21 July 2007

Iraq in Hell: An Entirely Preventable Tragedy

Dahr Jamail has posted a fascinating comment on his personal experiences as a reporter in the hell that Iraq has become and the Disney-esque experience of returning to the US. His article brings to light how horrible things have become there on a personal level. Iraq has truly reached the nadir of the Hobbesian existence: “nasty, brutish and short”.

The thing that pains me is that it would never have happened if Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld had listened to the generals instead of firing them. Below is a smattering of what the generals said about the Bush invasion of Iraq:

Gen. Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, 1999-2003:

“I would say that what's been mobilized to this point — something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground- force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is distributed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this.” This is from his Congressional testimony before the war.

Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, Air Force chief of staff, 1990-94:

“We have a force in Iraq that's much too small to stabilize the situation. It's about half the size, or maybe even a third, of what we need. ... The people in control in the Pentagon and the White House live in a fantasy world. They actually thought everyone would just line up and vote for a new democracy and you would have a sort of Denmark with oil. I blame Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the people behind him — Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary Douglas Feith. The vice president himself should probably be included; certainly his wife. These so-called neocons: These people have no real experience in life. They are utopian thinkers, idealists, very smart, and they have the courage of their convictions, so it makes them doubly dangerous.”

Lt. Gen. William Odom, Director of the National Security Agency, 1985-88:

“It's a huge strategic disaster, and it will only get worse. The sooner we leave, the less the damage. ... The idea of creating a constitutional state in a short amount of time is a joke. It will take ten to fifteen years, and that is if we want to kill ten percent of the population.”

Adm. Stansfield Turner, NATO Allied commander for Southern Europe, 1975-77; CIA director, 1977-81:

“[O]ur current policy appears to be to "stay the course." The problem with not acknowledging that we are changing course is that it makes us do so begrudgingly. The longer we hesitate to increase our troop strength in Iraq; to pour billions of dollars of our own money into reconstruction; and to invite the UN to play a substantive, decision-making role, the more the chance of failure increases.

“Failure in Iraq is simply unacceptable. It would not be just a severe embarrassment, as it was in Vietnam. It would be caving-in to terrorists, and not just to terrorists in Iraq. The president's worldwide "war on terrorism" would be seen as having folded up the minute the going got tough. Whether Al Qaeda has operated out of Iraq in the past or not, it almost certainly would do so in the future.” This is from September 2003

Gen. Anthony Zinni, Commander in chief of the United States Central Command, 1997-2000:

“When I was commander of CENTCOM [the US joint military command in charge of the Middle East], we had a plan for an invasion of Iraq, and it had specific numbers in it. We wanted to go in there with 350,000 to 380,000 troops. You didn't need that many people to defeat the Republican Guard, but you needed them for the aftermath. We knew that we would find ourselves in a situation where we had completely uprooted an authoritarian government and would need to freeze the situation: retain control, retain order, provide security, seal the borders to keep terrorists from coming in.

"It might be interesting to wonder why all the generals see it the same way, and all those that never fired a shot in anger and really hell-bent to go to war see it a different way.”

In conclusion, the mess that Iraq has become was predicted by the generals and many others. Even Molly Ivins predicted an easy war and “the occupation from hell”. The only people that weren’t listening were the people in charge.

While I've always thought that invading Iraq was a bright idea in the same league as sticking a fork into your eye, that we blundered into war ignoring the people who might have salvaged the adventure is unforgivable.

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