Category Archives: Iraq

Iraq: An Alternate History

A conservative estimate of the cost in dollars alone to the US of the Iraq war (ie not counting lives, pain, political or strategic or opportunity costs) is $800 billion to date. That’s the amount appropriated by Congress. It doesn’t count the so-called ‘black budget’ and it doesn’t attempt to count the foreseeable future costs– taking care of our wounded, for example.

The population of Iraq is about 32,000,000. So that means the war cost us about $25,000 per Iraqi.

I think my suggestion back in 2003 that instead of staying in Iraq we just give every Iraqi $3000 per year for the next year or two is looking awfully good in retrospect.

Note that Iraq GDP per capita in 2010 was $3,800 under a purchasing-power-parity measure, but valued at the official exchange rate was only $2,567. So basically for what we spent on Iraq since 2003, we could have given every Iraqi the equivalent of their share of GDP every year until now, and it would have cost about the same as what we spent. And there wouldn’t be the killed and wounded.

Perhaps buying countries is actually cheaper then invading them. Note, however, that the money would have to actually go to the people, not to the government or the military or the exercise would be fairly pointless (see, e.g., Egypt, Pakistan).

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I’m Afraid the Answer is ‘Yes’

Gilbert Cranberg has a question:

The Bush administration called the war Operation Iraqi Freedom. A more apt designation would be Operation Enduring Mystery. It’s a mystery not only why the U.S. fought the war but why Congress and the American people have been so incurious about it.

The toll in Iraq included 4,500 U.S. military fatalities, 30,000 American troops wounded (many grievously) and more than 100,000 civilian casualties. Those losses alone should have produced a resounding call: WHY?

The explanation offered at the time, Saddam’s alleged stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, never materialized, but no one has ever been held accountable for the fiction. Nor has there been an apology for misleading the country into war. Throughout it all the U.S. press stood idly by.

Have we become so accustomed to being bamboozled that we can no longer summon righteous indignation even when human lives are lost in a misbegotten military adventure?

Like I said, I think I know the answer to that one.

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We Are At War (Phillip Glass & Steve Colbert)

My elder is studying absurdism in school right now (yes, really). We had a discussion about how it differed from existentialism, but I failed to persuade him. (Does one ever persuade a teenager of anything?) If only I had had this clip to demonstrate the difference: Phillip Glass (w/ Steve Colbert), 'We Are At War'.


The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
We Are at War – Philip Glass
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Economy

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Iraq War & Torture: The Time for Civility Is Long Past

[I don't believe I have ever posted about a book I have not read, but I'm going to make an exception today—but keep in mind I'm working off secondary sources, which inevitably carries the risk that I may be misinformed.]

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan has reportedly penned a confessional memoir admitting, inter alia, that “Bush relied on 'propaganda' to sell the war”; “the White House press corps was too easy on the administration during the run-up to the war”; and suggesting that Rove and Libby conspired to obstruct justice.

I think the horrors of the US torture policy and the US Iraq policy have been so clear for so long that the time for civility is long past.

So, assuming the published book summaries are correct, in the main, I agree with Daily Kos: Cheers and Jeers: Wednesday where it is written:

MASSIVE JEERS to Scott McClellan. The latest former Bush lapdog—-he was press secretary from '03 to '06—-to come out of the woodwork has several juicy nuggets in his hot-off-the-presses tell-all book. Bottom line: he confirms everything that we dirty hippie bloggers were screaming about at the top of our lungs, but which the traditional media ignored because…well, because Scott McClellan stood at his little White House podium and denied it all, lying out of his fat little elitist face as the stenographers printed his crap without scrutiny.

Once again, we come face to face with a White House official who could've done the right thing…but instead decided that the lives of American troops, Iraqi civilians, Katrina victims, and a network of covert CIA operatives were worth less than the luster of his master's lapel pin. When our country needed him to tell it straight, he hid behind propaganda and spin and bogus talking points and outright bamboozlement.

He told us to our faces we could trust him, when all along he knew that he was committing deception on a massive scale with horrific consequences. The lies he left in his wake, placed end to end, could reach the moon and back. He helped put the welfare of a handful of maniacal warmongers ahead of the welfare of the country. The time to reveal the way the Bushies were “restoring honor and integrity to the White House” was back then—-years ago—-when such revelations might've done some good. Instead, he waited until 2008 for his conscience dump.

I could certainly have done without the personal appearance slur, but most of the rest of it seems a reasonable response to, as the Kos writer puts it, “341 pages of, Hey, I was just following orders.” (Although from the sound of it, the memoir is actually more along the equally ignoble lines of, “the noble good-hearted Tsar was badly served by his evil counselors.”)

But I do not agree with this absurd call to action. There are much better ways to protest.

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Big Day In Congress on Iraq Votes

Matt Stoler argues that something really big happened in Congress today.

Open Left:: House Republicans Collapse on Iraq: Today, about 100 House Republicans refused to vote for more war funding, voting 'present'. They are trying to hand off the war to the Democrats, but even Democrats were able to increase their 'no' vote number on funding from 141 to 149.

This war is going to end because it is politically unsustainable. The Senate is going to add the funding back in and the House will make sure the money goes to the war, but recognize how big a deal this is. The Republicans in the House and the Senate are going to utterly collapse this fall, and Democrats will have a mandate to end the war. It's something Obama has promised to do, and now the political logic there is undeniable. The question is whether there will be residual troops in the country, and that is where we can have an impact.

He may be right. The “present” votes are odd and cowardly, and should make some good hay.

But this final bit of triumphalism is over the top: “The Republicans are going to face, as Tom Matzzie said, extinction, because they kept the war going.” No such luck. They may take a pasting, but as we've seen from the Democrats' return from the wilderness, it doesn't last.

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McCain Thinks First Gulf War Was a Mistake (But Still Supports This One)

John McCain famously supports the war in Iraq. Today he said that the war in Iraq was about oil. Even CNN recognized this for the huge gaffe that it is — you just can't say that in the US, especially if it might be true. So they called his campaign and offered McCain a chance to explain/retract. And explain it he did: making it much worse.

See the clip for yourself.

McCain's explanation? Despite the context which pretty clearly refers to the current Iraq War, McCain now says he meant the First Gulf War—when the US came to the rescue of Kuwait after Iraq invaded it.

In other words, McCain's explanation is that what he was saying is that in a world where the US had energy independence he'd use that freedom to abandon allies like Kuwait if they were invaded, but would support a policy of attacking and occupying countries like Iraq when they don't invade their neighbors.

I. Am. Not. Making. This. Up.

In any rational media ecology this would be a million times worse than something your ex-pastor said. Can I at least hope for a little box on page one promoting the article on A24?

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Why Should Petraeus’s Confirmation Be a Cakewalk?

The SCLM is busy assuring me this morning that Gen. Petraeus's confirmation as the head of CenCom is a done deal.

Asked about Petraeus's prospects for Senate confirmation, Gates said he already had conferred with Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, as well as Senator John McCain of Arizona, a presidential candidate and ranking Republican on the panel, and Senator John Warner of Virginia, a top Republican voice on military issues.

`High Respect'

“I think they all have high respect for General Petraeus,'' Gates said. “He has clearly been successful in his current assignment, and so I don't really anticipate any problems.''

Levin limited his public comments to a statement saying he was “hoping to schedule a prompt confirmation hearing.''

McCain, a strong supporter of the U.S. military buildup in Iraq that Petraeus advocated and then commanded, called him “one of the great generals in American history'' who had achieved “dramatic success'' in Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was less welcoming. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said he will be “looking for credible assurances of a strong commitment to implementing a more effective national security strategy'' when the nomination comes before the Senate. Reid said the battles against the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda in Pakistan and the overall readiness of U.S. ground forces “have suffered as a result of the current costly Iraq strategy,'' requiring “fresh, independent and creative thinking.

Perhaps because the relevant committee is the generally pliant Armed Services Committee, the easy confirmation story may be correct. But why should Petraeus's confirmation be a cakewalk? There are three ways in which this appointment is unusual, and the combo ought to be enough to give one pause.

First, and perhaps least important, there's the Army policy issue. As I understand it, the practice in the Army is to rotate commanders in from outside the area, rather than promoting up from within. The Army justifies this on two grounds: first, it gives its top commanders the opportunity to develop a wider perspective. Second, it's a quiet way of getting rid of bad policies, as the new broom comes in and lets the bad ideas wither on the vine; promoting from within means that one gets more of the same, good or bad. I rate this 'least important' because I've long had doubts about the Army's rotation (or, if you prefer, revolving door) policy. We did it Vietnam, and it contributed to our failure there by creating a 'ticket-punching' mentality; there's a lot to be said for the WWII approach in which commanders were responsible for the consequences of their actions, and either got removed or got promoted to jobs they were most likely to understand quickly. In principle I don't necessarily object to overriding this norm, although I have doubts about both Petraeus and General Ray Odierno who will replace him as the commander in Iraq. (Seems Ray Odierno has a bit of reputation.)

Second, there is the politics of the thing. Promoting Petraeus to the theater command is like leaving a minefield for the next President, especially if s/he's one who would like to withdraw from Iraq, or even downsize our occupation there. Especially if he's angling for a GOP Presidential nomination in the future, he has every incentive to balk.

Third, and by far the most important reason to hold up the confirmation, there are some unanswered questions about Petraeus's veracity. See for example, this debate a year ago over whether Petraeus lied to a Congressional committee about US policy on arming Sunni tribes, and was at the most charitable very highly misleading to Congress about the level of violence in Iraq. Not to mention the suggestion he may recently have been less than forthcoming about discussions with Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki regarding military action in Basra.

Why should Congress confirm Petraeus to such high office at a critical time in our two ongoing military actions when he has a proven record of failing to testify fully and honestly?

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