"You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,' he told the president. 'You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all."Americans are famous for their ahistorical perspective and collective amnesia, but as President Obama comes under increasing criticism for "losing" Iraq -- by the very same group of dead enders that were wrong on every aspect of the initial invasion -- do we really have to be reminded that the Iraqi debacle did not start with Obama's election in 2008?
-- Secretary of State Colin Powell to President George W. Bush per Bob Woodward
Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Constitution states what should be obvious: "The tragic sequence of events now playing out in Iraq was set in motion by the decision of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and others to use the attacks of Sept. 11 as cover to carry out the invasion that they had long coveted. We ignited this inferno, even if others have since added fuel to it, and the claim that we did so out of humanitarian concern for the Iraqis is just as empty as those depots of WMD turned out to be."
But the Bush Administration didn't just lie about the rationale for invading Iraq. Once we shocked and awed our way into the country, that good old lethal combination of arrogance and incompetence that characterized everything Bush/Cheney did left a political, economic and bureaucratic vacuum that is a root cause of the current chaos and resurgence of violence there.
Dexter Filkins states that "when the Americans invaded, in March, 2003, they destroyed the Iraqi state—its military, its bureaucracy, its police force, and most everything else that might hold a country together." Remember, we were going to be welcomed as Liberators and, as the neocons promised, would create a free market paradise -- after first destroying the economy - as a first step towards democratizing the entire Middle East? How'd that work out again? If only Obama had kept us there a little longer....
Further, Fareed Zakaria explains, "having invaded Iraq with a small force — what the expert Tom Ricks called “the worst war plan in American history” — the administration needed to find local allies. It quickly decided to destroy Iraq’s Sunni ruling establishment and empower the hard-line Shiite religious parties that had opposed Saddam Hussein. This meant that a structure of Sunni power that had been in the area for centuries collapsed." And as a direct consequence of these decisions "to disband the army, dismantle the bureaucracy and purge Sunnis in general," we get Nuri Al-Maliki, Iraq’s Prime Minister, whose hard-line authoritarianism and brutal attempts to crush the Sunni minority opposition has been, according to Filkins, the dominant factor in Iraq's collapse.
While conservatives audaciously claim that this is all Obama's fault for leaving the country before we finished the job -- as John McCain nonsensically puts it,"we had the conflict won" -- or as Maxwell Smart would put it, "we missed it by that much" -- they conveniently overlook that Maliki would not allow U.S. troops to remain. (Recall Bush signed the Status of Forces Agreement in December 2008, setting January 1, 2012 as the deadline for all U.S. forces to depart; no new deal could be agreed upon; Maliki refused to agree to legal immunity for U.S. troops.)
But even if we could have left a residual military force in Iraq, to what end and for how long? Sure, according to Steven Benen, "we could have embraced perpetual war and kept a lid on Iraqi violence by trying another decade – or two, or more – of war, sacrifice, investment, and training. . . Perpetual war may inexplicably sound appealing to some Republican policymakers, but (a) they have no credibility; and (b) there are many problems perpetual wars can’t solve. This is one of them."
The right seemed to have reached a new plateau for hypocrisy when Ollie North started blithering about the impropriety of negotiating with terrorists for hostages in the wake of Bowe Bergdahl's release. At least North wasn't opining on the very same conflict with which he played such an ignominious role. Former Bush officials, their apologists and enablers in government and media are offering their views on the very same situation that they so tragically got wrong in the first place. They should be shamed and shunned -- or as Charles Pierce more colorfully says, these mendacious idiots "should be abandoned on cannibal island where they belong." Instead, they are permitted to take to the airwaves to discuss what should have been done and should now be done to save Iraq. No one should listen.
They broke it and they will forever own it.