The Iraqi Surge and Alternative Facts

Donald Trump and Kellyanne Conway didn’t invent alternative facts. The U.S. government has been peddling those for decades. Consider the recent history of the Iraq War. Recall that in 2002 it was a “slam dunk” case that Iraq had active programs to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD). (We couldn’t allow the smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud, said Condoleezza Rice.) In 2003, President George W. Bush landed on an aircraft carrier and declared that major combat operations were over in Iraq – mission accomplished! And in 2007, the “surge” orchestrated by General David Petraeus was sold as snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in Iraq. All of those are “alternative facts.” All were contradicted by the facts on the ground.

Nowadays, most people admit Iraq had no active WMD programs in 2002 and that the mission wasn’t accomplished in 2003, but the success of the surge in 2007 is still being sold as truth, notes Danny Sjursen at TomDispatch.com. Sjursen, who participated in the surge as a young Army lieutenant, notes that it did succeed in temporarily reducing sectarian violence in Iraq, but that was precisely the problem: it was temporary. The surge was supposed to allow space for a stable and representative Iraqi government to emerge, but that never happened.

A short-term tactical success, the surge was a strategic failure in the long-term. Partly this was because long-term success was never in American hands to achieve, and it certainly wasn’t attainable by US military action alone. In sum, the blood and treasure spilled in Iraq was for naught. But that harsh truth hasn’t stopped the surge from becoming a myth of US military triumph, one that led to another unsuccessful surge, this time in Afghanistan in 2009-10, also conducted by General Petraeus.

These surges sustain an alternative fact that the US military can “win” messy insurgencies and sectarian/ethnic wars, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya or Yemen or elsewhere. They contribute to hubris and the idea we can remake the world by using our military, a belief that President Trump and his bevy of generals (all veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan) seem to share and want to put into practice again. This time, they promise to get it right.

The President and the Pentagon are currently considering sending several thousand more troops to Afghanistan. This mini-surge is being advertised as America’s best chance of defeating terrorists in the AfPak region. Even though previous, and much bigger, surges in Iraq and Afghanistan were failures, the alternative fact narrative of “successful” surges remains compelling, even authoritative, among US national security experts. They may grudgingly admit that, yes, those previous surges weren’t quite perfect, but we’ve learned from those – promise!

Prepare for more troop deployments and more surges, America. And for more “victories” as alternative facts, as in lies.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

9 thoughts on “The Iraqi Surge and Alternative Facts”

  1. quote: ” In sum, the blood and treasure spilled in Iraq was for naught.”

    That depends a lot on your point of view on the antiwar cause. If it’s the top priority to you then it’s dead on the truth.

    If your priorities lie elsewhere then it becomes highly debatable Poiinting that out here is as far as I’ll take the debate. Largely because I have no confidence in readers understanding or even wanting to understand

  2. Britain took away from the Napoleonic Wars a territorial imperative in India. Which has now been separated into (among others) Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, (Bengal) Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) … the native names you probably wouldn’t recognize because it’s rendered in syllables that English as a First Language speakers can pronounce and spell easily. And they promptly went broke. Fighting insurrections, insurgents, malcontent people who don’t recognize the superiority of the European culture… my how arrogant… The UK as gone broke a few times and always because they had imperial war. Reagan and Milk Snatcher Thatcher kept telling us the rolling bankrputcies of the UK could only be blamed on socialized medicine. Ahem. During and after the first and second world wars Britannia ruled the waves but they didn’t have Socialized Anything at the time. The Reagan-Thatcher cult is alive and well, talking about Reagan tax cuts for the richest but omitting his 11 times actually raising taxes.

    Less revenue available, more tax-subsidized (worse, Bonds which are deferred taxes) War expenes… And for the past 27 years chasing after the dream of conquering the East. Not counting VietNam, Korea, and other parts of the Imperial Experiment.

    Let’s go with VietNam, shall we? According to the body counts, there were 50k americans killed and millions of VietNamese, even if only the VietMinh “Cong” were counted. The bonds for that aren’t all paid up. And the U.S. pulled out in 1975. Thats forty two years in Dog Years. Ha ha I make a funny…

    This is like playing dice and going deep in the hole, borrowing money from shady characters because you’re convinced you’re about to hit the big jackpot. It Does Not Work. In VietNam Active Combatant times, we were told every day that we had turned the corner and it was just a matter of time for the dice to roll a good number. We crapped out. And we’re still crapping out. To the point they don’t even pretend to ask our permission before they rape our bank accounts and savings and wages and whatever good name we had in the world.

    The pro-war faction tell us that General Xiap wrote a book in which he states that the DRVN was within 2 weeks of surrendering when the U.S. pulled out. Funny how there are no copies of that book. I looked it up in French, not a single copy. But they just have to keep the myth alive.

    They say, often, that the reason VietNam didn’t fall into the American Empire was because liberals in America didn’t support the war.

    1. One thing that is seldom taken into consideration in discussion of Vietnam is that of timing. In 1965 both the Soviet Union (nominally) and China (actually) were committed to world revolution. Had Vietnam become Communist in that year the psychological boost to expansionists forces in those countries may have encouraged them to continue on this path. Instead, facing frustration around the world communist leaders eventually lost interest in ideological expansion and instead focused more on their disputes with each other. By 1972 both China and the Soviet Union were competing with each other to curry the friendship of the United States, and would never again seriously promote world revolution (Russia’s later Afghan intervention, was, much as the U.S.’s in Vietnam, an essentially defensive action). It was only then that Richard Nixon decided that given that the U.S. was no longer engaged in world-wide war with either China or the U.S.S.R., forestalling a Marxist victory in Vietnam was no longer important. We will never know what the world would like today had South Vietnam fallen in 1965. But given that the most remarkable story of the late 20th century is Communism own loss of faith in itself, we should not reject the possibility that it was this country’s frustration of Marxist dreams of ideological expansion that contributed markedly to its collapse.

      1. In short, the Capitalists couldn’t beat the Communists monetarily, so they sabotaged or maybe I should be polite and say manipulated the revolutionary states through general wars, subversion and supporting any Group with a Grievance, any coalition of malcontents, as The Real Representation of The People, to wear the Communist Regimes down militarily. And terror tactics like assassinations.

        Can’t beat them in an economy versus economy standoff and no really valid way to claim social superiority, so send in the troops, preferably somebody else’s troops like the ARVN or General Chiang or the Taliban, somebody who you can convince yourself is powerless to do anything about you refusing to pay them afterward…

        Yeah, that really proves the superiority of the Elite Aristocracy.
        Especially when the Elite Aristocrats themselves can’t bring themselves to fight their own battle, and instead dupe commoners to do the actual work of conquest.

        Besides, how DARE those Peasants believe they’re capable to run their own economies without the assistance of the Financial Sector or their God Given King. Alle Sieg Heil am der aristocracy, For They Are Better Than Us!

        They made the mistake of allowing us common peasants to learn how to read and write.

  3. Its either a delusional ploy for greatness, a money making scheme, and/or a Salafi Jihadist training exercise for the future war with Iran. What better teacher than experience? The American military and its Salafi Jihadist allies gain valuable experience. Iran has a very long border with Afghanistan. Why wouldn’t the US government not seek to repeat its success in Iraq, Libya, and Syria (well until the Russians got involved)? ISIS is a highly experienced fighting force thanks to David Petraeus. The man who wanted to ally with Al Qaeda. David Petraeus was so fond of Al Qaeda that he gave them hands on experience via the surge. I guess we could give US Officials a benefit of a doubt and call them idiots but it really looks like a training and profiteering exercise.

    1. ” Why wouldn’t the US government not seek to repeat its success in Iraq, Libya, and Syria (well until the Russians got involved)”

      Smart thinking. I’ve been trying to encourage Americans to adopt the point of view that their wars are quite worthwhile expense wise. Not in the hope that they will support them more but only to encourage them to understand why they are happening. Hopefully those who are smart enough to understand will also be decent enough to understand the humanitarian crises they produce also, and be antiwar.

  4. And the Drama Queen in Chief, as the article mentioned of GW in holy shi’ite it was 15 years ago! OMG! stood on an aircraft carrier off the coast of California and declaring “FlusterCluck Accomplished” Wearing a navy jumpsuit. Well, I mangled that sentence and shan’t fix it. Donald did the same thing last week. Not quite boasting of an imaginary victory, he just made some lame-buttocks speech declaring himself Emperor of Earth and Space forever.

    I put the picture on not my tribe with the caption “Awww… isn’t that cute! He’s pretending to be a navy guy!”

  5. The “surge” did in fact bring about the military and political defeat of Al Qaeda in Iraq. It proved temporary because the Iraq has a democratically elected government. That government was not surprisingly dominated by Shias, who make up about 60% of Iraq’s population and who, under the leadership of Mr. Al-Malki, bitterly resented their former Sunni overlords, and decided to treat them with the same suspicion and repression the Sunnis had dealt with the Shia under Saddam, thus ultimately alienating the Sunnis to the point where AQI (now IS) seemed like a preferable alternative. That same democratically elected government demanded the total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq unless those troops were subject to the jurisdiction over Iraqi courts, an unacceptable condition to the U.S. public. This is the price the U.S. paid for supporting democratic government in Iraq. But the fact we promoted self-government in Iraq which ultimately sabotaged a successful U.S. military and political strategy does not mean the fact that the surge succeeded in accomplishing its goals is an “alternative fact” or a “lie”.

    1. Just, you know, allowing Peasants to believe they’re able to govern themselves without the smug leadership of the Elitist Overlords.

      Because the Overlords are so superior even though they couldn’t beat their natural servants either socially or economically so the Overlords sent legions of Armed Peasant Soldiers to beat them down with violence, and convinced those Peasant Legions to do it by lying to them about Weapons of Mass Destruction and non-existent atrocities like the Incubator Babies in Kuwait. The oil pipelines burst in the First Gulf War, was it really Saddam who ordered it or some Air Force pilot hopped up on the pharmaceutical speed issued by his “superiors” taking a wild shot that went really wrong?

      Since the only people who told us that it was on Saddam’s orders are the same lying pukes who told us the absolute crap about the Iraqi soldiers throwing babies out of incubators and stomping them to death, how exactly are we to believe sources like that?

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