel invasion, the United States has been doing

  3. What happens currently in Iraq is a very sad thing for the people there. I hope that there will soon be peace and that the fanatics can be defeated and driven out of the country…

    1. I'd be happy to just let them work it out themselves. The USA has done quite enough damage there, and as bad as it is getting the USA involved can only make it worse. Which they are apparently hellbent on doing. Remember, like "terrorists" one country's "fanatic" is another's hero. What do you suppose they were saying about George Washington back when he was an anti-British colonial agitator?

  4. The endless war in and on Iraq reminds me of what Thomas Szasz said about the endless war on drugs. To turn his phrase, it's a mass movement characterized by the demonizing of certain objects and persons as the incarnations of evil. Hence, it is foolish to dwell on the warrior’s failure to attain his avowed aims. Since he wages war on evil, his very effort is synonymous with success.

  5. Iraq invasion wasn't done by mistake. It was a crime committed consciously, hence why they consciously made up lies and propaganda to try to justify it, same as Hitler and every other war criminal did and do, without exception.

    1. Yeah, it's a bit of a stretch to claim it was a "mistake" when pretty much all the manufactured so-called "evidence" was being called out on the spot at the time. Likewise the warnings about exactly this outcome, the lies of Curveball and various other dodgy tools who were employed for the scam. There really is no place to hide that guilt, but my god are they spinning it.

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