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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Top Ten Wrong Predictions From Iraq Cassandras

robert goodwyn wrote:
RG) Still looks to me like it fits.  If you really prefer, I can change it to "Operator"  (RG
That's still a suggestion that I'm an agent of the government.  Why smear me, Bob?  Why call me an "operative" or "operator" when you know I'm only an advocate?  Is it because you can't argue against what I actually advocate, and so you need to cryptically suggest that I'm secretly working with the evil-doers?  Isn't that exactly what Bush and Cheney did with Saddam and al Qaeda?

Bob, when you hate hard enough, you become what you hate.
RG) I might admit to having read the wrong article, (RG
There weren't any other articles.
RG) but you carry on in this piece to defend the invasion.  That leaves the situation the same. (RG
No, it doesn't.  You can't say I'm guilty of "promoting in print" something ("the war") that I say in print should have already ended years earlier.  But at least now, for the first time, you've used the word "invasion" to describe what I supported.  Thank you.
RG) I meant the whole thing, especially the people killed and maimed. (RG
You wrote "pay us back".  You aren't among the killed and maimed, and the "back" implies that the original cost was financial.  If this is really what you meant, you didn't word it very clearly.
RG) My understanding of the history is that the worst of Saddam's crimes had occurred a decade before the invasion.  I did want to see Saddam punished for these, and I did want the other ongoing crimes to stop.  I just could not match that to killing 600k in an invasion.  (RG
Again, you conflate the invasion and the subsequent unpredicted Sunni-Shia civil war.  600K is a tendentiously high estimate for all violent deaths from both.  Most body counts and estimates top out at around 150K.  Most of those deaths have been fratricidal, and American munitions are estimated to have caused only a quarter of the entire war's violent deaths.  So if you want to count violent deaths from American munitions during the time it took to depose and capture Saddam, it's a few tens of thousands.  It goes up to around 50K before the Sunni-Shia civil war led me to call for withdrawal in 2006.

That 50K over 3 years compares to about 1.5M killed by Saddam over his 24-year-career: a death rate of at least 50K every year.  In that time he bloodily put down two uprisings, started two international wars, and invited a hopeless third war that he could have trivially prevented.  His sons were arguably more reckless and bloodthirsty even than he, and they could easily have reigned for another four decades.

Furthermore, we had a decade of evidence with the Kurds that Iraqi territory could be liberated/defended from Saddam's murderous tyranny by the U.S. military with surprising ease. We also had recent and stunning evidence from Afghanistan that a regime in a harder-to-invade country could be deposed at shockingly little cost, and with not much apparent initial destabilization of the society.  Iraq was far more prosperous, literate, and (apparently) secular than Afghanistan.

What nobody knew -- or at least publicly predicted -- was that the mixed Sunni-Shia part of Iraq would turn out to be allergic to liberation.  If you knew it, you apparently kept your secret out of the public record. I searched hard, and could find zero public predictions that deposing Saddam would be followed by a bloody Sunni-Shia civil war. Instead, I found warnings about:
  • mass civilian casualties of American bombing,
  • US support for continued Sunni oppression of Shias,
  • the Bush Administration prematurely ending its efforts to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq, (hah!)
  • wars by the Bush Administration against other rogue states,
  • Iraqi attacks on Israel, possibly using WMDs, (hah!)
  • first strikes by rogue states cornered into acquiring WMDs,
  • Iraqi WMDs falling into unknown hands, (hah!)
  • house-to-house resistance by the Republican Guard in Baghdad,
  • use by the Iraqi Army of women and children as human shields,
  • Iran and Turkey intervening inside Iraq, and
  • environmental disaster in Iraq's oil fields.
So, yes, the Sunni-Shia civil war was an immense tragedy, but blaming invasion advocates for it is simply Monday-morning quarterbacking.  Invasion opponents incorrectly predicted just about every possible catastrophic invasion consequence except the catastrophe that actually happened.
RG) You would like for me to admit that your fundamental motivation in supporting the invasion of Iraq has always been minimizing the deaths of innocent Iraqis.... Okay, if you say so, I'll admit it. (RG
Thank you.  That makes you the most honorable of my Libertarian antiwar critics.
RG) I am starting to see that you are a very sad case.  That invasion must have hurt you deeply. (RG
The unforeseen insanity of the Sunni-Shia civil war disturbed me almost as much as the crimes of Saddam and his sons.  That's why the fall of Saddam in fact elated me. At, watch the first video clip, a news report about the liberation of Baghdad. Then watch the second video, which shows some of the women and children that Saddam killed with chemical weapons in his Anfal genocide against the Kurds (>100K dead), and  talks about the million who died in his war with Iran. Then watch the third video, which shows some of the estimated 300K victims found in mass graves after the 1991 Shia uprising.

If you can find a video of an invasion opponent warning of a bloody post-invasion Sunni-Shia civil war, I'll gladly add it to my playlist.