Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Back to Iraq

From George Packer’s The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq (2005)
General Franks’s innovative strategy used enough troops to take the country but nowhere near enough to secure it.

You know, I was going to go on and run a long passage, but as I typed that sentence, I had to stop. Enough troops to take the country, but nowhere near enough to secure it. Nowhere near enough.

Yet no one has gone to jail over this debacle. No one has even faced serious Congressional inquiry over this debacle. And of course no one has been fired over this debacle. While those who created this nightmare evade accountability, our grandchildren will still be dealing with the deadly repercussions of the Bush administration’s criminally bad planning and execution of the Iraq war.

I promise I’ll be over this, and back to literature and history and such by next week. But right now, I can’t get away from it. Hate is not healthy. Hate is not productive. But hate is what I feel.

Back to the book:
Even so, a concerted effort could have stopped the most egregious looters and warned off others with a show of force. It never happened. In vain, employees of the museum begged the leader of a nearby tank platoon to park one tank at the museum entrance and scare off the pillagers who were making free with the country’s antiquities. . . . Afterward, some Iraqis insisted that they had seen soldiers not just permitting but encouraging and helping looters, as if the mayhem were joyous celebration of the fall of the regime. This was the secretary of defense’s view. Only the Ministry of Oil was protected.

Martial law was not declared; a curfew was not immediately imposed. No one told Iraqis to stay at home or to go to work.

Here, I feel like I should take a break to warn you that you’re about to encounter a level of detachment from reality that is astonishing even coming from a member of the Bush administration. You may want to go to for a minute to calm yourself before forging on.

You’ve been warned.

Later, Douglas Feith would insist to me that, technically, the American military asserted its authority early on. “When the Saddam government fell, it was going to be necessary to issue a first proclamation,” Feith said. “But there had been an Iraqi history that whenever there was a coup, somebody issued Proclamation No. 1. So we decided that we didn’t want that, which is why it was renamed ‘Freedom Message.’”

You’re probably beginning to see why General Tommy Franks, no stranger to cravenness and stupidity, called Feith “the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth.” Not only did Feith actually believe that his "Freedom Message" was going to make a difference to the chaos enveloping Baghdad—he still wanted to make sure Packer gave him credit for it a year later! As The Assassins' Gate continues:
The implications weren’t lost on Iraqis, including potential adversaries. “We’re incompetent, as far as they’re concerned,” said Noah Feldman, the New York University law professor who went to Baghdad as constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority. “The key to it all was the looting. That was when it was clear that there was no order. There’s an Arab proverb: Better forty years of dictatorship than one day of anarchy.” He added, “That also told them they could fight against us and we were not a serious force.”

I know it’s probably getting old, but you can never say it too many times:
Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Do it now.

Now that's what I call a Freedom Message.

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