Dear Mr. Wolfowitz: Iraq Didn’t Go Quite As You Planned

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One more (at least) in my continuing series of Iraq war “anniversary cards,” if you will. This one is from an open letter by Andrew J. Bacevich to Bush doctrine architect Paul Wolfowitz.

So even conceding a hat tip to Albert Wohlstetter, the Bush Doctrine was largely your handiwork. The urgency of invading Iraq stemmed from the need to validate that doctrine before the window of opportunity closed. What made it necessary to act immediately was not Saddam’s purported WMD program. It was not his nearly nonexistent links to Al Qaeda. It was certainly not the way he abused his own people. No, what drove events was the imperative of claiming for the United States prerogatives allowed no other nation.

I do not doubt the sincerity of your conviction (shared by President Bush) that our country could be counted on to exercise those prerogatives in ways beneficial to all humankind — promoting peace, democracy, and human rights. But the proximate aim was to unshackle American power. Saddam Hussein’s demise would serve as an object lesson for all: Here’s what we can do. Here’s what we will do.

Although you weren’t going to advertise the point, this unshackling would also contribute to the security of Israel. To Wohlstetter’s five precepts you had added a silent codicil. According to the unwritten sixth precept, Israeli interests and U.S. interests must align. You understood that making Israelis feel safer makes Israel less obstreperous, and that removing the sources of Israeli insecurity makes the harmonizing of U.S. and Israeli policies easier. Israel’s most effective friends are those who work quietly to keep the divergent tendencies in U.S.-Israeli relations from getting out of hand. You have always been such a friend. Preventive war to overthrow an evil dictator was going to elevate the United States to the status of Big Kahuna while also making Israelis feel just a little bit safer. This audacious trifecta describes your conception. And you almost pulled it off.

Imagine — you must have done so many times — if that notorious mission accomplished banner had accurately portrayed the situation on the ground in Iraq in May 2003. Imagine if U.S. forces had achieved a clean, decisive victory. Imagine that the famous (if staged) photo of Saddam’s statue in Baghdad’s Al Firdos Square being pulled down had actually presaged a rapid transition to a pro-American liberal democracy, just as your friend Ahmed Chalabi had promised. Imagine if none of the ensuing horrors and disappointments had occurred: the insurgency; Fallujah and Abu Ghraib; thousands of American lives lost and damaged; at least 125,000 Iraqis killed, and some 3 million others exiled or displaced; more than a trillion dollars squandered….

[P]reventive war was supposed to solve problems. Eliminating threats before they could materialize was going to enhance our standing, positioning us to call the shots. Instead, the result was a train wreck of epic proportions. Granted, as you yourself have said, “the world is better off” with Saddam Hussein having met his maker. But taken as a whole, the cost-benefit ratio is cause for weeping. As for global hegemony, we can kiss it goodbye.

PS: Edited to add just this deliciously sharp little jab from Bacevich to the whole Bush Iraq enterprise and it’s managers:

One of the questions emerging from the Iraq debacle must be this one: Why did liberation at gunpoint yield results that differed so radically from what the war’s advocates had expected? Or, to sharpen the point, How did preventive war undertaken by ostensibly the strongest military in history produce a cataclysm?

Not one of your colleagues from the Bush Administration possesses the necessary combination of honesty, courage, and wit to answer these questions. If you don’t believe me, please sample the tediously self-exculpatory memoirs penned by (or on behalf of) Bush himself, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Tenet, Bremer, Feith, and a small squad of eminently forgettable generals.

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“Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East,” Bush told Chirac.

Whenever I read an account of the lead-up to the Iraq war, I usually marvel over how much the critics of the war got right. We guessed Saddam was not lying about weapons of mass destruction. We knew from the beginning the Bushists were going to have the war no matter what anyone else said. We knew they had been planning it all along. We knew they were not going to topple Saddam and *poof* like magic a wonderful new Iraq would appear. We knew they had let the sectarian monster out of the labyrinth. We knew they didn’t give a shit about the members of the military they were using and reusing and reusing again and again to fight their war. We knew!

Now I find out, the truth was probably even weirder than we suspected.

Vanity Fair has a six-page excerpt from Kurt Eichenwald’s 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars up on its site and its an eye-opening read. Most of it confirms what critics suspected. I always did know Bush was an embarrassment, but if the following scene Eichenwald describes actually took place… well, there just are no words!  This is alleged to have occurred in a phone call between the two world leaders as Bush was trolling for support for his Iraq policy from UN Security member nations, at the insistence of Tony Blair, in the late fall of 2003:

But before Chirac could elaborate on that point, Bush veered into another direction.

“Jacques,” he said, “You and I share a common faith. You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we are both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible. We share one common Lord”

Chirac said nothing. He didn’t know where Bush was going with this.

“Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East,” Bush said. ‘’Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.”

Gog and Magog? What was that?, thought Chirac.

“This confrontation,” Bush said, “is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a new age begins.”

Chirac was bewildered. The American president, he thought, sounded dangerously fanatical.

After the call ended, Chirac called together his senior staff members and relayed the conversation.

“He said, ‘Gog and Magog.’ Do any of you know what he is talking about?”

Blank faces and head shakes.

“Find out,” Chirac said.