The Iraq Blame Game

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June 17, 2014 by The Zemanifesto

Zemanifesto1Over $2 trillion and the lives of more than 4,500 U.S. soldiers were spent on the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Nearly $500 billion in benefits is already owed to Iraq veterans, a figure which could balloon to over $6 trillion with interest in the next 40 years.

The Department of Defense claims the number of soldiers wounded in action for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is only about 52,00, but nearly 50% of the 1.6 million veterans of those wars have registered disability claims with the VA.

Low estimates put the number of Iraqi civilians killed at 134,000, but the full cost paid in human life is far greater.

From Reuters:

The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number… When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000.

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But despite all the money and blood poured into the fertile crescent, the United States’ investment in a stable, democratic Iraq has borne scant fruit.

The U.S. military spent over a decade ostensibly preparing Iraqi security forces to maintain order on their own. But in the face of a swift, brutal offensive by Sunni Islamist militants, that training was apparently insufficient.

From The Guardian:

Two divisions of Iraqi soldiers – roughly 30,000 men – simply turned and ran in the face of the assault by an insurgent force of just 800 fighters… The developments seriously undermine US claims to have established a unified and competent military after more than a decade of training.

The End of Iraq?

The Sunni militants fighting under the banner of ISIS in Iraq have taken control of several key cities and are marching towards Baghdad to “settle scores” with the Shia government there.

The organization’s tactics so far have been brutal. The United Nations says ISIS is using “cold-blooded executions” to take control, and video and pictures apparently documenting mass killings of Iraqi soldiers seem to confirm that.

The militant violence of ISIS is so extreme, Al-Qaeda officially disavowed any affiliation with the group.

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There has been a mass exodus of 500,000 Iraqis from the city of Mosul trying to avoid further violence and Baghdad is preparing for a battle that could determine the future of the country, specifically, wether or not it has one.

From Bloomberg:

In short, there is a real possibility that the takeover of Mosul could lead to the disintegration of Iraq, with transnational badlands under ISIL’s control that serve as a base for the training and radicalization of foreign volunteers.

Some observers see the potential collapse of Iraq as a likely flash point in the larger sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East. Iran is the only Muslim country with an overwhelming Shia majority, and it has made it clear it will not sit idly, offering Iraq “everything it needs” to fight the ISIS insurgency.

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After spending his entire presidency working towards a full military withdrawal from the country, president Obama announced the deployment of 275 troops in order to secure the U.S. embassy.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the president is considering “every option that is available” to address the growing crisis, including some kind of cooperation with Iran and drone strikes, which the Obama administration has already used hundreds of times in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.

In a press conference President Obama stressed that the Iraq War is over for the U.S. and that military intervention is one option that is off the table:

We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq… the United States will do our part, but ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis as sovereign nation to solve their problems.

So the scope and nature of the U.S. involvement in Iraq moving forward is still unclear, but inside the beltway, the burning question is who do we blame?

Bush’s Baby?

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There is no shortage of observers pinning the blame for the crisis in Iraq on the Obama administration. The narrative being used is the same as usual; Obama projects “weakness” in his foreign policy and is “indecisive,” which in this case enabled and emboldened ISIS.

A representative example from The Washington Post:

When Obama took office he inherited a pacified Iraq, where the terrorists had been defeated both militarily and ideologically… first, he withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq — allowing the defeated terrorists to regroup and reconstitute themselves. Second, he failed to support the moderate, pro-Western opposition in neighboring Syria — creating room for ISIS to fill the security vacuum.

Wether or not Iraq was truly “pacified,” a point of contention for some observers, one thing Obama definitely inherited from George W. Bush (apart from the entire conflict) was the timetable for troop withdrawal.

From Media Matters:

Media conservatives have criticized the Obama administration for placing “the burden of the deadline” for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, falsely claiming that President Bush “never spoke about a date of withdrawal.” In fact, Bush signed off on a specific timeline of withdrawal from Iraq, and Obama’s timeline has been endorsed by Gen. David Petraeus, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

And even though he can’t remember why, it was Bush who signed off on Coalition Provisional Authority Order 2, which inexplicably disbanded the Iraqi army after Saddam Hussein’s ouster. The vacuum that dissolution created is widely recognized as a major factor in ensuing sectarian conflict.

Just-blame-Bush

But in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, memories tend to be as short as attention spans. Many of the neo-conservative hawks and Bush administration officials who pushed for war with Iraq back in 2003 are back in the spotlight, beating the same old war drum.

Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, often called the “architect” of the Iraq War, is defending the decision to dismantle the Iraqi army and pushing for more troops in the region:

The Iraqi army was Saddam’s army, was a useless army… the most important mistake in that respect was if you disband the army you better build a new one fast and it took us five years, that was too long…  I think we could have kept substantial, not a huge, American presence, not a combat presence.

But more than a few observers have questioned the wisdom of taking advice on Iraq from the people responsible for getting us embroiled in the conflict there in the first place.

From The Daily Show:

Via various sources

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