Why did America spend so long in Iraq?

September 1, 2010

Last night President Barack Obama announced “the end of our combat mission in Iraq.” This is welcome news — if years late. Yet in an address to the nation that ranged as far afield as energy policy and “the limitless possibilities of our time,” the president never got around to the essential question of this costly bloodbath:

Why did the United States spend seven years fighting in Iraq?

By the estimate of the British correspondent John Burns and New York Times London bureau chief, who was living in Baghdad when the invasion began and remained there until 2008, the war killed 4,500 Americans and wounded 35,000 of them. It also caused “tens of thousands” of Iraqi civilian deaths; cost $750 billion, nearly enough to wipe out this year’s federal deficit; and created “the anti-Americanism that would become commonplace around the world.”

That last is all too easy to overlook. Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the world’s sympathy was with the United States. Everyone, including almost every Muslim, knew the 9-11 attack was heinous. Almost all nations, including nearly all Islamic nations, supported America’s counterattack in Afghanistan, which was clearly justified as self-defense.
Then we bombed and invaded Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9-11 monsters, killing at least 10 times as many innocent civilians as were killed here on September 11. We took huge numbers of Iraqis prisoner, and tortured or humiliated them.

We blasted to the ground cities such as Fallujah, destroying the homes of innocents while using antipersonnel weapons, such as white phosphorous shells, which are designed to cause intense suffering before death.

We installed a puppet government and began to kill those who opposed it. Much of the world was disgusted, with reason. We practically begged the moderate Muslims of the world to turn against us.


Last night President Obama praised U.S. military forces in Iraq, who deserve praise. In a confused, stressful situation where it was hard to tell who the enemy was, 99 percent of U.S. soldiers, marines, sailors and aircrew carried themselves with honor. But why were our forces in a confused, stressful situation?

Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a horrible place, and Saddam was a horrible person. But there are other horrible places, and the United States ignores them. Why did we invade and occupy a country that posed no national security threat to the United States? Two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have elaborately dodged this question. America deserves an answer.

The story constantly changes. At various points it was claimed by the second Bush White House and Defense Department that Iraq was building atomic weapons, or a stronghold of al Qaeda, or even planning an attack on the United States. A video timeline of Bush Administration statements about the need to attack Iraq is under the “latest program.” Regardless of whether Rachel Maddow is your cup of tea, it’s an informative timeline. All these claims were later retracted by the White House and Defense Department.

Suppose the true motives for the attack were to destroy banned weapons and depose Saddam. Morally, those motives can be defended. But, once American forces occupied Iraq, it took about a year to capture Saddam and hunt down his senior associates and to determine that there was no atomic bomb program. After doing this, why didn’t we just leave? If the United States had left after the first year – after performing the tasks that could be defended morally – the world might have admired us. Instead we stayed and stayed and stayed, killing and dying. Why?

The only attempt at explanation is circular. Last night Obama said, “A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency.” The reason the insurgency came into being was to oppose the U.S. occupation: even Bush, by 2006, said the United States had become “an occupying force.” Many Iraqi insurgents are despicable people – terrorists and criminals. Some are patriots. If another nation invaded the United States, wouldn’t Americans be radicalized and use guerilla warfare against the occupiers? To invade a country, create an insurgency and then claim the insurgency you created rationalizes years of combat and killing is Orwellian.

But there would have been chaos and violence in Iraq if we’d just pulled out and left. How, exactly, would you characterize what happened in Iraq with the United States still there? The last six years of occupation have only served to delay the moment when Iraq confronts its fate – which has always been inevitable regardless of whether U.S. forces departed or remained.

Was the invasion “the madness of King George?” Conspiracy theories, especially in the Islamic world, hold the United States attacked Iraq out of a vicious desire to slay Muslims or a venal desire to seize oil or as a ploy to control the Middle East. The first two proposed explanations are nonsense (in Kosovo the United States fought to save Muslims, and Washington could have purchased all the oil in Iraq for far more cheaply than by seizing it). The third is implausible — if the U.S. goal was control of the Middle East, it sure didn’t work.

In his 2008 book The Bush Tragedy, Jacob Weisberg proposes an explanation that seems chillingly believable.  George W. Bush, Weisberg shows, grew up obsessed with proving that he was tougher than his father George H. W. Bush; the obsession was complicated by the father being a hero at the Battle of Midway in World War II, while the son went to great lengths to avoid military duty in Vietnam. During the 1991 Gulf War, the father’s army expelled Saddam from Kuwait but did not enter Iraq to depose the dictator — the elder Bush saying then, and maintaining since, this was because the international community had not sanctioned an attack on Iraq itself.

When the younger Bush became president and 9-11 created a pretext for use of the military, Weisberg’s theory continues, he seized the chance to invade Iraq, do what his father did not and become tougher than his father, at least within his own mind, since masculinity is not required to sit at a desk and tell others to die.

Bush Administration figures such as Vice President Dick Cheney, CIA Director George Tenet and Defense Department advisor Douglas Feith deliberately lied about the situation in Iraq in order to justify war, and Democrats in the House and Senate, in order to avoid criticism, rolled over.

We don’t have a peace treaty with Iraq. After all the cost in blood and sorrow, the United States and Iraq don’t have a peace agreement. For that matter, Iraq never formally surrendered. Think these are formalities? Peace treaties are the gold standard of success on the battlefield. Wars that “end” without them don’t really end.

There was no peace treaty to conclude the Korean War — just a 1953 armistice that stopped the shooting. That the Korean War did not end in a peace agreement is a reason military tensions between North and South Korea continue today. Fifty-seven years later, the terms of the armistice are still observed, but little else has been agreed on. For all the sacrifice in Iraq, where’s the treaty that spells out peace and friendship?

All we have is a “Status of Forces Agreement.” In 2008, the Bush Administration completed a SOFA in which Iraq’s sort-of government formally accepted the United States occupation, in return for the United States promising to depart if so instructed. By the terms of the SOFA, Baghdad could order Americans out of the country on short notice – and the United States would have no choice but depart. A referendum to see if the Iraqi people approve of the SOFA, and thereby grant legitimacy to the invasion, has been postponed repeatedly.

The July 2009 deadline to remove U.S. combat forces from Iraqi cities wasn’t an Obama idea, it was specified by the SOFA. So too was the current exit of heavy combat forces such as armored units. Though Barack Obama has been wise to withdraw heavy combat forces, he’s only following the script the Bush Administration laid out before leaving office. It borders on the bizarre to think that after campaigning for the presidency partly on his opposition to the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, Obama is still following Bush’s Iraq timetable after being president for nearly two years, and not acting on any new vision of his own.

Is the “mission accomplished?” Bush famously claimed this while looking ridiculous on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln in 2003, and Obama sort-of claimed it from the White House last night. The claim is impossible to assess – since we still don’t know what the mission was.

Would the dead have wanted us to continue fighting? A haunting question of combat is whether others must fall to honor the sacrifices of those who have fallen before. It was argued during the Vietnam War that simply leaving would mean those who already had died there had died for naught. Last night, Obama essentially used this argument, quoting an Army sergeant as saying, “I know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably mean a lot.”

We live in a society that conducts these kinds of debates in sound bites. Once, the debate was conducted in poetry. In 1915, the Canadian physician John McCrea – who perished in World War I – wrote the poem In Flanders Fields, which argues that dead soldiers would want others to die, until there is victory. This poem became a sensation in the United Kingdom and the United States. Its relevant stanza:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep.

In 1918 Wilfred Owen, a British poet who served in World War I and died in France days before the ceasefire, argued the opposite in the poem Dulce et Decorum Est. This poem became a second public sensation. Its relevant stanza:

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori

The Latin means, “it is sweet and right to die for your country.” It is etched on the chapel wall at Sandhurst, the British school for army officers.

The fallen cannot speak: it is reasonable to suppose they would think others should keep fighting if there were something to fight for, but oppose others dying so that politicians can avoid being honest or making hard decisions. We kept fighting in Iraq. And we still don’t know why.


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Halliburton & friends made a lot of money, and that was the most important thing.

Posted by drdubious | Report as abusive

“It … cost $750 billion, nearly enough to wipe out this year’s federal deficit;”

While true, I think this is a misleading statement. You’re comparing the cost spread over 7 years to the deficit for one year, which actually makes it sound like a less significant amount.

Posted by drewbie | Report as abusive

Easterbrook — you can’t be this opaque.

Why do you not accept that GWB was telling the truth (as he knew it) when he said we were going to Iraq because Saddam was believed to have WMD, and was plausably crazy and destabilizing, and needed to be deposed? Saddam had used WMD twice, giving credance to the belief he had WMD and would use them.

After we got there, and figured out the WMD were either missing (sent to Syria?) or had been fictional, we couldn’t just walk out and leave the Iraqis to a killing field the likes of which we haven’t seen since Pol Pot.

The idea GWB was acting out some bizarre psycho-drama with his father completely ignores that there were hundreds of very smart, and cynical people in Congress and the executive branch who could and would have stopped this in its tracks if it was just a familial “who’s is bigger” contest.

The idea that because we can’t solve all the world’s problems, we can’t even try to solve one is nonsense. The Mid-east is highly volatile, possesses huge quantities of the life-blood of the modern world’s economies, and could be the starting point for World War III. Those are all valid reasons that a crazy, in-humane, dictator armed with powerful weapons who invades his neighbors is an appropriate target for military action.

Posted by JBinNC | Report as abusive

Misleading or not, $750 billion is a LOT of money that probably would have been better spent in Afghanistan

Posted by dnitchman | Report as abusive

This is soo sad. I was against the Iraq war before it started, and this is my verification.

Posted by MaiO | Report as abusive

On the road out of this, those who opposed the war need to find a way to be inclusive of those who supported the war in their definition of success. This does not mean believing things that we don’t believe, it is a question of common ground.

Posted by effoff | Report as abusive

There are at least five reasons.

1) Saddam Hussein made an attempt on the life of Bush I. Bush II said in September 2002 “After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad.”

2) The neo-cons wanted to finish the job Bush II started.

3) Halliburton and the other Bush II / Cheney cronies would make truckloads of money on sole-source contracts.

4) Iraq has oil.

5) ‘W’ and the boys had no conception of history. Islamic countries have been run by royalty or dictators, or they have become anarchies like Somalia and Afghanistan. An Islamic democracy has always been rather chimerical


Posted by saucymugwump | Report as abusive

As they say, history will be the final judge. Despite the Bush administration’s die hard supporters and the usual conservative right patriots, this war will go down as a blunder in every way. The worrisome part is what is yet to come.

Posted by RichMy | Report as abusive

The “mission” is not hard to figure out, based on all the circumstances, all the pre-war hysteria and fear-mongering, all the lies, all the brutality and cold-bloodedness. It was to destroy Iraq. This was what Israel wanted and got, but didn’t pay for. “Mission accomplished!”

Posted by pilgrimson | Report as abusive

I think we need a neutral panel (not Democratic, not Republican, with no Government People, to review this war and then assess who was responsible. Those proven responsible should then be jailed and punished after hearings. No trials with tricky evidence. Let the perpetrators who lived by the sword die by the sword. I know this sounds heavy handed, but we need to show the world that even our leaders have to be accountable.

Posted by fred5407 | Report as abusive

I think we need a neutral panel (not Democratic, not Republican, with no Government People, to review this war and then assess who was responsible. Those proven responsible should then be jailed and punished after hearings. No trials with tricky evidence. Let the perpetrators who lived by the sword die by the sword. I know this sounds heavy handed, but we need to show the world that even our leaders have to be accountable.

Posted by fred5407 | Report as abusive

Gregg, you missed your thesis by dismissing the represented individual interests, instead assuming that national interests were top priority. You’ve gone halfway to treason charges already, let’s name some names.

Posted by THeRmoNukE | Report as abusive

I think that the reason why Bush the Second decided to invade Iran is quite simple and easily understandable. He, or rather his advisers includiing this monster Cheney,calculated that a small victorious campaign against such a bad guy as Saddam Hussein will help him to win the second elections. Very creepy but logical. And this heinous strategy seems to have worked. Where are prosecutors and preasons for all of these criminals?

Posted by Heretic1 | Report as abusive

Sorry, let me correct my misprint:

I think that the reason why Bush the Second decided to invade Iraq is quite simple and easily understandable. He, or rather his advisers includiing this monster Cheney,calculated that a small victorious campaign against such a bad guy as Saddam Hussein will help him to win the second elections. Very creepy but logical. And this heinous strategy seems to have worked. Where are prosecutors and preasons for all of these criminals?

Posted by Heretic1 | Report as abusive

Until we prune back what has now become our 4th branch of government (the military industrial complex), we are condemned to repeat more of these wasteful, “preemptive” wars of choice.

Unfortunately, our largely ignorant electorate does not appreciate the true cost of this war. For example, today I heard Retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich estimate that if we were actually paying for this war in “real time,” then each and every American family would, on average, see its Federal tax bill rise by $3300 annually. And without any impetus to reinstate the draft, no one in our electorate has any incentive to demand answers about what happened with this debacle.

To prevent this type of mess from happening again, our (corporate) media needs to grow a backbone and take promulgators of misinformation to task. Balanced reporting is NOT the presentation of two sides of an issue when one side is clearly spinning lies. This nation was mislead by obfuscations, such as the Bush administration’s persistent trope of mentioning Al Qaeda in the run up to our invasion, as if to imply that Iraq somehow had something to do with 9/11, which it did not.

Now we will tally the astronomical costs and continued hazards of this war for generations. I am so sorry for every American life lost or damaged because of this historic blunder.

Posted by mercurius_1 | Report as abusive

This author should seek a job as a propagandist in some authoritarian African nation. He’s very skilled at riling the ignoramuses. Many of you enjoy believing that Pres. Bush or any president would go to war for corporate profits or to get re-elected. Besides making a ludicrous accusation without any proof whatsoever (I’m speaking to you ignoramuses, now), going to war is probably the most ineffective way to do either of those things. But for some, believing this is FUN, so no further thought is necessary. Now… please… continue

Posted by mheld45 | Report as abusive

I think you miss the obvious. We aren’t leaving. Obama’s pronouncement was also in itself orwellian. 50,000 troops remain for now. They could always send more later if they wish. We are in effect still controlling the region. For the chess board players who make these rediculous plans, it all makes sense. Ask Zbigniew. Central Asia is the Chessboard.

Posted by barkinbob | Report as abusive

And stop it with this stupid “mission accomplished” line. That sign was put there by the men and women of the aircraft carrier who had in fact completed a difficult mission. It was not put there by Pres. Bush. Context people… context! But again, it’s more fun to believe that Pres. Bush was declaring MA… so by all means… knock your socks off

Posted by mheld45 | Report as abusive

the most obvious, is that thanks to your current President you are opening up your eyes… the blood US is spilling over the world might also explain why 9/11 happened…

Posted by yeppp | Report as abusive

Al Qaeda is licking its chops over a weak Iraq

Posted by STORYBURNthere | Report as abusive

You went to Iraq to protect the dollar as Saddam was starting to sell oil in Euros. You have sanctions and keep beating the war drums on Iran because they have diversified and selling oil outside the dollar. Always follow the money.

Posted by diddums | Report as abusive

how come no one is speaking about the Bush family business ? oil … and their connection with Saudi Arabia’s King, maybe some of you Americans have forgotten that 9/11 was perpetrated by Saudi and NOT Iraqis… In the 1990s, Cheney and Rice were already in a conglomerate who described the invasion of Iraq as necessary to the US interests. However, only American citizens needed to feel compelled that going to war was the right thing to do, a bit like when the US knew Pearl Harbor was going to be attacked, it turned out to be your best bet as this allowed American companies to rebuilt Europe thanks to the Marshall plan… You ought to think whether your government is that innocent when it comes to sacrifice few lives for the well-being of your nation… When many pro-Bush talk about facts, they seem to forget that on the first place, the US did not have any facts… Powell presented the UN with faked old slides of WMD… Your current President is reshaping the image of the US in a very positive manner, giving the US the leadership it deserves on this planet… With 9/11, the world isn’t sorry for the US, the world has become more trustworthy to communist countries like China and Vietnam than the US… I love your country as I grew up in MA, but since the past ten years I have avoided due to the cocky attitude many Americans have showed with Iraq and Afghanistan… What happened to the American Dream ? What happened to freedom of religion ? What happened to civil rights ?… well “the war of terror” has reduced most of these principles… I hope that President Obama will be able to give back to the US what it used to stand for for many in the world, enlightenment.

Posted by yeppp | Report as abusive

With all of the retoric going around I am gratful we still live in a FREE country. I think we should pull out of every conflict in the world. Let the dictators take over. Let the murderers take over. Let the brutal regimes like Saddam Hussains take over. Let the liberal minded people, who seem to be completely blind to history and current events, take over. So when you have no more freedoms, your woman are slaves and/or property, and there is no longer a free press. Then see where you are? Yea, I want more liberal minded people running our country. NOT!

Posted by masterwebber | Report as abusive

Saucymugwump has it mostly right. But guaranteeing free market access to their oil should be at the top of the list. Securing a counter balance to Iran that isn’t run by a crazed dictator needs to figure in there, too. Although we couldn’t quite accomplish either definitively, things are better for us now than before the war when you consider only these two goals.

Posted by LEEDAP | Report as abusive

The ‘Mission Accomplished’ deal was presented because the allies had gathered up all the nuclear fuel, parts and plans they thought necessary to suppress Iraq from making nuclear weapons. They knew what they were looking for because Iraq had bought the stuff from the United States, England, Germany, France and Russia. Surprise! It would have been nice had they gone after Osama Bin Laden but the fact that he is friendly with the Saudi Arabian royal family made it a little embarassing…then all that money appeared and private contractors came out of the woodwork. I know soldiers that went to Iraq and came back rich…that’s why Iraq took 7 years – because it took 7 years to sack it. I think Riyadh should be next – what about you?

Posted by cranston | Report as abusive

Cranston – Osama is a critic of the Saudi Royal Family. Why do you think he got kicked out of Saudi? Have you not read some of the things he has written and said? The Wahhabi despise the royal family and see it as corrupt and idolatrous. So what else is in your statement is poorly researched?

Posted by Bdy2010 | Report as abusive

OK Masterwebber, so you don’t want “liberal” people running the country. As anyone who reads the newspapers much at all knows, the word “liberal” is now synonymous within all right wingers minds, the Nazi minded, with any and all who are affiliated with the Democratic party.

Your so-called “blind-to-history liberals” then by your definition include Pres. Harry Truman, who ordered the atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan, twice, to finally put an end to WWII. Is that what you call liberal, with the usual illogical association of that term, in the minds of the self-righteous and smug right wing, as being weak and heathen? Actually, the World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary first definition of “democrat” is this: “n. 1. a person who believes that a government should be run by the people who live under it.” The dictionary doesn’t say a word about “liberal” in association with “democrat”, but that is what you and your bunch call “liberal”, as if liberal was something terrible anyway.
Of all the wild statements above M-webber, yours is one of the wildest. Congratulations.

It looks to me like the Nazi-minded “conservative” faction is itself making a very strong effort at controlling everyone else in this country, all the while shouting “Freedom”, as you are.
The German Nazis burned books in an effort to create an uninformed, illiterate and suppressed lower class out of middle-class people, a single, lowly class that would know nothing and think nothing else but what they heard from the Nazi propagandists. The contemporary right wing American “Nazis” have as their plan to do the same by undermining and subtly destroying the American public school system, while eliminating the separation of church and state, all in the name of holiness. The claim is that the private schools are better and that they are entitled to a tax deduction to use the private schools.

The reality is that even with a tax deduction, most middle and lower income American would still not be able to, and/or willing to, spend the money to send their children to a private school, never mind the fact that few, if any, private schools currently serve all types of handicapped kids, any kid that comes along, as is requred of public schools. Another reality is that a big motivation in sending kids to a private school is simply social elitism, disguised as the quest for “better” education. Your so-called “liberals” do want to maintain an institution that helped build America, and will help keep America what is has been. That institution is our public school system.
Hitler claimed he was a Christian and that Christ was a fighter and wanted Hitler to be a fighter. By that, he wanted others to believe that it was his mission from God to murder 3 million people because of their religion.
Contemporary right wing America presents itself as being more holy, the righteous ones, among other things. To watch a group of right-wing Americans on TV (recently with Glenn Beck and that greatest of mental giants, S. Palin) gives one the same sense of an irrational, frenzied, emotional mob falling into the grip of propaganda and demagoguery as is seen in the films of Hitler and his cronies getting the German crowds lathered up in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s to support Hitler in his deceptive and evil regime.
Indeed, the deception of the American right wing is that public schools are 1., simply not good at education (false), 2. inherently heathen and evil because they don’t hold church in school (their job and training is to be educators, not spiritual leaders, and the U.S. Constitution does prohibit the promulgation of any religion. Religion is NOT the business of the government or any government agency. If it were, we would not have “freedom of religion”).
Like Hitlers’ subtle leading of the German sheep into a murderous regime aiming at taking over the world, modern American religious driven conservatism aims at suppressing the middle class by the same means: ignorance and prejudiceness driven by emotions disguised as religion, (sound familiar to “religion” driven suicide murders?) and the use of religious positions to spread the propaganda and prejudiceness, all of which is contrary to the real teaching of the religion being used as the vehicle to spread hatred.

Conservatism as the protector of our personal liberties and freedoms we enjoy under the U.S. Constitution?
I don’t think so Webbermaster. Where would the black race be today had the current U.S. conservatism been embraced by Republican president Abraham Lincoln? Still in slavery and still oppressed more than they are, that’s where. Just one example of course, there are more. But the main difference between contemporary American religious based conservatism and the Nazis of Germany is that the Americans have not yet reached the point of genocide. Not yet.

Posted by ayesee | Report as abusive

To create new world order through excessive use of power! You just outlined the failure. In the meantime, China established the new world order through moderate use of meditation ! Imagine the comparison of the world image of the USA and China 20 years ago and today.

Posted by reliable | Report as abusive

There are volumes of evidence that the Bush administration fabricated the story they used to sell attacking Iraq. George W was a megalomaniac and Cheney (who had been CEO of Halliburton prior to being vice president) had dollar signs in his eyes. One of the saddest times in U.S. history. As America’s we lost what the Constitution and Bill of Right’s intended, when these two put self interest above the good of not only our people, but all people. Both of these bastards should be in freaking jail!

Posted by thisisamess | Report as abusive

Plain and simple – Bush and his hoods used 911 as opportunity for the club to legally make massive amounts of money with no repercussions.

Forget Bin Ladin – he’s been having a hoe down with his Afgan buddies after he was let go into early retirement (mission accomplished).

Soon as Repubs get back in power – they will declare war on Iran. More massive amounts of money to be made.

Sad thing is – the constitution is spit on every day these thugs are not brought to justice via an investigation.

A police/army state is pulling a lot of the shoe strings.

Posted by Butch_from_PA | Report as abusive

Why? Is it really that difficult to answer that question? Money (for the likes of Halliburton) and OIL. Why is Obama not saying it? Well, he was against the war in the first place. No news there. But now he is the president and that requires not only a bit of etiquette, he also understands that the past is the past and the only way out of the mess that G.W. and his muggs left behind, is by being constructive.

Posted by Rhino1 | Report as abusive

Why spend 750 billion dollars for a war while leaving the Americans with bad health insurance and bad economy? doesn’t make any sense .. the only reason he did that is for the terrific amount of money he’d get from it .. I even doubt he may had known about 9-11 incident.

Posted by PeacefulWorld | Report as abusive

Why spend 750 billion dollars for a war while leaving the Americans with bad health insurance and bad economy? doesn’t make any sense .. the only reason he did that is for the terrific amount of money he’d get from it .. I even doubt he may had known about 9-11 incident.

Posted by PeacefulWorld | Report as abusive

If Obama went after Bush,Blair Cheaney, et al it would tear America apart..thats why the sleeping dog is not kicked.

Posted by wickii | Report as abusive

I find it really depressing that I can think of no better reason than Jacob Weissberg. For all Mr Bush IIs venal mendacity, I don’t think he was quite the simpleton he seemed happy to be portrayed as.

It was about more than oil.

There were plenty of other ways to get oil and enrich Haliburton.

I doubt we will ever really know any better than to say ‘because he could’.

Posted by Dafydd | Report as abusive

Whatever the reasons were for invading Iraq the end result has been a major weakening of the US.
The whole world now knows that the US cannot subdue even a small nation like Iraq.

Twenty years from now someone will write a book called the “Rise and Fall of the US Empire” I am sure GW Bush will get a mention as will Bin Laden.

Such poor leadership, very sad.

Posted by Sinbad1 | Report as abusive

Final comment on this one: Those of you so obsessed with the notion that Iraq was a profit-driven enterprise are failing to consider the situation from the President’s (any President’s) perspective. Presidents are not concerned with money (they all get rich after their term). They are concerned with the HISTORY BOOKS. They are thinking about how they will be perceived in 50 or 100 years. It’s difficult for us to think that way because we are concerned about our monthly bills, but Presidents are living in a different world.

Posted by mheld45 | Report as abusive

Jacob Weisberg is a partisan clown and I can’t believe Easterbrook would subscribe to his amateur psychology. He seems to have spent most of the Bush administration culling the President’s speeches for missteps (http://www.slate.com/id/76886/pagenum/a ll) and the last few months doing the same for Sarah Palin (http://www.slate.com/id/2253337/pagenum  /all/). Of course Easterbrook seems to regularly give credence to the work of his former Slate “colleagues” so maybe it shouldn’t be surprising.

On the other hand, the idea that Iraq might have been in the same position had the US left a long time ago is interesting and something I hadn’t really considered. Wish he’d spent more time on that.

Posted by jizoshula | Report as abusive

mheld45..I respectfully disagree with your perspective. Unless it was George W’s intention to go down as perhaps one of the worst decision makers in all of history. It is well established that the premise for going to war in Iraq was based on a gross distortion of the facts. That the costs severely hurt our economy. That the lose of life on both sides was tremendous. That it caused harm with our relations with other nations and that it in fact made the world a more dangerous place. Iraq may in fact be worse off today than when this whole thing started. And neither America nor any other country is one iota safer today than it was then based on this action. When countries like Iran and North Korea look at what we did with no provocation what so ever is there any reason to be surprised at the posture they are taking. The HISTORY BOOKS will challenge the intelligence of voting that president in for a second term. Go back at look at the bills funding this war and look at all the pork that congress loaded into it. This is in fact the 500 lb gorilla standing in the middle of the room that everyone is trying to ignore. I’m embarrassed over this. Everyone should be. We lost precious blood that impacted families, for what?

Posted by thisisamess | Report as abusive

thisisamess… I dont’t disagree with everything you say, but I take exception to anyone claiming that a President would use his or her office for profit or to seek personal revenge. Policy disagreements are fair game, but questioning the motivation of the President takes a step over a red line (Olbermann, other commenters here). It’s only fair to assume that any President spends every waking hour concerned about the security of the country. I have no time for those who do not share this assumption. Second, none of us have any way of knowing what our security situation would be like if we had not invaded Iraq. Very likely we would have a nuclear arms race between Ahmadenajad (sp.?) and Saddam. We would still be engaged in a military campaign (no-fly zone) with no end in sight. You present a false choice: as if we could have chosen between peace and war. In fact, there were no good choices in 2003. At least now Iraq is moving in the right direction, and therein lies the foundation of history, which neither you nor I are prepared to write just yet.

Posted by mheld45 | Report as abusive

thisisamess… You’re right about the pork spending. Have a look at the Libertarians: www.cato.org Way of the future

Posted by mheld45 | Report as abusive

mheld..I’m an Independent. I think you are being more than generous in your description of george w’s thought process. A lot of speculation on nuclear arms. Go back and look at the people that george w. sent to Iraq to take over various departments of their crippled government after the attack. Most were pay back for political favors. Some, like the kid he sent to oversee what was left of their stock market had little to no experience. His attack on Iraq greatly benefitted Exxon and Halliburton (companies he has ties with). We may never know the true reason that george w. attacked Iraq. But in the absence of logic I always say..follow the money trail.

Posted by thisisamess | Report as abusive

mheld..went to the cato site…I’ll have to research it further, but first blush was it didn’t look like a group of fanatics that worship Glen Beck. HA! There is a book listed on the home page that looks interesting “Terrorizing Ourselves”…betting george w. has a special section (based on the brief description about the book). It’s all those crazy neocons that you have to worry about. Cheney had his way we would invaded Iran by now.

Posted by thisisamess | Report as abusive


I don’t see why you reject the obvious reason we went into Iraq… The US Government, with good reason, believed Saddam had WMD, believed he would use them, believed he was de-stabilizing the Mideast, and was a horrific dictator who repressed his people unbearably. He was a very bad guy, who richly deserved to be deposed, and was deposed. The fact we can not solve all problmes, is not a reason to refuse to solve one.

The notion that GWB could (let alone would) launch a war because of some intra-family psychological contest is just silly. Hundreds of military, executive and legislative folks who were smart, cynical, and personally at risk as a result of a wrong policy would simply not let GWB do so. Is there any reason to think that John Kerry, Hilary Clinton, Bill Clinton or even Colin Powell (all of whom supported the war initially) would do so to allow some crazy Bush son to act out his inner demons. Ridiculous.

Further, it doesn’t take much insight to understand that leaving Iraq right after the initial invasion would have left a killing field the likes of which the world has not seen since Pol Pot. Once the US invaded, the “you broke it, you bought it” rule fully applied, and we were stuck there for the duration — until a reasonable level of civil order existed. The alternative of millions more deaths on our hands was unacceptable. We had to stay there until some form of sustainable peace was achieved.

And one more point of contention… the CBO is projecting a deficit of $1.3 Trillion in fiscal 2010, after a $1.4 Trillion deficit in 2009. By your own citation, Iraq cost $750 billion over 7 years, or just over $100B per year. The Iraq war costs are a drop in the Obama deficit bucket. We wasted more than the entire cost of the Iraq War on the stumulus bill alone, on the TARP program alone, and will spend over three times that much on Obamacare over its first 10 years. The Iraq War did not cause the deficits, did not cause the economic crash, and are not squeezing our ability to borrow. It was simply too small to have had major fiscal effects.

Mistakes certainly were made… after a year Iraq was wholly in chaos, we could not leave. But errors, even big errors, in the conduct of a war are not unknown, and not necessarily due to ignorance or veniality. Lincoln went through a number of incompetent generals before finding Grant. Grant, was also excoriated for being willing to accept terrible casualties. But Grant understood mobility and how to avoid meeting Lee in set piece battles that REL could win. Grant was the right man for the strategic situation. We do not think Lincoln was either stupid or misguided in his conduct of the war, because he eventually got it right. Bush likewise eventually found the guy who had the tactics for this particular situation, and rode Petraeus to the conclusion. Thats how wars are fought.

The piece is unconvincing, yet another trotting out of liberal hobgoblins that claim to bring insight. The answers aren’t nearly this complex, nor this troubling.

Posted by JBinNC | Report as abusive

Would that Bush Government of US never declared and conducted Iraq war for its lust for oil, as it is being reported time and again, causing severe loss of lives of economy of the land and US’s own as well!

Posted by A.R.Shams | Report as abusive

Masterwebber- learn how to spell, and people will be “gratful,” aka grateful. Your “retoric,” aka “rhetoric” about us losing freedom from not invading countries who don’t threaten us rings hollow. How are our own freedoms at risk from a country halfway around the world without an air force or navy? You also are ignoring the fact that the US government supported Saddam Hussein, aided Josef Stalin in WWII, supported the Shah of Iran after overthrowing their elected government, and numerous other examples. We have often helped to create brutal regimes. By the way, women were not slaves or property in Saddam’s secular regime. History will show this as the beginning of a decline in American power and a contraction of the American empire, much like Rome. Iraq will go down in history as a huge blunder. So will Afghanistan.It’s funny that we laugh(ed) at the Soviet Union for wasting a decade of time, lives, and resources in Afghanistan, when 22 years later, we failed to learn from history and did the exact same thing. Nine years and counting… we will supposedly be there until 2017, which makes us 60% stupider than the USSR.

Posted by mutantman87 | Report as abusive

What part of the Founding Father’s Warning Do You Not Understand?


Posted by USAvatar | Report as abusive

Yes – great article. I don’t believe that GWB had the intent of going down in history as the silliest president ever elected. Instead he acted on instruction from former friends in the CIA, GOP top people, his father and even a former UK PM. They created thousands of jobs in the US, revitalised a military industry that had gone belly up by the end of the “cold war” – and with a popularity rating about to go through the floor, he needed an enemy, and start a war.
What is silly is that nobody convinced him that the enemy had long evacuated to Mars. A nuclear assault on an enemy here would not hurt anyone. But then again, GWB will never go down in history as “clever”.
Those who seek an “independent investigation” – this is available, just approve of the ICC and ask this to raise charges – e.g. “Crimes Against Humanity” is obvious, since he violated the UN a number of times, and presented false evidence to them.

Posted by khf | Report as abusive

The writer asked why we went to Iraq and states,
“Two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have elaborately dodged this question. America deserves an answer.”
I could see his asking GW for he put us there,not Obama,he got us out as he said he would!

Posted by urlnts | Report as abusive