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Works and Days

Iraq – Agony, Ordeal, and Recovery

March 25th, 2013 - 12:00 am

The Bush administration was almost giddy after the brilliant 2001 two-month removal of the Taliban and the later easy installation of the pro-American Hamid Karzai — all in the supposed “graveyard of empires.” We had apparently done in two months what the Soviets had not in ten years. Given that Afghanistan was supposedly more challenging than Iraq (no ports, literacy, oil, flat terrain, or clear weather), and given that we already defeated Saddam once, it was assumed that if two months were necessary to remove the Taliban, only one would be required to oust Saddam (quite true). And if six months had seen a stable government in Afghanistan, then three would see one in Iraq (false). Just as prior success of a sort in Korea suggested that we could likewise save South Vietnam, or as heroic defense had saved France in 1914 and so it would again in 1940, so too the past never quite reappears in all its contortions in the present.

II. Conduct of the War


Kurdistan was quickly liberated, protected, and allowed to form a consensual government, the result of which is one of the most successful and most pro-American regions in the Middle East. In unanticipated fashion, al Qaeda declared Iraq the central theater in its war against America, flocked to Anbar Province, and saw its operatives killed en masse and for three years its organization nearly annihilated and discredited. Given that Afghanistan in 2003-6 was relatively quiet, Iraq soon became the only battlefield between the U.S. and al Qaeda, and offered a theater to decimate the terrorists. We forget now that al Qaeda between 2007 and 2008 was all but wiped out in Iraq.

The surge and /or its accompanying developments (the Anbar Awakening, the cumulative toll on al Qaeda, the message that the U.S. was not leaving, the rise of oil revenues, etc.) saved Iraq, so much so that when Barack Obama assumed office there were essentially no Americans dying in Iraq, and the country was more stable than Arab countries on the Mediterranean.


Abu Ghraib — enough said.

The questionable moves of disbanding the Iraqi army (if it did indeed disband, rather than just dissipate on its own) and de-Baathification were proven unquestionably wrong, when there was no alternative offered in their places: few jobless soldiers were immediately put to work in civilian projects or re-recruited into the army; few Baathists were rehired into the bureaucracy.

Arms dumps were left unguarded — allowing scavengers to collect ordinance that would fuel the IEDs that would come to kill and maim thousands of Americans.

When you set out to take Vienna, to paraphrase Napoleon, then take Vienna. The April 2004 sorta, kinda assault on Fallujah, followed by withdrawal (and insurgent boasting of a victory), sent two terrible messages beyond the needless waste of American lives: the U.S. feared that it could not defeat the insurgency in a head-to-head confrontation (it actually could and did, as the subsequent November victory in Fallujah proved), and it made the conduct of the war appear entirely political (pre-election avoidance of controversial fighting, post-election resumption of same fighting).

If the Obama administration saw too many generals in Afghanistan (McKiernan, McChrystal, Petraeus, Allen), Bush did not remove enough of them. That the clueless Gen. Ricardo Sanchez was put in charge of the war on the ground in Iraq is simply inexplicable. Gen. Casey did not understand the insurgency, at least until it was fully developed. And while it is true that Gen. Petraeus benefited from the Arab Awakening, the aggregate four-year attrition of enemy forces, and the spike in Iraqi oil revenues, his appointment, surge, and change in tactics need not have waited until 2007. Why had we sent a comparatively small force to begin with? Because (a) the critiques of the 1991 war had argued that we had overdone it with needlessly massive deployments; (b) Saddam was far weaker than in 1991, and opposition to him far greater; and (b) small forces had routed the Taliban in 2001 in a far more difficult Afghanistan.

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Top Rated Comments   
The extremely simple minded Congressmen like Kerry and Clinton should be completely embarrassed by articles from Dr. Hanson with his citation of history with supporting facts.
Breast feeding politicians like these, that have been suckling the media for as long as they have, should be removed from their offices with much fanfare for their attempts to interfere with the publication of the course of history in their daily agendas.
History is rife with lesser criminals.
Dr. Hansons quality of service to his readers is unsurpassed by most of the highest office holders in the American government.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
On this Pesach eve, I can only say that I greatly appreciate the mind, courage and steadfastness of VDH. You are a rare man to know so much, to express it so well, and to do so consistently in the face of rebuke and scolding from the great mushy middle and the wayward Left. If you do not want to come to the ME again, I understand - your reasons are very good ones. But you are welcome in Israel any time, any day, any hour.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
VDH, there were and are so many lies from the left, it is impossible to catalog them all.

1)WMD----Clinton, Gore, William Cohen, Madeline Albright...ALL went on a public crusade DECLARING that Saddam's regime was rife with WMD and that he was THE greatest threat to world security. Cohen appeared on the news shows with props, a bag of white powder, saying that Saddam could wipe out DC.

NOTHING....and I mean less than nothing...changed in the world's knowledge of Saddam's production capability and stores of WMD from that point to Shock and Awe. Nothing. We still don't know, but many believe the Russians helped Saddam remove what he had to Syria and elsewhere. We don't know...and neither do the traitors on the left.

2) We DO know that Valerie Plame's husband was wrong...if not intentionally so...about Saddam seeking yellowcake. The left has been lying about EVERY aspect of WMD ever since. It is especially galling that Hillary took the position that she was "lied to" when supporting the Iraq mission. The Clinton's knew the truth and let Bush take a beating based on a pack of lies.

3)The Propaganda Machine that passes as our "media" was calling BOTH missions "a quagmire", the MINUTE they were engaged. They said that Iraq was going to be a tough ground slog. The slinked back into abject humility when the ground war was over in weeks....but, reared their traitorous, ugly heads...when they started counting "grim milestones".

4)Prior to the shock and awe campaign...the traitorous left was saying that we were depriving babies in Iraq of milk and medicine. That sanctions weren't working. The UN had passed a forest of dead trees condemning Saddam and saying "if you don't...we will...". He was given a chance to prove he wasn't armed with WMD. He chose to lose. Perhaps because he couldn't get cleaned up in time without the help of the Russians. Perhaps not. We are likely to never know. But it's NOT that he never had them. We know he did. We gave him some of them. The Russians, Germans and French had been very "helpful" as well.

5)You are precisely correct that Saddam was MUCH worse than Assad against his own people. He had gassed the Kurds. Put people in wood chippers and his two Pig Latin sons, Umday and Upidstay were rape room aficianados. The "humanitarian" cries by the lying left should fall on deaf ears now against Syria...they are nothing in comparison...and they should eat their words whole.

I could go on. Obama went into Libya without Congress or anyone else as a coalition "agreed upon". He drones people at will, damn the torpedoes and collateral damage. Without a peep from the left.

They do not rise up in principle...because they have no principles. They are all Propaganda...all the time. And, I'm ashamed to have to share a country with them.

Worse, they are a clear and present danger to the health and security of this land of ours...and to the world. They have destroyed Europe, ruined North Korea, collapsed Russia and obliterated the Middle East.

In a politicians...and even as humans...they suck.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (72)
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From 2004-7, the Bush administration did not reply to or defend itself against its critics, as the media bought into “Bush lied, thousands died” and canonized Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, and Code Pink.

And the Republican Party continues this passive acquiescence to this day. It takes no genius to see that the MSM has far more influence on the electorate than the mere 10-point advantage that Tim Groseclose pointed out a number of elections ago - and others insisted didn't exist.

The MSM was essential to installing the Obama administration, and has blacked out unfavorable studies like loyal palace guards. A tiny relaxation of this guard has shown up in three recent CNN stories, but unless that first becomes a trend, and then spreads through the other media members, there's little hope.

So far, the best the public sees is in Congress when members with principles, such as Paul Ryan, Rand Paul or Tim Cruz, quit playing go-along-to-get-along and get far enough into the faces of the Dems that they are actually shown, or quoted accurately, by media who'd normally pull the curtain and change the subject. Would that the Party elders resign and hand over to the articulate new ones who can express complaints and goals clearly and concisely.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Its been ten years and trillions of dollars. Hundreds of thousands of casualties. Our troops are dumped back in America and denied the health care they need. Nothing has changed. Iraq is aligned with Iran. WE are well into the Second Great Depression. California has been taken over and we are still expanding our wars in the Middle East.

We are now five years into the Second Great Depression and you Neo-liberals are still trying to Save the World for Democracy.

Give it up, Hanson. Just give it up.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've always said that Iraq was either a stroke of genius or blind luck, either way it drew the fight out of Afghanistan which had the fight concentrated there would have been another Vietnam for us. Afghanistan is called the "Graveyard of Empires" for a reason.

Historical perspective -

Current perspective -
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As an Iraq War vet, (two tours) former Soldier and Intelligence Analyst, here's my two cents:

We should have gone all the way to Baghdad the FIRST time. Saddam Hussein was a megalomaniac and terrorist supporter in violation of U.N. Resolutions, including UN Resolution 1441, which gave us the specific authority to use force if he did not comply with the dismantlement and discontinuation of his WMD program.


Saddam attacked every neighboring country except Syria from 1979-1991, and gave safe haven and support to terrorists. Our mission was clear; to overthrow and defeat Saddam’s Baathist regime; kill or capture him, and help Iraq build an infrastructure through which it could stabilize and govern itself. Iraq isn't perfect but it's a damn sight better off than it was when Saddam had an iron grip.

It’s up to Nouri al-Malaki and his parliament to take the opportunity to bring his country into the 21st century and help make Iraq’s new found democracy work. We'll see.

The focus is now on Afghanistan; the other battlefield that the MSM and the public threw down the memory hole. Up until Obama got elected, the war efforts there were going pretty good. I’ve always maintained that B. Hussein was given a winning hand in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war is his to lose, and given that he's an epic failure, that's precisely what's happening. Of course, Karzai is a corrupt little turd who would rather placate muzzie terrorists with ridiculous ROE, than prevent them from continuing their quest for a new Caliphate.

The so-called partnership between American Soldiers and Afghan troops is an epic fail. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have infiltrated the Afghan forces and most certainly have influence in Karzai’s regime.

As for "nation building", that's a project that is best left for post-war operations after the enemy has been completely defeated and the country brought under control.

The strides we made are falling apart thanks to the fact that we did not dedicate our full resources and efforts to that.

On a broader note: Islamic terrorists are trained, funded, supported, and indoctrinated across the Middle East. I’d have neutron-bombed at least 3/4ths of the Middle East on 12 September 2001, including Iraq and Afghanistan. That is how you fight a jihad, but I’m a former Soldier, not a politician.

We could pull every American military member out of the Middle East and muzzie extremists would still come here and try to kill us, because their avowed goal is to destroy the West; America in particular.

This war ain't over by a long shot.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The strides we made are falling apart thanks to the fact that we did not dedicate our full resources and efforts to that."

Welcome to the world of nation-building strategies and the now historical outcomes experienced from 1947 to date.

"We could pull every American military member out of the Middle East and muzzie extremists would still come here and try to kill us, because their avowed goal is to destroy the West; America in particular."

And the real question is: WHY?

You're far to young to remember when we walked the streets in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey, Syria, Morocco, etc, with the locals pretty much westernized and among the most cordially peoples whose children had free flowing travel to the U.S. to attending colleges and universities. They were not our enemies then even though thre U.S. andf UK had been meddling in some of the government, especially Iran, to included funded and active overthrow of governments since 1947. Today as we all know, they're pretty much all our enemies. and reverting back to an earlier 20th century era of geopolitics. Why?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why? Because historically Islamic nations are agressive when they think they have the upper hand. When they have a boot on thier necks (Colonial Period) they are submissive and eager to please. They have observed the rot in the heart of the West starting in the 60s with the Baby Boomers and Vietnam. Five years after Vietnam we had Carter and the Iranian revolution, its been mostly down hill from there.

You see they don't fight with "laws & rules" like we do, they think we are weak and foolish for doing so and exploit this. They also know we get war weary very easily, all they have to do is outlast us and we go away.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The following excerpt from a NY Times article lamenting the decline of the Democrat Party is featured in a brilliant presentation by Frantz Kebreau entitled "Stolen History":

“The sons of Democratic fathers have grown up Republican. So long as slavery and the [Civil] War linger within the memory of Americans, the youth of the Republic will continue to grow up Republicans; and slavery and the war will be remembered as long as the public schools system exist. The public schools have slain the Democratic Party with the textbooks”
NY Times 1880
The Democrats have been rewriting history ever since.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Social justice and equality have long been the foundation of the democratic party! I don't happen to agree with the consclusions of the NYT piece you present. I too, grew up in a 99-1% democratic county and nearly that statwide. Pre WWII we were pretty much closed societies within the great society. We were not a transitory society and our county seats were pretty much economically self contained and agriculture the number one economy in most parts of the nations. Only about 4-6% of people went to college. Few people knew anything about a class system as they all worked who were physcally and mentally able, with doctors, lawyers, mayors and other prominent figures your next door neighbors.

Post WWII and with the advent of the new GI Bill, the percentage of kids and young adults going off to college made a signficant leap upwards. At the same time, the federal government closing the war era partnered with private sector economies growing them by leaps and bounds. The industrial revbolution seen great advances in personal income opportunity and new free enterprise businesses springing up. Housing was also a new great economic boom to house the returning GIs of WWII and Korea and their new families. Capitalism for most of the country, as never before experienced before, was up and running full steam ahead.

During the late 50s economic industries began to consolidate and centralize creating a more transient population of the young and more educated following the new money and leaving their traditional family lifestyles of hard labor, etc. During these times the democratic party held their majority positions.

The 60s and 70s social and poltical revolutions still seen a democratic majority. I think the data will bear out that it was the 80s when there was a shift in party politics. By then a very signficant number of americans were college educated and involved in the still foursing capitalist economies. Capitalism, national security and law and order of course was long, a part of the GOP foundation.

I think education advances, capitalist advances, national security issues, fat wallets and material wealth led to a signficant percentage of conversions. If there were to be an extended period of socio-economic decline, I think you would find yet another partisan shift begin. When the nations peoples who become 'fat' they tend to migrate to the GOP and when they're 'hungry and jobless or become poor', they tend to migrate to the democratic party.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wonderful article Dr. Hanson. Thank you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are two essays I’ve found that are especially fascinating to read in context with one another, and I encourage you to read them now before I make comment on the two taken together:

The first is from historian Victor Davis Hanson titled Iraq – Agony, Ordeal, and Recovery at

The second is from political scientist Abraham H. Miller titled The Eighteenth Brumarie of Barack Obama at
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I neglected to reference my own comments here which can be read at
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
With all the following beating the war drums, we should have suspected maybe it wasn't such a good idea.

"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction ... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real..."
- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003

"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force -- if necessary -- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002

"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 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

"We must stop Saddam from ever again jeopardizing the stability and security of his neighbors with weapons of mass destruction."
- Madeline Albright, Feb 1, 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

"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

"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

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."
- Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Between Israel and the U.S.-UK bombing critical sites a few years apart and UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors doing cleanup and intel work, all the remaining intel was left to speculations, Iraqi ex-pats and suspect defectors commenting, all of which was not validated by any means.

Now, I don't know the true facts anymore than anybody else except for all the UNSCOM and IAEA reports but heres the problem I have.

We wouldn't dare entertain the thought of preemptive military strikes on Russia, China, for any suspected bio or chemical WMDs and likewise for nuclear weapons of mass destruction. For nuclear weapns of mass destruction we haven't moved on Iran and North Korea in the way we did with Iraq. We didn't make any such premptive strike on Afghanistan or India and only Israel acted on suspicions of Syrias nuclear program. Libya voluntarily destroyed its program as has, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan. Israel does not admit or deny having nuclear weapons. Next, comes the question, that if a nation chose not to be an a member of the NPT then what international laws prevents them from going in such a direction?

Sure, its a very dangerous world and getting more dangerous but.... Whats the 'equal' and lawful rules of military engagement? Countries do all kinds of things legally and illegally we don't like, but do we load up and do a premptive strike on all we find doing things we disagree with? Heck, even our own congress wrote a law in direct conflict with the Genevas Convention:

Sec. 7(a): (a) In General- No person may invoke the Geneva Conventions, or any protocols thereto, in any habeas or civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States, is a party, as a source of rights in any court of the United States or its States or territories.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
.....after that, “you did it, not me” is the cultural norm.

From a nation of wimps and perpetual adolescents.

What is the deal with all the "reported" comments? Youse guys or girls having a flame war? Then do it up front and out in the open instead of acting like Lieberals.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Perhaps we should ask the Iraqis how this "war of liberation" worked out. Mistakes were made and not corrected. I'm waiting for the day when we start claiming that we could have "won" in Iraq were it not for the lefties. It was wrong at the start, middle, and end, poorly planned, atrociously executed, a complete waste of American live and money. Learn the lessons or be doomed to repeat them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The failure of the Iraqi Great Islamic Society Nation Building supporters to admit that their Great Islamic Society Nation Building theories and policies had been ill advised and a profound failure had a huge impact on their psyches and its impact was manifest in their desire to get American military forces back in Iraq for another decade which they felt would bring final victory and thus bring them vindication. Many COINdinista web site writers and COINdinista radio talkers would support the false idea that their Great Islamic Society Nation Building theories and policies had been going very well and with just another decade or two and just a few more surges and stay the course the Great Islamic Society Nation Building in Iraqi would have resulted in the building of a successful democratic, rule of law Iraqi nation that would be an ally in the war against terror and serve as a shining example for the rest of the Middle East.

They believed that their Great Islamic Society Nation Building theories and policies had been visionary and brilliant and would have soon succeeded, except for being betrayed at home, the infamous 'Stab in the Back' theory. (Similar to the myth and betrayal theory [Dolchstosslegende] popular in Germany in the period after World War I which attributed Germany's defeat to a number of domestic betrayals instead of failed geostrategy.) This 'Stab in the Back' theory would become hugely popular among many COINdinista internet web site writers and COINdinista radio talkers who found it impossible to accept the fact that their Great Islamic Society Nation Building theories and policies had been a costly and unmitigated disaster.

In the aftermath of America's finial extradition from the Iraqi Great Islamic Society Nation Building fiasco, many COINdinistas have become even more obsessed with laying blame on what they have called "traitors", "white flag wavers", "defeatist cut and runners" and "surrender monkeys" in America for undermining the Great Islamic Society Nation Building effort in Iraqi. To the COINdinistas, their fellow Americans, the clear majority of whom had finally had enough with using American troops as Lab Rats in a Muslim test tube in Iraq, would become known as the 'Defeatist Criminals.' The COINdinistas are now threatening to hold pout and shout demonstrations in mass if America also withdraws from Afghanistan, their last hope for validation for their dream of Great Islamic Society Nation Building.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"I'm waiting for the day when we start claiming that we could have "won" in Iraq were it not for the lefties"

Dolchstosslegende II.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"For a postmodern society that knows no history, mistakes must not occur. And when they do, someone else is always to be blamed."

Roger that!

"“Nation-building” was not just some neocon wide-eyed dream (although for some it may well have been that). More likely, it was the last choice to ensure that military force led to something better, a sort of repeat of post-Milosevic Serbia rather than post-Gulf War Iraq."

VDH - On the one hand, I know you are well informed on the strategies of "nation-building" and its involvement in the ME since 1947, to have made that comment seriously! On the other hand, I know you're aware of the natural resource motives of Iraq vs. Kuwait, re 1991 and the UK/U.S. contracts put in jeopardy. Likewise, I'm pretty sure you know of the new UK/U.S. oil fields contract agreements that came out of Geneva with negoitations having started nearly the first day of the Iraqi 'war' as it were.

It was all about a vendetta, nation-building, and oil all combined. The vendetta component won! The nation-building component has thus far lost as usual! The oil component backfired for paying for the war BUT -- won by the big oil company contracts awarded to UK and U.S. corporate interests.

The greatest loss was that of an effective geopolitical 'control' over Iran by Iraq!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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