t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 31 March 2003
It is becoming difficult to tally all of the decisions made by the Bush administration that have turned out to be dead wrong. Walking away from North Korea at the outset of the administration has blossomed into an embarrassing tactical and diplomatic imbroglio with nukes prominently on the table. The massive trillion-dollar tax cut, feted by the administration as an economic cure-all, has become a crushing millstone on the back of an already murderously overburdened federal budget. The decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Treaty, and to be generally disdainful of the international community as a matter of course, led to the utterly humiliating series of diplomatic defeats America has suffered on the matter of Iraq.
Little in the last two years of folly can compare, however, to the disastrous miscalculations made by the Bush administration regarding their military attack upon Iraq.
This is what the highest members of the administration, as well as opinion-makers favorable to the war, were saying about the ease with which we would take Iraq:
Vice President Dick Cheney, in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" on March 16th, said, "The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but that they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that."
In an opinion piece for the Washington Post published February 13, 2002, former U.N. ambassador Ken Adelman said, "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps."
Christopher Hitchens, writer for Vanity Fair said on January 28, 2003, "This will be no war -- there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention. The president will give an order. It will be rapid, accurate and dazzling ... It will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation. And I say, bring it on."
Richard Perle, chairman of the powerful Defense Policy Board until his recent resignation amid accusations of financial conflicts of interest, said in a July 11, 2002 PBS interview, "Saddam is much weaker than we think he is. He's weaker militarily. We know he's got about a third of what he had in 1991. But it's a house of cards. He rules by fear because he knows there is no underlying support. Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder." This is the same Richard Perle who told David Corn in May of 2002 that Iraq could be taken with a light force of 40,000 American troops. "We don't need anyone else," he said.
There have been at least 400 civilians killed by American bombs and cruise missiles, as well as by American troops firing on suspected hostiles. There have been over 50 American and British troops killed, with several more missing and unaccounted for. These numbers are, in all likelihood, not an accurate representation of the situation; battles are taking place all over Iraq and it is difficult to account for all civilian losses, and the Defense Department has pointedly begun refusing to release American casualty data to the press. The Iraqi cities of Basra, An Nasiriya, Umm Qasr, Najaf and Baghdad remain resolutely untaken after "Shock and Awe" failed to shock and awe. US forces arrayed in the field are running low on food, fuel and ammunition because supply lines, strung out over 350 miles of desert, are constantly harassed by Iraqi militia. Instead of being welcomed as liberators, American and British forces are seen as conquerors by rank and file Iraqi civilians.
The heady words of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle and the rest regarding the inevitable welcome that was to come from Shi'ite and Kurd civilians apparently failed completely to recall the last time we told these people they were about to be liberated. In the first Gulf War, the first Bush told these groups to rise up in revolt against Hussein. They did, and were slaughtered when Bush Sr. allowed Hussein's helicopter gunships to fly across our battle lines after the cease fire and destroy them. It was a dubious assumption, at best, to believe they would trust us this time. As Marine Brigadier General John Kelly said just days ago in Iraq after reflecting upon the manner in which these groups were abandoned to death, "I'd be very, very hesitant to throw my saddle on this horse until I see this horse is going to win."
A story by John Kifner in Saturday's New York Times describes the First Marine Division in Iraq being stunned by the level of resistance they were facing. They had been told the Iraqis would smile and wave as they rolled to Baghdad. Instead, they have been engaged in non-stop fighting since hostilities commenced. They have been attacked repeatedly by armed men in civilian clothes, which is leading inexorably to the nightmare scenario that plagued the Vietnam war. When a troop cannot tell friend from foe in wartime, a lot of innocent civilians get cut down. Kitner's story describes a bus coming under fire from a Marine gunner because they feared it was filled with Iraqi gunmen. A survey of the bus after the shooting stopped revealed a number of dead civilians.
Because of the gross miscalculations on the part of the Bush administration, officers in the Army are now saying that they must effectively "restart the war" by bringing in reinforcements and establishing greater protection for the supply and communication lines. This protection will require at least three brigades.
How did this happen?
Senior war planners are accusing Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld of "micromanaging" the conflict and ignoring the advice of the generals. "He thought he knew better. He was the decision-maker at every turn," one of these planners is quoted as saying. Rumsfeld rejected plans to send many more men to the fight, and demanded that the forces depend on equipment already in place in Kuwait instead of sending greater shipments overseas. When Turkey failed to come on board for the fight, war planners thought it wise to wait until another route into Iraq could be established. Rumsfeld said no, and the casualties rise.
To say that the current debacle in Iraq is the fault of Don Rumsfeld is to miss entirely the structure, mindset and functionality of the Bush administration. CIA officials, as well as analysts from the State and Defense Department, warned the administration that American forces would face stiff and deadly resistance from Iraqi forces. These warnings were utterly ignored. The spin now is that these views were not presented "forcefully" enough, intimating that Bush was not given all of the facts in the manner required.
This is nonsense.
What has happened is clear. Bush wanted war on Iraq, period. He is surrounded by a mob of yes-men who also wanted war, and so they made sure that only the rosiest of predictions were listened to in the planning stages. Read again the quotes above if you doubt this. Bush only wanted to hear good news about the progress towards combat, and so he got it, and so here we are. These same rosy wrong predictions were disseminated to a media machine that was all too eager to accept them at face value. The words of Karl Kraus, Austrian satirist, are appropriate here: "How is the world ruled and led to war? Diplomats lie to journalists and believe these lies when they see them in print."
This is all, of course, academic and militaristic. The fact remains that America should not be involved in a war with Iraq in the first place. The only reason an accounting of the disastrous planning that went into all this is important is because of what will come because of it. Larger forces will soon arrive in Iraq, and the civilians of that nation will suffer for it. More civilians will be shot dead because our troops fear ambush, more neighborhoods and marketplaces will explode in fire and death, more people will starve as cities are choked off and surrounded and bombed and strafed, and more American troops will die. The "light force" concept has been proven a failure, and a bloody one at that, and so a heavier force will land with a meaty thud. Nothing good will come of this. We will lose this war by winning it.
If you listened to the Bush administration, we went to war in order to destroy the undeniably massive stockpiles of mass destruction weapons being hoarded by Saddam Hussein. We went to liberate a people thirsty for freedom. American Special Forces have captured several sites considered key chemical weapons installations by intelligence reports, and American troops have investigated dozens more. Not so much as a thimbleful of proscribed weaponry has been discovered. Meanwhile, those people wishing for American liberation have given us one hell of a bloody nose, and will continue to do so. They will be met, shortly, by a much larger and harder force thanks to the abysmal failures of the yes-men at the top of the governmental food chain.
We are witnessing a mistake compounded by a mistake compounded by a mistake, and the bill for this idiocy is being written in the blood of women and children and American soldiers. There should never have been a "light force" invasion because there should have never been an invasion in the first place. The coming "heavy force" will grind bone meal into the sands of the Iraqi desert and into the streets of Iraqi cities. This darkness is only just beginning to settle.
Scott Lowery contributed research to this report.