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Tim Gratz and the Iraq War


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"You John Simkin are now Bush and Blair and its 9/12. You have the luxury of hindsight.

What do YOU do as leaders of both the UK and the USA in the days, weeks and months after the 9/11 attacks?"

David Richardson has adequately answered this question but as I was named in the question I will contribute my own view of the subject.

If I was Tony Blair I would have given all the support I could to help the United States to catch and convict all those involved in the conspiracy. However, I would not have supported his invasion of Iraq as it had nothing to do with 9/11. There were no Muslim Terrorists based in Iraq at the time. Saddam Hussein treated the fundamentalists in the same way that he dealt all those who challenged his rule.

Are you of the opinion that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11? This appears to be the logic of your question.

As John Gray, a history professor at the London School of Economics pointed out in today’s Guardian:

The era of liberal interventionism in international affairs is over. Invading Iraq was always in part an oil grab. A strategic objective of the Bush administration was control of Iraqi oil, which forms a key portion of the Gulf reserves that are the lifeblood of global capitalism. Yet success in this exercise in geopolitics depended on stability after Saddam was gone, and here American thinking was befogged by illusions. Both the neoconservatives who launched the war and the many liberals who endorsed it in the US and Britain took it for granted that Iraq would remain intact.

As could be foreseen by anyone with a smattering of history, things have not turned out that way. The dissolution of Iraq is an unalterable fact, all too clear to those who have to cope on the ground, that is denied only in the White House and the fantasy world of the Green Zone. American-led regime change has created a failed state that no one has the power to rebuild. Yesterday's Oxfam report revealed that nearly one in three Iraqis is in need of emergency aid, and yet the anarchy that prevails prevents any such assistance.

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As John Gray, a history professor at the London School of Economics pointed out in today’s Guardian:

The era of liberal interventionism in international affairs is over. Invading Iraq was always in part an oil grab. A strategic objective of the Bush administration was control of Iraqi oil, which forms a key portion of the Gulf reserves that are the lifeblood of global capitalism. Yet success in this exercise in geopolitics depended on stability after Saddam was gone, and here American thinking was befogged by illusions. Both the neoconservatives who launched the war and the many liberals who endorsed it in the US and Britain took it for granted that Iraq would remain intact.

As could be foreseen by anyone with a smattering of history, things have not turned out that way. The dissolution of Iraq is an unalterable fact, all too clear to those who have to cope on the ground, that is denied only in the White House and the fantasy world of the Green Zone. American-led regime change has created a failed state that no one has the power to rebuild. Yesterday's Oxfam report revealed that nearly one in three Iraqis is in need of emergency aid, and yet the anarchy that prevails prevents any such assistance.

"Liberal interventionists rarely love democracy; they pursue to efface it."

(With apologies to the writers of Les Enfants du Paradis...)

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A War We Just Might Win

By MICHAEL E. O’HANLON and KENNETH M. POLLACK

Published: July 30, 2007 in "The New York Times"

Washington

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

Everywhere, Army and Marine units were focused on securing the Iraqi population, working with Iraqi security units, creating new political and economic arrangements at the local level and providing basic services — electricity, fuel, clean water and sanitation — to the people. Yet in each place, operations had been appropriately tailored to the specific needs of the community. As a result, civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began — though they remain very high, underscoring how much more still needs to be done.

In Ramadi, for example, we talked with an outstanding Marine captain whose company was living in harmony in a complex with a (largely Sunni) Iraqi police company and a (largely Shiite) Iraqi Army unit. He and his men had built an Arab-style living room, where he met with the local Sunni sheiks — all formerly allies of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups — who were now competing to secure his friendship.

In Baghdad’s Ghazaliya neighborhood, which has seen some of the worst sectarian combat, we walked a street slowly coming back to life with stores and shoppers. The Sunni residents were unhappy with the nearby police checkpoint, where Shiite officers reportedly abused them, but they seemed genuinely happy with the American soldiers and a mostly Kurdish Iraqi Army company patrolling the street. The local Sunni militia even had agreed to confine itself to its compound once the Americans and Iraqi units arrived.

We traveled to the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul. This is an ethnically rich area, with large numbers of Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens. American troop levels in both cities now number only in the hundreds because the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate. Reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities, while Iraqi Army troops cover the countryside. A local mayor told us his greatest fear was an overly rapid American departure from Iraq. All across the country, the dependability of Iraqi security forces over the long term remains a major question mark.

But for now, things look much better than before. American advisers told us that many of the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the force have been removed. The American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners (at least for as long as American forces remain in Iraq).

In addition, far more Iraqi units are well integrated in terms of ethnicity and religion. The Iraqi Army’s highly effective Third Infantry Division started out as overwhelmingly Kurdish in 2005. Today, it is 45 percent Shiite, 28 percent Kurdish, and 27 percent Sunni Arab.

In the past, few Iraqi units could do more than provide a few “jundis” (soldiers) to put a thin Iraqi face on largely American operations. Today, in only a few sectors did we find American commanders complaining that their Iraqi formations were useless — something that was the rule, not the exception, on a previous trip to Iraq in late 2005.

The additional American military formations brought in as part of the surge, General Petraeus’s determination to hold areas until they are truly secure before redeploying units, and the increasing competence of the Iraqis has had another critical effect: no more whack-a-mole, with insurgents popping back up after the Americans leave.

In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

These groups have tried to impose Shariah law, brutalized average Iraqis to keep them in line, killed important local leaders and seized young women to marry off to their loyalists. The result has been that in the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help. The most important and best-known example of this is in Anbar Province, which in less than six months has gone from the worst part of Iraq to the best (outside the Kurdish areas). Today the Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies. Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor.

Another surprise was how well the coalition’s new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working. Wherever we found a fully staffed team, we also found local Iraqi leaders and businessmen cooperating with it to revive the local economy and build new political structures. Although much more needs to be done to create jobs, a new emphasis on microloans and small-scale projects was having some success where the previous aid programs often built white elephants.

In some places where we have failed to provide the civilian manpower to fill out the reconstruction teams, the surge has still allowed the military to fashion its own advisory groups from battalion, brigade and division staffs. We talked to dozens of military officers who before the war had known little about governance or business but were now ably immersing themselves in projects to provide the average Iraqi with a decent life.

Outside Baghdad, one of the biggest factors in the progress so far has been the efforts to decentralize power to the provinces and local governments. But more must be done. For example, the Iraqi National Police, which are controlled by the Interior Ministry, remain mostly a disaster. In response, many towns and neighborhoods are standing up local police forces, which generally prove more effective, less corrupt and less sectarian. The coalition has to force the warlords in Baghdad to allow the creation of neutral security forces beyond their control.

In the end, the situation in Iraq remains grave. In particular, we still face huge hurdles on the political front. Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when major steps towards reconciliation — or at least accommodation — are needed. This cannot continue indefinitely. Otherwise, once we begin to downsize, important communities may not feel committed to the status quo, and Iraqi security forces may splinter along ethnic and religious lines.

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

Michael E. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Kenneth M. Pollack is the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings

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Guest Stephen Turner

Just as in Vietnam some will continue to see light at the end of the tunnel, Westmoreland and McNamara were especially adroit at this form of self hypnosis. Right wing pundits, I predict, will continue with the blue sky thinking up to the very moment coalition forces leave the ground to the Iraqi version of Pol Pot. Those who will not learn from History are condemed to repeat it.

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Stephen, my friend, FYI neither O'Hanlon nor Pollack are "right-wing pundits". O'Hanlon is with the Brookings Institution; if you recall, that is the think tank that someone in the Nixon administration wanted to burn down!

And Robert Strange McNamara, who was one of the men most responsible for the morass in Vietnam, was a liberal appointed by--that's right--JFK!

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Stephen, my friend, FYI neither O'Hanlon nor Pollack are "right-wing pundits". O'Hanlon is with the Brookings Institution; if you recall, that is the think tank that someone in the Nixon administration wanted to burn down!

And Robert Strange McNamara, who was one of the men most responsible for the morass in Vietnam, was a liberal appointed by--that's right--JFK!

It is unlikely but it is a possibility that the US "might win" (whatever that means). However, this is essentially a moral question. Should thousands of lives be sacrificed in the possibility that the US "might win". On today's BBC News several US soldiers in Iraq were interviewed about their views on the war. Only one thought that US troops should remain. Yet people like Tim want these young men and women to risk their lives on the slight possibility that the US "might win". I would be more impressed if he was volunteering to do the fighting. However, it is always those older men who are sitting safely in their armchairs who are so keen on the idea of invading other countries and sacrificing the lives of young people.

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Guest Stephen Turner
Stephen, my friend, FYI neither O'Hanlon nor Pollack are "right-wing pundits". O'Hanlon is with the Brookings Institution; if you recall, that is the think tank that someone in the Nixon administration wanted to burn down!

And Robert Strange McNamara, who was one of the men most responsible for the morass in Vietnam, was a liberal appointed by--that's right--JFK!

Tim, I retract the term "right wing pundits" and substitute " mainstream pudits" but it does not change the thrust of my arguement one iota.

By the time of the Democratic convention in 1968, it was obvious, for anyone with eyes to see, that Vietnam was unwinable in any conventional sence, and particularly by the terms America had set, in fact two democratic hopefuls had been running on anti war platforms, and yet still the daily media diet of "This war is winable" went on, and on.

Although conditions on the ground in Iraq differ from those in Vietnam I see the same process in action, a determined effort to paint as rosy a picture as possible, and damn any naysayers as traitors giving comfort to the enemy. With the death toll in Iraq now nearing the million mark it really is time to take off the blinkers and tell it like it is. The millions who marched in London, and across the World in March 2003 were right, to invade a soverign country with little or no mandate, and based on lies and disinformation was bad enough, to do so with no long term reconstructive strategy was unforgivable.

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Stephen wrote:

"By the time of the Democratic convention in 1968, it was obvious, for anyone with eyes to see, that Vietnam was unwinable in any conventional sence [sic], and particularly by the terms America had set. . ."

Stephen your last point is the telling one. America set the terms for its defeat. Obviously, we had the ability to obliterate the enemy but chose not to do so. That choice might have been the right decision, however.

Had we "nuked" Hanoi the way we "nuked" Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the war in 'Nam would have soon been over.

I understand the rationale of President Truman for using nuclear weapons to end protracted fighting in Japan which would have killed thousands of Japanese soldiers as well as thousands of Allies but I must admit I am still ambivalent about the morality of the decision to employ those terrible weapons. Perhaps the demonstration of the horrors of the use of nuclear weapons did help prevent the Cold War from becoming "hot", however.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Re Iraq, it will not be a pretty picture if we pull out before order can be established in that country. Progress is being made, however, and I can see light at the end of the tunnel! Or is that an approaching train?

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Re Iraq, it will not be a pretty picture if we pull out before order can be established in that country. Progress is being made, however, and I can see light at the end of the tunnel! Or is that an approaching train?

It is unlikely but it is a possibility that the US "might win" (whatever that means). However, this is essentially a moral question. Should thousands of lives be sacrificed in the possibility that the US "might win". On today's BBC News several US soldiers in Iraq were interviewed about their views on the war. Only one thought that US troops should remain. Yet people like Tim want these young men and women to risk their lives on the slight possibility that the US "might win". I would be more impressed if he was volunteering to do the fighting. However, it is always those older men who are sitting safely in their armchairs who are so keen on the idea of invading other countries and sacrificing the lives of young people.

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"You John Simkin are now Bush and Blair and its 9/12. You have the luxury of hindsight.

What do YOU do as leaders of both the UK and the USA in the days, weeks and months after the 9/11 attacks?"

David Richardson has adequately answered this question but as I was named in the question I will contribute my own view of the subject.

If I was Tony Blair I would have given all the support I could to help the United States to catch and convict all those involved in the conspiracy. However, I would not have supported his invasion of Iraq as it had nothing to do with 9/11. There were no Muslim Terrorists based in Iraq at the time. Saddam Hussein treated the fundamentalists in the same way that he dealt all those who challenged his rule.

Are you of the opinion that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11? This appears to be the logic of your question.

Dave Richardsons answer left a lot to be desired. A little comment on the way he would have handled the aftermath of 9/11 and more of the S.O.S. from the left...Bush and Blair bashing.

So lets review what you think the US and the UK should have done post 9/11. Count and bury the dead and move on. Oh and try a little "law enforcement" to deal with the worldwide network of radical Islamic terrorists. In other words you would have continued the same FAILED policy that gave the US and the world 9/11. Thanks but no thanks. Its a good thing that the adults are in charge now.

Let me ask you John, exactly HOW did you decide that the "logic' of my question appears to be that Saddam was behind 9/11? There is NOTHING in my question that would lead a sane person to that conclusion. Was that a childish attempt on your part to tar me with that brush? Hint to John, next time LOAD THE BRUSH WITH TAR!

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John, O'Hanlon and Pollack are:

1. Not Bush supporters.

2. Critics of the war.

3. Experts on Mideast.

4. Visited Iraq and talked to many, many people.

You qualify only on the first two points. I think the reasoned assessment of O'Hanlon and Pollack are entitled to more weight than your opinion. They believe we should stay in Iraq until 2008.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Re Iraq, it will not be a pretty picture if we pull out before order can be established in that country. Progress is being made, however, and I can see light at the end of the tunnel! Or is that an approaching train?

It is unlikely but it is a possibility that the US "might win" (whatever that means). However, this is essentially a moral question. Should thousands of lives be sacrificed in the possibility that the US "might win". On today's BBC News several US soldiers in Iraq were interviewed about their views on the war. Only one thought that US troops should remain. Yet people like Tim want these young men and women to risk their lives on the slight possibility that the US "might win". I would be more impressed if he was volunteering to do the fighting. However, it is always those older men who are sitting safely in their armchairs who are so keen on the idea of invading other countries and sacrificing the lives of young people.

A report published by Oxfam this week reveals that since the occupation over 2 million Iraqis have fled the country (most of them are living in Jordan and Syria). Of those not living in refugee camps 15% cannot afford to eat regularly, 28% of children are malnourished, 70% are without a water supply and 75% lack effective sanitation. As the report points out the people of Iraq are in a far worse state than they were under the previous regime.

At the same time thousands of British and American soldiers have been killed whereas the rest will suffer from psychological disorders for the rest of their lives.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6927659.stm

Nor have the Americans adequate resources to finance this crazy war and as a result has a public education and health system more like a third world country. It was reported on the BBC that a shortage of funds is making it impossible to carry out the necessary maintenance that would have stopped the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis.

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Craig, there's plenty of historical evidence that a more reasoned response than the one Bush orchestrated would have worked much better. Take the 'Anarchist' terrorist attacks in the first decade of the 20th century. When they actually happened, the various police forces of Europe were well equipped to deal with the actual attacks. It was only when idiots of the Bush calibre (in this case the Austro-Hungarians) got going that disproportionate responses led to catastrophe.

Bin Laden certainly knew his US psychology: he knew that a very cheap operation would result in the US giving him the kind of over-the-top response he needed to galvanise his Muslim constituents. It's a sign of how protected the US has actually been from what's been going on all over the world for centuries. It's just a shame that Blair got involved with such naive and delusional people. It's always been very tempting to think that you can screw other people around from afar without suffering any consequences at all, but it just doesn't accord with reality.

Tim, 'nuke Hanoi'! Do me a favour! The US weren't the only people with nuclear weapons at the time, you know. And the population of Vietnam at the time was around 50 million, if I remember correctly. And that was 50 million people who'd been living under war conditions since the early 1940s. Another of the US delusions, I'm afraid, to think that that was a viable policy.

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Craig, there's plenty of historical evidence that a more reasoned response than the one Bush orchestrated would have worked much better. Take the 'Anarchist' terrorist attacks in the first decade of the 20th century. When they actually happened, the various police forces of Europe were well equipped to deal with the actual attacks. It was only when idiots of the Bush calibre (in this case the Austro-Hungarians) got going that disproportionate responses led to catastrophe.

Bin Laden certainly knew his US psychology: he knew that a very cheap operation would result in the US giving him the kind of over-the-top response he needed to galvanise his Muslim constituents. It's a sign of how protected the US has actually been from what's been going on all over the world for centuries. It's just a shame that Blair got involved with such naive and delusional people. It's always been very tempting to think that you can screw other people around from afar without suffering any consequences at all, but it just doesn't accord with reality.

Tim, 'nuke Hanoi'! Do me a favour! The US weren't the only people with nuclear weapons at the time, you know. And the population of Vietnam at the time was around 50 million, if I remember correctly. And that was 50 million people who'd been living under war conditions since the early 1940s. Another of the US delusions, I'm afraid, to think that that was a viable policy.

Lets deal with RECENT history. Your "more reasoned response" was a miserable failure. The lack of direct and HARSH action resulted in the attacks of 9/11. Please tell me why more of the same would have changed the current situation? And the fact that others in the world are willing to bury the dead and move on...a sure sign of weakness of will if you ask me...is not our problem.

And you are wrong about the what Bin Laden actually got for his efforts and what our response has brought...recent polls of Muslims are finding that they are REJECTING radical Islam in droves. Seems they are less willing to die for the cause now than before we went on the attack.

Sorry but your "more of the same" is a proven failed policy.

Edited by Craig Lamson
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Craig, there's plenty of historical evidence that a more reasoned response than the one Bush orchestrated would have worked much better. Take the 'Anarchist' terrorist attacks in the first decade of the 20th century. When they actually happened, the various police forces of Europe were well equipped to deal with the actual attacks. It was only when idiots of the Bush calibre (in this case the Austro-Hungarians) got going that disproportionate responses led to catastrophe.

Bin Laden certainly knew his US psychology: he knew that a very cheap operation would result in the US giving him the kind of over-the-top response he needed to galvanise his Muslim constituents. It's a sign of how protected the US has actually been from what's been going on all over the world for centuries. It's just a shame that Blair got involved with such naive and delusional people. It's always been very tempting to think that you can screw other people around from afar without suffering any consequences at all, but it just doesn't accord with reality.

Tim, 'nuke Hanoi'! Do me a favour! The US weren't the only people with nuclear weapons at the time, you know. And the population of Vietnam at the time was around 50 million, if I remember correctly. And that was 50 million people who'd been living under war conditions since the early 1940s. Another of the US delusions, I'm afraid, to think that that was a viable policy.

Lets deal with RECENT history. Your "more reasoned response" was a miserable failure. The lack of direct and HARSH action resulted in the attacks of 9/11. Please tell me why more of the same would have changed the current situation? And the fact that others in the world are willing to bury the dead and move on...a sure sign of weakness of will if you ask me...is not our problem.

And you are wrong about the what Bin Laden actually got for his efforts and what our response has brought...recent polls of Muslims are finding that they are REJECTING radical Islam in droves. Seems they are less willing to die for the cause now than before we went on the attack.

Sorry but your "more of the same" is a proven failed policy.

"...lack of direct and HARSH action resulted in...9/11"

Perhaps a more measured response (better policy?) would of been a tactical battlefield nuke perhaps? Capital of Saudi Arabia (you guessed it I can't spell it) or Medina, Mecca during the Haj? Certainly would of got the Muslim faith attention as well as the Vatican's -- but that's another story.

Not that I disagree with you assessment but I'm curious what those from mid-America, the Christian conservative breadbasket if you will, think about such a alternative response...

btw, lobbing 70-90 cruise missles announced BClinton's intentions, I'm sure he was advised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff!

These recent polls, who sponsored them?

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