Looking at some old on line pictures of my first trip to Iraq I was thinking of current events triggering some opinions I have harbored for a long time. The rather small-scale missile attack on a few Syrian targets, the predictable political fallout, and mostly ignorant “expert” pontification, brought me back to the decision to invade and liberate Iraq. And I write liberate because it was a liberation. Bush made the right decision, and by staying the course I give him full marks. His decision to increase the troop levels when all the political heavy hitters were advising him to reduce our involvement was politically courageous. A profusion of writers, journalists and self-proclaimed military and Middle East “experts” ( that word again) produced volumes of articles and books denouncing or belittling the decision…… “The war of choice” as one of the more glib characterized it. Many of these won acclaim from the “knowledge class,”and some acquired quite a bit of money as well. If there were contrary opinions they were drowned in a torrent of sarcasm and contemptuous disbelief.
After commending President Bush for those two decisions I find little else for fulsome praise to bestow upon him. He left the presidency and became “presidential” a term invented to laud former presidents who go quietly into the sunset and bask in the glow of senior statesmen. In reality what it meant was that Bush allowed the Obama administration people and Obama himself to trash the Iraqi war on a daily basis If it were only a political attack on Bush, that should be considered just hardball politics, as is normal in American politics. But by going AWOL after his tenure and hardly ever defending the liberation of Iraq, he left the field to all the elitists so entrenched in government, academia and journalism to create a “truism” that the war at best was a tragic mistake and at worst moral depravity.
By his silence , his non-existent or tepid defense has inferred that the sacrifice of so many was worthless. So much for being “presidential.” Going to war was the right decision , the only decision that the leader of the free world could take. But by going into some sort of Greta Garbo seclusion and leaving the field of battle, Bush diminished the achievements of the men he sent to war. Whether or not one believes the war was worthwhile, it seems pusillanimous to me that Bush walked away from the decision as if he no longer had a stake in it. It allowed the Obama foreign policy amateurs to make the calamitous decision to withdraw our fighting units from Iraq, inviting another eight years of war and a horrendous price paid by Iraqi civilians. The removal of the U.S, troops from Iraq diminished our influence and allowed Iraqi Premier Nouri Al Maliki to stuff the army with incompetent leadership, his loyal supporters. That in turn gave rise to the Islamic State and the Iraqi army humiliation at Mosul in 2014 . Understand the fact that the core leadership of the ISIS were former Ba’thi army officers…. the same people the “experts” were so willing to have assume power in Iraq after Saddam was ousted. Iraq was plunged into the most bloody portion of the war which continues to the this day. Pulling the troops out was an easy political decision given that there were very few to provide a contrary view to the public. Why throw good money ( and lives) after bad? That was the prevailing opinion.
The top Bush advisors and officials all wrote books either claiming ignorance, poor intelligence, being conned by the Bush inner circle, or blaming each other. No loyalty. Bush’ book is a dreary narrative of meetings. No passion. No attack on the sophomoric nay sayers. The only exception was VP Cheney who stuck to his guns.
I heard so often that the American public was tired of the war. In my mind it was and is a ridiculous claim. Was there gas rationing? Did people have to use ration cards for food? I do not remember the millennials in the clubs paying much attention to Iraqi news. After all only .5 % were involved in the war. For the overwhelming mass of the American people it has no consequence one way or another …go stay…whatever.
Much of the American top military leadership in Iraq were inept, but they too avoided responsibility for the course of the war. Reading their books is often more painful than enlightening. There were exceptions but for years, too few to make a difference or they were not at the right place at the right time. For example, It took years for the military leadership to figure out how to secure the road from the airport to Baghdad. How credible to the journalists were the claims of U.S. success when they did not feel safe traveling the road from the airport to the Green zone?
finally I am happy that the State Department saw fit to honor a particularly courageous lady who saved many lives oy young cadets when their base was overrun by ISIS savages
As a Vietnam veteran I am at least glad that the troops returning from Iraq are not being harangued as “baby killers” as many of us were. In fact the pendulum may have swung a bit too far in the other direction when I read of “heroes” returning from six months of duty in Kuwait.