Iraqi PM to US: You won the Iraq War

posted at 8:41 am on April 9, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Did we? I must have missed that in the media coverage of the 10th anniversary of the second invasion of Iraq, which provided the beginning of the end of a 12-year war with Saddam Hussein’s regime.  Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the fall of Hussein’s tyranny, when the dictator fled Baghdad for points unknown for another eight months, at which point American soldiers dragged him out of a spider hole. On that occasion, the new leader of Iraq reminds us that the US not only stopped the brutalization of 25 million people, we gained an important foreign-policy partner in southwest Asia:

Today, on the 10th anniversary of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the debate about whether it was worth it to topple the regime and the direction of the U.S.-Iraqi relationship is influenced by a pessimistic view that the United States has lost Iraq. Not true. Despite all the problems of the past decade, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis agree that we’re better off today than under Hussein’s brutal dictatorship.

Iraqis will remain grateful for the U.S. role and for the losses sustained by military and civilian personnel that contributed in ending Hussein’s rule. These losses pale by comparison, of course, to those sustained by the Iraqi people. Our government emerges from this experience determined to ensure that these sacrifices contribute to a future of freedom and prosperity for our country. …

Our cooperation with the United States continues to bear fruit, and we hope to accelerate and energize it even more. While our journey from despotism to democracy has not been easy, the Arab Spring has shown that all countries going through such transitions face turmoil. The protests in several cities in Iraq reflect the fact that, while some sectarian elements call for violence, the majority of Iraqis want to express their demands through democratic means. With provincial elections this month and general elections next year, Iraqis can resolve their disagreements with ballots, not bullets.

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote much the same at Bloomberg yesterday.  In all of the handwringing we saw in the American media last month, Goldberg points out that we didn’t hear much from the Iraqis:

One thing I’ve noticed over the past two weeks, however, is that Iraqis themselves haven’t often been asked about their opinion of the war. Iraq, after President George W. Bush failed to accomplish his mission, was a place of violence and chaos, but before the invasion, it was a charnel house. Saddam Hussein’s regime murdered as many as 1 million Iraqis in its years in absolute power. Many Americans forget this. Most Iraqis don’t.

The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins, who wrote the best book on Iraq (“The Forever War”), recently recalled a visit, shortly after the invasion, to one of Saddam’s torture chambers, a place called Al Hakemiya. He met a man there who identified himself as Al-Musawi. The two visited a room where Al-Musawi’s “arms had been nearly torn from their sockets.” He had been hung from the ceiling and electrocuted.

“Today, in 2013 — a decade later — it’s not fashionable to suggest that the American invasion of Iraq served any useful purpose,” Filkins continued. “But what are we to make of Iraqis like Al-Musawi? Or of torture chambers like Al Hakemiya? Where do we place them in our memories? And, more important, how should they shape our judgment of the war we waged?”

His suggestion: “Ask the Iraqis — that is, if anyone, in this moment of American navel-gazing, can be bothered to do so.” …

The serial and tragic mistakes of the Bush administration, and the naivete of people like me, make questioning the value of the invasion necessary. I thought that Iraq, with competent American help, could make the transition to at least semi-democracy, even after suffering such physical and psychological damage during the bleak years of Saddam’s reign. But those who believe the invasion was an act of insanity — especially those who fashion themselves as advocates for human rights, dignity and liberation — should at least ask Saddam’s many victims for their opinion on the matter before rendering final judgment.

Speaking of asking the Iraqis, Maliki wondered in his essay why the US and Obama administration hasn’t bothered to ask them about the situation in Syria.  The long border makes Iraq a player in whatever the US decides to do about Bashar al-Assad, whose Ba’athist past probably wins him no favor in a post-Hussein Iraq.  However, Maliki says that there are worse outcomes than the continuation of the Assad regime, and wonders why the US can’t see that, emphasis mine:

In Syria, we can conceive of no scenario in which a military “victory” by either the government or the opposition can bring peace and stability. Only a negotiated solution can lead to such an outcome. Accordingly, we oppose all transfers of weapons, to both the government and the opposition, and we are working to ensure that our airspace and territory are not used for such transfers.

Further militarization of the conflict will only increase the suffering of civilians and strengthen radical groups, including our common enemy, al-Qaeda. We have been mystified by what appears to be the widespread belief in the United States that any outcome in Syria that removes President Bashar al-Assad from power will be better than the status quo. A Syria controlled in whole or part by al-Qaeda and its affiliates — an outcome that grows more likely by the day — would be more dangerous to both our countries than anything we’ve seen up to now. Americans should remember that an unintended consequence of arming insurgents in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets was turning the country over to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Why go back that far? What were the unintended consequences of decapitating the Qaddafi regime in Libya two years ago and arming the “militias” that everyone knew were Islamist terror networks? We now have a failed state and a wide swath of territory under the thumb of AQ affiliates, which nearly turned Mali into an AQ state over the last few months.

Maybe we should spend more time posing questions to the Iraqis.


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“Mission Accomplished”

D’oh!

trs on April 9, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Doesn’t Obama look cool when he wears his Air force flight jacket?

Electrongod on April 9, 2013 at 8:48 AM

But those who believe the invasion was an act of insanity — especially those who fashion themselves as advocates for human rights, dignity and liberation — should at least ask Saddam’s many victims for their opinion on the matter before rendering final judgment.

How do you question people who were thrown into meat grinders or off of tall buildings with their hands bound behind them?

Happy Nomad on April 9, 2013 at 8:48 AM

Iraqis being better off today does not equate the US winning the war.

Iran won the war. Time will tell.

Shy Guy on April 9, 2013 at 8:50 AM

When Tom Friedman had a shred of rationality left, he wrote an essay called “Because of the Bones” or something like that. He was writing about a picture of a crying Iraqi carrying a bag of bones from one of Saddam’s charnal houses.

Saddam liked to keep his victims’ bodies, and also kept records. The man in the picture had found a bag of bones with a tag with the man’s brother’s name on it. He was carrying this pitiful bundle home to give it a decent burial.

We stopped a genocidal maniac and his two equally vile sons. That’s a win.

Wethal on April 9, 2013 at 8:52 AM

We stopped a genocidal maniac and his two equally vile sons. That’s a win.

Wethal on April 9, 2013 at 8:52 AM

But Saddam got 100% of the vote in his last election! Who were we to mess with the will of the Iraqi people? /

Happy Nomad on April 9, 2013 at 8:54 AM

We won in 1990…the rest was a waste of lives and treasure. As much as I disliked Bush senior…he made the right call.

Panther on April 9, 2013 at 8:55 AM

If this is victory’ I’d sure hate to see what he calls a defeat.

We knocked over a dictator and shredded his two hellspawned sons. Unfortunately both of them are thicker in the ME than flies at a sewage treatment plant.

MelonCollie on April 9, 2013 at 8:55 AM

Despite all the problems of the past decade, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis agree that we’re better off today than under Hussein’s brutal dictatorship.

True. I lived in Baghdad for 2 years and talked with a lot of Iraqis who could tick off the good points and the bad of their liberation but like any poll it always depends on who you ask. During Saddams reign the minority Sunnis controlled everything and the majority Shia were treated like dung. A lot of Sunnis miss that arrangement which is part of the reason why things are still violent today further agitated by the never ending sunni-shia hatefest. Each of those Muslim groups believe the other to be apostates and are natural enemies of each other.

HotAirian on April 9, 2013 at 8:55 AM

Iraqi PM to US: You won the Iraq War

…oh!

KOOLAID2 on April 9, 2013 at 8:56 AM

Excellent post. Very thought provoking too.

MTF on April 9, 2013 at 8:57 AM

Subhead – SCOAMT Hardest Hit.

Steve Eggleston on April 9, 2013 at 8:57 AM

Hey, Mr. President, we won what you called “a dumb war”. How are you doing with the “good war” in Afghanistan?

thebrokenrattle on April 9, 2013 at 9:02 AM

Iraqis being better off today does not equate the US winning the war.
Iran won the war. Time will tell.
Shy Guy on April 9, 2013 at 8:50 AM

Christian Iraqis are certainly better off since Hussein’s downfall

/s

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/13/world/middleeast/13iraq.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

antifederalist on April 9, 2013 at 9:03 AM

There were two ways of truly winning the Iraq war. One involved converting at least half the territory into a self-illuminating parking lot, which – consider the outcome of the actual war – wouldn’t be so bad compared. The other involved an invasion followed by full control over and possible appropriation of all Iraqi oil fields, with reasonable profit sharing among allied nations. Choosing any other option inevitably led us to failure. There is an important lesson to be learned here, for those with brains: we should stop caring about other nations and start caring more about Americans.

Archivarix on April 9, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Harry told me we lost.

docflash on April 9, 2013 at 9:09 AM

I’ve told this story here before. I’ve had the privilege of flying over Tikrit, Mosul, and Erbil with combat camera crews to film any problem that might have occurred during their national referendum for their constitution. Literally thousands of people held their purple fingers up pointing at our aircraft to say look at me, I voted. Helicopters from my unit all over the country reported people doing the same thing.

It felt like a victory that day.

hawkdriver on April 9, 2013 at 9:19 AM

Americans should remember that an unintended consequence of arming insurgents in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets was turning the country over to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Maliki should hop on down to his local RedBox and check out Charlie Wilson’s War. Our mistake in Afghanistan after the Soviets were ejected was not doing even a modicum of nation building. For pennies, we could have built some roads, schools, and hospitals and at least started them on the long road to modernity. Instead, we left them to the tender mercies of the Taliban.

Odysseus on April 9, 2013 at 9:20 AM

Archivarix on April 9, 2013 at 9:06 AM

There was a third option. Three autonomous/semi-autonomous regions built around tribal and religious divisions. There would have been pros and cons to that approach but I think it was too quickly dismissed even though there really isn’t any such thing as an “Iraqi” in the nationalist sense we use terms like American or Canadian.

Happy Nomad on April 9, 2013 at 9:21 AM

antifederalist on April 9, 2013 at 9:03 AM

I was simply quoting what the WP article stated. It could definitely have stated that Shi’ite Iraqis are better off today.

Shy Guy on April 9, 2013 at 9:22 AM

There was a third option. Three autonomous/semi-autonomous regions built around tribal and religious divisions. There would have been pros and cons to that approach but I think it was too quickly dismissed even though there really isn’t any such thing as an “Iraqi” in the nationalist sense we use terms like American or Canadian.

Happy Nomad on April 9, 2013 at 9:21 AM

Please explain to me, slowly as you would to a child or a simpleton, why should we the Americans give a flying rat’s patootie how the bipedal cockroaches currently inhabiting Iraq govern themselves, as long as they are deprived of any capability of hurting us in any foreseeable future.

Archivarix on April 9, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Obama’s 100% pull-out of Iraq to enhance his election basically spit on the graves of 4000 souls who made the ultimate sacrifice. Yes, America won this war, disposed a tyrant who murdered millions of his own people, gave thirty million Iraqis purple thumbs for the first time in their lives. And what did Obama do? Packed it all in, and ran from any influence or control in a still volatile region.

Quite the expedient community organizer.

Rovin on April 9, 2013 at 9:29 AM

great post, Ed. why i love this blog. i agree that the war was won. it is for the Iraqis to decide now.

Steven McGregor on April 9, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Please explain to me, slowly as you would to a child or a simpleton, why should we the Americans give a flying rat’s patootie how the bipedal cockroaches currently inhabiting Iraq govern themselves, as long as they are deprived of any capability of hurting us in any foreseeable future.

Archivarix on April 9, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Two words: Regional stability.

Happy Nomad on April 9, 2013 at 9:38 AM

And what did Obama do? Packed it all in, and ran from any influence or control in a still volatile region.

Quite the expedient community organizer.

Rovin on April 9, 2013 at 9:29 AM

Part of that pull-out was the inability of Joe Biden to work out a workable Status of Forces agreement that would have allowed advisors in the nation beyond the pull-out. Not that the rat-eared devil wanted a SOF, which is why he put Joe Biden in charge.

Happy Nomad on April 9, 2013 at 9:41 AM

Two words: Regional stability.

Happy Nomad on April 9, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Your concern is totally misguided. If we turn Iraq into a radioactive wasteland, regional stability will definitely increase. And if we don’t, and possess full control over their oil fields, we couldn’t care less about regional stability because we will not depend on oil prices. Moreover, with oil being pumped through Turkish territory (and making them filthily rich compared to the squalor they live in now), they will make quadruple sure that the region stays stable.

Archivarix on April 9, 2013 at 9:42 AM

I’ve told this story here before. I’ve had the privilege of flying over Tikrit, Mosul, and Erbil with combat camera crews to film any problem that might have occurred during their national referendum for their constitution. Literally thousands of people held their purple fingers up pointing at our aircraft to say look at me, I voted. Helicopters from my unit all over the country reported people doing the same thing.

It felt like a victory that day.

hawkdriver on April 9, 2013 at 9:19 AM

“We don’t care” ~ liberals, Archivarix, hypocritical Democrats, (Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi—who all called for a regime change and swore Saddam was reconstituting his WMD programs)

p.s. Thank you again for your service Hawkdriver—it was a victory, and a sacrifice we must never forget.

Rovin on April 9, 2013 at 9:43 AM

All I ask is that the Iraqis are grateful that we were there, just like the people of Grenada are. Everything else positive will eventually fall into place then.

jamesgreenidge on April 9, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Let us all hope that the Iraqi people do not squander this opportunity… it was costly…

Khun Joe on April 9, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Better not ask the Iraquis, they might say something pro-American.

Can’t have that.

Bob's Kid on April 9, 2013 at 9:46 AM

Part of that pull-out was the inability of Joe Biden to work out a workable Status of Forces agreement that would have allowed advisors in the nation beyond the pull-out. Not that the rat-eared devil wanted a SOF, which is why he put Joe Biden in charge.

Happy Nomad on April 9, 2013 at 9:41 AM

Obama’s been quite good at sending inept subordinates to accomplish his new world order goals. Plausible deniability. I truly believe Joe Biden was only following orders.

Rovin on April 9, 2013 at 9:57 AM

“We don’t care” ~ liberals, Archivarix, hypocritical Democrats, (Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi—who all called for a regime change and swore Saddam was reconstituting his WMD programs)

p.s. Thank you again for your service Hawkdriver—it was a victory, and a sacrifice we must never forget.

Rovin on April 9, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Get me right. What American troops did there was a stuff of legends, and I appreciate their heroism and their sacrifices. Too bad the cause of it was misguided, and served no cause except to enrich select few at home and replace one foreign dictator with another.

In a sense, it’s like Israel – whatever they win on a battlefield is eventually focked away by their politicians.

Archivarix on April 9, 2013 at 10:01 AM

The problem wasn’t that we armed insurgents in Afghanistan, the problem is that we outsourced most of the arming to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. So instead of the weapons going to strictly to the Northern Alliance, they went to everyone. Letting the wahabbists in Saudi Arabia arm insurgent groups is the worst idea ever. Lets hope we never make that mistake again. Oh, wait…

BohicaTwentyTwo on April 9, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Too bad the cause of it was misguided, and served no cause except to enrich select few at home and replace one foreign dictator with another.

Archivarix on April 9, 2013 at 10:01 AM

Is this your personal opinion from what you saw when you were there?

hawkdriver on April 9, 2013 at 10:13 AM

Get me right. What American troops did there was a stuff of legends, and I appreciate their heroism and their sacrifices. Archivarix on April 9, 2013 at 10:01 AM

Sorry Arch, I guess I was confused by this statement:

“Please explain to me, slowly as you would to a child or a simpleton, why should we the Americans give a flying rat’s patootie how the bipedal cockroaches currently inhabiting Iraq govern themselves….”

There are over 4000 reasons why we should care Arch, which is why I posted about how Obama and Biden spit on their graves when they decided “no one cares”.

Rovin on April 9, 2013 at 10:27 AM

I did three tours in the crap hole. We beat the fighters – we won the battles and the war militarily but that doesn’t mean any of it was worth the lost treasure. Not one American life was worth their “democracy”. We fought for each other – not apple pie, patriotism or our country.

MoreLiberty on April 9, 2013 at 10:41 AM

We won the war because we’re good at winning wars. We lost the rebuilding effort because we’re lousy at rebuilding efforts.

joejm65 on April 9, 2013 at 10:41 AM

We won the war, did our best to fix the place up a bit, put a damper on the post-regime kill-a-thon and revenge killings, did our best to help the locals understand that we don’t want their country and they have to fend for themselves. If we left another strongman in power, it would be no better than when we came in, no matter who we chose. If we had left it in chaos, then the center of the Middle East would have fallen prey to tyrants, terrorists and started to disrupt the region. That would ripple globally.

Once we realized that Iraq wasn’t even a real second world country, but had locals that at least understood that getting the factories running to move money in the economy was a big deal, but that those areas were ones hardest hit meant safeguarding them. We armed the locals. Enough of them had no love of al Qaeda to start going against them.

Note: arming locals to their own self defense appears to be an important part of building a stable community and Nation. That is a foreign policy lesson. I heartily approve of it. Arming locals to protect themselves works. Once they feel safe to exercise their liberty, they will. Things really got going after that. Amazing.

ajacksonian on April 9, 2013 at 11:39 AM

ajacksonian on April 9, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Most military folks with anything invested in the conflict I think would very much appreciate the reasoning in your comment. It’s not much different than my thoughts. Certainly quite a step above those who want to call it a lost war simply for making some political statement.

Thank you from a bunch of us.

hawkdriver on April 9, 2013 at 11:57 AM

Obama is busy pushing the families of dead children in front of him to weaken the 2nd Amendment during a state of national of emotionalism.

Iraq?

Strategic aims?

Jihadists in Syria?

Let’s talk about an assault weapon bans instead.

For the children.

This is not about politics!” Obama lied.

profitsbeard on April 9, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Glade to read the Iraq stance on the two wars. Many mistakes were made but the one most important lesson we could have imparted seems to have been learned. For freedom, is what you may have to fight and die for. If you truly believe this then you also must be prepared to do what is necessary to help others achieve true freedom.

jpcpt03 on April 9, 2013 at 12:20 PM

In Syria, we can conceive of no scenario in which a military “victory” by either the government or the opposition can bring peace and stability. Only a negotiated solution can lead to such an outcome.

Well, I can see why Maliki cannot imagine a scenario for an Assad victory achieving that. But for the other two scenarios I need more than just his assertion to get beyond a conclusion he’s conception challenged.

Starting with the latter, does he think Assad is not as bad as Hussein was, and that a negotiated solution is possible? Does he think that the opposition, at this point, would stand for anything less than the deposition of Assad and majority rule? Does he think Syrians are not as capable as the Iraqis in embracing democracy?

As for an opposition victory, why can he not envision a peaceful and stable result? Is it just that, left to their own devices, they would not, because 75% Sunni is not the same as 65% Shi’ite, or is it because he could only imagine it coming about if it was imposed on them via an occupation for some 8 years by a certain outside country?

Dusty on April 9, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Hey, Mr. President, we won what you called “a dumb war”. How are you doing with the “good war” in Afghanistan?
thebrokenrattle on April 9, 2013 at 9:02 AM

Ten years from now, I wonder what the doctor who confirmed OBL’s whereabouts will have to say about King Putt’s handling of the war in Afghanistan.

That is, assuming he hasn’t perished in the prison in which he’s currently rotting.

Maddie on April 9, 2013 at 12:26 PM

Those darned Iraqis, they just won’t get with The Narrative.

RebeccaH on April 9, 2013 at 12:36 PM

Note: arming locals to their own self defense appears to be an important part of building a stable community and Nation. That is a foreign policy lesson. I heartily approve of it. Arming locals to protect themselves works. Once they feel safe to exercise their liberty, they will. Things really got going after that. Amazing.

[ajacksonian on April 9, 2013 at 11:39 AM]

I agree, though I arrive at your point from a different direction. What I felt was the problem was Bush’s focus was all on building up central government. As long as all power was seen by Iraqis as resting in a central government, they’d engage in King of the Hill fighting. When the Administration refocused on distribution of power among local governments, in essence the exercising of liberty which you note, and giving them the means essential for their guaranteeing it by arming them for their own self defense, stability came more naturally.

As you note, it’s amazing what happens when people have the means for self defense.

Dusty on April 9, 2013 at 12:47 PM

CBS just went the other way.

They interviewed the guy who put the flag on Saddam’s statue and the Iraqi who was trying to cut down the statue. Apparently he’s in the minority and says that killing Saddam put the country back 300 years.

LoganSix on April 9, 2013 at 7:00 PM