Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ten Years On: Bush's Iraq Legacy

Combat brigade leaving Iraq in August 2010 (LATimes)
This week has been full of media navel gazing and dissecting of how so many people were tricked into going to war with Iraq, who had nothing to do with 9/11 and also most certainly did not have weapons of mass destruction. It is very easy to find reporters and pundits and politicians who were for the Iraq War before they were against it.

What I wanted to focus on was those so delusional as to think that Bush's legacy in regards to Iraq will be favorable. Those who pointed at W as he left office and said, "History will be kind to him." If you've been reading the news coverage, it's pretty clear that history - both now and in the future - will be anything but kind to the man who is responsible for the deaths of more than a hundred thousand people based on lies. And justifiably so.

But this post is not a look back at Bush's legacy. This is dedicated to those who continue to defend his decision to invade Iraq despite hindsight being 20/20. Honestly, so many people reversed course after the war that mea culpas would almost go unnoticed at this point. It takes a truly oblivious individual to say that history will improve Bush's foreign policy blunder.

There's Andrew Roberts over at The Telegraph, who had this to say as Bush left office:
The next factor that will be seen in its proper historical context in years to come will be the true reasons for invading Afghanistan in October 2001 and Iraq in April 2003. The conspiracy theories believed by many (generally, but not always) stupid people – that it was "all about oil", or the securing of contracts for the US-based Halliburton corporation, etc – will slip into the obscurity from which they should never have emerged had it not been for comedian-filmmakers such as Michael Moore.
Instead, the obvious fact that there was a good case for invading Iraq based on 14 spurned UN resolutions, massive human rights abuses and unfinished business following the interrupted invasion of 1991 will be recalled.
What Andrews misses when talking about "unfinished business" after the Gulf War is that there was none. Take Dick Cheney's own words in 1992:
And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not very 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.
The Gulf War was ended on the United States's terms. And if spurned UN resolutions and human rights abuses are enough to invade and occupy a country, we would be occupying nearly half the globe, including South Africa, India and Pakistan, to name a few.

Then there's Jeb Bush, who went to bat for his big brother on Meet the Press recently:

I understand the family connection here and Jeb's desire to look out for George. There are others from Bush's administration who have come to 43's defense, like John Ashcroft and Karl Rove. While still delusional and wrong, this makes more sense than someone not related to or having worked for the president defending what - both at the time and in retrospect - is and was a horrible decision.

Many Republicans in the US have marched down the same road of Bush apologism. One of the biggest names is Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who said that people are looking back with "more fondness" on President Bush's presidency.

And 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also endorsed the idea in 2008 that going into Iraq was the right thing to do, even if the management of the war was not the greatest:
It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time; I support it now. It was not well managed in after the takedown of Saddam Hussein and his military. That was done brilliantly, an extraordinary success. But in the years that followed, we were undermanaged, underprepared, underplanned, understaffed, and then we come into the phase that we have now. The plan that Bush and General Petraeus put together is working. It’s changing lives there. Perhaps most importantly, it’s making sure that al Qaeda and no other group like them is becoming a superpower, if you will, in the communities, and having a safe haven from which they launch attacks against us. It’s critical for us. The most important issue is what do we do now, and their just run and retreat regardless of the consequences is going to be a real problem for them when they face a debate with a Republican on the stage.
The overwhelming evidence has shown that the American public was lied to, but for some people the cognitive dissonance is so strong as to believe that history will look back on Bush's decision to send our youth into an unnecessary war as beneficial to this country. It was not and is not. There really is no argument that can counter that.

The human toll is massive. Beyond the 4,804 coalition troop deaths, the over 30,000 American troops wounded, the over 100,000 Iraqi civilian deathsIraq is gripped by sectarian tensions furthered by the US-endorsed "debaathification" of the country, a severe shortage of doctors, medical care and potable water.

The war has also had farther reaching consequences geopolitically. As the drum beat for war with Iran increases every year, many forget that Hussein's presence in the region had a stabilizing effect, as the two countries kept each other in relative check. With no Iraq to worry about, Iran is allowed to do what it wants unchecked by what was once a regional power.

To say that Iraq is a success or that history will look back on George W. Bush kindly for his decision to start a war under false pretenses - when diplomacy was actually making progress - is ludicrous. If anything, history will become harsher when it comes to Bush's presidency, especially this costly failure.

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