Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I think that this is an interesting and thoughtful article on the Iraq War, written by Mark Danner. Well, actually it's an examination of the political/strategic debacle.

I enjoyed this description of the Secretary of State:

Powell -- whose fate in the Bush administration seems to have been to play the role of Cassandra, uttering grim prophecies destined to be ignored as reliably as they were to be proved true
.


I also had never read this summarizing memorandum from the President at the outset; Danner's comments about the memo are poetic:

"Iraq: Goals, Objectives and Strategy," the top-secret statement of American purpose intended to guide all the departments and agencies of the government, signed by President George W. Bush on August 29, 2002:


"US goal: Free Iraq in order to eliminate Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and associated programs, to prevent Iraq from breaking out of containment and becoming a more dangerous threat to the region and beyond.

"End Iraqi threats to its neighbors, to stop the Iraqi government's tyrannizing of its own population, to cut Iraqi links to and sponsorship of international terrorism, to maintain Iraq's unity and territorial integrity. And liberate the Iraqi people from tyranny, and assist them in creating a society based on moderation, pluralism and democracy....

"Objectives: To conduct policy in a fashion that minimizes the chance of a WMD attack against the United States, US field forces, our allies and friends. To minimize the danger of regional instabilities. To deter Iran and Syria from helping Iraq. And to minimize disruption in international oil markets."


This secret document, disclosed by Bob Woodward, is presumably the plainest, least ideological statement of what American officials thought the country they led would be trying to achieve in the coming war. The words have now a sad and antique air, as if scrawled on yellowed parchment and decipherable only by a historian skilled in the customs and peculiarities of a far-off time and place. What can we say now, as we look at the Iraq of November 2006, about these official goals and objectives of the Iraq war?






I don't want to judge before all the facts are in, but I think we may have exceeded our authority . . .

10 Comments:

Anonymous Juvenile Buffoon said...

I wrote here recently that I couldn't be sure whether the administration's mischaracterization of the WMD intelligence leading up to the invasion was intentional or erroneous.

I am leaning towards believing they intentionally deceived us. You quoted:

"Objectives: To conduct policy in a fashion that minimizes the chance of a WMD attack against the United States, US field forces, our allies and friends.

If they really believed Iraq had WMD, why did they predict a cakewalk and go in with such a small and light force? And why were ammo dumps - the very kinds of places one would expect might house unconventional weaponry - so lightly and carelessly secured?

The admin is often criticized for going in with too small a force to secure the country, but I wonder why the point isn't more often made that it also tends to reveal a lack of true concern for WMD, the chief rationale for invasion.

I have other reasons for believing they lied to us: the infamous Downing Street Memo quote ("the intelligence is being fixed around the policy"), complaints from within the intelligence community that their reports were being misconstrued in favor of WMD, and Richard Clarke's account that in the hours after the World Trade Center attack Dick Cheney was pushing for a strike against Iraq, because it provided "better targets" than Al Qaeda.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:34:00 am  
Blogger Blog Pimp said...

The objective described doesn't cause me to lean one way or t'other on the degree of prevarication v. fanciful thought.


I'll respond to each if I assume that they weren't intentionally lying, and see if the responses hold up:

the prediction of cakewalk -- having bought the supposition that the oppressed peoples of Iraq, living under the brutal boot of the madman, would rise up to greet us as liberators, and knowing the Republican Army had not conventionally rebuilt following '91 War, cakewalk seemed inevitable; why, we were there to free these poor people from a madman!

careless security? These folks seemed to genuinely believe that the war and fighting just ended when they got to Baghdad; by all accounts, those who planned for security and occupation, and imposition of order following troop advances, were not just ignored, but were deemed unbelievers, traitorous types who didn't understand what we were trying to accomplish.

I do disagree with you strongly about light troop forces; indeed, the WMD threat was routinely raised as a rationale for a light, quick, mobile troop force. The absence of the logistical and support mechanisms necessary for a light, mobile strike force was argued as benefit in minimisizng damage from WMD; the mobile troops were argued to be more fully prepared to move with their incredibly hot, cumbersome anti-gas gear, etc.

Again, if I argue for no lying, I just point to Rumsfeld's inetnse desire, pre-9/11, to "modernize" the armed forces into a lighter, quicker, scrappier force. Of course, as I said at the time, that ran contrary to the powell Doctrine. So I knew that they wouldn't test it in invading Iraq; why hell, they couldn't be so stupid as to ignore the lessons learned from 1952 to 1992 . . .

again, if i argue for not lying, i don't find the Downing Street memo to argue for active lying; I find it to support the opposite premise: self-deceived, arrogant true believers who were so enthralled with the drum track that they couldn't hear the out-of-tune guitars, and kept turning the guitar down in the mix because it was obscuring the drum track.

I guess I would respond the same way to the Clarke account; I don't see it as making the case any stronger for lying than for just being fucked-up. If one assumes they were lying, all these pieces fit. if one assumes they weren't lying, all these pieces still fit.

in my humble estimation

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 5:01:00 pm  
Blogger Blog Pimp said...

it should say something like "the absence of the ogistical/support mechanisms for an old-fashioned, larger conventionals force"


i was in a hurry because I was seeking nookie, or some such fun

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 5:03:00 pm  
Anonymous Mister Parker said...

Goals are nice. Everybody should have goals. The question is do you have the means to achieve your goals. I'd like to write The Great Gatsby of my generation, but absent the talent, no amount of hard work and good intentions is going to make that happen.

Likewise our lofty goals in Iraq ...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 5:54:00 pm  
Blogger Charles Atlas said...

And "talent," without a plan and hard work and will, won't get you there either.

If "talent" was the capacity to blow up or kill vast numbers of bad guys, money and resources to build and educate and enhance the infrastructure and lives of Iraq, then we had the talent. But we had no plan or will to do so.

And no one was ever asked to -- we wouldn't have to do any of that. We just had to show up, kill Saddam and his sons, disband the Army, accept our flowers as liberators, and oil and grateful Iraqis would do the rest.

What country wouldn't sign up for that?


I LOVE our goals and objectives. Of course, even WithOUT all the fuckups, those goals and objectives cost us the moral high ground that we have almost always wielded -- "preemptive" authority will do that to 'ya.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 10:19:00 pm  
Anonymous Juvenile Buffoon said...

cakewalk seemed inevitable

Yes, I agree with you: a quick easy win DID seem inevitable for the administration, who knew very well that our troops would waltz into Baghdad unmolested by nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponry. It did not seem inevitable to me, because unlike the admin I didn't have access to the available intelligence, and I was still unsure weather Saddam still had WMD. And I'm not sure how the oppressed Iraqi citizenry rising up were supposed to have helped, since surely the admin expected Saddam to gas them as well as our forces. Except, they didn't expect that. Because, they knew he didn't have WMD.

These folks seemed to genuinely believe that the war and fighting just ended when they got to Baghdad

Yes, I KNOW the admin didn't make any plans for securing Iraq after the invasion: I am offering an explanation for why that is (i.e. they knew there weren't any WMD to secure, so plans for securing such weapons post invasion were unnecessary). If, as you argue, the admin had convinced itself of the existence of WMD via "fanciful thought", it is inexplicable why they invaded with no plan for what to do with those materials once seized.

Your argument simply restates the obvious record of what happened but does nothing to square the record with the premise that the admin genuinely believed Saddam to have WMD.

For me, and I think for most Americans, the admin's most compelling argument for invasion was not that Saddam was poised to use WMD on us, but that he might let them slip into the hands of Al Qaeda or other powers bent on doing us harm. Not even this bunch is that incompetent. They must have known.

As for your interpretation of Downing Street, I would just suggest you check the entire document if you haven't already at a site such as

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downing_street_memo

Read in its full context, I think it strongly suggests that the admin was knowingly committing a fraud with respect to WMD intelligence.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 9:52:00 am  
Anonymous deeter, who's not sweeter said...

Yes, I KNOW the admin didn't make any plans for securing Iraq after the invasion: I am offering an explanation for why that is (i.e. they knew there weren't any WMD to secure, so plans for securing such weapons post invasion were unnecessary). If, as you argue, the admin had convinced itself of the existence of WMD via "fanciful thought", it is inexplicable why they invaded with no plan for what to do with those materials once seized.



Your argument simply restates the obvious record of what happened but does nothing to square the record with the premise that the admin genuinely believed Saddam to have WMD.
I'm not actually making an argument; I restate the obvious record and then state that it doesn't contradict stupidity rather than mendacity. Moreoever, I'd be more compelled by your argument if the obvious record of what happened demonstrated meticulous planning and thoughful foresight, with a noticeable and suspicious lack of attention to WMD. I've just tried to say that the absence of any meaningful planning to do anything is consistent either with a big lie, or a big group fuck-up, with self-deception and willful myopia.


knowingly committing a fraud with respect to WMD intelligence

here's where language let's me down, or at least my grasp of it. because, while I postulate "group fuck-up," and I distinguish that from "they intentionally deceived us" [as I thought you meant it], I've never disputed that mouthpieces, including Cheney and Rice, knowingly pressed false arguments on America, again and again.

I also don't dispute hte big lie; I just don't see the support for it, not drawing the same conclusions from the premises you offer.

In the long run, I find it academic, as I'm actually more troubled and scared of the notion that there could be a government as inept as this one might have been than the notion that they could have been as scheming and manipulative as they may have been. . .

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 11:15:00 am  
Anonymous Juvenile Buffoon said...

I think our work here is just about done...

I'd be more compelled by your argument if the obvious record of what happened demonstrated meticulous planning and thoughful foresight, with a noticeable and suspicious lack of attention to WMD

But I think you would agree that the invasion was meticulously planned...I don't really buy the argument that plans for securing alleged WMD necessarily falls into the same neat category of "post-invasion provisions" that includes training police and rebuilding schools. If we really believed he had WMD, it follows that he would use them to defend the invasion...the fact that the thorough and successful invasion plans themselves lacked much planning for what to do about WMD is the dead giveaway.

I've never disputed that mouthpieces, including Cheney and Rice, knowingly pressed false arguments on America, again and again.

Isn't that precisely what I've been arguing here all along? That top-level admin officials knowingly lied in making their case? I would add Colin Powell to your list, who on the eve of his notorious "vial-wagging" WMD address to the U.N., reportedly threw a sheaf of intelligence assessments across the room, calling them a bunch of bullshit...but then, presumably drew upon them the next day when he promised the world that Saddam had WMD.

I'm actually more troubled and scared of the notion that there could be a government as inept as this one might have been than the notion that they could have been as scheming and manipulative as they may have been

I don't think it's academic, and I totally disagree with you. I am much more troubled by the latter.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 12:17:00 pm  
Anonymous dooter said...

~~~I've never disputed that mouthpieces, including Cheney and Rice, knowingly pressed false arguments on America, again and again.



Isn't that precisely what I've been arguing here all along? That top-level admin officials knowingly lied in making their case?~~~

I don't think that we're having a semantic argument; I am trying to distinguish "pressing a false argument" ["we don't want to see a mushroom cloud"; "he's going nuclear -- look at the yellowcake evidence, people!"], from lying.

Also on the scale are "lawyering the thing' and "pulling a Clinton" [my phrase for uttering a technically accurate or defensible or incomplete thought wilfully designed to get someone to reach a false conclusion] and stressing extremes in the hope that they'll have a prejudicial effect. Also known as "Madison-Avenue-ing-the-thing."

Because political discourse is now routinely, and almost exclusively, the last of those -- the Mad-Aveing I describe, it's probably why I come out differently from you on the "inept v. deceptive" issue

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 1:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Phil Macaque said...

I think the problem with Iraq is that the media only reports the negative stuff!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 1:31:00 pm  

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