The Iraq War was the single largest mistake America has ever made. This is not hyperbole. Iraq had no WMDs and they were not harboring al Qaeda. Saddam Hussein was no threat to the citizens of the United States, nor was he a threat to his neighbors. He was effectively bottled in his country, cowed into a life of oil money decadence.
The dead Iraqis, Americans, and allies, along with the trillion dollar war, were completed wasted. The disgusting sociopaths that ordered the war completely lost their collective sanity after 9/11 and invented phantom objectives from grievances a decade old, totally unrelated to the challenges of the post 9/11 world. The most basic reason we went to war with Saddam Hussein is because the Bush Administration was filled with Cabinet members from Bush Sr’s administration who were pissed we didn’t end Hussein in the Gulf War, advocated most forcefully by a man so heartless he can live without a working one. That Cheney continues to live without a functioning heart is my strongest proof there is no just god.
We brought al-Qaeda to Iraq by invading it. The terrorist organization only entered in the post-invasion chaos caused by the complete lack of planning on the part of the warmongerers. So, for Thomas Friedman to say the Iraq War became a war against al-Qaeda, while true after the fact, is still a lie and a disgusting revision of the highest grade. It wasn’t; it couldn’t have been. The Bush Administration officials can lie all they want, but they all knew al Qaeda was not harbored in Iraq by Hussein. Their best evidence was that some Baathist met with a possible al Qaeda affiliate, once.
Maybe 2004 Thomas Friedman was right, when he said we invaded Iraq capriciously to set an example for other brown Muslim countries to “kick some ass” or whatever semantically correct but vapid, evil words he actually used, but the war was certainly not about democracy building. That was just the side project eventually presented to an American public still shocked and fearful from 9/11.
Claiming this war was a democracy building exercise with whatever “transformations” we only see now that the war happened (but was clearly then and now a war of revenge for old men) is a farce worthy of endless public condemnation. The only words written on the Iraq War should be how useless and tragic it was and will continue to be. Friedman does a disservice to the ignoble history of the war with this drivel. He just can’t bring himself to admit how wrong he was.
One reason the costs were so high is because the project was so difficult. Another was the incompetence of George W. Bush’s team in prosecuting the war. The other reason, though, was the nature of the enemy. Iran, the Arab dictators and, most of all, Al Qaeda did not want a democracy in the heart of the Arab world, and they tried everything they could — in Al Qaeda’s case, hundreds of suicide bombers financed by Arab oil money — to sow enough fear and sectarian discord to make this democracy project fail.
So no matter the original reasons for the war, in the end, it came down to this: Were America and its Iraqi allies going to defeat Al Qaeda and its allies in the heart of the Arab world or were Al Qaeda and its allies going to defeat them? Thanks to the Sunni Awakening movement in Iraq, and the surge, America and its allies defeated them and laid the groundwork for the most important product of the Iraq war: the first ever voluntary social contract between Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites for how to share power and resources in an Arab country and to govern themselves in a democratic fashion. America helped to midwife that contract in Iraq, and now every other Arab democracy movement is trying to replicate it — without an American midwife. You see how hard it is.
Which leads to the “maybe, sort of, we’ll see.” It is possible to overpay for something that is still transformational. Iraq had its strategic benefits: the removal of a genocidal dictator; the defeat of Al Qaeda there, which diminished its capacity to attack us; the intimidation of Libya, which prompted its dictator to surrender his nuclear program (and helped expose the Abdul Qadeer Khan nuclear network); the birth in Kurdistan of an island of civility and free markets and the birth in Iraq of a diverse free press. But Iraq will only be transformational if it truly becomes a model where Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, the secular and religious, Muslims and non-Muslims, can live together and share power….
The best-case scenario for Iraq is that it will be another Russia — an imperfect, corrupt, oil democracy that still holds together long enough so that the real agent of change — a new generation, which takes nine months and 21 years to develop — comes of age in a much more open, pluralistic society. The current Iraqi leaders are holdovers from the old era, just like Vladimir Putin in Russia. They will always be weighed down by the past. But as Putin is discovering — some 21 years after Russia’s democratic awakening began — that new generation thinks differently. I don’t know if Iraq will make it. The odds are really long, but creating this opportunity was an important endeavor, and I have nothing but respect for the Americans, Brits and Iraqis who paid the price to make it possible. Please stop the hackery, Tom. Retire to your fossil fuel guzzling mansion and hold salons with your very interesting 0.1% and cab driver friends.
Even worse, it “didn’t come down” to defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was an affiliate uninvolved in the attacks on 9/11. We could have totally lost in Iraq and still have defeated the al-Qaeda organization responsible for the crime against us. The War on Terror was always about Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perversely, that an affiliate group moved into Iraq saved the Bush Administration from the failures it made in deciding to go to war. Because, and everybody take note so we can move on and stop writing apologist crap, those guys never gave a shit about Iraq’s connection to 9/11 or al-Qaeda.