Skip to comments.The Truth About Iraq (And why it matters)
Posted on 07/11/2014 9:26:46 AM PDT by Kaslin
As the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) capture territory and establish a caliphate stretching across the now-eradicated Syria-Iraq border, hard-won gains secured with American blood and treasure are being lost. We are watching the rise of potentially the gravest threat to our national security in a generation, one that surpasses even the threat we faced on 9/11. Against this backdrop, as we debate what our response should be, it has become fashionable in some quarters to say, Lets not relitigate Iraq. Its not politically expedient, this line of argument goes, to discuss why we invaded Iraq in the first place, or the lessons we learned. This view is wrong on the history, misguided on the politics, and dangerous as a matter of policy.
The larger war, of which the liberation of Iraq was part, is still ongoing. Winning it requires that we understand the truth about the liberation of Iraq, the challenges America faced in the aftermath of the invasion, how we overcame them with the 2007-08 surge, how we defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq and established a stable, functioning nation allied with America in the heart of the Middle East. We must understand how President Obama squandered it all, creating a vacuum in which ISIS, the richest terrorist organization in history, now thrives.
Those who say the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a mistake are essentially saying we would be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power. Thats a difficult position to sustain. It is undisputed, and has been confirmed repeatedly in Iraqi government documents captured after the invasion, that Saddam had deep, longstanding, far-reaching relationships with terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda and its affiliates. It is undisputed that Saddams Iraq was a state based on terror, overseeing a coordinated program to support global jihadist terrorist organizations. Ansar al Islam, an al Qaeda-linked organization, operated training camps in northern Iraq before the invasion. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the future leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, funneled weapons and fighters into these camps, before the invasion, from his location in Baghdad. We also know, again confirmed in documents captured after the war, that Saddam provided funding, training, and other support to numerous terrorist organizations and individuals over decades, including to Ayman al Zawahiri, the man who leads al Qaeda today.
It is also undisputed that Saddam Hussein had the technology, equipment, facilities, and scientists in place to construct the worlds worst weapons. We know he intended to reconstitute these programs as soon as the international sanctions regime collapsed. He had an advanced nuclear program in place prior to Operation Desert Storm in 1991. In 1998, he kicked the international weapons inspectors out of Iraq. He violated every one of the 17 U.N. Security Council Resolutions passed against him.
Anyone pining for the days of Saddam would do well to read the accounts of his 1988 chemical weapons attack on Halabja, Iraq. Listen to the survivors talk about the babies and children who died slow, painful deaths in bomb shelters where they had sought refuge with their families. The shelters became, as Saddam knew they would, gas chambers. The lesson of Halabja is that Saddam had no compunction, no moral compass, no hesitation to use the worlds worst weapons, including against his own people.
Saddams was a reign of terror characterized by torture, rape rooms, the murder of parents in front of their children and children in front of their parents, and the oppression and slaughter of Kurds, Marsh Arabs, and Shiites. George W. Bush captured it well when he wrote that Saddam was a homicidal dictator pursuing WMD and supporting terror at the heart of the Middle East.
Leaving Saddam in power after 9/11, in light of the threat he posed, would have been, as Tony Blair has noted, an act of political cowardice. We are not saying Saddam was responsible for 9/11. What we are saying is that in the aftermath of 9/11, when we saw thousands of our fellow citizens slaughtered by terrorists armed with airline tickets and box cutters, our leaders had an obligation to do everything possible to prevent terrorists from gaining access to even worse weapons. Saddams Iraq was the most likely nexus for such an exchange.
Against the weight of historical evidence, some critics claim the Bush administration manufactured or exaggerated the intelligence about Saddams weapons programs. The charge doesnt stand up against the facts. Both the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Robb-Silberman Commission issued bipartisan reports concluding there was no politicization of the intelligence or pressure on analysts to change their judgements about Iraqs WMD.
In fact, the intelligence assessments about Saddams weapons programs stretched back at least a decade:
We werent the only ones who read the intelligence. Others who did, going back to 1998, recognized the danger Saddam posed, urged action, and later changed their views when the going got tough. Some of these included:
In 1998, Congress passed, and Bill Clinton signed into law, the Iraq Liberation Act, making regime change in Iraq the policy of the United States. A few months later, President Clinton launched airstrikes against Saddams WMD capabilities.
As we know now, Saddam did not have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. However, it requires a willing suspension of disbelief and a desire to put politics above safety to assert that the absence of stockpiles meant the absence of a threat to the United States. David Kay, who led the international Iraq Survey Group tasked with finding Saddams stockpiles, said this: I actually think that what we learned during the inspections made Iraq a more dangerous place, potentially, than in fact we had thought before the war.
Saddams support for terrorists, his willingness to use the worlds worst weapons, his intent to reconstitute his own programs, including with scientists, technology, equipment, and facilities he kept on hand, his nuclear ambitions, and his thwarting of the international community for over a decade and 17 U.N. Security Council Resolutions combined to form the toxic mix that made Saddam a grave threat to the United States. We were right to invade and remove him from power.
Americas invasion of Iraq also sent a clear message to others in the region that America would take action if necessary. Within a few days of our capture of Saddam, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi announced he would like to turn over his nuclear program. He feared he would suffer the same fate as Saddam. Shortly after that, A.Q. Khan, Qaddafis supplier of nuclear technology, was also put out of business and placed under house arrest in Pakistan.
Those who say we should not have taken action in Iraq should spend a moment contemplating what the Arab Spring might have looked like with a nuclear-armed Qaddafi in power in Tripoli.
The war to liberate Iraq was indisputably difficult. It included tragedy and challenges we did not foresee. Every war does, but these challenges do not detract from the rightness of our cause. The question is what do you do in the face of setbacks. History has proven that President Bushs decision to surge forces into Iraq and adopt a counterinsurgency strategy under the command of Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno worked.
Success in Iraq was also secured by the skill of people like Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General Stan McChrystal. The methods McChrystal and our special operators developed in Iraqtaking down a terrorist target, exploiting the information found at the site, moving immediately to act on the leads and take down other terroristswere honed over a number of years. In April 2004, McChrystal writes, they ran a total of 10 operations in Iraq. That August they conducted 18. By 2006, his teams had improved their methods to the point where they could average more than 300 operations per month, against a faster, smarter enemy and with greater precision and intelligence yield.
We are watching the rise of potentially the gravest threat to our national security in a generation, one that surpasses even the threat we faced on 9/11.
My tagline back after 9/11 was something like “Islam today is agreater threat to the world than Nazism was in the early 30’s. But time marches on. I see Iraq as Poland of September of 1939.
And I posted this on the 20th of last month:
It explains why I think this will get worse, much worse, before it gets better.
These types of operations are a critical tool in the war on terror. They stand in stark contrast to this administrations actions in Benghazi, for example. Rather than move quickly to uncover critical intelligence and capture or kill those behind the attacks, the Obama team spent 18 months building a legal case before they moved to capture Ahmed Abu Khattala. He has now been read Miranda rights.
The real proof that things were in good shape in Iraq when President Obama took office is that his administration set about claiming credit for the situation. Vice President Biden memorably predicted in 2010 that Iraq will be one of the great achievements of this administration. President Obama repeatedly asserted, We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq.
President Obama spent a good deal of time during his reelection campaign in 2012 claiming to have fulfilled his 2008 promise to end the war. His campaign speeches included lines like: I told you Id end the war in Iraq and I did; and Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq and we did; and Weve succeeded in our strategy to end the war. With the rise of ISIS in Iraq, that strategy isnt looking so good.
White House credit-taking has predictably morphed into blame-shifting. In a move that must be uncomfortable even for a president unburdened by a strong allegiance to fact, the administration now claims President Obama was simply implementing George Bushs policy when he withdrew all U.S. forces.
When President Obama isnt blaming George Bush for forcing him to remove the troops, he is blaming Nuri al-Maliki for the lack of a stay-behind agreement. Maliki certainly shares the blame for the disaster in Iraq today, but the fact is our commanders on the ground asked for a stay-behind force of nearly 20,000. President Obama said no. They came back and asked for 10,000. President Obama said no. He was willing to leave no more than 3,500 troops in place, a force too small to carry out the mission. Then, just to be sure Maliki wouldnt accept our terms, President Obama insisted any stay-behind agreement would have to be submitted to the Iraqi parliament for approval. He made sure Maliki, al Qaeda, Iran, and the rest of the world knew we werent serious about defending the gains we had won at such a high cost of American lives and treasure.
In spite of all we have seen, President Obama stubbornly clings to the quaint notion that wars end because he says they do. And even as tragedy and terror engulf Iraq, he insists he will follow exactly the same course of action in Afghanistan.
The rise of ISIS and the resurgence of radical Islamic terror groups across the Middle East present a grave threat to the national security of the United States. The situation is dire, and defeating this threat requires immediate, sustained action across multiple fronts.
In Iraq, we should provide military support in the form of trainers, special operations forces, an intelligence architecture, and airpower to aid the Iraqi military in its counteroffensive against ISIS. ISIS does not recognize the border between Syria and Iraq, and we cant either. We have to strike ISIS in their sanctuaries, staging areas, command centers, and lines of communication on both sides of the border. We also need to do everything possible to defend Jordan against ISIS.
The Iraqi government is flawed in critical ways, which must be addressed once ISIS is on the ropes. We cannot allow the need for political reconciliation to prevent us from doing what is necessary now to defeat the threat to the United States. By insisting on political reconciliation as a precondition to significant U.S. support for the defeat of ISIS, the Obama administration is ensuring the threat to America will grow. Each day we dither is another day ISIS is able to solidify its gains. The longer it operates with impunity, the more effective its recruitment. ISIS is using its success on the battlefield to rally thousands of foreign fighters to join the effort in Iraq. Every day we wait means the battle that must eventually be fought will be harder and more costly.
As we work to defeat ISIS in Iraq and prevent the growth of a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, we must also move globally to get back on offense in the war on terror. This means, first, recognizing and admitting the size and scope of the threat we face. Al Qaeda is not diminished, nor is the tide of war receding. We remain at war, and law enforcement mechanisms will not keep us safe.
Second, we need to reverse the dramatic decline in defense spending weve seen in the last six years. A nation at war cannot hope to prevail if only 4 of its 42 Army brigades are combat ready. We need to make restoration of our military and a reversal of the disastrous defense budget cuts one of our top priorities.
Third, we need to halt the drawdown of our troops in Afghanistan. The tragedy, terror, and chaos in Iraq will be repeated in Afghanistan if we abandon the fight there. Pulling out all U.S. troops without regard to conditions on the ground or the recommendations of our commanders will ensure a victory for Americas enemies.
Fourth, we need to reassure our friends and allies in the Middle East that America will not abandon them. We need to demonstrate through increased intelligence cooperation, military assistance, training, joint exercises, and economic support that we know they are on the front lines of the war on terror. We should immediately provide the Apache helicopters and other military support the government of Egypt needs to fight the al Qaeda insurgency in the Sinai.
Fifth, we should be clear that we recognize a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat to Israel and to other nations in the region, as well. We should refuse to accept any deal with the Iranians that allows them to continue to spin centrifuges and enrich uranium. In the cauldron of the Middle East today, accepting a false dealas the Obama administration seems inclined to dowill only ensure Iran attains a nuclear weapon and spark a nuclear arms race across the region. The Iranians should know without a doubt that we will not allow that to happen, and that we will take military action if necessary to stop it.
America must win this war. We wont defeat our enemies by retreating. We wont win if we adopt a false narrative about the past, fail to learn the lessons of history, or seek security in disengagement and isolationism. We will only defeat our enemies if we are clear-eyed about the threat and have the will to do what it takes for as long as it takesuntil the war is won.
I did not actually excerpt the article, I just made it shorter. Only 300 words can be posted as an excerpt, or 50% if it is a short article
thanks for posting it!
It isn’t, otherwise I would have gotten the notification that it had to be excerpted. I just shortened it on my own and you’re welcome :)
Love it that Cheney includes those quotes from Kerry, Clinton, Pelosi, etc.
This is a wonderful column. Thx.
And even worse than all that if the kenyan seriously responds in Iraq. He will make it worse. How can any intervention by this president improve anything? He is a Moslem and his sympathies lie with the Moslems and their Caliphate. His actions, whether military in Iraq or quasi military in promoting invasion of the US from the south must promote Islam. The major block standing in the way of an explosion of Islam is the United States. The most powerful Moslem in the world is attending to the removal of that blockage as his first priority.
“Those who say the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a mistake are essentially saying we would be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power.”
And we’re right. It would be better for Saddam, Mubarak, Musharraf, Gaddafi, et el were still in power. More Americans would be alive now and fewer would be about to die. As soon as 0 won in November, Bush and Cheney should have carpet bombed Iraq into the stone age, knowing 0 would throw away everything we fought for.
Frankly, my position is that Ronald Reagan at his prime could be resurrected and take over and not get us out of this mess. It’s beyond a human solution at this point.
It’s not Peoria and it’s not beyond a solution. It may take 10 years but Syria and Iraq will settle out much like the Yugoslavian regions settled. Independent or federated states based upon ethnicity and religion.
Everyone saw this coming. It is not a surprise or incomprehensible -except to people who shouldn’t be contemplating such things to begin with.
But this is not the only thing going on. In my “interesting times” piece I compared it to Poland of 1939. A lot of people saw that coming too.
I say we deal with ISIS/Iraq through a policy of preemptive reprisal. The same with Afghanistan.
In addition to that, the intelligence and special communities should be running covert ops designed to kill any threat that comes up in Iraq/Afghanistan.
Finally, using the covert forces of other nations who are also enemies of Iraq/Isis and Afghanistan and whose interest might parallel our own at any given moment is a simple matter of clandestine coordination.
It’s a great piece of work and it’s disgusting that Bush leaves the heavy lifting to Cheney. Cheney would have done it during their terms but Bush clearly collared him. Bush’s silence is way past dissapointing.
My son’s squad (part of the 299th Army Reserve MBR Engineers) on the east bank of the Euphrates River at Hindaya (Objective Peach), found Chemical Warfare green suits in abandoned Iraqi military depots/caches. (April 2003).
Other units found chemical shells, chemical components, and a lot of Cyanide powder (enought to kill tens of thousands of people) scattered throughout Iraq. Some even found MIGS buried under a decoy layer of destroyed aircraft.
Secondly, an argument that most, even on our side, forget, is that Saddam was part of a tripartite (or nuclear tripod) consisting of Iran, Iraq and Syria that, in the future (which would be NOW), posed a “clear and present danger” to Israel, Jordan Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon, and other regional countries, as well as to the US.
Iran is working on a nuclear weapons program. Israel destroyed Iraq’s Osirik reactor in the early 1980’s, an weapons reactor that most didn’t know existed. Then Israel destroyed the newer Syrian nuclear facilities a couple years ago in Syria (again, the US didn’t know that they existed).
This was the “NUCLEAR TRIUMVIRATE” who could have dominated or destroyed the Middle East, causing millions of deaths and wrecking countries.
Israel did some of the necessary preemptive work in taking down the legs of this “NUCLEAR TRIPOD” and the US/Allies took down the Iraqi leg-in-formation.
Someday we will learn what those truck convoys took from Iraq to Syria at the beginning of hostilities or just before it started.
Anyone want to take a bet as to what was in those trucks? It wasn’t potato chips.
You don’t pull out the big guns until there is real peril.
Cheney is now vocal. Saw Andy Card the other day.
Bush will be vocal when it’s necessary.
I can hope I am wrong.
Wishes and hopes won't change what is happening, and what will happen next.
The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum.
Until the Congress is prepared to declare war, I’m all in for reprisals as the right way to handle these rogue regimes. The advantage of having a head of this movement, this caliphate, is that the head can be cut off....again and again until they get the message: “Don’t tread on me”.
I agree that our current administration is a disaster, but even with that, better they screw up a reprisal than a war.
“It is undisputed, and has been confirmed repeatedly in Iraqi government documents captured after the invasion, that Saddam had deep, longstanding, far-reaching relationships with terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda and its affiliates.”
I have never seen anything to support this claim. In fact the studies I’ve seen on Islamic terrorism have never found even one Iraqi as a member but there have been plenty of our ‘allies’ the Saudis involved.
Saddam was about power, not Islam. His hero was Joseph Stalin right down to the mustache. The Ba’athist Party was a socialist outfit and its slogan was ‘Unity, Liberty, Socialism’. Moreover Saddam had Christian Iraqis in high positions in his own government something an al Qaeda supporter would never do.
Saddam was a typical political thug. His WMDs posed a danger to what he saw as his real threat and that was domestic rivals. But his collection of poison gas didn’t threaten us. He couldn’t even defeat Iran after 10 years of trying but somehow we are supposed to believe that he posed a threat to us, far stronger and much more distant.