Is the Iraq mission a failure?
The question Is the Iraq mission a failure?, according to the SourceWatch's Maynard, should first be considered thusly:
- "Before asking whether it was a failure or success, 'it' ('the Iraq mission') needs a clear definition which includes an objective. Casual observers have noted that this mission changes each time it is exposed as being mired in fantasy rather than fact.
- "Now that Saddam is dethroned, the rest of the liberation seems to require exit of U.S. occupation troops, governors, and business enterprises."
- 1 Foreign Policy Blunder
- 2 Failure in Diplomatic Terms
- 3 Fear of Failure
- 4 Checkmated in Iraq: May 2004
- 5 "Is the Iraq mission a failure?": May 2004
- 6 "Specter of Failure"
- 7 Rumsfeld: Possibility of failure: May 2004
- 8 Exit Strategy?
- 9 Related SourceWatch Resources
- 10 External links
Foreign Policy Blunder
On May 20, 2004, Ezra Klein at pandagon.net commented on Hal Crowther's May 12, 2004, "With trembling fingers. Despite the worst foreign policy blunder in American history, George W. Bush and his millionaire supporters don't know the meaning of the word shame":
- Klein calls it "the most devastating critique [he's] read of the Bush Administration. The piece is simply pulsating with rage, with the undeniable and unsettling fact that, as bad as we think things are, the whole is immeasurably worse and the buck does indeed stop at George's doorstep. Read it and get your blood boiling."
Failure in Diplomatic Terms
From a publicity standpoint, there are reasons to judge the mission a failure in diplomatic terms:
- Bizarre comments George W. Bush made to the Arab media regarding "foreign killers" dominating Iraq seem to be two-sided, that is, to apply as much to US troops as to non-Iraqi Arab insurgents presumably associated with Al Qaeda.
- Nelson Mandela's harsh criticism of the occupation. 
- Even horrific atrocities like the death of Nicholas Berg seem to be blamed by his family directly on US involvement and Bush administration incompetence. 
- Wide questioning of U.S. interrogation techniques. 
- Wide questioning of political corruption in the reconstruction of Iraq. 
Regarding Abu Ghraib specifically
- Evidence that interrogators acted under orders that could be traced potentially to the White House.
- Evidence of General Jerry Boykin's involvement , furthering arguments that abuses in Abu Ghraib are part of deliberate humiliation of a whole culture, i.e. the so-called War on Islam argument.
There is however, reason to believe that the overall focus on human rights and torture might be constructive in the long term diplomatically. In the UK, for instance, William Sampson is seeking permission to sue Saudi Arabia for torture at government hands before his release in 2003 after two years in prison. The current focus on Abu Ghraib and the practices of all US-allied governments in Arabia seems likely to aid his case that torture in the so-called "War on Terrorism" is an illegitimate and counter-productive tactic, and that the US and its allies must be held liable for any abuses that occur in its name. The diplomatic and political failure of these states might in the end become a success for human rights and the Geneva Conventions: proving, as the EU has long asserted, that there is simply no alternative to these global conventions hard-won and asserted over decades.
Fear of Failure
Robin Wright and Thomas E. Ricks, in the May 19, 2004, Washington Post article "U.S. Faces Growing Fears of Failure. Wolfowitz Concedes Errors as Damage Control Continues" wrote that
- "The Bush administration is struggling to counter growing sentiment -- among U.S. lawmakers, Iraqis and even some of its own officials -- that the occupation of Iraq is verging on failure."
- "Under tough questioning from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [yesterday], Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, a leading administration advocate of the Iraq intervention, acknowledged miscalculating that Iraqis would tolerate a long occupation. A central flaw in planning, he added, was the premise that U.S. forces would be creating a peace, not fighting a war, after the ouster of Saddam Hussein."
- Fred Kaplan writes in MSN's Slate on May 14, 2004, "The Buck Stops … Where? Stop blaming your henchmen, Mr. President."
- Referring to Jacob Weisberg's May 7, 2004, "The Misunderestimated Man. How Bush chose stupidity," Kaplan says that he, too, misunderestimated Bush. On May 12, 2004, Kaplan wrote "Failing To Recognize Failure. Why does the president still trust Rumsfeld's judgment?" in which he holds "George W. Bush responsible for our recent disasters--the torture at Abu Ghraib and the whole plethora of strategic errors in Iraq." In that article, Kaplan's "main argument was that Bush has placed too much trust, for far too long, in the judgment of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, despite his ceaseless string of bad judgments."
- However, based on "two news stories that have since come to my attention," Kaplan has decided that Bush is "not merely ... guilty of 'failing to recognize failure' ... but that he is directly culpable for the sins in question, no less so than" Rumsfeld.
- In the first story, published May 12, 2004, in the Baltimore Sun, Mark Matthews cites Secretary of State Colin L. Powell admitting that "he, Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice kept Bush fully informed of the concerns that were being expressed, not in specific details but in general terms."
- The second news story, dating to a March 2, 2004, "NBC News broadcast by Jim Miklaszewski, Kaplan writes, "heaves more burdens on the president."
- "Apparently," Kaplan says, "Bush had three opportunities, long before the war, to destroy a terrorist camp in northern Iraq run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda associate who recently [is alleged to have] cut off the head of Nicholas Berg. But the White House decided not to carry out the attack because, as the story puts it:
- "[T]he administration feared [that] destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam Hussein.
- "The implications of this are more shocking," he states, "in their way, than the news from Abu Ghraib. Bush promoted the invasion of Iraq as a vital battle in the war on terrorism, a continuation of our response to 9/11. Here was a chance to wipe out a high-ranking terrorist. And Bush didn't take advantage of it because doing so might also wipe out a rationale for invasion."
- Kaplan continues to enumerate other acts of terrorism attributed to Zarqawi, then writes
- "In the two years since the Pentagon's first attack plan, Zarqawi has been linked not just to Berg's execution but, according to NBC, 700 other killings in Iraq. If Bush had carried out that attack back in June 2002, the killings might not have happened. More: The case for war (as the White House feared) might not have seemed so compelling. Indeed, the war itself might not have happened."
- Helen Thomas echoes Kaplan in her May 11, 2004, "Rumsfeld is the designated fall guy" published in Hearst newspapers:
- "While there is plenty of blame to go around for the horrific handling of the Iraqi prisoners in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, President Bush bears the ultimate responsibility for what happened on his watch."
Checkmated in Iraq: May 2004
On May 12, 2004, General Richard Myers, testifying before the U.S. Senate, "admitted that we're checkmated in Iraq.
- "'There is no way to militarily lose in Iraq,' he said, describing the generals' consensus. 'There is also no way to militarily win in Iraq.'"
- "Sounding like John Kerry, General Myers summed up: 'This process has to be internationalized. The UN has to play the governance role. That's how we're, in my view, eventually going to win.'" 
"Is the Iraq mission a failure?": May 2004
In his May 11, 2004, New York Times article "For Iraqis to Win, the U.S. Must Lose," David Brooks said that it may be too soon to ask "Is the Iraq mission a failure?"
However, Brooks does say that "it's not too early to begin thinking about what was clearly an intellectual failure. There was, above all, a failure to understand the consequences of our power. There was a failure to anticipate the response our power would have on the people we sought to liberate. They resent us for our power and at the same time expect us to be capable of everything. There was a failure to understand the effect our power would have on other people around the world. We were so sure we were using our might for noble purposes, we assumed that sooner or later, everybody else would see that as well. Far from being blinded by greed, we were blinded by idealism." 
Brooks writes that "We went into Iraq with what, in retrospect, seems like a childish fantasy. We were going to topple Saddam Hussein, establish democracy and hand the country back to grateful Iraqis. We expected to be universally admired when it was all over.
"We didn't understand the tragic irony that our power is also our weakness," he continues. "As long as we seemed so mighty, others, even those we were aiming to assist, were bound to revolt. They would do so for their own self-respect. In taking out Saddam, we robbed the Iraqis of the honor of liberating themselves. The fact that they had no means to do so is beside the point.
"Now, looking ahead," Brooks points out, "we face another irony. To earn their own freedom, the Iraqis need a victory. And since it is too late for the Iraqis to have a victory over Saddam, it is imperative that they have a victory over us. If the future textbooks of a free Iraq get written, the toppling of Saddam will be vaguely mentioned in one clause in one sentence. But the heroic Iraqi resistance against the American occupation will be lavishly described, page after page. For us to succeed in Iraq, we have to lose."
"Specter of Failure"
Jefferson Morley wrote in his May 11, 2004, Washington Post article "In Shameful Photos, the Specter of Failure,"
- "The latest photographs of the torture and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison are being greeted with a chorus of 'shame' in the international online media. In the infamous images, online commentators see racism, imperialism and sadism. Even supporters of the U.S. invasion of Iraq sense a profound defeat looming for the United States and its ambitions in the region."
Rumsfeld: Possibility of failure: May 2004
The May 13, 2004, New York Daily news informed that "For the first time in public, a somber Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld raised the possibility Wednesday that the U.S. mission in Iraq could fail. ... Rumsfeld said the prison abuse scandal had delivered a 'body blow' to the nation-building effort in Iraq that has cost the lives of more than 770 U.S. troops." 
Paul Reynolds, in the May 13, 2004, BBC/UK article "Iraq: Time for exit strategy?" wrote that "Unless Iraq can be stabilised soon, policy planners in both the US and UK may well have to start thinking about an exit strategy."
"Already coalition forces are trying to reduce confrontations in the hope that a period of relative calm can emerge in the run-up to the handover to an interim government on 30 June," Reynolds says. "This tactic could see the emergence of new combinations of Iraqi security forces in a more complex line-up than the coalition envisaged. It might have no choice but to accept them."
However, he writes, "if the policy does not work and the handover proves to be symbolic only, then attention will have to turn to the circumstances in which troops can first be reduced and then perhaps be withdrawn.
"The problem with the current plan for Iraq is that there is no date by which foreign troops will leave. ... There is no clear exit strategy." [emphasis added]
Related SourceWatch Resources
- adapting to win
- The Best War Ever
- Bush administration scandals
- Bush regime
- civil war in Iraq
- coalition of the willing: beginning of the end
- Exit Strategy from Iraq
- failure in Iraq
- Iraq Coalition Casualty Statistics/External Links (2004)
- Iraq Study Group
- Iraqi sovereignty: June 30, 2004
- Iraqi unified resistance
- New Iraq
- Occupation forces in Iraq
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation Iraqi Freedom: Year Four
- Post-war Iraq
- regime change
- Shiite Muslim uprising in Iraq
- stay the course
- violence in the Middle East
- war crime
- War in Iraq is fueling global terrorism
- "Kerry Calls Iraq War a Failure," Washington Post, May 12, 2004: "... and that a shake-up is needed to end the Bush administration's mistakes and incompetence, a sharp critique that sparked more Republican criticism that the Democrat is making the war a political issue."
- "'E&P' Editor on CNN Urges Press to Consider Iraq Pullout," Editor and Publisher, May 13, 2004: "Appearing on CNN this morning, E&P Editor Greg Mitchell renewed his call in a recent column (see "When Will First Major Newspaper Call for a Pullout in Iraq?") that newspaper editorials strongly consider advocating a phased U.S. pullout from Iraq, or at the minimum begin a "healthy debate" on this subject.
- Robin Wright and Thomas E. Ricks, "U.S. Faces Growing Fears of Failure. Wolfowitz Concedes Errors as Damage Control Continues," Washington Post, May 19, 2004.
- John Aravosis, "I think Bush is preparing the American people for an all-out disaster in Iraq," AMERICAblog, August 4, 2006.
- "Kean, Hamilton: Iraq War a Mistake," NewsMax, August 13, 2006.
- Bryan Bender, "Pentagon studying its war errors. Analysts assess tactics in Iraq, Afghanistan," Boston Globe, August 16, 2006.
- Michael Schwartz, "Nine paradoxes of a lost war," Asia Times, October 16, 2006.