Iraq is a mess. Not so much in the sense of what Gen. David Petraeus is physically dealing with on the ground, but in the sense of what we have allowed the effort to morph into here at home and worldwide.
We’re not losing the war — not by any true combat leader’s estimation — but we are struggling to get our arms around the conflict’s realities; and that in itself is undermining the effort.
The biggest problems as I see it are the politicization of the war to include subtle attempts to micromanage ongoing “surge” operations; and not-so-subtle attempts to limit funding to troops; publish withdrawal dates; raise white flags on Capitol Hill; and withhold, twist, and manipulate facts: everything from the mainstream media’s skewed analysis of the facts within the 9/11 Commission Report (which few Americans have taken the time to actually read) to the outright dismissal of the possibility that there may well have been weapons of mass destruction in pre-invasion Iraq.
Fact is, everyone believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — or an earnest program to develop or acquire them — and that the WMDs might have been spirited across the border into Syria (much like the Iraqi air force turned tail and flew to Iran prior to the Persian Gulf War in 1991). But the Left’s four-year campaign to dismiss anything that might conflict with their own agenda, has enabled all opinion contrary to theirs to be dismissed as nothing less than the musings of crackpots.
The Left has even written-off or ignored evidence of pre-invasion connections between Iraqi officials and terrorists, which was detailed by the 9/11 Commission Report and which continues to surface. And there were “connections,” perhaps not official working alliances (though we don’t know for sure), but certainly connections in the form of conversations, turning a blind eye to freedom of movement, and who knows what else.
NECESSITY OF INVASION Based on my own wrestling with various geostrategic issues since 2001, as well as specific human and open-source intelligence (though declassified, also non-published) I’ve been privy to since the spring of 2003, I am convinced that both ousting Saddam Hussein and establishing some form of a Western-friendly democratic republic in the heart of West Asia were necessary. I say this based on the knowledge we had then, and I’m still not convinced today that the Iraq invasion was a mistake; though, mistakes have been made in the prosecution of the war.
My recent time in Iraq brought several additional realities home to me, not the least of which is the fact that we are wrong on many of our assumptions about the Iraqi people. In fact, many in Congress and many Americans across the country have wrongly concluded that all Sunni, Shiia, and Kurdish peoples hate and mistrust one another, they’ve all been killing one another for centuries, and they will never stop killing each other.
The mistrust may be there for obvious reasons. But the hate is not, which is the primary reason foreign terror networks like al Qaeda — through car-bombings of innocents, gangland-style executions, and blowing up mosques — have tried to pit Sunni against Shiia.
Al Qaeda fears America’s strategic position in the region. They know they cannot defeat us in any pitched battle. And they know their only chance is to defeat us by fomenting ethnic and religious hatreds in Iraq thus creating enough bloody chaos as to make the conflict appear unmanageable in the eyes of the American public.
But let’s not forget, Sunni and Shiia were fighting shoulder-to-shoulder against Iranian Shiia during the Iran-Iraq War. They fought together in two — granted, very short and one-sided — conflicts against us. And today there are far more Sunni, Shiia, and Kurds serving together in the Iraqi armed forces and police than there are Iraqis fighting as insurgents. IRAQIS FIRST As one American soldier told me early last month at the chow hall in Camp Victory, Iraq, “Iraqis aren’t Sunni or Shiia first. They’re not religious fundamentalists or extremists. The majority are Iraqis first. In fact, they’ve been more secular than religious for decades.”
Granted, there has been conflict between Sunni and Shiia since the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632 A.D. and questions of his successor arose. Nearly 14 centuries later, the conflict still exists. It’s been with us since the invasion phase of the war in early 2003. But the killing between the two Muslim factions spiked when the Golden Dome Al-Askariya Mosque in Samarra was bombed in early 2006. It was one of Shiia Islam’s holiest sites. Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was responsible for the attack, but the Sunnis were blamed. Reprisal attacks began. And it was exactly the civil strife AQI was trying to spark.