Iraq is and has always been a country divided by the Islamic faith. The people in the Middle East have lived with wars, assassinations, revolution, domination, and bloody purges for over 700 years. They have a different take on how they should defend their faith and their Islamic politics. For them, be it religion or politics, it’s all or nothing. Take a look at the timeline below and the summary of the religious divide between Sunni and Shia. You know the rest of the current news, so if you dare, tell us what you would do if you were the President of the United States:
1919 – Treaty of Versailles – Iraq is a nation carved out by Europeans after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in WWI. Britain created the borders of Iraq with the League of Nations approval.
1920 – Great Iraqi Revolution – rebellion against British rule.
1921 – Faysal, son of Hussein Bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca, is crowned Iraq’s first king.
1932 – Iraq becomes an independent state.
1939-1945 – World War II. Britain re-occupies Iraq.
1958 – The monarchy is overthrown in a military coup led by Brig Abd-al-Karim Qasim and Col Abd-al-Salam Muhammad Arif. Iraq is declared a republic.
1963 – Prime Minister Qasim is ousted in a coup led by the Arab Socialist Baath Party (ASBP). Arif becomes president.
1963 – The Baathist government is overthrown by Arif and a group of officers.
1966 – After Arif is killed in a helicopter crash on 13 April, his elder brother, Maj-Gen Abd-al-Rahman Muhammad Arif, succeeds him as president.
1968 – A Baathist led-coup ousts Arif. Revolution Command Council (RCC) takes charge with Gen Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr as chairman and country’s president. The first petroleum firms are nationalized.
1972 – Iraq nationalises the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC).
1974 – Iraq grants limited autonomy to Kurdish region.
1979 – Saddam Hussein succeeds Al-Bakr as president.
1980-1988 – Iran-Iraq war, the border war resulted in one million dead.
Chemical attack on Kurds
1988 March – Iraq attacks Kurdish town of Halabjah with poison gas, killing thousands.
1990 – Iraq invades Kuwait, prompting what becomes known as the first Gulf War. A massive US-led military campaign forces Iraq to withdraw in February 1991. This resulted in a UN peace treaty and subjected Iraq to weapons inspection program.
1991 Mid-March/early April – Southern Shia and northern Kurdish populations – were falsely encouraged by Iraq’s defeat in Kuwait – rebel, prompting a brutal crackdown by Saddam Hussein and more human rights abuses leading to UN economic sanctions.
1991 April – UN-approved safe-haven established in northern Iraq to protect the Kurds. Iraq ordered to end all military activity in the area.
1993 June – US forces launch a cruise missile attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in retaliation for the attempted assassination of US President George Bush in Kuwait in April.
1995 April – UNSC Resolution 986 allows the partial resumption of Iraq’s oil exports to buy food and medicine (the “oil-for-food programme”).
1995 October – Saddam Hussein wins a contrived referendum allowing him to remain president for another seven years.
1996 August – After call for aid from KDP, Iraqi forces launch offensive into northern no-fly zone and capture Irbil.
1996 September – US extends northern limit of southern no-fly zone to latitude 33 degrees north, just south of Baghdad.
1998 October – Iraq ends cooperation with UN Special Commission to Oversee the Destruction of Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (Unscom).
Operation Desert Fox
1998 December – After UN staff are evacuated from Baghdad, the US and UK launch a bombing campaign, “Operation Desert Fox”, to destroy Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes.
1999 February – Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, spiritual leader of the Shia community, is assassinated in Najaf.
1999 December – UNSC Resolution 1284 creates the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic) to replace Unscom. Iraq rejects the resolution.
Saddam was ‘sure he would survive’ and this Iraq war begins to reveal the limits of US power.
2001 February – Britain, US carry out bombing raids to try to disable Iraq’s air defence network. The bombings have little international support.
Weapons inspectors return
2002 September – US President George W Bush tells skeptical world leaders at a UN General to confront the “grave and gathering danger” of Iraq – or stand aside as the US acts. In the same month British Prime Minister Tony Blair publishes a questionable dossier on Iraq’s military capability.
2002 November – UN weapons inspectors return to Iraq backed by a UN resolution which threatens serious consequences if Iraq is in “material breach” of its terms.
2003 March – Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix reports that Iraq has accelerated its cooperation but says inspectors need more time to verify Iraq’s compliance.
2003 March – UK’s ambassador to the UN says the diplomatic process on Iraq has ended; arms inspectors evacuate; US President George W Bush gives Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq or face war. Saddam Hussein feels he must call what he sees is a bluff, confident that he will survive and re-establish himself as a strong leader in the Middle East.
Gulf War 2
2003 March – US-led invasion topples Saddam Hussein’s government, marks start of years of violent conflict with different groups competing for power. US occupation forces find themselves totally unprepared for policing Iraq. Many logistical and diplomatic blunders are made leading to a growing insurgency and unnecessary casualties, especially from IED’s.
2003 July – US-appointed Governing Council meets for first time. Commander of US forces says his troops face low-intensity guerrilla-style war. Kidnappings, beheadings and IED’s mar the peacekeeping efforts.
2003 August – Suicide truck bomb wrecks UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and exposing how ill prepared U.S. forces are for peace keeping. Car bombs, suicide bombers and IED’s pose a great threat to US forces.
2003 14 December – Saddam Hussein captured in Tikrit.
2004 March – Suicide bombers attack Shia festival-goers in Karbala and Baghdad, killing 140 people.
2004 April-May – Shia militias loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Sadr take on coalition forces. Hundreds are reported killed in fighting during the month-long US military siege of the Sunni Muslim city of Falluja.
2004 June – US hands sovereignty to interim government headed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
2004 August – Fighting in Najaf between US forces and Shia militia of radical cleric Moqtada Sadr.
2004 November – Major US-led offensive against insurgents in Falluja.
(Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi made Al-Qaeda in Iraq the most feared insurgent group)
2005 30 January – Some 8 million vote in elections for a Transitional National Assembly. 2005 28 February – At least 114 people are killed by a car bomb in Hilla, south of Baghdad, in the worst single such incident since the US-led invasion.
2005 April – Amid escalating violence, parliament selects Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani as president. Ibrahim Jaafari, a Shia, is named as prime minister.
2005 May onwards – Surge in car bombings, bomb explosions and shootings: Iraqi ministries put the civilian death toll for May at 672, up from 364 in April.
2005 August – Draft constitution is endorsed by Shia and Kurdish negotiators, but not by Sunni representatives.
2005 October – Voters approve a new constitution, which aims to create an Islamic federal democracy.
2005 December – Iraqis vote for the first, full-term government and parliament since the US-led invasion.
2006 February onwards – A bomb attack on an important Shia shrine in Samarra unleashes a wave of sectarian violence in which hundreds of people are killed.
2006 22 April – Newly re-elected President Talabani asks Shia compromise candidate Nouri al-Maliki to form a new government, ending months of deadlock. Car bombings intensify as Shia and Sunny sectarian violence divides neighborhoods.
2006 May and June – An average of more than 100 civilians per day are killed in violence in Iraq, the UN says.
2006 7 June – Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is killed in an air strike.
2006 November – Iraq and Syria restore diplomatic relations after nearly a quarter century.
2006 December – Iraq Study Group report making recommendations to President Bush on future policy in Iraq describes the situation as grave and deteriorating.
2006 December – Saddam Hussein is executed for crimes against humanity. UN says more than 34,000 civilians were killed in violence during 2006; the figure surpasses official Iraqi estimates threefold.
2007 January – US President Bush announces a new Iraq strategy; thousands more US troops will be dispatched to shore up security in Baghdad.
2007 February – A bomb in Baghdad’s Sadriya market kills more than 130 people. It is the worst single bombing since 2003.
2007 March – Insurgents detonate three trucks with toxic chlorine gas in Falluja and Ramadi, injuring hundreds.
2007 April – Bombings in Baghdad kill nearly 200 people in the worst day of violence since a US-led security drive began in the capital in February.
2007 August – Truck and car bombs hit two villages of Yazidi Kurds, killing at least 250 people – the deadliest attack since 2003.
Kurdish and Shia leaders form an alliance to support Prime Minister Maliki’s government but fail to bring in Sunni leaders. Sunni’s are left out by Maliki.
2007 December – Britain hands over security of Basra province to Iraqi forces, effectively marking the end of nearly five years of British control of southern Iraq.
2008 January – Parliament passes legislation allowing former officials from Saddam Hussein’s Baath party to return to public life.
2008 March – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Iraq for the first time.
2008 September – US forces hand over control of the western province of Anbar – once an insurgent and Al-Qaeda stronghold – to the Iraqi government. It is the first Sunni province to be returned to the Shia-led government.
Iraqi parliament passes provincial elections law. Issue of contested city of Kirkuk is set aside so elections can go ahead elsewhere.
2008 November – Parliament approves a security pact with the United States under which all US troops are due to leave the country by the end of 2011.
2009 January – Iraq takes control of security in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and assumes more powers over foreign troops based in the country. PM Nouri al-Maliki welcomes the move as Iraq’s “day of sovereignty”.
2009 March – US President Barack Obama announces withdrawal of most US troops by end of August 2010. Up to 50,000 of 142,000 troops now there will stay on into 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests, leaving by end of 2011.
2009 June – US troops withdraw from towns and cities in Iraq, six years after the invasion, having formally handed over security duties to new Iraqi forces.
2009 July – New opposition forces make strong gains in elections to the regional parliament of Kurdistan, but the governing KDP and PUK alliance retains a reduced majority. Masoud Barzani (KDP) is re-elected in the presidential election.
2009 December – The al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) claims responsibility for suicide bombings in Baghdad that kill at least 127 people, as well as attacks in August and October that killed 240 people.
2010 January – Controversy as candidates with alleged links to Baath Party are banned from March parliamentary polls. A court later lifts the ban, prompting a delay in campaigning.
2010 March – Parliamentary elections. Nine months pass before a new government is approved.
2010 August – Seven years after the US-led invasion, the last US combat brigade leaves Iraq.
2010 September – Syria and Iraq restore diplomatic ties a year after breaking them off.
2010 October – Church in Baghdad seized by militants. 52 people killed in what is described as worst single disaster to hit Iraq’s Christians in modern times.
2010 November/December – Parliament reconvenes after long delay, re-appoints Jalal Talabani as president and Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister. A new government includes all major factions.
2011 April – Army raids camp of Iranian exiles, killing 34. Government says it will shut Camp Ashraf, home to thousands of members of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran.
2011 August – Violence escalates, with more than 40 apparently coordinated nationwide attacks in one day.
2011 December – US completes troop pull-out. President Obama declares war is over and Iraq is a stable and prepared to rule itself.
2012 March – Tight security for Arab League summit in Baghdad. It is the first major summit to be held in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. A wave of pre-summit attacks kills scores of people.
2012 April – Oil exports from Iraqi Kurdistan halted amid row with central government over contracts with foreign firms.
2012 November – Iraq cancels a $4.2bn deal to buy arms from Russia because of concerns about alleged corruption within the Iraqi government. The purchase, signed in October, would have made Russia the country’s second-largest arms supplier after the US. Moscow was the main arms supplier of to Saddam Hussein.
2012 December – President Jalal Talabani suffers a stroke. He undergoes treatment in Germany and makes progress through the winter and spring.
2013 April – Troops storm a Sunni anti-government protest camp in Hawija near Kirkuk, leaving more than 50 dead and prompting outrage and clashes in other towns.
Insurgency intensifies, with levels of violence matching those of 2008. By July the country is described as being in a full-blown sectarian war zone once again.
2013 July – At least 500 prisoners, mainly senior al-Qaeda members, escape from Taji and Abu Ghraib jails in a mass breakout and they join forces with ISIS.
2013 October – Parliamentary elections set for April 2014.
Government says October is deadliest month since April 2008, with 900 killed. By the year-end the UN estimates the 2013 death toll of civilians as 7,157 – a dramatic increase in the previous year’s figure of 3,238.
2013 December – At least 35 people killed in twin bombing of Baghdad churches on Christmas Day.
2014 January – Pro-al-Qaeda fighters infiltrate Fallujah and Ramadi after months of mounting violence in mainly-Sunni Anbar province.
2014 March – The electoral commission board tenders resignation in protest at what it says is political interference ahead of parliamentary elections, amid allegations opposition candidates are being barred using a controversial legal clause.
2014 April – Iraqis vote in first parliamentary election since 2011 withdrawal of US troops.
2014 May-June. ISIS forces control Mosul and Tikrit, free 3000 criminals to fight as ISIS forces. The speed of advance strikes fear in Baghdad. Iraqi army falling apart and abandoning their positions. ISIS, assisted in some degree by Syria are proving to be more capable than al Qaeda. The fighting is becoming more clearly divided as Sunni verses Shia.
2014 – June 12. Iran sends 500 Revolutionary Guards to assist Iraqi forces, but it may be too little too late. ISIS forces are within 50 miles of capital. President Maliki is desperately asking for US military assistance, Obama rejects sending in ground forces. Maliki’s regime is faced with the immanent prospects of being captured or fleeing to save their lives and their families lives.
Religious Divide: Article by Paul R. Hollrah — April 11, 2007
Sunnis constitute the large majority (90 percent) of the 1.4 billion Muslims in the world. They reside primarily in Asia, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, North and East Africa, and more recently, in Western Europe and North America.
The word “Sunni” is derived from the Arabic word “Sunnah,” which means, roughly, “customary practices,” and refers to the oral history and traditions of what the Prophet Muhammad said or did during his lifetime. Sunnis regard themselves, as opposed to Shiites, as the “keepers of the true faith.”
Shiites, a distinct minority in the Muslim world, comprise some 89% of Iran’s population and 60% of the Iraqi population. They are also a majority in Yemen, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain, and there are sizeable Shiite communities along the east coast of Saudi Arabia and in Lebanon. The Lebanese guerilla organization, Hezbollah, is Shiite.
Shiites are descended from Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima, and his son-in-law, Ali. In the years that followed Ali’s assassination in 661 A.D., leadership of Islam was claimed by the Ummayad dynasty, a Sunni sect. Nevertheless, Ali’s followers continued to claim his son, Hussein, the Third Imam, as the rightful heir. After years of bitter dispute, Hussein and his Shia followers migrated north from the Arabian Peninsula into Iraq.
In 680 A.D. Hussein found himself surrounded by Ummayad forces at Karbala, in present day Iraq. With only a handful of supporters to defend him, Hussein and 72 of his men were captured and beheaded, and their women taken captive. The battle was a defining moment in the split between Sunnis and Shiites.
Ashoura, the holiest day of the Muslim calendar, marks the martyrdom of Hussein at Karbala. To this day, Shiites celebrate Ashoura by flagellating themselves with chains and slashing their bodies with swords in grief over Hussein’s death. And they’ve never forgotten who it was that beheaded him.
Sunnis and Shiites lived in relative harmony for nearly a millennium and few challenged the Sunni assumption of superiority. However, with the coming of modern communications and transportation, the drawing of national boundaries, and the establishment of major cities, Sunnis and Shiites were suddenly thrown together in close proximity and memories of old unsettled scores resurfaced.
Many of today’s most militant Islamic terror cells, including the Taliban and al-Qaeda, are members of a fundamentalist Sunni sect called Wahhabi. Since the earliest days, Wahhabis have been particularly hostile toward the Shiites. During the early 19th century, Wahhabis attacked and destroyed Shiite shrines at Mecca, Medina, and Karbala, accusing the Shiites of worshipping idols.
In 2004, a Kuwaiti sheikh, Hamed al-Ali, condemned Shia as “the world’s biggest display of heathens and idolatry,” while the former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, once said that “the Shiites are a more pernicious enemy than the Americans, and the best strategy for… Sunnis is to ‘strike their religious, military, and other cadres.’ ” The Saudis still maintain official discrimination against Shiites and vilify them in children’s textbooks.
I’m thinking we have our own house to clean. From Slate:
Oklahoma Tea Party Candidate Supports Stoning Gay People to Death
By Mark Joseph Stern
Given how savagely anti-gay the mainstream Oklahoma Republican party is, it’s no surprise that the state’s Tea Partiers are so rabidly hateful that they come across more as dark satire than as serious bigots. To wit: This week, an Oklahoma magazine discovered that last summer, Tea Party state House candidate Scott Esk endorsed stoning gay people to death: “I think we would be totally in the right to do it,” he said in a Facebook post. Esk went on to add nuance to his position:
That [stoning gay people to death] goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I’m largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss.
When a Facebook user messaged Esk to clarify further, he responded:
I never said I would author legislation to put homosexuals to death, but I didn’t have a problem with it.
Understandably unnerved, the magazine called up Esk for clarification. Although Esk claimed he didn’t remember the comments, he fleshed out his views:
That was done in the Old Testament under a law that came directly from God and in that time there it was totally just. It came directly from God. I have no plans to reinstitute that in Oklahoma law. I do have some very huge moral misgivings about those kinds of sins.
Pressed one final time about his position on stoning gay human beings to death, Esk dug in his heels:
I know what was done in the Old Testament and what was done back then was what’s just. … And I do stand for Biblical morality.
I am impressed that Esk has some understanding of the concept of morality. But I am not quite certain that his views square with modern notions of the concept. I do suspect, however, that Esk’s beliefs aren’t all that far from the other state-level Republicans in the region, who recently attempted to push through the most extreme piece of anti-gay legislation America has ever witnessed. Perhaps our criticism of Esk, then, is really misguided: Rather than chastising him for his seemingly extremist views, we should be thanking him for saying what so many of his political associates are likely thinking.
Libby, the guy is a moron. He won’t be elected to anything, even in Oklahoma. People like him are rare here and without any power. The difference is the Muslim view on stoning isn’t that uncommon and they are caring it out! You can probably find millions of Muslims who fervently believe in stoning people, for any number of things. These modern day troglodites have entire countries where this is their law!
So, if its house cleaning you want, a light dusting should make America sparkle, compared to the Middle East where it’s going to take a major steam cleaning by a whole crew of professionals.
For me the problem is academic because I don’t think I would have invaded Iraq in the first place, but if I did I would have been in and out before you could say Saddam Hussein. So, I would not be faced with making a tough call now.
But, let’s say it was my call. First off, I would have said and done something the first time we knew we had a problem. This would turn the clock back about 2 years. Then I would have given idiot Maliki an ultimatum, either include Sunnis in sharing power or don’t call us when it hits the fan. If he was stupid enough to turn us down, then today we would have a good reason to say you made your bed. I would have no problem with Iran helping either, let em! 90% of Muslims are Sunnis, Iran are Shi’ites….so we know how that battle will end.
When its over there will be but one side left standing and that will take care of a number of Middle East peace problems.
The next problem…dealing with unified Muslims will not be so easy.
Jack at #2 You’re right, and so is Slate, the guy is a moron. You’re also right that he just shot himself in the foot…probably both feet. The very idea is repulsive. The guy need to read deeper into that Bible
He’s also a moron for not realizing a private conversation on Facebook is not private, I don’t care how well “protected” you think it is.
Unfortunately, his remarks will be counted as proof that all Tea Party folks are equally moronic, as is evidenced by the way the story has gone viral with Tea Party featured prominently.
Jack what would have been the goal for your in/out strategy?
I understand you are answering this without the benefit of information that Bush had at the time but you do know that 911 was an act of war against the US and that the terrorists don’t represent a nation but a radical ideology.
We got Iran when we removed the Shah, and current policy has created chaos in several countries, so removing a tyrant isn’t a good bet without a purpose and a goal. What would have been your goal had you invaded Iraq?
Tina the goal would have been to force compliance with UN treaty, stop the reckless shooting at our flyover missions and depose Saddam, if we killed him so much the better. We needed to get the food going back into Iraq and let them sell oil. I would have left within months of chasing off Saddam and I would have worked something out with the Iraqi Generals. They could figure out what to do next. And I would never have deposed them and their military forces to the extent we did. They needed the military for order. Instead we created a huge power vacuum with no strong leaders to fill it. We crushed and dismembered the army and formed up some ragtag worthless national guard mostly absent the old officers. We used regular forces to do this when it really called for Special Ops and limited engagement. We made many, many terrible blunders by using the wrong kind of forces and being totally unprepared for that new nation building effort…I would never have gone there. Big mistake.
“For me the problem is academic because I don’t think I would have invaded Iraq in the first place, ….”
Oooooooh, Mommy! What I wouldn’t give for state-of-the-art internet archiving tools … because … I am reasonably certain that this is a lie, and if I had expertise, I could prove it.
But I don’t … bugger bloody all.
“WMD, WMD, WMD” … I know you swallowed it, and I know I told you it was bull. I know I did.
This is sooooooooooo annoying.
Libby, I can help you out with the internet tool. Let me see what I can find for you! BRB….
Okay Libster….here’s something I wrote way back in 2008.
We’re into the war over 5 years now and prior to the invasion, many of us, myself included, had realistic concerns about a protracted involvement where we wear out our welcome and we turn from an army of liberation into an army of occupation. Remember before we started the war we were about to attack a nation that had not attacked us first and except for Cuba that’s pretty historic. At least we thought Cuba had attacked our naval ship the Maine. (Please…don’t jump to any conclusions now until you have read the whole thing!) I can’t deny that Saddam’s regime had done a number of provoke us and it almost seemed like he was trying to start something. Anyone could make a pretty good case for a war, look at the treaty violations and all those aggressive actions taken with UN inspectors. Several times our military recon flights over Iraq had been fired at and thats a serious provocation. These things were all violation of the UN brokered peace agreement and there was enough UN resolutions calling on Saddam’s better cooperation for UN inspections that you could have filled a garage can. UN sanctions to gain Saddam’s cooperation obviously didn’t work, but they were working to starve some of his people and that was a mistake, the sanctions were hurting the people we wanted to help. These issues and more (like a multitude of human rights abuses by Saddam) were ALL serious issues that called for a strong, affirmative response, but not necessarily war and then a perpetual occupation. A full scale, regime toppling, war is fraught with unintended consequences and therefore this should be the option of last resort, one that deserves our full consideration before we commit to it, because once we do, we could be stuck…for years and it could cost of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Are we prepared to do that? Another concern I had back in 2003 was the lack of international cooperation like we had 1991. The President told us he had a coalition, but these were token forces, save for the British. Many people, both liberal and conservative, wondered if a delay and a search for an alternative to war might be the better direction or at least a delay until the UN inspections had been completed or totally ended by Saddam Hussein. This could have meant delaying the war for up to a year, however, in hindsight that delay might have been just what we needed to fully assess the situation before we got in too deep. However, we were told by President Bush, who had full access to information we did not have, that there was an urgency to act. This was affirmed by an informed Congress and even our trusted allies, all of whom knew more about the situation than us citizens. Everyone in government leadership was dead certain that Saddam Hussein had begun rebuilding his WMD arsenal and worse, that he was now plotting with Al Qaeda. Despite some good circumstantial evidence to support these alarming claims, much was still left to us to take it on trust…but, we didn’t know how much the government was trusting in their sources and that those sources were of questionable reliability. If we had only known that we might have never allowed our soldiers to go to war. We had too fill in the missing dots and trust because we knew our President and the good men and women advising him knew far more than we ever would or could. Our President assured the nation we DID have the evidence and the WMD’s were there. Our national security was at stake and the next 9-11 style attack could be in L.A., San Francisco or even closer to home,. The absurd security precautions at Chico Airport underscored the idea that an attack could happen anywhere and anytime and that just was plain old BS. We were told that and we believed it because it appeared there was an imminent threat due to the nature of WMDs like Sarin gas or weapon’s grade anthrax. This all played on our fears, reinforced by visions of 9-11 still fresh in our mind. We were building momentum…for war! Sure, we had a lot to consider before invading Iraq, but we had to weigh that against the urgency to prevent an attack by Iraqi agents or by Al Qaeda terrorists using a WMD in a major city or two here. But, if we did invade Iraq there was this risk that we might appear to world as a conquering force for oil and occupiers a country. There was also the high cost of rebuilding an Iraq ruined by decades of Husein’s corrupt leadership. Do we really have the time and resources to do that? War was a gamble, but nobody in the Bush administration believed it would take too long or cost too many American lives than we could somehow justify by this dire WMD threat. Most of the Bush administration seemed to think we would be welcomed with open arms by Iraqi’s tired of being brutalized by Saddam Hussein. We also thought that a democratic government would be quickly formed and we could quickly leave with the eternal gratitude of the Iraqi people for their liberation. The war planners greatly under-estimated the job of fixing Iraq after Saddam. Our intel was lacking on Iraq from day one, in part due to previous administrations that had gutted our CIA, but mostly because this was a closed society for Westerners, like Iran or North Korea where everything is a state secret. Prior to the war, we had a lot to consider and we should have. We should have seen all the complexities from ethnic strife to terrorist zealots. If we did we didn’t seem to care enough to delay the invasion, we acted like the clock was ticking away and we had to act. In any crisis there is always a sense of urgency to solve it. Adrenalin displaces introspection as we rush to prepare for war and then we leap from one event to the next as the momentum builds. If we had not let momentum sweep us along so quickly maybe we would have seen through Saddam’s little charade? Maybe we could have seen that if we go into Iraq, we could be there for a long and bloody period of time? That latter reason should have compelled us to build a real coalition if we absolutely had to invade Iraq. Even if that meant playing along with the frivolous UN requests to see what that additional cooperation with them might buy us. This is not to say we should ever trust OUR national security to the UN, no not at all. However, to go to war more or less alone, against the popular opinion of the free world, and to go in too quickly without a really good plan for peace keeping, well all needed sorting out first. It was important to consider everything and all options and we didn’t. This could turn out badly for Iraq and for us in the long run. While few would deny now that we’ve made too many major mistakes in this war, fewer will admit it was due to a rush to invade. I think it’s healthy for us to come to terms with that, because I’m sure we let that “momentum” compromise our judgement. There were too many poor decisions made and too many things overlooked that should’nt have happened. It all goes back that time when a delay to invade in 2003 would have given us the opportunty to improve the outcome of many future events. For instance, we wanted to open a northern front using Turkey. 60,000 soldiers from USAREUR headed from Germany, but in the final hours they were denied to land. Access through Turkey was denied. As it turned out, we didn’t need them to defeat Saddam’s Army, but we did need them to help keep the peace. That large force could have been used to control the borders and limit the insurgency and that would have helped us speed up the reconstruction dramatically. This brings up another major mistake by our war planners. From the beginning we had too few forces on the ground to adquately control the population. Nobody in the military wanted to admit, they were tasked to the job and that was as far as it went. At home our leaders were overly concerned about keeping a low numbers for appearances that they consistently underestimated the numbers needed to control the situation. The idea of the “SURGE” arrived about 4 years late. This war has also involved more media and more lawyers than any other war in history. How this came to be ought to be reconsidered, because if this is to be a trend, then we might as well run up a white flag right now and be done with it! I can’t believe the number of our soldiers that have been put on trial for fighting a war basically the same way soldiers in contact with a deadly enemy have always fought! It was not just wrong to do this, it was stupid. Our leadership grossly underestimated the enemy and greatly overestimated the contributions by the Iraqi people. We employed too many rules of engagement and tried to be too politically correct in order to gain Iraq cooperation and it got just the opposite. It made us look weak and indecisive and Iraqi’s who wanted to help were restrained because they couldn’t trust us to deal with their enemies effectively as Husseins regime had once done. We began to look more like occupiers of their land and this began to errode our moral authority as months turned into years. Winning hearts and minds is often just as important as winning battles, sometimes more so and what we didn’t know about the various cultures represented in Iraq was stunning. Now consider that one of the corner stones for invading Iraq quickly was the reported imminent threat presented by Hussein’s new WMD program. When can argue about what people believed, but the fact remains that Hussein was scamming us and we didn’t figure it out and we should have. Saddam was gambling with a big bluff about WMD’s to keep his enemies in check and status among his peers. Further, the allegations of an Iraq- Al Qaeda connection were far more distant and less threatening than originally believed. That may have come out if we had the time to investigate this properly, but we will never know, because we didn’t wait to find out. Iraq has a complex social structure that is easily inflamed via old tribal feuds, competing religious sects and ancient ethnic differences. A number of stories have come out since those early days that analysts in the CIA recognized this was a serious problem and could threaten to destabilize any peacekeeping efforts, but as this information worked its way up the chain of command, it was dismissed or minimized because of this “urgency” to act. In addition to underestimating the culture differences, it could be said that in general the Iraqi people are acclimated to a strong central government control, to the point they are almost unable to function without one. The sudden transition to a democratic form was a lot to expect on nothing more than faith and hope. Iraq has a porous border that is difficult to control and we did not plan well to control it. Iraq has enormous wealth in oil that encourages many plots from within and from without and we seemed naive about what this could lead to. There were all part of what you might say was our “due diligence” to consider BEFORE going in and without doing so, it adds up to a huge problem for a new Iraq government and for us as the occupying force. It’s not a leap of faith to think that without the Iraq invasion Al Qaeda would most likely have gravitated toward Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a far better battleground for our forces to fight the Al Qaeda. It’s a difficult place for the enemy for many reasons, its a remote, underdeveloped region with mountains on its borders, the rural valleys are lightly populated and overall it is simply far less hospitable place for a foreign enemy like Al Qaeda to operate effectively. We did not give enough weight to an Al Qaeda strategy being played out better in Afghanistan, than Iraq….wouldda, shouldda, couldda…perhaps, but these are all relevant points we seeming glossed over in the rush to invade Iraq. The last 5 years in Iraq has cost us of hundreds of billions (and not money all that well spent either) and over 4000 American lives. The civilian gains we have made for society building are probably no more permanent than a house of cards. Almost everyone agrees that a sudden withdrawal of US forces now could easily undue everything we’ve accomplished and hope to accomplish and would lead to a slaughter of civilians of Biblical proportions. In the end and after this bloody chaos, Iranian and Iraqi Shia Muslims could wind up controlling the worlds riches oil field, a nightmarish possibility. The Iraqi government is unprepared to go it alone. After 5 years of sacrificing to get them up to speed, we still can’t leave. Our benchmarks for demonstrating their autonomy are just that….our bench marks. The Iraqi’s seem to have their own schedule and goals keep getting pushed further and further out. We should have seen this one coming too, because the corruption in Iraq is among the worst in the world. Contrary to what President Bush said, we will not be there for ‘however long it takes”. We don’t have the money, time or will to be there “however long it takes”. This “limited time” factor is a big problem and the solution is unclear, but there is still reason for SOME hope and by no means am I saying Iraq is a lost cause. However, the question before us now is, what price are the American people willing to pay to see a good outcome in Iraq? We’ve been very patient so far, but 5 years of sacrifice is nothing when contrasted the thousands of years of social problems within that culture. I think all good things have their limits and our limit in Iraq is fast approaching. Digressing back to post war 2003, there is a quote that was very relevant then and now, “A good plan, violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.” Gen. Geo. S. Patton. Well, we didn’t do either and that sums up our Iraq policy. President Bush went to war too fast and he may have done it for reasons best known only to himself, but I suspect those reasons may not have centered entirely on our national security. Again, that’s just my opinion, but I suspect it and I don’t say this lightly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Hussein is gone! We did the world a favor when we took him out and put an end to the mass graves for political opponents. Without the war we could be facing another 40 years under Hussein’s crazy sons too. The invasion of Iraq might have been inevitable, however, I would have hoped by that time we would have done it under far better conditions, with better planning and in a declared war, declared for all the right reasons! A declared war gives a lot more leverage to minimize the very things that have been dragging out this war in Iraq. A declared war gives us the authority to deal effectively with the kind of anti-war rhetoric that is killing our soldiers and undermining our will and our morale! In the future we should either fight a [declared] war to [win]…or we don’t go! The prosecution of the war in Iraq has been so poor that it has hurt our image and our future national security, but only time will tell how much. I hope I’m wrong, but it’s looking more and more like history will say we acted in haste, without sufficient cause or evidence. . The bottom line: We can’t learn from our mistakes (or correct them) unless we first acknowledge them. – See more at: http://www.norcalblogs.com/postscripts/2008/03/25/post-207/#sthash.KMPKl4IH.dpuf
Libby, this is a classic example of misunderstanding because of bias. I suppose its human nature to put someone into a category to the extent that we think we know what will fall out of their mouth before they even say it! We’re so invested in our ability to label others that when new information shows up we gloss over it or read into it things that fit our position. You can’t get an honest perspective that way!
As you can see from any number of past articles on Iraq we actually tended to agree more than we disagreed. But, you see me as off the charts rightwing! If anyone were to ask you about my opinion on Iraq you would bring out that box and lump me in with all the far rightwing views. That’s bias and it why what you thought I said and what I really said on the subject are miles apart.
Just for once I wish you could step off to the side, put away your bias and read my opinion without any preconceived notion. If you could bring yourself to do that more often you might have a whole new enlightened perspective.
All people have strong bias, it’s human nature, and it’s a built in defense mechanism that started from the time we were born. Being able to see the merit in opposing views or opposing political camps without dismissing it over bias is not easy. But, it’s a valuable asset and we’re better for it if we can! The world needs more people who can do that. Look at the rift between Sunnis and Shias. They probably agree on 98% of what it means to be a good Muslim, but they let that 2% wipe out everything else and they are ready to kill each over the 2% they don’t agree on. That’s crazy isn’t it?
In politics we’re frequently told if we can agree with 65% of what a candidate stands for we should support him, close enough! Being people with our strong bias we’re likely not ever going to agree on much more than 60-70% in politics.
However, as you know when it comes to one’s religion the bar is set a lot higher, a whole lot higher! It’s more like 80%-90%. Which might explain why we have so many versions of Christianity. Everybody is trying to find that perfect fit with their idealism and bias. Conversely, in the Muslim world they are mostly molded to believe their version of Islam fits them 100% and the end result is an all or nothing kind of thing. That’s dangerous thinking. When you have all the answers there’s no need to ask questions. Obviously, asking questions is healthy, but that’s not a universal perspective is it? So much for my broad bias on Muslims! lol
So, my dear Libby lets all [[[[[try]]]]] to set aside our strong bias whenever we can. Lets [[[[[try]]]]] to remember we don’t have all the answers and let’s [[[[[try ]]]]]]] to avoid stereotyping each other and see if we can’t find more to agree on? If we could do that as a nation, then build on our agreements we would be doing amazing things. But, we’re getting polar’s apart and there is so much hate that goes with it. This is really dangerous and we better fix it before it gets out of control.
Richard Fernandez over at PJ Meda has written an excellent piece, “In Search of Plan C.” He discusses the war with plenty of criticism for both Bush and Obama and adds historical references and opinion that give the piecea broad perspective. In the end he poses a scenario that could become part of our future if we are fortunate:
It’s a good article worth consideration. The comments are interesting too.
In case you read, “In Search of Plan C” you will also want to read, ” Analysis: Arab Winter is coming to Baghdad,” by Michael Wilner, Jerusalem Post. The first sentence is a pretty good description of the enemy and the problem we face:
Iraq…damned if we do, damned if we don’t. If I were President I would in no way commit to one side or the other. I’d have my Secretary of State working the back channels to make sure this thing remains contained. This sectarian issue has been going on for centuries, is awful, but it’s not like we’re going to go in and bring peace with us. For, as soon as we leave it will begin again. That is unless we’re willing to commit our troops for about a thousand years. I had no love for Saddam Hussein, but I’ll give him this; he kept the sects in check. Yes he was brutal, but I suppose that’s how the job is done over there. Bottom line…I think this war, sadly, needs to happen. Then we deal with the outcome.
Pete, I pretty much agree with you, except I don’t think there’s a back channel to deal with. Seems like that window is closed.
By all appearances this is a fight to the finish.
There’s nothing remotely noble or legit about either side. That idiot Maliki indirectly set this up by running a corrupt regime while denying Sunnis their place in government. Now he’s outnumber and outgunned and lost most of his country to radicals. Iran would have to step in with a full scale invasion to save his stupid butt.
Yes, Jack, I know you came around, eventually. You, unlike other people around here, do not operate entirely on auto-pilot.
Now you go find me the stuff you wrote in 2003.