"Mission Accomplished" at Year Three

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Where were you on May 1, 2003, when "major combat operations" in Iraq ended? President Bush, as you may recall, was on an aircraft carrier festooned with "Mission Accomplished" banners. From his speech that day:

We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people….

The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.

Whole thing here.

At that point in time, fewer than 150 American soldiers had been killed. That number now is about 2,400. And there's this from today's Wash Times:

The troop training program that the United States began in 2003 to protect Iraq's oil and electrical lines is a failure and the Bush administration has dispatched a team to Baghdad to draft a new strategy, according to an inspector general report.

The report said the Bush administration and Iraq government poured $147 million into trying to create an Iraqi Oil Protection Force of 14,400 and an Iraqi Electric Power Security Service of 6,000 guards. But today, the electric security service no longer exists, and the oil force has shown only sporadic success.

More here.

What say the American public? According to a CNN poll, only 9 percent think that the mission in Iraq has been accomplished. Forty percent think it will be someday. And 44 percent say it never will be. More here.

NEXT: All That Is Necessary for the Triumph of Evil Is for Robin Williams' RV to Top the BO List

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  1. Gee, I wonder what Steve Macklin has to say? Let me imagine…

    “But we gave dem fweedom!!!”

    We gave them freedom to give themselves a civil war ridden theocracy. Great.

    JMJ

  2. The Washington Times is clearly suffering from BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome). Otherwise they’d be reporting all of the good news coming from Iraq.

  3. With wars, you always know how they start, not how they finish.

    I am afraid that the US is a little spoiled there, because having fought most of its wars at a distance, they have no idea what it is to be invaded (Southerners do know it, though), and how it feels when the front moves in the wrong direction, and you have to abandon your home and join the column of refugees.

    We have come to look upon war as spectator sport, and so we are too willing to jump into it.

    I wonder if all those Prussian generals who itched to go to war in the early XXth century, if they saw what Europe would look like fifty years afterwards, would they have become rabid pacifists?

  4. Southerners? That was 141 years ago! And even then, the only thing they remember about that war is a pile of lies.

    JMJ

  5. I am between these two camps:

    “Forty percent think it will be someday. And 44 percent say it never will be.”

    I am not convinced we are hosed, but the first years of the coalition government will tell us. I’ll get back to you in ’08.

  6. Jason-

    If you conclude in ’08 that we are hosed, will you concede then that going in was a bad idea?

    I’m not asking this because I want to score points about something that’s over and can’t be changed. Rather, I ask because the conclusions that we ultimately draw concerning in Iraq could influence and inform the decisions that we’ll make in some future situation.

  7. The “Mission Accomplished” speech was explicitly tied to the entry into Baghdad. It is a good idea as a commander in chief to set definite goals for the military and then make a big deal about it when the goals are accomplished…it helps morale.

    So one more time: “Mission Accomplished” was a recognition of the collective effort of all servicemen involved in the capture of Baghdad.

    Gillespie continues to make sharp, valid criticism of the “reconstruction” of Iraq. I think it is it precisely the lack of definite short term goals that appears to be the problem over the last 2+ years in Iraq.

    The immediate issue seems to be: Did the perceived pre-invasion threat justify the unintended consequences of what the Iraq involvement has wrought? Perhaps I’m stupid, but I still believe this coalition government can succeed.

  8. thoreau,

    It depends on the level of hositude. I can envision a scenario in which there is civil war and things are wind up worse than when Saddam was running the show undeterred, but even a civil war may result in a situation preferable to the pre invasion situation. When speaking of an ’08 determination of us being hosed, I’m still talking about the Grand Plan of reconstruction and not the whole adventure (of which reconstruction is the last chapter).

    Stability is something, but it is not everything. Instability that is all internal may be preferable to a stable hostile dictator who doesn’t fear anyone. Note, I said, “MAY be preferable.”

    I believe that certain things have been accomplished here, and what remains to be seen is if instability creates negatives that offset those accomplishments. How long will it take to figure that out? I dunno, but neither do war critics – except to the extent that some critics perceive NO benefits, in which case the whole thing is obviously currently a failure.

  9. So, who should we get to play the shunned, ticking time bomb Iraq war vet who gets run out of a small Oregon town after returning from the war? Sly is getting a little old for the role. I can’t wait for the utterance of “The main stream media and Howard Dean wouldn’t let us win!”

  10. Ligon…

    “but even a civil war may result in a situation preferable to the pre invasion situation.”

    Which situation was that? Toothless Hussein? The only “pre-invasion situation” that was driving this was the Welfare-Warfare State’s determination to drop an asswhoopin on someone.

    Even if, after a bloody civil war, the lives of Iraqis are better than they were before, that still does not in any way justify the hundreds of billions of dollars and the thousands of lives that this thing has cost.

  11. “The “Mission Accomplished” speech was explicitly tied to the entry into Baghdad.”

    Funny that this was not mentioned much at the time. Funny that the banner and speech were placed on a ship whose crew didn’t go to Baghdad.

    No, the description of the accomplished mission was, “Major combat operations in Iraq have ceased.”

    But it wasn’t a declaration of victory. The president always stages major events upon the achievement of a tactical objective on the battlefield.

  12. Jason Ligon,

    ” I can envision a scenario in which there is civil war and things are wind up worse than when Saddam was running the show undeterred, but even a civil war may result in a situation preferable to the pre invasion situation.”

    “The pre invasion situation” was not even remotely comparable to “Saddam running the show undeterred.” You continue to assert the measure of success was the achievement of a condition better than Iraq during the Anfal campaign, ignoring the fact that Saddam was already thoroughly deterred, and his freedom to act highly restricted, before George Bush even took office.

    Please stop doing this. It’s highly dishonest.

  13. “But it wasn’t a declaration of victory. The president always stages major events upon the achievement of a tactical objective on the battlefield.”

    joe, you don’t go to war with the benchmark criteria you want, you go to war with the benchmark criteria you have.

  14. Evan,

    I’ve made my case in these parts in exhaustive detail before, but the condensed version is that I honestly believe that our pre war state of affairs was incredibly dangerous.

    1) I am made extremely nervous by hostile dictators who are completely unchecked. I do not believe that Saddam actually feared any resolution, because he perceived that he personally would come out just fine. This, to me, meant there was no rational incentive for him to do other than as he wanted to do. I gather in my years of talking this over with other libertarian types and liberals, that other people don’t think this is significant. I disagree, and think some mechanism of general deterrence to the Saddam like figures in the region is important.

    2) Our state of ignorance on the WMD question was not desirable in the least, and I am skeptical that absolute resolution would have come on that question without an invasion. I am unmoved by current arguments that take the form of “See,I KNEW there were no WMD,” becuase no one knew anything of the sort, and 100% of the certitude for that kind of smug remark comes by way of the invasion.

    I grant that if you don’t think this situation is dangerous, you will see no benefit in the invasion, but these are the things I think we have accomplished already – and from where I’m sitting, they are not small potatoes.

  15. joe:

    I bums me out when I’m called dishonest on this issue.

    I assure you that I am entirely sincere when I say that no persuit to Baghdad in Gulf War I, no results in the Khobar Towers bombing, no results in the USS Cole bombing, 10 years of obfuscation and violation of the terms of surrender, and obfuscation all the way up to Blix’s final report makes be think that Saddam had no belief in his head that anything bad would happen to him.

    I am also sincere in my belief that in an environment where the US had just been attacked by guys not wearing military uniforms and given that large chunks of the UN believe militaries can’t legitimately respond to an attack unless there is a nationality behind it, the notion of being able to hit us and get away with it crossed everyone’s mind.

    You may disagree with that assessment, but I think it is reasonable and it is certainly sincere on my part.

  16. “I am made extremely nervous by hostile dictators who are completely unchecked. I do not believe that Saddam actually feared any resolution, because he perceived that he personally would come out just fine. This, to me, meant there was no rational incentive for him to do other than as he wanted to do.”

    Right, but I would posit that he was kept in check by the rather unavoidable fact that we would bring the hammer down on him (we, as in, the United States) if he dared attack anyone—especially us. He knew damn well that his military was a joke next to ours. So unless he was hellbent on self-destruction, there was no reason for him to act.

    “I am unmoved by current arguments that take the form of “See,I KNEW there were no WMD,” becuase no one knew anything of the sort, and 100% of the certitude for that kind of smug remark comes by way of the invasion.”

    There is absolutely some validity to this type of statement. Not “see, I knew”, but more along the lines of, “we didn’t know enough beforehand to go in and wage a war—and the fact that we found nothing there is evidence of that.”

    “no persuit to Baghdad in Gulf War I, no results in the Khobar Towers bombing, no results in the USS Cole bombing, 10 years of obfuscation and violation of the terms of surrender, and obfuscation all the way up to Blix’s final report makes be think that Saddam had no belief in his head that anything bad would happen to him.”

    First, there’s a difference between covert terrorist bombings and the actions of a dictator that is being watched like a hawk by people with very big guns. Second, see above re: deterrence.

  17. Adriana,

    …they have no idea what it is to be invaded (Southerners do know it, though)…

    Given this logic Pennyslvanians, those in Maryland and D.C., Vermonters, Californians, etc. all know what it is like to be invaded, since all had to contend with a CSA military incursion at one time or another during the Civil War. Indeed, given the panic that was created in the Union, and how folks as far north as New Hampshire were preparing for a general invasion during the battles of Antietam and Gettsyburg, most of the northern states know what an invasion is like.

    Jason Ligon,

    We seem to have similar positions on the matter as it stands now. I don’t think you’re dishonest either.

  18. I am also sincere in my belief that in an environment where the US had just been attacked by guys not wearing military uniforms and given that large chunks of the UN believe militaries can’t legitimately respond to an attack unless there is a nationality behind it, the notion of being able to hit us and get away with it crossed everyone’s mind.

    Iraq was not responsible for 9/11.

  19. Dave:

    I don’t think I said they did. No such connection is assumed in my concern. I worry about the dual problem of an unchecked dictator and a newly demonstrated METHOD of achieving unpleasant ends.

  20. (tries for the fourth time, gambling on the hamsters to get it done …)

    Evan,

    I don’t believe you understand my concern. I was never worried about a dictator deploying armies against us. I was worried that he had no fear to persue whatever interests he wanted within his borders without retribution and that an avenue of direct attack on the US had been illustrated.

    Broadly, I fear that the approach many take to terrorism – that it is a job for the police, essentially grants immunity to all involved unless you can get CSI level evidence against each individual you are concerned with.

  21. I don’t think I said they did. No such connection is assumed in my concern. I worry about the dual problem of an unchecked dictator and a newly demonstrated METHOD of achieving unpleasant ends.

    I seems like it sets a bad incentive for terrorists if the US effectively says, “If we experience a bad terrorist attack, that means we have a carte blanche to retaiate against any nation we would like to instead of carefully selecting the nations most helpful in the actual attack itself.”

    Nan you see why this set of incentives is a bad one both for the bad guys involved as well as for any nations that might be inclined to secretly help terrorists?

  22. Jason Ligon,

    The server squirrel ate this before, so here goes:

    I don’t question your sincerety or honesty at all when you state that you don’t believe Saddam is deterrable.

    I questioned you honesty in regards to your 9:41 response to thoreau, when you set up a comparison between the status quo ante and the current situation by referring to “Saddam running the show undeterred.” When making cost-benefit statements about the invasion, you continually argue as if the option to invading was Saddam circa 1988, at his brutish, genocidal worse, when in reality, he was incapable of carrying out such acts prior to the most recent Iraq War.

  23. Two questions arise. Are we in any ways better off having gone into Iraq than we were beforhand? And, has any of it been worth the cost,in lives and fortunes to the United States.

    I find that we are in far worse positions in nearly every respect than we were prior to invading Iraq. The only possible exception being that Saddam is no longer exercising power, and he was effectively isolated before the war.
    We are now a greater target than before, our forces are exhausted and depleted, whatever government that Iraq eventually falls into will be no “light for democracy and fredom”, and we have not destroyed the terrorist organizations, but have likely added to their ranks.

    Clearly the 2400 American lives and 400 billion dollars have yeilded paltry results. One American life was too much to pay for this mess. More casualties will clearly be a travesty.

  24. If you haven’t seen M:I:III yet but are planning to, be warned … a major plot point hinges on how the U.S. is using “evil” means to spread democracy in the world .. I laughed out loud

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