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The Muck Starts Here: We’re still paying for Iraq War debacle

by Barry Hastings

(Much of this story will be in italics, and represents direct quotes from a piece I wrote for this site’s publisher while he edited a regional newspaper some 12 years ago. The Supreme Court has ruled a reporter’s stories are his, or hers, unless rights have been purchased. These have not)

President George W. Bush, already suspected of idiocy and past drug addiction, stood in the rubble of 9/11 attacks in New York City, flanked and back-grounded by laboring volunteers, policemen, and firemen (his arm around the shoulder of one). He hushed the crowd and media, Muckrakerthen began lying, ‘This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. . .  (then, much louder). . . it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.” Do you really think so? Here’s what happened next.

High in the frigid mountains of Tora Bora near the Afghan/Pakistan border, tattered, demoralized (beaten, hiding, retreating) Taliban and al Quaeda fighters were nearly surrounded by the toughest, roughest soldiers on earth. American mountain troops, Rangers, Marines, and Special Ops forces, were pumped with success, and near destroying planners of 9/11l attacks, and Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, having them trapped against the snow-blocked Tora Bora passes.

Few soldiers fighting there suspected they were about to be robbed of success, and by their own government. Fewer would have believed over the next 30 months they’d see everything accomplished, reversed. But plans were already well advanced for removing much of the force there – for use in assaulting Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Evidence indisputably demonstrates administration plans (fromLarry Hamp the first incident they could take advantage of) involved toppling Saddam. Coincidentally, they’d gain control of the world’s second largest oil reserves. And they’d (again, coincidentally) immensely enrich many energy industry investors; plus Saudi and Jordanian kings, princes, princesses, emirs, sheiks, many of them Bush family investment partners.

The plan required redirection of the nation’s anger, from those who attacked us, to those we were about to attack. Problem was, no connection – and though part of the Intel community was willing to hint of connections, they wouldn’t manufacture evidence; anything concrete – like documents, agent reports, other sources. They’d been burned before, by the snakes Nixon, Haldeman, Erlichman (then again by Reagan, Poindexter, North, as well).

The administration chose to rely on a technique finely honed by Bonaparte, Lenin, Hitler – massive, repetitive falsehoods of Saddam’s connections to al-Quaeda (not a scintilla of evidence ever discovered), and about existence of a huge Iraqi nuclear, biological, chemical weapons stash, “endangering America” (not a scintilla of evidence ever discovered).

The administration and military planners chose to rely on a two-pronged attack — from the south through staging centers in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, other ‘friendly’ states — from the north through Turkey. Turks were told (about so bluntly) we’d be using their border with Iraq to launch north flank assaults. Meekly enough, they acquiesced. Before long, however, second thoughts prevailed.

As invasion day neared, the Turks backed out, telling Bush to find another way. Bush tried bribes, then threats, to no avail. Invasion plans were re-cast men and equipment previously landed and sent to staging areas, were (laboriously) moved back across country to the sea. It was all re-loaded on re­called transport vessels (creating a considerable logistics jam), and a long journey began – out through the Med, then south around Africa, and up into the Gulf to Kuwait, and Iraq’s narrow coastal zone.

Up to now, it sounds like a case of surprise resulting from the “fog of war,” but the military had lost about 30 of its most promising generals and admirals who flatly refused to associate themselves, and questioned quality of the mission-planning, the small number of troops, lack of good allies. The people left to handle planning were the young technocrats of the David Petraeous type, who didn’t worry much about soldiers’ lives, and most of whom (Petraeous included) had zero combat experience. (Petraeous however, was already “penciled-in” for future promotion.) For Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld wanted it done at the lowest possible cost, and with the smallest possible “stir” among the public. So, the story continues.

Meanwhile, the southern attack was launched as planned. American and British infantry, armor, artillery, and air power cut through Iraqi forces like the proverbial hot knife through butter. Memories of terrible failure in all arms during the first Gulf War, spooked Saddam’s army and they were killed in thousands, captured in tens of thousands.

Brits and Yanks were one day from Baghdad, when the supply system run by contractors Bechtel, Halliburton, their subsidiaries, contractors, and wannabees, failed. Soldiers ran out of food, drinking water, and worst of all, ammunition. Armored columns and infantry were forced to a halt for a week while necessary supplies caught up to the columns.

A few weeks later, with thousands upon thousands of prisoners, and with troops on the line coming under increased fire and pressure from guerrilla fighters, the military released almost every captured Iraqi soldier, except rankers. Most departed detention with their weapons, and quickly melted into the landscape. It was a critical, irretrievable error in judgment, and military planning. They came back later in Muslim garb, to kill many a betrayed American soldier.

Iraqi leaders had promised Bush an easy victory, saying they’d greet us in the streets with Muslim equivalent of “Hosannas.” Many of our soldiers there were out-of-shape Guardsmen and Reserves. Many of them died.

So here we are, twelve or so years later, and what do we have to show for our effort in Iraq, outside of more than 4,500 dead soldiers, and attendant maimed? And what seemed a relatively quiet entire Mid-East before our invasion, has become an entire Mid-East in flames; roads clogged with millions of refugees, cities literally flattened, villages destroyed, innocents murdered, or killed in crossfire. There’s hardly a firmly based state in the region, and even the firmly based are very worried.

And I can tell you, with absolute certainty, electing another Republican president (none of those now contesting for the GOP nod seems remotely capable), will result in continuing and growing conflict in the region. Not one of them has a clue, saying nothing of ideas (or ideals). There was no need to hurry after Saddam – he was a man sure to offer many opportunities – but BCR needed some kind of quick win to feed the hungry (for blood) public… and led us straight into a still-growing mid-East maelstrom.

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