Friday, December 08, 2006

Why Iraq is a disaster

Why has Iraq turned into a disaster? There's all sorts of reasons - my favourite being that it was a bad idea to go there in the first place - but one thing that isn't helping is the insular mindset of President Bush and his contemptuous disdain for accurate intelligence reports. Salon's Sidney Blumenthal gives the example of the CIA's Baghdad station chief who briefed the President on the growth of the insurgency and predicted that the US would suffer more than 2,000 dead (currently the total is 2,918). The reaction was predicatable: the man was called a "defeatist" and reassigned. But it gets worse. Much worse:

[O]n Dec. 17, 2004, Col. Derek Harvey, the Defense Intelligence Agency's senior intelligence officer for Iraq, was ushered into the Oval Office. Harvey, who had "conversed repeatedly with insurgents, and had developed the belief that the U.S. intelligence effort there was deeply flawed," according to Thomas Ricks in "Fiasco," briefed the president about the insurgency: "It's robust, it's well led, it's diverse. Absent some sort of reconciliation it's going to go on, and that risks a civil war. They have the means to fight this for a long time, and they have a different sense of time than we do, and are willing to fight. They have better intelligence than we do." Harvey also explained that foreign fighters, jihadists and al-Qaida were marginal elements. Ricks reported that after the briefing, Bush in his speeches still "would refer to setbacks only in vague terms."

But there is more to the story. A former high-ranking intelligence officer and close associate of Harvey's told me that during Harvey's briefing the president interrupted, turning to his aides to inquire, "Is this guy a Democrat?" Harvey's warnings, of course, were as thoroughly ignored as those of the CIA station chief.

(Emphasis added)

So, in Bush's eyes, anyone bringing bad news is a "defeatist", a Democrat, or worse. With a leader like this, its no wonder they're losing.


I occasionally catch the bus to work (I usually walk). And not infrequently the bus fails to turn up on time. And after waiting for the bus for say, five or ten minutes, I wonder if I should just give up waiting and walk.

But if I do that, I reason, I'll have wasted the ten minutes I've already spent waiting.

So I wait even longer. Fifteen minutes, twenty, half an hour. The longer you wait the harder it is to write off the time you've invested.

I think President Bush is in a similar position. If he pulls his troops out of Iraq then the entire adventure will go down in history as one of the biggest military disasters of all time. It will be a horrible setback in the war on terror. It will also mean the president has wasted about a trillion dollars and the lives of thousands of troops for no reason.

So he stays. Maybe things will somehow get better? He spends more money. More troops die. He talks about how well things are going in Iraq. It becomes even harder and more humiliating to admit defeat and withdraw.

I doubt we're going to see any change in policy under the current Administration, and the Republican front-runner for the Presidential nomination is McCain who's solution is to send more troops. And no Dewmocrat is going to want to try and challenge McCain on an anti-war platform . . .

I think they're gonna be in Iraq for a while.

Posted by danyl : 12/09/2006 07:32:00 AM

electing McCain will be a huge spit in the face to the body of the republican party, it will be like selecting John Tamihere as leader of labour AFTER his outburst (except worse).

Surely there will be a massive 'grass roots' effort to NOT put him up as their candidate. I still think George Allen or Mitt Romney followed by republican defeat.

Come the voting booth had core republicans will probably pick defeat over electing what they percieve as a rat. (and they will probably tear themselves up in the battle)

Posted by Genius : 12/09/2006 09:09:00 AM

As someone else said "At least Bush has convincingly demolished the myth of white supremacy"

Posted by Anonymous : 12/09/2006 09:41:00 AM


yes - you'd have to be living in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere to believe in white supremacy.

Posted by Genius : 12/09/2006 10:30:00 AM

There'll be talks, involving Iran and Syria, but not, presumably, Israel. Like the Paris peace talks involving the US, North and South Vietnam and the Viet Cong that preceded the end of the Vietnam war, the participants will spend around a year arguing about the shape of the table. Meanwhile thousands more will die.

John Howard is offering no comment on the report that he's refused a US request to allow Oz troops to be 'embedded' with the Iraqi 'defence' forces. A dead digger or three - killed in actual combat, not with their own weapons - would be political death for him and, political slyguts that he is, he knows it.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/09/2006 11:02:00 AM

I don't think they have any choice but to stay in Iraq, but behind the garrisons they have built (which is more or less what they are doing). As Danyl says, the 3 year investment has been made and is not to be thrown away, especially as the situation there deteriorates. Once Iraq is truly anarchic no-one is going to 'mind' them staying. Shi'ite and Sunni will be too busy fighting amongst themselves.

Eventually once the west feels that the US has paid penance for its misadventure then everyone will need to pitch in to retain a military presence in Iraq and attempt to bring the UN in as a relevant decision making body.

The milk has been spilt and we watch as the yanks cry over it, but at the end of the day we are all responsible for the stability of our world and it is to our benefit to ultimately act in a relatively unified manner. By screwing up badly in the ME, the US has created an opportunity for the UN to be validated and for the west to work together for a solution that will lead towards resolution of the problems in the Arab world.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/09/2006 12:42:00 PM

Danyl: that sort of thinking is known as the sunk-cost fallacy. In this case though, rather than playing with his own time at the bus stop, Bush is playing with peoples lives. And all to avoid admitting he made a terrible mistake.

Those people who have died in Iraq already are dead and gone. Nothing will get them back. The best Bush can do is ensure that more people aren't killed in future. And his ability to affect that outcome is rapidly diminishing.

Genius: Are we talking about the same John McCain?

While he has a reputation as a "straight shooter", he has spent the last year or more carefully pandering to the religious right in an effort to improve his electability. And he's quite content to let the killing and dying go on in Iraq (hell, he thinks they can win, if they throw enough good lives after bad). Still, on the plus side, at least he isn't quite the authoritarian narcissist that Rudy Giuliani is.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/09/2006 01:28:00 PM

I/S, one small point, you stated "The best Bush can do is ensure that more people aren't killed in future. And his ability to affect that outcome is rapidly diminishing".

How exactly can he ensure that? I do not believe that the immediate withdrawing of troops will have that effect (although the Iraqis do need freedom from the West first and foremost). Such a withdrawal would cause more bloody conflict, it's all a giant revolting tragedy that should never have occured in the first place. What moves would the US/west need to make for the minimisation of bloodshed, in your opinion?

Posted by james cairney : 12/09/2006 02:42:00 PM


How much pandering to the greens would Key (or more appropriately Brash) have to do before you go out on the road and campaign for him? I'd suggest an infinite amount.

Posted by Genius : 12/09/2006 10:59:00 PM

James: Bush's ability to affect future deaths is now pretty much limited to his own troops - and he can save their lives by withdrawing. The rest is, as you say, a giant revolting tragedy that should never have occured in the first place - and long past any chance of it being anything else. Bush really fucked that particular chicken, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead or are going to die because of his lies and arrogance.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/09/2006 11:38:00 PM

Genius: I don't think the religious right will be that opposed. Like them, McCain is an anti-abortion zealot who wants to overturn Roe versus Wade. Note that his claim to be a "federalist" on these issues is a smokescreen; he's quite happy to vote to e.g. restrict abortion access or ban partial birth abortions at the federal level.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/09/2006 11:44:00 PM

do a google search for McCain and some text that will find republicans commenting on his chances. I expect you'll find either a bitter republican or a person commenting on how he can't win the bitter republican vote.
Expect the polite to use terms like RINO (republican in name only).

> McCain is an anti-abortion zealot

note the term 'flip-flop'.
McCain's commitment to that position is paper thin and everyone knows it. Also note that he took the federalist way out not the moral one. compared to many other republicans that is a pro-abortion position.

Posted by Genius : 12/10/2006 09:35:00 AM

and, of course, his supporters saying how he will wrestle power from the current republican base. (Im sure they will 'love' that)

Posted by Genius : 12/10/2006 09:37:00 AM