Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bush is his own court historian

and not a very good one. He has again completely mixed up the lessons of Vietnam, the second-biggest foreign policy blunder in recent history.

As Froomkin observes, "the obvious lesson of Vietnam is not that leaving a quagmire leads to disaster, but that staying only makes things worse. (And oh yes: that we shouldn't get into them in the first place.)."

This cynical attempt by the self-described "Decider" and "War President" to pawn off responsibility for his Iraq War onto the protestors who were against it from the beginning is really just sick. The Iraq War and its consequences are entirely of Bush's (and his many enablers') ownership. Hundreds of thousands of people are dead or displaced from their homes because of Bush's War. He wanted the war, pushed it, lied for it, had others lie for it, and celebrated it. It was used as a cudgel for the congressional elections in 2002, and he basically ran for reelection on it in 2004. For as long as it was popular, he shamelessly politicized it to his and his party's advantage, strutting around on an aircraft carrier, attacking his political opponents' patriotism and "seriousness" whenever possible, and questioning whether we had sufficiently "learned the lessons of 9/11."

Of course, Bush only cares about "learning the lessons" of any historical event to the extent his speechwriters can distort and manipulate history for his own gain. If he has his druthers, he won't even bother to "learn the lessons of the Iraq War" before he starts another war in Iran, an even bigger and just as complicated, country, which would have just as easily-predictable complications as Iraq did.

There was certainly no interest in history before the war from those who could utilize history's lessons. Even putting aside the still-unexplained forgeries and the outright lies about WMD and al Qaeda connections that helped get us into Iraq, even the most basic research would have revealed that our government already knew in 1991 that a post-invasion Iraq would be bloody and chaotic (just ask Dick Cheney), the British had their own humiliating experience with attempts to colonize Iraq in the early 1900s, and the cross-cutting religious and ethnic cleavages in Iraqi society were plain to anyone who looked. They didn't just ignore history, they marginalized and ridiculed those who actually bothered to look into the matter and raised clear warnings.

These guys screwed everything up, and did not bother to plan for even the most easily-predicted contingencies. They recklessly invaded, destroyed Iraqi society, allowed its treasures to be looted, ravaged its infrastructure, disbanded its army, encouraged sectarian strife between Arab and Kurd and between Shiite and Sunni, put loyal sycophants and ideologues in charge rather than competent managers, failed to ever put enough boots on the ground, failed to acknowledge and correct their mistakes when they quickly became apparant -- and now, they have the gall to try to pass the buck for the eminently-predictable deaths and chaos they sowed, with a self-serving and inaccurate history lesson from people who never before showed any interest in history.

As in Vietnam, there is nothing for us to "win" in Iraq, and the only justification for staying is the possible consequences of leaving a country where we shouldn't be in the first place. Stopping a civil war from occurring appears to be a moot point. Yes, there are serious concerns about retribution being visited upon Iraqis who have assisted us, but those concerns should be met by massively expanding asylum opportunties (which are currently and inexplicably highly restricted), not extending our troop commitments indefinitely, or trying to referee (or worse, pick sides in) a civil war. There are also serious concerns about potential regional conflicts involving Iraq and Turkey and some of its other neighbors(Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia to name a few), but those are also not a good reason for an endless occupation.

For further reading, Josh Marshall has more here, seven servicemen in Iraq have their own thoughts on the current situation, while Robert Scheer wrote about this whole Iraq/Vietnam topic at greater length back in November 2006, when Bush first made clear his ignorance about Vietnam. See also my related post from last November.

Update: More historians pile on the ahistorical view that Vietnam could have been "won" if we only spent more years, sacrificed more troops, and built a much bigger black memorial on the Washington Mall.

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