“Iraq is a disaster” – feh!

December 21, 2006 at 6:01 pm (Blogs, Idiots, Iraq, The United States, World War III)

In the comment thread for “We’re not winning in Iraq?” by geoff of Uncommon Misconceptions, FundiMental said:

Iraq is a disaster.

Later, Mark in NJ chimes in:

Maybe there’s a simpler explanation: no books because there’s nothing good happening there to write about.

How is it a disaster?

It’s so easy to say it, isn’t it? Well, prove it. The burden of proof is on your side.

Where is the exhaustive analyses of the progress in Iraq compared to what trouble areas there are?

Where are you getting your impressions, from the pictures on the television?

What about what the soldiers have to say? What about what Iraqi politicians have to say? What about what quietist Iraqi Shiites have to say? What about what the Kurds have to say?

All I hear is such-and-such Sunni claiming this, that-and-that Shiite militia proclaiming that…what about the rest of Iraq? Is Iraq made up of two groups, militant Sunnis and militant Shiites? What happened to the rest?

What about the schools, hospitals, medicines, electricity, water, roads, airports, homes, apartment buildings, businesses, cars, oil, telephone connections, internet, libraries?

Iraq is a disaster.

I challenge you: prove your ridiculous assertion. If you can’t, then desist immediately from your gross misrepresentations (and consider this: if you know you can’t prove it, you know you’re wrong, and if you continue to assert your claim knowing you’re wrong, you’re blatantly lying).

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23 Comments

  1. FundiMental said,

    dis•as•ter (dĭ-zās’tər, -sās’-) Pronunciation Key n.
    1.
    a. An occurrence causing widespread destruction and distress; a catastrophe.
    b. A grave misfortune.

    I believe I could fairly make the claim that the US-lead military intervention in Iraq (referred to simply as “Iraq” in this commentary) meets the definition of disaster as there clearly is – and I think there is no dispute on this – “widespread destruction and distress”. But you might be looking for something more explicit than this.

    First, I don’t think anyone can “prove” that Iraq is a disaster as ultimately this is a matter of opinion. So if you’ll allow me I’ll provide you with evidence that supports this claim – evidence that, if looked at fairly, will permit a reasonable person to hold the opinion that Iraq has been a disaster, on several levels. And while ‘disaster’ is a strong word it is a reasonable word to use to describe the situation.

    One other point of clarification: things in Iraq are going poorly “on the whole”. Like a business that is about to declare bankruptcy but has experienced minimal employee turnover, we can say that the net result is “a disaster”. While there are positives to reference, the overall result does not meet expectations and, by any reasonable business measure, is a failure (despite the positives). The point here is simple: you can’t point to a rebuilt school or a non-violent city in Iraq and claim that Iraq is therefore not a disaster.

    Iraq is a disaster, certainly relative to our government’s initial claims and relative to the expectations initially set. The war is not funded by Iraqi oil sales. The war was not over when Bush declared “Mission Accomplished”. We were not greeted as liberators. It has cost the US over $300 billion dollars and will likely cost that much more again, far more than originally planned. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed (which in itself is, sadly, a disaster), and this is far more than originally expected. Perhaps most important, we did not achieve the objective we set out to achieve, if only because that objective did not need to be achieved in the first place. I’m referring here to the primary motivation for conducting preemptive war: the threat of WMD. In this sense Iraq has been a disaster.

    This administration’s policy – combined with a failure to recognize and/or acknowledge problems – birthed a political “disaster” for Bush and his Party. Again, this is quite clearly a matter of opinion, but I believe a complete reversal of power in both the House and Senate can reasonably be described as a disaster, politically. Certainly many conservatives felt this way (here I’ll reference Geoff’s lamentations on election night on his blog).

    The war is approaching the point where one could legitimately describe it as a military disaster. Sincere leaders of our military comfortably use terms like “civil war” to describe the degraded and degrading situation in Iraq. There is general, open acknowledgement that we may lose this war, militarily.

    Iraq is now the epicenter and training ground for Islamic terrorism. Clearly not part of the original plan, our invasion of Iraq has potentially increased the threat of terrorism – not decreased it. This is the forecast of numerous intelligence agencies. If accurate, this is disastrous.

    But perhaps the strongest evidence to support the claim that “Iraq is a disaster” hasn’t even materialized yet. The US is clearly blamed by the international community for its mistaken invasion. If terrorism is in fact breeding, Americans (and our allies) will be the focus of retribution for many years to come. Additionally, our ability to stabilize an already volatile region of the world is nearly gone as we have lost requisite credibility – and allies.

    Finally, I can’t help but imagine the opportunity costs born from this misadventure in Iraq. The entire globe supported this country on Sep 12, 2001 (even the French!) and we have squandered that support with our arrogant (i.e., widely unsupported) choice to preemptively invade Iraq. Of course this is not evidence (yet) but it does represent a serious risk to the security of the US – a risk that was needlessly taken, as we now know.

    [As an aside, I’d like to address one other point that has been ignored: Who should be accountable? I proposed that “the buck stops” with the Bush Administration and the Republican leadership who supported their policies and plans. Conservative bloggers respond with statements that suggest “there is plenty of blame to go around” and “the media is biased” and “you liberals keep changing your story”. Honestly – is this where you think accountability lies? Or are you suggesting that things are going well in Iraq and there’s no need to wonder about accountability? If so, let’s start distributing the accolades…]

  2. geoff said,

    Oh. My. God. Every single liberal canard crammed into a single screed. You’re no conservative, Fundi. Why is it that so many of your ilk want to try to pretend to be conservatives when you comment on conservative blogs. We don’t give extra credit for your comments because of your political affiliation. And as many times (~ 10) as I’ve seen liberals try this, it has never worked.

    Let’s see now, we’ve got:

    “Mission Accomplished”
    “WMD”
    “Iraqi Civilian Deaths”
    “Greeted as liberators”
    “Cost of war”
    “Iraq is now the epicenter and training ground for Islamic terrorism.”
    “We lost the support of the world that we had on 9/12”

    There there’s this:

    here I’ll reference Geoff’s lamentations on election night on his blog

    My lamentations were that the election results meant that we’d lost the war. I wasn’t commenting on the political dimensions of the “disaster.”

  3. Muslihoon said,

    For the record, I may or may not respond to comments here – depends on a number of factors. But a key one is that I believe my readers and commenters can do a better job than I can, so I’d rather let them have a go.

  4. FundiMental said,

    I’ve presented facts. It is a fact that our government lead us to war on the grounds that Iraq represented a major threat due to their possession and willingness to use WMD – and we did not find WMD. It is a fact that tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have died in this war. Etc.

    Do you dispute these facts or do you agree that they are facts but simply don’t consider them disastrous? I cannot tell from your comments which is the case, Geoff.

    Call me a liberal. Accuse me of using “canards”. Use flowery language like “Oh. My. God.” Even accuse me of being a blatant liar. But please address this question – Are these facts and if so, do they represent disaster for the US?

    And again, I ask (for the third time) who should be held accountable? Where should this buck stop? The media? Liberals? Or the leadership of our government?

  5. FundiMental said,

    While Geoff and Muslihoon (and presumably Muslihoon’s invited readers) are mulling over their responses to my last post I thought I’d take a moment and defend my conservative credentials (since they were called into question in this thread). I hold the following values which I believe are consistent with traditional conservative thinking:

    o Personal responsibility – Individuals are responsible for their own choices and actions. Neither the government nor the collective community should compensate the individual for actions that are clearly their own. Alternatively, each individual should be expected to “own up” to their mistakes.

    o Accountability – Failure to hold our elected officials accountable for mistakes and misdeeds represents a significant threat to the legitimacy of a representative democracy.

    o Fiscal prudence – Government should be small and fiscally wise. Like individuals, the government should live within its financial means. Accumulating dept is risky while investing and keeping financial reserves reduces risk.

    I’ve selected these three items for a reason. You might agree that the Bush administration has abandoned these conservative values (this is my opinion – an opinion I can back up with evidence if challenged to do so). This is one reason why I am very much against this administration and perhaps why I am seen – by some of you – as a “liberal”.

  6. Wickedpinto said,

    What is occuring in Iraq would have happened upon the death of Saddam anyway. The problem is, that it would have been bloodier, and it would have spilled over into other nations, and not the ones that we dislike. The conflict would have spilled over into turkey (imperfect, in fact, less perfect than it was only 30 years ago, but there is still hope in turkey) or into jordan (once again, imperfect, but actually more perfect than it was 15 years ago) who we actually like, because while they have their problems, they are not slaughtering their citizens wholesale. (granted some of their citizens are trying to promote that sort of reaction) and they are not directly interferring on a great scale in teh stability of neighbor nations.

    So, with the US there, to provide stability, actually more stability than exists in syria or iran, Iraq is better off. We are there, but we are not a cruel empire, forcing our will on the populace, we are defining FOR the populace the nature of their own troubles, and a lot are waking up to it.

    Disaster? Absolutely not, compared to the occupied countries after WWII reprisal killing is relatively minor. In austria, in france, in the netherlands, in polands, in east germany, in czechslovakia and every other nation occupied by germany, the populace (and in some cases the russians) slaughtered people on a far greater scale, yet, WWII is a great victory. How do you reconcile that?

    Whenever a nation falls there are always repercussions, that is the nature of the communal efforts of mankind. Just bitching and moaning means nothing, if all you are bitching and moaning about is right now. It is necessary to fight for the future, especially now, because in fact, what had passed is worse.

    Let me close out with one of my quick quote word pad save files, that I use whenever I hear this kinda crap. William Jefferson Clinton took pride in being named after “the greatest president in US history” even though he changed that moniker sometime later acknowledging that it was lincoln, oddly enough, both presidents would have B-slapped Clinton in an instant.

    “”In the struggle which was necessary [in France], many guilty persons fell without the forms of trial, and with them some innocent. These I deplore as much as anybody, and shall deplore some of them to the day of my death. But I deplore them as I should have done had they fallen in battle.” –Thomas Jefferson to William Short, 1793. ME 9:9 ”

    “”We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a feather-bed.” –Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1790. ME 8:13 ”

    “”My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed I would have seen half the earth desolated; were there but an Adam and an Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than as it now is.” –Thomas Jefferson to William Short, 1793. ME 9:10 ”

    And one of my favorites, as it pertains to these repetative and stupid arguments.
    “There is no act, however virtuous, for which ingenuity may not find some bad motive.
    Letter to Edward Dowse (April 19, 1803) “

  7. FundiMental said,

    Wickedpinto – It sounds like you agree with the facts I presented but you do not agree that these facts sum to qualify for “disaster status” in Iraq. Am I reading you correctly?

    So it is not a disaster in Iraq because:

    a) Everything happening in Iraq would have happened anyway and,

    b) It could be so much worse if not for US presence.

    I’m sorry, but this is a standard I will not accept (see my presentation on conservative values, above, for some insights as to why I feel this way). I prefer to look at objective evidence and objective reality as opposed to relying on a forecast of how things might have been under different circumstances. Conditions in Europe after WWII, as bad as they may have been, don’t change the situation on the ground in Iraq today. There are many other reasons why WWII Europe is not a good/fair comparison to Iraq not the least of which is that we did not preemptively strike Europe’s Axis powers. Had Iraq struck us first (and to be clear, they did not) no one would be troubling over the violence in Iraq. We are, quite unfortunately, the first cause in this scenario. The moral implications are staggering (or if you prefer, disastrous).

    The facts I present suggest Iraq is a disaster. That it could be much worse (and might have been under different circumstances) does not change the facts nor does it render my “disaster” conclusion any less reasonable.

    I like your Jefferson quotes (I’m a big fan) but a plea to authority is a weak counter.

  8. Wickedpinto said,

    Fundi,

    So you are agreeing that all that the US is guilty of is inserting itself into a disaster, and minimizing it, before a greater one occured.

    Thank you.l

  9. Wickedpinto said,

    Fundi, Let me summarize your statements, since you admit you agree for those of us (including me, I don’t always feel like reading long posts, thats why I’m an iffy commentor on mus’s site)

    “Yes, war is hell”
    “no this is not war, this is stabilization”
    “No, this is not worse than WWII in fact, it is much better, but who knows when THIS will end”
    “Yes, the freedom of the people to chose is good, but how do we know that the people will be the ones chosing whence America leaves?”
    “America should not be an imperialism”
    “the people who don’t want an american imperialism are more active than ever before” (no shit, cuz america hasn’t been there before.
    “The people who don’t want a democractic nation are more active than they have ever been before” (except for when they were being KILLED BY THE DICTATOR FUCK that the US was the only nation willing to take off of your hands)
    “The People of the Middle East want you out of their region” (EXCEPT FOR THE IRAQI’s)

    In summary.

    ABSOLUTE, 100% success so far, now, it’s just an effort, success is clear, as long as we are just as dedicated as the populace, which is pretty flogging significant.

  10. Wickedpinto said,

    You are clearly not objective Fundi, you are clearly educated, but you are not at all in anyway whatsoever in any way that can be defined by the nature of physics, or god, or science, or engineering.

    I’m not an accademic of policy, I was a Marine who WAS an engineering major, who WAS an electronics tech.

    Clearly, you don’t know a DAMN thing about fixing a DAMN thing. You can’t even be an inventory clerk.

    “a) Everything happening in Iraq would have happened anyway and,

    b) It could be so much worse if not for US presence.

    yes.

    and somehow your non executive mind thinks that that is a validation of NOT going into Iraq?

    Everything WOULD have been worse, and everything WOULD have been worse, but the US needs to get OUT?

    That is just purely Liberal Arts in it’s attitude, and I don’t even have a degree. Only 9 years of experience, and 4 years as a Marine who had to clean up all of the worlds mess.

    and don’t get me started on clinton, so, don’t you DARE say a damn thing about President Bush.

  11. geoff said,

    I’ve presented facts.

    Well let’s have a look, shall we? First off, I don’t see that comparing pre-war predictions to subsequent events has much bearing on whether Iraq is a “disaster” or not. The present status and trends are what define whether it is a disaster, not the accuracy of predictions. Thus, almost your entire argument is moot.

    Second, even if predictive accuracy was useful as a measure, you’d have to compare that to the accuracy of other predictions. Such as, say, the predictions that we’d have 10,000 military casualties during the initial invasion, that we’d get bogged down on the way to Baghdad, that we couldn’t take Baghdad without enormous losses, that 100,000 civilians would be killed during the initial invasion, that over a million Iraqi refugees would be left homeless as a result of the initial invasion, that the sects would immediately be at each others’ throats, and that the Arab street would rise up in protest. None of that happened.

    Mission Accomplished. Only the lamest libs use the “Mission Accomplished” idiocy any more. Thoroughly debunked and ridiculous from the outset, its only utility is in immediately identifying moonbats/Kos Kids. Just like the stupid “chickenhawk” argument. No conservative who’s done any reading on the subject would ever cite that event in a serious argument. You voted for Kerry, didn’t you?

    We didn’t use Iraqi oil proceeds to pay for the war. Well, we never actually said that we would, for one. We said that oil proceeds would pay for reconstruction and we considered using them to pay for occupation. As it turned out, the Iraqi infrastructure and economy were so pitiful that the oil money couldn’t even cover all the reconstruction costs. Not to mention that there was an enormous public antipathy toward the idea of spending Iraqi oil money on anything but Iraqis.

    We weren’t greeted as liberators. And where did this damning prediction come from? Was it part of US policy? No, it was Cheney’s statement on Meet the Press: “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” Cheney says that it is his personal belief that we will be greeted as liberators, which the Kurds and many Shiites certainly did, and you hold it up as a failed formal prediction of the administration.

    These so-called “facts” have nothing to do with the issue of Iraq as a “disaster,” and even if they did, you have misrepresented them and/or their implications. That you hold them so ready to hand speaks volumes about your political leanings.

  12. geoff said,

    Hmmm. Stupid underlining didn’t work, making that very difficult to read. Oh well, it’s all been said before anyway.

  13. Wickedpinto said,

    If geoff didn’t have a dick, I’d kiss him.

  14. geoff said,

    So now we get down to the only relevant part of Fundi’s argument: civilian casualties in Iraq. Do the civilian casualties constitute a “disaster?” Certainly they constitute a humanitarian disaster, but this is not necessarily a policy disaster. Consider these candidates for the United States’ definitions of success and disaster:

    Complete Success: Stable, secular democracy with great relations with the US and a strong influence in reforming the Middle East

    Complete Failure: Our forces are routed and we are driven from Iraq with huge losses.

    Obviously we are not close to either extreme, so what is a reasonable set of criteria for disaster? Would the fragmentation of the country be a disaster? Maybe. Would Al Qaeda taking over be a disaster? Absolutely.

    But let’s get back to the humanitarian aspect, since I suspect that the semantic difference in the usage of “disaster” is at the root of this disagreement. The ignition of sectarian violence has increased the harm to the population far beyond what Al Qaeda and the Baathists were ever able to accomplish. This is not just a security problem – it is a political problem among various Iraqi factions, and a coming home to roost for the past sins of many Sunnis and Shiites.

    Thus the sectarian violence cannot be resolved with military action alone. In fact, use of the military is only a holding action until the political process generates solutions to the problem. The Iraqi government has been slow to act against this violence, but now seems to be taking a more serious stance.

    BTW, the humanitarian disaster peaked a couple of months ago – violence since October has been about half what it was in September. We’re still 3 times higher than in 2005, but I have hopes that the combination of fatigue, the recent unleashing of the military, the execution of Saddam’s sentence, and more aggressive political efforts will get us back to that level.

    Then it’ll just be Al Qaeda. And their days are numbered.

  15. FundiMental said,

    I think we’re getting closer on this one (at least Geoff and I might be closer). Our differences seem to be around key semantic issues and our standards differences. I’ll try to address the salient points from Wickedpinto and Geoff, above.

    Wickedpinto – The US is guilty of far more than inserting itself into the disaster that is Iraq. I believe we are responsible for creating this disaster. Further, your summary of my statements does not reflect anything of import to the topic, at least not for me.

    Geoff – It seems like you are willing to concede that we may have a humanitarian disaster on our hands. Will you also agree that we have a political disaster in terms of the cost to US credibility and international relations? I’ll concede that “Mission Accomplished”, “we’ll be greeted as liberators”, “we’ll pay for this with their oil” and other more general miscalls from the administration don’t – in and of themselves – constitute disaster (with WMD as a critical exception).

    Further, I’ll concede that we do not have “Complete Failure” (your term). Far from it in fact. Surely we all have sufficient imagination to conjure up a scenario far worse than the one we’re dealing with now. But just as surely this is NOT the standard we should be applying. Let me sum up my views:

    We (the US) chose to invade Iraq militarily because we saw them as a threat to our national security for two key reasons: 1) they had WMD and the will to use them and 2) we believe Iraq was connected to Al Qaeda. If we were correct on both counts (perhaps on either count?) I would withhold much of my criticism. But we were not correct. We preemptively invaded a country based on a perceived threat that was proven to be false. This is a disaster (at least a humanitarian disaster, you seem to agree). That things have continued to go very badly since our initial poorly conceived invasion only compounds the disaster.

    So now we should talk about accountability.

  16. geoff said,

    Oops. Looks like my optimism may be unwarranted, given that Sistani has now sided with Sadr.

    One of Iraq’s most influential Shiite clerics has rejected a U.S.-backed proposal to isolate Shiite extremists in the national government, saying Iraq should govern and police itself with the help of anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada Sadr, according to those who spoke to him today…

    Ali Adeeb, another member of the Dawa party, said Shiite leaders, including the prime minister, will resist U.S. efforts to block Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.

    Looks like the Shiites in the government are perfectly comfortable with the level of violence.

  17. Rochonf said,

    Merry Christmas to everybody, even to those liars and to those poor ignorant men that think they are winning in Irak just because they are splashing blood all over the walls.

  18. geoff said,

    It seems like you are willing to concede that we may have a humanitarian disaster on our hands.

    I don’t think anybody’s happy with a casualty rate of 1500 civilians per month, and certainly not with 3300 civilians per month. Except the factions who have something to gain. Make no mistake – this is a humanitarian disaster whose beginning may be laid partially at our feet, but whose perpetuation is largely the fault of Maliki, et al.

    Will you also agree that we have a political disaster in terms of the cost to US credibility and international relations?

    Not really. My view of international politics is based on a far bleaker framework than you’re contemplating. Talking about US credibility and international relations at a time like this is naive.

    2) we believe Iraq was connected to Al Qaeda

    This is another false liberal theme – that the GWoT is only a war to deal with the perpetrators of 9/11. The GWoT is a war against *all* terrorist groups who threaten the United States and its allies. We certainly didn’t go to war against Iraq because we believed it was connected to 9/11.

    We preemptively invaded a country based on a perceived threat that was proven to be false.

    And why don’t conservatives seem to care? You should ponder that. And it’s not because we like using the military or hate Iraqis.

    The WMD intelligence was crap. As was the intelligence on Iraq’s infrastructure. As is the intelligence on Iran. Bush has failed miserably in effecting the kind of reform we need in our intelligence community. But if I had had the 2002 NIE in my hands on October 2002, I wouldn’t have waited until March to invade.

    So now we should talk about accountability.

    Go on ahead without me: I already know the answer. Meanwhile I’ll keep focusing on finding a solution to the current problems that doesn’t involve ethnic cleansing or shooting all the clerics.

    This “accountability” thing – another recurrent liberal meme.

  19. Wickedpinto said,

    If Everyone gets off of the US’s case, the US will cut the number of civilian deaths and increase the number of scumbag deaths, if we were allowed to.

    The problem with the US is not that we wage war, it’s that we are NOT allowed to wage war, in a time of war.

  20. FundiMental said,

    Geoff wrote:

    “This “accountability” thing – another recurrent liberal meme.”

    Not sure what to say in response to this. I sure hope this is a rare view among conservatives and among Americans in general. I’m all for seeking a solution but without accountability (and we have indeed been without it for a while now) we put our democracy at risk.

  21. geoff said,

    Not sure what to say in response to this. I sure hope this is a rare view among conservatives and among Americans in general.

    I never meant to suggest that elected representatives shouldn’t be held accountable. It’s just that liberals have been using “accountability” as a battle cry since the summer of 2003. It is a liberal code word for “impeachment,” and it is usually accompanied by strident exaggerations of the administration’s malfeasance, starting with the long-discredited “Bush lied” theme.

    If that’s not how you meant it, then I’ll apologize after I see your clarification.

  22. FundiMental said,

    I think we are on the same page on the “accountability” question. But just to be sure:

    How should Bush and key members of his adminstration be held accountable for Iraq? If it’s not the case that “Bush lied” (and I don’t believe he did) how do we explain the mistaken judgment? Isn’t it true that he either lied (and again, I don’t think he did) or he was incompetent?

    There’s been no accountability. If anything, there has been promotion and accolades for those who lead us into this mess. Bush won re-election. Rice was promoted. Tenent and Franks won Medals of Freedom.

  23. geoff said,

    Look – you don’t punish people for making decisions, even when they turn out badly. They make the best decision they can based on the available information. They’re just doing their job. On the other hand, you don’t reward them either, so reelection is not a usual consequence of ugly outcomes.

    In this case, Bush was reelected not because of his outstanding decision making, but because the Dems ran a miserable candidate. Had they run a truly moderate Democrat, Bush wouldn’t have had a chance. It’s Dean’s fault, of course, for pulling the primaries to the left, leaving Kerry as the compromise choice. Then they tried to sell Kerry as a moderate. Heh. I made a spreadsheet of all the Senators’ voting records on military expenditures for the last decade – Kerry was near the bottom. His willingness to try to portray himself as a moderate just meant he lacked character as well.

    So if you want to express dissatisfaction with an elected official’s performance, it really helps when the opposing candidate doesn’t seem to be a worse choice. The Dems could have walked away with the 2004 election – I was prepared to vote for a Democrat if he sold me on his position on the GWoT. Didn’t happen. Not even close.

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