Once Again Into The Breach: U.S. Shipping More Weapons and Preparing More Military Aid To Iraq

??????????????????6286571246_4906fa443e_bThe United States is mulling further intervention in Iraq as government forces flee Al Qaeda-linked insurgents and the country appears teetering on chaos. While the Administration is not ready to commit boots on the grounds, we may be moving toward a further influx of hundreds of millions or billions in military aid and even air strikes. As ISIS insurgents are seizing U.S. weaponry, the U.S. has already started to flood the country a new massive shipment of new free weapons.

Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant or ISIS is on a roll and nearing the capital. It is an al-qaeda linked terrorist group following the Wahhabi movement, the extreme religious view advanced by our ally Saudi Arabia.

So let’s take stock. We replaced a dictator based on lies in a massive invasion ordered by George W. Bush. We then spent over $2 trillion (the cost is over $4 trillion when you include Afghanistan). Both President Bush and President Obama continued to pour hundreds of billions of dollars in the country despite massive corruption and billions that simply disappeared. At the same time we have been cutting back on our own educational, environmental, scientific, and social programs due to a lack of money. Consider what $4 trillion would have done.

More importantly, we have lost some 4,486 U.S. service members between 2003 and 2012. Thousands have been wounded, many with lifelong disabilities. Our leaders continued to pour troops into the country because no one wanted to admit that the war was a mistake or that we were losing to Islamic insurgents. We continued to lose people and spend trillions in the belief that we could reverse centuries of sectarian and social strife.

In the meantime, we became increasingly hated by many Iraqis and we opened the country not to Saddamists but Al Qaeda forces who moved into the area as an opportunity to fight America and take over large parts of the country. They are now seizing advanced US weaponry so we are again arming extremists. Now to make our disaster complete we not only have Al Qaeda taking control of areas but Iran has now reportedly sent in troops to fuel the Shiite/Sunni violence. It is offering as many as 10,000 Iranian troops.

It is another example of the economic principle of “path dependence”: we have so much invested that we cannot change course. So once again, we will open up our coffers until the last helicopter leaves from the roof from the Green Zone.

275 thoughts on “Once Again Into The Breach: U.S. Shipping More Weapons and Preparing More Military Aid To Iraq”

  1. bigfatmike,

    It’s been a few weeks and I’m still waiting for your responses. I was holding off on Part Three until you responded to Parts One and Two, but here it is.

    Part Three: OIF was justified on the policy – in Bush’s shoes at the decision point for OIF.

    We’ve established OIF was legal and – consistent with the whole 1991-2003 Iraq enforcement – triggered by Saddam’s noncompliance.

    President Clinton endorsed OIF by citing to Clinton’s own presidential struggle with Saddam, which President Bush had resolved with OIF. As the vicious political pressure mounted, however, Clinton revised his position with the ‘out’ of criticizing Bush for not allowing enough time for the UNMOVIC inspections.


    Contrary to Clinton’s criticism, UNMOVIC concluded its inspections with its March 7, 2003 report to the UN Security Council.

    UNSCR 1441 “[instructed] UNMOVIC and requests the IAEA to resume inspections no later than 45 days following adoption of this resolution and to update the Council 60 days thereafter”. UNMOVIC was in Iraq for nearly 4 months (27NOV02 – 18MAR03) before the start of OIF. By January 2003, it was evident Iraq remained noncompliant. The March 6, 2003 UNMOVIC Cluster Document reported “about 100 unresolved disarmament issues”.

    Why did Bush conclude UNMOVIC had finished its job with Hans Blix’s March 2003 report when Blix was requesting an indefinite number of additional “months” in Iraq for UNMOVIC?

    Because Bush understood UNMOVIC to be the “final opportunity” (UNSCR 1441) for Saddam’s regime to pass its compliance test. The UNMOVIC reports throughout the inspection period demonstrated that Iraq remained noncompliant. Furthermore, Iraq had failed to fully, immediately, unconditionally, and actively cooperate with the UNMOVIC inspections, which undermined the reliability of UNMOVIC’s findings as a complete account of Iraq’s proscribed activity. That was the trigger for OIF.

    However, at the conclusion of the inspection period, Blix pressed for an indefinite period of additional months to “draw up, for approval by the Council, a work programme for the discharge of their mandates, which will include both the implementation of the reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification, and the key remaining disarmament tasks to be completed by Iraq pursuant to its obligations to comply with the disarmament requirements of resolution 687 (1991) and other related resolutions, which constitute the governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1284).

    Bush, as the chief enforcer of Iraq’s ceasefire obligations, and Blix, as the chief inspector of Iraq’s weapons proscriptions, were at odds regarding the ultimate purpose of the UNMOVIC inspections: whether they were a “final opportunity” for Saddam to comply (UNSCR 1441) or a step to a “system of ongoing monitoring and verification” (UNSCR 1284). When Saddam’s noncompliance was confirmed by UNMOVIC, Bush understood any “work programme” for disarming Iraq would only be reliable with a regime change. Moreover, Blix’s purview was limited to Iraq’s weapons obligations, while Bush was enforcing all of Iraq’s obligations under the UNSC resolutions.

    Clinton’s criticism of Bush implies that Clinton disagrees with Bush’s view of UNMOVIC and instead supports Blix’s view of UNMOVIC’s ultimate purpose in 2002-2003. However, Bush’s understanding of UNMOVIC followed Clinton’s precedent as chief enforcer with UNSCOM. Clinton decided to bomb Iraq in Operation Desert Fox in December 1998 based on a 3-week compliance test by UNSCOM. Clinton understood UNSCOM’s function to be a compliance test that triggered enforcement for Saddam’s regime in the same way that Bush understood UNMOVIC’s function.

    From Clinton’s announcement of Operation Desert Fox, 16DEC98:

    Now over the past three weeks, the UN weapons inspectors have carried out their plan for testing Iraq’s cooperation. The testing period ended this weekend, and last night, UNSCOM’s chairman, Richard Butler, reported the results to UN Secretary-General Annan. . . . If we had delayed for even a matter of days from Chairman Butler’s report, we would have given Saddam more time to disperse his forces and protect his weapons.

    In 1998, not only did Clinton deem 3 weeks were sufficient for UNSCOM to prove Iraq’s conclusive noncompliance, Clinton declared it was urgently necessary to bomb Iraq as soon as possible upon receiving Butler’s report in order to disallow Saddam time to “disperse his forces and protect his weapons”. Clinton contradicts his own precedent with Operation Desert Fox by criticizing Bush for not granting the indefinite period of additional “months” requested by Blix after allowing nearly 4 months for UNMOVIC to complete the inspections. Yet Bush used the same standard for enforcement with Iraq that Clinton used when Clinton had determined as President that “Iraq has abused its final chance” and rapid military action was necessary as soon as Iraq was demonstrated to be noncompliant with UNSCOM.

    Moreover, as a former chief enforcer of Iraq’s ceasefire obligations, Clinton understood why Bush had set a time limit for Saddam to prove Iraq was in compliance and, as a former Commander Chief, knew or should have known the temporal and other practical limits of the invasion force that was providing the credible threat of regime change necessary to compel even the deficient cooperation from Saddam with UNMOVIC.

    At the same time, the Blix alternative was flawed on its face for two reasons: Hans Blix’s assumption of an indefinitely sustained credible military threat and the unreliability of Blix’s ad hoc replacement standard of compliance against Saddam’s “denial and deception operations” (Duelfer Report).

    Blix agrees that the credible military threat presented by the build-up of the invasion force was necessary to compel Iraqi cooperation. Blix also agrees that once the force build-up surpassed a certain mass that it could no longer be sustained as an indefinite presence. In other words, Blix understood that once it surpassed a certain size, the credible military threat required for the inspections would either need to be used on schedule or lost altogether. To paper over this fatal flaw in his proposed alternative, Blix observed that Iraq had started to cooperate at the 50,000 point, so he claimed that freezing the size at 50,000 indefinitely would ensure an indefinite Iraqi cooperation. However, 50,000 was by itself an insufficient size to pose a credible military threat to Iraq. The Blix alternative relies on the unreasonable conclusion that Iraq was compelled to begin cooperation with UNMOVIC by the unthreatening size of 50,000 rather than the passing of the 50,000 point on the developing trajectory of the invasion force build-up. Blix, perhaps deliberately, conflated the context and signal communicated by 50,000 with the number itself.

    The strict standard of compliance imposed on Iraq was a consequence of Saddam’s history, especially the record of deception, denial, and defiance towards Iraq’s ceasefire obligations between the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Yet while relying on the unreasonable premise of an indefinitely sustained credible threat of regime change to underlie a “reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification” – made more unreasonable when one considers the failure of the OIF invasion force itself to compel the requisite Iraqi cooperation with the baseline UNMOVIC inspections – Blix also proposed altering the hitherto strict standard of compliance for Iraq over an indefinitely extended trial period.

    President Bush rightly recognized that the Blix alternative was impractical in its military requirements, failed to account for UNMOVIC’s lack of sufficient coverage due to Saddam’s “denial and deception operations”, and substituted an unreliable standard of compliance that fell short of ending Saddam’s – as President Clinton had determined – “clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere.”

    Blix has implied that with more time, he would have found Saddam in compliance, but doing so would have required a lax standard of compliance. With Saddam in charge, we had to be sure. The Iraq Study Group’s findings strongly suggest Blix’s proposed alternative would have failed to disarm Saddam to the standard enforced by Clinton and Bush.

  2. Let’s ship the entire Bush-it, Cheney Administration to Iraq…. in brightly painted HumV’s

  3. Paul C. Schulte,

    Gaming out a counter-factual for something as big as WW2 does crash into a lot of what-ifs. However, staying in our own backyard depends on how big you think our backyard was preceding WW2. It’s worth looking at the ways we were involved in Europe and Asia before 07DEC41. Generally, big things like OIF and bigger things like WW2 don’t just happen spontaneously.


    Fareed Zakaria’s opinion is odd. One, he conflates Iraqi Sunnis as a whole with Saddam’s (Baath) regime. Two, was Zakaria a proponent of South Africa’s apartheid government, too? The National Party government in South Africa was downright benevolent compared to Saddam’s regime, which brings me to three, is he aware of UNSC Res 688 that demanded Saddam end repression of the Iraqi people? Four, he blithely dismisses Obama’s culpability in bungling the SOFA negotiation by citing a “senior Iraqi politician” and a generalized speculation to counter a significant body of investigative journalism and insider accounts that a SOFA was reasonably attainable. It’s not as though nuanced SOFA negotiations with nations where US troop presence is necessary but unpopular are new to the US. We’ve been doing them for decades.

    Again, the proximate cause of the ISIS invasion is post-Bush events, especially the degeneration of the Arab Spring, especially in Syria, combined with the vulnerability of Obama-abandoned Iraq that are related to course changes made by Obama that fundamentally deviated from Bush’s foreign policy. Like Ike following Truman, Obama should have stayed the course from Bush.

    The issue comes down to that, at this early developmental stage of post-Saddam Iraq, the US role in Iraq was essential, most importantly as the security guarantee in the increasingly volatile region surrounding Iraq. That’s not a new role for the US. It’s the main reason for our long-term military presence in Europe and Asia. But we were also an essential 3rd party intermediary and advocate within Iraq. In multiple ways, the US presence in Iraq was a critical linchpin, and Obama removed it.

  4. Nick Spinelli

    Hilarious. Pee your pants funny, watching people flee for their lives.
    What sociopath or psychopath is being quoted here?

    Someone who tortured animals as a child?

  5. bigfatmike,

    The accusation that the US aspired to be a “single most powerful imperial nation on earth” (though we’re more accurately described as a hegemon than an empire) pre-dated the Bush administration. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine coined the term “hyperpower” for the US in 98-99 to deride Clinton’s foreign policy and advance France’s global ambition.

    See http://www.nytimes.com/1999/02/05/news/05iht-france.t_0.html .

    Nothing has been said about Bush and “neocons” that wasn’t first said about Clinton. Be mindful of critics of American exceptionalism aspiring to replace us with their own loci of exceptionalism.

  6. swarthmoremom,

    We did invade Iraq in 1991. What you mean is that we didn’t go to Baghdad and force regime change. That didn’t happen because the Gulf War was suspended with a ceasefire (UNSC Res 687) that was conditioned on Iraq satisfying its obligations under the UNSC resolutions: http://www.fas.org/news/un/iraq/sres/index.html .

    The hope and expectation in 1991 was that Saddam would promptly comply so we could end the Gulf War with a rehabilitated Iraq at peace. Until that happened, PL 102-1 remained live.

    Unfortunately, Saddam’s refusal to comply meant the Gulf War couldn’t end. By 1998, with the lower coercive measures exhausted, it was evident to Clinton that compliance would require regime change.

    Indeed, according to Hans Blix and confirmed by the Duelfer Report, the only thing that could compel Saddam to cooperate at all with UNMOVIC – let alone the required immediate, unconditional, unrestricted, active cooperation – was the credible threat of regime change.

    For Clinton and Bush, their regime change policy was a means to the end of achieving Iraq’s compliance. Therefore, they did not require that Saddam must be forced from power. Due to the breadth of the UNSC resolutions, which were not limited to weapons, full compliance by Saddam would have proved his regime was rehabilitated. A compliant Saddam in power was effectively equivalent to regime change.

    To wit, President Bush, Oct 2002:

    By taking these steps, and by only taking these steps, the Iraqi regime has an opportunity to avoid conflict. Taking these steps would also change the nature of the Iraqi regime itself. America hopes the regime will make that choice. … I hope this will not require military action, but it may. … this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable.

    Any less than full compliance, however, failed the bar. The enforcement of the ceasefire was strict to begin with, and Saddam had completely eliminated any benefit of the doubt at the point of Operation Desert Fox. Saddam was already classified by Clinton as a “clear and present danger” before 9/11. After 9/11, we had to be absolutely sure about Saddam given his recidivism, belligerence, terrorist ties and threats (included in the UNSC resolutions), and the uncovered international WMD black market. Bush gave Saddam another chance to assure the world Iraq was compliant, and therefore rehabilitated and no longer dangerous. Saddam failed to seize the chance for the last time. Then, after over 12 years, the Gulf War finally ended.

  7. bigfatmike: “So…we have looked at the causes of the war and found that Clinton made Bush do it? Bush was powerless under the Svengali-like persuasion of Clinton?”

    No. Saddam’s noncompliance made Clinton and Bush do it.

  8. ‘WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Congressional leaders left the White House on Wednesday “deeply frustrated” that President Obama had not found a swift resolution to the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that began in the seventh century A.D.

    After meeting for more than an hour with the President in the Oval Office, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed disappointment that Mr. Obama “came up empty” when asked for a plan to heal the rift between the two religious groups, which began in the year 632.

    “All we ask of this President is that he do one thing: settle a religious conflict that has been going on for a millennium and a half,” McConnell said. “What did he offer today? Nothing.”

    Speaker of the House John Boehner acknowledged that there was a possibility that Obama might find a way to resolve the centuries-old Sunni-Shiite conflict, but the Ohio Republican was not optimistic.

    “This struggle between Sunnis and Shiites has been going on for almost fifteen hundred years,” he said. “That means President Obama has had ample time to fix it.”

    1. SWM – Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, what has he done to prove he deserved it?

  9. Eric, Saddam Hussein should have been left in office. Bush Sr did not invade Iraq and his son should not have either.

  10. swarthmoremom,

    I notice you cite to opinions of questionable critical quality. Admittedly, I have a take on the issue, and I’m writing opinion, too. I can only hope my analysis holds up when judged on the merits.

    That said, if you would like to look through the opinion and develop a grasp of the 1991-2003 Iraq enforcement that’s anchored in the law and policy, I recommend the primary sources tabulated at the 2 links in my comment at June 16, 2014 at 1:13 pm.

    The essentials are the first 4 groupings in Perspective on Iraqi Freedom: Clinton, Bush, Congress, and the UN.

  11. I drove up to the Twin Cities today. I listened to MSNBC. With the poll numbers and news the last few weeks I think they are on suicide watch over there. Andrea Mitchell was morose. The wheels are not only off the bus, the bus is careening toward a cliff.

  12. http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-signals-1403137521“The U.S. administration is indicating it wants Iraq’s political parties to form a new government without Mr. Maliki as he tries to assemble a ruling coalition following elections this past April, U.S. officials say.

    Such a new government, U.S., officials say, would include the country’s Sunni and Kurdish communities and could help to stem Sunni support for the al Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, that has seized control of Iraqi cities over the past two weeks. That, the officials argue, would help to unify the country and reverse its slide into sectarian division.”

  13. swarthmoremom,

    Rosenberg’s argument fails for the 2 reasons I’ve stated: One, Rosenberg relies on attenuated causation to blame Bush for current events in Iraq, and two, he relies on the false premise that OIF was based on ‘fraud’.

    First, by Rosenberg’s logic, if President Eisenhower – who warned of the ‘military-industrial complex’ and campaigned against the Korean War – had prematurely terminated our post-war custodies (a/k/a ‘end the war’) in Europe and Asia, especially controversial Korea, and the expected happened to them within the threat environment of the time, then the consequences would have been properly blamed on President Roosevelt for displacing the functional, if oftentimes tyrannical administration by the Nazis and Imperial Japanese.

    It’s not a far-fetched counter-factual. In the early 1950s, it was not a settled issue that the US would stay the course. Following WW2, Truman and then Ike chose to stay the course of responsible American leadership of the free world despite significant dissent. Following Bush, Obama made a very different choice than Ike.

    If in FDR, Truman, and Ike’s day, the binary choice of fascists v communists required long-term US intervention to empower a relatively liberal 3rd choice, then long-term US intervention is required again to empower a relatively liberal 3rd choice in the binary autocrats v Islamists. (See http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2012/09/our-middle-east-choices-autocrats.html .)

    Practically speaking, the 1st stage of an unremarkable post-war nation-building project – let alone the distinct challenges with Iraq – takes just about 10 years. We were only in Iraq for 8 years. 8 years wasn’t enough time to secure the peace in the comparatively straightforward conditions of our post-WW2 occupations, let alone Iraq.

    Heck, 8 years after taking custody of Korea from Imperial Japan, we were fighting the Red Chinese there. The difficulty of the Iraq mission hardly compares to the challenge of the Korea mission, and the errors we made in Korea dwarf the errors we made in Iraq. Yet South Korea is what it is today because the US stayed the course with Korea. Iraq is what it is today because we failed to stay the course with Iraq.

    Second, there’s no ‘fraud’ in Operation Iraqi Freedom because the cause of action for the 1991-2003 Iraq enforcement – as stated in the statutory authorities and reiterated as policy by Clinton in ODF and Bush in OIF – was whether Saddam complied with Iraq’s ceasefire obligations. For ODF and OIF, there’s no dispute that Saddam was in broad violation of Iraq’s weapons and non-weapons obligations under the UNSC resolutions.

  14. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-scheer/up-close-and-personal-wit_b_5506092.html “The Iraq disaster remains George W. Bush’s enduring folly, and the Republican attempt to shift the blame to the Obama presidency is obscene nonsense. This was, and will always be, viewed properly as Bush’s quagmire, a murderous killing field based on blatant lies.

    This showcase of American deceit, obvious to the entire world, began with the invented weapons of mass destruction threat that Bush, were he even semi-cognizant of the intelligence data, must have known represented an egregious fraud. So was his nonsensical claim that Saddam Hussein had something to do with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, when in fact he was Osama bin Laden’s most effective Arab opponent.

    Yet Bush responded to the 9/11 attacks by overthrowing a leader who had banished al-Qaida from Iraq and who had been an ally of the United States in the war to contain Iran’s influence in the region. Instead of confronting the funders of Sunni extremism based in Saudi Arabia, the home of 15 of the 19 hijackers and their Saudi leader bin Laden, Bush chose to attack the secular leader of Iraq. That invasion, as the evidence of the last week confirms, resulted in an enormous boon to both Sunni extremists and their militant Shiite opponents throughout the Mideast.”

  15. Annie: “It’s high time Muslim’s change their own culture and work together for peace, if they can’t do that without our help, then too damn bad for them. They should be left to their own devices and we should mind our own business here at home.”

    Substitute ‘Europeans’ and ‘Asians’ for ‘Muslims’ in your statement and apply it the changing role, leadership responsibilities, and influence of the US in the world from the 1930s-1940s onward.

    Many Americans then thought the same as you and opposed US entry into WW2, then Korea in the post-war of WW2. (The Korea mission is an apt historical analogy for the Iraq mission.) See the pacifist American Friends Service Committee and the isolationist America First Committee during World War 2.

    Were they wrong? If so, are you wrong?

    1. Eric – FDR forced us into war with both Japan and Germany. Had he stayed in his own backyard, there is no telling how things would have ended.

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