Saturday, August 10, 2013

Iraq in retrospect

Iraq in retrospect               8/8/2013
A recent essay in Political Science Quarterly [1] caught my eye and, having read it, I can say with some degree of certainty that no one in Washington, DC has a clue as to what went wrong with our actions in Iraq. I recall that, after a little “shock & awe” had rained down from the sky, the word out of Washington was that this certainly was not going to be another Viet Nam. We were told by the Beltway intelligentsia that Regime change was a good thing, and, once we had rebuilt Iraq in our image, the world would be a safer place. I find it mildly surprising that these words were uttered from some of the very mouths that told us we were winning in Southeast Asia fifty years hence.
How soon we forget that the identical theories and practices used in Viet Nam were also used in Iraq right from the beginning. Both conflicts centered on Nation States lead by questionable characters. Both lacked a Congressional Act of a Declaration of War and saw the Executive Branch flex its muscle; changing the rules by which this Country is constitutionally supposed to go to war. Both conflicts had their own unique style of a “surge”. Both conflicts dealt with secular tribes at all levels. You can nit-pick at some of the details. Yes, most of the logistics were a little different, given modern day warfare. Yes, the soldiers who fought the battles were trained and equipped a little differently, again given to modernization. And, yes again, Communism is just a little different from radical Islam. Yet, none of that takes away from the fact that the American public was sold down the river one more time. Why do we insist on drinking the Kool-Aide every time some politician thinks it would be good for the Military/Industrial Complex to throw a little armed conflict into the mix? Based on history, yes, we are just that stupid.

What were the leaders saying during these times of armed conflict?
John F. Kennedy, 1961
“Pay any price, bear any burden, meet any
hardship, support any friend…to assure the
survival and success of liberty”. [2]

                      “Kennedy received conflicting advice with regards to Vietnam.                                                           Charles DeGaulle warned Kennedy that Vietnam and warfare in Vietnam would                             trap America in a “bottomless military and political swamp”. [2]

“In 1961, Kennedy also agreed that an extra
1000 US military advisers should be sent to
South Vietnam to help train the South
Vietnamese Army.” [2]

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  These decisions and the one funding the South Vietnam’s Army were not made public because they broke the agreements made at the 1954 Geneva Agreement. [3] What happened in “Camelot”, stayed in “Camelot”.  Yes, everybody’s darling of a President lied to us, too. Shocked? Don’t be. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld all lied about “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. There seems to be a historical pattern when the U.S. Government decides it has all the answers to other people’s problems, and unilaterally decides a shooting war is the most effective way to deal with the situation.
Other timely quotes from the notable players
Ho Chi Minh to the French
“You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours, 
but even at those odds, you will lose
and I will win.” [3]

                                                   Dwight D. Eisenhower
                                                  “You have a row of dominoes set up;
                                                  you knock over the first one, and what
                                                  will happen to the last one is that it
                                                  will go over very quickly.” [4]

John F. Kennedy
“Now we have a problem in making our 
power credible, and Vietnam is the place.” [5]

                                                Lyndon B. Johnson
                                                “Our purpose in Vietnam is to prevent the success of aggression. It                                                   is not conquest, it is not empire, it is not foreign bases, it is not                                                         domination. It is, simply put, just to prevent the forceful conquest of                                                 South Vietnam by North Vietnam.” [6]
Saddam Hussein

                                                      Saddam Hussein
                                                      “We are not intimidated by the size of the armies, or the type of                                                       hardware the US has brought.” [11]

George W. Bush
“Iraq is no diversion. It is a place where 
civilization is taking a decisive stand against 
chaos and terror, we must not waver.” [12]

                                                      George W. Bush
                                                     “The tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free.” [12]

                                                                                                    George W. Bush
                                                                                                    “Mission Accomplished” [13]

George W. Bush
“I sent American troops to Iraq to make its
 people free, not to make them American.
 Iraqis will write their own history and find
 their own way.” [14]
And, while Rome burned.............

 Richard M. Nixon
 “I'm not going to be the first American
 President to lose a war.” [7]

Henry Kissinger
“We believe that peace is at hand.” [8]

“We didn't lose Vietnam. We quit Vietnam.” [9]

Donald Rumsfeld
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.” [15]

Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney 
What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of action.” [16]

                                                                      Tommy Franks 
                                                                      “Probably we'll think of Bush in years
                                                                       to come as an American hero." [17]    
Barak Obama
“Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did. I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. We have. We've blunted the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over. A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead.” [18]

( to be continued…….)

How much did Vietnam cost?
19 years:
The answer to this depends on how you do the accounting, or who you ask. There are as many estimates as there are “people who know”.
What items do you included in the "cost" of any War? And do adjust for inflation to compare apples to apples? Our Nation spent 828 billion (1975 dollars) on all military operations during the Vietnam War, which is $5 trillion (2008 dollars).

Viet Nam casualties: [19]
58,286 KIA or non-combat deaths
303,644 WIA 
1,645 MIA 
725-837 POW 
30% of wounded service members died of their wounds

How much did Iraq cost?
7 years:
There are Analysts and “talking heads” who put the cost of the War at $80 billion. They go on to quote a figure of $10 billion per year to hold the place together. The true cost of the Iraq war: is probably more in the range of$3 trillion to $3.5 trillion.

Iraq casualties: [20]
4,452 KIA and non-combat deaths
31,928 WIA
8 POW’s
The enemy:
In both cases, the enemy masterfully engaged in “guerrilla” warfare with the use of “booby traps” and “hit & run” as effective tactics against superior forces.

The outcomes:
In both cases, a negotiated cease fire preceded the withdrawal of American Forces. In both cases, the U.S. Government was humiliated and vowed never to wage a similar war.

While researching quotes and figures, I ran across this article by Major Garrett, “How We Could Do More For Our Vets” [21] [22].  I wasn’t aware of his concern of, and writing on, Veterans issues, so this article definitely caught my attention. I have included three excerpts from his essay that I feel capture the essence of what the American public needs to know about the men and women who fight their wars.

“According to the Census Bureau, there are 2.5 million 9/11-era veterans. Their rate of service-connected disability is 26.7 percent—far higher than the 20.2 percent rate for the 7.5 million Vietnam-era veterans. The reality is most veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, despite being deployed multiple times, have returned and will return alive. In the Korean War, 2 percent of combat veterans died. In Vietnam, it was 1.7 percent. In Iraq and Afghanistan, it is currently 0.3 percent. This is the result of professional training, precise mission execution, and breath-taking advances in battlefield medicine.”  [21][22]

“Combat veterans need better service, and they need it now. Their lives wither while they wait for the bureaucracy to process payments for that which they lost on the battlefield. Annual increases in appropriations won't do the trick. Combined annual spending on veterans' care is now more than $140 billion. That figure is up 41 percent from 2009—and we're still way, way behind. Combat veterans deserve better.” [21][22]

“I propose paying those costs up front. Now. With debt. Debt that's inexpensive and that can render real and permanent benefits to those who deserve it most. We can sort out the details of who qualifies and for how much. That is easy compared with summoning the political will now to acknowledge the costs, admit the politics of paying them will only become more precarious in the years ahead, and biting the debt bullet now. The debt that is owed is real. We can and should repay it—starting now.” [21][22]

I am dumb-founded by the fact that politicians in this modern era can fool all the people all the time when it comes to sending our young men and women off to fight and die on foreign shores. It probably shouldn't surprise me. After all, less than 1% of the Nation’s population sees fit to don the uniforms of our Armed Services. This is certainly not the 1% that the “occupy” movement speaks of. This is the 1% who, when they return to civilian life after their stint in the Military, can’t find a job, can’t pay the rent, can’t put food on the table for their Families, get thwarted at every turn by a Veterans Administration who is supposed to help. And, God forbid if they own a house. The bankers don’t seem to care that it is illegal to foreclose on a Service Member in most instances. It’s not their family, or their kids, being tossed out in the street.
The citizenry of America are the only ones who can change this dilemma into a positive force for peace. Perhaps, our Society does have to reach rock bottom for us to act in any meaningful way. There will always be disagreements between people, tribes, sects, states, and countries. And, the dialogue may get heated from time to time. That’s alright. We can survive that. Possibly, someday, we will come to realize that hurling words at each other is a lot less harmful than hurling bullets.
Bullets tend to have a finite quality about them.

All images are from "Google" images.
[13]= I’m not even going to toenote these!

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