John McCain, an old fashioned militarist, is on the floor of the Senate condemning Obama for abandoning Iraq. What else is new?

What is happening?

The Fall of Mosul and Tikrit, and the Likely Siege of Baghdad

Tikrit, Iraq — hometown of Saddam Hussein — fell today. The Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS), a Sunni creation, took the city by force, just a day after they took over Mosul. The Islamist rebels now control a wide swath of Iraq, and have taken massive caches of American weapons and supplie left in Iraq for the country’s army.

Tikrit is just 70 miles from Baghdad, Iraq’s capital. The Iraqi army, mostly Shiite and trained for years by the US military, is now deserting in the face of its enemy all over the battlefield. The Iraqi government is pledging to keep fighting, but we could be in for a grisly siege around Baghdad.


McCain has such passion, such energy, such conviction as he rewrites history.

So, who's to blame?

McCain quotes from the New Yorker article that makes the point that the invasion of Iraq destabilized the country and created the mess that continues to this very day. AND then he goes on to say that those who make decisions should be accountable for them. Of course he is thinking of the "failure" of the White House to get an agreement that would have U.S. forces in Iraq that would have U.S. Forces standing "with" Maliki's forces (who are deserting by the hundreds).

What he misses, and misses spectacularly, is that it is Bush foreign policy that created the mess and it was an Iraqi decision that left them without U.S. support.

Yes, someone should be accountable. Bush, Cheney, Rusmfeld, Wolfowitz and warhawks like McCain who wanted a war in Iraq to "finish the business of the Gulf War"  and to make the most of the opportunity created by a war culture in the U.S. should be held accountable.

George HW Bush's war was very limited in its objectives, done in concert with a large cadre of other nations, many of them Muslim, and in a way that made it "one and done."

George W. Bush and his neocon cabinet wanted a major geopolitical victory; a new client stand with huge oil reserves. They engineered the war. They created a fraudulent rationale and they continue to lie about it all to this very day.

Mr. McCain and other GOP have joined them in this culture of self serving denial.

Saddam Hussein was a secularist whose Baath Party kept the peace among Sunni's, Shiites, Christians and Jews. He was an awful man. He did terrible things. But our intervention has made life there worse.  

The Demise of the Status of Forces Agreement

In one of his final acts in office, President Bush in December of 2008 igned a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraqi government that set the clock ticking on ending the war he’d launched in March of 2003. The SOFA provided a legal basis for the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq after the United Nations Security Council mandate for the occupation mission expired at the end of 2008. But it required that all U.S. forces be  gone from Iraq by January 1, 2012, unless the Iraqi government was willing to negotiate a new agreement that would extend their mandate. It was  not what the Bush administration wanted but it was all they would get. They took it and handed that mess, among many, off to the Obama administration.

Middle East historian Juan Cole has noted, “Bush had to sign what the [Iraqi] parliament gave him or face the prospect that U.S. troops would have to leave by 31 December, 2008, something that would have been interpreted as a defeat… Bush and his generals clearly expected, however, that over time Washington would be able to wriggle out of the treaty and would find a way to keep a division or so in Iraq past that deadline.”

That extension would only be granted by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the Parliamentary coalition he headed if Iraqi authority over U.S. troops was extended beyond the norms that were common in all such agreements.  The fact is that resistance in the Iraqi Parliament was so great that Maliki was unable/unwilling to challenge the leadership of opposition parties that wanted all U.S. forces gone.

Ending the U.S. troop presence in Iraq was an overwhelmingly popular demand among Iraqis, and Maliki appears to have been unwilling to take the political risk of extending it. While he was inclined to see a small number of American soldiers stay behind to continue mentoring Iraqi forces, the likes of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, on whose support Maliki’s ruling coalition depended, were having none of it.

Even the Obama Administration’s plan to keep some 3,000 trainers behind failed because the Iraqis were unwilling to grant them the legal immunity from local prosecution that is common to SOF agreements in most countries where U.S. forces are based. Iraq said to the U.S.: We do not need you.

What Now?

A SOFA would have provided for residual US forces to help defeat the terrorists, or for the US to help re-supply the Iraqi military in a crisis like the present one. Iraq therefore cannot depend on us for anything, and will seek help from Iran and possibly Saudi Arabia and its other neighbors if they have the time to do so.

Whether they help Iraq is an open question. There are tribal, sectarian, and historical factors in play here and lots of oil.

President Bush hadn’t anticipated that Iraqi democracy would see pro-U.S. parties sidelined and would, instead, consistently return governments closer to Tehran than they are to Washington. Contra expectations, a democratic Iraq has turned out to be at odds with much of U.S. regional strategy — first and foremost its campaign to isolate Iran.  

If the Sunni ISIS gets into position to take over Iraq, it also is likely to help arm Syria’s rebels with some of the American-made weapons it has gained. The Islamists could get a two-fer here, taking effective control of Iraq with the help of a large number of fighters who fled Syria in the face of Assad victories there while weakening and maybe even toppling Assad next door. They would be taking Syria with US help.

The Bush legacy continues to grow. And that is not a good thing.





Keeping in mind the threats to the current governmentof Iraq, is the U.S. better off overall being out of that war?

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