Nancy Pelosi now appears poised, in light of Congress’ recent approval ratings, to lead some bold moves against President Bush and his Iraq war policy. As we approach next year’s election, more GOP Senators are defecting from Bush’s side, which means that whatever move Pelosi makes she seems likely to have the votes to pull it off. This means that, likely, some time within the next 12 months America’s military presence in Iraq will come to an end.
I recommend people read the book “What Was Asked of Us” by Trish Wood. It’s a first hand account of what happened in Iraq, told by the soldiers and some of the government personnel who experienced it. For me, it was an impressive revelation of where we went wrong. In this book, I learned of the bitter disagreements within the Cabinet about how the war should be fought. The State Dept, led by Colin Powell, felt that the main concern should be the aftermath of the war. He wanted to keep the Iraqi military intact to help with post-war security. He felt the major problem was the potential for a terrorist-led insurgency after the war. He had the experience of being there before, and knowing the likely reason why Bush Sr. didn’t oust Saddam the first time around. In his corner were some high-ranking officials and many in the intelligence community.
On the other side was Rumsfeld and the Pentagon. They felt the threat WAS the Iraqi military and Saddam loyalists within that organization. They felt the military should be steam-rolled in an offensive operation that left them in shambles, and then what’s left should be disbanded. They wanted all Saddam loyalists out of power, and believed that if the military was left in one piece, the Iraqi people would see this as a sign that Saddam could return to power. This would discourage them from embracing their newfound liberty and would open the US troops up to a much larger insurgency than Powell feared. Rumsfeld believed that if they eliminated the military, the people would recognize that Saddam was gone for good, would embrace their freedom and would counter balance any remaining insurgency that threatened their freedom. A stable government would be established and the remnants of any insurgency could be cleaned up by US troops. Supporting this theory was the vast majority of the military leaders in the Dept of Defense, both in the Pentagon and on the ground in the Middle East.
The ultimate decision was the President’s, who had to decide who was right. Obviously, it wasn’t an easy decision. He went with Rumsfeld, and turned out to be wrong. We can blame all we want, but I’m not going to throw stones. To be honest, I probably would have done the same thing. With respect to Powell, even though he had been there before, I would have sided with what my Generals currently on the ground were telling me. Bush was wrong and he is suffering the consequences, as are the Iraqi people and the US military. What Rumsfeld and his backers failed to anticipate was: 1) the civil unrest that followed the fall of Baghdad, the riots and the looting of a newly free people, 2) the support from Iran and Syria for the insurgency, 3) what happens if we don’t find WMDs?, 4) the effect the media would have on public opinion for the war, and finally 5) the lack of action from the Iraqi people in taking charge of their own destiny. These oversights were huge, at least from hindsight perspective.
But, not to make light of the administration’s mistake, I tend to believe that if Iraq fails to become a successful democracy, that failure rests in only one place…at the feet of the Iraqi people. We’ve sacrificed blood, lives and billions of dollars. We’ve given them every opportunity imaginable to have freedom and a stable government, but they simply haven’t acted. You can make any argument you want about why they failed, but you can’t argue that they weren’t given the chance and the tools to succeed. We’ve led this horse to water, folks.
Did the media play a negative role? Yes. Did the defeatist attitude of the Dems and the mainstream media encourage and enable our enemies? Of course it did. Were there mistakes in planning? I’ve already pointed those out. Did the international community fail to act? Yes, and that could’ve prevented this entire mess. Did the Dems place unreasonable “benchmarks” on the Iraqi government? You can argue this, but I can argue that those benchmarks would not have happened if the American people supported the war, which would have been the case had the Iraqis shown some initiative, some interest in their own self-preservation. Would the Dems support this war if 70% of Americans supported it? I don’t think I have to answer that. Can Iraq succeed with more time? I think it can. I think if we had the resolve to continue the fight, eventually we would wear the insurgency down, eventually the people would take charge, eventually the Iraqi democracy would succeed. But the polls and the facts suggest that won’t happen. The people want this war to end, regardless of whether I agree with them, and Congress will do as they please. The Iraqis have only themselves to blame for it.
In the aftermath, there are over 3,000 Americans dead, many more wounded. Saddam is dead also, along with his brutal regime, many terrorist leaders and a great number of their storm trooper followers. The WMDs are still missing, God only knows where they are and the possibilities are quite frightening. After we pull out, there is no doubt in my mind what will follow. It will be genocide on a scale that mirrors the Khmer Rouge. There will be a lot of bloodshed and Iraq will likely become a Shia-fascist theocracy, akin to their neighbors in Iran. The Middle East will become drastically unstable, and the terrorists will regroup to re-target the US mainland. I’m sure many Americans know this, and I’m also sure our political leaders know this, but the fact is that less than 30% of the people, myself included, are willing to continue the fight. In a democracy like ours, that’s not enough to sustain a war.
But what’s worse, our image as a weakened unresolved nation will be reinforced. We proved in Vietnam that we don’t have the gumption for the long haul. The insurgents in Iraq followed that same playbook. Be persistent, draw out the fighting, and eventually the Americans will grow weary and give up. There are brutal dictators all over the world watching and learning that America will not, and can not, stop them from their brutality. The military once again did their job with valor and sacrifice, but we the people failed to do ours. Wars can’t be won only on the battlefield. History has taught that sad truth time and again.
Regardless how you feel about this war, and about the President, only the truly insane can argue that we didn’t try to do something good in Iraq. We ousted a horrible dictator by way of an unprecedented military campaign, and gave an entire nation hope and a chance at liberty. That does make me proud, and I know there are some who disagree, even to the point of inward glee at the possibility President Bush's failure. So be it. But we are still one nation in this together, and one nation that will have to deal with the consequences of that failure together. We’re going to have to watch the events that follow our withdrawal and know that 70% of us called for this to happen. We’re gonna have to at least accept responsibility for that eventually, even if we refuse to do it now. The Iraqis got their chance, they refused it, what else can we do?