About why we invaded Iraq (here we go again, y’all…)

OK, I’ll bite on bud’s parenthetical back on this thread:

(As a side note, its, funny how the folks who wanted that war in the first place pretend it acutally started with the “surge”, forgetting the fabricated justifications that led to the initial invation.)

While I know I won’t get anywhere with bud (he and I have had this conversation too many times for me to entertain false hopes), I believe that every once in a while — say once a year at least — I should rise up and contest the conventional “wisdom” that we went into Iraq based on a pack of lies.

Nothing that causes me to conclude that we should go into Iraq later proved to be false. I say this with all due respect to people who didn’t think we should have gone in to start with. A legitimate case could have been made at the time that invasion at that time was not the best way to achieve our goals. But saying, after the fact, that all the reasons to go in were lies is itself a lie. I know, because I know why I believed we needed to take that action.

I also know that nothing I have ever written or thought has ever pretended that the war started with the surge. On the contrary, what you will find is that the surge was the moment when we finally started prosecuting the effort the right way, instead of the Rumsfeld way. (I know that some folks’ minds are boggled by the concept that whether we should have been in Iraq and whether we were going about it the right way are two separate questions, but I ask them to bear with me on that point.)

As for the “fabricated justifications”… first, I’ll refer you to a post on my blog from last year, headlined “Why we went to war in Iraq.” It was inspired by an opinion piece I had read in the WSJ by Doug Feith. bud’s reaction at the time was “Doug Feith is full of s***.” Perhaps you will agree, but I urge you to go back and read it.

Then, going back further, to before the invasion itself, I refer you to my column of Feb. 2, 2003. You won’t find a lot of talk about WMDs and other such distractions. You will find a lot of stuff about “draining swamps.” The need to do that, after 9/11 showed that our old strategy of maintaining the status quo in the region was extraordinarily dangerous to this county, combined with the fact that Saddam had been violating for a decade the terms of the 1991 cease-fire, constituted the argument for me.

Anyway, here’s that column in its entirety:

Published on: 02/02/2003
Edition: FINAL
Page: D2
Editorial Page Editor
AMERICA SEES ITSELF, quite admirably, as a nation that doesn’t go around starting fights, but is perfectly willing and able to end them once they start.
Because of that, President Bush has a tall hill to climb when it comes to persuading the American people that, after 10 years of keeping Saddam Hussein in his box, we should now go in after him, guns blazing.
In his State of the Union address, the president gave some pretty good reasons why we need to act in Iraq, but were they good enough? I don’t know. Probably not. It’s likely that no one outside of the choir loft was converted by his preaching on the subject. And that’s a problem. Overall, while there have been moments over the last 16 months when he has set out the situation with remarkable clarity, those times have been too few and far between.
He has my sympathy on this count, though: His efforts have been hampered by the fact that the main reason we may need to invade Iraq is one that the president can’t state too clearly without creating more problems internationally than it would solve. At the same time, it’s a reason that seems so obvious that he shouldn’t have to state it. We should all be able to figure it out.
And yet, it seems, we don’t.
I hear people asking why, after all this time, we want to go after Saddam now. He was always a tyrant, so what’s changed? North Korea is probably closer to a nuclear bomb than he is, they say, so why not go after Kim Jong Il first?
We left him in power a decade ago, they ask, so why the change?
The answer to all of the above is: Sept. 11.
Before that, U.S. policy-makers didn’t want to destabilize the status quo in the Mideast. What we learned on Sept. 11 is that the status quo in the region is unacceptable. It must change.
Change has to start somewhere, and Iraq is the best place to insert the lever, for several reasons — geography, culture, demographics, but most of all because Saddam Hussein has given us all the justification we need to go in and take him out: We stopped shooting in 1991 because he agreed to certain terms, and he has repeatedly thumbed his nose at those agreements.
Iraq may not be the best place in the world to try to nurture a liberal democracy, but it’s the best shot we have in the Mideast.
I’m far from the only one saying this. The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, who has more knowledge of the region in his mustache than I’ll ever have, has said it a number of times, most recently just last week:

“What threatens Western societies today are not the deterrables, like Saddam, but the undeterrables — the boys who did 9/11, who hate us more than they love life. It’s these human missiles of mass destruction that could really destroy our open society. . . . If we don’t help transform these Arab states — which are also experiencing population explosions — to create better governance, to build more open and productive economies, to empower their women and to develop responsible news media that won’t blame all their ills on others, we will never begin to see the political, educational and religious reformations they need to shrink their output of undeterrables.”

Journalists can say these things, and some do. But if the president does, the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Syrians and just about everybody else in the region will go nuts. In European capitals, and even in certain circles here at home, he will be denounced as the worst sort of imperialist. Osama bin Laden’s followers will seize upon such words as proof that the West has embarked upon another Crusade — not for Christ this time, but for secular Western culture.
None of which changes the fact that the current state of affairs in Arab countries and Iran is a deadly threat to the United States. So we have to do something about it. We’ve seen what doing nothing gets us — Sept. 11. Action is very risky. But we’ve reached the point at which inaction is at least as dangerous.
Should we go in as conquerors, lord it over the people of Iraq and force them to be like us? Absolutely not. It wouldn’t work, anyway. We have to create conditions under which Iraqis — all Iraqis, including women — can choose their own course. We did that in Germany and Japan, and it worked wonderfully (not that Iraq is Germany or Japan, but those are the examples at hand). And no one can say the Germans are under the American thumb.
But that brings us to a problem. The recalcitrance of the Germans, the French and others undermines the international coalition that would be necessary to nation-building in Iraq. It causes another problem as well:
Maybe we could accomplish our goal without invading Iraq — which of course would be preferable. By merely threatening to do so, we could embolden elements within the country to overthrow him, which might provide us with certain opportunities.
But the irony is that people aren’t going to rise up against Saddam as long as Europeans and so many people in this country fail to support the president’s goal of going after him. As long as they see all this dissension, they’ll likely believe (rightly) that Saddam might just hang on yet again.
If the United Nations, or at least the West, presented a united front, the possibility of Saddam collapsing without our firing a shot would be much greater. But for some reason, too many folks in Europe and in this country don’t see that. Or just don’t want to.
Maybe somebody should point it out to them.

Argue that we could have pursued other courses to achieve our legitimate goals. Fine. But don’t tell me the reasons I was persuaded we should invade were lies. I know better.

39 thoughts on “About why we invaded Iraq (here we go again, y’all…)

  1. bud

    It’s probably best not to debunk in any great detail all the various arguments for the war, for the surge and all the other crap that people posit about the Iraq disaster. But until we can finally acknowledge as a nation these kinds of actions ALWAYS result in a huge amount of human misery and a staggering financial burden then we will be forever doomed to believe all the grand proclamations that preceed these misguided attempts to foist our way of life on others. The twisted logic of those who insist on fighting wars, whether it relates to WMD or draining swamps is simply a guise to paper over the real purpose of these endevours. We fight these wars in order to enrich the coffers of big military contractors and to continue having reasons to celebrate military holidays such as Veterans Day. As a secondary reason, folks really seem to enjoy building monuments on the Mall in DC. Heck, even I admit they are impressive.

    But the illusion that these events ever have one scintilla’s worth of credibility that they enhance our security should be exposed for the utter nonsense that it is. If a big monument is important why don’t we build one for the moon landing or the eradication of small pox? I’d be just as impressed by something like that.

    War is a horrible event. Too bad we feel this need to have a war every 20 years just so we can continue some sort of national tradition. That’s a mindset that needs to end.

  2. Karen McLeod

    To the best of my memory, it was Colin Powell’s pictures and arguments that supposedly showed WMD’s that finally tipped the balance toward war. It was later shown that the intelligence he was provided with was unreliable (Gen. Powell was apparently used by the administration; his honesty was respected, and he was trusted). However, if I am reading you correctly, you’re saying that we went in there specifically to remove their form of government and replace it with our form of government. How is this not going in “as conquorers” lording it over the Iraquis and forcing them to be like us? War is by definition the act of onw country violently imposing it’s will on another. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you read Mark Twain’s “war prayer” (you can google it). How does inflicting this kind of suffering on another country encourage the people of that country to become more open and trusting? How does this teach them to like us? It seems to me that our invasion of Iraq cost us friends, increased middle east hatred of us, and all the while costing us thousands of soldiers’ lives, and the Iraquis tens of thousands of men, women, and childrens’ lives. And it seems to me, that given that we know what war does to the country it’s being fought in, that we were fools if we went in for that reason.

  3. Brad Warthen

    Yes, Karen, I’ve read the War Prayer. I’m quite familiar with all the reasons why war is hell, and the laws of unintended consequences, and all the other reasons why war is not healthy for children and other living things.

    I sort of wish, when I try to explain my reasons for advocating military action in a specific instance, people would assume that I know all of those things, and applaud the noble thoughts and attitudes they represent, and, having absorbed all of that, have concluded that nevertheless in this instance the consequences of not acting could be worse than acting.

    One of the most difficult concepts to communicate in this debate has been the reasons why 9/11 changed everything. Before 9/11, we fought wars (or at least, one war) to preserve the status quo in the Mideast. 9/11 showed that the status quo in the Mideast was intolerable. This is NOT (as those who wish to construct straw men to knock over insist) about Saddam being personally involved in the 9/11 plot or anything like that. It was about changing regimes — and Saddam had given us every justification for doing so in his case — so that an alternative to the status quo could emerge.

    Where Bush and Rumsfeld went horribly wrong, undermining the moral justification for the initial action, was in failing to provide sufficient security for a POSITIVE alternative to the status quo ante to emerge. They failed to do that, and kept failing to do that, and in their case the unforgivable arrogance was NOT in “imposing our way on others,” but rather in assuming that a total laissez faire approach in the postwar environment would lead to a good result. Maybe it couldn’t have been done (in which case the invasion WAS wrong, as it would fail a key test of Just War theory). Or maybe it just wasn’t tried, until the surge.

    Antiwar folks like to portray the hawks as having been inexcusably optimistic about how EASY Iraq would be. I never thought it would be easy, nor did such advocates as Lindsey Graham and John McCain. But there seems little question that many of those actually running the show WERE far too sanguine about it all. (Just as, even though the WMDs were not MY reason for favoring action, for many people they were THE reason.) And that was unforgivable.

    I mentioned Just War parenthetically. One of the barriers to a meeting of the minds on this is that many people of good will simply don’t believe there is any such thing. I get the impression that describes both bud and Karen. Fine. Pacifism is a respectable position.

    But once you acknowledge that any war is just — once you say that yes, the Allies had to land at Normandy and inflict horrific harm upon France in order to wrest Europe from the grip of the Nazis — then it becomes a question of whether this or that use of force is justified.

    And that is the kind of conversation I have tried to have about this from the beginning: War is horrible, but in this case, is force justified?

  4. Brad Warthen

    I want to emphasize that I was trying to be respectful to Karen in what I said. Reading back over that first paragraph in my previous comment, I can see how it could be taken as sarcastic.

    But I didn’t mean that. I meant that I KNOW war is horrible, that innocent people suffer in war. I know that. And I do wrestle with it, and worry about it. I force myself to read and watch things that call into question the justness of this conflict in just the ways Karen suggests. Watch the HBO series, “Generation Kill,” for instance. It rather inescapably made the case that even for highly disciplined troops (in this case, U.S. Marines) representing a nation with the best of motives, the actual prosecution of war on the ground at the tip of the spear is shockingly random and horrible, an experience in which the instantaneous “shoot or don’t shoot” decision is NOT always answered correctly. The simple dilemma of manning a roadblock raises moral and ethical questions that cause a reasonable person to think, “Why the hell are we here doing this?” — especially after shooting unarmed people who simply failed to understand the order to halt? And such dilemmas are inevitable in war. And if I were the one doing the shooting, I would find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to live with myself afterwards. I could easily see being one of those psychological casualties. I firmly believe that the most awful thing we ask of our troops is not to DIE in the service of their country, but to KILL in that same service.

    I think about all these things (and a fascinating book on that last point is On Killing, by Dave Grossman), and yet arrive at the conclusion that sometimes we actually need to use these armed forces we have in pursuit of legitimate national interests and values.

  5. bud

    Brad makes iron clad arguments why we shouldn’t have involved ourselves in Iraq, virtually no coherent arguement why we should be there then supports the war anyway. Unbelievable.

  6. Karen McLeod

    The problem is, you can’t win people to your side if they hate your guts. Therefore, attacking them to force a change of government to something your nation wants is self defeating. It was foreseeable that our efforts to bring peace, and a democratic, friendly form of government could not be effected by the use of warfare. And those folks have long memories (they’re still ticked at Christians for the crusades). Rather than winning freedom for the Iraquis, and creating a friendly nation in the mideast, we have toppled a government, and, in the process, have increased the emnity which that part of the world bears toward us. Think of it this way: what if the situation had been reversed. We had been threatening Hussein for some time. And our country is certainly politically and culturally inimical to his. What if Iraq had attacked us? Most especially if they had attacked us after accusing us of having a threatening weapon that we did not have? And what if they invaded, destroyed our infrastructure, and inflicted severe “collateral damage” on our families and friends? Even those of us who had little use for the previous administration would be unlikely to embrace theirs. I think that they would have created a hatred in this country of their culture and political system that would have lasted for long after they left. In world war II we were fighting a war of self defense. Germany and Japan were flattened and their cultures utterly destroyed. They had no ability left to fight. We had a chance to build there because nothing was left. Trying to compare the two situations is like comparing apples to orangutans. And, no, Europe wasn’t going to help us. They did not perceive this as a just war (Afganistan they understood–self defense). They were applying pressure to Saddam through the UN, and did not believe that the situation justified a war. And they told us so in advance. In short, this was an ineffective use of our armed forces, and we should have foreseen that.

  7. Burl Burlingame

    The CIA and the Pentagon under Clinton had several occupation plans drawn up should the US have to invade Iraq. These were detailed and logical. When it actually happened under Bush/Cheney, these planning documents were scrapped and replaced with …. wishful thinking.
    The prosecution of the war in Iraq was masterful. Everything that happened immediately afterward was completely retarded and made me wonder about the administration’s competence. Their motives are beside the point.
    BTW, the war was “lost” the day Abu Gharaib became public.

  8. Burl Burlingame

    Also, as much as I disliked Bush/Cheney, the “Bush Doctrine” of not allowing terrorists safe haven in foreign countries was a good call.
    Anyone who expected the U.S. not to be pro-active following 9/11 was fooling themselves.

  9. Brad Warthen

    Karen, a solid barrier between us is the fact that you consider the invasion to have been “attacking” the Iraqi people, and I do not. At this point, the more sarcastic antiwar folks like to say things like, “well, when a bomb hits your house and kills your family, you don’t much care about the terminology.” But intentions do matter. And there are demonstrably some Iraqis who consider us to have “attacked” the Iraqi people. But there are plenty of others who do not. And I suspect there are as many gradations of nuance in attitudes between hating Americans and being grateful to them as there are individual Iraqis. That’s human nature. Even Iraqis who regarded our toppling Saddam as a good and necessary thing — and I’m talking people who believe that in the abstract, not just because they are Shi’a or whatever — can resent us because it doesn’t feel good to need foreign help in doing that.

    Such feelings feed insurgencies, and such other phenomena as suicide bombers. But for some time now the trend has been in the opposite direction, with the Iraqis who for whatever reason by into a partnership with the U.S. ending in the Americans standing aside as Iraqis take over security duties being in the ascendance. In other words, the attitude that Americans were doing something other than attacking their country, or at least the tendency of people to act as though they believe that, is in the ascendance. And that’s very positive.

  10. Karen McLeod

    I can hope it will still turn out ok. However, I can only consider the Iraq war another paving stone on the road to Hell.

  11. Kathryn Fenner

    I bet I wouldn’t have to try too hard to find ten people who would like to be liberated from the Obama “regime.” By force of foreign military, if they could pick which one. I believe at least one posted on this blog.

  12. Burl Burlingame

    War itself is not a bad thing; the reasons for prosecuting a conflict, however, need to be unambiguous. Getting rid of Saddam is a good thing. Creating a war as a corporate enrichment program is not. If you’re going to invade a country without a morning-after plan, you are simply inviting disaster, unless you are deliberately doing so to create political chaos within which extralegal corporations can plunder resources …. resources like the American treasury.
    The plans existed. But they were deliberately ignored. Why?
    This is not the military’s fault. They’ve behaved brilliantly. But they were thrown out there without a net.

  13. bud

    War is itself a bad thing. Period. Sometimes the alternative is worse though. I would suggest that situation is very rare. WW I, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq are certainly instances where US involvement was unnecessary. WW II was something we couldn’t avoid.

    Brad’s WW II analogy is hopelessly ridiculous. Let’s count the ways:

    Nazi Germany declared war on the US. Iraq never did.

    Nazi Germany was an advanced industrial nation capable of significant destruction worldwide.
    Iraq was a hapless backward country with only oil as an asset. They represented zero threat outside their own country.

    Nazi Germany had advanced nerve gas, a viable nuclear weapons program and the most sophisticated rocketry program in the world.
    As was becoming clear through the efforts of the arms inspectors Iraq had nothing more dangerous than a few old scud missles.

    The Nazis were slaughtering millions of people in Europe and threatened millions of others, especially Jews. Iraq had largely ended it’s Reagan-era genocide years earlier. Except for a tiny handful of anti-Saddam insurgents the country was largely at peace and it’s people were slowly building a prosperous future.

    The invasion of Normandy included thousands of free French troops. The invasion of Iraq was pretty much an American-only affair with very few Iraqi supporters.

    The entire Iraqi experience has proven to be a disaster of epic proportions. We’ve spent the last 5 years trying to clean up the mess we created. Car bombings still continue. Oil production is just barely what it was pre-2003. There are still thousands of refugees.

    To claim this endevour has served ANY useful purpose is nothing short of a Pollyanish effort to convince oneself that they see something entirely different from reality.

    Hopefully we can be out of the place in a couple of years and the Iraqi people can rebuild what we have destroyed. And hopefully the Iraqi people have a short memory. But perhaps that is Pollyanish thinking.

  14. Marge Lebowski

    Are we more secure from another terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 than we were 8 years ago? Or has the war only intensified the Middle East’s hatred of us and created hundreds (if not thousands) of future terrorists?

  15. Brad Warthen

    Ahem. I did NOT compare Iraq to WWII. After six years of this argument, I know that’s just a sure way to set off the antiwar folks, because they feel like you’re trying to outflank them and seize the high ground in a completely unfair manner. So I don’t do it.

    What I DID do was say that to some extent in these arguments, I sometimes get the strong impression that I am arguing with pacifists. And with all due respect to pacifists, whether ANY war is just is a different argument than whether this one or that one is just compared to others.

    So, since we had been talking about the inevitable harm done to noncombatants and their homes and livelihoods in war, I used the invasion of Normandy as a way of raising the question of whether any such action is justified by the intended ends. I wanted to try to settle that before we moved on to discussing whether this or that invasion or intervention is justified.

    Iraq is not Europe in 1944. By the same token, Afghanistan is not Vietnam (nor is or was Iraq). A general who fights the last war is generally doomed to lose this one. (Similarly, an antiwar activist who claims this war is the last one is similarly confused in my book.)

    This of course is not to say that you can’t learn things from one conflict that is useful in another. For instance, to get us back to the sensitive issue of what killing does to the killer as well as the killed — studies of the fact that soldiers seldom fired their weapons to kill in past wars led to huge shifts in the training of U.S. soldiers, so that by Vietnam, and even more so by the early 90s, U.S. soldiers were conditioned to quickly fix on a target and fire to hit it, without taking time to think (and thereby letting the natural human aversion to killing to interfere). This partly explains why in the battle of Mogadishu on Oct. 3, 1993 (my 40th birthday, which is why I remember it), 17 Americans were killed and something close to 1,000 Somalis were. (I say “partly,” because the overwhelming firepower of helicopter gunships played a role as well.) The Somali militia fired their Kalashnikovs wildly, almost randomly, while Americans wasted no ammunition.

    The increase in fire rates, and the deadliness of that fire, is a significant element of the superior training that distinguishes the U.S. military from so many of the adversaries it faces. It also distinguishes today’s American soldier from his own predecessors in WWII and previous conflicts, who often did not fire or deliberately fired to miss. It’s an example of how lessons learned in one conflict are applied with effect in a later one. It’s also a reason why we have so many psychological casualties today, according to Dave Grossman — if you delay the thinking about it until after you’ve shot to kill, the personal cost can be horrific.

    But I digress…

  16. Brad Warthen

    Ms. Lebowski and I just passed each other, so I’ll address her now:

    First, why did you switch from “Maude” to “Marge?”

    Second, the answer to your questions is “yes.”

    I’m sure that any military action (justified or unjustified) we took in response to 9/11 would have, and did, cause disaffected young Muslims to flock to fight what the Iranian regime is pleased to call “the Great Satan.” I’m sure that happened in Iraq, and there’s no question it’s still happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    It’s also hard to argue with the fact that in the past 8 years, such terrorists have been motivated to go fight our forces in those forward areas OVER THERE, as opposed to striking the U.S. homeland. Sure, there have been some inept attempts here, but they’ve been stopped. It’s really rather startling (and we should all knock on a huge piece of wood as I say this), that there have been no more 9/11s. It has always seemed to me that the terrorists have the advantage of initiative, and I’m surprised they haven’t acted on it. I’m pleased, but surprised. I really didn’t expect the measures taken by this nation — both in terms of security at home and taking the fight elsewhere — to work as well as they did.

    I hate to say it, but another 9/11 still seems highly likely to me. I’m just surprised it hasn’t happened before now.

  17. bud

    We get a peek into the thinking of war supporters. They are just fascinated with this stuff. From the monuments to the various holidays to the detailed description of how soldiers kill. It all serves as a justification for war. It just feels good to these people. Why? Heck it boggles my mind to just read about all this celebration of war. On the national mall alone we have a memorial to Grant, a small WW I monument, a huge WW II memorial, one for Vietnam and one for Korea. Do we see anything on display related to the 1969 moon landing? A small display is featured in the Air and Space Museum but not much more than that. Do we erect enormous statues of people who helped eradicate polio or small pox? Not to my knowledge.

    This whole “war is honorable” crap is something of a national obsession. It masks over the horror by substituting the bravery of the soldier for the crass decission making process of the civilian leaders. As long as the soldier fought bravely it’s ok to wage a horrible war. We can just build a monument. That will make everything all right.

    Until our national mindset changes we will continue to read these convoluted explainations as to why we need to send thousands of troops thousands of miles to kill people in some harmless country with 1/100 the military capability that we have. Until we understand the grotesque circumstances of war for what it is vs. some honorable sport waged by noble combatants then we will forever condem our young men and women to destruction.

    The Europeans finally got the message. They stay away from conflicts that have nothing to do with national security. After the carnage of many useless wars in the 19th century the countries of Europe decided to enter into a huge arms race along with a maze of alliances. The idea was to deter aggression. Did it work? Of course not, the armies existed to they had to be used. The result was WW I. The war to end all wars failed to do that of course and we saw carnage on the grandest scale during the 1940s.

    But America was shielded from the worst of the killing during the world wars and perhaps didn’t get the message. So we wage wars every 20 years to satiate our appetite for combat. Each war will inevitably contain it’s justifications, often fabricated, to explain how our security is in danger. Of course our security is never enhanced and we have to repeat the effort with new fictional enemies a generation later. Soon you won’t be able to walk through the mall in DC because of all the war monuments, memorials and placks. Too bad we can’t just build a nice park there dedicated to peace. Wouldn’t that be a nice way to build our capitol?

  18. Brad Warthen

    Actually, bud, the book I was referring to, “On Killing,” goes on at length on the question of what have we done to our soldiers by making them more efficient killers. My point is the precise opposite of the one that you raise with your talk of monuments and glorification. What I said, and what you say about what I said, don’t line up.

    You’ve sort of acknowledged that in previous comments, such as when you said “Brad makes iron clad arguments” against war. But what you’re missing is that I see, and even dwell upon, the things that cause you and others to recoil at the horrors of war.

    And I know that it’s hard for you to understand that I ponder such things and still sometimes favor military action, but I do. And by trying to caricature my views as being those that Twain satirized in “The War Prayer” or those that build monuments and celebrate the glory, you miss the mark.

  19. Doug Ross

    Brad says:

    “Sure, there have been some inept attempts here, but they’ve been stopped.”

    The tragedy of 9/11 was due as much to inept security precautions on planes as it was to the actions taken by the terrorists. A couple locked cabin doors and armed pilots would have negated any reason to invade Iraq. 9/11 wasn’t Pearl Harbor… it was two dozen box cutters.

    As a very frequent flier, all I can say is that the government’s over-reaction in regards to airport security won’t mean a thing when the terrorists decide to do something horrible again. The TSA is the government’s howitzer approach to killing mosquitos.

  20. martin

    No one is going to change anyone’s mind at this point. Everybody lived through it and has different perspectives which led to different opinions of what happened and how.
    It can come up a million times and minds won’t be changed.

  21. Burl Burlingame

    American soldiers are encouraged to play “first person shooter” video games which further depersonalizes the enemy. On the other hand, they’re trained not to waste ammo and to hit what they’re aiming at. This leads to high-efficiency fire rates — which cuts down on collateral injuries. Somalis hosing down whole neighborhoods with AKs were often as much danger to themselves as the enemy.
    Both of the Iraq campaigns were fought with classic WWII-style maneuvering. It’s the aftermath we deliberately weren’t prepared for, which is ironic, because the post-war experience of World War I led to intensive post-war planning during World War II.

  22. Brad Warthen

    Perhaps not, Martin. And maybe I was wrong to respond to the subject. I hope, though, that I at least established that the reasons I and many others wanted us to go into Iraq were not based on “fabricated justifications.” That was my initial intent in this post.

    Doug, you’re right in that our government is at a disadvantage in trying to prevent another 9/11. That would remain the fact with locked cabin doors and armed pilots. Measures lead naturally to countermeasures, and it’s the very nature of asymmetrical warfare that the one on offense, the one with initiative, has an advantage. Our government has to succeed EVERY time in stopping them, and they only have to be successful once.

    That’s why it’s so surprising that we’ve been so long without another major attack on our soil.

  23. bud

    Martin you are 100% correct. No one is going to change there mind. In fact I didn’t want to get into another round of debunking the pro-war folks justifications. But to sit back and allow others to frame the debate in ways so far removed from the facts is something I just can’t ignore.

  24. Karen McLeod

    I’m fascinated by your comment on the US being less likely to be attacked because we carried the war elsewhere. You may have a point there, but won’t we have to keep the war going “elsewhere” in order to keep minimizing the threat, and since it does encourage many of their young men to fight us, how long can we keep it up? And what happens when we stop fighting the war ‘over there’? BTW, Brad, I apologize if I seemed to imply that you weren’t aware of the horrors of war. I simply meant to point out the oxymoronic relationship between intended improvement, (freedom and friendly, stable government) and the actual results of war (death, destruction, and hatred).

  25. Brad Warthen

    Thanks, Karen.

    Burl raises the point of our most stunning failure in Iraq.

    In the aftermath of the actual war in 03, I kept thinking, “Excuse me, but isn’t the United States the country that so masterfully guided Germany and Japan to peaceful stability? The country that sent Strom Thurmond and other public affairs types in on GLIDERS on D-Day so that there would be people in place to set up stable governmental structures in the wake of the carnage? Didn’t anybody take any notes on how to do that, and keep them?”

    I cited the book “Generation Kill” above (the account of a Rolling Stone correspondent imbedded with Marines who were on the tip of the spear in the invasion). Perhaps the most painful part of reading that book was the account of how, after taking Baghdad, those Marines sat there and watched with horror as chaos reined around them, and awaited orders to deal with it, and slowly realized that there was no plan…

  26. Burl Burlingame

    Unless the chaos was deliberate. Corporations like Halliburton, KPR and BlackWater have made taxpayer billions due primarily to the inexplicable failure of the US to have a morning-after plan.

    Speaking of stunning failures — Abu Gharaib. The war was lost in the hearts and minds of the population we were trying to reach from that moment on, and there came no question that the US presence in Iraq would be limited in the future, which means a failure providing stability in the region.

    Abu Gharaib is actually two failures:

    * Letting it happen in the first place. Such actions run counter to all we claim to represent.

    * Not keeping a lid on it. Shows how lightly we considered the effects of such actions.

  27. David

    Unless the chaos was deliberate.

    As much as I believe the Iraq War was a mistake, as much as I disrespect GWB, as much as I think he botched the war, I must refuse to believe in conspiracy theories.

  28. Kathryn Fenner

    You sound a lot like a Christopher Buckley plot–the deliberate chaos as money-making strategy…

    bud is right. War *is* a bad thing. There may be worse evils. Brad—you are a military brat–perhaps this colors your perceptions more than you realize? My dad got a deferral as part of a critical national industry–he worked for the nuclear defense laboratory–trust me–while I can see the deterrent value of having the bomb, I wish that “genius” had never been let out of the bottle.

    As a German non-nihilist, I wonder if Marge Lebowski is related to Maude Gunderson?

  29. Maude Lebowski

    Brad, I inadvertantly logged in as Marge (I post as Marge Simpson on another board) and the blog has set my proxy name as that. Sometimes I forget to change it. Is there a way to log out and log back in to correct it?

    I don’t know if I can buy into the “just war” ideology, but it does seem as if war is sometimes a necessary evil. When I think about Iraq and Afghanistan I ask myself if these wars are going to produce a more secure existence for myself and my children not just today but 20 years from now. Like Karen, I can’t find comfort in the notion that our military presence is keeping terrorists “over there” because that means either 1)We can never leave or 2)Terrorists will re-group and strike again when we do leave.

    I disagree with Martin too. People do change opinions and ideologies over time. At least the intelligent, open-minded ones do.

  30. Kathryn Fenner

    More support for Burl’s theory–

    The Rumsfeld-Cheney strategy– cut taxes for the rich and programs to assist the poor and middle-class, favor policies to send jobs overseas, so the best option for a lot of young people is to volunteer for the military. Then invade on a cooked-up pretext so ordinary decent people will think it’s a Just War. Then when it all goes pear-shaped, say “look, it’s an all volunteer force–they knew what they were getting into. Besides, now we can’t cut and run.”

  31. Burl Burlingame

    Doesn’t have to be a conspiracy. Just a quickness to cash in.
    While the conflict in Iraq has hit the American public in the wallet, there are certainly folks who have profited mightily from it.

  32. bud

    With all due respect Marge I just don’t believe folks are going to change their mind about Iraq. There is absolutely nothing that Brad can say to change my mind. The endless carnage we’ve created more than offsets any benefits we may achieve. The claims given about those benefits are all vague at best and downright fradulent at worst.

    As for Brad and his pro-war bretheren just read what they write. It’s simply astounding that they can acknowledge the costs and still, STILL think this was a good idea. So any sort of accounting of costs and benefits seems to fall on deaf ears with the pro-war folks.

    Hence we have a debate stalemate. The only thing now is for the electoral process to determine who will get their way. Sadly it looks like the pro-war folks will continue to get their way and we will stay in Iraq forever. Yet I hold out hope that Obama will eventually pull every single American soldier out of Iraq. So far he’s failed me but I remain optimistic.

  33. Burl Burlingame

    Hmmmm. Maybe the Iraq War is just a kind of stimulus package to provide jobs for kids today!

  34. David

    There’s no doubt that there is money to be made in war. There’s no doubt that some were quick to profit in Iraq at the American taxpayer’s expense.

    That doesn’t mean the President of the United States deliberately f—ed up the Iraq War so private companies could benefit from the aftermath. That’s plain absurd.

  35. David

    The Rumsfeld-Cheney strategy– cut taxes for the rich and programs to assist the poor and middle-class, favor policies to send jobs overseas, so the best option for a lot of young people is to volunteer for the military. Then invade on a cooked-up pretext so ordinary decent people will think it’s a Just War. Then when it all goes pear-shaped, say “look, it’s an all volunteer force–they knew what they were getting into. Besides, now we can’t cut and run.”

    I know Kathryn is being intentionally absurd for humor’s sake. But it should be alarming to us to think that there are people in this country — educated people — who actually think like that. People who think things like President Obama is intentionally trying to ruin the US ecomony so the government can seize control over more industries.

    It’s disturbing. I know I don’t have a lot of faith in our leaders sometimes, but come on…

  36. Burl Burlingame

    I don’t think Bush is capable of thinking that far ahead. He was probably just waiting for The Rapture, a belief endemic among his political appointees.

    During WWII the government prosecuted war profiteers. Those wacky FDR liberals!

  37. Jerry

    It is so easy now to say “I was right in being for the invasion and I can’t be faulted for the inept way the war was handled in it’s beginning.” I am sorry but you are not allowed that luxury. If you were for it then you have ownership of it all. Where in the world did you find the confidence that the administration had a competent plan? Their lame excuses and rationalizations bordering on propaganda told me all I needed to know. Though I have agreed with many other opinions of some of those who were for that invasion, the thought that always comes to mind when I think of those who were for it is dang fool.

  38. Kathryn Fenner

    Okay. Bush didn’t do it on purpose, of course.

    Cheney’s ties to Halliburton probably colored a lot of his perceptions though. Rumsfeld: inept or what?

    bud–I tend to agree with you. I think the “facts” are too hard to pin down, so we go on our opinions. Our opinions are generally derived from some core values. I am biased against war. It better be a very very good reason before we send in the troops, and an even better one when we weren’t attacked first, as we were not in the case of Iraq.

    Brad’s dad was a military person who sustained serious injuries and went on to fight anyway. My dad was a technical editor at an enormous nuclear weapons laboratory and plant. He wore steel-toed safety shoes to sit at his desk because duPont issued them free.He also wore a vinyl pocket protector. I daresay we had vastly different dinner table conversations growing up.

Comments are closed.