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The War in Iraq: Three Years In

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Three years in: The War in Iraq doesn’t even have the dignity of a name other than the “War in Iraq,” and after about the first month it has been a war of attrition. Wars of attrition are dispiriting as hell: the cost in lives and treasure piles up, atrocities and resentments accumulate on all sides, idealism drains down into deep-worn ruts of reflexive behavior, civilian populations on all sides lose patience and despair, and the causes either turn opaque or to fanaticism while entropy squeezes the whole affair in its rusty hands.

When you are an occupying force, when you strive to build positive change, your opposition simply has to outlast you, to prevent the chaos from congealing into something recognizable as progress, something to hang your hope hat on.

It began with a victory march in 2003, a white-hot razor operation through buttery opposition right up to the palace doors of the murderous despot Saddam Hussein, and Bush adminsitration planners and their cheerleaders crowed and strutted, their plumage high, the first Gulf War finally won, their hubris rising in a cloud utterly guaranteed to offend the Geometry of the Universe.

For all the effectiveness of the original shock and awe sweep to Baghdad, the planners and foreseers hadn’t quite got around to planning or foreseeing what to do with victory’s child once delivered. The “victors” performed ancient rituals of territorial acquisition while simultaneously denying that any territory had been acquired; they presumed a simple “us” vs. “them” conflict had clearly, almost comically, resulted in a big “W” for the “us” team on the scoreboard, even though what had actually transpired was more akin to winning the pregame coin toss.

Immediately, disruptive forces from within (Baathists, Saddamist clansmen, resentful Sunnis, Islamists) and without (jihadis, al-Qaeda, scheming neighbors) burst out and in like respective boils and puncture wounds upon the envisioned grateful and acquiescent body politic. Chaos reared up proud and implacable, a retributionist dust devil here, a mad whirlwind of carnage and omnidirectional hatred there.

And so the time has passed: Since Bush’s “mission accomplished” statement almost three years ago, more than 2,300 Americans have died, the “insurgency” has inflated to the brink of sectarian civil war — many say well beyond that brink — and the president’s own standing has plummeted. A recent Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey found only 40 percent of respondents said Bush was trustworthy, a 22-point drop from September of 2003 – a direct result of the “credibility gap” (to resurrect a Vietnam-era term) between administration rhetoric and stark reality.

As Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-N.M.) told the Washington Post, “We need to assume that things are going to be very hard because when you do, you plan accordingly. I am always cautious about always seeing things in the best light because war is not like that” and the public knows it.

The public, despite it all, seems to know a lot. Gallup polling shows a majority of Americans agree that U.S. troops should not be pulled out immediately and that Iraq is better off now and will be even more so in the future as a result of the invasion. So far so good for the Bush position, except 6 out of 10 say the war has not been worth it because, according to Gallup’s Frank Newport, the public does not see an upside for the United States. “The focus for Americans is Americans,” he told the Post.

I remain among the steadfast, some would say mulish, 40% three years on because only a fool would have REALLY bought the administration’s rosy scenarios along the way — uprooting a deeply entrenched totalitarian system and replacing it with a functioning representative democracy was never going to be anything close to “complete” in less than ten years — and, none of the goals or rationales that made “regime change” advisable three years ago have changed much in the interim.

The first question is: was Iraq under Saddam Hussein a threat? The question is not did he have WMD – it would appear, for now, that he did not. But the only reason he didn’t have WMD was because of an ongoing, expensive, and onerous international system of sanctions. The sanctions and military efforts and expense required to enforce them could not have been sustained forever. When they would have ended — either officially, or by the time they would have been breached by Iraq’s overt and covert allies France, Germany, and Russia — Saddam would have resumed his efforts to obtain and create WMD.

Therefore, in the medium or, without question, long run, Saddam would have once again become a threat just as he has been in the past: to his neighbors, his own people, and to the United States toward whom he has expressed nothing but hatred and contempt. Saddam was a dangerous malignancy that would have inevitably metastasized.

But, doesn’t that apply to all kinds of countries, including the other two-thirds of Bush’s own Axis of Evil, Iran and North Korea? Why yes it does, but for a variety of reasons practical, logistical, political, and diplomatic, it was simply not feasible to invade and overthrow the governments of either North Korea or Iran. Reality counts because we live in the real world – you do what you can when you can. We had to start somewhere and Iraq was the most reasonable, possible place to start.

This is still the beginning of the process: radical change of any kind tends to release competing forces that appear anarchic and that cost real lives, suffering, pain and resources. War always looks like an miasmic mess from the inside and while it is ongoing, just like a hurricane or a tornado, but there IS an end to both kinds of whirlwinds, though riding both out requires determination, vision, perspective, and some luck.

And the Iraq invasion has clearly met its corollary goal of fostering change in the region. As ’05 Lebanese intifada leader Walid Jumblatt put it, “It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting [last year], 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world … The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.”

Despite his many and manifest flaws, I give President Bush full credit for continuing to “see it,” too, in the face of severe public and political pressure, as evidenced by his speech at the City Club of Cleveland yesterday.

“The last three years have tested our resolve,” he said toward the end of the speech. “The fighting has been tough. The enemy we face has proved to be brutal and relentless. We’re adapting our approach to reflect the hard realities on the ground. And the sacrifice being made by our young men and women who wear our uniform has been heartening and inspiring.

“The terrorists who are setting off bombs in mosques and markets in Iraq share the same hateful ideology as the terrorists who attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, those who blew up commuters in London and Madrid, and those who murdered tourists in Bali, or workers in Riyadh, or guests at a wedding in Amman, Jordan … the best way to defeat this enemy and to ensure the security of our own citizens is to spread the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East. We’ve seen freedom conquer evil and secure the peace before,” he said referring to WWII and the Cold War.

“The security of our country is directly linked to the liberty of the Iraqi people,” he continued. “And we will settle for nothing less than victory. Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq’s democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their citizens on their own, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation. There will be more days of sacrifice and tough fighting before the victory is achieved. Yet by helping the Iraqis defeat the terrorists in their land, we bring greater security to our own,” he concluded.

I agree and can’t see any other choice.

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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.
  • JP

    Had Bush made the case you’ve made here in the beginning, before setting expectations for a very short conflict with all the hype about “Shock and Awe” (which is still to me a very arrogant and presumptive term to use publicly before you attack) – public opinion might be a little different.

    Your assessment is fair but I disagree on two points. First, that “only a fool would have REALLY bought the administration’s rosy scenarios along the way”. I believe in building a strong case for war with good intelligence, and making a truthful case to the people. We didn’t have convincing evidence about WMD, the reason most frequently cited, and that alone is a red flag. The case for spreading democracy or making “positive change” wasn’t made, it was “regime change” due to an impending threat. Now that the scenario painted for us was clearly wrong, it’s hard to have confidence in the administration.

    Second, I think the truth is the “threat” is more directly to Israel, and perhaps to our economic interests in the middle East, than a direct threat to the USA. I didn’t feel for one minute threatened by Iraqis dropping bombs on the US mainland. If we’re going to fight for Middle Eastern safety, we should be honest about it.

    Finally, any comments on the assertion that “I know I didn’t say that there was a direct connection between September 11th and Saddam Hussein” in yesterday’s Cleveland speech, colorfully illustrated by Keith Olbermann?

  • is the lesson from this, in spite of the neocons,

    (1) to be yet more overtly unilateral and be truthful about the stated aims :: iraq’s been a threat to israel, that is why the US is occupying and installing a new government,


    (2) to take multilateralism more seriously and follow the security council and sanctions regimes to the letter, after a properly reformed UN and global governance reflecting current realities :: iraq was a regional threat with possible WMDs and too much aggrieved/aggressive for global oil business stability (opec, oic, al, wto..).

    I do understand, not buy, the argument (1) which EO makes. i dont see meaningful lessons being drawn by the US either :: either (1) or (2) for example.

    It seems there is no high ground, just a lot of dirt. still (2) if properly done is the better option than (1).


  • Eric Olsen

    thanks guys – I disagree that Israel is the deus ex machina behind this and/or all our action in the Middle East. What magical hold is Israel presumed to have that causes us to dance about like a marionette doing its bidding? Israel is our closest ally in the region and our interests often coincide with theirs; when they do they do and when they don’t they don’t.

    The time had come to be aggressively proactive in teh region and Iraq was the logical place for that proactivity.

  • Oh Eric, don’t you know tha the bearded elders of AIPAC pull the strings of our puppet government here in America. Shame on you for your blindness!

    That aside, great and realistic assessment of the situation in Iraq.


  • What magical hold is Israel presumed to have that causes us to dance about like a marionette doing its bidding?

    good question. why is it an ally. there are obviously ties that bind.

    and israel is more developed than its neighbours, only since 1948? but you are right the other major stability factors were shah’s iran till 1979, post nasir egypt and saudi arabia, all decades behind.

    and why after saddam fought post-revolutionary iran with US assistance during the eighties did things eventually come to such a a head that all of a sudden saddam decided to invade kuwait, threaten saudi arabia and burn the oilfields.

    and why did the US backed mujahidin in afghanistan after defeating the soviets suddenly have little useful to do.

    I would call it neglect and opportunism involving mercenary and client states.

    why iraq becomes a site for pro-activity after the 9/11 suddenly is beyond me, unless there were reasons lying about from before – such as ‘his desperate scud attacks on israel’ in 1991 and proclaiming to be an arab/islamic hero standing up to the US and Israel, in the background of having little else to do after the costly loan-heavy war with iran ‘defending the arab states’, dispute with kuwait which iraq claimed in the first place, and islamic (not arab) resurgence concurrent with the palestinian intifada.

    and of course the neocon links with likud are well-known. hence israel.

    but my argument was really centred on the unilateral v multilateral equation, and israel as an ally of distintion in the region was a convenient example. there are obviously other factors in US policy in the region. i agree.


  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Dave, much appreciated!

    good points gazelle, thanks for clarifying. Sometimes it seems like the best multilateralism is clear and decisive unilaterism, but I realize the efficacy of this is as the exception rather than the rule.

  • valery

    “Saddam was a dangerous malignancy….”

    And now most of the civilized world recognizes Dubya Bush as a far more dangerous disease.

  • Harvard Liberal

    Relax. Here is the final word on Iraq.

    The mystery is solved.

  • MCH

    Here’s how our soldiers who are actually serving in Iraq feel, according to Natalie Davis’ “Iraq, What the Troops Say” post on BC March 2, ’06:

    “On Feb. 28, Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies and independent pollster Zogby released the first-ever survey of ground troops in Iraq. Get this: According to the poll, a whopping 72 percent of US soldiers surveyed say troops should leave Iraq within the next year – and 29 percent say the US should send the soldiers home right now.”

  • Bliffle

    “The security of our country is directly linked to the liberty of the Iraqi people,”

    Absurd on the face of it. There is no evidence this is true, and there is no a priori supposition that supports the assertion. Pure political hyperbole and propaganda.

  • Iraq is in a bloody mess. The US and its allies are bogged down in the quagmire of Iraq. The killing spree is proceeding unabated. For every American soldier killed, some 60 Iraqis are slaughtered mainly by an assortment of insurgents. terrorists, sectarian death squads.
    The top priority is to get the Iraqis trained to take care of their own security. This will provide the face saving formula for the US to leave.
    The Iraqi security forces are not yet able to take care of their own security.

    nehad ismail,

  • Bliffle

    “The terrorists who are setting off bombs in mosques and markets in Iraq share the same hateful ideology as the terrorists who attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, those who blew up commuters in London and Madrid,…”

    Isn’t that ideology Islam? So, doesn’t that make this a McCarthyist attack on Islam?

  • Eric Olsen

    If you mean the part of Islam that seeks to force the world to adhere to a fictional form of Islam that they claim existed 1000 years ago via means of mass murder of civilians and intimidation, then I guess the answer is “yes.”

    I believe the vast majority of Muslims would reject this ideology

  • JP

    Bliffle, re #10 – I dispute that assertion too, with the exception of the soldiers currently in Iraq of course; outside of them and any Americans in neighboring states, Iraq wasn’t a threat to our security.

  • Eric,

    I disagree with your analysis of the situation. Your country went into Iraq, unhorsed a dictator and have overstayed your welcome there.

    At this point, Americans are doing little more than trampling about in Sumerian manure. One life lost to a battle is too many, but considering that your soldiers have been there for three years, 2,000 casualties are not that many to suffer.

    So what is the solution?

    The solution is to recognize that the three Turkish sanjaks cobbled into Iraq in 1919 ought to be allowed to go their own way. It was a mistake to cobble them together in the first place, but you can’t cry over spilt beer. You can wipe it up, though.

    Kurdistan ought to be allowed to become autonomous at the very least, if not independent, with a small American “tripwire” force to protect it. Mosul should be part of Kurdistan.

    The Shia territories in the south ought to be given the option of joining Iran or becoming independent of Iran. British troops should be pulled out of Basra.

    The Sunni district of the country ought to be encouraged to hook up with Jordan to form the base of an Arab state that can stretch from the Jordan River to the Iranian foothills. If the Olmert régime forcibly pulls out of most of Judea and Samaria, this Arab state can take over and incorporate the territory into its own and attempt to provide a stable régime tht can absorb the refugees from the 1948-9 War of Israel Independence.

    In return for us sacrificing our land, we get all of the Gaza Strip, all of Jerusalem, the settlement blocs designated by Kadima, and the Golan Heights; the Arabs living in Gaza are permanently removed to the new Arab Kingdom and a tripwire force of American soldiers are stationed in Judea and Samaria. Also, American foreign aid to Israel ends.

    I don’t like this solution – it costs us in Israel a lot, and from the point of view of Judaism, it may not work at all – but it is the most realistic one to your problems on offer. It solves three big problems. It creates a possible future for the peoples of Mesopotomia, it gets rid of the “Palestine refugee” problem once and for all, and finally – it ends the regime of Hamas here. In sum, it builds nations and allows the majority of your soldiers to come home.

    Then you face a real problem which will dog all of you for the rest of your lives: paying the bill from this war.

  • JP

    Ruvy, I respect your very thoughtful comments. When you say it might not work from the point of view of Judaism, how do you mean that exactly? Simple ignorance here, not intending to insult by my qeustion.

    Going back to the creation of Iraq, I also see that as the beginning of the mess; all three groups should be appropriated land in a more rational way. It’s obvious the existing lines aren’t conducive to agreement.

    Eric, I have a question – expanding the scope just a bit, how do you see this in relation to our aborted effort to get Osama Bin Laden? I believe he was the true threat to America, and to the American mainland; do you feel that mission should have been accomplished before Iraq was undertaken? If not, why not?

  • JP,

    According to my faith, this land is not ours to give away. We Jews were gifted with this land by G-d and are forbidden to give it away. The proposal of the Olmert (pronounced eau le merde)régime does precisely that. It is my personal opinion that the Olmert’s proposal will not come to pass for that precise reason.

    Nevertheless, even without Israel giving up territory, the proposal could still fly, only that the latter portions relating to Israel and Arab refugees would not necessarily apply. The basic idea is to create a viable Arab kingdom of Sunni Arabs, a Kurdish state and an entity of some kind for Shia Arabs AND to allow most of the American forces to come home.

  • Eric Olsen

    I disagree with splitting up Iraq – the factions can work out a political compromise that will keep them at least loosely unifed. We have already seen that. It doesn’t make sense to try to disentangle them geographically and not sure what Iraq has to do with a plan for Israel, anyway.

    JP, of course it would have been prefereable to capture/kill bin Laden sooner rather than later, but also don’t know why that should have held up operations in Iraq. They are related, but only broadly

  • JP

    Eric, wasn’t BL a more immediate threat to America?

  • Eric,

    The whole area that we are talking about is not all that big. It is about 15 hours by tank from Baghdad to Amman. It is about 13 hours by car. People traveled from Iraq to Israel to live. In essence, we are talking about the fertile crescent, with Mesopotamia on the east and Israel on the west. When you view it through that lens, it is clear that all the territories in the region are interconnected in one way or another. And the truth is – they are.

  • ss

    Eric, congrats on a very good article.
    I’d have to agree there isn’t much we can do but see it through. And I’d have to agree Ruvy’s plan is likely to create even more chaos in a troubled region, though in a way he raises a valid a point.
    Jordan is ruled by a peaceful reformer. Why aren’t we spending one tenth of what we spend in Iraq to aid King Abdallah in his peaceful reforms? Wouldn’t a strong modern ecomomy and a constitutional monarchy (in the sense that England is a costitutional monarchy) in largely Sunni Jordan create oppurtunities for Iraqi Sunnis that would help ease thier fears?
    Wouldn’t the reforms we want to see be more attractive to others in the region if they were accomplished peacefully and without a Western army on their land?
    Lastly, and most importantly, why do we consitently only see the part of this equation that allows us to exercise influence by force, and totally ignore pieces of the puzzle that would use peaceful means?

  • td

    This article is a very well though out assumption. My problem with this though is that by putting all our belief in one train of unproven though we may be missing out on better solutions. For example.

    “…for a variety of reasons practical, logistical, political, and diplomatic, it was simply not feasible to invade and overthrow the governments of either North Korea or Iran”

    I don’t disagree that invading either of these countries is practical or feasible. My problem with this statement is that it assumes Iraq was. The Iraq war is not over. We do not know when it will be or if it will succeed. So you cannot say with any certainty that the Iraq was practical or feasible. If it ends up taking 40 years is it ‘practical’. If it ends up costing trillions of dollars was it ‘feasible’.

    “….was Iraq under Saddam Hussein a threat?”

    Yes. But then you go on to assume that Saddam was the highest priority threat that was ‘feasible’. This war was about terror, not just Saddam. And the money spent on Iraq could have been used to put economic pressure on countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran that are more of a threat in terms of Islamic Extremist Terrorism than Saddam was.

    “And the Iraq invasion has clearly met its corollary goal of fostering change in the region.”

    What, because of one quote. I don’t buy it. You assume that Iraq will succeed and that as a result it will effect the region.

    What if Iraq does not succeed. What if regardless of our efforts it falls into a brutal civil war between the Sunni and Shia sects. What effect will that have on the region, on terrorism, and on our economic stability.

    “…helping the Iraqis defeat the terrorists in their land, we bring greater security to our own,”

    You assume that it will work out for the best and then use this assumption as a basis for proof that the war was worth it. I can easily do the same and assume the worst and use it as a basis for proof that the war was not worth it.

    “I agree and can’t see any other choice.”

    I think this is the worst statement of it all. Every decision has an opportunity cost. There is never one perfect solution. This kind of blind faith is what leads to shortsighted decision making.

    Was Iraq worth it? I think Iraq was a very worthwhile undertaking.

    But whether it was ‘worth it’ compared to the many other worthwhile undertakings we could have pursued instead in the fight against terrorism is left to been seen.

  • [MR]Chip

    People often make comparisons with the situation under Saddam. But in order to evaluate the usefulness of the American troops in Iraq, you’ll have to start at t=0, right after the moment we now know as ‘mission accomplished’. Have things gotten better since then? What has been achieved? Are the people of Iraq better off now? Is the opposition stronger or weaker? Are less people dying or more?

    People who say ‘stay the course’ might want to have a look at where that road is leading.

  • John Doe

    “But the only reason he didn’t have WMD was because of an ongoing, expensive, and onerous international system of sanctions. The sanctions and military efforts and expense required to enforce them could not have been sustained forever.”

    I think that if you consider the cost of this invasion in US lives and treasure, it seems inconcievable that maintaining sanctions wouldn’t have been cheaper. While I”m far from a millitary expert, but I don’t think that most people would believe that sanctions would cost more than a prolonged war. And like you said, most people didn’t REALLY believe that it would be a short victorious war. If the rest of the world got sick of paying it, the US could’ve picked up the tab and we would’ve still come out on top.

  • Jim,MtnViewCA,USA

    I don’t know.
    If you consider that the US was flying air missions for what–ten year?–over Iraq, that was not a solution that would work forever.
    Weren’t the sanctions accused of killing thousands of Iraqis every month, esp children?
    Doesn’t the Oil-for-food investigation show the sanctions were falling apart on their own due to successful bribery of Euro and UN leaders?
    Time will tell where the road leads. The reporting on the war makes it really difficult to determine where things stand. But it seems that with multiple elections and with thousands of Iraqis signing up to join their armed forces and police that the people have a chance to choose the direction of their country.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks for a number of very interesting and relevant points, although most diagree with me! In the course of trying to summarize three year’s worth of action and prior policy I have undoubedly simplified complex issues.

    I understand the region is not large and is interconnected, Ruvy, but it is politically pretty stridently divided, even Israel/Palestine. I don’t think a pan-Arab political entity is feasible at this point, but I am also not an expert on the subject.

    My point about Iraq being the feasible and justified place to begin “proactive” operations in the region presumes that it was appropriate to begin somewhere – I still think that was absolutely necessary to state the seriousness of our purpose, to demonstrate our willingness to defend our interests, and to reverse the vile socio-political inertia of the region.

    And we have seen far more than a quote from the populist leader of Lebanon: we have seen democratic movement throughout the region and equally importantly, the expectation has been raised that the governments have to answer to the “norms” of democracy, liberalization, economic development, civil society.

  • Dag Vaula

    The article mentioned in #10 is very convincing in pointing out the role played by the Israel-friendly lobbyists, both in pushing Bush over the brink in Iraq and in making it impossible for the US administration to make any headway in the Israel/Palestina conflict.
    The inconsistency in US attitudes to human rights, nuclear weapons etc in Israel vs other countries feeds fuel to the Islamistic fire.

  • I like to sit on the sidelines and watch the struggle between the Christ-Zionists and the supporters of the thousand-year-reich. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry.


  • td

    I agree so far as Islamic terrosim is bad, and should not be put up with. As such we must undertake a strategy to deal with it.

    However, to go guns a blazing into the middle east without considering the concequences is not the right approach.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t any positives. But that the negative effect the Iraq war has had on the region far outways any positives. I disagree that expectations have been raised. The only thing that has been raised is the boldness of Iran and Syria who are less afraid of western resolve after seeing the trouble we have had in Iraq and Afganistan.

    And the people of these states are now more reluctant to stand up to the ruling powers because they believe a bad regeme is still better than an unstable war zone.

    I can quote dozens of middle east experts who believe that the sectarian conflict in Iraq could trigger a widespread civil war that encompass the rest of the middle east. You can quote other experts that say differently.

    My point is that nobody knows what the result may turn out to be with absolute certainty. Maybe democracy will spread. Maybe the conflict will spread. at this point I believe it is fair to say it is 50/50 either way.

    Considering the disastrous effect on our economy and security that a long-term middle eastern conflict would have, I believe going into Iraq on a 50/50 roll of the dice is not worth it.

  • I am in favour of multi-ethnic, multireligious states with all protections to minorities and much self regulation among communitities.

    The public sphere sould reflect this. Making countries out of religious, linguistic, ethnic or other nationalistic delineations, even if the current waves seem to be rushing that way in the world, is not in my opinion the way forward.

    We still ought to work for the values of equity, sharing, tolerance, coexistence, with relative self-regulation among communities to be the guiding lines.

    A large arab state, for instance, would have its own fractions, tribal sectarioan, who will then try to justify their own territory, land, et cetera. I would not be convinced.

    It is preferable in my opinion to make israel more open, the arab ‘ex-socialist’ states more “developed”, open and tolerant, saudi arabia less oppressively religious in governance and more open.

    The trends for shia or sunni or arab or kurd blocks to come together is okay as political instrumentality, but the principles governing the state should remain higher and tolerant of coexistence. I also find the divisions of the colonies into smaller states highly suspect.

    nationalisms of any kind do more to manipulate and use people as fodder than they are a valuable human characteristic. we should be discouraged from going that way – as the current trend of micro ethnicities indicates.

    the big solutions are better such as a visionary diplomacy that fosters global ideals, rather than those that fling ‘human rights’ or ‘market barrier’ labels at foes. The narrow neocon agenda – visionary for some – fall way short of this. And the latest label is, you guessed it, ‘our ally in the war against terror’- meaning a state hounded into being a a mercenary.


  • #27 Dag Vaula:

    Our solver of mysteries is not Bliffle #10, but the mystery itself – the Harvard liberal author[?] at #8 who links the article by

    Mearsheimer and Walt titled ::
    The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy


  • Dag Vaula

    Thanks to #31 Gazelle for correcting my reference. I recommend reading this article, long though it is. A somewhat shortened version was published in the last issue of London Review of Books.

  • Gazelle,

    You’re a big girl and I can’t tell you what to believe; but this pack of garbage you cite as “solving the mystery” is so full of distortions and untruths, one hardly knows where to begin.

    If America were indeed the dog being wagged by the Zionist tail – that is the simple description of this “working paper” – I will tell you what the situation would be here.

    1. There never would have been any ‘Oslo Accords.’ Yassir Arafat would have been killed in 1982 when Israeli forces reached Beirut and let the bastard escape at the insistence of the United States.

    2. The northern boder of the State of Israel woudl be the Litani River in Lebanon; Arabs – Christian or otherwise, would have been expelled from the territory to make room for Jewish settlement there.

    3. Arabs would have been expelled from Judea and Samaria to make room for Jewish settlement. Hebron would be what it should be, a Jewish city, as would Bethlehem. The same would be true for Shechem in Samaria. Similarly, Arabs would have been expelled from Gaza, which also whould be a Jewish city.

    4. The border between Israel and Egypt would run from El Arish in the north to Sharm al Sheikh in the south – with a US tripwire force to stop an Egyptian invasion located on the Egyptian side of the border. Indeed, Sharm al Sheikh would be known as Yamit.

    5. The Temple Mount would be in our hands with a small synagogue on it. Arabs would be allowed upon it to worhip in its mosques at our sufferance and permission.

    6. South Syrian Arabs would have been expelled – only the Druze, Bedouin, Baha’i and Circassians would have been aloowed to remain in the country – as full and first class citizens.

    7. There would be a huge American naval base in Haifa with several American military bases openly operating here. The American Embassy would be in Jerusalem and the country would be an American protectorate of sorts – for this is the deep desire of the American Jews. A protectorate status would secure their homeland (in their eyes) and set their hearts at ease.

    8. The shekel would have been dropped in favor of the dollar.

    I’m telling you this as a Jew raised in America who knows very well what the boys at AIPAC really want in their hearts. Note that none of these things have happened. That should tell you something important. There is no Jewish tail wagging the American dog. Were it so, there would have been no invasion of Iraq. Saddam Hussein would sell his oil in dollars and his sons wuld still be raping Iraqi girls, and the United States wouldn’t give a damn. And the Yanks would have a base in Basra.

  • Eric Olsen

    glad we agree on that aspect Ruvy – I am still astonished that wide swaths of the world, including Americans, still ascribe to the pernicious magical powers of the Unitary Jew.

    glad we agree that the felicities of political confrontation and negotiation within nations, where possible, than between nations, gazelle

  • JP

    Gazelle, your goal of seeing tolerant multi-ethnic states is admirable, but is it realistic? With the election of Hamas as an example, I just don’t know that others view “democracy” as the ideal we do.

    The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire left a mess, the lines were drawn arbitrarily and I figure just because you draw a line around a group of people doesn’t mean they’re going to want to cooperate and build a country.

  • Ruvy, no,

    i wasn’t referring to mystery solving, only pointing out the correct comment/link – the mystery solver was self-proclaimed (see comment #8) – not proclaimed by me – in fact i put the pun on the poster “harvard liberal” hinting that that one of the authors had posted the link himself (hehheheh) -a mystery itself!!! so that’s where my reference ends.

    originally EO had posed the question (#3) of why so much focus on israel in my examples (#2) where i was pointong out unilateralist v. multilateralist options.

    my response was #5 in which i was clearly trying to avoid the israel debate and restated that my point was about uni/multilateralism, whose idealistic principles version (in #30) was a response to redrawing of boundaries as you stated in #15 .

    ruvy, in the last post I see you saying two things:

    one, how far opinions go among some american jews such as aipac diehards, and how far that is from whats there today, I take that to be statement of fact, from which i take it you imply:

    two: either that american jews/AIPAC do not have their way with american policy as far as they would like, or that israeli jews (or israel) do not have their way with american policy as far as they would like – a distinction i find you are not making.

    My guess is that you have in mind the american/aipac jews and not as much the israeli ones, or that you really think of both as one body – which goes well with the protectorate idea…

    as far i am concerned there is no mystery here. there are ties that bind, and it is a constant negotiation – which sometimes translates into restraint, thank god.

    Thanks for drawing up the greater scenario. I have still not said one word about the content of the paper cited by the mysterious harvard liberal 🙂


  • JP #35,

    yes you are right about lines, but most third world countries are multi-ethnic, multireligious, multisectarian, multitribal with people from rural areas speaking 2-3 languages, and countries carved out of larger administrative territories of empires. this is very common.

    and the tolerant policy lesson coming out of this has been well learnt and tried by administrators from ancient times, including the british ones in asia africa middle east. The present systems are mere dilapidated structures of them with odd patches, passages and bureacratic dungeons.

    germany, korea were exceptions in having one language ethnicity and two countries. there are changes there too. the world is breaking up with the stress (ethnicities, identities, nationalisms) but the binding-supporting-communicating factors need to stay too or all accommodation will just give way.

    Hamas will negotiate. ~(-_o)~


  • Eric Olsen

    JP, now you’re sounding like an autocrat! Democracy is messy and there has to be commensurate developemnt of civil society and individual rights for it to reach maturity, but it should always be the goal

  • Gazelle,

    So that you and others understand. The American Jews active in AIPAC think that they do Israel a favor. The ones who truly favor this country have an agenda something like the one I described. Bear in minds, these are American Jews talking.

    I did not mention religion in that post because most of the American Jews who have given backing to Israel in AIPAC are secular. Though this is changing on the ground, it is not changing in the American Jewish organizational power structure that stands behind AIPAC – yet. The agenda I outlined is one of an extreme secular nationalist who sees America as the anchor of power, and desires what the paper mentioned claims already exists. Again, if the Zionist tail wagged the American dog, something similar to what I described in comment #33 would exist now. But clarify this in your mind – this is an American Jewish vision.

    Israeli Jews see things in a whole different light. Wholesale expulsions are far harder for Israeli Jews to countenance because they generally see Arabs as people, not propaganda images. One of the doctors who operated on me when I had a heart attack was an Arab. My roomie in the hospital was an Arab. The food we eat, the music we listen to all has a strong Arab flavor to it. Botz, the strong black coffee that many of us drink, is made in a finján – an Arab coffee pot. Much of our slang is Arabic.

    But every time an Arab is caught with 6 or 7 kilos of explosive with intent to destroy a restaurant or what have you – this happened on Tuesday; every time Arabs dance in the streets when Jews die, Israeli Jews are less and less willing to see Arabs as people, and more and more willing to see them as black-hearted animals that need to be shot…

    When Arabs dance in the streets celebrating the death of Jews, we Israelis breathe “n’kamá” – vengeance – under our breaths. Those who dance in the street are not innocent souls – those who celbrate our deaths are as guilty as those who perpertrate it. That is what has changed in the last six years here. There has been a hardening of the hearts against Arabs, a feeling that Arabs are not people whom one wishes to be near.

    An American Jew looks at a map – an Israeli Jew looks at the mosque across the valley. But Arab terror is only filling up a well of hatred that will overflow and result in the murder – nay, the massacre of Arabs wholesale in this country. If Hizb Allah attacks us with its missiles, if one of the criminal gangs in Gaza manages to cause major casualties from a missile hit in Ashkelon, this is something I can virtually guarantee.

  • troll

    Some slogans for the coming struggle:

    Semites Unite – !

    throw off the chains of colonialism and reject economic exploitation

    Bring Back the Tribes

    Semitic ain’t Pathetic


  • ruvy,
    ya i can imagine that. i ve seen it happen in other contexts. from what you write there is palpable tension since hamas’ coming to power but thankfully not too much incident because of the uncertainties settling down…..

    and dershowitz is responding: http://www.jpost.com


  • ss

    And although I DO NOT agree with bizarre zionist conspiracies, Ruvy; you have inadvertantly put your finger on the heart of the matter:
    Palestinian kills Israeli civilians- Average American thinks ‘Of course, another Muslim terrorists. If it’s the religion of peace how come there are no moderates condemning this”
    Israeli blows up unarmed Palestinian- Average American thinks ‘Of course. The Jews have been through so much. Who could blame them.’

  • Bliffle

    Apparently, there was no justification for invading Iraq. If no new reason has come up there is no reason to stay there. Except, of course, for ego and vanity.

  • ss

    Ok, ‘heart of the matter’ might be an exaggeration. But remember that ‘double standard’ some Muslims used to talk about, before it was forcefully demonstrated to them, once again, that their concerns don’t warrant our attention- That was a fine example of the double standard right there.

  • Eric Olsen

    is it double-standard or an understanding of cause and effect? Not telling, asking.

  • Eric Olsen

    Bliffle, since about a third of the article is spent explaining why the invasion was a) justified, and b) a good idea, I’m not sure what you mean

  • ss

    If you want Eric, we can do what the Arabs and Israelis spent 50 years doing, and start arguing about who really started it. They were both guilty when you get right down to it. The Jews weren’t exactly welcomed, but then they weren’t exactly invited either.
    I’m just saying, if you value the loss of Muslim life just a little less than the loss of other people’s lives, your dream of democratization will spit up parties like Hamas and the Muslim brotherhood over and over again.

  • Gazelle, the news rarely covers the tension from the constsant attepts to perpetrate terror bombingts and other attacks here. It rarely covers the continuous effort to counter these attacks. The vast majority of these attacks are stopped. But they are there unceasing.

    The tension has nothing to do with Hamas. If anything, Hamas having power makes things clearer. The Wahhabi influenced Moslem Brotherhood – to which Hamas is linked – wants no Israel. And Hams continually makes this clear. The tension arises over the constant attempts to kill Jews – labelled “resisting the occupation” by the agitprop boys who support it.

  • Here’s an easy way to determine why Israel is a U.S. ally: Let’s say Russia goes to war again the U.S. Hypothetically speaking. Which Middle East countries do you suppose we could count on to back the U.S. in that case?

    Turker? Jordan? Syria? Saudi Arabia?

    I know we could count on Israel, and that’s a two-way street.

  • By the way, I’m glad to read that EO is still supporting the “War in Iraq”. I had deliberately not brought it up in conversation, in order to keep a healthy relationship going. I feared he had caved to the peer pressure of the defeatists. It’s nice to know that isn’t the case. 🙂

  • ss

    Not that democracy is the problem, not that Israel is the problem. And not that this problem applies everywhere in the MIddle East equally at all times.
    But wherever there is a widespread feeling in a predominantly Muslim population that the West values their lives less then other peoples, democracy will result in Hamas, Hizballah, the Brotherhood, etc. getting their hands on the levers of power.
    Not that we shouldn’t spread democracy, but this is something we have to consider as we spread democracy, especially in this region.

  • td

    My argument is similar to that of ss.

    I understand that ‘Action’ was needed after 9/11. But there is a difference between saying that any action is needed, and therefore any action is ‘worth it’, as opposed to saying effective action is needed, because the action is only ‘worth it’ it is leads to success.

    We went into Iraq without considering the possibility that our actions would be in-effective, and as such result in a worse situation.

  • Eric Olsen

    ss, I hear what you’re saying and I agree: all lives must be valued potentially equally, “potentially” because of course individuals then make decisions and engage in behavior that raise or lower their “value” to the rest of mankind. I believe God values all life equally, but humans are not God.

    td, I think I made it pretty clear that I see a litany of mistakes and failures subsequent to the actual invasion, BUT I still view the overall action as a success because what counts most is the decision to act in the first place, then the swift execution of that decision. The “mop up” will doubtless be going on for 5 or more additional years, but “success” is already guaranteed as long as we don’t bail.

  • MCH

    “I feared he had caved to the peer pressure of the defeatists.”

    So are our soldiers who are actually serving in Iraq who feel we need to get out – 72 percent say within a year, 29 percent say immediately – also caving in to the defeatists? Or could it be they have a more realistic perspective?

    (“Iraq: What the Troops Say,” by Natalie Davis, BC, 3-2-06)

  • Eric Olsen

    what the troops think is certainly interesting and relevant, but ultimately doesn’t have much to do with determining policy

  • #48 Phillip Winn wrote:
    I know we could count on Israel, and that’s a two-way street.

    the street was paved during the cold war. that israel wsa and remains an ally is an effect, not a cause.


  • troll

    Eric – your reasoning is clear though abstract – rarefied as it is by its US perspective

    you are right that the US has shown itself willing to stand up for its interests – and you are right again that the US looses on this count only if it is forced to relinquish military control of the oil fields and infrastructure

    and right again – the troops certainly have ‘stirred the pot’ in the area

    but in this process

    we (the people of the US) have shown ourselves to be little different from other fundamentalists who act on the belief that ends justify means – similar right down to the bizarre acts of barbarism

    we’ve lost our claim to the high ground

    and as others have pointed out above – the pot of freedom that we decided to stir might well be a democratic witches’ brew of extremism like the one our founding fathers feared

    was it worth it – ?

    if the US had to make a (military) statement about its seriousness of purpose in its war against Islamic violence…might not a better defense of freedom have been investing our troops and treasure ending the genocide in Africa – ?

    IMO the only people who have a right to answer the question “was Iraq worth it” are the civilian dead and they aren’t talking much

    the whole episode reinforces the view that the ‘dogs of war’ are shitty pets and that world nations need to develop effective means for non-violent conflict resolution

    stay the course – ?

    our fearless leader made it clear that we are not giving up (the oil)


  • I still cannot believe that the US attacked and occupied iraq, as I did not when it did.

    Eric wants us to believe that some things were done right after all – dismantling a dangerous regime, or they happened as a result anyway – such as the spread of democracy particularly inside iraq but also lebanon, eqypt …

    No. I still believe it is a mistake that will not correct itself in 10 years. The felicitous circumstances such as the spread of democracy are consequences but not as intended – hamas hizbullah and the shia alliance are illegitimate only just saved from a martyrs death by a shot of realism.
    While bashar holds on, pakistan and egypt – mercenaries in the war on terrorism – are ruled by generals with democracy as window dressing. realism will shortly determine their fictitious fates too – leaving the countries poorer in democracy and greater in their democaratic potential – which will by that time probably all but be dominated by parties with religious agendas.

    will iraq be a model to be emulated in 10 years. Is the current spread of democracy anything more than regimes tottering with shivers from the shock-&-awe episode which will pass like a nightmarish pile-up on the road.

    who do we trust?
    in god.
    in the american people.
    in the people of the middle east.
    in american policy.
    in leaders supported by american policy.
    in leaders not supported by american policy.

    I fear the consequences. i am despondent.


  • Eric Olsen

    from this perspective war is never justified because there are always civilians killed – the question is, is the world a better place 10, 20, 50, 100 years from now because of this? Will fewer people have died because of this action in those time frames? I think the answer is yes for the reasons I have given.

    I realize it may sound heartlessly abstract to talk in such meta terms, but this is an important enough juncture in world history to think in these terms.

    And every death is still tragic.

  • ss

    Eric I’m not trying to question your morality.
    I read some Iraqi blogs and some of the people trying to make thier country into a free and prosperous one… my heart goes out to them.
    I also think these people are outgunned by insurgents and militias who looted Sadam’s ammo dumps while we were finding our way around. This created a chaotic situation that probably won’t neatly resolve itself. It’ll take years for these people to run out of Sadam’s ammo and the second we leave, meddlesome neighbors will probably start rearming them.
    Possibly even worse, the people who want the right things appear to be outnumbered by the UIA, alot of their membership seems pretty extreme, and they’ll be deciding the basic legal framework Iraqis have to live under for a while.
    I don’t know if they’ll drift into being as bad as the Afghani courts, I hope not, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
    It’s to late to back out, but given everything that has happened, maybe following a more peaceful ‘liberalize than democratize’ track, simultaneously, in more willing countries like Jordan… Shouldn’t we at least consider doing both and committing equal resources to both?
    Why do we always pursue the path of maximum damage to get our way now? And will putting all our eggs in one basket, and staking all our hopes on one method, even work? Will Iraq change and stabilize the region, or will the region, left to fend for itself, change Iraq for the worse?

  • Bliffle

    Eric: “Bliffle, since about a third of the article is spent explaining why the invasion was a) justified, and b) a good idea, I’m not sure what you mean”

    Oh. I thought you were just repeating administration bafflegab for our benefit. In case we’d forgotten it.

    Nevertheless, none of these reasons (which were presented after the fact) would have been sufficient to justify invading Iraq. They were harked up after the WMD delusion collapsed. I think they are mere rationalizations, not compelling reasons for invading Iraq. Good enough to support ones ego/vanity, but not enough gravitas to justify an invasion by the USA.

  • troll

    Eric – you’re right that I am no fan of just war theories

    and I saw no reason in your argument to be optimistic for the future

    when the Iraqi who lost his child in shock and awe is the one who smuggles some WMD into NYC then the error of our ways will be manifest concretely…but that’s a black fantasy – not the rosy one that we are somehow saving lives in the long run

    truth is we rolled the dice on the chance that different will be better for us and we shouldn’t be surprised if they come up snake-eyes

    there were better target choices than Iraq in our war against Islamic violence


  • td

    “BUT I still view the overall action as a success because what counts most is the decision to act in the first place,”

    I’m sorry but this is bulshit. You believe that the action is worth it because you believe the action will be a success. Otherwise you are saying that any action would have been worth it. Which is bullshit because if we had dropped a few nukes on Iraq and killed half the Iraqi population I know you would not be backing up the strategy like you are now.

    I agree that action had to be taken. But I believe that we took the wrong action and no matter how long we stay in Iraq it will still have little to no effect on our goal of reducing terrorism. In fact, I believe that regardless of the outcome we will end up much worse off.

    Military action is necessary to defend from invasion. Obviously we had no choice in WWII.

    But history has shown that proactive military action against ideology is not effective. Russia did not switch from Communism to Democracy because we invaded them. It switched because we led by social example and earned the envy of the people who then demanded change.

    And this process WAS beginning to occur in the middle east. But as Troll pointed out, the current war in Iraq may have blown our social credibility. And with it any potential for real social change in the region that would have resulted in long-term reduction of Islamic extremism.

  • Eric Olsen

    ss: It’s to late to back out, but given everything that has happened, maybe following a more peaceful ‘liberalize than democratize’ track, simultaneously, in more willing countries like Jordan… Shouldn’t we at least consider doing both and committing equal resources to both?

    Yes, absolutely – we have to help build back up after we have torn down and we should be assisting liberalization on all fronts. I is my hope that we won’t have to take any more drastic offensive military action because of what we have set in motion via Iraq.

    And Bliffle, I have been advocating the reasons I mentioned for regime change since 2002, before the administration had made any particular case at all. WMD were never the real reason, just the excuse.

  • Bliffle

    Eric: “WMD were never the real reason, just the excuse.”

    Are you saying that WMD was a knowing deceit?

  • Eric Olsen

    no, a convenient, very publicly sellable justification, but never the primary underlying reason

  • JP

    Bliffle, as I said in comment 1, if the points made in this article had been made in the beginning, public support might be different–people might understand this in a larger perspective. Trouble is, WMD–which Eric admits was the “excuse,” or as Paul Wolfowitz put it, the “reason we could agree on“–was the reason cited in stoking mass fear among Americans that an attack was imminent. It wasn’t, and the fact that Republicans are still desperate to prove some connection attests to that.

    SS, in #51 you hit the point I was trying to make in #35, that a democracy may result in the fundies gaining power, contrary to our intent.

  • JP

    Correction to 67 (oops, thinking fast!) – “desperate to prove some connection to Al Qaeda, or WMD possession, attests to that”

  • Harvard Liberal

    Hi Ruvy,

    Sorry to contradict you but for the sake of reality, I must. Let’s take a reality check of the situation.

    My link in #8 provides a set of facts.

    Your reply in #33 is merely a set of suppositions.

    Your response comprises the following:

    If , would be, never would have been, would be, would have been, would have been, would have been expelled, would be what it should be, also would be, would run from, would be known as, would be in our hands, would be allowed, would have been expelled, would have been allowed, there would be a huge, would be in Jerusalem, would be an American protectorate, would secure their homeland, would have been dropped, would have been no invasion, no Jewish tail wagging, would sell his oil, would have a base.

    Woulda — the first part of Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda… The language of those out of touch with reality.

    “All the Woulda-Coulda-Shoudas
    Layin’ in the sun,
    Talkin’ ’bout the things
    They woulda-coulda-shoulda done…
    But those Woulda-Coulda-Shoudas
    All ran away and hid
    From one little did”
    – Shel Silverstein

    So Ruvy, let’s deal with what did happened, not what woulda happened.

  • Bliffle

    I can hardly believe what JP and Eric are saying: apparently, it is OK to contrive a killer argument (“WMD”, “mushroom cloud over Chicago”, “connection to 9/11”) to manipulate my opinion to support an invasion.

    But I’m here to tell you that it is NOT OK. And the appropriate penalty for such gross deception and manipulation (high crimes and misdemeanors, indeed) is impeachment, IMO.

    I’m the kinda guy who doesn’t like being lied to (to borrow GWBs rhetoric for a moment). Do you like being manipulated with lies?

  • Bliffle, lying to the public isn’t a crime. It’s politics. If you’re going to try to impeach the president on that basis you might as well haul half the population of Washington off along with him.

    But regardless, I don’t think anyone here said that Bush lied about WMDs. The WMD issue was one of dozens of reasons to invade Iraq, but it was one which was easier for the public to understand so it was put at the forefront even though on a legal basis some of the other causes for the war were probably far more relevant and serious.

    The truth is that most people, including the administration, believed the WMD argument, and in addition it was still just one of many reasons for the invasion.



    Something I’d like to see examined in the MSM is an examination and explanation of the documents captured from various Saddam-era Iraqi intelligence agencies that bring Saddam’s support to international terrorists to light.

    THis is my second tour in Iraq, the first was in 2003-2004. In my part of the country (ninevah province), people have electricity, and they are getting better water and other infrastructure. What’s news is that, as they see that the US is not running away, more of the locals who just want stability so they can go on living are really starting to cooperate with us and turn in insurgents, and the Iraqi Army and Police are really starting to take over in our place.
    How long is it between the time a child advancing from crawling, to standing with help, to walking holding someone’s hand, to running un assisted? Iraq is like that child, but improving steadily. If an of you read about Operation swarmer, the large offensive that took place this past week, how many of you knew that it was planned and carried out in large part by the Iraqi Army? Progress is being made, but it success and finality will not be achieved overnight.

  • Dave Nalle

    Ski, you read my mind. Look for an article on exactly that here on BC tomorrow. And I’m getting my material from the MSM. ABC has actually investigated some of those documents, but it’s been largely ignored.


  • Harvards Liberal, your link provided bullshit shined up with a Hahvad accent, not facts. But hey, I live here, not in your sick country. If Americans believe lies just because they come out of Harvard, they’ve been well trained by the admen on Madison Avenue. Chalk up another victory for the admen and spin doctors. When is a Harvard don coming out with a tome explaining why the earth is flat?

  • JP

    Bliffle, make no mistake – the admin used WMD as the reason to go to the public with, and their case was swiss cheese. None of these recent “Discoveries” appear convincing, and as skeptical as I am, I remain open to the idea that one or more may be revealed which is. At this point however, I’m highly dubious of the claims of the Iran threat–as the rest of the world should be–because on Iraq, we cried wolf.

    Does that justify invading? NO. I recognize there are larger strategic geopolitical reasons for the invasion, and those are the factors Eric is quoting in his article, and did quite nicely. He omitted a few things, but as I said, had the President made this case in the beginning, he woudln’t be made out to be a liar now.

    Dave, not so sure I agree with your writeoff of responsibility that says “lying is politics.” I recognize that when “Selling” a large body of people on an idea, you have to simplify it – but in this case, they chose to simplify to something that could not be proved, and far overstated the evidence at hand. I find that offensive to me as a citizen.

  • Eric Olsen

    I would definitely distinguish between “lying” — which I don’t think happened — and choosing which aspects of a position are most sellable, which I am certain did

    Very glad to hear things are heading in the right direction where you are, Ski!

  • Bliffle

    “The truth is that most people, including the administration, believed the WMD argument, and in addition it was still just one of many reasons for the invasion.”

    Hans Blix didn’t think so. And he was in good position to know.

  • Two UK Ministers resigned from their cabinet posts. Robin cook and ….

  • Jet in Columbus

    Ruvy, I didn’t think it was possible to offend me until your comment 74, nor did I think I’d ever find myself wanting to wrap myself in our flag either but you got my dander up good.
    I take issue with you comment
    “I live here, not in your sick country”

    Our sick country has the freedom to allow you to post publicly your comments without fear of reprisals, can you say the same? If it weren’t for the “Sick” USA supporting Isreal militarily, and financially, Jerusalem would’ve been wiped off the map decades ago. Who’s-exactly, military aircraft and military support, training and knowhow has your country been using???
    You whine about a few hundred people dying in scud attacks? How many thousand AMERICAN men have died in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt defending your sick wimp of a country you ungrateful fool?

    If it weren’t for a bunch of Christian Bible thumping right-wingers determined to keep Jewish Isreal alive, your cuntry would be just another ignored part of Syria or Lebanon right now, and you know it.

    Be weary of biting the hand that feeds you my friend!

  • Ruvy,

    Have you read the Mearsheimer and Walt paper?

  • Eric Olsen

    I’d rather be “wary” than “weary”

  • Jet in Columbus

    Oh well let’s just dump the whole comment down the drain because of one word?

  • Dawn

    This is why you are the greatest writer in the blogosphere!!

    I do agree with your underlying assessment about the war’s rippling affect on the rest of the world in need of political change, but I sure wish that Bush had employed better strategists from the beginning and done a little more planning.

    The cost of life has been high to say the least, and we are no where near the finish.

    I just wonder who America will vote for next and if that President will be in it for the long haul? With the way this administration has treated Americans in general, I would be really surprised if we don’t do a complete 180 by the next election.

  • Harvard Liberal


    You need to stop confusing fantasy with reality. When you have no argument you resort to absurd tirades.

    And speaking about admen on Madison Avenue and spin doctors, here is something you should read.

    It’s the Luntz WexnerAnalysis and can be found at

    electronicintifada.net/artman/ uploads/luntzwexneranalysis.pdf

    In April, 2003, three weeks after Bush invaded Iraq, at a time when Bush was planning his landing on an aircraft carrier and waving his “Mission Accomplished” flag, supporters of Israel were creating their Madison Avenue propaganda campaign for America.

    And to answer your question, “When is a Harvard don coming out with a tome explaining why the earth is flat?” — a question more appropriate to this discussion is why should Americans spend their blood and money so you can build illegal settlements on Palestinian land?

  • MCH

    “what the troops think is certainly interesting and relevant, but ultimately doesn’t have much to do with determining policy”

    Oh yeah, the Bush admin policy makers of the Iraq invasion/occupation…those whom the late Col. David Hackworth referred to as “perfumed princes.”


    As for what the troops think, we’d all rather be home, sleeping in a nice soft bed, maybe after a night of relaxation with friends and loved ones, who the hell wouldn’t?

    Trouble ie, all but the least experienced among us know that leaving any earlier than when the Iraqis are ready to take over will only mean we get to come back in a few years.

  • old vet

    Yeah, we’ll all get to go back — just like we did in Vietnam. But then it just will be a trade mission.


    If the trade mission comes at the end of thousands , if not millions killed in the ensuing collapse, as well as millions of refugees fleeing Iraq, as well as “stabiliazation” under strong men and their regimes for a decade or two, I’ll pass.

  • Bliffle

    The basic problem is that there is no strategy for this war. There was no strategy going in, and there is none now. Thus, the initiative shifts to the enemy. Consequently, all one has for strategy is ‘stay the course’, which means “we’ll be finished when the enemy says we are finished”. Horrible. We’d still be in Vietnam if that hadn’t changed. Engaging a War Od Attrition is not a strategy.

    None of the decision makers have a strategic history. None of them built a business. None led soldiers in war. GWB was a business faillure, never built anything. He fired Sammy Sosa, for cryin’ out loud! Cheney was just an influence peddler at Haliburton (per his depositions in lawsuits brought against H management by angry shareholders, Cheney was just a Gov Relations Officer, not CEO). Rumsfeld was just a jet jockey, not a leadership officer. Etc.

  • Eric Olsen

    not a fan of the administration?

  • old vet

    If we had gotten out of Vietnam in 1968 when Lyndon (Ly’in) Johnson knew it was a lost cause, the loss of lives would have been much less. The longer we pursue a lost cause — the greater the catastrophe.

    We should follow Murtha’a advice.

    Realize that the best way to bury a dead horse is quickly.

  • troll

    old vet – while the US could afford to have given up the South China Sea in ’68 and saved hundreds of thousands of lives it cannot afford to allow ‘other interests’ to control the oil industry in Iraq now


  • Eric Olsen

    among about a dozen other things we could not afford were we to bail

    thanks Dawn – I think the political situation is such that msot Democrats, including those who would run for president, realize that a hasty exit is not in our interest on many levels. At least I hope so – I could easily back a pro-free trade “war liberal” candidate at this point.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Jet, go back and read your history. Not the pop history crap put out by high school dropouts like Peter Jennings – but history.

    Your nation has sacrificed nobody to defend Israel. Period.

    How much history do you want piled on your head to back me up?

    Should I start with before WWII when the United States closed its doors to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany? Should I move to after WWII when the United States encouraged Britain to take token measures to allow Jewish refugees to return home (measures that the Brits refused to do, BTW)? Should I talk about the American arms boycott to Mandate Palestine – that affected only Jews? Should I talk about how the United States tried to sandbag the establishment of the State of Israel after the partition decision of 1947? Should I talk about the threats to withdraw recognition of the State when Yitzhak Rabin captured El Arish in 1949? Should I talk about the Americans nigh continual complaining about Israel’s efforts to combat Arab terror in the 1950’s? Should I talk about how the United States dithered and dathered when Abba Eban went to your country’s shores begging for help in 1967 – only to learn that the Americans had done and would do nothing to help Israel? Should I talk about the USS Liberty spying on Israel Air Force operations in 1967 and sending the data to Egypt – the real reason why the ship was attacked? Should I talk about how your dcountry threwated Golda Meir’s government in 1973, lest they attack first like they did in 1967? Should I talk about how Henry Kissinger tried to hold up promised aid shipments to this country in 1973 so that Israel would be defeated?

    That’s about 20 links worth – 17 more than I’m permitted per comment. That’s plenty of reading for you. And I haven’t even gotten to 1991 yet, let alone this sorry era.

    Truth – whether you like it or not Jet. One Jew did in Scud attacks from Iraq in 39 missiles striking this country. Two hundred Americans died in one Scud attack from Iraq. I have not complained about Israelis dying in Scud attacks.

    Truth – this nation has lost 1,700 civilians in terror attacks to keep your government pacified. Arab terror could have and should have been stamped out the way one stamps out a nest of cockroaches, but to please YOUR government, the Israeli government has acted with restraint.

    Truth – this country does not need your arms or your protection any more. We have nukes and can and should be willing to use them on a moment’s notice. Not merely against Arabs or Iranians either.

    Truth – none of this has happened because presently this country is in the grip of bought out traitors who fear your goverment.

    You don’t have to like any of this. But it’s the truth.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Harvard Liberal,

    Take your money, your soldiers, your bought out traitors running this country and get the hell out! We do not need any of you. Pigs like Sharon, Olmert, Netanyahu, Beilin, Sharansky and Peres belong on butcher hooks like Mussolini was hung on, not in power.

    We don’t need American Jews who think they know what is best trying to run this country from Florida. I’ll let you figure out the reference. We do not need other American Jews to act as shills for the Arabs and for Israeli traitors, hustling “peace plans” they do bnot have to live with. They can join the Israeli traitors on the butcher hooks for all the good they have done.

    This country can feed itself, arm itself and defend itself without the United States or Europe.

  • aesop

    One wintry day a Woodman was tramping home from work when he saw something lying on the snow. When he came closer he saw it was a Serpent which to all appearances was dead. But he picked it up and hurried home. When he got there he put the Serpent down on the hearth before the fire. The children watched it and saw it slowly come to life again. Then when the Woodman stooped down to stroke it, the Serpent raised its head and put out its fangs and tried to sting him.

  • old vet

    Troll, you say:

    “[We] cannot afford to allow ‘other interests’ to control the oil industry in Iraq..”

    It’s good to know that we are in control — considering the fact that since the invasion of Iraq the price of oil has gone from $26 a barrel to $65 a barrel.

    Just think of how expensive oil would be if we weren’t in control.

  • troll

    old vet – oil production in Iraq has hovered at about 2 million barrels/day for the past two and a half years ; peak pre-war production was 2.5 million barrels/day

    while keeping this Iraqi oil flowing is expensive for the US taxpayer I’m not sure that the shortfall has much impact on world price


  • old vet


    Sorry you can’t figure it out.

    I’m sure.

  • troll

    well hell’s bells old vet – fill in the blank with your explanation…smack me down with some facts about oil economics and the war


  • old vet

    Troll — I’ll try to help you fill in your blanks.

    There is no reason for world oil prices to have gone from $26 a barrel to $65 except for the fact that commodities traders relied on the insecurity caused by the Iraq War to bid on futures contracts. The Iraq War is what has pumped up oil prices.

    Before the end of March, 2003, oil prices fell as traders received news of the US progress in Iraq. The drop in prices reflected the view on the trading floor that the war would end quickly.

    When that bubble burst, oil prices skyrocketed.

    It’s that simple.

  • troll

    old vet – arguably the war is but one of several variables that have driven the price spike including politics in south America and the fact that oil producers have maxed out production based on their existing infrastructures and now face massive capital outlays to keep up with demand

    but I like your argument because you point out that supply and demand and actual production do not control actual prices – rather the foibles of speculators rule

    so allow me a hypothetical – how would these speculators have responded when some time in 04 after successfully slipping the murderous bonds of sanctions Saddam had announced the he had entered into exclusive contracts with Chinese developers to explore for and extract the oil from Iraq’s nationalized fields punishing the West (and the multinational corps that it represents) for its years of mistreatment

    my original point was that the US has more to lose economically in Iraq than it ever did in Vietnam


  • old vet

    “How would these speculators have responded when some time in 04 after successfully slipping the murderous bonds of sanctions Saddam had announced the he had entered into exclusive contracts with Chinese developers to explore for and extract the oil from Iraq’s nationalized fields punishing the West (and the multinational corps that it represents) for its years of mistreatment.”

    As a commodities trader, I would expect the price of oil on the world market to drop.

  • troll

    unless China’s entry into the area in economic force stirred some insecurity about a possible East/West confrontation and instability

    old vet – do you maintain that Iraq is a lost cause…that is that the Us will not be able to maintain control of the oil fields and secure production – ?


  • old vet


    In the future it is unlikely we will control Iraqi oil anymore than we control Vietnam’s assets.

    Nationalism always prevails.

  • troll

    *Nationalism always prevails.*

    over racism and religious intolerance – ?

    I guess we’ll see if an entity emerges about which the people can actually feel nationalistic


  • old vet

    Nationalism always prevails over foreign occupation.

  • Eric Olsen

    why would oil traders allow Iraqi oil vastly more influence over world price than any other oil source? Is it magical oil? Perhaps this was a spike waiting to happen and any number of factors acted as catalyst?

  • Shark

    Was Iraq “worth it”?

    You must be joking. Bush opened a Pandora’s Box that contained a civil war and the largest urban terrorist training center in the world.

    Spent $300 billion and still counting.

    American lives lost: 2300+ and still counting.

    WMDs found: ZERO.

    But hey Eric, if nothing else, this “war” was a great opportunity for you to flex your “poetic” writing muscles in order to justify a very unpoetic disaster for America’s future;

    ****Check this out …from the Robert Frost of neo-con spin:

    “victory’s child” — delivered by our Born-Again Christoid President is — ironically — a partial birth abortion that is the 21st century equivalent to *Rosemary’s Baby.

    (*fathered by Satan, aka George W. Bush)

    And who knew a “white-hot razor operation through buttery opposition” would end up being a rusty coat-hanger that scraped a few thousand Islamic terrorists from the womb of a “democratic” Iraq?

    And who know that “disruptive forces from within and without burst out and in like respective boils and puncture wounds upon the envisioned grateful and acquiescent body politic” would — like the pus on a boil — be signs of a much deeper illness called “Republican Neo-con Foreign Policy”?

    BTW: Eric, you should consider doing contemporary art reviews. Seriously. The ability to spin reams of poetic garrulous bullshit about a bunch of vapid crap is a highly valued skill in those parts.


    Oh, and did I mention:



  • You must be joking. Bush opened a Pandora’s Box that contained a civil war and the largest urban terrorist training center in the world.

    It’s a funny kind of civil war we’re breeding these days where the leaders of the factions all sit down together in a big building and vote on how they’re going to run the country, except of course for the Wahabbis/Al Qaeda who are not represented and are the source of all the ‘civil war’ that’s actually going on.


  • And Eric, I hear that Iraqi oil tastes extra sweet and has addictive properties.


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Dave, I hate to mention this but Shark is right in his analysis. Removing Saddam Hussein removed the blockages to a civil war between three disparate groups who have no real use for each other and allowed the Wahhabis and Al Qaeda to foment that civil war. Were Saddam Hussein still in power, the civil war would not exist.

    That doesn’t mean that Saddam Hussein should not have been unhorsed. But clear minded people who were not blinded by their lust for money and power, and who were not the head waiters for the oil and banking establishment (the administration in your country) would have dealt with all of this very differently.

    There might have been more American casualties, not less – but you would have accomplished something of benefit to your own people and the the rest of the common folk as well.

  • Eric Olsen

    Shark, glad you liked the language – I did too.

    Ruvy, what would have been differently – I don’t know what you mean. And are you saying the administration waged this war in pursuit of “money and power”?

  • Eric Olsen

    Oh, and Shark, given the anniversary and the fact that you have posted exactly two stories and the last six months – now would be a good time for you to put together an actual post on specifically why you think the war hasn’t been worth it.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Briefly, Eric.

    Doing things differently would have meant first getting rid of the Saudi dynasty and the Wahhabi murder machine, and then unhorsing Saddam Hussein, and the Talibans. The need to stay in Iraq and slog about in Mesopotamian mud would have been short cutted by a strategy of allowing the Shias and Kurds their autonomy or independence and building up the Hashemite dynasty as the ruling Arab power from its natural home – Mecca and Medina. I outlined much of that strategy in comment #15.

    The Bush administration is the servant of the banking and oil establishment which presently is dependent on the Saudi dynasty. So, in simple English, your president is in bed with the same bunch that has been accused of fomenting most of the Moslem terror on the planet.

    My proposals are somewhat radical in that they reorder power in the Arab world away from the Wahhabi murder machine and also away from the oil and banking establishment. And frankly, those two steps are big ones in a program to bring peace to the planet.

  • JP

    Dave, I remain open to the possibility that this removal of Saddam might’ve gone smoothly–and we might be further on the road to a democratic Iraq–had we spent more than a passing breath on how we planned to secure the peace. The truth is the white collar knuckleheads in the White House ignored the warnings of the military planners, by not putting troops on the ground and just expecting everyone to succumb to “shock and awe” and wave their flags in gratitude for our arrival.

    Had we been a little more realistic in our planning, the country probably wouldn’t be on the verge of civil war.

  • JG

    What every American needs to know about the Middle East was known a long time ago.

  • td

    I second everything Ruvy stated in #155.

    Bush was supposed to take action against Islamic Terrorism. If Bush sr. had taken out Saddam in 90 would 9/11 still happened?

    Probably yes. Because a democratic Iraq would not have effect Egypt, Pakistan, Afganistan, or Saudi Arabia, where the hijackers originated from.

    Perhaps the movements for social and political change in those countries would have been bigger than they are today. But not enough to instigate actual reform. Therefore the extremist preachings would still have been tolerated, the terrorist cells would still have formed, and 9/11 would still have happened.

    Could any foriegn policy strategy have prevented 9/11? Maybe not. But Ruvy’s suggestion is a damn good place to start.

  • Eric Olsen

    while I am all for giving the region an enema — it’s my main reason for supporting the war — I’m not sure ripping up several countries in the region, tossing them into a blender and hoping it all comes out alright is really very feasible politically, militarily, or diplomatically. Regime change in Iraq was something that could actually be achieved – we just didn’t plan for the aftermath very well, or perhaps, at all.

  • Shark

    Eric: “Oh, and Shark, given the anniversary and the fact that you have posted exactly two stories and the last six months – now would be a good time for you to put together an actual post on specifically why you think the war hasn’t been worth it.”

    Eric, thanks for the invite. I miss me, too. Unfortunately, I’ve been wading through a very personal horror show lately and I’ve been too busy etc. etc. to give it a whirl.

    PS: I think there are about 20 or so Sharkian posts in my archive at Blogcritics that have addressed these issues from Day One.

    Oh, and as you know, I was opposed to the war before it was cool.

    I also predicted:

    a horrific insurgency
    Iraq as a terrorist training ground
    a drain on the US treasury
    taxpayer rip-off scams from “patriotic” American (read: GOP-owned/operated) Defense Contractors
    a constantly changing “rationalization” from the Bush Administration


    I was right on all counts, btw.

    And now, kids, a few New Predictions:

    ++We’ll lose our national ‘moral superiority’ by succumbing to “terrorist” techniques in order to fight the “terrorists” (see France vs Algiers for more)

    …oops, Abu Ghraib…. um… never mind that one…

    ++We’ll be there for at least three years…

    …oops, just checked my calendar…. um… never mind that one…

    ++Kathryn McPhee will win American Idol.

    ++Florida wins the Final Four.


    Ya heard it here first, pigs.


  • SHARK: Hope your personal situation gets better soon.

  • I successfully predicted three years ago that there would be violence in this war. Where’s my cookie?

  • MCH

    I successfully predicted three years ago that the price of an “enema” would go up to 2,330 KIA, 16,670 wounded and $250.48 billion (and counting)…

    Where’s my free X-Lax?

  • JG

    Maybe you don’t need X-Lax.

  • Eric Olsen

    yes, a very expensive and traumatic enema, which is why I have a hard time picturing the logistics of what Ruvy is proposing.

    Shark, I also hope things improve for you ASAP. I don’t think there has ever been much dispute about the facts – I never bought the cakewalk theory either, but I interpret the facts much differently than you do and still see a big picture gain.

  • Eric,

    You wrote, I’m not sure ripping up several countries in the region, tossing them into a blender and hoping it all comes out alright is really very feasible politically, militarily, or diplomatically.

    The problem is that there were never several “countries” to rip up. Iraq is about as real as artificial sweetener. “Saudi” Arabia is a creation of the Saudi dynasty, Syria is a creation of the French, and Jordan, a creation of the British. There is no heritage, no common culture, no nothing. Just a flag, currency and a military (police). That is why there is no real stability in the region outside of military or dynastic dictatorships.

    Even Israel has been held together, up until now, on the hostility of its neighbors. The Arabs don’t understand thast the easiest way to destroy the Israeli state is to recognize it and offer it peace and security. After a decade, the state, as it is now constituted, would fly apart in a violent civil war that would make the Lebanese civil ware look like a stroll in lovers’ lane.

  • Ruvy:

    I am not sure what conclusions one can draw from your comments in #126. your suggestions in #15, #115, #215, #315 … may be likely or from certain perspectives desireable or ‘natural’ scenarios, but thats not how history writes itself, thats not how journalism prefaces history every day and i’m not intelligent or crazy enough to predict how the chaos can sort itself, and whether it is computable at all. I’ll stay in the mum region on this question.

    are we living in borderless worlds with fluid identities and fluid states with micro identities and histories, that are more inportant than arab, muslim and jewish national, religious or ethnic identities, or a mix of various blends of them?

    in a similar refrain, when these countries were decolonised they took up their ancient pre-islamic names to align their histories: hence eqypt, libya, assyria, israel, arabia.

    also i dont understand your hashemite dynasty’s support in a ‘natural’ home – makka and madina – [there are some blanks here] – even though i might be a hashemi myself.


  • “I successfully predicted three years ago that the price of an “enema” would go up to 2,330 KIA, 16,670 wounded and $250.48 billion (and counting)…

    Where’s my free X-Lax?”

    what difference does it make? Less people sucking on the government tit ain’t it?

  • In response to #112, I’m all for a kinder gentler dictator as the solution to Iraq, but too many people have this obsession with the illusion called democracy. Think how much people like Shark would be howling if we spent all this money and all these lives just to get ‘saddam lite’. So blame them for the protraction of the state of chaos.


  • JG

    The War in Iraq: Three Years In…

    Who to blame?

    If Saddam was overthrown in 2003 by his own people and the current situation existed in Iraq…

    Would the US now go in and say “we have to stay the course?’

    Of course not.

    So why are we staying?

    It’s known as “saving face.”

  • MCH

    “what difference does it make? Less people sucking on the government tit ain’t it?”
    – Andy Marsh

    …speaking of stalking…

  • You got it…and I’m likin’ it too! How’s it feel???