Rethinking America

Who Lost Iraq? Inside an American Battle

Why are the U.S. media not holding U.S. officials responsible for Iraq’s destruction?

L. Paul Bremer on MSNBC's Morning Joe, on June 16, 2014.

Takeaways


  • The meteoric rise of ISIS is the direct result of the reckless policies of the George W. Bush administration.
  • What is happening in Iraq today is the collapse of the entire system that the US imposed upon Iraq.
  • It was Bush, not Obama, who conceded to Iraq that US forces would soon pull out on a set timetable.
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu's strategy on Iraq will likely come to haunt Israel.
  • The catastrophe in Iraq promises to be as vast and humiliating to the US as the fall of South Vietnam.

The re-emergence of Paul Bremer, George W. Bush’s hapless first proconsul in Iraq, as a television prognosticator in the current crisis is very revealing. The American people may have woken up from the lies and delusion fed them about conquering and remaking Iraq. However, their nation’s media pundits and guides clearly have not.

Otherwise, Mr. Bremer — who created many of the nightmarish conditions that have now come to the surface with the emergence of ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — would hardly be given a soapbox to stand on TV these days.

Bremer, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and the other Bush administration officials made a hash of Iraq from 2003 to 2006.

Despite their amazing failure, which did much to undermine America’s standing in the world and the trust of allies around the globe, these architects of disaster have not just reappeared on their loyal old partisan platform Fox News. They have also been welcomed on supposedly more “balanced” networks like CNN that ought to know better — but don’t.

Myopic U.S. politics

In the usual myopic way of U.S. domestic politics, these figures are unconcerned about the total failure of all their policies, promises and predictions regarding Iraq.

All they care about is that they have — as they imagine — a golden chance to blame Barack Obama and his Democrats for the final collapse of the policies the Republicans foisted onto Iraq with a total lack of success.

However, the Republicans should hesitate before throwing stones at glass houses, or pitching fireballs into a house with filled with combustible petroleum.

The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq promises to be at least as vast and humiliating to the United States as the fall of South Vietnam was in 1975. This outcome is not primarily the fault of Obama and the Democrats at all, though there is certainly plenty of blame to go around.

What we are seeing is the exposure and collapse of the entire fantasy of state-building embraced by President George W. Bush, his Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their famous coterie of neo-conservative advisers.

All of them were united in one critical regard — their relentless addiction to wishful thinking and their utter ignorance of the history and politics of Iraq.

Greek chorus of intellectuals

They and their Greek chorus of intellectuals proclaimed their goal of building a new, “stable, pro-American, Shi’ite democracy” in Iraq.

Bush devoted his entire Second Inaugural address in January 2005, reputed to have been written primarily by Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol, precisely to this topic. It included not a single domestic policy prescription for the American people.

But instead, the goal of Bush II policies — continued by President Obama, primarily at the urging of New York Times pontificator-in-chief Thomas Friedman — was to topple the regime of President Bashir Assad in Syria and support the rebel forces seeking to topple him.

However, the meteoric rise of ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and the reincarnated heir of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is the direct result of these reckless and catastrophic policies.

The cities of northern Iraq have been falling like bowling pins to the numerically far inferior forces of ISIS. Soon, the pro-Western, stable and largely democratic Kingdom of Jordan will face their fury, too. If it falls, Israel will face the greatest threat in its history on its long-peaceful eastern front.

Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a strong supporter of the toppling and remaking of Iraq in 2003, and of weakening the Syrian regime of the Assad family. That may have been another tragic mistake b a reckless Prime Minister. Israel had coexisted peacefully with Syria since 1973 apart from a brief, limited clash in 1982. Netanyahu should have been more careful what he wished for.

What is happening in Iraq today is the entire collapse of the entire system that the United States unilaterally, recklessly and ineptly imposed upon Iraq — supposedly in the interest of “democratizing” it — after conquering it in March 2003.

“Mission Accomplished”

May 1, 2004 has become a day that lives in infamy. That day, a cocky and utterly clueless President George W. Bush pronounced “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq by the U.S. armed forces. Quite to the contrary, the United States’ long, slow grinding humiliation and exhaustion there was just about to begin.

Paul Bremer, who served as Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq for little over a year in 2003/4, played a key role in this fiasco.

He brought in an army of arrogant, ignorant young interns from the Heritage Foundation and other conservative Washington think tanks, who were ignorant of conditions in Iraq. It was typical of their “knowledge” that they imposed the Maryland state traffic code on the city of Baghdad.

Bremer also set up a weird, phony parliamentary democratic system that resulted in the total oppression of the Sunni minority at the hands of the newly empowered, U.S.-based Shiites.

He was completely deaf and blind to the rapidly rising threat of a new national anti-American and anti-Shiite Sunni popular insurgency. It erupted in May 2004, within days of President George W. Bush fatuous declaration of “Mission Accomplished” on the decks of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

What gets completely forgotten in the current chatter about ISIS is that it was George W. Bush, not Obama, who made a truly fateful concession to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Before Bush left office, it was he who agreed that U.S. forces would soon pull out according to a set timetable.

The grave miscalculation was that it was U.S. power — and nothing else — that ever held up the whole sorry “house of cards” in Iraq that the Bush Administration had built. Now, it is all coming tumbling down.

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About Martin Sieff

Martin Sieff is a book author, consultant and former foreign editor.

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