Many of us on this blog have been critical of the Iraq war from the outset as a war based on a false claim by the Bush Administration and then perpetuated by political cynicism by both Democratic and Republican leaders who did not want to be accused of “losing” the war. The costs were paid by soldiers and taxpayers in a war where the U.S. was often openly opposed by government figures and demonized in many parts of the country. It was clear that we were propping up a government that could not maintain order or loyalty across the country. Now, shortly after our withdrawal of combat troops, one of the most costly “victories” of the war — Fallujah — has been retaken by Al Qaeda as militants threaten additional takeovers in the country. Despite this history, members of Congress are already complaining that we should have continued the ground war longer at the cost of more American lives and billions of dollars.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona, and Lindsey Graham, South Carolina, took to the airways to accuse President Obama of misleading the American people that the Iraqi leaders wanted the U.S. to withdraw forces and that the resulting consequences were “as tragic as they were predictable” and suggested Obama misled Americans into believing that Iraqi leaders wanted U.S. forces out of their country. They again ignore the lack of success under both Bush and Obama in stabilizing the country as an outside force or the opposition of many Americans to the loss of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars on this war. It took Al Qaeda just three days to take the city despite heavy fighting.
In a joint statement the senators proclaimed that “[w]hen President Obama withdrew all U.S. forces … over the objections of our military leaders and commanders on the ground, many of us predicted that the vacuum would be filled by America’s enemies and would emerge as a threat to U.S. national security interests. Sadly, that reality is now clearer than ever.” So the solution was to prolong the war while members like Graham have called for war with Iran in a new military campaign.
We secured the city in 2004 after some of the bloodiest battles of the war. Anbar province itself remained an area of intense fighting throughout the war. Roughly a third of the 4,486 U.S. troops killed in Iraq died in Anbar and we lost roughly 100 just in the November 2004 battle for control of Fallujah.
McCain and Graham referred to those dead in calling for more U.S. combat troops in Iraq: “Thousands of brave Americans who fought, shed their blood, and lost their friends to bring peace to Fallujah and Iraq are now left to wonder whether these sacrifices were in vain.” Clearly, the answer as to Fallujah is yes for now. However, McCain and Graham avoid their responsibility in supporting the war in the beginning with little inquiry into the false claims of the Bush Administration or their support for the continuation of the war. They continued to support the wars at the cost of hundreds of billions as we cut key scientific, educational, and environmental programs at home. The question should be whether “these sacrifices were in vain” after entering a war on false pretenses and then opposing a withdrawal to save American lives.
There are tribes who are opposing Al Qaeda but this conflict reflects divisions that are hundreds of years old, including the worsening Sunni v. Shiite divide. There never was an end strategy in our involvement in Iraq. Even now, McCain and Graham oppose the concept of withdrawal while the country is unstable. Since it has been unstable, even under a dictatorship, you can do the math.
I do not lack sympathy for the plight of Iraqis — most of whom do not appear to support Al Qaeda, though polls show a high level of opposition to the United States as well. However, this is their country and their fight.
We have a growing crisis in this country over an economy that continues as an issue to be kicked down the road by this President and this Congress. We have cut educational, health, and scientific programs that will undermine our growth and competitiveness in the future. Yet, we have members of Congress who want to not only engage new enemies but reengage past enemies in military operations.
Source: Washington Post
74 thoughts on “Nine Years After U.S. Took Fallujah, Al Qaeda Retakes The City”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to the increasingly violent situation in Iraq. At least 13 people have been killed and another 30 wounded in a suicide attack on a police station in Baghdad. The bombing comes as the Iraqi government is preparing for an offensive to retake the city of Fallujah from Sunni militants. Fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized parts of Fallujah as well as Ramadi last week. The Iraqi Red Crescent says over 13,000 families have fled Fallujah to escape the violence in the past few days. The United Nations is warning that Anbar province faces a critical humanitarian situation, with 250 people killed already this month. This is Fallujah resident Khaled Mohssen.
KHALED MOHSSEN: [translated] We are families fleeing from Fallujah, which is undergoing military operations due to the presence of militants that are unwelcome in the city. There was random shelling against houses in the city, so we were scared for our families and left the city.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, the United States is ramping up its delivery of military equipment to help Iraq battle militants who have overrun parts of Anbar province, including the city of Fallujah. This is White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: We’re accelerating our foreign military sales, deliveries, and are looking to provide an additional shipment of Hellfire missiles as early as this spring. These missiles are one small element of that holistic—excuse me—strategy, but they been proven effective at denying ISIL the safe haven zones that it has sought to establish in western Iraq.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
Well, for more, we’re joined now via Democracy Now! video stream by Feurat Alani. He’s a French-Iraqi journalist who was based in Baghdad during the war from 2003 to 2008. He has returned twice a year since then and made several documentaries, including Roadtrip Iraq and Fallujah: A Lost Generation? He recently wrote a piece for Le Monde calling Syria’s conflict—called “Syria’s Conflict Spreads to Iraq: Violence and Power Struggles.”
AMY GOODMAN: And in Washington, we’re joined by Peter Van Buren, 24-year veteran of the U.S. State Department, who served in Iraq, later wrote a book critical of U.S. policy called We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. And he was later forced out of the State Department.
We want to welcome you both to Democracy Now! Feurat Alani, I want to start with you. You begin one of your latest pieces, “Violence and Power Struggles,” by writing, “How do you stop a suicide bomber?” And that’s exactly what happened in Baghdad today, yet another suicide bombing. Can you talk about the situation there, and particularly in Fallujah?
FEURAT ALANI: Yes. Thank you for inviting me. You know, I just talked today to many friends in Fallujah, and the situation today was not like yesterday. It’s moving. The market in the center of Fallujah has reopened. And, you know, people in Fallujah are used to be ostracized, like since 2004, so it’s usual for them to live under the violence. So they’re trying to live. And some—a lot of families fled to other part of Iraq, in Baghdad and other provinces. But the situation is very tense, and people of Fallujah doesn’t know what is going on and what’s happening.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe Fallujah for us right now? And exactly what is the dynamic that’s happening when news reports around the world say al-Qaeda-linked forces have taken over?
FEURAT ALANI: Yes, I would like to be precise and clear about it. When you talk to Fallujah people, they reject the idea that al-Qaeda is taking control of Fallujah. They almost saying that it’s false. People who are controlling Fallujah are member of tribes and normal inhabitants. We have to remind that one year ago demonstrations started in the Dignity Square, showing anger against the policy of the government, of the Iraqi government. And so, when the prime minister, Maliki, started to arrest Sunni politicians, anger increased in Fallujah. And what we are facing today is not a battlefield between al-Qaeda and the army. It’s a battle—it’s a political battlefield. It’s anger expressed many years ago by Fallujahn people who are tired and angry, and they just want to be recognized as Iraqis.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Peter Van Buren, you’re a State Department veteran. I’d like to bring you into the discussion and talk about—you know, President Obama has repeatedly said, since United States troops pulled out, that he ended the war in Iraq; however, we know that what has exactly happened is that it’s just gone off the front pages of our newspapers, but the war has continued. What happened after U.S. troops left to create the situation that exists now?
PETER VAN BUREN: What happened was very similar to what the gentleman before me was talking about. It’s back to the future. The core issues that led to instability in Iraq, that started in 2003, were never resolved by the United States over nine years of occupation—primarily, the need to create a unity government. The United States stood aside as the Kurds de facto created a new nation. The United States stood aside as the Sunni-Shia rift—and of course we’re using those terms very broadly—developed. Almost within days of the U.S. troop withdrawal, Prime Minister Maliki sought to have his Sunni vice president arrested. The vice president fled and is believed to be in Turkey. Maliki has continued his persecutions and prosecutions against the Sunnis, and now has resorted to open warfare in Fallujah in attempt to tame them, to marginalize them and to maintain his Shia control of power.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the U.S. sending military aid to the Iraqi government?
PETER VAN BUREN: During nine years of war and occupation, the U.S. expended a tremendous number of Hellfire missiles and other weaponry. None of that was effective against either side—Sunni, Shia, or perhaps third-party foreign fighters. This is not a war that can be won like a game of chess. There’s not lines on the ground where one force is on one side trying to capture territory on the other side. This remains a war to settle political, ethnic, social and other types of differences. It’s an insurgency. And any attempts to blast your way out of this problem will end, for the Maliki government, exactly as they ended for the American government: ineffectual and nothing more than a stage for the next round of violence.
AMY GOODMAN: Feurat Alani, what has to happen, do you believe? And what about that same issue of U.S. re-arming the Iraqi regime?
FEURAT ALANI: I think this is a very bad news. You know, I made a documentary about Fallujah three years ago about the consequences on the health in the city of Fallujah by the use of U.S. weapons like white phosphorus, depleted uranium and Hellfire missile. We call it—this technology is called thermobaric weapon. It’s very bad. And now, today—even today in Fallujah, the hospitals faces birth defects, deformed babies and cancer rising in the city. And even scientists say that it’s worse than Hiroshima, because of the U.S. weapons that were used in the battle of Fallujah in 2004. So, as—I totally agree with what was said by the gentleman before me. This is not a solution. This is—this has to be solved by a political view, and we have—I mean, the Iraqi government has to stop the marginalization of Sunnis in Anbar.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Feurat Alani, what are—there have been news reports that Iran and the United States are now, inconceivably, talking about finding ways to ally with the Maliki government to prevent the continued rise of the opposition forces in the Sunni areas of Iraq. What’s your response to that?
FEURAT ALANI: Well, the tribes are divided in Iraq. A part of them are collaborating with the Iraqi army. And one famous leader of those tribe is Ahmed Abu Risha. He’s one of the—he’s the brother of one tribe leader who created the Sahwat the Awakening militia, made up of members of Sunni tribes who allied themselves with the U.S. to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq. And this was a strategy to expel the people of al-Qaeda. But today, as I said before, many people of Fallujah said they’ve never seen any member of al-Qaeda in Fallujah. So, I think this is part of the government’s policy to divide the Sunnis in number. And this is a main problem today, because we face member of tribes who are struggling against the Iraqi army and other tribes who are struggling against al-Qaeda. So it makes the situation very confused, and it’s very difficult now to know what will happen in the future.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, and we are going to continue our conversation with Feurat Alani in a post-show that we will post online to talk about the documentary he did specifically in Fallujah and the effects of what the U.S. did there have on what is happening there today. Feurat Alani is a French-Iraqi journalist who is based in Baghdad. We’re speaking to him in Dubai. He was based there from 2003 to 2008, has returned twice a year since then and made several documentaries. And thank you so much to our guest in Washington, D.C., Peter Van Buren, 24-year veteran of the U.S. State Department, who served in Iraq and wrote the book We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.
(Transcript of DN segment posted in prior comment)
“Iraqi forces have surrounded Fallujah in preparation for a potential assault to retake the city from Sunni militants who have also seized parts of Ramadi. Thousands of Fallujah residents have fled to avoid being trapped in the crossfire. This comes as the United States is ramping up its delivery of Hellfire missiles and surveillance drones as part of a “holistic” strategy to oust the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. We speak to two guests: Feurat Alani, a French-Iraqi journalist who was based in Baghdad from 2003 to 2008 and has made several documentaries, including “Roadtrip Iraq” and “Fallujah: A Lost Generation?”; and Peter Van Buren, a 24-year State Department veteran who served in Iraq and later wrote a book critical of U.S. policy there, titled “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.” Van Buren faced dismissal after criticizing U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq.” -Democracy Now!
Much better than I could have said it, Mike. Thank you.
The topic is Iraq. There is no responsible defense of our actions in that country. First, the United States does not have either a moral or legal right to depose foreign leaders whom we deem to be “bad actors.” Indeed, we have frequently supported tyrants and dictators when it suited our perceived national interests, and we continue to do so.
Second, after launching the invasion based upon lies, we proceeded to systematically dismantle the military, political, judicial and bureaucratic infrastructures of the country, expecting that our “liberation” would result in the emergence of democratic institutions rising like so many Phoenixes from the ashes of shock and awe.
Third, in our arrogance we ignored the fact that Iraq is the creation of European colonial powers, cobbled together with little regard for cultural, religious or ethnic differences, and then reacted in shock when all of those different interests rushed in to fill the power vacuum rather than draft a constitution modeled on western notions of religious pluralism and personal freedom.
Fourth, the suggestion that we should send troops back into Iraq is evidence that we have learned nothing from our experience and that small men with small minds would rather destroy more human lives than accept responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of lives that have already been destroyed.
When the invasion was announced a decade ago, I predicted that the result would be the installation of a new dictator or the partition of Iraq into independent Sunni, Shia and Kurdish states. I have seen nothing to cause me to revise that prediction.
Mike Appleton wrote: “Fourth, the suggestion that we should send troops back into Iraq is evidence that we have learned nothing from our experience and that small men with small minds would rather destroy more human lives than accept responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of lives that have already been destroyed.”
I agree pretty strongly with your fourth point here. However, I am not so keen with your first point and have mixed feelings about points two and three. We have to remember examples like Pearl Harbor and 911 where we basically received a big sucker punch. I cannot get out of my mind the video of Osama Bin Laden and his friend discussing their amazement at their success and laughing about it and praising Allah for it. We have an obligation to defend our citizens from suffering any kind of sucker punch like this. We live in a nuclear age. One bad actor with access to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction could annihilate us. It would make 911 look like child’s play. Clearly the targets are no longer just our military located in places like Pearl Harbor or the Pentagon, but also our successful corporations working in skyscrapers. We cannot go back to the pre-911 mentality of how we deal with foreign threats. Unless you have a clear plan of defense from these threats that would alleviate the need to depose the aggressive despot, I think there is no choice but to be proactive in defense.
davidm Once again, you use apocalyptic terms and do not have any sense of proportion or rational thought. The US dropped TWO atomic bombs on Japan, and the Japanese survived. Last time I looked, we are even welcome there. So even a so called suitcase bomb would not “destroy” the US. Those bombs by the way are about 200# and are not something one guy except a bodybuilder could haul around. Plus the fact the yield is pretty low and even in NYC would only kill around a couple of hundred thousand people. That is bad enough for sure, but it will NOT destroy the US.
Then you forget that the doctrine of pre-emption works BOTH ways. If the US takes the position that it has the right to use a sneak attack on some country, then that country ALSO has the right to note that the US will attack it for no reason other than the US government does not like its policies. Thus THEY are more than justified in using a sneak attack too. Your idea about this flies in the face of all international agreements the US has signed. I know that ones word, contracts, and treaties mean nothing to you and your kind, but keep that out of US policy. At least have the decency to not attribute this to any noble motives, but blatant power lust. The other problem is that given the long sordid history of the US in Latin America, there is hardly any country there which would not be justified in a pre-emptive attack on the US. Indeed two of the leaders in Chile and Brazil were personally the victims of US torture by the CIA and military dictatorships the US installed. I hope that they can put that all in the past since if they gave in to personal feelings, the US would be in serious trouble. Then of course, the Venezuelans don’t have warm and fuzzy feelings for sponsoring a military coup there. They too have by US aggression MORE than enough justification under international law and treaties to take action against the US government
There are times when US military force is justified, as in the first Gulf War in which Iraq violated all international law and the UN Charter. They were given fair warning, and resolutions demanding compliance, and then war was the only viable option. In fact, I was in favor of the last resolution sending US forces to Kuwait to force UN inspectors back in. I had no problem until it became clear that Bush had no intention of abiding by the UN orders and resolutions and had lied about his intentions and goals.
North Korea is one spot where military force may be needed since they have violated the agreements on getting nuclear technology. The NPT means nothing if the UN and the US do not back up violations by the use of force as the ultimate sanction. It may well be necessary for the US to take action against them. My preference is to hit not only facilities, but bomb the leadership to take out the scientists and leaders. THAT will take a lot longer time to replace them. But the fact is that the US MUST have a clear international approval and give warning of military consequences.
randyjet wrote: “The US dropped TWO atomic bombs on Japan, and the Japanese survived.”
I almost spoke about the difference in bomb size between many of today’s nuclear bombs and the two dropped on Japan, but I assumed it was common knowledge and did not want to extend the length of my post. The bombs dropped on Japan were roughly comparable to 20,000 tons of TNT, while modern bombs are comparable to 50,000,000 tons of TNT. Instead of 2 bombs, we are talking about 100 to 8,000 depending upon the country. While there was recovery in these two cities, the death and destruction was appalling. I doubt you would want one dropped in your city.
Probably the more serious concern about weapons of mass destruction are biological and chemical weapons. My point is simply that we should be progressive and forward thinking about our defense strategies given these new types of modern weapons and a history of allowing other countries to sucker punch us before we feel justified to enter into a retaliation mode. Must we always wait for retaliation with an eye for an eye perspective rather than a prevent harm perspective?
randyjet wrote: “Then you forget that the doctrine of pre-emption [sic] works BOTH ways. If the US takes the position that it has the right to use a sneak attack on some country, then that country ALSO has the right to note that the US will attack it for no reason other than the US government does not like its policies.”
Hold on now. I said nothing about “sneak attack.” Do you really think that I would condemn someone for a sucker punch and then advocate a sucker punch from us. The proactive defense strategy I talk about should be NOTHING like a sneak attack. Conversation and diplomacy must be used, possibly followed up with sanctions or declarations of expressing our disagreement with tactics. Basically, our approach with Iraq was a good one. We clearly outlined what we expected, saw evidence that the country did not respect us or care about our concerns, so we gave an ultimatum and deadline, and then followed up with the fight.
Diplomacy seemingly has worked with nuclear countries like Russia, the UK, Israel, France, and China. While still working with India, Pakistan and North Korea, it may become more dubious in the future due to religious and political differences.
randyjet wrote: “But the fact is that the US MUST have a clear international approval and give warning of military consequences.”
Somewhat agreed. I don’t see our positions as far apart as you seem to want to make them. International approval should be sought, but I don’t think it is absolutely necessary. Nobody is going to care about us as much as we care about ourselves.
davidm, It is hard to take your comment seriously when you say Hitler only had 100,000 troops in WWII, and use the situation before the first Gulf War to justify the second. The FACT is that Iraq has nothing close to the size, population, resources, finances, or technology of Nazi Germany. Then if that is not bad enough, you say the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11. The FACT is that the Taliban allowed Al Qeada to operate on its territory and sheltered them after 9/11 in defiance of the UN. That is more than enough justification for war against them. Iraq had NO ties with Al Qeada before the US invasion. With the destruction of Hussein, they came in after and joined the fight. All of your facts are nonsense since you use facts that are totally irrelevant as to time, place, and circumstances. To say that Iraq constituted any kind of a threat to the US is absurd and was not backed up by the fact at the time. Bush simply kept on moving the goal posts to justify war and invasion. The ostensible reason for sending troops to Kuwait was to force inspectors back into Iraq. Then when they found virtually nothing, Bush and his boys simply lied and denied the findings of those same inspectors. I also have to remind folks that the DOE lost a couple of hundred pounds of plutonium. So if we can do that, it is not such a stretch to say the same with what inspectors did find remaining in Iraq. But of course, the US simply let all the weapons loose in Iraq after the US invaded and secured nothing at all. Thanks to Bush and his fools we armed the rebellion by our inaction.
As for even the nuclear powers that exist now, they do not have anything close to hundreds or even many nukes. Even Pakistan could not make a successful bomb in quantity since a couple of their tests were duds. The North Koreans still do not have a functioning nuke since their tests were duds as well. Only a microfraction of those bombs actually had a nuclear reaction of the fissile material. Using the Trinity test site as an example, the North Korean nuke only would have destroyed the bombs tower at most. I have actually seen live nuclear bombs, and they were small enough to put in the back of a station wagon. I even talked to an armorer who confessed that when he was loading a nuke on a plane, he dropped it on the ground. I told him that he is one of the few people on earth who can truthfully say that he dropped a live nuclear bomb.
As for Obama supposedly lying, he did not say that insurance companies cannot ever cancel policies. While the law made it harder and few reasons for cancelling, it did not and could not end all cancellations. It also made bogus or substandard policies illegal as well. I seriously doubt you can say that either Obama or Congress meant the statement that you can keep your policies under ALL circumstances or that insurance companies cannot ever cancel policies Only a person of limited intellect would take that interpretation. Of course, then the FACT is that there is a BIG difference between the statements and consequences of Bush’s lies and your assertion of Obama’s lies. Which actions do you think had more deleterious effects? The cancellation of insurance policies or the Iraqi war?
randyjet – I have found too many factual errors in your post. Even when I point them out, you just keep repeating them. I simply don’t care to continue this type of dialogue with you. Have a nice day.
By the way, we are posting comments about a recent event where Al Qaeda retook the city of Fallujah, Iraq. All the 9/11 hijackers were members of Al Qaeda. Would it really be all that strange to think that there is a cozy connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda?
You are welcome. I have read Blackwater and am beginning to slog through Dirty Wars. Here’s some short form information!
And who, specifically, are they?
what did Saddam have to do with 9/11?
john530 wrote: “what did Saddam have to do with 9/11?”
About as much as the Taliban in Afghanistan had to do with it. As President Bush said, “nothing.”
When Islamic terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 and killed six people, Americans barely noticed. When they took down both towers in 2001, everybody was shocked and horrified. Who would do this to us? Our mindset and culture completely changed. We realized that we needed to defend ourselves from these enemies. And nobody wanted to take this punch lying down. Virtually nobody wanted to do what we have done following most all other attacks, as if we were merely swatting at gnats biting our legs. We wanted to stand up and say enough. We also wanted to say, “no more Pearl Harbors and no more World Trade Centers. We will attack you before you sucker punch us again.” That is the motivation for both Afghanistan and Iraq.
We have some on this site who seek to justify the US invasion of Iraq. They maintain that the US was justified in believing certain intelligence data, even when other data disputed its validity. And to sum up their arguments, one phrase comes to mind. “The ends [removing Saddam Hussein] justified the means [an illegal invasion of a foreign country].”
Balderdash! We invaded Vietnam [took over from the French colonial power] on the foolish “domino” theory, a theory that has been proven wrong. We engineered the Shaw of Iran’s taking over from a democratically elected government on the theory that it was too friendly with the USSR. We supported Israel and still do, on various theories that do not hold water. Our US foreign policy is based on who inside of our government has the most clout, not on objective data and valid information. We would rather fight than be right. Was it not the Chinese who called what we do “hegemony?”
Dale wrote: “And to sum up their arguments, one phrase comes to mind. “The ends [removing Saddam Hussein] justified the means [an illegal invasion of a foreign country].””
You seem to forget 9/11 and all the other terrorist attacks. How many times must they kill us before you consider them a threat?
David M. I would not vote for H. Clinton or John Kerry if they ran for office. I would most certainly urge everyone else not to vote for these people under any circumstances.
Also, if you want to find out information about the mercenaries hired by the State Dept. to be the US military presence in Iraq I would read Jeremy Scahill. Glenn Greenwald also wrote extensively about Obama’s desire to keep regular US troops in Iraq.
Jill wrote: “I would read Jeremy Scahill.”
Thanks for that recommend. I found Blackwater and Dirty Wars. Have you read them both?
Thank you Darren.
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