June 15, 2014

LAT’s Paul Whitefield: Make Bush and Cheney Try to Fix Iraq Mess They Created

Paul Whitefield “is a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times who is copy chief of the editorial pages and a writer/scold for the Opinion L.A. blog.” He also has a serious but far from unique case of Bush (and Cheney) Derangement Syndrome and an extraordinary ignorance of the history of last decade’s war in Iraq, which included a victory in 2008 the U.S. press, with rare exceptions, refused to recognize.

Clueless Paul, in a Thursday post, claimed that what has happened recently in Iraq proves (italics are his) that “the invasion … in 2003 wasn’t a very good idea” Admitting that “I don’t know how these things keep sneaking up on us” (I can help you with that, Paul), he petulantly wrote: “Send Mr. (George W.) Bush and Mr. (Dick) Cheney over there and let them try to negotiate a solution,” because “they’re the ones who created this mess in the first place.” Well no, Paul. Excerpts from Whitefield’s work, followed by a pointed riposte from a National Review op-ed, follow the jump (bolds are mine throughout this post):

PaulWhitefieldLATwide

Bush, Cheney created the Iraq mess; why not make them try to fix it?

Well, gee, $1 trillion or so just doesn’t buy what it used to. Take Iraq, for example.

Or, should I say: Take Iraq, please, someone — and fix it. Fend off the nasty Islamic fighters of ISIS (shall we call Wonder Woman, perhaps?) and keep that miserable sinkhole for American lives and money from coming back to bite us — again.

Put another way: Do you understand now, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John Bolton and all you neocon nutjobs, why the invasion of Iraq in 2003 wasn’t a very good idea?

President Obama sure does. Because now he’s neck deep in another crisis in this place, a country he thought he had gotten us out of, as he promised to do.

The fact is that Obama was clearly determined to “get us out of” Iraq regardless of the consequences. Isn’t it odd that the withdrawal was hastily completed in advance of the 2012 U.S. elections, against the advice of military commanders and Iraqi leaders?

Continuing:

Now, I do have one somewhat off-the-wall option: Send Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney over there and let them try to negotiate a solution. And tell them they can’t come home until they’re successful. After all, they’re the ones who created this mess in the first place.

And honestly, I don’t know how these things keep sneaking up on us.

Mario Loyola at National Review provides the details in an item which really should be read and saved to the hard drive as a reference for all those who say “Iraq was never under control, and was never going become a functioning country”:

Obama’s Criminal Negligence in Iraq
The president didn’t end the Iraq war. He restarted it.

By the time he got to the White House in early 2009, Obama should have realized that the war in Iraq was already over, and that we had won. Exactly two years earlier, the Iraqi security forces were reaching critical mass, simultaneous with the start of America’s own surge, and the Sunni tribes of Anbar province were all coming over to the U.S. side. By the summer of 2007, when I was embedded in Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi forces had utterly defeated al-Qaeda’s Iraqi offshoot, ISIS, in a series of massive joint operations. The following year, the Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki personally orchestrated the offensive that crushed the Iranian-backed militias collected in and around Basra in southern Iraq.

U.S. casualties in Iraq were close to levels commensurate with peacetime training activities back home, and a tenuous but real peace reigned over the whole country. Obama inherited from the Bush administration the framework agreement for a long-term alliance with Iraq, as well as a status-of-forces agreement that set December 2011 as a tentative withdrawal date for all U.S. forces. Iraqi politics were dominated by a Shiite-led coalition that overtly favored an ongoing alliance with the United States. In the press, Shiite militias accused each other of being under Iranian control.

At that point, the U.S. was exerting an enormously beneficial and calming influence on Iraqi politics. Sunnis who felt abused by the majority Shiite government could appeal to the Americans for help, while Shiites could remonstrate to the Americans about Sunni intransigence. Both could get results — peacefully — through America’s good offices. In a country where no faction trusted any of the others, all factions could trust the Americans to be impartial, for the simple reason that we were impartial. More important, to invoke the title of Bing West’s great book, we were the strongest tribe.

This central position allowed the various factions of Iraqi politics to embrace an alliance with the United States, instead of being forced to seek the protection of coreligionists in Saudi Arabia or Iran whose real agenda was the continuation of a Wahhabi-Iranian proxy war inside Iraq. This is something that Iraqis constantly commented on in their own press, but which Americans by and large never understood: In toppling the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. had opened the door to a proxy war between the Wahhabi extremists of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Arab states and the Shiite extremists of Khomeini’s revolution in Iran. That war proved far bloodier than America’s counterinsurgency campaign. In fact, the purpose of the counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq was to defeat both sides in the proxy war, so that our newfound allies in the government of Iraq could cement their power and forge a lasting government.

Hence, America’s continuing military presence allowed U.S. military officers and diplomats to exert enormous influence both within Iraq and in the broader Middle East. It allowed us to keep the peace among Iraqi factions while simultaneously diminishing Iranian and Wahhabi Arab influence. We had gained, at a frightful cost in lives and treasure, a priceless strategic asset, namely the possibility of Iraq as a strong military ally, hosting U.S. forces as long as we needed to keep them there, engaged against the extremists in Syria and Iran, as well as al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and their sympathizers among the Arab states.

Anyone who had a basic understanding of geopolitical strategy and wished to best advance America’s interests — and had a long-term interest in genuine peace — would have understood all of this, and reacted accordingly.

Barack Obama appears not to have understood, or didn’t care, and focused solely on leaving at the earliest conceivable moment, potential consequences be damned.

Genuinely following the logic Paul Whitefield’s suggestion would require sending Barack Obama over to Iraq to personally negotiate a settlement. Oh, but he’s not available. He’s chosen a weekend of R&R and golf.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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