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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014
Douglas MacKinnon Columns

No one can claim Iraq was made better by the invasion

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For all intents and purposes, the country of Iraq no longer exists.

For much of the media, if there is even a slight chance the issue of the day will reflect poorly upon Barack Obama, they instantly morph into “nothing-to-see-here” mode and try to make it irrelevant by ignoring it.

As President Obama and his lack of any coherent foreign policy does bear some responsibility for the horror show now playing in Iraq, it’s already yesterday’s news for much of the media.

A special operator I spoke with who served in the region told me Obama’s indecisive or irresponsible actions and non-actions with regard to Egypt, Libya and Syria at least enabled the situation unfolding on the ground in Iraq.

That said, as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant continues its barbaric genocidal purification campaign, and as the Shiite Mahdi Army reconstitutes itself to wage a holy war against ISIL, the self-serving and embarrassing comments of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Vice President Dick Cheney should not be ignored.

In April, Blair correctly stated that radicalized Islam represents “the biggest threat to global security of the early 21st century.”

He should have stopped there.

As ISIL began its extermination campaign against Shiites, Christians and others who did not conform to its draconian theology, Blair struck out at critics who were saying that if Iraq had not been invaded in 2003, the terror taking place there in 2014 would not be possible.

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Three days after Blair’s suspect defense of his 2003 decision, Cheney took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to bash Obama with regard to the chaos in Iraq in a column titled “The Collapsing Obama Doctrine.” Conveniently, he and his daughter Liz Cheney, who co-authored the column, left out any mention of the 2003 “Bush-Cheney Doctrine,” which led to the invasion of Iraq.

In 2003, Cheney and Blair spoke of “nation building.” Today, it can be rightly argued that both appear more interested in “reputation rebuilding.”

Although we can never prove a negative, it defies all logic and common sense to state that the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the unending series of human tragedies it put into motion had nothing to do with the escalating violence we are witnessing today.

Unless someone invents a time machine, we cannot go back and reverse that act. That said, we can and should learn from the mistakes of the past.

Should we have gone into Iraq in March 2003? President George W. Bush and his team certainly felt so, as they believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and might soon pass them on to terrorists. Joining Bush, Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in that belief were the likes of current Vice President Joe Biden, current Obama Secretary of State John Kerry, current Obama Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, current Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice and former Obama Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Before and after the decision to invade, some of my former colleagues in the Pentagon were concerned that too much power and authority were being given to three civilian advisers to Rumsfeld.

Said a colonel I used to work with: “These academics never served a day in their lives and look at the war with Iraq as a giant board game for their amusement.

“All three will pay no price and most likely go on to make hundreds of thousands to millions.”

Film director and decorated combat veteran Oliver Stone once spoke to the value of experiencing war and combat.

“If Bush had spent three months in combat,” Stone said, “he would take a whole different view of war … and that includes Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. They’re tough guys, but combat softens you. If anything, it make you more aware of human frailty and vulnerability.”

Gone are the days when most U.S. presidents had military experience.

That said, and to Stone’s point, I would argue that someone with extensive military and combat experience should always have a seat at the table when these decisions are made.

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As the revisionist history of Iraq is in full swing with about 4,500 U.S. troops killed, more than 30,000 wounded, more than 3,000 U.S. contractors killed and more than 100,000 Iraqis — and counting — killed, no sane person can claim what remains of the country is better off now than before March 2003.

The welfare of troops is the first obligation for any politician or civilian who has the power to insert young men and women into combat.

We cannot go back in time, but those today who run from or twist their decisions of over a decade ago dishonor the sacrifice of those they asked to charge into battle.

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