Iraq War

Iraq War Supporters Run For The Hills

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AP Photo / J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

TPM DC

Among the prominent Iraq War figures TPM contacted: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Kagan, Douglas J. Feith, Bill Kristol, Scooter Libby, Peter Feaver, Bruce Jackson, and Stephen Cambone. They all either declined to comment or did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.

“They’re in their foxholes and they don’t want to say things, because they’re all sort of positioning to engage these candidates, be in the inner circle for these candidates,” said Shawn Brimley, executive vice president and director of studies at the Center for a New American Security who previously served on Obama’s National Security Council staff.

It was not too long ago, however, that many of the voices that initially cheered the Bush administration towards war were still loudly defending the decision.

Kristol, a neoconservative commentator who now is the editor of The Weekly Standard, told CNN last June he would not apologize for supporting the war, as it was the “right thing to do and necessary and just thing to do.” Likewise, Rumsfeld said in 2013 it would have been “immoral” not to invade Iraq. Former Vice President Dick Cheney also said last summer he had no regrets when asked about the decision.

Jeb Bush has tapped a number of members of his brother’s administration to advise him on foreign policy, including Wolfowitz, making Jeb’s grappling with the issue particularly awkward.

Republicans are “finally having the reckoning that is long overdue on the issue of Iraq,” according to Brimley.

“The silver lining for the Republicans is that it’s good that this reckoning is happening now, potentially very early in the primary,” Brimley said.

Still, a few Iraq defenders have emerged from the woodwork in recent days. John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Bush, said unequivocally that the decision to invade Iraq was the correct one.

Other hawks have danced around the intel heralded at the time — that Iraq was in possession of WMDs. They argue that was to blame.

“I think that most of the Republicans would say no — that the proximate cause of the invasion was the intel about WMDs. And had that intel not been there, we would’ve tried to get the no-fly zone going and the sanctions going,” Elliott Abrams, a former national security adviser in the Bush administration, told Bloomberg.

Michael Rubin, a Pentagon official during the Bush years, also said in an email to TPM that President Bush’s decision was justified by the intelligence available to him at the time. He added, “Reconstruction, redevelopment, and lengthy occupation both in Afghanistan and Iraq were mistakes. We have little to show for our efforts in either. The Washington model of throwing money at problems doesn’t work in the Middle East.”

Jim Hanson, executive vice president at the Center for Security Policy — which is led by Frank Gaffney, one of the most vocal Iraq War advocates — said judging a position on the Iraq War by what is known now is “unfair” and a “ complete cop out.”

“You don’t get to make decisions in hindsight. You take the best available intelligence and you make the best decision you can at that point in time,” he said. “Hindsight is not a part of the game, so I think it’s an unfair question to ask.”

Richard Perle, another prominent figure from the pre-invasion days, defended the 2003 decision in an interview with Huffington Post last week: “The evidence is strong enough and the cost of standing down would be not delaying for a week or two, but essentially abandoning the capacity.”

But some of the Iraq War’s biggest cheerleaders just wanted to move away from the argument entirely.

“Our collective intellectual efforts would be much better employed trying to understand how to manage the wars and threats we face now — none of which are going well — than continuing to rehash an argument we’ve been having for more than a decade,” Fred Kagan, once a promoter of the Iraq War who is now a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told TPM in an email.

Prominent Iraq War critics were not surprised.

“Clearly it was one of the largest blunders the U.S. has ever made in its foreign policy history,” said Paul Pillar, a former CIA counterintelligence official. “We still have much cognitive dissonance among those who promoted the war who have had a hard time recognizing that. If we are getting silence from neocons, it’s because they don’t have anything plausible to say in defense of the decision.”

Last Monday, Bush told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that, even knowing what is known now, he supported his brother’s decision to invade Iraq and his Republican rivals were quick to pounce. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) lined up against Bush, arguing that at least in retrospect, the decision to intervene in Iraq was a mistake.

Meanwhile, Bush recalibrated his position a few more times, before settling on an opinionThursday that, “I would have not engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq.”

The issue of Iraq is unlikely to go away for Republicans.

“By virtue of who Secretary Clinton is — and she is the presumptive nominee, I would assume, on the Democratic side — they’re going to have to run at her on national security and foreign policy,” Brimley said. “Does being hawkish on foreign policy mean having to embrace all of the hawkish elements of the George W. Bush- kind of legacy? They’re struggling with this right now.”

Tellingly, Rubio — who counts Abrams and former Dick Cheney aide Eric Edelman among his advisors — has flipped again on the issue, arguing Sunday to Fox News’ Chris Wallace that “the world is a better place because Saddam Hussein doesn’t run Iraq.”

When pressed whether the decision was a mistake knowing Hussein didn’t have WMDs, Rubio still wouldn’t say that President Bush made the wrong decision. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who is mulling a presidential run, also said Saturday that Bush made the correct decision given what was known then. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is also expected to announce his White House candidacy next month, conceded Monday, “If I [knew] then what I know now, a land invasion may not have been the right answer,” but said the war was not a mistake and blamed Obama for withdrawing troops in 2011.

“We have somewhat similar debate going on right now with Iran — the fact that having a nuclear program doesn’t by itself constitute a case to do any one thing — to go to war, to negotiate or whatever,” Pillar said. “You have to argue the pros and cons.”

According to Pillar, the broader back-and-forth proves that we “are still stuck in the framework that the war promoters in the Bush administration gave us,” in that perceived threat alone justifies an invasion.

~TIERNEY SNEED

College Student to Jeb Bush: ‘Your Brother Created ISIS’

Jeb Bush at a town-hall-style meeting in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday.

Jeb Bush at a town-hall-style meeting in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday | Credit James Glover/Reuters

NEW YORK TIMES

RENO, Nev. — “Your brother created ISIS,” the young woman told Jeb Bush. And with that, Ivy Ziedrich, a 19-year-old college student, created the kind of confrontational moment here on Wednesday morning that presidential candidates dread.

Mr. Bush, the former governor of Florida, had just concluded a town-hall-style meeting when Ms. Ziedrich demanded to be heard. “Governor Bush,” she shouted as audience members asked him for his autograph. “Would you take a student question?”

Mr. Bush whirled around and looked at Ms. Ziedrich, who identified herself as a political science major and a college Democrat at the University of Nevada.

She had heard Mr. Bush argue, a few moments before, that America’s retreat from the Middle East under President Obama had contributed to the growing power of the Islamic State. She told the former governor that he was wrong, and made the case that blame lay with the decision by the administration of his brother George W. Bush to disband the Iraqi Army.

“It was when 30,000 individuals who were part of the Iraqi military were forced out — they had no employment, they had no income, and they were left with access to all of the same arms and weapons,” Ms. Ziedrich said.

She added: “Your brother created ISIS.”

Mr. Bush interjected. “All right. Is that a question?”

Ms. Ziedrich was not finished. “You don’t need to be pedantic to me, sir.”

“Pedantic? Wow,” Mr. Bush replied.

Then Ms. Ziedrich asked: “Why are you saying that ISIS was created by us not having a presence in the Middle East when it’s pointless wars where we send young American men to die for the idea of American exceptionalism? Why are you spouting nationalist rhetoric to get us involved in more wars?”

Mr. Bush replied: “We respectfully disagree. We have a disagreement. When we left Iraq, security had been arranged, Al Qaeda had been taken out. There was a fragile system that could have been brought up to eliminate the sectarian violence.”

He added: “And we had an agreement that the president could have signed that would have kept 10,000 troops, less than we have in Korea, could have created the stability that would have allowed for Iraq to progress. The result was the opposite occurred. Immediately, that void was filled.”

He concluded: “Look, you can rewrite history all you want. But the simple fact is that we are in a much more unstable place because American pulled back.”

Mr. Bush turned away. The conversation was over.

~Michael Barbaro

Related:

Ivy Ziedrich, College Student, Warms to Role as Jeb Bush Critic on ISIS

There Are A Lot More Fabricated Brian Williams Stories And Some Matter Very Much (VIDEO)

Brian Williams Pinocchio by ES by BL8antBand

Brian Williams Pinocchio by ES | by BL8antBand | Deviant Art

Addicting Info

Long gone are the days of Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite. Gone are the days when news was supposed to inform rather than entertain. Today, ratings are king and Fox calls itself “news.”

It could be argued that Brian Williams’ fabricated story about the helicopter he was riding in being shot at in Iraq is no big deal; that in the big picture, it’s a minor fib compared to those that got us into Iraq in the first place, or those uttered by Fox News on a daily basis.

While I haven’t been screaming for Williams’ head since the lie was revealed, I’ve been squeamish. In my experience, no one lies just once and Brian Williams is a showman before he’s a newsman – it’s the modern requirement of the job. I’d be surprised if there weren’t more stories out there and I’d be surprised if some didn’t have much bigger consequences.

It seems likely that in the next few weeks, we’ll be reading about a lot of Williams’ fabrications. The Washington Post is already revealing a few, mostly about his Peabody Award winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Three stories in particular are being called into question:

Among them: The one he told about witnessing a suicide at the Superdome. Or the one he told about watching a body float past the Ritz-Carlton, perched at the edge of an otherwise dry French Quarter. Or the one about the dysentery he said he got. And, finally, the story he told about the Ritz-Carlton gangs. Three separate individuals told reporters no gangs infiltrated the Ritz-Carlton.

Source: Washington Post

Here’s the video:

If you read the Washington Post story, all of Williams’ narratives about Katrina have been called into question.

Perhaps the most damaging of his alleged fibs is the one about the armed gangs. The narrative surrounding Katrina was already racist. It was one of black people “looting” and white people “finding.”

Many felt that the very fact that the levies failed and that the response was so slow was a direct result of racism. It certainly didn’t help anything if Williams made up a gang of armed black people terrorizing guests of a prestigious hotel.

As (writer Judith) Sylvester described Williams’s story, the “Ritz-Carlton soon became a gang target.” She wrote that Williams said he spent one night on his hotel room floor, lying between the window and bed so it would look like the room was unoccupied. “You’d hear young, kind-of-thuggish kids walking about and down the hall all night,” Williams said. “It was terrible. I’m not sure which night I decided to get out of there.”

Unfortunately for Williams, the New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass showed Williams’ story to be highly embellished.

“He heard ‘some civilians’ talking about how a band of armed thugs had invaded the Ritz-Carlton hotel and started raping women — including his 24-year-old daughter, who stayed there through the storm,” the New Orleans paper reported. “He rushed to the scene only to find that although a group of men had tried to enter the hotel, they weren’t armed and were easily turned back by police.”

Others confirmed the police chief’s version of events.

That fabricated story of roving hoards of armed black men terrorizing rich white women wasn’t particularly unique. The narrative is as old as slavery and it’s just about as damaging. The stereotype of the black man as thug is part of what caused Trayvon Martin to be gunned down or what caused Eric Garner to be choked to death.

That stereotype is what helps drive the statistic that one in three of today’s black men will serve time in prison, after which, many will become disenfranchised, including losing the right to vote and losing the ability to get a good job.

I’m not saying Brian Williams is a racist. I sincerely doubt he is, but he’s an expert storyteller. He knows that his middle-aged white audience revels in stories about crazy black people. That was the story Americans were telling in the weeks following Katrina, so he simply jumped on the band wagon.

Comparing Brian Williams favorably to Fox News isn’t an excuse. Those of us in the know expect Fox to lie and the rest of us don’t care. Williams, possibly more than any individual, represents what is supposed to be remaining of mainstream media’s integrity. While not an old-school investigative journalist, Williams is presented as a pillar of truth.

If he’s lost our trust, what is his purpose? We, as Americans, need to stop pandering to the lowest common denominator. “Not as bad as” is not indicative of quality. We need to raise our expectations, not lower them.

Featured image courtesy of Deviant Art.

ISIS Baffling U.S. Intelligence Agencies

Reuters

When I think of Iraq’s clash-filled history with Western countries I often wonder where does their strength, stamina and determination come from?  Did George W. Bush’s people even read the history of that region before invading Iraq?  Has anybody within our military system even bothered?

In chess we anticipate several moves the opponent might take, to decide our best strategy to win.  Is that too much to ask for the U.S. Government to do the same?  They might be doing it, but the results thus far lead me to believe that they aren’t.

Make no mistake, I’m not lionizing ISIS at all but I am in awe of their staying power given the massive offensives we’ve used against them in recent weeks.

During the 3rd Crusade, Saladin turned out to be a formidable opponent for Richard the Lion-hearted;  Russia eventually pulled out of Iraq after several years of “occupation”;  The U.S. had downsized its presence to just a hand-full of military personnel guarding our massive embassy over there.

I think knowing the battle history and the cultural history of the people in the region will benefit all involved.

The Daily Beast

It’s been two months since ISIS took over Iraq’s second-largest city. But U.S. analysts are still trying to figure out how big the group is and the real identities of its leaders.
The U.S. intelligence community is still trying to answer basic questions about the jihadists who tried to wipe out Iraq’s remaining Yazidis and who now threaten to overrun the capital of the country’s Kurdish provinces.In a briefing for reporters Thursday, U.S. intelligence officials said the government is re-evaluating an estimate from early this year that said the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) had only 10,000 members. These officials also said intelligence analysts were still trying to determine the real names of many of the group’s leaders from records of Iraqis who went in and out of American custody during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

While many U.S. officials have warned publicly in the last year about the dangers posed by ISIS, the fact that the U.S. intelligence community lacks a consensus estimate on its size and the true identities of the group’s leadership may explain why President Obama over the weekend said the U.S. was caught off-guard by the ISIS advance into Kurdish territory.

That said, the U.S. intelligence community assesses that ISIS poses a particularly difficult problem. One American official said ISIS had attracted thousands of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq, some of whom had returned to their home countries and formed terror cells in Europe.

ISIS has also proven that it’s practical and can adapt to changing battlefield conditions. Despite taking Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, in early June, ISIS was smart enough not to try an assault on Baghdad this summer. ISIS would likely lose that battle, according to U.S. intelligence officials, because the city has more than 5 million Shiite Arabs, who belong to the sect of Islam the Sunnis in ISIS consider apostate. While ISIS has refrained from a military assault on Baghdad, U.S. intelligence officials believe the group has cells in place in the Iraqi capital capable of being activated for a future attack or acts of terrorism.

For the government of Iraq, ISIS will remain a long-term challenge. One intelligence official said the group could be weakened if the Iraqi army got continued “external support,” including more arms, more training, and a steady feed of precise information on ISIS fighters, especially the kind of technical monitoring done with overhead and on-the-ground sensors that provide intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance.

President Obama has conditioned U.S. assistance for the Iraqi fight against ISIS on the formation of a more-inclusive government capable of luring away more moderate Sunni tribal leaders and politicians. One reason why the U.S. intelligence community, for example, has had trouble settling on a number for how many members are in ISIS is because other Sunni militias have fought alongside the group in its recent campaign through Iraq.

In fact, Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, in a statement Thursday, linked theresignation of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to the fight against ISIS. “These are encouraging developments that we hope can set Iraq on a new path and unite its people against the threat presented by [ISIS],” she said. “The United States remains committed to a strong partnership with Iraq and the Iraqi people.”

But reform of Iraq’s government in Baghdad does not diminish the threat ISIS will pose in the coming months. U.S. intelligence officials pointed out that ISIS had accomplished something al Qaeda and its affiliates had not: successfully holding territory it had conquered. In areas controlled by ISIS, basic government services like electricity and running water continue, these officials said.

Besides the holding of territory, another major accomplishment for ISIS has been in the propaganda war within the broader jihadist community. The group today poses a direct ideological challenge to al Qaeda, according to U.S. intelligence officials, because, unlike al Qaeda, it has decided to create an Islamic caliphate now. That caliphate factors into the group’s recruitment propaganda, which features a mix of gruesome violent images with more positive themes that show the promise of a return of Muslim empire.

The U.S. intelligence officials said ISIS was winning the social-media war with al Qaeda, often finding tens of thousands of Twitter accounts to retweet their messages. In some cases, other jihadists have expressed support for ISIS as well. In July, the jailed leader of Indonesia’s hard-line Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid organization called on followers to support ISIS. The intelligence officials added that some members of al Qaeda’s core and its affiliate in North Africa have also expressed support for ISIS, despite the group’s war of words with al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

But U.S. intelligence officials say the secret to defeating ISIS may be to wait for its overreach to catch up with it.

“They are fighting on too many fronts and they are outnumbered,” one official said. He said the group could be weakened “if it is faced with a competent force,” applying continued pressure, and that it would get weaker still if some of the Sunni groups that have joined it in an uncomfortable marriage of convenience start to peel away.

Iran May Be Open To Working With U.S. To Help Baghdad Fight Militants

Iraqis chant slogans against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham as they volunteer for the army at a Baghdad recruiting station on Thursday. Associated Press

The enemy of my enemy is my friend…

The Huffington Post

ANKARA, June 13 (Reuters) – Shi’te Muslim Iran is so alarmed by Sunni insurgent gains in Iraq that it may be willing to cooperate with Washington in helping Baghdad fight back, a senior Iranian official told Reuters.

The idea is being discussed internally among the Islamic Republic’s leadership, the senior Iranian official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official had no word on whether the idea had been raised with any other party.

Officials say Iran will send its neighbor advisers and weaponry, although probably not troops, to help its ally Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki check what Tehran sees as a profound threat to regional stability, officials and analysts say.

Islamist militants have captured swathes of territory including the country’s second biggest city Mosul.

Tehran is open to the possibility of working with the United States to support Baghdad, the senior official said.

“We can work with Americans to end the insurgency in the Middle East,” the official said, referring to events in Iraq.

“We are very influential in Iraq, Syria and many other countries.”

For many years, Iran has been aggrieved by what it sees as U.S. efforts to marginalize it. Tehran wants to be recognized as a significant player in regional security.

COMMON CAUSE

Relations between Iran and Washington have improved modestly since the 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani, who promised “constructive engagement” with the world.

And while Tehran and the United States pursue talks to resolve the Islamic state’s decade-old nuclear standoff with the West, they also acknowledge some common threats, including the rise of al Qaeda-style militancy across the Middle East.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama said the United States was not ruling out air strikes to help Baghdad fight the insurgents, in what would be the first U.S. armed intervention in Iraq since the end of the U.S.-led war.

Rouhani on Thursday strongly condemned what he called violent acts by insurgent groups in the Middle East.

“Today, in our region, unfortunately, we are witnessing violence, killing, terror and displacement,” Rouhani said.

“Iran will not tolerate the terror and violence … we will fight against terrorism, factionalism and violence.”

Asked on Thursday about Iranian comments, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “Clearly, we’ve encouraged them in many cases to play a constructive role. But I don’t have any other readouts or views from our end to portray here today.”

Fearing Iraq’s war could spill into Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has urged the international community to back Maliki’s administration “in its fight against terrorism”.

Brigadier-General Mohammad Hejazi said Iran was ready to supply Iraq with “military equipment or consultations,” the Tasnim news agency reported. “I do not think the deployment of Iranian troops would be necessary,” he was quoted as adding.

The senior Iranian official said Iran was extremely worried about the advance of ISIL, also a major force in the war against Iran’s close ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, carving out a swathe of Syria territory along the Iraqi border.

“The danger of extremist Sunni terrorist in Iraq and the region is increasing … There have been several high-ranking security meetings since yesterday in Tehran,” the official said.

“We are on alert and we also follow the developments in Iraq very closely.” (Additional reporting by Michelle Moghtader in Dubai, Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by William Maclean and Janet McBride)

HuffPost Reporter Confronts McCain: Does ‘Victory’ in Iraq Mean Endless War?

Mediaite

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein had a rather testy exchange Friday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

“I just want to nail down what it means to have it won,” Stein told the senator at the start of his question. “When we were debating the war [in Iraq], I thought the idea was that we would put up an Iraqi government that would be self-sufficient and an Iraqi military that could protect. We spent $25 billion propping up the military, and it folds, even despite having much greater numbers than ISIS.

“So I’m curious: What is the definition of victory? What is the definition of winning? Does it mean having a residual force basically without end date? I’m just a little bit confused. I want to know what victory is to you.”

The senator wasted no time snapping back, hammering Stein for his “confusion”:

I think you are confused because you didn’t know what happened with the surge where we basically had the country pacified. We had a stable government in Baghdad, and we had the conflict basically — for all intents and purposes — won. We still got troops in Bosnia, a residual force would have stabilized the country. Most military experts will tell you that. So I’m sorry about your confusion, but the facts on the ground were that al Qaeda had been defeated almost completely and with the residual American force and at that time, a strong Iraq. Now, [Iraqi PM Nouri] al-Maliki is very weak. Maliki got worse after we left. And again, I knew this was going to happen, because we didn’t leave that force behind. And so I’m sorry about your confusion, but anybody who was there will tell you we had the conflict won.

“I guess I shouldn’t myself confused, because it would be used against me,” Stein remarked. He then pressed once more: “What is the end date for our forces in Iraq? Is it open-ended? And if that’s the case, because we need to have a residual force there to prop up the Iraq government indefinitely, is that how you see it?”

In return, McCain cited residual American troops stationed in Germany, Japan, Korea, and Bosnia as having successfully stabilized regions American forces have previously occupied.

Watch the exchange below, via Mediaite:

Dick Cheney says Iraq War was worth it because now we know they didn’t have WMDs

Worst administration in history.

In my opinion, this is one of the most idiotic and insensitive things that has spoken by Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney…

Daily Kos

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is on a Famous Person Book Tour. A Famous Person Book Tour, for any youngsters out there unfamiliar with the practice, is an American phenomenon in which a famous person writes a book, and/or causes a book to be written in their name, and because they are famous American law dictates that all American media programs are required to have them on to discuss various things that may or may not have anything to do with the book they may or may not have written. You may think that this law is a bit stupid, but it is entrenched; no newsperson or talk show host wants to be the first person to go to jail for failing to give a Famous Person their free network interview.

So Dick Cheney may or may not have written a book that may or may not be a tutorial as to how to lure young homeless people into your house so that you may harvest their organs for later use. This means we get to hear him defend his life’s work, aka the Iraq War, and you will not be surprised to know that he considers it a fine success because we were able to find out that there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction there.

What we gain and my concern was then and it remains today is that the biggest threat we face is the possibility of terrorist groups like al Qaeda equipped with weapons of mass destruction, with nukes, bugs or gas. That was the threat after 9/11 and when we took down Saddam Hussein we eliminated Iraq as a potential source of that.

Whether Iraq actually had any weapons of mass destruction, you see, is beside the point. The point is that by invading them, unleashing a chaotic series of events that killed perhaps a half a million people or so, we were able to set our minds at ease as to how they did not have any. Scratch one country off the list; all that is required now is to bomb and invade every other nation in the world so as to satisfy ourselves that there are not any illicit weapons there either. You may recognize this as another rephrasing of the Cheney Doctrine, which says that if there is even a one percent chance that another country might do something bad to us, we are allowed to bomb and invade them before they get the chance. If bombing and invading them did not result in them liking us sufficiently, of course, we may have to bomb and invade them again; there is no common rule of thumb as to how many times you need to bomb and invade someone before they like you.

Dick Cheney was and is considered an American foreign policy expert. He was one of the people most intimately involved with deciding who should and should not be killed because reasons. All of the others are still around as well, flitting about on their occasional legally mandated Famous Person Book Tours. There is at least a 99 percent chance that they are all secretly idiots or worse, but the law is the law.

“Why I am no longer a Republican”

The Week

It has a lot to do with the Iraq War

This week has been filled with Iraq War recriminations and re-evaluations. While official Washington was strangely silent about the 10th anniversary of the start of the conflict, journalists and intellectuals have been (predictably) more vocal. Prominent neocons have reaffirmed, with minor caveats, their support for the war. Some (erstwhileliberal hawks have issued full-throated mea culpasOther liberals, meanwhile, have tried to have it both ways, denouncing the war they once supported while praising its outcome. And of course, lots of people who opposed the war from the beginning, on the right and left, have declared vindication.

My own position on the war fits into none of these categories. Ten years ago, I was working as an editor at First Things, a monthly magazine that’s aptly been described as the New York Review of Books of the religious right. (And no, that’s not oxymoronic.) The magazine strongly supported George W. Bush’s original conception of the War on Terror, and so did I. In his speech to Congress and the nation on September 20, 2001, Bush stated that the United States would seek to decimate al Qaeda as well as every other terrorist groups of global reach. To this day I remain committed to that goal and willing to support aggressive military action (including the use of drone strikes) to achieve it. But thanks in large part to the Iraq War, I no longer consider myself a Republican or a man of the right.

The reason I continue (like President Obama) to support the original vision of the War on Terror is that it was and is based on a correct judgment of the fundamental difference between (stateless) terrorists and traditional (state-based) military opponents. Even the most bloodthirsty tyrant will invariably temper his actions in war out of a concern for how his adversary will respond, and he will likewise act out of a concern for maintaining and maximizing his own power. Political leaders can thus be deterred by actions (and threats of action) by other states. Members of al-Qaeda-like groups, by contrast, seek in all cases to inflict the maximum possible number of indiscriminate deaths on their enemies and demonstrate no concern about the lives of their members. They are therefore undeterrable, which means that the only way to combat them is to destroy them.

Unfortunately, the right began to disregard the crucial distinction between terrorists and states right around the time of the January 2002 State of the Union speech, when President Bush broadened the scope of the War on Terror to include an “axis of evil” consisting of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. After that, the mood among conservatives began to grow fierce. Some columnists denied the effectiveness of deterrence against states and advocated unilateral preventive war to overthrow hostile regimes instead. Others openly promoted American imperialism. Still others explicitly proposed that the United States act to topple the governments of a series of sovereign nations in the Muslim Middle East, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

And these were the intellectually respectable suggestions, published in mainstream newspapers and long-established journals of opinion. Farther down the media hierarchy, on cable news, websites, and blogs, conservatives of all stripes closed ranks, unleashing a verbal barrage on any and all who dissented from a united front in favor of unapologetic American military muscle. The participants in this endless pep rally were insistent on open-ended war, overtly hostile to dissent, and thoroughly unforgiving of the slightest criticism of the United States abroad. Self-congratulation and self-righteousness ruled the day.

Continue reading here…

 

“Hubris”: New Documentary Reexamines the Iraq War “Hoax”

Hubris:

Noun
  1. Excessive pride or self-confidence.
  2. (in Greek tragedy) Excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.

Members the Senate are increasingly coming up with Benghazi questions to justify slowing down the process of approving President Obama’s nominees for his cabinet.   When they heard that UN Ambassador Susan Rice might be considered for the Secretary of State position upon Hillary Clinton’s departure, they claimed that Rice lied about Benghazi on national TV.  They promised that she would not be approved because of those lies.

Now certain key Senators are holding the Secretary of Defense nominee hostage because of…wait for it…more Benghazi questions.  Chuck Hagel, the DOD nominee had nothing to do with Benghazi at all.

The hypocrisy is astounding.  Here’s why…

Mother Jones

An MSNBC film, hosted by Rachel Maddow and based on Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s book, finds new evidence that Bush scammed the nation into war.

A decade ago, on March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq that would lead to a nine-year war resulting in 4,486 dead American troops, 32,226 service members wounded, and over 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians. The tab for the war topped $3 trillion. Bush did succeed in removing Saddam Hussein, but it turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction and no significant operational ties between Saddam’s regime and Al Qaeda. That is, the two main assertions used by Bush and his crew to justify the war were not true. Three years after the war began, Michael Isikoff, then an investigative reporter for Newsweek (he’s since moved to NBC News), and I published Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, a behind-the-scenes account of how Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their lieutenants deployed false claims, iffy intelligence, and unsupported hyperbole to win popular backing for the invasion.

Our book—hailed by the New York Times as “the most comprehensive account of the White House’s political machinations”—was the first cut at an important topic: how a president had swindled the nation into war with a deliberate effort to hype the threat. The book is now the basis for an MSNBC documentary of the same name that marks the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war. Hosted by Rachel Maddow, the film premieres Monday night in her usual time slot (9PM ET/PT). But the documentary goes beyond what Isikoff and I covered in Hubris, presenting new scoops and showing that the complete story of the selling of that war has yet to be told.

One chilling moment in the film comes in an interview with retired General Anthony Zinni, a former commander in chief of US Central Command. In August 2002, the Bush-Cheney administration opened its propaganda campaign for war with a Cheney speech at the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars convention. The veep made a stark declaration: “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” No doubt, he proclaimed, Saddam was arming himself with WMD in preparation for attacking the United States.

Zinni was sitting on the stage during the speech, and in the documentary he recalls his reaction:

It was a shock. It was a total shock. I couldn’t believe the vice president was saying this, you know? In doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD, through all the briefings I heard at Langley, I never saw one piece of credible evidence that there was an ongoing program. And that’s when I began to believe they’re getting serious about this. They wanna go into Iraq.

That Zinni quote should almost end the debate on whether the Bush-Cheney administration purposefully guided the nation into war with misinformation and disinformation.

But there’s more. So much more. The film highlights a Pentagon document declassified two years ago. This memo notes that in November 2001—shortly after the 9/11 attacks—Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with General Tommy Franks to review plans for the “decapitation” of the Iraqi government. The two men reviewed how a war against Saddam could be triggered; that list included a “dispute over WMD inspections.” It’s evidence that the administration was seeking a pretense for war.

The yellowcake uranium supposedly bought by Saddam in Niger, the aluminum tubes supposedly used to process uranium into weapons-grade material, the supposed connection between Saddam and Osama bin Laden—the documentary features intelligence analysts and experts who at the time were saying and warning that the intelligence on these topics was wrong or uncertain. Yet administration officials kept using lousy and inconclusive intelligence to push the case for war.

Through the months-long run-up to the invasion, Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, would become the administration’s No. 1 pitchman for the war with a high-profile speech at the UN, which contained numerous false statements about Iraq and WMD. But, the documentary notes, he was hiding from the public his deep skepticism. In the film, Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s chief of staff at the time, recalls the day Congress passed a resolution authorizing Bush to attack Iraq:

Powell walked into my office and without so much as a fare-thee-well, he walked over to the window and he said, “I wonder what’ll happen when we put 500,000 troops into Iraq and comb the country from one end to the other and find nothing?” And he turned around and walked back in his office. And I—I wrote that down on my calendar—as close for—to verbatim as I could, because I thought that was a profound statement coming from the secretary of state, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

Wilkerson also notes that Powell had no idea about the veracity of the intelligence he cited during that UN speech: “Though neither Powell nor anyone else from the State Department team intentionally lied, we did participate in a hoax.”

A hoax. That’s what it was. Yet Bush and Cheney went on to win reelection, and many of their accomplices in this swindle never were fully held accountable. In the years after the WMD scam became apparent, there certainly was a rise in public skepticism and media scrutiny of government claims. Still, could something like this happen again? Maddow remarks, “If what we went through 10 years ago did not change us as a nation—if we do not understand what happened and adapt to resist it—then history says we are doomed to repeat it.”

The Iraq War’s ‘quiet’ end: By the numbers

This is an interesting look at the wind down of the Iraq War…

The Week

An understated ceremony in Baghdad marks the end of a mission that lasted nearly nine years, claimed the lives over 4,000 U.S. soldiers, and divided our nation

America’s long, contentious war in Iraq came to a “quiet” end Thursday. In a “muted ceremony” in Baghdad, U.S. troops lowered the flag of command that flew over the headquarters of the U.S. mission for a final time. “After a lot of blood spilled by Iraqis and Americans, the mission of an Iraq that could govern and secure itself has become real,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at the ceremony. Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the bloodshed and monetary toll:
8
Number of years the Iraq War lasted — the official tally is eight years, eight months, and 25 days. As a start date, The Washington Post points to March 20, 2003, when an airstrike was launched in southern Baghdad where Saddam Hussein was presumed to be hiding.

More than 1 million
Number of U.S. troops who have served in Iraq since 2003

4,483
Number of troops who were killed during the Iraq War, according to Mark Leon Goldberg at UN Dispatch

33,183
Number who were wounded

104,080 to 113,728
Estimated number of Iraqi civilians killed during the mission,according to Iraq Body Count

6.5
Number of deaths per day from suicide attack and vehicle bombs in 2011, says Goldberg

$800 billion 
Cost of the war to the U.S. treasury, says Lolita C. Baldor at theAssociated Press

4,000
Number of troops who will remain in Iraq over the coming months, “despite President Barack Obama’s earlier contention that all American troops would be home for Christmas,” says Baldor

170,000
Number of troops in the country during the 2007 surge ordered by President George W. Bush

500
Number of bases and outposts established in Iraq during that surge


Number of bases that remain

61
Percent of Americans who favored the withdrawal of all troops of Iraq by the end of the year, according to a CNN/ORC Internation poll conducted last month. That’s despite the fact that “only half of Americans think their nation achieved its goals in Iraq,” says Richard Allen Greene and Moni Basu at CNN.