I thought I'd mark the the tenth anniversary of our Iraq war by following up on the posting by "Native" and " "Cosmic Debris" about S RES 65 and and what it offers in terms of a new one. Maybe, I was also just in a mood to connect some dots that have been lying around....
An Anniversary - and a Prelude to a New War
On the week of the tenth anniversary of our starting our war with Iraq it seems appropriate to connect a few dots—just for old times’ sake. Dot number one is this. Brad Knickerbocker of the Christian Science Monitor has just published an article detailing some of the costs of the Iraq war. He cites a new study by scholars at Brown University which is worth quoting at length:
• More than 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence in Iraq have been civilians – an estimated 134,000. This number does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher.
• The Iraq War will ultimately cost US taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion. Because the Iraq war appropriations were funded by borrowing, cumulative interest through 2053 could amount to more than $3.9 trillion.
• The $2.2 trillion figure includes care for veterans who were injured in the war in Iraq, which will cost the United States almost $500 billion through 2053.
• The total of US service members killed in Iraq is 4,488. At least 3,400 US contractors have died as well, a number often under-reported.
• Terrorism in Iraq increased dramatically as a result of the invasion and tactics and fighters were exported to Syria and other neighboring countries.
• Iraq’s health care infrastructure remains devastated from sanctions and war. More than half of Iraq’s medical doctors left the country during the 2000s, and tens of thousands of Iraqi patients are forced to seek health care outside the country.
• The $60 billion spent on reconstruction for Iraq has not gone to rebuilding infrastructure such as roads, health care, and water treatment systems, but primarily to the military and police. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has found massive fraud, waste, and abuse of reconstruction funds.
I guess we should say sorry to the people of Iraq; sorry also to those of you who care about peace, justice, and the rule of international law, sorry to our vets and their families and, finally, sorry to those that care about the national deficit and the general well-being of our nation. It would be nice if the GOP said “sorry” for the sorry president that got us into this mess…
So dot number two is that the GOP has just published a study detailing how it needs to do things differently. There is no apology here. Their report is called "The Growth & Opportunity Project." The report is their very own exploration of why they lost the last election. Alas, party first as always. It would have been much better for them to have explored how they have repeatedly misled and mis-served our nation.
There is little point in recounting the lessons the Republican Party supposedly learned from this project. They all revolve around the desire to remake the GOP without really changing anything about it. Notably however, there seems little mention of how their candidates last time around vied to win awards for stridency and militant posturing with regard to US foreign policy. At times they seemed they would fall over themselves in their rush to be the first to attack Iran. Another note from the CS Monitor article is also in order. To paraphrase, ‘At the conclusion of the Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend, conservative activists were asked about the US role in the world. Only 34 percent said the US should adopt a more muscular role; 50 percent said the US should pull back…Those results are similar to other recent polls: when asked whether the Iraq War was worth the effort and cost. Americans today answer “no.” By about a two-to-one margin.’
But Republicans apparently still feel no need to change the substance of their policies—only to tinker with their “tone” and “messaging.” In short, they still don’t get it. Even as we speak they are falling over each other to sign on to the AIPAC inspired S RES 65 (the article linked here gives the full text of the RES: http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org/...). It is well worth reading in its entirety.
Which brings me to dot number three: our recent rush to lay the groundwork for a war with Iran. (I say recent, but it has actually been years in the making). I recently finished a book entitled “Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State” by David Patrikarakos. The author details Iran’s nuclear program from its inception in 1957, under our erstwhile ally, the former Shah. While the author is fairly evenhanded in his approach, he is certainly no apologist for the current Iranian regime. Yet overall, the most pertinent point emerges while rarely being made explicit: one cannot read this book without becoming convinced that the Iranians running the nuclear program under both the Shah and the current regime were certainly “rational decision makers.”
As AIPAC and others are now urging us to endorse Israeli military action against Iran, (which is really the point of S RES 65)this crucial point cannot be overemphasized. The case being made against Iran today is invariably based on assumptions of malicious and even suicidal tendencies on the part of Iranian decision makers. There is no evidence of that irrationality in this book. To paraphrase a recurring theme, in western assessments of Iran’s nuclear capability “factual clauses” (their nuclear program is an inefficient mess) are followed by predictive clauses that might imply possibly malicious intentions (this mess they have made of their nuclear research MAY EVENTUALLY BECOME A STEPPING-STONE TO THE POSSIBILITY OF THEIR FINALLY DECIDING TO EVENTUALLY TRY TO ACQUIRE NUCLEAR WEAPONS!) Talk about smoking guns! This being so, there is hardly much point in parsing all the technical details. As the author notes, under both the Shah and the current regime, Iran has “spent 30 years struggling to bring a single reactor at Bushehr online” (Patrikarakos, p. 281).
So when we consider the predictions of Iran’s “imminent acquisition” of a nuclear weapon, we should recall that even the Iranians, (who really had the inside info) regularly claimed over many years that the Bushehr reactor would be ready “very soon.” It apparently finally went online just last year. Likewise, the very reputable defense publication Jane’s Weekly predicted as early as 1984 that “‘Khomeini’s nuclear bomb’ was ‘entering its final stages’ a claim which, to be fair, is only 28 years premature and counting” (p.127). Of course Israel started squawking that an Iranian weapon was imminent very shortly after that…
And so, finally, we reach dot number 4: the culpability of the last Bush administration. There was a key point in Iran’s nuclear program when an accommodation might have been reached to sideline Iran’s nuclear ambitions. That was under George W. Bush. As David Patrikarakos notes, after 9/11, then Iranian president Khatami (a moderate) ‘was able to convince Iranian hardliners to support the US in its invasion of Afghanistan, to back the formation of the post Taliban government at the 2001 Bonn conference, to help arm the US backed Northern Alliance, to extradite al-Qaeda members to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, to brief US intelligence agencies on al-Qaeda activities, and to give direct help in searching for any US airmen lost over Iranian territory’ (pgs. 170-171). Khatami was rewarded for persuading the highly distrustful members of the Iranian leadership to go ahead with this kind of unprecedented cooperation with the US by having George W. Bush include Iran in his famous “axis of evil” speech.
This bizarre act by Bush was effectively the end of Khatami’s political career. It opened the door to that much less appealing character—Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It also derailed real reform in Iran for years. Sorry about that Iran.
But the episode nicely illustrates a point I made earlier: Khatami, who although a moderate is also a religiously trained Iranian cleric, was clearly a “rational decision maker.” The fact that he was able to win the argument to support the US proves that his Iranian colleagues were also “rational decision makers.” Finally, the predictable response of the other Iranian leadership (to return to their previous distrust of the US and to continue to keep their nuclear options open) was also classically “rational.” It was in fact the very same decision that our dear old ally the Shah made long, long ago. When confronted with the conundrum that although he didn’t really want a nuke (and all the condemnation that would come with), but that he had to immediately make certain decisions about nuclear research that might seriously limit Iran’s future options if it ever did decide it needed a nuke, he made a rational decision; i.e. to keep his options open. That is exactly the same rational decision the current regime made. And this is why Iran seems to pursue a somewhat confusing program in terms of its nuclear research.
A final, rather damning conclusion can be drawn from the Bush/Khatami episode—one that brings us back to our starting point. The final tally for our misguided Iraq war is still mounting AND the very same stupidity from the Bush administration that got us into that war, also laid the groundwork for the coming war with Iran. Those costs should eventually be tallied together. In the meantime, we must do what we can to reset the US agenda.
To briefly review the dots, 1)the costs of the Iraq war are still not known, 2) the GOP has in no way learned its lessons or changed in any way; they are, through the vehicle of AIPAC’s S RES 65, introduced by Lindsey Graham (another hawkish southern Republican), trying to lay the groundwork for a new war, this time with Iran, 3) the need for such a war is overstated and misrepresented, 4) even the hypothetical need for action against Iran is the result of bad policy by the previous GOP administration (i.e. Bush’s decision to cut Khatami off at the knees).
What we see now, ten years after we entered Iraq, is a familiar pattern of bad judgments, based on bad assessments, based on bad premises and generally driven by sloppy, dangerous thinking: exactly the same pattern we saw in the buildup to the Iraq war. It's truly sad to see over twenty Democratic Senators rushing to sign on to S RES 65 as well
Naturally, Israel is now trying to use this occasion to pry another 647 million dollars loose from the American taxpayer–this time for ‘bunker buster bombs.’ Hey, if they don’t use them now they can use them to bully their neighbors later. Naturally, this is a purely ‘rational decision’ on Israel';s part. As long as they can gull us into supporting their favorite fantasy, into destroying their supposed enemies one by one and paying for it all ourselves, and into handing out money and arms all the time, they will certainly persist in their current ways.
So I guess that means we need to say a final “sorry” to the ever patient American taxpayer. Or perhaps instead of that you can write your representatives and tell them how you really feel about S RES 65.