October is Iraq’s bloodiest in five years since “liberation”

Andrade_Iraq1032October was Iraq’s deadliest month since April, 2008. In those five and a half years, not only has there been no improvement in Iraq’s security situation, but things have gotten much worse. More than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq last month, the vast majority of them civilians. Another 1,600 were wounded, as car bombs, shootings, and other attacks continue to maim and murder.

As post-“liberation” Iraq spirals steadily downward, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was in Washington last week to plead for more assistance from the United States to help restore order to a society demolished by the 2003 US invasion. Al-Qaeda has made significant recent gains, Maliki told President Obama at their meeting last Friday, and Iraq needs more US military aid to combat its growing influence.

Obama pledged to work together with Iraq to address al-Qaeda’s growing presence, but what was not said was that before the US attack there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq. The appearance of al-Qaeda in Iraq coincided with the US attack. They claimed we had to fight terror in Iraq, but the US invasion resulted in the creation of terrorist networks where before there were none. What a disaster.

Maliki also told President Obama last week that the war in next-door Syria was spilling over into Iraq, with the anti-Assad fighters setting off bombs and destabilizing the country. Already more than 5,000 people have been killed throughout Iraq this year, and cross-border attacks from Syrian rebels into Iraq are increasing those numbers. Again, what was not said was that the US government had supported these anti-Assad fighters both in secret and in the open for the past two years.

Earlier in the week a group of Senators – all of whom had supported the 2003 US invasion of Iraq – sent a strongly-worded letter to Obama complaining that Maliki was far too close to the Iranian government next door. What was not said was that this new closeness between the Iraqi and Iranian governments developed under the US-installed government after the US invasion of Iraq.

Surely there is plenty of blame that can be placed on Maliki and the various no-doubt corrupt politicians running Iraq these days. But how was it they came to power? Were we not promised by those promoting the war that it would create a beach-head of democracy in the Middle East and a pro-American government?

According to former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, in early 2001 as the new Bush administration was discussing an attack on Iraq, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “Imagine what the region would look like without Saddam and with a regime that’s allied with US interests. It would change everything in the region and beyond it. It would demonstrate what US policy is all about.”

We see all these years later now how this ridiculous this idea was.

I have long advocated the idea that since we just marched in, we should just march out. That goes for US troops and also for US efforts to remake Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and everywhere the neocon wars of “liberation” have produced nothing but chaos, destruction, and more US enemies overseas. We can best improve the situation by just leaving them alone.

The interventionists have unfortunately neither learned their lesson from the Iraq debacle nor have they changed their tune. They are still agitating for regime change in Syria, even as they blame the Iraqi government for the destabilization that spills over. They are still agitating for a US attack on Iran, with Members of Congress introducing legislation recently that would actually authorize US force against Iran.

It looks like a very slow learning curve for our bipartisan leaders in Washington. It’s time for a change.

The Iraq War’s unhappy 10-year anniversary

At about 9:30 p.m. on March 19, 2003, the shooting phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom began, with an unsuccessful “decapitation strike” aimed at top Iraqi leadership, including Saddam Hussein. Shortly thereafter, President George W. Bush told the American people in a nationally televised address that we’d gone to war “to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.”

Ten years later, the future of “Iraqi Freedom” is unclear at best, but it’s evident that there wasn’t much to disarm and that the world was never in grave danger.

What has the Iraq War cost us, and what lessons, if any, have we learned?

Placing all the blame for the war on neoconservatives lets everyone else off far too lightly, it seems to me. The 2002-03 rush to war was abipartisan flight from responsibility.

In 2002, very few of our elected representatives were interested in doing basic due diligence before exercising the solemn responsibility that the Constitution gives Congress in the power “to declare War.” From late September 2002 on, copies of the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate on the Iraq threat were available to any member of the House or Senate who wanted to review it. Only a handful even bothered. Then-Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. — our current secretary of state and his predecessor — weren’t among the six senators who took the time to read the report before voting for war. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., explained that getting away to the secure room to read the NIE — a short walk away across the Capitol grounds — is “not easy to do” and that NIEs make for “extremely dense reading.”

The Beltway intelligentsia didn’t comport itself any better. In a recent article for the New Republic, “The Eve of Destruction,” TNR’s John B. Judis describes “what it was like to oppose the Iraq War in 2003.” Lonely: “within political Washington, it was difficult to find like-minded” opponents of the war. “Both of the major national dailies — The Washington Post and The New York Times (featuring Judith Miller’s reporting) — were beating the drums for war,” as were most of “Washington’s thinktank honchos.”

Not all of them, however. In a 2001 debate on Iraq with former CIA Director James Woolsey, my Cato Institute colleague, then-Chairman William Niskanen, argued that “an unnecessary war is an unjust war” and one we would come to regret having fought.

Niskanen was right. A new report from the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University tallies up the costs: nearly 4,500 U.S. troop fatalities, an eventual budgetary cost of some $3.9 trillion and more than 130,000 civilians as “collateral damage.”

Amateur ornithologist Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., calls the dovish Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a “wacko bird” for raising questions about unchecked presidential war-making. Still, Paul ruled the roost at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, winning CPAC’s presidential straw poll.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on another poll of CPAC attendees, in which “only 34 percent said the US should adopt a more muscular role [abroad]; 50 percent said the US should pull back, leaving it more to allies to take care of trouble spots.” George Will reported on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that what he saw at CPAC was “the rise of the libertarian strand of Republicanism, which has an effect in foreign policy that is a pullback from nation-building and other ambitions aboard that they never countenance from government at home.”

Bill Niskanen, who passed away last year at the age of 78, never tired of reminding conservatives that war is a government program — and an especially destructive one at that.

The message may be starting to sink in.

Article originally published at the Cato Institute: http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/iraq-wars-unhappy-anniversary