As the situation in Iraq gets more dire, with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) forces just outside of Baghdad and the seemingly inevitable collapse of the Iraqi government and forces it is well worth remembering how this has come to be. The similarities to Vietnam are striking , Iraq and Afghanistan both are headed in the same direction, defeat by lesser enemy because we gave up. The defeat was not on the battlefield in those far of places but on a different arena thousands of miles away in Washington.
The common perception is that the United States lost the war in Vietnam, but the reality is that we won the war but lost the Peace. After Nixon launched the Linebacker I and Linebacker II air bombardments of North Vietnam it was them who sought the peace accords on our terms, which were signed on January 27th, 1973. What should have been a victory was lost as a result of the politics that would follow. We withdrew militarily and due to the politics involving Watergate, the new Democratic Congress we abandoned South Vietnam financially. It was the lack of military aid that left South Vietnam defenseless after 2 decades of war, while the North Vietnamese were being replenished militarily by both the Soviet Union and China.
At the time of the Paris Peace Accords, the North Vietnamese did not possess the capability to fight but after the treaty was signed they embarked on rebuilding their military and their war making capabilities, South Vietnam which had been the front lines for much of the war was facing similar devastation but the Democratic Congress embarked on a mission to deny them the aid necessary for them rebuild. It is not a surprised that when the North launch their Spring offensive in March 1975, that it did not take long to for them to finished the South and by June, barely a 3 months into the offensive Saigon the capital had fallen. It was lack of political will and partisan politics that allowed the South to fall as soon as it did.
In 2005, Iraq held the first free elections in its history. After the Surge in 2007 to put down the insurgency of the Mahdi Army, a second election was held on 2010. The Surge was immediately opposed by the Democrats who now controlled the Congress. Many were calling it a folly to increase the military involvement in Iraq. “McCain’s Idea” after Senator John McCain who served and was a POW during the war in Vietnam and was running for President in 2008 elections, was reminiscent of the escalation of troops in Vietnam by the Johnson Administration in the 60’s and the Democrats thought that it would end just as disastrously. Yet, the Surge worked and by 2008 the Iraqi nation showed signs of turning the corner. Civilians deaths, sectarian attacks and military attacks were at their lowest since the Invasion in 2003. It seemed that we had won the war, now we needed to win the peace.
The last Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA, was signed in December of 2008, calling for the final withdrawal of all troops by the end of 2011. Could a new SOFA agreement been negotiated by the Obama Administration in light of the divisions still in existence in Iraq? We will never know as President Obama ran on the promise to end our involvement in Iraq and they never tried. The divisions in Iraq were well-known and the country was pretty much divided into 3 sections with the Kurds controlling the North and Northeast bordering Turkey and Iran, the Sunnis controlling the West and center bordering Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and the Shia controlling the South and East bordering Iran and Kuwait, as well as the Federal government in Iraq.
This has been a point of contention and criticism of President Bush, as many thought that the solution to Iraq’s problems would be to partition the country along those lines. The decision not to was political as Turkey a member of NATO did not want a Kurdish State on its borders due to their own problems with the Kurdish minority bordering it. The Saudis another ally, did not want an Shia state that could become a vassal of Iran on its borders and both Syria and Jordan did not want a Sunni State on its borders to destabilize their own countries. It is worth noting that all these divisions were religious in nature, the Kurds are Christian, the other two are competing Islamic sects which have battled each other for centuries. The last one was the First Persian War between Iraq and Iran from 1980 to 1988 which ended in a stalemate.
While President Bush can be faulted for not dividing the country along its sectarian and religious areas, it is important to keep in mind that it was not just the Bush Administration that saw Iraq as a destabilizing force in the Middle East. As I already mention the First Persian War, the Second Persian War was after Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia and many before Bush was elected saw them as a threat to our interest in the area and beyond. As the partial list of quotes bellow;
“One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line.” —President Bill Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998
“If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.”
—President Bill Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998
“Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.”
—Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998
“He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.”
—Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998
“[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.”
Letter to President Clinton, signed by:
— Democratic Senators Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others, Oct. 9, 1998
“Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.”
–Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998
“Hussein has … chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies.”
— Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999
“There is no doubt that … Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.”
Letter to President Bush, Signed by:
— Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), and others, Dec 5, 2001
“We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and th! e means of delivering them.”
— Sen. Carl Levin (D, MI), Sept. 19, 2002
“We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.”
— Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002
“Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.”
— Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002
“We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.”
— Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002
“The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking n
— Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002
As the quotes suggests, it is evident that the Clinton Administration long before Bush was elected saw Iraq as a threat and believed that it possessed WMA’s that could destabilize the area. It was for sheer political expediency and gain support of a growing anti-war movement in the US that the Democratic Party decided that supporting the war was not in their best political interest. This change in attitude helped to create the atmosphere that allowed the Obama candidacy to win on the promise of ending our involvement. At the same time it allowed for us backing other poor thought out insurgencies in the Middle East during the “Arab Spring”.
In February 2010, on “Larry King Live” no less, a grinning Vice President Joe Biden proclaimed that Iraq “could be one of the great achievements of this administration.” Wow. Less than three years after Sen. Harry Reid (D., Global Caliphate.) declared the war lost, and less than three years after then-Sen. Barack Obama — with his usual fierce moral urgency — opposed the Bush administration’s military surge, Obama’s veep takes credit for victory.
In 2011 as we are making preparations to abandon Iraq, the Obama Administration was providing support to the “Arab Spring”. Our support led to rise of Islamic forces to take control of and depose our allies in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Libya. Yes Libya was our ally in that they were helping and providing intelligence on terrorist groups which had at one point found refuge in Libya. The results of which will be felt for years to come a quick rundown;
- Yemen the country is now divided with large areas under control by al-Qaeda and other radical Muslims. In Tunisia the mostly secular government has been replaced by Islamist which aim to turn the country into a Islamic Republic, Muslim clerics serving as modesty police cane women who are dressed to immodestly.
- Egypt after President Hosni Mubarak was deposed, Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi was elected President, hundreds of convicted terrorist from al-Qaeda, Hamas and other groups released from prison, hundreds of Egyptian artifacts destroyed by Islamist as pagan artifacts. The crackdown against any Western influence led to a coup by the Army and a new election. Now the Muslim Brotherhood is listed as a terrorist organization in Egypt with hundreds of its followers facing death sentences.
- Tunisia the mostly secular government was overthrown and a new Islamist government has been installed. A new constitution with Sharia law as its basis has been imposed which have led to Modesty Police patrolling the streets and massive protests which are still ongoing.
- Libya saw with the direct involvement of American forces the Gaddafi regime end. The intervention of the Western Armed forces was done to prevent any retaliation by Gaddafi of the separatist Benghazi Islamists. This led to his eventual defeat and killing. The new government in Libya has been unable to control the country which is pretty divided in two. In 2012 our Ambassador was killed in Benghazi by the same Islamist forces we helped to defeat Gaddafi.
- Syria the country which until 2010 was regarded by the Obama Administration as reformist and a model of what a Islamic Republic would be like was plunged into a civil war which has seen more that 150,000 deaths and millions more in refugees. The Obama Administration has vacillated from fully supporting the rebels and secretly arming them to drawing “red lines” that he ignores to calling for negotiating with the current government even if it does keep the current government.
Algeria, Jordan, Oman, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Morocco, Mauritania, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Palestine all had protests or insurgencies toppling some governments or getting some reforms adopted as a result. The only movement that the Administration failed to support in some way was the (2009-2010) Green Movement in Iran which was a precursor to the Arab Spring of 2011.
The rise of Islamic factions as a result of the Arab Spring will be felt for years to come. In Mali the Islamic forces takeover of the northern parts of Mali, required the assistance of French forces to retake and stabilize the area. In Nigeria the Boko Haram which had until 2010 been a mostly peaceful group began carrying out terrorist attacks in Nigeria, robbing, killing, raping, kidnapping women and government officials. They have also conducted raids and attacks in the neighboring countries of Benin, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
This has been made possible in part by the removal of Gaddafi in Libya. His vast stores of weapons fell into the hands of al-Qaeda and its affiliates which have funnelled those weapons south through Chad and Sudan into the hands of Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Tuareg Islamists in Mali. Some of these same weapons have also made their way into Yemen and Syria, some say with our assistance. In Syria those weapons have been used to prolong the civil war there and are being used by ISIS to fight not just the Syrian Army but other rebel groups. Now ISIS has turned around and is attacking Iraq, with the same weapons we provided to fight in Syria only this time they are attacking Iraq which we fought a war with and are poised to lose any gains there.
The Obama Doctrine of appeasement and withdrawal while supporting Islamic groups is backfiring. The Islamic factions are not satisfied with just their piece of the pie, the want the whole thing which is destabilizing the Middle East and Northern Africa. Iraq rather than being a model of how different factions could come to terms and work together is now being torn apart by the same faction which we are supporting in another country. It is any wonder that the Obama Administration seems paralysed and unable to react to the attacks by ISIS in Iraq or failed to address the actions of Boko Haram or the ongoing unrest in Libya, Yemen and Syria. Their whole premise of the ME has been wrong from the beginning. Ignoring the radicalization of Islam, be it from the Iran backed Shia or the Qatar, Saudi backed Sunni, it is this radicalization that is the problem. Installing or supporting Islamic governments will not stabilize the region only help it spread to other areas by legitimizing their brand of fundamentalism. Only thing is that democracy and Islamic Fundamentalism are incomparable.
In Afghanistan we are trying to negotiate with the Taliban, who we been fighting from the beginning. The current release of 5 of their top generals with the hope that they will not return to Afghanistan and cause us more trouble is naive at best, suicidal to our interests at worst. Hoping is not a sound strategy, as is ignoring the roots of the problems. It is hard for some to reconcile that religion is a driving force in society, especially in the West were we treat it so casually. Ignoring it in the rest of the world is dangerous as we have seen and will continue to be so until we acknowledge that while it is the 21st century religion is as much a part of life to some today as it was in 18th, 19th or 20th centuries.
Meanwhile as we allow Afghanistan and Iraq to become our generations Vietnam we can console ourselves by knowing that we are politically correct and are not disparaging Islam as Pres. Obama once said ignorantly;
“The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
So to whom must the future belong to, as believing outside of Islam is to slander the Prophet, one cannot be done without doing the other.