Two Bad Presidents Made Iraq into the Petri Dish that Grew ISIS.

Two Bad Presidents Made Iraq into the Petri Dish that Grew ISIS. May 19, 2015
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Fotis Bobolas
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Fotis Bobolas

How did Iraq become the cesspool that birthed ISIS?

Who made this mess?

We did.

We did it under the one-two punch of back to back bad presidents.

It’s popular for the Ds to point at the totally unnecessary war in Iraq as the cause of the situation there. They are, of course, right.

It’s equally popular for the Rs to point at the premature withdrawal from Iraq as the real cause of the mess. They are, of course, also right.

The point?

This country has suffered two bad presidents in a row. They each increased the divisiveness in the body politic and managed to convince a large part of the electorate that they only govern on behalf of others and not them. What’s worse, these two presidents have both made mistakes that led us directly into the conflagration that has been occurring in the Middle East.

We had no reason to go to war with Iraq in the first place. The reason we were given — weapons of mass destruction — was not true. The CIA either gave bad intel to President Bush, or they lied to him. You decide for yourself which you think it was.

The finest thing President Bush ever did was man up and tell the truth about this. He admitted that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was his Bay of Pigs. He learned that what Dwight Eisenhower called the “Military Industrial Complex” was massaging intel in order to drum up wars.

I don’t know if he ever understood the full meaning of this or not. All I know is that he did stand up and tell the truth when the truth needed to be told.

Enter President Obama. This president has not been the mindless shill for the military industrial complex that many of his predecessors were, but he was evidently flying blind when he decided to pull our troops out of Iraq. This action created the vacuum that allowed ISIS to grow like a parasitical infection.

So, Rs and Ds, who’s to blame?

President Bush got us into a quagmire. We were, if anyone cares to remember, supposed to go into Iraq, whip them good, cowboy style, and then go home. What we ended up with was a big mess that set us up for decades of occupation, bleeding out the lives of our young men and women on a daily basis.

I watched a few television specials about the so-called tactics being used in Iraq and I was sickened to see American lives wasted in this way. The idea appeared to have been to send our troops out to drive along a road. If they got through, fine. If they got killed, then they were heroes, and well, the manufacturers of body bags thank you very much.

That’s not a tactic. It’s certainly not a strategy. It’s not even good police work.

We were faced with unending decades of this slow bleed of our people’s lives in Iraq because a bad president followed the bad intel of the CIA and got us into a totally unnecessary war. The fact that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy did not and does not justify this nation going to war. American lives and American treasure should never be so cavalierly spent.

President Obama pulled us out of the quagmire, but he left behind a mess that has turned into a massive and on-going war which is being waged against civilians on a mass scale and appears to be an attack on civilization itself. President Obama was not so naive about the CIA as his predecessor, but he has been naive in the extreme about the people of the Middle East.

President Bush made the mistake of thinking that they were just like us. President Obama has made the mistake of thinking that they are just like him.

I would guess that I’ve made just about everyone reading this angry. I know well the depth of the loyalties that Public Catholic readers have to the R and the D.

I’m going to throw this open for you to discuss. Feel free to talk about it in any way you wish so long as you refrain from name-calling and degrading individual people or groups of people. I include elected officials in this. Disagree with them all you want. That is the American way. But leave their kids, dogs, mothers, sex lives, and inner souls alone.

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32 responses to “Two Bad Presidents Made Iraq into the Petri Dish that Grew ISIS.”

  1. A few historical facts, Rebecca:
    1. Saddam Hussein had invaded 2 of his neighbors.
    2. He was shooting down American planes.
    3. He was harbor in terrorists who had murdered Americans.
    4. He had a large stockpile of chemical weapons which he had used on Iraqi Kurds and Iranians.
    5. He had corrupted the UN.
    The U.S. had just been attacked by terrorists on 9/11.
    The British intelligence services maintain that the yellow cake uranium story was true.
    U.S. Forces, including my son’s unit found depots of chemical weapons in the desert.
    You can disagree all you want with policy but those are facts.
    We are preparing to turn the Middle East into a spreading infection of regional violent dictatorial opportunism. We are ceding a position in the world in favor of countries that will do anything, regardless of consequences.
    You need to add Bill Clinton to the list of bad presidents. He did nothing about the first World Trade Center bombing.
    But, the prize goes to Jimmy Carter who put the vile regime in Iran into place.

  2. More innocents being slaughtered while we in the West remain safe, fed, and comfortable.
    I have nothing to add except to say I agree with all you have written.

  3. To begin with, it was president Bush who signed the agreement that set the date for the full withdrawal of US troops from Irak by December 31, 2011. It was not in Obama’s hands to unilaterally decide to extend their stay.

    As for who bears responsibility for getting us in that mess to begin with, I think Cheney had a far more active and deliberate role than Bush. Its summed up in this video:

    We all got played, plain and simple. And now the same people who got us into that mess are trying to do the same thing all over again. Tom Cotton, the senator that authored the letter to Iran? Do a quick google search for “tom cotton lobbyists” to see what he really stands for.

    This is all a game, in which human lives are bartered for oil, wealth and power. For the people who lay their lives on the line or got caught in the crossfire, its a tragedy; for the people at the top pulling the strings, its just business as usual.

  4. My understanding is that when President Obama withdrew the troops, he was acting under constraint of a compact (the “U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement”) established by President Bush with the new government of Iraq. I’m not sure what alternative course you’re suggesting that President Obama would have been better off taking, given the Iraqi government’s refusal to alter the agreement. Unilaterally abrogate it, fundamentally undermining the Iraqi government in the process (if not declaring to the world their independent sovereignty an outright fiction)? Perhaps talking them into changing their minds — but how, given their constituents’ adamant opposition to continuing the American presence even as long as we did?

    Additionally, I think you may be giving too much blame to the CIA and too little to the Bush team’s confirmation bias in reading the CIA reports, and pushing for clear answers over reliable answers. Nohow, I would concede there that the largest fault seems to have more been with Cheney and individuals associated to his office; and the historical record there is rather murkier.

  5. They did not, however, indicate existence of an active program that the Bush administration had claimed – which the October 10, 2014 piece in the Times by C. J. Chivers noted, and a followup opinion piece by Hanna Kozlowska on October 17 re-highlighted.

  6. Several of these “facts” seem quite debatable; those which don’t still leave open the question of how claim-X is the case logically connects to the claim that the United States ought to have continued politics to other means at the time and manner that Bush did.

  7. Obama sent Biden to negotiate a SOFA, knowing Obama did not want one.
    Dick Cheney was a boogeyman for people on the left.

  8. Yes. I’ve often thought that if we had been wiser thirty or forty years ago, we would not be in such a mess in the Middle East now. Not that thinking that presents any solutions to the problems now.

  9. Everyone seems to agree (including Clinton and Kerry and most Democrats) that the intelligence Bush received from our agencies and from around the world overwhelmingly indicated that Iraq was very likely to be setting up another big Twin Towers debacle for the U.S.. Iraq was gearing things up to be another Afghanistan training ground.
    As the man in office when the Towers fell and thousands died one can only imagine the thought of being president when another such horror might happen.
    In fact, much of the Monday morning quarterbacking today is cheap political sleaze.
    Imagine if Bush had done nothing, and a gas attack killed thousands of Americans and then it came out about the unanimous conclusions of intelligence experts that crossed his desk– would Bush be lynched or impeached????.
    Under the circumstances Bush had to act. Unfortunately, the successes of the surge in Iraq were sabotaged by a later president

  10. “President Bush made the mistake of thinking that they were just like us. ”

    So did the CIA, who never seemed to realize that Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction were a campaign promise, albeit to a constituency of one, not reality. “Oh yes, great leader Hussien, we have your weapons of mass destruction right here. Mustard gas to use on the hated Kurds. We got a great price on the canisters from East Germany. That date of 1986? That is the date of manufacture. It isn’t an expiration date. “exp” in German means “made”.”

    “President Obama has made the mistake of thinking that they are just like him.”

    What do you mean that the Koran can’t be rewritten to include gay marriage? We did it to the Bible, didn’t we?

  11. Yep, nobody noticed however that the only gas weapons seized had lost potency 20 years before….not even Saddam. I’m sure he died wondering why his troops never used those weapons he bought from East Germany just before the Berlin Wall fell (or why he got such a good price from the East German arms dealer).

  12. Did your son’s unit note the expiration date on those cases of chemical weapons with German labels in Cyrillic?

    Saddam got played as well. His “weapons of mass destruction” were useless when he bought them from East Germany just before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    Other than that- yes, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon, who actually helped Saddam come to power.

  13. It should teach us by experience. Some people in our government seem to think if we just do the same thing more it will work better, like welfare and how to deal with cit problems.
    Being nice to tyrants and dictators and people who wage irregular warfare will never work.

  14. What? Which facts are you questioning? I can give you hard evidence of every on.
    For example, my son’s Marine unit was sent to a part of Anbar to secure and destroy a large ammo cache in the desert. They followed procedures, cleared civilians and began detonations. Several of the men began to get very sick and were evacuated. The Lt reported in and the hazmat team was sent out. They found that the regular ammo cache concealed a large chemical cache. That was classified information till a couple years ago as ey did not want people looking for more.
    I can go on, point by point. What do you doubt?

  15. They are not the only source. The chemical bombs Assad is using in Syria came from Saddam’s supplies he moved as the invasion began.

  16. The SOFA was neither created nor signed during the Obama administration. There are conservatives (EG, Krauthammer, in his 2011-11-03 Washington Post column) who place the blame for failing to renegotiate an improved SOFA on Obama and Biden; however, they tend not to address that the Iraqi constituents were fundamentally hostile, that the bulk of the Iraqi parliament (Kurds aside) was thus unwilling to publicly endorse such extension (particularly given the demands for immunity against criminal conduct), nor suggest what incentive terms should have been included that might have sweetened the deal to palatability.

    While the depths of Cheney’s evil are definitely the subject of hyperbole (horcruxes? c’mon….), the role of his office in the development of pre-war intelligence (and its resulting fecal correspondence to the real world it allegedly described) is moderately well documented. EG, Korn and Isikoff’s book “Hubris” seems one starting point.

  17. Well, I agree there were chemical weapons found. However, see above comment on the NY Times coverage; this was not evidence of the active WMD program the Bush administration apparently claimed. The motive for keeping the information under wraps is debatable; it has also been alleged that they did not want to indicate how few the weapons found were — and (in the aforementioned coverage) that the weapons might have shown embarrassing connections to the US during its earlier support for Iraq.

    While Saddam had previously invaded two neighbors, he had not done so proximately enough to constitute new causus belli under norms of international law. (That’s leaving aside that the main problem the US had with the Iraq-Iran conflict was that one side might win.)

    While he had shot down US planes, the planes were unmanned aerial reconaisance drones, operating to monitor the “no-fly” zone declared within Iraqi sovereign airspace in a manner again dubious under international law.

    Iraq was apparently holding Abdul Rahman Yasin in prison and refusing extradition, which isn’t exactly the same thing as “harboring”. The other terrorist were generally affiliated to groups that were not targeting the United States, but rather our allies (and some enemies).

    While British Intelligence may still believe the Niger yellowcake claim, the rest of the world does not; it was quite disputed in the US intelligence community at the time, and Italian intelligence has since identified the forger responsible. While there was some uranium removed, it was from an IAEA monitored site, was under seal, and was still sealed when shipped to Canada circa 2008.

    While the US had been attacked by terrorists, the terrorists were more directly connected to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, not Iraq.

    I’d say Eisenhower is more responsible for the rise of the Ayatollah than Carter.

  18. That connection has been alleged, but hardly proven. While Assad has been using chemical weapons, and has used some Sarin, Syria had a native chemical weapons program since the 1970s. While Iraq was a possible source for some of it, it could equally well have been developed domestically.

  19. There were lots of chemical weapons found in the desert and Assad is using those very well in Syria.
    Btw, did you know that a researcher in Flanders recently found one of those expired canisters, 100 years old, WWI. He had to be hospitalized and treated.

  20. SOFAs are renegotiated all the time. You are spouting talking points.
    As for your comments on Cheney, they too are typical leftist propaganda.
    Korn and Isikoff experts on Cheney, or anything? Yeah, like Max Blumenthal is an expert on Israel.

  21. None of that changes the facts.
    Muhammad Zaiden and Abu Nidal were both in Iraq, living freely there under Saddam. Some Al Qaeda people came and went.
    Jimmy Carter allowed our embassy and personnel to be taken and occupied, a violation of every international law and he did nothing. You don’t do that.
    Btw, he was the last to have an Ambassador killed, till Chris Stevens in Libya under the current administration.
    I said you could disagree with the why and if of the Iraq war. I’m ambivalent except that Saddam was a danger to the whole world. Being a weak horse is never good.
    Americans have notoriously short memories. There is an Arabic saying about taking a thousand years for revenge.

  22. Your disatisfaction with Carter’s response does not suggest what alternative he might taken, nor how such alternative would have help reverse the political movement for which the rise of the Ayatollah was a symptom. Legalities aside, assassination might easily have removed Khomeini himself, but no reason to expect that the underlying movement wouldn’t have promptly produced a functionally indistinguishable replacement.

    You also neglect that they did attempt a covert recovery (which was botched due to the usual failure of plan to survive encounter with field conditions), and did have congress impose economic sanctions. Are you suggesting military action should have been taken? That would almost certainly have risked the US getting to play in Iran the role equivalent to that the Soviets played when they went into Afghanistan.

    Finally, you fail to address the comparative blame due the Eisenhower administration for the fundamental(ist) problem in Iran.

  23. Don’t interrogate. Anne can answer — or not — whatever points she choses. People who come on blogs often behave as if they think they have subpoena power and the other commenters are on the witness stand. They don’t, and they aren’t.

  24. While I am hardly an expert on military history and tactics, I am not aware that the United States in its history (or for that matter, any other nation in their own) has ever found any tactics effective against irregular warfare except for genocide or withdrawal. Genocide is currently considered a paramount violation of international law.

  25. Who’s to blame? Probably the CIA because they rely on confidential information that often can’t be verified, and therefore there’s nothing to prevent an agent with an agenda from manufacturing false information. If they know what someone higher wants they can keep in good graces by “finding out” exactly what they’re supposed to find, the truth be damned.