Middle East Meltdown — Just Blame Bush!
The Facts v. "Bush Derangement Syndrome"
“I will not believe our labors are lost. I shall not die without a hope that light and liberty are on a steady advance.” –Thomas Jefferson (1821)
Last weekend, in violation of my longstanding debate rule, “Don’t Swap Spit with a Jackass” (or any Democratic Party mascot), I deliberately ventured into a dispute with someone suffering from “Bush Derangement Syndrome,” a recurring condition which psychiatrist-turned-columnist Charles Krauthammer first diagnosed back in 2003: “The acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency – nay – the very existence of George W. Bush.”
I entered this contest in order to explore “liberal logic” (oxymoron, I know) regarding the current meltdown in Iraq, and the result was an insight into how the liberal proletariat is framing that fiasco.
My rebuttals are outlined below, but first, let’s review this meltdown, the latest example of acute foreign policy malfeasance directly attributable to the worldwide leadership vacuum engineered by Barack Hussein Obama, as a catalyst for that debate.
In a few short years, BO has “fundamentally transformed” our nation’s standing as the world’s solitary super power – a beacon of Liberty – into the world’s largest paper tiger. That transformation and its consequences, this week manifesting in the dissolution of Iraq, are so tragically negligent as to be surreal.
While George W. Bush has been respectfully silent on the Islamist surge in Iraq, Dick Cheney offered this concise assessment: “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) noted, “It’s not like we haven’t seen, over the last five or six months, these terrorists moving in, taking control of western Iraq. Now they’re 100 miles from Baghdad, and what’s the president doing? He’s taking a nap.”
Boehner is much too kind. Obama is not napping, he is comatose. But never fear, Obama assured the nation, “My team is working around the clock to identify how we can provide the most effective assistance.”
After major meltdowns in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, etc., Iraq is now in chaos – under attack by Sunni al-Qa'ida terrorists who identify as the Islamic State in al-Sham (ISIS), al-Sham referring to the caliphate in the Levant (AKA: ISIL), the latter being a region that, historically, included Syria, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus and parts of Turkey and Egypt. ISIL is headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was arrested by U.S. troops in 2005 and held at a U.S. facility, Camp Bucca, until 2009 when the Obama administration ordered his release to the Iraqis.
According to Army Col. Kenneth King, commander of Camp Bucca, on his way out of the detention facility, al-Baghdadi said, “I’ll see you guys in New York,” a reference to 9/11 and the next Jihadi attack on the U.S. homeland. Shortly thereafter, al-Baghdadi’s Sunni hosts in Iraq released him.
Two years later, the U.S. State Department listed al-Baghdadi, now the leader of ISIL, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist with a reward of $10 million on his head. Only Ayman al-Zawahiri, the CEO of al-Qa'ida, carries a higher bounty. (Surely the “Taliban Five” Obama traded for Army deserter PFC Bowe Bergdahl three weeks ago won’t revert to their old ways like al-Baghdadi did.)
So, what does the ISIL seek? They are on a crusade to establish a caliphate, Jihadistan, if you will, a borderless nation of Islamists comprising the Levant (Syria, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and southern Turkey) combined with Iraq – roughly corresponding to the borders of ancient Mesopotamia before the British and French carved up the Middle East after World War I. To that end, the ISIL has rapidly retaken large areas of Iraq on its way to Baghdad – which will not fall as swiftly as Fallujah, Baiji, Mosul and Tikrit, but is still at risk.
In December 2011, a triumphant Obama declared Operation Iraqi Freedom a success and withdrew U.S. forces having failed to negotiate a status-of-forces agreement. Celebrating the “end” of the war, Obama shook hands with Iraq’s Sunni-hating Shiite Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, describing him as “the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq,” and then declared, with all the confidence of an erstwhile community organizer, “In the coming years Iraq’s economy will grow even faster than China’s or India’s. We’re building a new partnership between our nations and we are ending a war not with a final battle but with a final march toward home.”
With a final pat on his own back, Obama concluded, “This is an extraordinary achievement.” However, Director of Central Intelligence James Clapper, and Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt Gen Michael Flynn, both warned Obama about the ISIL threat. But as has been the case with this administration since day one, politics trumps policy.
A year later, the retreat from Iraq provided Obama this 2012 re-election mantra: “Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did. I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. And we have.”
Of Obama’s actions in Iraq, commentator Brit Hume observed, “Obama has an interesting view on wars and how they end. Most presidents bring troops home when the war’s over. Obama thinks he can end wars by bringing troops home. In fact Obama seems to think leaving is winning…”
Predictably, what Obama failed to comprehend in 2011 was that Iraq’s “sovereign, stable and self-reliant” state was due in large measure to our remnant military presence there, and according to Professor Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of “The Syrian Rebellion,” Obama and Maliki sealed Iraq’s fate with that handshake. “The failure to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that would have maintained an adequate U.S. military presence in Iraq – has resulted in the current descent into sectarian civil war.”
In 2008, when George W. Bush negotiated the first SOFA with Maliki, it was understood that additional negotiations would ensure a sufficient military presence in Iraq to maintain stability, and, most notably, to provide the U.S. with a forward operating capability on friendly turf in the region.
Notably, in the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain was asked about possibly having a military presence in Iraq in 50 years. In response, he said, “Make it a hundred.” He was pilloried, but he was correct, and that was the Bush administrations long term intention via a SOFA.
We should have maintained a strong forward operating capability in Iraq to ensure our vital national security interests in the region. Our two best base options for long-term operations were Balad (close to Iran, but within range of Syria) and Al Asad (plenty stand off for security), the latter being where Air Force One landed with President Bush in 2007. Had we done so, Iraq would look today much as it did in 2011 when we departed, and Iraqi combat veterans, and the families of those who did not return, would not have to witness the undoing of all their sacrifice. Notably, our presence would significantly undermine Iran’s ambitions to support asymmetric warfare, especially after it becomes a nuclear power – undeterred by the Obama administration.
However, Obama embraced the 2008 SOFA “as is,” and earlier this week, while our strategic gains in Iraq were suffering violent erosion, he took some time off from his Palm Springs golfing junket to declare, “We’re not going to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which, while we’re there, we’re keeping a lid on things, and after enormous sacrifices by us, as soon as we’re not there, suddenly people end up acting in ways that are not conducive to the long-term stability and prosperity of the country.”
Surely Obama understands that “keeping a lid on things” is precisely why the U.S. has maintained armed forces around the world – or maybe not.
And now, Obama wants to partner with Iran, the planet’s leading sponsor of terrorism, to “collaboratively de-escalate the ongoing crisis in Iraq,” according to John Kerry?
Of course, Obama’s sycophantic supporters refuse to accept that his tragic miscalculation in Iraq is responsible for the situation there now, most opting instead to blame George W. Bush. So, what follows is how that blame-shifting to Bush plays out, complete with reality-check rebuttals.
In a group debate about the meltdown in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, a liberal female (let’s call her “Libby”) offered this prototypical explanation.
Libby: “Didn’t this sh-t start with Bush? He is responsible for the mess in Iraq.”
Me: No, the Sunni and Shia slaughters go back about 1400 years, but our operations there launched in March of 2003, are a direct result of an Sunni al-Qa'ida cell of terrorist who moved into U.S. suburbs in 1998, and a few years later on 9-11-2001, attacked our nation. Bill Clinton declined numerous opportunities to capture or kill their leader, Sheik Osama bin Laden, including TWO opportunities when our Spec Ops shooters had him, literally
Libby: “And these terrorists were from Iraq?”
Me: Actually, yes, in the sense that they were from Jihadistan, a borderless nation of Islamic extremists constituted by al-Qa'ida and other Islamist terrorist groups worldwide.
The “Islamic World” of the Q'uran recognizes no political borders. Though the “pre-Medina” suras of the Q'uran do not support acts of terrorism or mass murder, the “post-Mecca” suras of the Q'uran and the Hadith (Mohammed’s teachings) authorizes jihad, or “holy war,” against all “the enemies of God” (Read: “Infidels”) All orthodox Muslims are bound by the combined “pre-Medina” and “post-Mecca” Q'uran.
Libby: “Well what about Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ claim? We should have gotten out of Iraq then.”
Me: After Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti was deposed, Bush43 held a briefing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, but he did not say “Mission Accomplished.” Those words were on a banner strung from the carrier island, in reference to what Bush did say – that “major combat operations” were complete, which, given the insurgent resurgence in the years which followed, would prove to be an overstatement. But the best military plans are obsolete after the first shots are fired.
Libby: “My point is that this could have been avoided had Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld not been so eager to go into Iraq on the basis of lies regarding weapons of mass destruction, and oil and Halliburton contracts. The reason we went into Iraq was to find and destroy WMD. None were found. It wasn’t worth over 4,000 lives and $1 trillion. So, given Bush created this mess, what do you think should be done about it?
Me: Have you fully analyzed and calculated the consequences had we NOT launched Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom? I think not because history does not disclose such alternatives. After 9/11, we had to hold the line in Iraq, If not, then where, when and at what cost?
As for "lies regarding weapons of mass destruction,” George W. Bush noted, “While it is perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began,” a reference to the fact that everyone across the political spectrum concluded Iraq had WMD, until it became politically expedient to cut and run, given the advantage of 20/20 hindsight. For the record, both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry voted to launch OIF.
And when you note, “None were found,” I assume you are referring to nukes only – not Bio or Chem – and that you dispute the NRO and CIA assessment that components of the former and the bulk of the latter went into Syria prior to the invasion?
Libby: “What assessment? What are you talking about?”
Me: Recall if you will that in 2003, Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, then director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, confirmed that while the UN stalled through 17 resolutions U.S. surveillance satellites captured images of endless convoys of trucks from known weapons facilities moving material into Syria.
“Those below the senior leadership saw what was coming, and I think they went to extraordinary lengths to [dispose, destroy and disperse] the evidence,” said Gen. Clapper. “By the time that we got to a lot of these facilities … there wasn’t that much there to look at. There was clearly an effort to disperse, bury and conceal certain equipment prior to inspections,” and there’s “no question” that truck convoys moved WMD materiel into Syria.
This would be the same Gen. Clapper appointed by Obama as Director of National Intelligence, who was asked last month by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), “How would you characterize the probability of an al-Qa'ida-sponsored or inspired attack against the U.S. homeland today, as compared to 2001?” Gen. Clapper replied, “Al-Qa'ida is morphing and franchising itself. This is very, very worrisome. [They] have aspirations for attacks on the [U.S.] homeland.”
Libby: “So how long do you think we should keep troops on the ground in Iraq, and at what human cost?”
Me: I believe, as John McCain asserted in 2008, that we should have maintained a forward operating capability in Iraq for “one-hundred years”! I can explain to you later what is meant by “forward operating capability” in the region, but suffice it to say we should anticipate a long-war strategy against Jihadistan, and keep the battle on their turf in order to avoid another catastrophic attack on our homeland.
We did NOT invade Iraq to dethrone Saddam or endow the Iraqi people with “democracy.” We invaded Iraq to prevent it from becoming the primary broker and platform for asymmetric warfare against the Untied States, and to provide a forward operating capability in the region to ensure our vital national interests. Taking out Saddam and bringing some stability to Iraq and the region was the way to achieve the latter.
In response to your question about the human cost of such operations, let me answer by quoting 19th-century libertarian philosopher John Stuart Mill: “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
Libby: “So what would you do now?”
Me: Iraq is not lost. I would provide what we should have left in place – sufficient special operations capabilities and advisers to “keep a lid on things,” and intelligence and air power capabilities to back them up. It is no small irony that the carrier we’ve deployed to the Persian Gulf is the USS George HW Bush. Had we marched to Baghdad in Desert Storm, and done then what it took us a lot of blood and treasure to accomplish in Iraq after 9/11, the world might be a very different place.
Libby: “This is a very complicated issue with several competing variables and each one of our administrations have made very difficult decisions. Some not so great, some downright idiotic and foolish, and some maybe pretty good. I will always hate war and its cost.”
Me: On the subject of “hating war,” we can agree, but there are opinions and there are facts, and too often liberals are predisposed to let their opinion trump the facts, especially in the case of deeply convicted devotion to political ideologies.
A final note on how liberals frame U.S. involvement in warfare. One reporter asked “Hanoi Jane” Fonda about parallels between Vietnam and Iraq: “What do you think about the 3 million Vietnamese and Cambodians who died after the U.S. left Vietnam?” Fonda replied, “It’s too bad that we caused that to happen by going in there in the first place.”
I’m surprised she didn’t blame Bush!
(Additional Essays on the Resurgence of Jihad Terrorism: “Iran, Iraq and Syria: Jihad Part 2 Coming to a Theater Near You,” “The Obama Model of Foreign Policy Malfeasance,” “Iraq: Blood and Treasure for What?,” and “Obama’s Middle East Makeover”)
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