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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in At TMV, International, Law, Media, Places, Politics, War | 29 comments

Two Anniversaries: One Some Would Like to Forget, the Other Some Would Like to Play Down

In what could be the cruelest of ironies, May 1 marks both the ninth anniversary of a mission not accomplished and the first anniversary of one accomplished and accomplished magnificently.

The media is doing quite a good job of reporting on the latter — the killing of Osama Bin Laden — although it is being distorted, “sour-graped” and even discredited in some quarters. Our own Taylor Marsh gives a good accounting of this here.

As to the other anniversary, the one of “mission not accomplished,” Greg Mitchell, the author of a dozen books including So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits and the President Failed on Iraq, wrote about it on the eighth anniversary.

Still good today, except for — fortunately — the fact that the long, unnecessary war prematurely called “accomplished” is finally over.

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Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice
  • Iraq was one of the greatest accomplishments in American foreign policy history. It was a long, very necessary, very noble and moral, and very successful war. It’s sad that more people can’t see that, but it was, and still is.

    It’s true that the pundits failed on it. They continue to fail on it by calling it a failure, and by repeating falsehoods about it. Sad, but not uncommon. But it’s already been a huge success, most of the naysayers have been repeatedly proven wrong, and the more time goes on the more obvious that will become.

  • The biggest failure of the pundits, by the way, is the failure to the troops, by endlessly telling them that what they did there was pointless and did no good and was all based on lies. None of that’s true, but we keep telling them that. We should stop that.

    They didn’t do a great job on a “failed effort.” They did a great job in a very noble cause, and made the world a much better place for what they did there. Yes, of course there were embarrassments and mistakes, but on the whole? An enormously positive thing.

    They should be proud of what they did, not because they were poor childish victims of a bad policy, but because they accomplished amazing things in a very noble and very successful mission.

    All one needs do is look at the objective measures to know that Iraq was a huge success. But most of the naysayers refuse to do that, they just live in an ideological bubble where no one ever questions their “this was a catastrophic failure” mantra.

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      I agree that the troops did a magnificent job, as always, under the most difficult of circumstance — and I always have and will..

      But I have to disagree on “the noble cause;” on “an enormously positive thing;” on “Iraq being a huge success;” and perhaps most of all with the statement or implication that the Iraq war was not based on lies and misinformation.

      We have been debating this, Dean, for a decade now and disagreeing on it for a decade, and I don’t think we are going to agree on this heinous, unnecessary war, launched under false pretenses in the next couple of comments on this thread.

      But thanks for your opinions on this.

  • dduck

    Yes, It is a crying shame that Bush turned the first inning into a no-hitter victory celebration. I wish these guys would be more like TR and use the stick without the mouth.
    However, I remember the context, time wise. I was still kind of disoriented looking south to the empty space of the WTC. Yes, I and most Americans still felt the loss of those three thousand souls Here in NYC, Pa., and Washington, DC.

    You bet your ass I wanted revenge against someone, anyone, and bombing Iraq was there. Jeez, this was the first time America was attacked on its own soil.

    So, yes, I felt the same as those quoted at the time when Bush made a spectacle out of it.

  • Dorian: You are right, we will never agree. I for my part will continue to congratulate the troops on a job well done on a very worthwhile mission that did a massive amount of good for the entire world, and not keep lying to them and telling them that they went there under false pretenses (a vicious slander) or that their effort was a futile waste (which it most certainly was not).

    I’m content at this point to let history be the judge. I’m just not content to let the pundits be the ones to write the history, because they got it wrong from day 1 and continue to get it wrong regularly.

    DDuck: You know that’s really funny, because the only people I ever met who believed Iraq was “revenge for 9/11” were people who opposed the intervention in the first place.

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      Dean: I agree, we will never agree.

      However, I hope that you are not implying that I, for one, have not congratulated our troops, supported our troops, commiserated with our troops, lauded our troops, et cetera, et cetera, because there you would not only be mightily wrong, but it would also be a personal insult to someone who has faithfully and honorably served his country for twenty years.

      Peace!

  • dduck

    DE, Now you know someone who did both.

  • DDuck: Fascinating. So, you’re saying you favored the Iraq intervention, and you did so for the specific reason that you felt it was revenge for 9/11?

    I was among the many voices who, during the year+ long debate over intervening in Iraq (which, bizarrely, was later referred to as a “rush to war”), favored the action. Advocated for it, giving numerous arguments for it (all of which also came out of the President’s mouth, and all of which made it into the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress). I watched the debate avidly all that time, with hundreds of bloggers like myself who felt the same way. I watched as endless pundits advocated for it. None of us, pundits or bloggers, ever said it was revenge for 9/11 and I never thought it was.

    The only time I came close to encountering anyone who thought that it was revenge for 9/11 was when I met a guy who said he knew another guy at work who thought that.

    Surveys of the American people never showed that an even measurable percentage of the population believed Saddam was behind 9/11 (although a minority did hold the not-unreasonable view that it was plausible he might have possibly had something to do with it, none ever showed that any significant number thought he had any direct hand in it). So you do seem like an oddity to me.

    Did you have friends who thought the same way? Were you on record saying that at the time? Do you know anybody who was? Because if I’d encountered you during those years, you would have gotten an argument from me. But I never encountered anyone like you.

  • Dorian: I thank you for your service, as I thank everyone who serves regardless of their personal political opinions.

    However, I do not believe it honors the troops to tell them that their mission was futile or pointless or evil. I don’t believe it honors them to tell them they were lied to when they were not. As another friend of mine who served a similar amount of time in the military as you put it, “If you support the troops, then support the mission.” I always took that to heart. Indeed, it was always my attitude: if you want to oppose the mission before we go, that’s your call, but once we do commit to going, we should do everything we can to ensure success, and not undermine and corrode it by endless negativity. Especially partisan negativity.

    Fact of the matter is, Iraq’s a much freer place than it was before we went there. It’s economically a much better place too. It is still not perfect, it has still got a long way to go; right now it looks a lot like South Korea did in the wake of our intervention there (another noble if imperfect endeavor). I expect the long-term results to look a lot like South Korea does now: a thriving, bustling free democracy as oppose to living under oppressive tyranny.

    It’ll take another generation or two to sort itself out. SO, while we were indeed greeted with flowers when we got there (and we were), the hard reality is it’s going to take decades for them to grow into their full potential. But we helped them get started on the right road, and I’m proud of our troops for accomplishing that.

  • dduck

    DE, don’t do that bug under a microscope stuff with me, it is insulting.
    (1) We were all sold a bill of goods about Iraq and WMD and AQ.
    (2) If revenge is too not-understandable for you, I felt like hitting back at someone.
    (3) The troops were pawns, and they deserve our greatest respect, not so much for the folks who made the decision to go after Iraq.
    (4) Fascinating what time does to distort ones recollections.

  • DDuck: I don’t believe I’m putting you under a microscope. I believe I’m calmly asking you some direct questions. They’re a little pointed, but then, you aren’t answering them. So I’ll ask again: you specifically at that time favored going to Iraq, and you specifically, at that time, said it was revenge for 9/11 that drove your thinking? Were you on record anywhere as saying that? More important, did you know anyone else at the time who said that? Because I was there and I don’t.

    And by the way:

    1) We were not “sold a bill of goods” on WMD in Iraq, that is just a vicious slander. We were given the best information we had at the time and the majority of the evidence looked solid; there was always some doubt about it but those doubts only look obvious in the illusory 20/20 of hindsight. And since we were given at least 10 OTHER reasons than WMDs for going to Iraq, constantly bringing that up doesn’t jibe with the historical record.

    2) I felt like hitting back at someone after 9/11 too, which is why I favored going to Afghanistan. I did not feel like hitting Saddam for 9/11 because it was preposterous to think he had any direct involvement in it and I never heard anyone at the time say he did.

    3) The troops were not pawns, they were fully grown adults who made a commitment to their country, and did a magnificent job even if there were a few fuckups, which there always will be in such large enterprises. I would suggest you not insult these people by calling them “pawns” (or worse, refer to them as children, which a lot of people are in the bad habit of doing).

    4) Yes indeed, it’s totally fascinating how time distorts perceptions. Like the bizarre perception that we went to Iraq in revenge for 9/11, or that we went purely because of WMDs, both of which are demonstrably false statements.

  • Dorian:

    The interesting thing about your excellent piece on the Huffington Post was that I don’t see very much difference between General Kelly’s position and Col. Astore’s. They don’t seem much in conflict to me, and the key line for me is where Astore says this:

    “Considered and measured dissent from official governmental decisions to deploy troops and prolong wars can also be patriotic…”

    I agree with him. It most certainly can be. The key words are “considered and measured.”

    I said it many many times during those years, and I continue to say it: You want to dissent in a grave matter like war? Do it respectfully. Do it with full understanding that thoughtful people may disagree with you. Do it with full understanding that if you make false statements, you may cause harm. Do not call those who disagree with you liars. Don’t accuse leaders of deception when they may merely be mistaken. Don’t accuse leaders of vile motives when they may just be people you disagree with. Don’t harp on negativity without noting the positive. Most important of all, don’t declare defeat at every setback, and ignore or downplay every positive accomplishment.

    If you really care, I can list for you any number of objective measures that show Iraq to be a better place today than it was before we went. That means something to me, and I think it dishonors the troops not to be willing to look at those positive accomplishments and acknowledge them. They are manifold. And I do I believe it dishonors the troops not to acknowledge them, whether that is your intent or not.

    Yes, in a free and vibrant democracy, which the military exists to defend, there will always be dissent. And dissent includes the right to criticize the dissenters. Dissent includes the right to question someone’s patriotism. Dissent includes the right to criticize someone else’s dissent. Dissent includes the right to question those who question. That’s all part of the “free speech” gig. And while I don’t question your honor or your patriotism, I do suggest that your non-stop negativity about the mission in Iraq dishonors the positive accomplishments of the troops there.

    Sorry, but I really think it does.

    But it’s up to you. Your right to dissent, and your patriotism, remain unquestioned in my mind.

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      ” Your right to dissent, and your patriotism, remain unquestioned in my mind.”

      Apparently not, if you continue to question and disparage my sincere support and love for our troops because I vehemently and earnestly disagree with those who took us into an unnecessary and unjustified war that cost us more than 4,000 of those troops you and I love and support.

      But I can see we’ll never agree on this and I bid you a good day.

  • dduck

    DE, I prefer not to answer. Your questions don’t warrant a response, and that’s for the record.

  • DaGoat

    Ugh, as in everything else too much polarization. The Iraq war was not the colossal failure the left depicts it as. Saddam Hussein was removed from power and Iraq as a country is almost certainly better off. Removing despots from power and protecting innocents are rationales that have also been used by Obama and Clinton in other conflicts. The US has gained a strategic ally, although time will tell how well that works out. In those ways I agree with Dean that the war was successful.

    However a lot went badly. The WMD’s used as the primary rationale for the war were not found and while it was not a lie by Bush, it was Bush’s job to be right and he was not. Even when it became clear that Tenet had failed him, Bush waited much too long to make a change.

    The operation itself was fine initially but bogged down from problems with military and diplomatic strategies. The predictions of Iraq welcoming US occupation on a large scale were wrong. Again Bush took too long to recognize and correct the problems and deserves criticism. Rumsfeld was kept on even when it was clear his strategies were failing. It wasn’t until Petraeus and the surge that the war turned around.

    In retrospect my opinion is that the war was not worth the costs to the US, and we were wrong to start it. I do think Dean makes some reasonable points about excessive negativity affecting the troops. I’d also add i do remember reading mainstream articles about Iraq being revenge for 9/11 and I think there’s an element of truth to that, not saying there was a direct cause and effect but more that the time was ripe and the US population was probably more willing to enter into the conflict.

  • zephyr

    “Iraq was one of the greatest accomplishments in American foreign policy history. It was a long, very necessary, very noble and moral, and very successful war.” – Dean Esmay

    Your characterization couldn’t be more wrong. What is more, I believe that if anyone wanted to make a comment designed as a deliberate troll they would be hard-pressed to improve on yours. My guess though is that you actually believe it – which is even more disturbing.

    The truth is this: It was a stupid, costly, immoral and unnecessary war pitched under false pretenses and cheered by a complicit media. We’ll never know exactly how much innocent blood was spilled, but it was at least in the tens of thousands, perhaps a lot more. Of course you find that to be part of a “noble and moral” enterprise. I don’t think you have any real grasp of the meanings of those words. Sorry to be so blunt, but you can’t say things that are so clearly wrong and provocative without expecting to be corrected.

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      Zephyr says:

      Your characterization couldn’t be more wrong. What is more, I believe that if anyone wanted to make a comment designed as a deliberate troll they would be hard-pressed to improve on yours. My guess though is that you actually believe it – which is even more disturbing.

      The truth is this: It was a stupid, costly, immoral and unnecessary war pitched under false pretenses and cheered by a complicit media. We’ll never know exactly how much innocent blood was spilled, but it was at least in the tens of thousands, perhaps a lot more. Of course you find that to be part of a “noble and moral” enterprise. I don’t think you have any real grasp of the meanings of those words. Sorry to be so blunt, but you can’t say things that are so clearly wrong and provocative without expecting to be corrected.

      Zephyr:

      Except for rare circumstances — there have been a couple here at TMV — I try to be circumspect and dispassionate. This thread was one of those times when it almost became one of those “rare circumstances,” so I really can’t blame you for “putting it bluntly.”

  • zephyr

    Ya know Dorian, I don’t feel it’s even necessary to add that I support and respect the troops. This should be assumed. As always I am enormously proud of them. They do their jobs – even when thier political leadership is betraying their trust – and the trust of the citizenry. I suppose I should be bored by and inured to revisionist history and bad judgement by now, but it’s been a plague on our society and I can’t abide it. It’s hard enough for people to learn from history (can it be stressed enough how critically important this is?) when it’s documented honestly and accurately, but when it isn’t the opportunities to learn from prior mistakes are compromised. As always, thanks for your comments Dorian.

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      Thank you, Zephyr.

  • I don’t honestly see how the Iraq war can be seen as a success unless you are governing from Tehran. We took out Iran’s biggest enemy and gave them an ally.

  • slamfu

    We destabilized an entire country that was not ready for a change in leadership. The suffering of the Iraqi people was impossible to quantify because it was that chaotic. We destroyed the infrastructure, i.e. – water, electricity and food delivery, of a desert nation and then let the chips fall where they may over the vast part of the nation. Tribes and sects went at it with drills, torture, bombs you name it. It could hardly have been done worse than it was, and for less reason than it was done for. Calling it a success has got to be one of the most absurd things I have ever heard.

    For the record I like most of what OG poster has to say 🙂

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      @slamfu.

      Just curious, what or who is “OG poster”?

  • Rcoutme

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2003-09-06-poll-iraq_x.htm

    http://themoderatevoice.com/121921/ten-years-later-belief-in-iraq-connection-with-911-attack-persists/

    “- 38% believe that the US has found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda.
    – 31% believe that Iraq gave substantial support to Al Qaeda but was not involved with the September attacks while an additional 15% believe that Iraq was directly involved in carrying out the September 11 attacks.”

    Dean, that was with a quick Google search. Your contention that people do not (and did not) believe that Iraq and Hussein did not have anything to do with 9/11 (or at least implication via revenge claim) is easily proven wrong.

  • zephyr

    “I don’t honestly see how the Iraq war can be seen as a success unless you are governing from Tehran. We took out Iran’s biggest enemy and gave them an ally.”

    Ron, thanks for making this important point. The relationship between Iran and Iraq prior to the Bush/Cheney debacle was rocky and distrustful. Iraq in many ways provided a buffer zone and kept Iran occupied. Of course things like this never seem to enter into the thinking of neocon chickenhawks – or their cheerleaders.

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      I add my thanks, Ron.

  • cjjack

    Pardon me for being late to the discussion, but it has been a very busy day. Earlier today when I was reading the back and forth between Dorian and Dean, I noticed that the latter repeatedly called our mission in Iraq “noble.”

    What, pray tell, is noble about it?

    We attacked a nation that did not attack us. Unprovoked, preemptive war is not noble. Destroying a country so that it can be rebuilt over the course of the next few generations is not noble.

    Also, the notion put forth by Dean that in order to support the troops you must also support the mission is absurd in the extreme. That sort of “reasoning” (if you can call it that) leads to the inevitable conclusion that whatever mission the United States embarks upon cannot be questioned lest you be guilty of not supporting the troops.

    Those troops are not fighting for “my country right or wrong” or the idea of infallible leadership with unquestionable missions.

  • slamfu

    That would be Dean. Author of this article.

    I also think the “support our troops” line is a pretty distorted way to look at things. Imagine a 2nd grade schoolteacher taking her class on a field trip. During the course of that field trip she leads her children into a burning building. A passerby says “Get those kids out of the building!” to which the teacher responds “You don’t support our 2nd graders!”. See how silly and totally without merit that argument is?

    What it really is, is an excuse for incompetence. Its a way to deflect gullible people from actually trying to hold people in authority accountable for their actions of consequence.

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      Thanks, Slamfu, although I still don’t know what “OG” stands for

      (BTW, Dean was definitely not the author of “this article.”)

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