Operation Iraqi Freedom/External links: Beginnings of a quagmire (December 2002-October 2003)

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The Beginnings of a Quagmire in Operation Iraqi Freedom become blatantly apparent in the headlines following the "successful conclusion" of the preemptive war waged by the U.S.-led coalition of the willing in Post-war Iraq. U.S. military activities in the Persian Gulf promises to become a major issue for the U.S. presidential election, 2004.

This article covers the time period from December 2002 through October 2003.

Also see Task Bar for more links.


Definition

quag·mire (kwgmr, kwg-) n. (1) Land with a soft muddy surface; (2) A difficult or precarious situation; a predicament.[1]

Operation Iraqi Freedom / Official "Hostilities"

  • March 19, 2003:"Chronology begins for Operation Iraqi Freedom," Army Magazine. (Chronology ends April 9 when "All coherent resistance in Baghdad collapses and the regime's control is broken."
  • April 17, 2003: "Last major battle of Operation Iraqi Freedom ends" by Jonathan Landay, Knight Ridder: "The Pentagon declared the end of significant fighting in Iraq on Monday as Marines stormed the heart of Tikrit, suppressed hard-core resistance there and captured the last stronghold of Saddam Hussein. ... In Washington, the Bush administration's attention already was shifting to two post-war concerns": (1) "The White House and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld turned up the pressure on Syria, demanding that it stop harboring Iraqi fugitives."[2]; (2) "... to begin forging an interim government for post-Saddam Iraq by welding together rival ethnic, religious and exile factions." (See Future of Iraq Project.)

Chronology of the Quagmire from the Headlines

December 2002

March 2003

  • "G.I. Woe," Washington Monthly, March 2003.
  • Robert Fisk, "'Iraq will Become a Quagmire for the Americans. Our Troops will Not Surrender'," Dissident Voice, March 24, 2003: "Iraq stunned the Americans and British last night by broadcasting video tape of captured and dead American troops - the nightmare of both George Bush and Tony Blair. ... The body of one American soldier was seen with a great red gash on his neck, while five US prisoners appeared on screen. One, a black female soldier, had been wounded, while a male serviceman said he had been 'only following orders'. ... The film will increase internal support for Saddam Hussein, because it will be regarded as proof that the American-British force will be beaten."

April 2003

  • Ehsan Ahrari, "Iraq vs Vietnam: Similarities and differences," Asia Times, April 2, 2003: "... a major reason for apprehension for the US is that it is not winning the war for the 'hearts and minds' in the international arena. Increasingly, comparisons between the Iraqi campaign and Vietnam are popping up. The US invasion of Iraq resembles the Vietnam conflict in many ways, while it is also dissimilar in others."
  • John Tirman, "What Lurks in the Ruins?" AlterNet, April 10, 2003: "But the key goal - articulated time and again by the Bush administration, supportive Democrats, and even some hawkish progressives - has been to liberalize Iraq, thereby setting an example for nearby Muslim countries and altering the Middle East forever. But because of the way both the war is being conducted and the plans for postwar Iraq are designed, this vision of a democratic oasis in the desert of Muslim despotism is appearing more and more a mirage."
  • Ted Rall, "How We Lost the Victory," AlterNet, April 16, 2003: "The end of Saddam Hussein comes as welcome news, even if it's merely the accidental byproduct of a barely-disguised oil grab. But as Iraq's cities burn and its patrimony is hustled off into the black market and its women wail and the rape gangs rule the night, it's hard to escape the conclusion that we've lost this war as well."
  • William O. Beeman, "The Iraqi Hydra Grows New Heads Every Day," Pacific News Service, April 24, 2003: "Iraq is like the legendary Hydra, the many-headed monster that grew two new heads every time one was cut off. Having decapitated the Iraqi state, the Bush administration is now watching as the new heads, in the form of carpetbagging pretenders to office, spring up daily."
  • Ian Williams, "A Blinkered Vision for Post-War Iraq," AlterNet, April 29, 2003: "Thanks to its inability to differentiate between ideology and reality, the Bush administration is consistently surprised at the most predictable of outcomes of its less-than-advisable actions. If George Bush were connected to reality in any but the most tangential way, he would pull out U.S from Iraq and hand over the task of reconstruction to the United Nations. But he isn't, so he won't."

May 2003

  • David Corn, "Postwar Truths and Consequences," The Nation, May 2, 2003: "... Bush and his national security team - including ex officio members deployed in think tank bunkers and op-ed command centers - declared, without question or pause, that Iraq had dangerous levels of weapons of mass destruction and that it was 'urgent,' as Bush said, to find and destroy these weapons. They also talked about birthing a democratic government in Iraq without acknowledging obstacles and potential traps. But, it turns out, the Administration was not on the level. Moreover, it was woefully unready to deal with the consequences of military victory."
  • Cliff Montgomery, "Lies About Iraq's Weapons Are Past Expiration Date," AlterNet, May 8, 2003: "There was never any question Iraq once had weapons of mass destruction programs. Nor was the world naïve enough to trust Saddam Hussein not to try and hide such weapons from UN inspectors. The rationale for the U.S. invasion, however, was that after a decade of sanctions, war, U.S. bombing runs, and UN inspections, Iraq still possessed a viable nuclear, chemical or biological threat that could be deployed beyond Iraq's borders or which was in danger of being supplied to terrorist groups." However, according to Scott Ritter, "former UN Iraqi weapons inspector and controversial opponent of Dubya's drive to Baghdad ... the chemical weapons which Iraq has been known to possess - nerve agents like sarin and tabun - have a shelf life of five years, VX just a bit longer. Saddam's major bio weapons are hardly any better; botulinum toxin is potent for about three years, and liquid anthrax about the same (under the right conditions). And he adds that since all chemical weapons were made in Iraq's only chemical weapons complex - the Muthanna State establishment, which was blown up during the first Gulf War in 1991 - and all biological weapons plants and research papers were clearly destroyed by 1998, any remaining bio/chemical weapons stores are now harmless, useless goo."

June 2003

  • Naomi Klein, "Downsizing in Disguise," The Nation, June 5, 2003: "The streets of Baghdad are a swamp of crime and uncollected garbage. Battered local businesses are going bankrupt, unable to compete with cheap imports. Unemployment is soaring and thousands of laid-off state workers are protesting in the streets. ... In other words, Iraq looks like every other country that has undergone rapid-fire 'structural adjustments' prescribed by Washington, from Russia's infamous 'shock therapy' in the early 1990s to Argentina's disastrous 'surgery without anesthetic.' Except that Iraq's 'reconstruction' makes those wrenching reforms look like spa treatments."
  • Pepe Escobar, "A long and tortuous road," Asia Times, June 6, 2003: "Things are getting interesting in Iraq. In the right corner, we find the American occupation forces. In the left corner, at least 70 brand new Iraqi political parties."
  • Sen. Robert Byrd, "Time to Come Clean, Mr. President," AlterNet, June 6, 2003.
  • "UK military opposed to sending more troops to Iraq 'quagmire'," IRNA, June 7, 2003: "It is estimated that around 15,000 British troops and 145,000 American troops have remained in Iraq, two months after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime."
  • Ivan Eland, "WMDs or Not, Same Difference," AlterNet, June 9, 2003.
  • Richard Norton-Taylor and Rory McCarthy, "US and British troops are being sucked into an Iraqi quagmire," Guardian/UK, June 13, 2003: "The US admits it had to revise drastically the number of troops it needed within weeks of the fall of Baghdad, as looting, armed robberies, rapes, kidnapping, and carjackings multiplied. ... US troops are now being sucked into Iraq much deeper than they imagined, or were told."
  • William Rivers Pitt, "The Dog Ate My WMDs," truthout, June 16, 2003: "After roughly 280 days worth of fearful descriptions of the formidable Iraqi arsenal, coming on the heels of seven years of UNSCOM weapons inspections, four years of surveillance, months of UNMOVIC weapons inspections, the investiture of an entire nation by American and British forces, after which said forces searched 'everywhere' per the words of the Marine commander over there and 'found nothing,' after interrogating dozens of the scientists and officers who have nothing to hide anymore because Hussein is gone, after finding out that the dreaded 'mobile labs' were weather balloon platforms sold to Iraq by the British, George W. Bush and his people suddenly have a few things to answer for."
  • Jim Lobe, "An Iraqi 'quackmire' in the making," Asia Times, June 24, 2003: "Now, more than two months after US troops established control over the area around Tikrit and Baghdad, not only have no WMD been discovered, but evidence of ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda, let alone Iraqi knowledge or complicity in the September 11 attacks, is simply non-existent. ... If that were not embarrassing enough, Washington still has about 150,000 troops in Iraq - twice the number projected before the war - and is desperately seeking as many as 30,000 more troops from its 'coalition' partners, all expenses to be paid by the US taxpayer. That such a number may not be nearly enough was underscored this weekend when unknown persons in a remote desert area blew up a key oil pipeline that supplies Baghdad power plants. ... The Q word - for quagmire - has also made it back into mainstream-media discourse as the impression grows that US troops may be facing a guerrilla war, rather than isolated 'pockets or resistance' of die-hard Ba'athists."
  • Col. Dan Smith, "Descending into the Quagmire. The Occupation of Iraq," CounterPunch, June 20, 2003: "The Bush administration seems headed toward committing the same mistakes of its Vietnam-era predecessors--plus a number of its own. Washington expected that the dominate Shi'ite (62%) population, long subservient to the minority Sunnis (35%), would at least welcome its 'liberation' by the Western coalition forces if not assist them in ousting Saddam and his cronies. Instead, the dominant reaction has been a growing disillusionment with and sustained protests about the continuing absence of basic services--water, electricity, telephone, garbage and sewage removal, basic policing, and physical security--for all classes of Shi'ites and Sunnis under the coalition occupation."
  • Please note that some of the articles by Col. Daniel Smith share some information (including paragraphs) in common, while also including different or "new" information, depending upon the author's emphasis.

July 2003

  • Daniel Smith, "Descending into the quagmire," (Posted at Asia Times with permission from Foreign Policy in Focus), July 1, 2003: Between May 1st and June 26th, "57 US and eight UK military personnel have died in Iraq. That is more than one death every day. To the US and UK toll must be added the sometimes tens or scores of Iraqis, both Saddamists - military, intelligence, Fedayeen, non-Iraqi volunteers - and innocent civilians. ... Having splashed the president's declaration over their electronic and newspaper front pages and magazine covers, the media are edging ever so gingerly toward serious questioning of what kind of 'war' US and UK troops (the 'Authority') are fighting in Iraq. ... 'Counterinsurgency,' a 1960s buzzword, has already re-appeared in some reports. The dreaded quagmire has also been voiced. The Pentagon denies it is doing 'body counts' - although the media always seem to know the number of guerrilla dead. Can 'free fire zones', 'five o'clock follies' (the daily official US military briefings in Saigon) and 'light at the end of the tunnel' be far off?"
  • Barak A. Salmoni, "Strategic Partners or Estranged Allies: Turkey, the United States, and Operation Iraqi Freedom," Center for Contemporary Conflict (navy.mil), July 1, 2003.
  • Vernon Loeb, "No Iraq 'Quagmire,' Rumsfeld Asserts. Secretary Disputes Vietnam Comparison," Washington Post, July 1, 2003: "Rumsfeld dismissed suggestions that 146,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are engaged in a guerrilla war or bogged down in a Vietnam-like quagmire.' ... Rumsfeld said the five groups opposing U.S. forces -- which he identified as looters, criminals, remnants of Saddam Hussein's government, foreign terrorists and Iranian-backed Shiites -- 'are all slightly different in why they are there and what they are doing. ... That doesn't make it anything like a guerrilla war or an organized resistance,' Rumsfeld said."
  • Tom Hayden, "Say It: This Is a Quagmire," AlterNet, July 7, 2003: "On the day U.S. soldiers occupied Baghdad, draped the American flag over Saddam Hussein's statue and pulled it down, 103 GIs had died in the Iraq war. The number killed since that supposedly triumphal moment on April 9 may double in this coming week, in a war that an American general now admits is ongoing. ... The manipulation of the American body count, like the earlier manipulation of the costs of war and occupation, only feeds the growing anger among military personnel and their families, as cited in the New York Times. During the Vietnam war, troop demoralization rose as Americans continued to die while President Richard M. Nixon promised that the war was winding down. A similar phenomenon appears to be happening already in the 115-degree temperatures of occupied Iraq. No one wants to sacrifice his life for President George W. Bush after he's held an aircraft-carrier press conference declaring 'mission accomplished'. No family wants the death of a son or daughter minimized to airbrush the President's victory image."
  • Ehsan Ahrari, "In Iraq, 'v' doesn't stand for victory," Asia Times, July 9, 2003.
  • Ruth Rosen, "What's the Exit Strategy?" San Francisco Chronicle, July 10, 2003: "A veteran of the Vietnam War, Colin Powell was determined to prevent another military quagmire. In the early 1990s, he developed the Powell Doctrine, a set of criteria for using military force. War, he said, should be a last resort, the purpose should reflect a well-defined national interest and enjoy strong public support, and once decided, should be executed with overwhelming force and have a clear exit strategy."
  • "CBS News Poll: U.S. Losing Control in Iraq," July 10, 2003.
  • Laura Fording, "A Quagmire for Bush? Americans are increasingly skeptical about the war in Iraq and the intelligence leading up to it," Newsweek, July 12, 2003.
  • Carol Brightman, "It Wasn't Supposed to Be Like This," AlterNet, July 14, 2003: "... an odd paralysis still grips the U.S. military command. While the number of American soldiers killed or wounded in ambushes increases by the day, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and proconsul L. Paul Bremer continue to speak of 'remnants' and 'bitter-enders' who can't get with the program, even as word spreads through the ranks that there is a well-organized resistance campaign underway in Iraq."
  • Robert F. Worth, "Extension of Stay in Iraq Takes Toll on Morale of G.I.'s," New York Times (Common Dreams), July 19, 2003: "Earlier this week ... soldiers in the Army's Third Infantry Division learned that their tour of duty in Iraq had been extended indefinitely. ... For the division, which engaged in some of the war's heaviest fighting when its tanks rolled into Baghdad in April, the news was almost too bitter to believe. Originally scheduled to be home by early June, they have been in the Persian Gulf region continuously since November and have had their return deferred three times."
  • Stephen F. Hayes, "The Future of Iraq, in Outline. Jerry Bremer, administrator in a hurry," The Weekly Standard, July 28, 2003: "Bernie Kerik, former New York City police commissioner and current security adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, told Bremer he would need four years to 'stand up' 70,000 police officers across free Iraq, Bremer had a counterproposal: 18 months."
See Iraq Coalition Casualty Statistics, Operation Iraqi Freedom II, and Post-war Iraq/U.S. military readiness for detailed troop deployment and other related statistics.

August 2003

  • U.S. Army News Release: "General Peter J. Schoomaker became the 35th Chief of Staff, United States Army, on August 1, 2003."
  • Sukumar Muralidharan, "The Iraq quagmire," frontlineonnet.com, August 2-15, 2003.
  • Praful Bidwai, "Keep Out Of Iraq's Quagmire," rediff.com, August 9, 2003: "...the Iraq situation, marked by growing resistance to the Anglo-American occupation, widespread chaos, lawlessness, breakdown of public services, and antipathy towards the US and its clients. An opinion poll commissioned by the conservative British magazine, The Spectator (July 19), shows that fully 75 percent of Iraqis say that Baghdad is 'more dangerous' than before the war (including 54 percent who say it is 'much more dangerous'). As many as two-thirds fear being attacked in the streets." see civil war in Iraq
  • "Press see Iraq quagmire. As the death toll among US troops in Iraq increases almost daily, the Arabic press continues to warn Washington that there is no end in sight to the attacks on coalition forces," BBC, August 12, 2003.
  • Pepe Escobar, "Why the lessons of Vietnam do matter," Asia Times, August 20, 2003: "Just as it took a few years for the Americans to lose the 'hearts and minds' of the South Vietnamese, it took them only a few weeks to lose the hearts and minds of the majority of Iraqis - which ultimately means losing the war, whatever the strategic final result. Topographic denials - this is the Mesopotamian desert, not the Indochinese jungle - don't work, nor do denials saying that the Iraqis are not as politicized as the Vietnamese were by communism. These totally miss the point: as happened in Vietnam, what is happening now in Iraq has everything to do with patriotism and nationalism."
  • James Pinkerton, "The French Have a Word for Iraq: Quagmire," Newsday, August 21, 2003.
  • "The Iraq quagmire," WSWS, August 21, 2003: "The Iraqi resistance is waging the type of campaign that has been waged historically by every people battling against foreign occupation. Unable to match the overwhelming superiority of US firepower, the resistance fighters rely on one critical strategic advantage: it is their country. Their aim is to make it ungovernable for the occupiers."
  • Jason Vest, "Shifting Sands of Neoconservative Logic," The American Prospect, August 28, 2003: Refers to the Strategic Studies Institute Army War College report Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario (large pdf file) by Conrad C. Crane and W. Andrew Terrill which was released in draft form in October 2002, "with a much more detailed version appearing in February 2003. ... That report said that the administration hadn't planned adequately for a post-Hussein Iraq; it also very presciently rendered the likely results of such poor planning and gave well-considered suggestions for how to either properly shepherd Iraq to stability or, if too late for that, what not to do to make a bad situation worse. The last line of the document's penultimate section wasn't exactly encouraging: 'Without an overwhelming effort to prepare for occupation ... the US may find itself in a radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems of America's own making.'"
  • Andrew Greely, "U.S. Sinking in Iraq Quagmire," Chicago Sun Times, August 29, 2003.
  • Jim Spencer, "U.S. troops, delusions dying in Iraq quagmire," Denver Post, August 31, 2003: "The United States is stuck in Iraq, and that fact is mucking up U.S. delusions of grandeur. The liberation of Iraq has trapped hundreds of thousands of American troops and billions of American dollars. These days, Uncle Sam looks more like Uncle Remus."

September 2003

  • Norman Solomon, "The Quagmire of Denouncing a 'Quagmire'," FAIR, September 4, 2003: "Quagmire is a word made famous during the Vietnam War. The current conflict in Iraq comes out of a very different history, but there are some chilling parallels. One of them has scarcely been mentioned: These days, the editorial positions of major U.S. newspapers have an echo like a dirge."
  • Daniel Smith, "Quagmire? What Quagmire?" Asia Times, September 5, 2003. (Posted with permission from Foreign Policy in Focus).
  • News Release, September 16, 2003: "Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments today released 'Operation Iraqi Freedom: A First Blush Assessment' by Executive Director Dr. Andrew Krepinevich. This report is a preliminary analysis of military operations in Iraq and their implications for the future of military transformation and war planning strategy. ... 'The United States is in the regime changing business,' concludes Krepinevich in the report. ... Since the fall of the Berlin Wall the United States has directly or indirectly deposed a foreign regime roughly once every three years. Doing so, the United States finds itself increasingly engaged in stability operations, from the Balkans to Afghanistan to Iraq. Since the Vietnam War, however, the US military has viewed such activities as secondary to the task of winning wars."
  • Amit Baruah, "The Iraq quagmire," The Hindu, September 18, 2003: "The U.N. is 'relevant' once again because Iraq is in a mess... Mr. Bush wants a bailout."
  • Brian Williams, "Does a violent weekend make an Iraq quagmire?" Reuters (former Yahoo! link), September 23, 2003: "No one knows as yet and it took years for the United States to fully realise their predicament in Vietnam. ... But U.S. troops, who during Vietnam ranged far and wide over Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, almost like tourists, are confined to heavily barricaded bases or see Baghdad from checkpoints or tensely sitting on patrol vehicles. ... In Vietnam, and now in Kabul, the military presence of the United States and its allies was omnipresent."
  • David Sillers, "The Iraq occupation: Myth of the quagmire," Daily Princetonian, September 23, 2003.
  • David Corn, "Is Bush's War in Iraq A "Brain Fart'?" The Nation, September 26, 2003: Re Ted Koppel interview on Nightline with retired General Anthony Zinni, the former commander of the U.S. Central Command.
  • Charles Aldinger, "Another 15,000 U.S. Troops Told to Prepare for Iraq," Reuters (Common Dreams), September 27, 2003.
  • Carl Hulse, "Once an Ally of Bush at Home, Kennedy Lashes Out on Iraq," New York Times, September 27, 2003: "At every turn, and with rising passion, he has blistered the White House for its calculation to go to war and for failing to adequately plan for the occupation." The "he" is Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
  • Col. Dan Smith, "Quaqmire? What Quagmire? Iraq is a 'Black Hole'," September 30, 2003: "...media reports the last week in August have made it very clear that the administration has plunged the United States over the lip--what is called the 'event horizon'--of the human and financial black hole that is post-war Iraq. The significance of passing the astronomical event horizon is that whatever crosses it, even light, cannot recover or be recovered. It is a one-way trip down a 'tunnel' at whose end there is no light, only crushing gravity."

October 2003