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Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Remember when we were told that the Iraqis would greet us with flowers and candy? Conventional wisdom said that we would merely need to remove Saddam from the equation and democracy would flourish and the whole invasion would pay for itself with gushing oil revenues. Yeah, there were a few naysayers out there raining on our Operation Iraqi Liberation, oops, I mean Operation Iraqi Freedom parade, but they were merely unpatriotic, freedom-hating, French-loving, Bush-bashing traitor hippies. Besides, it was a slam dunk. We'd go in, remove the most dangerous man in the world, and then leave in no time at all (six days, six weeks, I doubt six months), all while basking in the gratitude of Iraqis who will have forgiven us for the past decade of deadly sanctions, also stabbing them in the back by encouraging them to overthrow Saddam after the first Gulf War and then allowing him to violently crush their revolts, and of course destroying their country and killing their people with the most lethal weaponry in the world. In fact, it was such a gimme that we didn't even need to bother preparing for any other alternative. After all, George Bush leads with his gut, and his gut was hungry for Freedom Fries, hold the insurrection.

And that is the main point of Thomas Ricks' book "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq". The Bush administration and the military were unprepared for the fallout from our invasion because they did not consider any alternatives to the flowers and chocolates scenario. There was no guiding policy from the top on how to handle the inevitable unrest and insurrection. There was infighting among the Bush Administration and the military, often with inexperienced White House appointees overuling top military commanders (e.g. disbanding the Iraqi army and "de-Baathification"). A vast majority of the military were not trained properly to handle the civilian population, treating them as enemy combatants instead of trying to win their hearts and minds. And what's even worse is that three years later we're still in the same situation. No leadership, no clearly defined policy, no change of tactics. In fact, it may now be too late to stop the growing civil war that is developing, and according to Ricks, we have no one to blame except ourselves.

Our actions speak louder than words, and the Iraqis are listening. While the country continues to battle with third-world like conditions, our troops live in tightly secured bases with all the amenities of home and have little contact with Iraqi civilians. While Iraqis are sleeping, our troops bust down their doors in the middle of the night and round up all the military-aged males for interrogation. And if they can't find someone they are looking for, they'll just take some of his relatives as hostages, hoping to convince him to turn himself in. Want to get some information from someone? Try beating him to a pulp, then threaten to kill him, and finally send him to one of the makeshift overcrowded prisons run by untrained contractors and military grunts to be tortured and held without charges. The message is loud and clear. America may say it stands for Democracy and Freedom, but it sure has a funny way of showing it.

After reading Ricks' book, you realize that the whole mission has been one big clusterfuck. Of course we should have never gone there in the first place, a point which Ricks spends the first third of his book on. But after you make the decision to invade and send the troops in, there are still things you can do to make the best of a bad situation and try to "help" the Iraqi people govern themselves (if indeed that is your real goal). And time and time again the Bush Administration and the military command (with very few individual exceptions), either suffering from delusions of grandeur or possibly too cynical to care, made decisions that not only were bad for Iraq but ultimately stoked the flames of the insurgency which has now lead to civil war. "America First" isn't just a slogan here in the states. It seems to be the only consistent guiding principle this war has ever had.


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