If we insist on looking for something of value in this war, then maybe it is this: Maybe we finally have the painful knowledge that we can never again believe everything our leaders tell us. For years they told us one thing while they did another. They said we were winning while we were losing. They said we were getting out while we were going in. They said the end was near when it was far.
Maybe the next time somebody says that our young men must fight and die somewhere, we will not take their word that it is for a worthy cause. Maybe we will ask them to spell it out for us, nice and slow, nice and clear. And maybe the people in power will have learned that the people of this country are no longer willing to go marching off without having their questions answered first…. If we haven’t, then we are as empty and cold as the intersection of Madison and State.
Chicago Daily News columnist Mike Royko wrote those words in 1973 on the day President Nixon signed a peace treaty ending the Vietnam war. Over 50,000 lives were lost in that war. Have we learned anything since 1973?
Here’s a recent telling of the Iraq War toll: United States Military Deaths: 2,747 United States Military Wounded: 19,688 Iraqi Civilian Deaths: 100,000 Iraqi Military Deaths: 30,000 Contractor Deaths: 355 United States Military Suicides: 43 Journalist Deaths: 130
From today’s Wall Street Journal:
A new estimate of the death toll from the war in Iraq is so tragically vast it raises the question of whether the U.S.-led invasion and reworking of the country can ever be considered a success no matter how the conflict is resolved. The study, to be published in Saturday’s edition of the British medical journal the Lancet, finds that roughly 600,000 Iraqis have died in the violence.This number, produced by a team from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, represents “an additional 2.5% of Iraq’s population [that] died above what would have occurred without conflict,” the report says, according to The Wall Street Journal. It compares with a civilian casualty rate for May through August this year of 117 people a day, according to a U.S. military study; other tabulations that have pegged the amount of civilian fatalities at about 50,000 to more than 150,000; and President Bush’s declaration 10 months ago that “30,000, more or less” have been killed during and since the invasion.
When will we listen to where we’ve been to tell us where not to go tomorrow?
Hi David- You’re starting to sound as naive as i. To quote Bob Dylan “When will they ever learn.” There’s usually some advantage when ever there’s a disadvantage, but optimism is only good when the situation calls for it.
It seems the tricks are so deep, embedded and devious, the master game players running the world can always stay one step ahead of the flock.
Well at least you have your head on straight. Would be nice if you could communicate your point of view. (Communicate means to get your point across so that someone ACTS on it to move the universe in a positive direction, not just so someone says i get your point, or worse, argues with you).
Keep up the good work. The whole thing is so far beyond my comprehension i can hardly believe it. Reminds me of a Nietzsche quote. “It’s not that i’m so smart, it’s that everyone else is so dumb.” LOL.
I’m not sure if you’re complimenting me or condemning me, fred!
My hope today is my post would communicate YOU into action to change the world!
Did it work?
Or have you already given up?
Your Nietzsche quote reminds me of my favorite quote: “The longer I live, the less I know.”
I think it’s human nature that people don’t want to be told things.
They want to experience things on their own and filter their view through their worldview.
Only the true intellectual is able to perceive life in the context of what came before and what could be.
The narrowness of self-centered living — that nothing exists before or after me — is what dooms the modern-day sensibility and Modern Humankind to relive the sins and the horrors of the past.
That’s why we’ll have another Hitler.
That’s why we’ll have another Holocaust.
That’s why we’ll have another Revolutionary War.
History calls us, and those who don’t hearken its warnings are fated to live a Mobius Strip Existence of – “The Never-ending Now” – where nothing is learned and everything is disremembered.
I do what I can right here from this virtual pulpit.
I’m sorry if it isn’t enough for you that sometimes people agree with me. There is action in agreement. There is movement in a meeting of the minds where before nothing trembled.
I’m going to add a number into the mix: 16,000+ dead Americans. Let’s not forget that there’s a war being waged on the streets of America that never really obtains the full attention it needs.
I’m not opposed to the war. Sometimes we need to fight battles to protect our interests, lest we be overtaken by people who don’t have our best interests at heart.
Of course, I grew up on military bases during the last days of the Vietnam War and the beginning of the end of the Cold War. My dad was “middle management” in the business of war when he was active duty.
After I finished school, I interviewed with the military. I remember my dad telling me to never enlist at the recruiting station — if I wanted to serve, he said to go in as an officer.
My interview was during the time when the need for the military was seen as decreasing, so I wasn’t hired. A friend of mine was selected and became an officer — she had better grades than I did, so the Army made a good choice. 🙂 I consider myself lucky that they didn’t need extra JAG officers when I was looking for work, because I’d probably be behind a desk in Mosul or Baghdad right now.
From growing up on military bases, I also know that soldiers don’t necessarily want to run off to war, but just as cops have to carry weapons, sometimes the nation needs to protect itself from opposing forces.
I think the problem is not fighting battles against forces that don’t have our national interests at heart.
The problem is not doing what is necessary to finish the job in the least amount of time.
We need to follow my personal rule for work: “Work smarter, not harder.” Focus on what needs to be done and do it in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
Modern military battles won’t be fought in the old Euro-style we all planned for all last century, just as soldiers line up on the battle field to fire volleys at each other. Asymmetrical warfare using “hit and run” methods is the new fighting style. If we don’t react, asymmetrical fighting will wear us down. Maybe we need to take the fight to the leaders of the opposition using small forces the same way they fight against us? Or, we need to overwhelm and not fool around so that we can get the job done and the situation stabilized.
The lesson of the Iraq War won’t be that we shouldn’t have gone into that country.
The lesson will be that we need to adapt to the new reality of fighting against terrorists who don’t have numbers but make up for it with sheer will.
The one good thing is that the U.S. Military is thinking about the issue. See the Army’s paper on Irregular Enemies and Essence of Strategy: Can the American Way of Adapt?
Hi Marianade Dave:
I remember seeing something about asymmetrical warfare a couple of years ago — maybe as far back as the early 1990s when the internet was relatively new to the public. There was a Wired article about how people won’t fight wars the conventional way, but will try to hack into computers and do things like that to undermine their enemy.
I also remember seeing articles about the Chinese writing up asymmetrical warfare strategies.
I remembered the term and used it to search for something interesting that would reinforce my comment. I have my Growe tool bar extension for Firefox, so if I don’t find something in Google, it can search all of the other major search engines as well.
Modern research doesn’t require remembering all of the details.
It just involves knowing the right search terms to bring up the latest facts, figures, and opinions that help make your case. 🙂
Hi Chris —
What’s the 16,000 dead Americans in the streets caused by? Is that here or there?
I’d love to know if you believe an invasion of Iraq was warranted and why we haven’t handled North Korea with the same iron fist? We have to assume as a fact the current administration learns nothing from the past, so we can’t say any lessons about attack and protection were learned in Iraq and applied to North Korea post-mortem, per se.
As far as that PDF file you provide concerning “fighting irregular enemies” — didn’t we invent that military tactic during the Revolutionary War? Why are we surprised by it now?
What this war has taught us — if anyone cares to listen and take notes for future reference — is how desperately a Democracy needs checks and balances. We do best as a nation when one party rules the executive wing and the other party rules the House and the Senate.
When too much power is pushed one way — where no one answers to anyone and wishes become rubber-stamped demands and people and policies are painted as “unpatriotic” by the majority power when the minority power has no voice or means to answer on the same international stage, all of us suffer.
We then begin the long and dangerous headlong tumble down a path moderates on all sides hate but do not feel brave enough to rebut when patriotism, and not honor, rules the mind and dictates national policy.
The number shows that 2,700 dead over 4 years isn’t necessarily a high number when compared to the numbers of people murdered in America (the 16,000+ number for last year) or the numbers of people who die in auto accidents.
While every military and civilian death is tragic, the relatively small number of military deaths compared to other daily casualities faced by civilians in civilian pursuits actually shows that the government has done a good job with force protection.
In some ways, our superiority in protecting our forces has forced the insurgents to target “soft” civilian targets.
I’m planning to read the full paper when I get a chance, but the summary suggests that many in America have forgotten the lessons of the Revolutionary War and the Vietnam War. Most people thought war was a thing of the past when the Cold War ended without a shot being fired.
The paper shows at least one person who might have some influence in America’s strategic planning is thinking out the issues that confront our military that has trained and planned for conventional European style wars.
If we can retool our U.S. vs. Soviet style thinking to plan for victory against the terrorists, we might be able to win the war against old holy warriors and teenage suicide bombers.
Of course, it will take sending in more troops to do the job the right way so that we can root out the opposing forces.
While the administration might not have gone into Iraq for the right reasons — faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction that might have been Sadam’s way of scaring Iran — that fact doesn’t mean the war is a bad war.
The way we are fighting it is wrong. We’ve gone soft thinking we can win a video game war using all of our high technology. While all of our tools are useful, the key to winning is changing our military planning so that we can adapt and respond to the insurgent forces.
We need to finish the job the right way in the least amount of time possible so that the Iraqis can enjoy their freedom.
Thanks for the detail, Chris.
I think the reason why we don’t go into North Korea is that we have a bunch of troops holding the line against a million North Korean troops waiting orders to invade the South.
I don’t know if we’d want to risk having a Korean War II during the Iraq War II.
Also, we still have faith that China will do the right thing and also have to be respectful of their role in handling the situation.
I think we’re too scared to fight North Korea because of the mess we’ve made in Iraq! To defer to China and Japan to handle the crisis where we once ruled the diplomatic world is stunning in its bald-faced failing of our ability to lead and inspire other nations through non-invasion or threatening tactics.
I would love it if you could further explain this:
How can an illegitimate war based on bad intelligence and lies to the citizens of a nation expected — not asked — to support the war and to not challenge in precepts… not be a bad war in its bones and in its spirit?
I understand those reasons you list for going into Iraq — I’m waiting for Chris’ explanation as to how this is a good war for those who aren’t vested in the Bush family or the Republican party!
I was distracted for a little bit by today’s breaking news about the aircraft that hit the NYC building and a project or two.
Iraq was a threat to America — or at least it was perceived that way by many intelligence agencies.
1. WMD reports from various international sources. I concede the reports of WDMs might have been mistaken, but having so many sources raising red flags causes one to wonder. Could the weapons have just been a figment of everyone’s imagination — something that was encouraged by Saddam himself as a cheap and easy form of defense — or did they get transferred to Syria prior to our invasion? Why would former CIA director George Tenant say Saddam having WMDs was a “slam dunk?”
2. Saddam was the only world leader to praise the 9/11 attacks, according to the 9/11 Commission report.
3. Saddam was involved in terrorism. 9-11 Commission report.
4. Ramzi Yousef, convicted of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, was an Iraqi agent. Id. See also the Federation of American Scientists 1995/1996 report about Ramzi Yousef.
Saddam didn’t do himself any favors by threatening a U.S. president.
Saddam, lest we forget, wasn’t a nice and cuddly guy who treated his people well. He gassed his own citizens, starved others, and generally killed anyone who was a threat to his power.
The U.S. may have miscalculated in placing all of the blame for WMDs and middle eastern problems in Saddam, but at the time, it looked like a pretty good bet that he was up to no good.
We went into Iraq with good intentions that made sense in terms of our national interest. We wanted to stop Saddam and his WMD program (which may have been clever propaganda).
If we had mopped up all of the problems in Iraq at the beginning, we’d be the heroes of the world because we had rid the world of an evil person who showed no human compassion to his people and his enemies.
All of the alarms were going off pointing to Iraq before the war.
Even Bill Clinton said Iraq had nuclear, chemical and biological weapons!
Source: President Bill Clinton’s 1998 speech after ordering military strikes against Iraq.
Everyone made intelligence mistakes.
Everyone thought Saddam had WMDs. (I think the WMDs were transferred to Syria, myself).
We should have planned a little better for the Iraq invasion and what tactics we would take against the terrorists and foreign fighters who appeared there.
If Vice President Al Gore or Sen. John F. Kerry had been President, I bet we would have been in Iraq at some point during his presidency to rid the world of the WMD threat.
See Sen. John F. Kerry’s letter urging action against Iraq because of its WMD programs.
Slight correction to the comment about Ramzi Yousef. There were theories that he was an Iraqi agent. If I find a source that has conclusive info, I’ll link to it.
I point you to The Downing Street Memo which clearly states the real cause and honest intent of the war with Iraq:
The signed letter from 1998 is politics as usual — there was an election looming in 2000 and the undersigned were seeking major electoral protection. I do not believe Gore or Kerry would have us in Iraq now. It doesn’t make sense based on what the memo shows us.
Whatever Saddam did, he wasn’t responsible for killing 700,000 people like Bush ended up causing to be killed, after Bush got the action going over there. “Bring ’em on.” (GWB).
When Bush was asked about Iraq losing 2.5% of its population (655,000) in the war with the USA, he brushed off the question and said the number was wrong.
Here’s the original Lancet paper:
The deaths are indefensible.
David- Many deaths were from being driven insane, not just fighting Americans. Sunni vs. Shiite, mafia type thugs etc. Killing police and relatives of police. Killing religous leaders and followers. Here in the south we have “fire ants.” The more you stomped on them the worse they returned. One learned to leave them alone. Now they have a poison that kills them all. i guess well just have to nuke the whole area and make the Biblical myth come true? Not much difference between ants and humans except ants always no what to do in an emergency. People get neurotic and psychotic at best.
The title of the Lancet article is “Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey” so the reported deaths are tied to the war.
The introduction begins thusly:
Thanks David. Couldn’t open article on my old dial up Pentium II computer.
I have long agreed with the following statement (from a quote used in advertising the movie Man of the Year to be released this Friday) “I believe diapers and politicians should be changed often and for the same reason.”
No problem, fred!
That’s a funny quote — but hasn’t Robin Williams become one of the most annoying people in the world? I’m tired of him already and his movie isn’t even released yet!
I haven’t gotten tired of him yet… and if one day the decided to run for President, I might just vote for him.
Robin Williams hasn’t ever moved beyond his “Mork From Ork” shtick.
Now that we’re in the war — for the sake of the discussion, I’ll stipulate that the war shouldn’t have been fought and the U.N. should have been sent back into the Iraq for the presidential palace tours and WMD “hide and seek” — what should we do?
Is it worse to bail out now and let the country dissolve or have Iran invade?
Should we ramp up our forces and clear out the insurgents doing what we’ve been doing, just with a little more force?
Should we fight a “dirty war” against the insurgents or fight “Russian” style caring little about public relations or keeping much secret?
Should we split the country into three autonomous regions and have each major group move to their own “corners?”
Are there other considerations that might solve the problem?
And, what about the future with Iran, North Korea and all of the Islamic movements that have been working to take over Asia for years?
I still think that the major parties are more alike than they are different. The interests that move the government are all the same.
I saw a poll reported in my local paper that suggests that people are searching for SUVs and gas-guzzlers now that gas prices have fallen relative to their prior position. Does this suggest that most Americans cannot take a long view of politics and history and can be easily swayed by the prevailing current events and shading of the news? Will we ever be able to solve any problems, if people’s memories are extremely short term and their future planning is only one quarter forward?
Speaking of Robin Williams, aren’t all of his characters the same as his “Patch Adams” character?
Or, is “Patch Adams” just a “Mork” retread?
In the interest of being fair, here’s the rebuttal to the death county study reported yesterday. Some have raised questions about the Iraq death extrapolation from the polling of 1,849 Iraqi households.
The AP reports:
War is a tough business and people get killed during wars.
People get the wrong impression that wars are clean and easy.
Writes the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Personally, I would support some sort of military measure to save the people in Darfur, just as I wished that we would have done something during the Rwanda mess.
When you go to war under false pretenses, the best defense is the truth. Reveal the real intentions behind the destruction of a country. Then use internationally supported overwhelming force to finish the job and leave the country to its indigenous people.
“Mork from Ork” debuted in 1978 on “Happy Days” before Mork was spun off to his own “Mork and Mindy” show. Robin has been playing the same wacky character ever since no matter what role he is supposed to be playing:
I find it hard to curry any sort of respect for Williams. He divorced his wife to marry the young woman who was babysitting his child. I don’t find it worthwhile to separate the person from the performance.
In what way are you “being fair” by quoting a president who we know lied to us, a military general who we know is not allowed to speak any independent truth and a thinktank institute that “thinks” the data survey is wrong?
I’ll choose to believe the scientific process and the reporting of a truly free press over a vested interest any day. From the BBC:
A sample size of 1,850 families is quite large. Other significant scientific studies in the past have found respect and evergreen success with sample sizes as small as 700 or even 300.
Thanks for the information.
I promise I won’t vote for George W. Bush in 2008. 😉
It shows that we need to scrutinize people who want to lead us — whether they are Republicans, Democrats, Independent, Libertarian, or any other party because all people have tendencies to want to take advantage of the power their office confers.
Looking at local politics in my county and adjacent Cook Co., Illinois shows that power corrupts.
A few examples:
Source: Chicago Tribune.
The stuff on the national level and the local levels show that we can’t go into the voting booth and just vote based on party identification. We must examine the individuals since both parties have been caught doing things that they shouldn’t have been doing.
Of course, if I was in charge of the world we wouldn’t have all of these problems.
Our political leaders work for us. They owe us the truth even if it is unpopular.
Chris and David- Voting should be on the merit system. If someone was against invading Iraq and the consensus now is that we shouldn’t have invaded, her/his vote should be more heavily weighted about how to, or if to, withdraw. Maybe this is some of what we are supposed to be learning from this idiotic war. We can’t use fragmented words and thinking to get us where we obviously need to go.
How do you get over the requirement that votes are private?
David- Eliminate the politicians and vote through a secure computer that keeps the tally privately.
There’s no such thing as a “secure computer!”
David- There’s always “negative” aspects to things. The thing is to choose the “least negative.” We have no security with politicians. Why not let the people vote and see what they would rather have? We obviously need something different from what we have.
I agree we need to find another way, fred, but it’s fascinating how you place all your faith in unreliable and unpredictable technology beyond the human core!
David- Human politicians are the last thing i would place faith in. It has nothing to do with “faith” actually, but common sense, logic, intuition, first hand experience and history.
Politicians are not human, fred. You know that!
David- At least we agree on something. That was supposed to be a euphomism. On second thought, any thing one says about a politition is a euphomism.
David- Please excuse spelling of euphemism.