I know, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has nothing whatsoever to do with the mess of a foreign policy that we are in at the moment, but after reading the various articles that I have been slogging through to do a round-up for everyone, I needed a pick-me-up. And, trust me, you’ll need one, too — so I’m starting this with a Buffy clip, just the opening sequence and then the fun "Grrr, Arrgh" guy at the end. And, after you’ve caught up on the abysmal mess that is the Bush approach to foreign policy (or lack thereof) there is a surprise.
Because, frankly, after reading all of this, "Grrr, Arrgh" pretty much sums up my mood.
As most U.S. military experts now acknowledge, these tactics violated the most basic principles of counterinsurgency, which require winning over the local population, thus depriving the bad guys of a base of support within which to hide. Such rules were apparently unknown to the 4th ID commander, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno….according to that iron law of the Bush administration under which incompetence is rewarded with promotion, as long as it is accompanied by loyalty—Odierno will soon be returning to Iraq as America’s No. 2 commander there, the man who will oversee day-to-day military operations….
Like Ricks, The Washington Post’s first-rate Pentagon correspondent, I don’t really fault the soldiers on the ground for the mistakes made. These young men and women were in a hellish situation, and as warriors they performed superbly. But once they began breaking into Iraqi homes, cool and competent GIs turned into Keystone Kops, pressed into a counterinsurgency role they’d never been taught. So the soldiers improvised, often amateurishly, apparently—according to Ricks—directed by Odierno to kick down doors. The American soldiers themselves were aware of how inane many of their night raids were. Back in January 2004, the unit I was with jokingly called their raids "Jerry Springers." Why? Because the intelligence was often based on unreliable sources who had agendas of their own. "Lots of times it turns out to be some guy who wants us to arrest another guy who’s interested in the same girl," one soldier told me.
Yes, that is correct. The US military, our trained men and women at arms, are under orders from commanders who have been promoted to follow-up on half-assed leads so full of holes that local cops would laugh the complainants out of the station house. But wait, it is much worse:
The Bush administration has fought the "war on terror" as a series of Jerry Springers, one lunatic leap of logic after another based on unreliable sources, linking up enemies that had little to do with each other. The White House’s failure to understand counterinsurgency in Iraq is, writ large, its failure to understand the radical Muslim enemy as a whole. The president has used Al Qaeda to gin up the threat from Iraq, just as he is now conflating Hizbullah and Hamas with Al Qaeda as "terrorists" of the same ilk. Actually these groups had little connection to one another—or at least they didn’t until America decided to make itself their common enemy. Al Qaeda was always, in truth, the only "terrorist group of global reach" in the world—which is how Bush accurately defined things back in that long-ago fall of 2001. Both Hizbullah and Hamas had publicly disavowed any interest in backing Osama bin Laden’s goals. Al Qaeda was Sunni, Hizbullah is Shiite. Even within the Muslim world these groups had scant support, although Hamas and Hizbullah had a lot more than Al Qaeda did because they were providing social services in Lebanon and Gaza….
But with each errant bomb that kills more Lebanese children, the U.S. position becomes less defensible. By walking in lockstep with the Israelis, we Americans make it impossible for Muslims not to see us as an enemy. And every Muslim official knows, even if Bush does not, that Hizbullah is not identical with Iran but is a client of it, in a relationship not unlike that of the United States and Israel. By making Israel’s war our own we ensure that the Lebanese group and the Tehran mullahs will be even closer allies in the future. We place the Muslims whom we desperately need as allies, like Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in an impossible position. Maliki, a Shiite, can no longer stand with Bush, as he showed during his tense visit to Washington this week.
And at cafes and around kitchen tables throughout the Arab world, good-hearted Muslims can no longer defend America against their more hate-filled brethren. They have fallen silent; they have no arguments left. "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity," as the poet Yeats memorably put it.
Yep, that’s right. We’re creating our enemies faster than Saddam ever could have done so. This is Osama Bin Laden’s wet dream, and George Bush is handing it to him like an Adam and Eve bonus box. Our biggest hope was that moderate Muslims — which were the majority of Muslims according to every report I’ve read in and around 9/11 and in the couple of years afterward — would somehow pull things back from the brink from inside, and that we would somehow support them from the outside through infrastructure, democracy movements, shoring up all the holes into which despair and rage seep into the disenchanted and the lost. But we did not do so. We forfeited out greatest opportunity for lasting change in our relationship with the Islamic world after 9/11 with our asinine u-turn into Iraq.
And yet, it gets even worse (and you thought that was already pretty bad, didn’t you?):
But inexorably, month by month, the Bush administration broadened the war on terror to include ever more peoples and countries, especially Saddam’s Iraq, relying on thinner and thinner evidence to do so. And what began as a hunt for a relatively contained group of self-declared murderers like bin Laden became a feckless dragnet of tens of thousands of hapless Arab victims like the sons of the hostel owner in Samarra, the vast majority of whom had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or terror, just as Saddam had little to do with Al Qaeda, just as the Iraqi insurgency had little to do with Al Qaeda (at least at the start), just as Hizbullah has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. And as the war broadened beyond reason, and the world questioned the legitimacy of the enterprise, our friends dropped away. Worse, we have found ourselves making enemies in the Islamic world faster than we could round them up or kill them.
Today, more from the muddled strategic thinking of the Bush administration than the actual threat from Al Qaeda, the "war on terror" has become an Orwellian nightmare: an ill-defined war without prospect of end. We are now nearly five years into a war against a group that was said to contain no more then 500 to 1,000 terrorists at the start (in case anyone’s counting, 1,776 days have now passed since 9/11; that is more than a full year longer than the time between Pearl Harbor and the surrender of Japan, which was 1,347 days). The war just grows and grows. And now Lebanon, too, is part of it.
The war on terror ought to now officially be renamed the "terrorist creation program." Because that is exactly what these half-assed, piss poor planning jobs from George Bush and his neocon cabal have been foisting on all of us. Truly, read the entire Hirsch article, and then prepare to be even angrier that you are now.
But wait, there’s more.
But the record of failure goes deeper than that. It began in the president’s first week, when Bush decided he would not repeat what he perceived as his predecessor’s mistake by allowing his presidency to be mired in the fruitless search for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Even though Clinton had got tantalisingly close, Bush decided to drop it. While Henry Kissinger once racked up 24,230 miles in just 34 days of shuttle diplomacy, Bush’s envoys have been sparing in their visits to the region.
The result is that the core conflict has been allowed to fester. Had it been solved, or even if there had been a serious effort to solve it, the current crisis would have been unimaginable. Instead, Bush’s animating idea has been that the peoples of the Middle East can be bombed into democracy and terrorised into moderation. It has proved one of the great lethal mistakes of his abominable presidency – and the peoples of Israel and Lebanon are paying the price.
Not your cuppa tea? How about this one from the LATimes, which tells us that reconstruction projects are woefully behind because of increased sectarian violence and contractor incompetence, among other things. Because, you know, those military recruiters tell you that you’ll be going over to Iraq to stand in between a great sectarian free for all…oh wait, no they don’t. (Froomkin hit the religious violence issue previously, and it is fantastic to see the LATimes pick up that thread in their article.)
But it’s probably just the liberal media not taking the time to even talk to our soldiers, right? Wrong. And when the soliders have an opportunity to spend some time with the media, they talk about how they are all just waiting to get blown up, and how frustrating it is to be a target on a mission with no real objectives and no realistic hope of accomplishing anything. (Gee, sound like any other war you may know?)
I mean, let’s be honest, how far in the crapper are you when Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews both think you suck? (via Crooks and Liars)
Oh, and back to al Qaeda? Well, they are calling us "crusaders" now, and asking for a holy war against us all.
Do you trust George Bush to get us out of yet another mess of his making? And where is the republican-controlled rubber stamp Congress in all of this? They are about to break for a month-long vacation. (Yep, you read that right, they might as well take the month off since the Shrub goes down to his pig farm about this time every year to weed whack the hell out of some brush.)
If you want more in-depth analysis on this, I just cannot give it to you because I am so angry and disgusted, I cannot get past the rage. Here are some great sources for more information: the profound writing of Billmon, the expertise of Prof. Juan Cole, the great work of Laura Rozen, the intel connections of Larry Johnson, the insightful Swopa at Needlenose, the military bits and pieces from Steve Gilliard. Also Haaretz has been doing some good on the ground reporting, as has the GuardianUK.
(And, here’s the surprise at the end of the depressing, infuriating post. I found what is billed as the never-aired pilot episode of Buffy. [Warning: this is quite a long YouTube, so heads up to the folk on dial-up.] There’s a different Willow, and a whole lot of other amusing bits, for the Buffy fans in the audience. Enjoy!)