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Mistakes were made

By Alan Caruba
web posted May 28, 2007

Always after some fiasco that, in hindsight, should have been avoided, someone will say, "Mistakes were made." I was among those who thought that George W. Bush was justified to invade Iraq. The tipping point for me was Secretary of State Colin Powell's United Nations speech asserting that Saddam had vast amounts of weapons of mass destruction.

I no longer believe that, but I recall some others who did.

"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear." That was President Clinton on February. 17,1998.

"We must stop Saddam from ever again jeopardizing the stability and security of his neighbors with weapons of mass destruction." That was former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright on February 1, 1998.

"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process." That was Rep. Nancy Pelosi on December 16, 1998.

"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."  That was former Vice President Al Gore on September 22, 2003.

Others who pretty much said the same things include Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and the whole gamut of government figures and others, before and after 9-11 scared the living daylights out of all of us.

Having enjoyed some success chasing the Taliban and al-Qaida out of Afghanistan, mostly using northern tribes and our unassailable air superiority, it was easy to assume that the invasion and occupation of Saddam Hussein's Iraq would be a cakewalk. We had had success against his military in 1991 after he had invaded Kuwait, but then-President George H.W. Bush had stopped short of removing the tyrant. He did so on the advice of then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell.

We tried sanctions, only to discover that the United Nations Food-for-Oil program was rife with corruption, harming the Iraqi people, and doing nothing to rein in Saddam's continued rape of the nation. He had a lot of help. For some thirty years, Saddam and the Sunni minority had ruled the Shiites and Kurds with a ruthlessness that defies the imagination.

Surely, if the United States liberated the Iraqis, they would welcome us and set about creating a democratic nation with our help and guidance. Wrong. Very wrong. The invasion and subsequent occupation unleashed an orgy of corruption and violence, equal to anything Saddam and the Baathists had pursued. The indications were there from the very beginning. The taking of Baghdad was immediately followed by massive looting and the breakdown of all civil law.

I have recently finished reading The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace by Ali A. Allawi. Every member of Congress should be required to read this book and, of course, everyone in the White House. 

Allawi was one of many Iraqis who fled the Saddam regime, taking up residence in London. Highly respected, he was asked to return and participate in reconstituting a free and sovereign Iraq. As such he served as the country's first post-war civilian Minister of Defense. He was elected to the Transitional National Assembly, and was appointed Minister of Finance after the elections. He remains an advisor to the Prime Minister of Iraq.

His book details the utter folly, the misplaced optimism, and the endless succession of decisions made as it rapidly became evident that Iraq was tearing itself apart based entirely on whether one was a Sunni or a Shiite, as well as whether one was a Kurd in the north or Shia in the south.

The term "insurgents" masks the determined effort of the Sunnis to regain the power that was wrested from them by the invasion. It includes the foreigners, whether members of al-Qaida or Iranians, who see Iraq as a battlefield to defeat the infidel Americans. It barely describes the chaos and anarchy that has been post-war Iraq and continues today. Allawi says of the insurgency, "It was to do with some form of existential struggle, where the Sunni Arabs' entire history and identity was at stake."

The epilogue of this 460-page, detailed and documented review of what is widely viewed to be an American blunder, puts the finishing touches on page after page that testifies to the failure of the Bush administration to grasp what they did and their desperation to put as good a face on it as possible. It cost the Republicans control of Congress in 2006 and it will be the central issue of the national elections in 2008.

What the invasion unleashed were, Allawi says, "the divisions within the world of Islam" that became "more pronounced. They are about to move on to an altogether different plane of mutual antipathy and internecine warfare."

"It was the Bush Administration," says Allawi, "that acted as the unwitting hand-maiden to history and denied, ignored, belittled and misunderstood the effects of what it had created."

And here is why the Middle East will remain in turmoil. "Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, the linchpins of the American security order in the Arab world, cannot accept the principle of a Shi'a-dominated Iraq, each for its own reasons. These countries will do their utmost to thwart such a possibility, and, failing that, will probably try to isolate such an entity from any effective role in the region."

I have written that we should begin to withdraw our troops from Iraq and many warn that chaos will follow. No, chaos exists in Iraq and only the Iraqis can sort it out. Our small military force cannot, nor should it be asked to try. ESR

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, www.anxietycenter.com. His book, "Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy", is published by Merril Press. © Alan Caruba, May 2007


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