Saturday, March 17, 2007

4 years in Iraq - how we got there (part 1)

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing

In his very recommended diary from last night, Dood Abides suggested that, in light of the upcoming 4 year anniversary of the Iraq invasion, one of us brave kossacks put forth a detailed account of the run up to the invasion.

Well, in addition to being up for said challenge, it just so happens that I have been compiling this information as the first chapter of the book I am writing (and I have 9 chapters written so far). So, I figured that it would be good to share this information, and of course it is chock full of linky-goodness. As a bonus to me, I can see if I am off base or if the information I have is (as I think) pretty damn good. Since there are more than 40 footnotes and 13 pages, I will cut it down a bit and break it into two parts – one tonight and one tomorrow or Sunday – all leading up to the 19th.

At least we will have the actual facts and the depth of the deception in one place, tied neatly together with a shiny bow. So, consider this Part 1 – The Past is Prologue (also the title of the first chapter of my book). Part 1 will focus on the background and framework that was put in place even before this administration took office. Part 2 will highlight the propaganda war that was waged by the Administration in the run up to the invasion as well as the “evidence” that was known to be false, but was still asserted as true.

Eating their words

In 1992, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney gave a speech to the Discovery Institute in Seattle. During this speech, Cheney talked about the victory in the first Gulf War against Saddam Hussein eighteen months earlier. As part of his comments, he mentioned the decision to not continue the war into Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein at the time. Based on Cheney’s rhetoric from 2001 through the present, one would be very surprised to know that he said the following words about Iraq in 1992:

"I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.

"And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don't think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties. And while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the (1991) conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn't a cheap war.

"And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."

During the campaign of 2000, then-candidate George W. Bush chided Vice President Al Gore about “nation building” and how it is not the United States’ responsibility to engage in such practice. Additionally, he talked about when it would be appropriate to use military force. And from the transcript of the first Presidential Debate with Al Gore, his words are rather strong in that respect:
Well, if it's in our vital national interest, and that means whether our territory is threatened or people could be harmed, whether or not the alliances are -- our defense alliances are threatened, whether or not our friends in the Middle East are threatened. That would be a time to seriously consider the use of force. Secondly, whether or not the mission was clear. Whether or not it was a clear understanding as to what the mission would be. Thirdly, whether or not we were prepared and trained to win. Whether or not our forces were of high morale and high standing and well-equipped. And finally, whether or not there was an exit strategy.

Clearly, these two men’s minds changed in a drastic way. Obviously, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 could be pointed to as a turning point in their view of America’s place in the world. But more and more evidence has come out over the past few years indicating that the invasion of Iraq wasn’t necessarily part of the “war on terror” – rather it was discussed at great length during early 2001 at the outset of the Bush Presidency. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill’s comments on this topic were made in a series of interviews after he was forced from office at the end of 2002, after two years in the Bush cabinet:
"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein is a bad person and that he needed to go," O'Neill told 60 Minutes. "From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime."

Around the same time, a neoconservative think tank calling themselves Project for a New American Century (“PNAC”) was putting the finishing touches on its signature report, titled, Rebuilding America’s Defenses (warning: .pdf). This think tank was made up of former Reagan and Ford Administration officials as well as many of the people who would shape the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration. The members who wrote this report included Frederick Kagan (architect of the 2007 escalation for Iraq), Bush Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and (the disgraced) I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby who, of course became Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff. Other members of the PNAC included Jeb Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Former Vice President Dan Quayle, Steve Forbes and Zalmay Khalizad, who would become the US Ambassador to Iraq as well as the UN Ambassador (replacing John Bolton).

PNAC started back in 1997, and its’ mission was essentially to return to the days of Reagan – an emphasis on increased defense spending and a strong military that will be “ready to meet present and future challenges”. Its’ Statement of Principles reads like one of the many speeches President Bush has made over the past few years: (1) Increase defense spending significantly, (2) Challenge regimes hostile to our interests, (3) Promote the cause of political and economic freedom and (4) Preserve and extend an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.

One of the first items of business for the PNAC was a letter in 1998 to then-President Clinton urging him to, in so many words, attack Iraq:

Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.

We urge you to articulate this aim, and to turn your Administration's attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power. This will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts. Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties in implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to do so are far greater. We believe the U.S. has the authority under existing UN resolutions to take the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.

Obviously, Clinton did not heed their requests. Unfazed and still determined, PNAC soon went to work on Rebuilding America’s Defenses. The main goal of Rebuilding America’s Defenses was to reassert America as the world’s only dominant military and economic superpower. The report grew out of a dissatisfaction towards the Clinton administration for cuts in defense spending and what was viewed as weakening of the military. It sought to use the budget surpluses from the Clinton administration to focus on defense spending and growing the military.

The four core military goals of Rebuilding America’s Defenses were to (1) Defend the American homeland, (2) Fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars, (3) Shape the security environment in critical regions and (4) Transform US Forces to exploit the “revolution in military affairs”.

Mind you, at this point in time (mid-2000) America was enjoying one of the longest eras where there was not a major military conflict it was involved in. True, during the Clinton years, there was the involvement in Somalia, which ended rather poorly. And there was a NATO bombing campaign in Bosnia that was led by the United States. However, in both instances, US troop levels were not at a significant level (less than 10,000 at its peak). Under Reagan, while there wasn’t a major military operation, the 1980s were marked by the threat of “mutually assured destruction” with the former Soviet Union, as well as military missions in Latin America, small missions in Lebanon as well as Grenada. The 50’s had the Korean War, the late 60’s through mid 70’s had Vietnam, and the early 90’s had the first Gulf War (with US troop levels well in excess of 100,000).

So, at a time where there was finally no major military conflict, it is interesting to note that this group of neoconservatives, most of whom had strong ties to prior administrations and military-focused foreign policy initiatives were looking to reassert the US military in a dominant “world police” type of manner.

In order to achieve the military objectives stated in Rebuilding America’s Defenses, a “transformational change” would need to take place. Since the report called for a large shift in American policy, spending and opinion, the PNAC members realized that this objective could likely take years to achieve. However, there is one ominously foreshadowing passage in the document (on page 51) that would hasten the transformation process:

Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.

Understanding that there had not been an attack on American soil on par with Pearl Harbor since, well, Pearl Harbor, this prediction turned out to be eerily accurate, and rather quickly after the Bush administration (with many of these same people) took office. I want to point out here that this statement, in no way, draws any correlation between PNAC and the responsibility for the September 11 attacks, since there is no evidence whatsoever that links the US government, or any of its members (past or present) to these attacks in any way.

However, there is something to be said about a major foreign policy initiative undertaken by former and soon-to-be current members of the US government that includes a passage referring to an attack on the United States as an opportunity to pursue an aggressive foreign policy reversal from the past decade. Consider the following facts:

  • A significant number of former government officials and policy makers, as part of a think tank, create a “signature foreign policy” initiative;

  • One of the first items on their agenda is to urge President Clinton to attack Iraq (or aggressively pursue regime change;

  • Their signature initiative is not likely to take hold, or will require a long process and will be difficult to “sell” to an American public that has finally seen relative peace from a military operations standpoint, UNLESS a significant catastrophic event occurs which can jumpstart the initiative;

  • A presidential election is held around the same time that results in many of these former officials becoming part of the current administration;

  • Almost from the outset of the new administration, foreign policy is focused on major military operations in the Middle East – with a focus on Iraq;

  • That same year, the first major “catastrophic and catalyzing event” in nearly 60 years occurs in the United States;

  • Immediately after this event, these same officials are looking to link Iraq to this catastrophic event, even though there is little, if any evidence to link the two; and

  • Within two years, the United States is engaged in two, simultaneous major wars (just as outlined in the PNAC report).

Fast forward to late 2001.

America was just shaken by the worst terror attacks ever to hit our country. There was an outpouring of sympathy from all corners of the world. Our country came to a screeching halt. Even Major League Baseball games were cancelled as the American people struggled to come to grips with what had just occurred. People from all over the country traveled to New York City in order to help with the rescue and recovery missions at “Ground Zero”.

Someone had to pay for doing this to America. There was a vow to find those responsible and bring them to justice. Soon, all eyes (and evidence) turned toward Osama bin Laden and the terrorist group al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda had threatened the United States before, and even had a few “successes” like the bombing of the USS Cole, or various embassy bombings.

On the heels of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their administration had overwhelming support from the American people. A “war on terror” was launched – with Afghanistan as the first stop. Terrorist training camps were destroyed. Funding for terrorism was frozen in many instances. The Taliban – supporters of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda was defeated and driven from power in Afghanistan in a few short months.

Countries like Iran, Libya and Syria made overtures towards the United States to offer some assistance in Afghanistan and to work towards normalizing relations between the countries. And then a drastic shift in focus changed everything.

So, what happened?

What happened comes in Part 2....


RoseCovered Glasses said...

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

Politicians make no difference.

We have bought into the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). If you would like to read how this happens please see:

Through a combination of public apathy and threats by the MIC we have let the SYSTEM get too large. It is now a SYSTEMIC problem and the SYSTEM is out of control. Government and industry are merging and that is very dangerous.

There is no conspiracy. The SYSTEM has gotten so big that those who make it up and run it day to day in industry and government simply are perpetuating their existance.

The politicians rely on them for details and recommendations because they cannot possibly grasp the nuances of the environment and the BIG SYSTEM.

So, the system has to go bust and then be re-scaled, fixed and re-designed to run efficiently and prudently, just like any other big machine that runs poorly or becomes obsolete or dangerous.

This situation will right itself through trauma. I see a government ENRON on the horizon, with an associated house cleaning.

The next president will come and go along with his appointees and politicos. The event to watch is the collapse of the MIC.

For more details see:

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