Sunday, March 16, 2008

"Mammaaaa! He MADE me do it!!!"

... and other such type whining about their role in the Iraq war from maladministration flacks, vivisected for your viewing pleasure right before your very eyes. Behold:

The N.Y. Times, on the approach of the five year anniversary of the Iraq invasion, decided to publish nine pieces by various people looking back over the last five years. By my rough count, at least seven and probably eight of them were war hawks before the war, and quite a few were complicit in the "rush to war", either as cheerleaders, or, for several, as active participants in the maladministration.

These purported "experts" were asked by the N.Y. Times "to comment on the one aspect of the war that most surprised them or that they wished they had considered in the prewar debate". That is, did they have anything they would like to ... ummm ... 'reconsider'?!?

Needless to say, what we got was lots of whiny finger-pointing and persiflage, and not anything that might be considered less than laudatory of the esteemed talents of these people WHO GOT THINGS COMPLETELY WRONG!!!! Excuses abounded, as did some rather interesting means of admitting errors without actually doing so or taking responsibility.


1). Preznitential Medal of Freedom winner L. Paul Bremer (who has been effectively eviscerated by Chandrasekaran's book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City") does the "Democrats thought so too" dodge, followed by finger-pointing at the military -- and Rummy, I guess -- for not providing civil order:

For decades, American administrations from both parties had designated Saddam Hussein’s Iraq a terrorist state. He supported and lauded Palestinian terrorists. He had developed, and used, weapons of mass destruction against his own citizens. He had contemptuously refused to comply with 17 Security Council resolutions demanding he come clean on those programs.

Our soldiers were magnificent in liberating Iraq. But after arriving in the country, I saw that the American government was not adequately prepared to deal with the growing security threats. Looting raged unchecked in major cities. By late 2003, as the insurgency and terrorism grew, it became clear that the coalition also lacked an effective counterinsurgency strategy.

Our troops on the ground were valiant and selfless, but prewar planning provided for fewer than half the number of troops that independent studies suggested would be needed in Iraq. And we did not have a plan to provide the most basic function of any government — security for the population. Terrorists, insurgents, criminals and the Iraqi people got the impression that the coalition would not, or could not, protect civilians.

Wise ol' Bremer saw this, of course, but was thwarted in his efforts to fix things, although he made his best efforts by -- amongst other Republican-talk-point-driven stoopidity -- privatizing the utility companies, trying to set up a Baghdad Wall Street to trade rubble futures, and disbanding the Iraqi army.


2). Next on the list, "Prince of Darkness" Richard Perle with a "We were right"/"It's Colin Powell's fault!!!" medley:
The right decision was made, and Baghdad fell in 21 days with few casualties on either side. Twenty-five million Iraqis had been liberated and the menace of Saddam’s monstrous regime eliminated.

Then the trouble began. Rather than turn Iraq over to Iraqis to begin the daunting process of nation building, a group including Secretary of State Colin Powell; the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice; and the director of central intelligence, George Tenet — with President Bush’s approval — reversed a plan to do that.
It's some evil cabal!!! Thwarting Perle's immaculate advice!!! Zounds, Lex Luthor move aside....
Instead, we blundered into an ill-conceived occupation that would facilitate a deadly insurgency from which we, and the Iraqis, are only now emerging. With misplaced confidence that we knew better than the Iraqis, we sent an American to govern Iraq. L. Paul Bremer underestimated the task, but did his best to make a foolish policy work. I had badly underestimated the administration’s capacity to mess things up.
So it's Bremer's fault, and in addition, Perle's only mistake was not to know how f*cked up the maladministration was. <*PSSST!*> Perle was part of the maladministration, and one of those who pushed for the war from back in 1998 during PNAC days. Maybe he is of the opinion that Clinton could have done the job right. If so, out with it, Dick....


3). Ann-Marie Slaughter is the only one who doesn't finger-point and who takes her role seriously.


4). Perennial chickenhawk Ken Pollack goes for the "can't we just move on" dodge, and puts up the "others thought so too" as an excuse:
What matters most now is not how we entered Iraq, but how we leave it. If we leave behind an Iraq more stable and less threatening to its neighbors than the one we toppled, I think the intelligence community’s (and my own) mistakes about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration’s exaggerations of that threat and its baseless insistence on links between Iraq and Al Qaeda will all lose their edge — even though they will not, and should not, be forgotten.
As long as we had good motive, doesn't matter if we were wrong, as long as we find some way to fix things in the end (and sorry about that $2 trillion and 4000 soldiers....):
If we leave behind a raging civil war in which the Iraqi people are incomprehensibly worse off than they had been under Saddam Hussein and the Middle East more threatened by the chaos spilling over from Iraq than they ever were by the dictator’s arms, then no one will care how well-intentioned our motives.

For that reason, what I most wish I had understood before the invasion was the reckless arrogance of the Bush administration. I had inklings of it to be sure, and warned of the inadequacy of some of what I saw. But I did not realize that as skillfully, cautiously and patiently as George H. W. Bush’s administration had handled its Iraq war, that was how clumsy, careless and rash George W. Bush’s administration would treat its own.
Nooooo one could have known that the maladministration was incompetent ... as long as they didn't bother reading Molly Ivin's book "Shrub", I suppose. "I tried to warn people.... really.... not kidding..." Little pat on the back there for himself; yes, no doubt Pollack didn't do anything wrong other than misunderestimate Dubya, and who could be faulted for that?


5). According to Danielle Pletka, aside from the oh-so-common "everyone did it" whining, the problem is that we put down the White Mans' Burden, and expected those brutes to govern themselves with out proper example from our pith hats and jodphurs:
Looking back, I felt secure in the knowledge that all who yearn for freedom, once free, would use it well. I was wrong. There is no freedom gene, no inner guide that understands the virtues of civil society, of secret ballots, of political parties. And it turns out that living under Saddam Hussein’s tyranny for decades conditioned Iraqis to accept unearned leadership, to embrace sect and tribe over ideas, and to tolerate unbridled corruption.

Some have used Iraq’s political immaturity as further proof the war was wrong, as if somehow those less politically evolved don’t merit freedoms they are ill equipped to make use of.
See, our problem was in working with the wrong starting materials. Next time, we invade Denmark.


6). Marine officer Nathaniel Fick was misled by the WoMD hype. If the Marines just known that there weren't any WoMD, and hadn't gotten all worried about chemical attacks and taken their eye off the ball, they could have done a better job:
This deception twisted our priorities dangerously out of whack. Methodically clearing areas of enemy fighters, and then securing them to protect the populace, seemed like a risky luxury in March and April. By August, with the insurgency in bloom, it had become a colossal missed opportunity.

The weapons, we now know, were some combination of relic, bluster and ruse. We focused on the nerve-agent feint, and got roundhoused by the insurgent hook. I wish we could all go back to those nights in the Kuwaiti desert, when a more sober assessment could have changed the way we fought, and maybe lessened the likelihood that we’d still be fighting five years later.
Hate to say it, but "enemy fighters" were the "populace". And he might pay attention to the fact that if there weren't any WoMD, there wasn't any freaking reason to invade in the first place....


7). Paul Eaton has a good one: "Congress is to blame, Ma, Congress made me do it....":
My greatest surprise was the failure on the part of Congress to assert itself before the executive branch. That failure assured continued problems for the military in the face of a secretary of defense who proved incompetent at fighting war.

Had Congress defended the welfare of our armed forces by challenging the concentration of power in the hands of the president, the vice president and the secretary of defense, our Army and Marine Corps would not be in the difficult position we find them in today.
It is true that Congress (with some -- but way too few -- notable exceptions) showed no spine and even less judgement and intelligence, but outside of a refusal to pass the ill-considered AUMF despite intense GOP political pressure, there is really little they could have done. The day-to-day operations are generally thought to be a "Commander-in-Chief" function, and their disapproval would have little mandatory effect ... not to mention, this particular Doofus-in-Chief is the last person to listen to anyone, much less Congress....

Most surprising here is that Paul Eaton is a campaign advisor to Hillary Clinton (who was, ummm, a Senator in 2002 and onwards?)....


8). RW chickenhawk and AEI "scholar" Fred Kagan whines that "No one listened to meeeeeee.......":
From the moment the Bush administration took office, I argued against its apparent preference for high-tech, small-footprint wars, which continued a decade of movement in that direction by senior military leaders and civilian experts. In 2002, I questioned the common triumphalism about American operations in Afghanistan, and particularly the notion of applying the “Afghanistan model” of low-manpower, high-precision operations in Iraq. I supported the 2003 invasion despite misgivings about how it would be executed, and those misgivings proved accurate.
OK. "I thought it was dumb, but I said, 'Let's do it'...." Hell, it's just war and soldier's lives we're dealing with. "But the thing to note is that I was smart and perceptive and I'm a freakin' geenyus." But noting his disdain for high-tech, we have this:
However, the most surprising phenomenon of the war has been the transformation of the United States military into the most discriminate and effective counterinsurgency force the world has ever seen, skillfully blending the most advanced technology with human interactions between soldiers and the Iraqi people. Precision-guided weapons allowed our soldiers and marines to minimize collateral damage while using our advantages in firepower to the full.
So Kagan changed his mind about the "high-tech" toys, I guess. Of course, we've only blow up a couple of weddings with stand-off weaponry, due (in part) to that quaint habit folks in this part of the world have of firing off firearms into the sky during weddings (something I know about, but which has apparently not been passed on to either Kagan or the troops).
Once we pushed most of our combat forces into close interactions with the Iraqi people, the information they obtained ensured that the targets they hit were the right ones. Above all, the compassion and concern our soldiers have consistently shown to civilians and even to defeated and captured enemies have turned the tide of Iraqi opinion.
What's turned the tide is that we're giving arms and lots of money (and the promise of power) to the various chiefs, and they'll be well placed to fight the civil war once they boot us out or we get tired and leave. The "compassion and concern", of course, may be there, but it just takes one Abu Ghraib, and that's all gone down the crapper....


9). Republican Anthony Cordesman of the CSIS starts out by saying he's not a very astute pundit either, and thus we ought to cut the Bushies some slack:
In fairness to the Bush administration, I did not expect that we would discover no meaningful activity in rebuilding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and no Iraqi ties to Al Qaeda. I also never predicted, after the insurgency began, that the extremists in Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia would so alienate Sunnis and tribes in western Iraq that a combination of the “surge, win and hold” military tactics, American-led nation-building efforts that focused on local and provincial needs, and the cease-fire declared by Moktada al-Sadr could create today’s new opportunity for “victory.”
OK. So tell me why we're even listening to him.... But I thought the question was in part, "so what have you learned?"
In balance, however, the most serious surprise was that what appeared to be the American A-Team in national security ignored years of planning and months of interagency activity before the war, and the United States had no meaningful plan for stability operations and nation building after the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s armed forces. Relying on sectarian exiles with strong ties to Iran, disbanding the security forces and starting the process of de-Baathification were all obvious disasters, as were the creation of closed-list national elections and the failure to quickly hold local and provincial elections.

It was even more of a surprise to watch the Bush administration fail, from 2003 to 2006, to come to grips with creating effective counterinsurgency programs, focused aid and development efforts, political accommodation and effective Iraqi forces. As a Republican, I would never have believed that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would waste so many opportunities and so much of America’s reputation that they would rival Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy for the worst wartime national security team in United States history.
Oh, I get it. The Dubya maladministration is sooooo incompetent that they's almost as bad as a Democratic one (not to mention Dubya et al. had the advantage of hindsight so as to not have to learn the lessons learned from the Democratic mistakes all over again, the hard way).


If you take a consensus view of the nine pieces, perhaps the only common views are that it's someone else's fault and that the maladministration is a bunch of incompetents and eedjits. Does it look like any of these people actually learned something useful from the last five years (outside of the obvious fact I mentioned in the last sentence)?

But what's missing here is, say, nine views looking back from the people that really knew that the Iraq war was a bad idea from the beginning, and how they were right and perhaps ought to be paid more attention to ... you know, like getting editorial page billing in an august newspaper like the N.Y. Times....


Update

Richard Perle is not one to back down:
Appearing on the radio show of Fox News’s John Gibson on Monday night, Perle chastised Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) assertion that “we cannot win” the civil war in Iraq. “We may not win, but to say we can’t win is clearly wrong,” argued Perle.
Right. We can win. Just have to decide what "winning" is. What would a "win" look like? Oh. Right. Forgot to figger that one out. Well, if we now carefully draw the target around the arrow....

More choice Perles from way back:
And a year from now, I’ll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush....
... build by Halliburton, no doubt. You know, it's so nice to see we've replaced Saddam.... Umm ... hmmm ... nevermind.

and:
[T]hey understand that they’ve been liberated.
Yes, I'm sure they've noticed the changes....

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