Posts Tagged ‘Iraq war’

Iraq – The Real Failure of Intelligence

March 19, 2013

On this, the tenth anniversary of the disastrous invasion of Iraq, the BBC has a retrospective on a small part of the Intelligence picture that was available prior to the war. In a nicely balanced report — balanced from a literary standpoint at least — they discuss two low-level defectors who fabricated stories, and the two high-level sources who reported accurately on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction. The US, with the UK in tow, accepted the fabricators and ignored the truth-tellers, and so went to war. At the end of the BBC-USA clip on the report (but not in the on-line version), they ask the rhetorical question “If more people had listened to these two, would the US and UK have still gone to war?

The answer is, yes, of course we would have.
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Iraq: The End of the Beginning

December 22, 2011

And so it ends. Not with a bang, not with the thanks of a grateful ally, not with a farewell ceremony by the newly elected leadership, but with a final convoy slinking out of the country — at night and nine days early — after a ceremony featuring two empty chairs where the “host” nation leadership should be, followed by a ten¬†sixteen bomb salute.

We came, We saw, We screwed up from one end of the country to another.

Back in 9/11, AQ spent $50K to attack the WTC and kill nearly 4,300 Americans. Then George Bush said “Y’all don’t know nuthin ’bout killing Americans — here’s how it’s done”, and proceeded to kill 4,500 of them over nine years at a cost of a trillion dollars, or maybe three. Heckofa job, Georgie. (more…)

Yon on Afghanistan

June 20, 2011

I admire Michael Yon very much. I consider him the modern equivalent to Ernie Pyle, and fear that his fate will be the same. He has the interests of the combat trooper at heart, and he isn’t afraid to speak truth to power. And yet. And yet. I am afraid I can’t agree with him in his latest essay on Afghanistan. Or let’s say, I agree with almost everything he says, and yet come to a different conclusion.

If I may summarize his position, it is that:

Tactical
1. The surge is winning.
2. More troops, or at least, the same number of troops for longer, will ultimately beat the Talibs*

Strategic
3. We are engaged in nation-building, admit it or not
4. We only win if we leave behind a viable nation
5. Building the new AF will take decades

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A Leak Too Far?

December 1, 2010

So, the latest massive wikileak has gone public, and now the black helicopters are out after Assange and the State Department is putting serious efforts into damage control. How will the US fare when all the dust has settled? I think, pretty well. (more…)

The Morality of Leaks

October 26, 2010

I have been musing about the Wikileaks leaks ever since I posted yesterday’s comment. Not so much about the leaks themselves as about the change in attitudes about classified information over the last half century.

During WWII, we broke a number of Axis codes, the most famous being Purple, the primary Japanese diplomatic code, and Enigma, a German high-level military code handled on the Allied side under the codeword Ultra. The men and women at Bletchley Park, who did most of the work with Ultra, were sworn to secrecy. They kept that secret for thirty years, and it was only after Winterbotham’s book “The Ultra Secret” was published in 1974 that the stories began to come out. One anecdote (which may come from Winterbotham, I don’t recall) talked about a high society grand-dame who had to undergo an operation in the 1960’s. Her greatest fear was not of dying, but that she might, under the influence of the anesthetic, speak of Ultra, which she worked on during the war twenty years before. In my day, long after everything about the code-breaking had come out, there was a conference on the history of Ultra, held at the Defense Intelligence Agency. One person in the audience stood up and challenged the speaker, asking how it was possible that such a secret had been kept for so long. Another, older, historian stood up, and said (with his wife looking at him somewhat open-mouthed, from her seat by his side) “Because we gave our word not to speak of it.” (more…)

Wikileaks Leaks

October 25, 2010

I am of several minds about the Wikileaks spillage of 400K combat incident reports from Iraq. Four or five minds, to be inexact:

1. On the one hand, there’s nothing much here that we didn’t know already, other than some minor scandals. Yes, lots of civilians were killed by IEDs. Yes, we ignored reports of torture, or turned them over to the Shiite government units responsible for the acts. Is anyone surprised?
2. On the other hand, it’s useful to finally have documentation that vindicates the claims. Claims, reportage, supposed eye-witness accounts, can all be waved off as so much anti US propaganda. US unit reporting cannot.
3. On the other other hand, it might endanger US troops, by allowing analysis of our operations. I can see someone mining this data for information on response times, chain of command, rules of engagement, and so forth.
4. On the other…I’m running out of hands here…to accomplish (3.), you’d have to have nearly complete reporting from all levels on a number of specific incidents, and be able to extract the relevent subsets of reports on each of them, in order to draw useful conclusions. Once you have done that, and drawn your conclusions, can you get enough information in real-time, from our encrypted comms, to make operational use of those conclusions? I don’t know.
5. Add to all this the spurious conclusions of the media — for example, the claim that we were, indeed, tracking civilian and insurgent deaths, when what I see is ancillary reporting and not a VN-level body count ethic — and it’s hard to sort the various issues.

I think I’d come down on the side of disclosure. My main complaint is that all the stuff that was released is low-level ops chatter, stuff that may get a few low-level grunts in trouble. What’s really needed is some high-level revelations. Ones that would let us determine whether or not we need to convene some war crimes trials.

The End in Iraq

September 1, 2010

And so it ends. We are formally out of Iraq — well, except for 50,000 combat troops, rebranded as support and training — and we await the unfolding of the legacy of our actions there.

Sic Semper Tyrannis has an essay by an Army War College advisor and Iraq veteran, Adam Silverman, on what we achieved. To summarize: nothing positive. No end to internal conflict. No stable government, recognized by all. Not even enough electric power to run the pumps and air conditioners in this hot, arid country. That’s seven years after the war. We did manage to get 4,000 Americans killed, more than were killed in 9/11. We also got over 100 thousand Iraqis killed (some would say many times that).

Compare that to the status of Germany and Japan in 1952, seven years after WWII. They had been pounded flat (unlike Iraq, where we deliberately avoided destroying infrastructure). Germany had been invaded and fought over, and Japan had been fire-bombed and atom-bombed. We occupied those countries, rebuilt their economies and governments, and by 1952 they were both sovereign powers, with effective governments and stable economies. Germany was strong enough to help us stand up to the Soviet Union in Europe. Japan provided support for operations in Korea. Does anyone expect anything similar here? People might claim that Japan and Germany were special cases, with literate populaces driven by The…er…Shinto…Ethic. They might claim that the citizens of Iraq — despite having run their own country quite well from before the time that North Europeans were still painting their bodies blue — don’t have the democratic tradition, are not ready for democracy, and that we shouldn’t expect too much of them. If that’s so, then why did we claim that our goal was democracy, once we knew the WMD excuse was a lie?

As far as national goals are concerned, the big winner in Iraq appears to be Iran. Imagine what history would have been like if West Germany had joined the Warsaw Pact, if Japan had allied with the PRC. Unlike Japan and Germany, our legacy won’t be peace, and friendly, reliable, allies. Our legacy in the Middle East and SW Asia will be hatred and distrust from most of the people living there, extension of Iranian power, destabilization of Afghanistan and Pakistan through willful neglect, followed by inept re-intervention, and encouragement of anti-US terrorist groups. No-one is safer as a result of our actions. Except the dead.

So yes, this war — begun with a lie, concluded with incompetence, resulting in nothing but loss for us, and trouble for our grandchildren — is officially over, a failure from end to end. The carnage will continue, but we can now smugly claim that it’s the Iraqis fault.