HNN Poll: Is Iraq Developing into a Quagmire?


NOTE: This article was first published 7-7-03. It was reposted on our homepage on 8-25-05 and new comments were solicited at that time.

Are we getting bogged down in Iraq? Is it a quagmire? If so, what do we mean by quagmire? Vietnam? Was Vietnam a quagmire? Post your comments below.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Press briefing, June 30, 2003)

... As we celebrate our liberty, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on the challenges that our country faced in its early years. It was a period of chaos and confusion. Our revolution was followed by a serious commercial depression. Britain's colonial ports were -- in the West Indies were closed to ships flying the American flag. There was rampant inflation and no stable currency.

Discontent led to uprisings, such as the Shays Rebellion, with mobs attacking courthouses and government buildings. In 1783 demobilized soldiers from the Continental Army surrounded the statehouse in Philadelphia, demanding back pay. Congress fled for more than six months, meeting in Princeton, Trenton and finally Annapolis, to avoid angry mobs.

Our first attempt at governing charter, the Articles of Confederation, failed, in a sense. It took eight years before the Founders finally adopted our Constitution and inaugurated our first president.

That history is worth remembering as we consider the difficulties that the Afghans and the Iraqis face today. The transition to democracy is never easy. Coalition forces drove Iraq's terrorist leaders from power, but unlike traditional adversaries that we've faced in wars past, who sign a surrender document, hand over their weapons, the remnants of the Ba'ath regime and the Fedayeen death squads faded into the population and have reverted to a terrorist network. We are dealing with those remnants in a forceful fashion, just as we have had to deal with the remnants of al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and tribal areas near Pakistan....

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you about a couple of words and phrases that keep popping up in the commentary about what's going on. One of them is "guerrilla war," and the other one is "quagmire." Now, I know you've admonished us not to --

Rumsfeld: I never have admonished you.

Q: -- not to rush to any judgment about a quagmire just because things are getting tough. But can you remind us again why this isn't a quagmire?...

Rumsfeld: ... why don't I think it is one? Well, I opened my remarks today about the United States of America. Were we in a quagmire for eight years? I would think not. We were in a process. We were in a -- we were evolving from a monarchy into a democracy. What happened in Eastern Europe? Were they in a quagmire when the Berlin Wall fell down and they started struggling and working their way towards democracy? Was Afghanistan in a quagmire, as they went through that awkward stage of trying to schedule a Bonn process and then a Loya Jirga, and now they still don't have a permanent government, nor is it perfectly peaceful there.

If you -- you call it what you want, and then be held accountable for it. My personal view is that we're in a war. We're in a global war on terrorism and there are people that don't agree with that -- for the most part, terrorists. And our goal in each of those countries is to get the terrorists out of Afghanistan, get the Saddam Hussein regime out of Iraq and allow the people of those countries to take over their countries and put their countries on a path towards something approximating a representative, civil society that's not a threat to its neighbors.

If you want to call that a quagmire, do it. I don't....

Q: (Inaudible) -- what a quagmire suggests that, really is, whether you have a good exit strategy. The criticism would be that you're in a situation from which there's no good way to extricate yourself. And -- (Inaudible.) --

Rumsfeld: Then the word "clearly" would not be a good one. You would wish not to have used it, were you to do so -- (Laughter.) -- which, of course, someone as wise as you would not.

Chris Appy, Author of Patriots, The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides

'Quagmire' remains the paramount metaphor of American defeat in Vietnam. Yet the more we learn about Washington decision-making during the war, the less apt the metaphor. An abundance of evidence, old and new, makes clear that U.S. policy makers knew full well that the odds of success in Vietnam were poor, and that U.S. escalation could not really be expected to do more than forestall defeat. In public, of course, they said the opposite -- that progress was steady, that the enemy was demoralized and in decline, that there was light at the end of the tunnel (a wartime metaphor that was mocked almost as soon as it was uttered).

With eyes wide open, they created their own quagmire, sent American soldiers to die in it for more than ten years, and were finally dragged out kicking and screaming by a public that would tolerate it no longer. Why did they do it? There is no single answer to this question but one worth emphasizing emerges from several of the interviews I conducted for my book. As James Thomson suggests ... a key reason was simply that no American president was willing to risk the charge of being called a loser, even if it meant prolonging a ruinous and unnecessary war.

Tom Engelhardt: From The End of Victory Culture

As the enemy fought its way into America's Vietnam, a confusing new set of war words gained currency, combining a desire to impose American reality on the Vietnamese, to defend it from the Vietnamese, and to hide it from the public. It was a withdrawal language that like various withdrawal strategies would get Americans only halfway home.

No word more encapsulated this confused process than the one that came to stand in for the whole experience. Vietnam, it was commonly said, was a "quagmire" that had sucked America in. This crucial withdrawal word seems to have entered the national vocabulary in 1964 with the publication of journalist David Halberstam's book The Making of a Quagmire. Like much of that vocabulary, it has refused to withdraw from political discourse ever since.

"Quagmire" and its various cognates and relations -- swamp, quicksand, bog, morass, sinkhole, bottomless pit -- were quickly picked up across the spectrum of American politics. In 1965, Clark Clifford, then an unofficial adviser to the president, warned Johnson that Vietnam "could be a quagmire. It could turn into an open ended commitment on our part that would take more and more ground troops, without a realistic hope of ultimate victory." Writing in opposition to the war in 1968, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., combined the images of quagmire and nightmare into a single image of horror. "And so the policy of 'one more step' lured the United States deeper and deeper into the morass.... Yet, in retrospect, each step led only to the next, until we find ourselves entrapped in that nightmare of American strategists, a land war in Asia."

During the Tet Offensive of 1968, TV anchorman Walter Cronkite ended a personal report on the war by concluding, "To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory conclusion." Folk singer Pete Seeger sang his dismay over a war that left Americans "knee deep in the Big Muddy," and in 1974, an army commander offered this assessment of the American dilemma: "The ultimate objective that emerged was the preservation of the U.S. leadership image and the maintenance of U.S. integrity in having committed itself; it could not then pull away from the quicksand in which it found itself."

Embedded in war talk, the quagmire was never so much a description of the war as a world view imposed on the war. A quagmire is "a bog having a surface that yields when stepped on." To the Vietnamese, their country was not a quagmire. It was home and the American decision to be there a form of hated or desired (or sometimes, in America's allies, both hated and desired) intervention. For those who opposed the United States, the war was a planned aggression of the most violent sort, the latest of many foreign invasions inseparable from Vietnamese history.

For Americans, the initial benefit of the word quagmire was that it ruled out the possibility of planned aggression. The image turned Vietnam into the aggressor, not only transferring agency for all negative action to the land, but also instantly devaluing it. It undoubtedly called to mind as well movie scenes in which heroic white adventurers misstepped in some misbegotten place and found themselves swallowed to the waist, with every effort at extrication leading toward further disaster.

Here was no rich land to be settled. Its swampy nature made it valueless as real estate and robbed the American presence of any suggestion of self-interest. As a quagmire, the land became evidence of American "good intentions." The United States was there only because the Vietnamese needed and wanted help. This geological Admiral Yamamoto had "lured" Americans in and mired them there, ambushing an unsuspecting country. Because the United States "stumbled" into this quagmire by "mistake," the detailed nature of war planning was automatically denied. In this way, "quagmire" offered an implicit explanation for involvement in Vietnam (it sucked us in, once our good intentions had suckered us there); and for why the United States remained so many years and battles later (the harder it tried to leave, the more it was pulled down).

Its early adoption as a metaphor for the war indicates how quickly Americans began to reimagine themselves as victims not victimizers. In the "quagmire" can be seen the first glimmerings of a postwar sense that victimhood was the essence of national identity. In the idea of the land as aggressor lay the future obliteration of the memory of the Vietnamese victors; in an acceptance that all efforts at extrication only embedded Americans deeper in the muck of war lay proof that, had they been in control of events, all they would have wanted was to depart.

"Quagmire," of course, hardly captured the U.S. situation in Vietnam. There, detailed war planning, including the structured use of the spectacle of slaughter, came up against an organized, mobilized people, ready to resist foreign aggression under unimaginable levels of destruction for lengths of time inconceivable to American policy makers. What kept those policy makers in the war was not quicksand, but the thought that with the next ratchet up the scale of destruction and pain all this would somehow end as it should (and, to the last moment, disbelief that this was not so).

Seeing Vietnam as a quagmire, however, was one way in which Americans attempted to distance themselves from the war's reality. It was part of a language of self-deception and cover-up that painted an oddly flattering picture of a nation unfairly experiencing an "American tragedy." If such war talk proved a linguistic quagmire into which Americans quickly sank and from which they have never fully emerged, it was meant to de-Vietnamize the conflict, to withdraw the American gaze from any tragedy other than an American one, even while the United States continued to fight. It was meant to deflect attention from the centrality of the Vietnamese to the war and from the bloody nature of U.S. war plans. It was meant to take Americans part way home without an admission of defeat….
Copyright C 2003 Tom Engelhardt

The excerpts above first appeared in a selection published on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.

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More Comments:

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Try looking for hypocrisy within before falsely imagining it elsewhere.

The USA is not a boot camp. In a functioning democratic republic (which this country still is), political leaders are subject to ridicule and even insult by the public. It is part of their job. It is not part of normal civilized dialogue between discussants in conversations purporting to be about historical understanding.

If HNN were what it pretended to be, attempts at jarhead pissing contests (e.g. above), and the various other crude tricks which you periodically resort to here, would have been edited out as irrelevant from the start. Instead, but only after 4 years, they have been shunted off (wholesale, with all other comment posts) into puny pop up windows so as not to continue to disfigure the main website.

Obviously, you enjoy trading insults and lame name-calling ("Liberal" ?!) or you would have bothered to clean up your act long ago. So enjoy, and cease your bellyaching.


reaty - 12/1/2005

i dont believe it

Jim B. Harris - 9/8/2005

Right now there appear to be two major groups in Iraq. One who are trying to formulate a new constitution and build a society that has potential and promise.

The other is full of folks who will load up bombs in cars and drive into groups of kids collecting candy from a US soldier.

I know who I am rooting for.

Peter K. Clarke - 9/6/2005

Mr. Heuisler, You have always had the potential to be a worthwhile commenter. A bit of consistent principle and willingness to let political chips fall where they may can go a long way. Whatever you want to call me, I am not wedded to any political party in the United States. If you want to be, that is your choice, but this is then not an appropriate outlet for the fufillment of such matrominal vows.

I do not, for the record, accept that because a question is logical it is therefore relevant. But, since HNN clearly sanctions irrelevancy (whatever its new guidelines say to the contrary) I also see no reason why individual commentors cannot occasionally go along with interesting tangents that may deliberately or otherwise develop within a comment thread.

Re the missed opportunities post 9-11:

Environmentalists, whether rightfooted, lefthanded, radical or reactionary, have not had much influence on America's non-policy on energy. But at least they are on the right track by stressing conservation. There is nothing radical or leftish about conserving.

Oil has no long term future. We're going to have to keep importing it for a quite some time which is why it would be good not to use it so wastefully, but even the oil companies see the light here. They are cutting back on exploration, and focusing on diversifying into alternative fuels. Nuclear might theoretically be the best of those, except for the minor difficulty that 60 years after Nagasaki, we still have not found a good way to make energy from atoms without enabling bomb production from them at the same time. If there were such a way, then there would be no need for endless handwringing over Iran. The USA and Europe could just let them build nuclear reactors and fuel processing facilities to their hearts' content. But, under current technology, if nuclear became the main source of future energy, then we would head further towards a world where any tinhorn dictator could deploy his own nukes. Not worth it for most of us, and thus unlikely. The radioactive waste problem is also significant, though we could probably live with it. If we are ever to get serious and credible about thwarting proliferation of nuclear weaponry, however (including letting them "fall into the hands of terrorists), we will have to renounce any noticeable expansion of energy production from nuclear sources.

Other supply options (e.g. solar), while worth pursuing, are likely to remain a relative drop in the bucket, for the foreseeable future

The only immediately significant and viable way to reduce American dependance on foreign oil is to use it more efficiently. There is no good reason why Americans need twice as much energy per unit of GNP than Europe or Japan do. For decades, our government has subsidized the wasting of energy and needs to stop doing so. After the squandering of the international opportunities given it after 9-11, that is probably the biggest failing of the Bush administration. If Gore had made the same gross mistakes, which I do not rule out, he would equally culpable and worthy of insulting rebuke.

Bill Heuisler - 9/5/2005

Mr. Clarke,
I'm at least third-rate, thanks. But it's nice to get an answer to my question - no one else will even try.

We agree on your first point. Otherwise, Powell is a poor advisor. Remember he was the main opponent for not finishing the job in the first Iraq War.

Hans Blix has given contradictory reports on Iraq - before '03 and after the failure to find operative WMDs - and his opinions may be more political than factual.

Four is absolutely correct, particularly in view of the badly inaccurate staff report and the new information coming out now about how Able Danger tracked Atta, but was unable to tell the FBI because of a "wall" a member of the 9/11 Commission had set up and enforced. Defines a compromised investigation, doesn't it?

Five is also correct. Due to the Left enviro-radicals we've fallen far behind both countries you mentioned in nuclear - and, worse, we haven't built an oil refinery in 23 years.

We agree on much. Since I'm a third-rate hack, what does that make you?
Hell, at least you aren't afraid to answer logical questions.
Bill Heuisler

Peter K. Clarke - 9/5/2005

I would like to thank Mr. West for the excellent exposé of Mr. Heuisler's true colors.

In order to bring this thread somewhat back from the far right of the screen, I will address here Heuisler's irrelevant cop-out question (in comment #67650) - a weak attempt to divert attention from the aforementioned exposé, but otherwise a reasonable historical counterfactual question: what could have been "done after 9/11 that's different from what actually was done?".
Herewith a subset of what would have to be a long answer and ought to be on a different page with a different subject than this one:

1. We could have done what Colin Powell said his administration would do right after 9-11: "rip up the network" of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In other words, not only go into Afghanistan, but finish the job there, go after the Pakistan sanctuaries, shut down the maddrasses, go after the financial supporters in Saudi Arabia instead of giving them a free escape, and get "dead or alive" the formerly U..S-supported Bin Laden.

2. We could have avoided what Colin Powell said we should avoid, according to his "doctrine": going into a new war without (a) clear goals, (b) solid domestic understanding and support (c) sufficiently overwhelming force and (d) a viable exit strategy. In other words, not launch a half-assed invasion of Iraq to go after the formerly U.S. supported Saddam Hussein based on a "strategy" of insulting our allies, lying about the causes and the timing, and without a viable long term plan for what to do after toppling Rumsfeld's former friendly acquaintance and Cheney's former business client.

3. We could have let Blix finish his inspections, and then sent him to Iran which is now likely to get nukes thanks to Bush's cocked-up fiasco in Iraq.

4. We could have properly investigated 9-11 instead of covering up for those who were asleep at the switch.

5. We could have developed a viable strategy for energy conservation as the Europeans and Japanese did half a century ago, so that we would be less dependent on being supplied by foreign terrorist-funding tyrannies.

6. We could have developed a strategy for dealing with the root causes of Islamic extremism which include over-population, lack of education, a non-functioning self-policing system within Islam, and a massively hypocritical U.S. foreign policy towards the Mideast.

7. HNN could have decided to not allow fourth rate Republican-hack rejects to spew rude non-historical nonsense all over their comment pages.

- 9/5/2005

How can a queston be propaganda? You've been doing this for 35 years and haven't figured it out yet? That is amazing if true, but I think that you are putting us on. :)

As for suggesting an alternative to Iraq as a response to 911, again a propaganda tool pushing the idea that 911 and Iraq are connected. We can not even begin to discuss that until we can agree on the connection.

Of course the original topic here is whether Iraq has become a quagmire or not, something that could be discussed whether it was connected to 911 or not. Of course, too, since all of the other fantasies given to justify the invasion and conquest of Iraq seem to have fallen flat, grasping for the 911 straw seems to be all that the administration has left to validate its decision.

Is it a quamire or not? I don't know. There are a lot of reports both good and bad coming out of the country for one, and for two what constitutes a quagmire would also be condiditioned by what exactly the goals are.

I guess one could argue like you that the reason we attacked Iraq was to draw terrorists activity away from US soil, and since there have been no more 911s, ergo it is working and no quaqmire, no matter how many casualties we take or how much wealth is poured into the hole.

On the other hand one could also argue that going to Iraq was a godsend for the terrorists, gaining then legions of new recruits, putting our troops in a position where they can more easily be attacked and killed, and allowing the terrorists to operate with much simpler and shorter supply lines. That could become a quagmire.


Bill Heuisler - 9/4/2005

How can a question be propaganda? A question asks your opinion and there are no limits. Say what you like. Are you avoiding the answer because you have no positive contributions, only criticism? Sounds like it.

An alternative for President is obviously the hypocritical jerk who lost in 2000. And another phoney lost the vice-Presidency, if you recall. Bad alternatives, but alternatives none the less. Now give me yours.

But neither you nor the other gent have provided an alternative response to 9/11 and since you both dislike the Iraq option - that has prevented any more attacks on the US and is killing thousands of terrorists - it only seems fair that you should suggest an alternative.

And neocons? What the hell are they? I've been involved in politics for 35 years and this neocon label smacks of simplistic avoidance. Jerry, giving an alternative of neocons or defeat is unrealistic and dodges the issue.

Answer the question: what would you have done after 9/11 that's different from what actually was done?

- 9/4/2005

Nice spin Bill :)

My observation on your question still stands, it is a propaganda statement and about as valid as "have you quit beating your wife."

Of course as long as one views the world as a battle between the terrorists and the neo-cons, and confuses the neo-cons with the United States, there will be no satisfactory answer to this question for them unless it is the one that they already have scripted.

For the record, I can't speak for the "Left", whatever that is, but in my view we should not be in Iraq, and Afghanistan is debatable. A lot of people are of the opinion that our presence in Iraq does more to facilitate and strengthen terrrorism than to reduce it. Perhaps the mere fact that we are in Iraq is handing the terrorist a victory. So, now who wants them to win?

Then there is the arguement that wars of aggression and invasion and conquest are no more permissible for the US than they are for any other nation, including the ones we fought for doing the same thing 65 plus years ago.

And yes, we do have a war between terrorists, and yes, the US has engaged in terrorism. We both know that, we have gone over this before, and history is full of examples of US support for dictators, coups, murderers and brutality. The US also harbours terrorists today, Louis Posada and Orlando Bosch being only two examples.

Does this make US troops terrorists? That is not a simple question. They are certainly in service of a government that selectively condones and facilitates terrorism, but where the line of individual responsibility lies is a good question. Was Patty Hearst a terrorist or a victim?

So far from the examples that you have shown I see no proof that anyone is advocating victory for terrorists. I only see allegations of such. Of course to some, not toeing the neo-con line is advocating defeat for the US, but such a position is both arrogant and absurd.

Calling people who disagree with the administration Anti-American is yet another propaganda ploy. It is something one would expect from Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, the nuts on Fox and a class of people with much in common with Timothy McVeigh. Such a statement in itself might go against the grain of our founding doucuments. In any case perhaps it is the administration that is really Anti-American, depending on how you define "America" and its values.

An alternative to Iraq? That question presupposes that there should be an Iraq issue in the first place. A better question is: Why Iraq?

Perhaps the best alternative to Iraq is not to have made it an issue to begin with.

Now, Bill, do you have an alternative to the fact that we have an incompetent dimwit for a president and a crooked snake for a vice president in charge? No debate on whether they really are any of that, just give us an alternative. :)


- 9/4/2005

Mr. Heuisler,

No offense either. But it should be considered bad form to use a question mark in combination with a political bait designed to propagate an unreasonable assumption that (even some) of the "Left" wants terrorists to kill their own soldiers, take over America, their lifestyle destroyed, and their "Lefty" wives and children slaughtered.

Your argument no longer engages Mr. West’s talking points but shrilly attacks anyone on the Left for whatever reason. You came just short of openly stating that Mr. West is also an anti-American by lumping him in with all the other organizations you believe anti-American. Since I hold most of Mr. West’s views, and happen to be an honorably discharged U.S Navy veteran, I find would find it offensive to be painted as un-American because I have a difference of opinion with the present administration’s politics. Political winds blow back and forth. We’ll have to see if the meanings of these political labels change by 2008.

Bill Heuisler - 9/4/2005

Come on, Jerry,
No offense, but please answer my damned question. I asked why the Left wants the terrorists to win. You called the question, "a propaganda statement of the crassest and lowest order." BS. It's a valid question.

Why, valid? Because you wrote, "no one that I know that is opposed to the war...want the terrorists to win...almost all of them are opposed to terrorism...difference of opinion on how to deal with terrorism."

Good. How?

Cindy Sheehan said this country isn't worth fighting/dying for. She said we shouldn't be in Afganistan or Iraq. She also said we are a terrorist country. You apparently agree. "there really is not a war against terrorism here, but a war between terrorists,"

So, you and Cindy think US troops are terrorists. You have no alternative plan because the question exposes the Anti-American, pacifist, Move-on, ANSWER, Sheehan position that is so far left it advocates victory for aggressor Islamofascists - advocates defeat for the US.

An alternative to Iraq, Jerry? Do you have one? Please answer the question.

- 9/4/2005


Allahu Akbar on the Iraqi flag, In God We Trust on US currency, hmmmmm, couldn't be both countries pandering to the predominent religion in their society?

Whether the US lost the war in Vietnam or not depends on how you define victory. We certainly did not win it by any standard. We can agree that 58,000 men died for nothing good.

The North's victory, which was a victory for everyone, North and South that did not support the regime in Saigon was only hastened by a US withdrawal. Had we stayed out of the war and allowed the unification vote to take place it would have happened much sooner with a lot less loss of life. Had we stayed longer it would probably have happened eventually with a lot more loss of life. Vietnamese Nationalists would probably never accept, except tactically for a brief period, foreign domination or Balkanization of their country, and the Chinese would have supported them as long as it was convenient to keep us entangled. Congress did in the 70s what they should have done years earlier and said no. All the blood and committment was a foolish waste. Throwing even more blood into it because we already had blood in it would have been even more foolish and stupid.

The same thing holds true for Iraq, other things aside, the argument that we have to stay to validate the sacrifices already made is assinine. It is like mortgaging your house to bet on roulette because you have already lost your savings account and stock portfolio.

Regarding the question why does the Left want the terrorists to win, that is not a question at all, but a propaganda statement of the crassest and lowest order that comes from the likes of Rush the druggy and the Fox spin network and provocateurs of their ilk. I can't speak for the "Left", in fact I am not sure anymore what that is. Depending on who you speak to it seems to have a mobile definition. But, I do know that no one that I know that is opposed to the war, and none of the critics that I have seen in print want the terrorists to win. I would venture that almost all of them are opposed to terrorism. What they do have is a difference of opinion on how to deal with terrorism than that put forward by the neo-cons.

Of course the neo-cons do want some terrorists to win, there really is not a war against terrorism here, but a war between terrorists, and terrorism has become a convenient excuse to go into Iraq, something that was being planned by the neo-cons even while Clinton was still in office.

There is no honor in this war, only victims and victimizers, unless you count those, who at risk to themselves, refuse to participate.


Bill Heuisler - 9/4/2005

The words Allahu Akbar on the Iraqi flag were added in 1993 when Saddam decided to join forces with OBL. Where's the fantasy there?

And again Vietnam. The U.S. didn’t lose the war in Vietnam, Jerry. When American forces withdrew in 1972, the South Vietnamese government was still in power. We destroyed the guerillas in the south during and after Tet. The North used conventional invasion with regular troops and lots of tanks massed across across the border - first in 1972 when our troops were nearly gone. They failed. They built up forces for three years, tried again, and succeeded. But the North only won after the Leftists in our congress (heartened by taking out a President who'd won 49 states with the biggest landslide in history and who wanted to salvage a peace with honor for all the dead) voted to discontinue support for the South Vietnamese - to betray our allies after all the blood and committment.

We didn't lose the Vietnam war, our politicians let the Communist North win for political reasons. So 58,000 good men died for nothing - another socialist paradise.

Applying that template to Iraq makes little sense to me. Why does the Left want the terrorists to win? Can you give me an answer (no pun intended)? A guess?

- 9/3/2005

Hi Bill,

Saying W served, end of story is a convenient stand to take, given all of the muddy water surrounding his term of service. :)

At least Kerry had the guts to go into combat, something you have to give him credit for regardless of all of the flak and counter flak that has been thrown out regarding his service.

And Clinton is a non-issue, he hasn't been POTUS for five years, nor did he ever set out to start a war and conquer another country. Also, I don't recall Slick Willy being a war supporter in the 60s. Show me some evidence that W spoke out on the record against the war and I might have a better opinion of his NG service avoiding combat.

So, the Iraqis might have carried on black ops against us after we sandbagged them in Kuwait and kicked the tar out of them? If every country that commited black ops wound up in a shooting war over it the bullets would never stop flying and everybody would be attacking everybody else on a continual basis. We don't get wars in retaliation for black ops, that can be an excuse for this war, but not a cause.

The Arabic on Saddam's flag? You have to be kidding. This is dipping into the realm of conspiracy theorizing. What next? Was he seen using secret handshakes? :)

As for Prague and such, where is the evidence that they were planning 911 or whatever. Do we know exactly what they said, and do we know it from a reliable source? Or are we just guessing? Even if they were planning it, which is still questionable based on evidence that has been presented here and other places I have looked, we are back to the usual business of spies and undercover operations which is common place and barely remarkable in the context of justifying an invasion and occupation of a sovereign state not even contiguous to our borders.

Salman Pak fits into the same category, if they were, so what? And what if they were not? Lots of controversy surrounds that issue too, conflicting accounts, CIA claims that it was a counter terrorist center, Iraqi defector witnesses whose testimony is conflicting and questionable. The biggest case for Salman Pak is the repetitive claims made by far right websites which of course ups the numbers when one says just google it and find the facts. The same questionable facts repeated over and over as if the mantra itself provides the truth. Besides, if Salman Pak was such a smoking gun, why do we not hear W waving it around prominently to make his case? He got burned pretty bad on the WMD lie, the Iraqi oil will pay for it fantasy, and the Mission Accomplished wet dream, perhaps he doesn't need another questionable excuse to expose himself with?

Vietnam was not about somebody else's future, it was about mindless dominoe theories and internal US politics on our side, and Vietnamese nationalism on theirs. We could have got out in 1968 with same terms as 1972 and 30,000 fewer dead, or we could have kept going for years with more dead with the same end result, more or less.

And the Iraq war is not about our future as much as it is about the future of big oil companies, arms dealers and neo-cons, our own version of the Taliban. Islamic radicals serve the same purpose for the neo-cons that the Jews and Slavs served for the Nazis, albeit the Islamonuts are a bit more prone to violence than the others were.

The spread of terrorism is a symptom, it is not the disease, and like Malaria we will never totally eradicate it, but we can control it by reducing the fertile pools of poverty, despair, and resentment that feed it.

Of course this requires a redistribution of resources and compassion, ideas that are anathema to neo-cons, and only garner lip service from liberals. :)


Bill Heuisler - 9/3/2005

We disagree on nearly everything, as usual. As far as I'm concerned, W served, end of story. Kerry's story of four months in country is full of holes and his testimony against his brothers was a disgrace. Clinton avoided all this back and forth about service when he sent troops to war. Why's that?

As far as Iraq is concerned, they attacked us twice and tried to kill our President. You know the details, we've discussed them enough. Many of us believe Saddam was behind 9/11 and was an enabler of OBL. Yadda yadda doesn't explain Prague and the Arabic on Saddam's flag wasn't secular. As I've asked you before, please explain the function behind Mukhabarat's training camp 40 miles from Baghdad that had an airliner parked in a field for training terrorists how to hijack a plane without firearms - remember? It was called Salman Pak.
You can't just ignore all the evidence and call ther war wrong and the President a lier. It doeasn't work that way. Explain the evidence.

Vietnam was about somebody else's future and that future turned out pretty (100,000 South Viet deaths) grim. Iraq is about our future. Iraq is part of our war on terror - a war of self defense. Lose it and we face far worse in the future.
What's your alternative?

- 9/3/2005

Hi Bill:

I must admit to using the chickenhawk term on more than one occasion. My contempt for the current administration runs pretty deep, not that I think many of the Democrats are much better. As for F-102 pilots, stack their training mortality rate up against that of a rifleman in RVN at the same time or any number of direct combat jobs. Getting into the NG in 1965-70 was a way to dodge RVN service, and there were waiting lines to get in. Those with juice got in easier.

If you want to talk about a Bush and bravery, let's talk about his dad, a certifiable war hero with a distinguished service. Let's not try and paint rosy portraits of someone who ducked and hid out in the NG. The defense of GWB's military record, like the dishonorable dissing of John Kerry's is pure political BS (and I am no great fan of John's either).

I have several relatives that have been in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan with the Marines and Rangers. One told me last Christmas that many of them thought that the war was a big mistake and that they thought that they should not be there. I have seen reports from numerous others up and down the rank structure saying the same thing or worse.

I have no doubt that some support the war, at one time I would have supported any war if I could get into it, but that was before I grew up. I also have no doubt that many good things are being done, but that does not weigh for much if the bad have more impact, or if the good things are done in service of a bad cause.

I could give you a long list of good things done in RVN, but none of it outweighed the fact that we were foreign invaders propping up a decadent government and doing great damage to the society. In Vietnam patriotism was on the side of the NVA, regardless of what one may think about them, and you know how motivating patriotism is. Vietnam was all for nothing, at least nothing good, and the act of betrayal was the decision to send troops there in the first place. One can say much the same for Iraq.

You might want to consider that one of the main beneficiaries of the conquest of Iraq is the Islamic radicals. By attacking a country that was their enemy, it was secular after all, we put our troops in a position where it is easier for them to attack us, and we enraged a lot of people who otherwise would have left us alone, but are now also attacking us.

In addition we have alienated many of our allies and stretched our military capabilities to the breaking point. And, since the administration has neither the guts nor the common sense to raise taxes to pay for the war, we are running our country in a very deep economic hole, and to make matters worse, China, a real rival, holds a lot of our paper. None of this is good, and all of it could have been avoided if the regressive radicals behind the administration were not just as bad as the Islamic radicals.

The latest bad news is that we have made such a mess of handling Katrina that the world now sees how disorganized and vulnerable we are to mass disruption at home. I suspect that things for us are going to get much stickier before they get better, and no doubt what constitutes better will be an item of hot debate.


Bill Heuisler - 9/3/2005

Hey, Jerry,
Nice to hear your voice again. As to the term, "chickenhawk", you've never used it to my recollection. But you've earned the right; Clarke has not. In any case, chickenhawk implies cowardice. F-102s (where training accidents killed a dozen F-102 pilots during the years W was flying them) were not piloted by cowards.

In any case, anonymous name-calling aimed at people who cannot defend themselves is a clearer form of cowardice than Rumsfeld's service in peacetime, or Cheney's deferment due to age or family.

Just spent the morning with Robert Zurheid, the father of a Tucson Marine who was killed in Fallugia. His daughter is graduating from boot camp soon. He served in the Corps in our era and shared his son's letters with me. Infrastructure progress in Iraq is amazing; police recruitment beyond expectation, four full Iraqi battalions trained in the Baghdad area, schools up for thousands of children whp've never been to school, factories running, utilities at full capacity in all but a small triangle of country smaller than Pima County, Arizona. Progress? Of course there's progress.

For reasons of their own, the Left is trying to dishearten the country and the troops in the field - trying to pull another Vietnam. But it won't work again, thank God.

We were attacked by Islamofascists. We're killing them by the thousands in Iraq. Most Americans see that. The troops see that. Most Americans also think it's shameful to put politics before the troops in the field.

The troops see what's happening, Jerry. Their biggest fear is the Left in their country will betray their efforts again and make the sacrifices of the dead and wounded for nothing - just like in Vietnam. I'll put you in touch with some gung ho Marines over there now if you like.
Semper Fi

Jerry West - 9/3/2005

For some reason my name did not appear in the previous posting. I would hate for Bill to think he was being addressed by a phantom (not the F4 kind). :)

Jerry West

- 9/3/2005

Oh well, Bill, you can challenge my military history if you like, all 19 plus years of it, active and reserve. You can even disparge my 19 months on the ground in RVN, feel free. While you are at it you can also attack great Marines like General Smedly Butler, General David Shoup, General Tony Zinni, Major Scott Ritter and dozens of others alive and dead that I might name that probably you do not agree with.

When the dust settles, however, the fact remains, Bush and most of his compatriots are chickenhawks, people who aggressively pursue war policies with no personal experience of war, often because when it was their turn to go, they ducked out, either by not serving or by finding billits far from danger.

A warrior president would have been on the front lines of whatever war was before him when it was his age to fight, not getting deferments or hiding out in the NG. (Yes, and the NG was a draft dodger haven in the 60s, and you know it as well as I do.)

I think that Peter's characterization of POTUS is right on the mark, and it matters not in this instance what his military history might be.

On another point, the whole Atta in Prague thing, yadda, yadda, yadda, is a red herring. Circumstancial evidence at best. By the same token Rumsfield might be guilty of terrorism for having shaken Saddam's hand. :)

Of course that this administration favours circumstancial evidence is no surprise, given that they also favour arrest and confinement without the due process and other protections that our troops are supposed to be fighting to protect, (another fairy tale) and that my ancestors fought to establish.

Perhaps we should seriously consider the fact that the Poles started WWII by attacking the Germans. :)

Now, is Iraq a quagmire? That question has nothing to do with whether we are justified in being there or not, except that if we are I guess we would be more obligated to continue to sink, hoping for victory.

What I do know is I see dozens upon dozens of news clips each day, both positive and negative, and the negative outweigh the other. And, my experience in RVN tells me that were we fighting this war with draftees instead of the NG and volunteers we might already have started drawing down and cutting our losses. As it is there is already plenty of trouble in the ranks and I fear that once again our national security is being erroded by yet another unneccessary military adventure.

Bill Heuisler - 9/1/2005

Mr. Clarke,
Your Aug. 31 post said, "...February, 2001 when the chickenhawks took power." didn't it?

Mr. Rumsfeld served in the military during peacetime, did you? President Bush flew fighter aircraft, did you?
These are honorable men who chose to serve their country where you did not.

You have the nerve to call people chickenhawks and then complain when called to account. Typical weak-kneed Liberal sanctimony.
Bill Heuisler

Peter K. Clarke - 8/31/2005

The subject here is whether or not the official American presence in Iraq is in a metaphorical "quagmire". You may consider it a stupid subject, and I would not necessarily disagree with such an assessment, but it is in fact what any normal intelligent reader might expect these comments to pertain to. Your latest posting has, howeve,r absolutely nothing to do with the subject. As one of thousands of such meaningless and irrelevant insults placed on this website by you over the past several years, it is nonetheless undoubtedly indicative of at least one reason why these comment boards have been recently buried in tacky pop ups.

Bill Heuisler - 8/31/2005

Mr. Clarke,
You've frequently called people names who have not served in the military, but neglected (just as frequently) to cite your own military experiences that give you such moral authority.

Where did you serve? In combat? Do you claim special knowledge? None of the above? Veterans like me have a special contempt for those who mouth off with no experience - who assume certain prerogatives they haven't earned.

Second, you brought up the Congress and war powers with this piece of inanity, "...when your Republican friends ignored Saddam in order to talk at profuse and laughable length about oral sex on the floor of the Congress."

Read your own stuff before you lecture others and stop the asinine military references. If you had the balls to serve, say so. Otherwise inflict your bathos elsewhere.

Mr. Spence,
Atta met with a senior Iraqi intel agent in Prague five months before 9/11. Two Iraqis were involved in the planning meeting for 9/11 in Kuala Lumpur just months before. Two other Iraqis planned and made the bomb in the first World Trade Tower bombing in 1993. Salman Pak was a terror training camp 40 miles NE of Baghdad where Mukhabarat trained Al Qaeda how to highjack airliners w/o firearms (first instance? 9/11).

Skeptical? Google the key words. There's plenty of evidence.
Bill Heuisler

Steve Consilvio - 8/31/2005

Israel is a screwed up as America is, as is the rest of the modern world. Men like to kill each other. Any excuse will do. (religious, political or economic)

The Iraq war is not for the benefit of Israel any more than 9/11 was for the benefit of Allah and Islam. People believe their own propaganda.

Men are hypocrites. Old story, new faces.

Our parents teach us lies, but they didn't know they were lies. The winning fascist writes the history.

Iraq was a quagmire before we arrived. We had spent 10 years enforcing sanctions and not doing anything productive to change the status quo. Now we have made the situation worse. It isn't a quagmire; it's more like throwing virgins into the volcano. War and force and patriotic/ethnic jingoism (from all sides) may make us think we are safer and wiser, but the mountain is still as hot as it ever was.

The battle is with the mirror, in the land of Absurdia.

Steve Consilvio

Peter K. Clarke - 8/31/2005

I agree with most of your post, but dissent from the final paragraph. First of all, I am not about to take anything (even firsthand which this is not) stemming from Fox News, a notorious source of disinformation. You'll have to be much more specific than that. This is (secondly) not the place for such detail, however, because since you also pointed out (and I agree) that 9-11 has very little to do with the subsequent Iraq invasion -except within Rove's propaganda spin machine and in the minds of its dupes- why bring it up what some foreign intelligence agencies may have known on 9-10 (even if that was perhaps slightly more than what the FBI and CIA knew but failed to integrate) ?

J.Spence - 8/31/2005

We seem to have common ideas in some areas (last two posts here.

Mr. Huisler,
Sometimes I agree with you, sometimes I don't. I hope you don't construe from my comments that I am Democrat. I am neither. I try my damdest to take what the Bush administration has done for the good of the country but somehow it just doesn't ring right.

I’m still trying to figure out when Iraq was a danger to the U.S. A danger to its geopolitical interests, yes, but not to its actual shores. Terrorist groups grew after the US occupied Iraq. The 9/11 attack was planned and performed by Arab Al Qaeda extremists living outside and inside the US. Take Mohamed Atta for example, the pilot of the first plane that crashed into one of the towers. He was an Egyptian carrying a Saudi passport. The connection, the will and intent began far earlier and wasn’t hatched in Iraq. It was widespread in the Islamic world with origins that go back at least fifty years. I thought by now this was common logic.

The US "attack" on Iraq began in 1998 when Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz wrote to Clinton urging him to use military force against Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein because he posed a threat to the United States for its (alleged) ability to develop WMD’s. The purpose of the Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz letter was to protect vital interests in the Gulf. What could they mean by vital interests? Oil, for one. Anyway, they became the blueprint for the war today.

Then there is the Israeli connection. Did Israeli intelligence have foreknowledge of 9/11? You bet they did. According to law enforcement sources close to the investigation (and presented on Fox News) the real question was, how could they not have known? And if they did know why didn’t they tell us? Maybe because our problems in the Middle East are good for them.

Peter K. Clarke - 8/31/2005

Heuisler, you've managed to contradict yourself even more rapidly than usual.

According to your first post above, in 2002, a major foreign policy decision is attributed to the Congress, yet in 1998 somehow foreign policy was the sole provenance of the executive branch.

In actual fact, there was no amendment to the U.S. Constitution between '98 and '02 altering the shared responsibility of the president and Congress for foreign policy, the one conducting it "with the advice and consent" (i.e. in the case of treaties) of the other. You might also recall -from your first post if not from grade school civics- that Congress has always had and still has the power to declare war. The actual historical difference between U.S. policy on Iraq in 2002 versus 1998, is that on the earlier occasion we actually had an excuse to invade Iraq without having to concoct absurd and unworkable fascist-like theories about America's supposed "right" to start launch military attacks anywhere and anytime it is convenient for the president's election campaign schedule.

The contorted attempt to use the 1993 attempted WTC bombing as a justification for a botched and unprovoked war on Iraq ten years later (if it was so urgent, why not do so in February, 2001 when the chickenhawks took power ?) is even more ridiculous. (If it weren't, you can be sure Rove would have used it extensively). If that '93 attack was an "act of war" because of the deranged thinking of its perpetrators, then, by the same "logic", so was McVeigh's blowing up of the federal building in Oklahoma, and the U.S. should invade itself rather than excuse attacks on it as mere "criminal" acts.

Isolated incidents allegedly involving individual Iraqis are not a realistic basis for U.S. policy towards that country. There is probably no country in the world that has not had at least one of its citizens do something bad in America. And probably not a single country in the world that has not had at least one American once do something bad there. Yet America is not in a perpetual state of war against the whole rest of the world. As much fun as that might temporarily be for a few arm-chair warriors, the rest of us would not put up with it for very long. As it is, we can barely handle the one Mideast military adventure we have now. When you ask a people to "sacrifice" by going shopping, you can't expect staying power regardless of where you may be "mired".


Bill Heuisler - 8/30/2005

Mr. Clarke,
In 1998 it is quite evident that the Clinton Administration (with a great deal of info at hand) ignored Saddam.
And you know it is not the business of Congress to administer foreign affairs, but the Executive Branch.

To attack President Bush, the Left pretends Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 or with terrorist attacks on the US. The opposite is true and everyone should know it by now.

Please Google names and information below and check my claims:

Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer named Ani in Prague five months before 9/11. Atta was the
"student from Hamburg" in the Czech intel reports. The 9/11 commission said the meeting wasn't possible because Atta's cell phone was used in Florida during the time of the Prague meeting. This is absolute nonsense for a matter this important, if you know anything about FBI capabilities and cell phone fungibility. In fact, with this evidentiary incompetance in place everywhere - and this level of legal/media non-curiosity - we'd never convict any criminals.

Also, the peculiarly deadly bomb used in the first bombing of New York's World Trade Center, February 26, 1993 was built by an Iraqi, Ramzi Yousef. Read the chilling statements of the trial judge after Yousef's NY trial. Yousef's bomb was meant to destroy the towers in a cloud of cyanide gas. Instead, the tower did not fall and, rather than vaporizing, the cyanide gas burnt up in the heat of the explosion. Six people died rather than thousands and we treated it as a criminal act rather than an act of war and an act of terrorism.

Few Americans know the true scale of destructive intent behind that bomb. Further, few Americans know the man convicted of building it had entered the US on an official Iraqi passport.

Iraq also attempted the assassination of the American President. How any thinking person can believe Iraq did not attack the United States on many occasions - and would have continued to attack with any means at hand - is beyond my comprehension.
Bill Heuisler

Peter K. Clarke - 8/30/2005

The advantage of "short hand" is that one's errors are thereby limited:

1. Iraq was no greater danger to America in 2003 than in 1998 when your Republican friends ignored Saddam in order to talk at profuse and laughable length about oral sex on the floor of the Congress.

2. You rightly point to the October 11th resolution as crucial to the current Iraq mess, but that stupid and spineless AUTHORIZATION for a hypocritical and needlessly unilateral and aggressive invasion of Iraq is no excuse for sloppy, unplanned, and bungled EXECUTION thereof. (By the way, you forget to mention Kerry and Hilary Clinton who also both voted wimpishly and hypocritically for that same resolution - see, you can learn useful things even from me). The UK's Economist, which endorsed only Republicans for U.S. president for at least 24 years prior to 2004, was among the many voices from across the political spectrum calling for Rumsfeld's resignation over the Abu Ghraib atrocities. Whether the buck stops there or in the Oval Office is an open question, but it certainly does not stop with the "terrorist killing" U.S. soldiers whose rear-ends are actually on the line on the ground.

3. Speaking of terrorists, it is useful to recall that none of the ones attacking the U.S. (13 months prior to the shameful resolution of Oct 11 2002) were from the Tigris or Euphrates areas.

Bill Heuisler - 8/29/2005

Mr. McElligott,
Your shorthand for Rumsfeld and for rational thought leads me to remind you of the Joint Resolution of Congress on October 11, 2002, called The Iraq War Resolution. It was approved 77-23 by the Senate and 296-133 by the House. The ayes included both Daschel and Gebhart.

Look it up. Read the authorization:
(a) AUTHORIZATION. The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to
(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.

Iraq was then a danger to the US and the world. Iraq attacked this nation on two occasions and threatened more. There have been no further attacks on our homeland since we began killing terrorists in the Tigris Euphrates valley. Also, before you whine about quagmire, speak with men who've been in Iraq - who've seen the tremendous success and progress.

Your rote repetition of childish concepts adds nothing to this site nor to your reputation.
Bill Heuisler

Walter McElligott - 8/29/2005

Perhaps it is Rummy's quagmire, but who's the boss & thus responsible for 1800+ military deaths?

John Henry Haas - 8/28/2005

I wonder if, more than two years later, James Thornton still remains optimistic?

Peter K. Clarke - 8/27/2005

You can blame the bad analogies noted in my prior post on the administration of a C-average history major in the White House, his lackies and dupes.

You are certainly right that inept and corrupt U.S. leadership is only one of many factors behind the current mess in Iraq. But that does not therefore imply that "empire" or some variant thereof must be among the most important of those other factors. On the contrary, the bad analogies resulting from facile attempts to shoehorn complexities of geopolitics into a "neo-imperialism" straitjacket are legion.

Jonathan Dresner - 8/26/2005

Mr. Clarke,

Just because we now have our Caligula, our Nero, etc., instead of a Marcus Aurelius or Tiberius or Vespasian, doesn't mean that we didn't have an empire before.

What it means is that the quality of leadership is going to vary, particularly in a system where family connections (of which, monarchical succession is the most extreme example) are such a powerful component of political power. I think it was Max Weber who pointed out the problem of hereditary leadership: the son of a great king does not inherit the qualities of greatness along with the status of kingship.

I don't deny that the administration has mishandled almost everything that it has touched, and even created bold new problems where none existed before. But I'm not going to restrict my understanding of the problem to personalities, conspiracies and bad analogies.

J. Chapman - 8/26/2005

As Bush proclaimations for the noble cause of the Iraq war becomes more and more glorious by the day the administration's defense of its costly war turns out to be the real quagmire. How to conjure stories that the American people will continue to believe. It's becoming increasingly difficult.

Peter K. Clarke - 8/26/2005

Put on your thinking cap, Jonathan. Neither "quagmire" nor "empire" pass historical muster here.

We have HAD "ongoing strategic and economic interests..[which]... require our involvement -- direct, even military -- in middle eastern affairs"
for decades. They do not explain a sudden deceptive BS blizzard about Iraqi WMD (that were less of a threat in 2003 than they were in 1998 when the latter-day hypers were instead obsessed with a president's genitalia). They do not explain the wanton trashing of half a century of international agreements, alliances, and international precedents in a mad rush to an unprepared, crassly hypocritical, and blunder-ridden act of aggression in March 2003 that was all Bin Laden could have hoped for. The world did not turn upside down and become Rove's Orwellian world of chickenhawks turning into flight-suited war heros or Chalabi becoming Adenauer or Garner morphing into Douglas MacArthur, just because of an architectural fluke in south Manhattan Island on September 11, 2001.

Far from extending some supposed "imperial" reach, Bush's treasonous fiasco in Iraq illustrates how weak we have become under his incomptency. North Korea will further develop nukes and Iran will acquire them and the frat boy in the White House hasn't a clue what to do about it, beyond heating up some new Rovian horse-manure.

omar ibrahim baker - 8/26/2005

How Long Will the USA Pay Israel's Way into the Middle East? (#67178)
by on August 26, 2005 at 2:19 AM
The rationale for the US conquest of Iraq( WMD,Link to Al Qaeda and Democracy) has not only been uncovered as the blatant lies that they are but has been practically disowned by their own originators!

What remain are the true causes: the maintenance of Israel's status as regional super power and control over one of the world's largest oil reserves!

The oil issue could always have been worked out peacefully since its value to the Iraqi people is to sell it and the USA is a major consumer/buyer.

That leaves us with the ultimate cause:Israel's status as regional super power!

Now that it is beyond doubt that the USA has thus embarked on an uncertain venture with a certain escalating cost in blood, money and international good will, all borne solely by the USA, the real question is:

How long will it take the American voter to find out and accept to pay for this unAmerican war of Aggression waged to the exclusive benefit of Israel?

Does it have to be 10-15 years , untold billions and 80000 to 90000 American casualties as in Viet Nam?

- 8/26/2005

The rationale for the US conquest of Iraq( WMD,Link to Al Qaeda and Democracy) has not only been uncovered as the blatant lies that they are but has been practically disowned by their own originators!

What remain are the true causes: the maintenance of Israel's status as regional super power and control over one of the world's largest oil reserves!
The oil issue could always have been worked out peacefully since its value to the Iraqi people is to sell it and the USA is a major consumer/buyer.
That leaves us with the ultimate cause:Israel's status as regional super power!
Now that it is beyond doubt that the USA has thus embarked on an uncertain venture with a certain escalating cost in blood, money and international good will, all borne solely by the USA, the real question is:
How long will it take the American voter to find out and accept to pay for this unAmerican war of Aggression waged to the exclusive benefit of Israel?

Does it have to be 10-15 years , untold billions and 80000 to 90000 American casualties as in Viet Nam?

Jonathan Dresner - 8/25/2005

As little sympathy as I have for the leadership which got us here, it is worth asking whether "quagmire" is a meaningful trope. Quagmire assumes that we want to leave, but are somehow stuck: in the case of Iraq, we have ongoing strategic and economic interests there and in the region which will require our involvement -- direct, even military -- in middle eastern affairs for some time to come.

One could argue that Iraq before 2002 was the quagmire: a conflict that, despite having won by overwhelming force, we could not conclude meaningfully. It's just that it was a much less costly quagmire, so we didn't notice.

Our "vital interests" are not limited by geography to our borderlands, or even the Monroe-esque Western Hemisphere. When you are an empire, the world is your quagmire.

Jeffrey Kimball - 9/13/2003

Here's a pertinent cartoon on the quagmire/quicksand question.

--Jeff Kimball, Miami University (author of To Reason Why [1990]; Nixon's Vietnam War [1998]; and The Vietnam War Files: Uncovering the Secret History of Nixon-Era Strategy [November 2003]

www.stunning-reversal.com - 7/30/2003

In considering whether or not the American occupation of Iraq is quagmire (or quickly becoming one) many people compare the decision making process in Iraq to the decision making process in Vietnam. While this is certainly an interesting comparison, it is not as relevant as comparing the current situation in Iraq to the promised results of American leaders and war planners. If we measure the situation in Iraq against the promises that were made then we have a better context in which to determine whether or not the Q word applies.

One of the most obvious promises that American and British leaders made was the removal of threatening weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Evidence of WMD's existence was tenuous at best to begin with, and the fact that the Bush Regime has failed to produce them, when it is clearly in its interest to do so, indicates that there never was a valid threat in this regard. The fact that Anglo/American troops are occupying a country on the basis of a widely perceived lie is itself a political quagmire that extends well beyond George Bush Jr.'s chances for reelection. It is one that strips controversial U.S. policy decisions of their legitimacy in the eyes of many nations.

Next there is the political/military situation in Iraq itself. Based on faulty information or wishful thinking from the Iraqi exile leadership in the United States, key members of the Bush Regime including Vice President Dick Cheney and principal war planner, Richard Perle believed that U.S. forces would receive and immediate, heart-felt welcome from the Iraqi people. As a result, they did not factor in the possibility that the Iraqi people would do what they have so far done to date: thank the U.S. for deposing Saddam and then ask it to get the F--- out of their country. Even the resistance faced by Anglo/American troops to date might have been dealt with effectively if the Bush Regime had planned for a lengthily and difficult occupation including dealing with issues such as infrastructure, religious differences, humanitarian assistance, troop rotation, and switching from invasion tactics to policing and urban combat ones after the fall of Saddam's regime. Instead, there appears to have been no planning in this regard at all.

One of the crucial components that went into planning the invasion of Iraq as well as other Bush Regime foreign policies was--frankly speaking--fantasy. The Bush Regime's foreign policy is heavily if not completely dominated by Neo Conservative ideology that is clearly codified on the Web sites for the American Enterprise Institute (http://www.aei.org), and the Project for a New American Century (http://www.newamericancentury.org). Unfortunately, this ideology is based almost entirely upon the fantasy that the American empire is capable of switching tactics from a system of multilateral cooperation among its key allies to an arrogant, unilateral projection of force. The fact that the United States has quietly begun to plead for help in Iraq not only among the very allies and institution it insulted but also, even among protectorates such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia indicates that it is stuck in Iraq with the painful realization that it cannot go it alone.

If you still have any doubts about the quagmire issue, you are welcome to checkout my collection of "Iraq Blowback Headlines". Most of these headlines come from mainstream news sources and track the steady deterioration of the situation in Iraq. (go to http://www.stunning-reversal.com and click Headlines>Blowback Headlines>Iraq.

john horse - 7/19/2003

Bert, regarding daily casualties, I agree that this is a significant issue. What I would add to your observations is that at the present time, the lack of casualties suffered by the Iraqi rebels is just as relevant as the number of casualties suffered by American/British troops. During the earlier conventional phase of the war there was about an unbelievable 700 to 800:1 casualty rate (Iraqis to Americans). By my unscientific observation, it seems that the rate now has gone down to 1:1 or 2:1. I think the combination of daily casualties on our side and miniscule casualties on their side, is creating the appearance that the situation in Iraq is not going well. Add to this the controversies over our stated reasons for going to war. You ask how long will the US continue to endure this situation. In my opinion, not long. I think Bush is aware of this. My guess is that he will "Vietnamize" the war, that is, replace Iraq forces for American so that daily casualties will be to Iraqis rather than Americans.

Robert Reis - 7/17/2003

"All We Are Here Is Sitting Ducks"
by Tom Chittum July 11 2003

I suggest that Mr. Chittum's conclusion that the war in Iraq is already lost is correct.

It should also be not that "extreme right-wingers" and "jingoistic" idiots are different groups of people and their positions do not necessarily coincide.


NYGuy - 7/15/2003


Your criticism of my remarks is proper and I did overreact. Sorry.

I think a lot more is happening in the world that many with the “Vietnam mentality” don’t accept. (This is not a personal remark directed at you, but just a generalization of the type of talk I am hearing, i.e. quagmire, etc.). And, of course, there is just plain politics.

But a very important consideration in my analysis is that technology is changing at an amazing rate creating new products, opportunities, and the potential for greater communication around the world. In the area of warfare I think we may be well ahead of anyone else, particularly since many countries have fallen behind in their defenses.
Meanwhile we also have a big lead in consumer technology and with all these changes the world is facing some stark choices, come into the 21st century or fall further behind, and watch your failings on TV. I believe the younger generation is seeing these changes and want to move ahead in a peaceful manner.

I also like the fact that we are in both Afghanistan and Iraq as well as putting the UN back in its place. I fell for the idea of a world power but now realize it is only a collection of thugs with no real commitment to a greater good, who only look out for their own welfare, not that of the people they represent. But with our current geopolitical position we are in a better position to influence nearby states into searching for a better life while focusing the UN efforts so they can be productive.

I have also come to the conclusion that keeping troops in German and South Korea is useless and would be better utilized in other areas of the world.

I believe we are making a difference in the way nations are beginning to deal with each other with our proactive approach, and positioning around the world, and forcing them to reconsider what role they want to play in the world.

Losing soldiers and civilians is difficult, but it is part of leadership. We need time, and the harping is not doing anyone any good and may be counterproductive as well as putting the lives of our troops in danger.

Going back to a defensive position in the U. S. and giving up our world position to others who never experienced freedom will only put us in more danger.

I think the WMD is too visible to allow any country to remain indifferent to the great dangers they possess for our children and us.

Thus, everyone is now watching what is going on in the world and being exposed to ideas that are possible. What we can conceive, we can achieve.

If Bush loses in 2004 our country will be in big trouble, particularly since I don't hear any real alternatives except to put our heads in the ground and hope for the best.



Lee Daniel Quinn - 7/13/2003

Our overwhelming American ego is the cause of the Iraquagmire!

We believe that the way we think about life is the only appropriate (correct) operating position. There were possibly individuals in Washington who actually had the knowledge we lacked in planing our invasion but were never taken into account because our pride would not let us contemplate the mind set of this part of the world.

What generated with precipitous move was the current president's need to vindicate his father's decision to finish Iraq the first time.

TT - 7/13/2003

What is "Quagmire"?

Troy Davis - 7/12/2003

If you'll re-read my criticism of Homer's post, you'll see that I never said he shouldn't be free to speak his mind. (Obviously, anyone with internet access has the freedom to post to this network.) I just pointed out that his response to Mr. Gaut was nothing more than an ad hominem attack and that it didn't address Mr. Gaut's arguments. Given the tenor of your post, I don't think you're one of those Phil Donahue types who think all "opinions" are equally valuable. The well-supported ones are worth a lot more.

As for my and other critics of the Iraq mess beating the drums against GW, I'm guilty as charged, but a lot of us wouldn't be beating those drums if he'd stayed on the track he seemed to be on in the months after 9/11. I was perfectly happy when bombs were falling on the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They had done us tremendous harm and meant to do us more harm in the future. Saddam, on the other hand, while I'm sure he would've been very happy to do us harm, was unable to, because he was effectively isolated from the rest of the world (and, as it turns out, may not have had the weapons to harm us *with*).

Unfortunately, GW allowed himself to be sidetracked from the real war on terror by the Wolfowitz crowd and their grandiose visions. They've bogged our nation down, possibly for years, in a country we didn't need to be in to begin with but from which we can't withdraw now without making things even worse. That's what makes the situation a quagmire, in my view, and it may very well be what keeps GW from winning a second term. I know one vote he's not going to get. (And mine really was up for grabs, at one time.)

NYGuy - 7/12/2003

Troy said:

"In fact, I would go so far as to say that questioning the government is more patriotic than cheering the US military from the safety of a computer desk."

Good point.


What is the difference between your free speech and Homer’s. You have one idea on what is patriotic and he has a different opinion. Seems you are both right to express your opinions as Americans. What a great country.

Aside from Nervous Nellies, and those beating the drum against GW for political purposes, I don’t think we hear much about a quagmire in Iraq from knowledgeable politicians around the world who understand what is happening and support GW. They understand and support the long-term pro-active strategic programs of the U. S.

Those who want to bring home the troops and become isolationist or want the thugs in the UN to run our country, present no positive plans for our future, but only show a willingness to turn tail and run.

The use of the tactic of crying, “quagmire” dates back to Vietnam, but there have been so many significant changes since that time. Technology may well be the biggest factor in the changed political world situation, and the U. S. is the world leader in this area. Meanwhile those who don’t like GW refuse to acknowledge important successes of the present administration so they can then focus on nothing but negatives, a true losers position.

GW and his advisors have positioned the U. S. successfully and strategically around the world, gotten rid of the UN and are recruiting and working with those countries who understand the future, freedom and want a better world for themselves, their family and their citizens. The inability of others to see these positive results does not give credence to their negative views, while failing to give any alternatives.

The short sighted cry of quagmire is regarded as merely the ravings of bankrupt political groups, and sound similar to the Democratic candidates who are running for President. They too don’t know what to do, except complain.

Troy Davis - 7/12/2003

Dear Homer (if that is your real name):

Where's the "treason," or the Stalinism, in Mr. Gaut's remarks?

He uses facts to support his contention that US actions in Iraq have created a dangerous situation for the United States, and he makes a persuasive historical argument that there are similarities between the Iraqi situation today and the situation in Vietnam in the 1960s.

He could, of course, be wrong in his arguments, and intelligent people might cite other evidence to refute his case, but it would take some knowledge and critical thinking skills to do so. (Calling Mr. Gaut names--while hiding behind an alias, no less--is much easier, of course, but it doesn't do much to convince me that he's wrong.)

At any rate, right or wrong, I don't believe it's particularly patriotic to tell a thinking American citizen (who is, after all, helping to foot the bill for our actions in Iraq, and whose fellow citizens are being gunned down in that country daily) that he's a traitor for questioning his government's actions. In fact, I would go so far as to say that questioning the government is more patriotic than cheering the US military from the safety of a computer desk.

Wolf DeVoon - 7/12/2003

Secretary Rumsfeld more or less asked for eight years to obtain constitutional government in Iraq, a fair reading of his remarks I think. Vietnam required ten years to end in defeat. It is my understanding that jihadists have entered and continue to enter Iraq's porous borders. When the Republican Guard dispersed, they took their portable but not inconsiderable weapons. Let's err on the side of patriotism and suppose the scattered Iraqi army has some, just as the Vietcong did. I am very much confused by the optimism expressed above. Our troops are exhausted after a month of occupation. How on earth is this to be continued -- for eight years?

Wolf DeVoon

Josh Greenland - 7/11/2003

The military is a command and control organization. If it's ordered to get up and leave Iraq, it will do so if it can. And physical reality does not prevent it from doing so: it is not pinned down or boxed in by enemies, nor does it lack transport.

The decision to stay in or leave Iraq must be made by the President. Barring extraordinary circumstances, that decision can't be made lower down the military chain of command.

So the quagmire is in the President's office. We'll be stuck there as long as he (or perhaps after 2004, she) wants us to be.

So when they say the military will be in Iraq for 2 or more years, perhaps they mean that Bush fully intends to keep it there through his first term, and past that if he's reelected, for reasons of his own.

I don't see why anyone should see it as necessary to intervene in Iraq because the US needs the oil. After all, anyone running that country would want to sell that oil, especially to rebuild after the damage and impoverishment from the years of sanctions and the two US wars against it.

I think the first thing in understanding to what degree we might be in a quagmire in Iraq is to figure out the Bush administration's REAL reasons for putting us there. The WMDs don't exist, and Saddam and Osama hate each other, so the stated reasons are false ones. Once we understand what those real reasons are, we'll have a better idea what would have to occur before the Bush admin is willing to pull us out.

J. Keefe - 7/11/2003

The Iraq quagmire is a smooth operation compared to the quagmire that is representational democracy.

Why are we still electing presidents? Because it's part of our 'national identity'? Are we paying taxes to secure the American Dollar overseas so that we can safely work 1/3 of our lives away in order to pay more taxes and have more two-party elections (and more quagmires)?

It's time to arrest the government.

Bert Hall - 7/11/2003

The endless comparisons with Vietnam are suggestive of how short-sighted Americans are when they look at history.

A more realistic comparison might be the British effort to govern "Mesopotamia" in the 1920s. Or, for comparison, the American effort to subdue Philippine "rebels" after the swift victory over the Spanish at Manila Bay. In both cases, the occupation forces were to remain engaged in long-term, never entirely successful, efforts to pacify the population. In both cases, "guerilla" attacks caused a steady nuber of casualties amongst the Western military forces, ultimately amounting to several thousand lives.

This would suggest that the US has to look forward, not to a quagmire, but to a very long period of slow-but-steady attrition. Let's say, just for the sake of argument, a couple of military casualties per day for as long as the US decides to remain as the major military occupying force in Iraq.

This will undobtedly test the willingness of the American public to remain engaged, particularly in light of the public's preference for quick and easy victories. Most of these casualties will take place outside the range of CNN cameras, and they will be of little general interest to newspaper readers.
Only the families of those killed will likely be really affected.
But this kind of drain on lives will likely have some effect on American politics.

Thus the question remains: How long will the US be willing to endure this sort of situation? I cannot answer this, but I think it is worth considering now, rather than years from now. What do HNN readers think?

john horse - 7/10/2003

One of the hi-lites of watching the news during Vietnam was, for me, the body count. I used to believe that there was no way that the Commies could win because we were killing way more of them than they were of us. In other words, their losses were unsustainable. For the record, our casualties were about 40 to 50,000 and theirs were about 1,000,0000. That comes out to about a 20:1 ratio. What I didn't factor was that our own casualties during the war, though far less, was politically unsustainable.

This brings us to the issue of whether Iraq is becoming a quagmire. Actually, during the conventional war period (the period up until Bush proclaimed the war over), the ratio was almost unprecedented. According to USA Today (4/3/03) "For every 784 troops fighting there, one was killed or wounded." Since then, the postwar war (forgive me Orwell) has gone from a conventional to a guerilla war. The ratio of Iraqi to American dead by my rough estimate is just about equal. What this means to me is that we are not killing enough of them to where this is going to end anytime soon, at least on their part. Their losses are sustainable. The question is whether the Bush administration can survive politically if 1 or 2 Americans are killed a day, for the next couple of months and possibly years. I seriously doubt it. Already Bush has seen a 14 point drop in the polls. The number of Americans that think the war is going well has dropped from 74% to 23%. I think Bush will end up doing what Nixon did and train Iraqis to take the place of Americans and get out.

Wesley Smart - 7/10/2003

I thought _that_ was the quagmire. Or was it the intervention in the Philippines in support of the government there against the Abu Sayeef? Aren't we in a quagmire in Colombia? Or is that okay because we have a cap on the number of soldiers we can ever send down there?

Quagmire is just a word, and not a particularly good one if you're trying to describe something that is just a few weeks old.

Jeffrey Kimball - 7/10/2003

Similarities and differences between the Second Indochina War and the evolving "Iraq War" are obvious. Of great importance are similarities concerning the U.S. administration's program of pro-American and pro-capitalist nation-building in the context of growing nationalistic resistance within a well-armed country of tens of millions of people whose culture and language is alien to American occupiers--a country, too, surrounded by other nations more or less hostile to the United States, countries which might serve as "rear areas" in a guerrilla war. Of course it's a quagmire. Even Rumsfeld admits that U.S. troops will be there into the indefinite future. A better term, however, might be "quicksand," given the geographic features of Iraq.

dtf - 7/10/2003

RE: "What will you do once you are Stalin, Greg?"

Why is it that so often the only response chest-thumping, jingoistic, right-wing idiologues seem capable of is insult and stupid ad hominem attacks?

Do you have any substantive insight or analysis to offer about the situation in Iraq, or are you limited to the above sillyness?

Are we making progress there? How long will it take? How many Americans are going to die in the process? What will it cost? Care to take a try at answering such questions? Or will you stick to rhetoric and bluster?


Michael Wade - 7/10/2003

It is too early yet to tell what sort of a mess Iraq will become for us, but no hindsight is required to see that the signs thus far indicate that it is more likely to become a mess than a functioning democracy. Consider: 1- an ill-defined mission (Saddam as terrorist ally of Al Qaeda) using spurious "evidence" (weapons of mass destruction) to justify it. These lies are considerably more blatant than those advanced by the Johnson Administration in 1964. 2- we already have one mire in the process of development in Afghanistan, albeit there was reason to topple that government 3- for democratic government, a stable social & political order anchored by a significant middle class, is a must---Afghanistan is not a qualifier. And neither is Iraq, which has religious and ethnic divisions sufficient to sober even even the most committed proponents of freedom and health care elsewhere. 4- in either event, Vietnam should have taught us that it is an incredibly tough sell to promote democracy at gunpoint. The opponents of our nation-building efforts in Baghdad are not just Saddamites. That our soldiers, and the Iraqis we are training, have become targets should surprise no one. After all, if Iraqi troops were bringing freedom and democracy to Georgia, the good ole boys would be out in force to hunt them and their Quislings down, would they not? 5- and, with the notable exception of Colin Powell (why in the world is he still part of this administration?), the situation is being managed by by a bunch of slackers and political hacks who come nowhere close to the calibre of the people in Lyndon Johnson's administration, further diminishing any chance that this will turn out well. Certainly no one imagines that this current lot represents "the best and the brightest" that this country has to offer. But that's another issue.....

Leslye Joy Allen - 7/9/2003

If one accepts the Merriam Webster dictionary's definition of quagmire (i.e. "a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position"), then one can successfully argue that US military forces in Iraq are in a quagmire. Yet I cannot help but wonder if we are debating over semantics at the expense of asking the more pertinent questions about what has or has not taken place in Iraq.

I would think the larger questions would be: 1)How did the United States declare military victory in Iraq when it had not (has not) found alleged weapons of mass destruction? 2)How did the United States declare that it had ended Saddam Hussein's repressive regime when it alleges that it does not know the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein? In other words, what administrative and military processes led to our making such public declarations of military success in Iraq?

Perhaps those of us here at home in the US are in the quagmire. None of us can say with absolute certainty that we truly know what is going on (or going right or wrong) in Iraq and why.

Homer Simpson - 7/9/2003

What will you do once you are Stalin, Greg?

Gene Clanton - 7/9/2003

It's a quagmire if taking on an Israeli-like role for the U.S. in the Middle East is a quagmire. For sure it's a role we could do without.

Greg Gaut - 7/9/2003

Bush will not withdraw from the country which contains more than 25% of the world’s oil reserves until there is a very stable, very pro-US government in place in Iraq. About 60% of the Iraq population is Shiite Moslem. These are the people who the U.S. encouraged to rebel against Saddam in 1991, and then betrayed. For religious reasons alone, they will be suspicious of any pro-US government. Besides that, frustration with the chaos created by the invasion has led to growing anti-American anger in Iraq. Rumsfeld indicates that he would not allow a Shiite government because it would be influenced by Iran. The result is that any Iraqi government acceptable to the U.S. will be able to cling to power only if protected from its own people by the U.S. military. This will be something like South Vietnam in the early 1960s, when the repressive, unpopular, but pro-US government of Ngo Dinh Diem and his successors required increasing amounts of arms and military advisors to survive. When it was on the verge of collapase in 1965, LBJ ordered a massive U.S. military buildup. Qaugmire or not, the problem is the same: no exit is possible given the assumptions that drove LBJ, McNamara, Rusk and Rostow, or now drive Bush, Rumsfeld, Powell and Rice.

Martin Halpern - 7/9/2003

The idea that the U.S. could have won the Vietnam War is one of the key concepts that many students bring to the history classroom. Indeed, the idea is a central dividing line in foreign policy thinking and U.S. culture. Those advocating the idea that the U.S. could have won often invoke images of the U.S. completing destroying Vietnam. Such ideas lead to a disregard for the immense destruction we did in fact visit on Vietnam. More germane to the current debate is that partisans of the "we could have won" school generally ignore the fact that killing all the people of Vietnam would not have accomplished the U.S. objective. Vietnam had not attacked us. The U.S. goal was not to kill all the Vietnamese but to establish a stable anti-communist and pro-U.S. government in Vietnam. There was insufficient political support among the Vietnamese people to accomplish this objective. It was unwinnable. Similarly, the U.S. goal in Iraq was not simply to topple the Hussein regime. It was and is to establish a stable, anti-communist and pro-U.S. government in Iraq. It is my belief that this goal is likewise unobtainable. There is insufficient support among the Iraq people for such a project. The analogy to the Vietnam quagmire is therefore apt.

Oscar Chamberlain - 7/8/2003

I have never been sanguine about the Bush administration's capacity to manage regime change. I think a great deal of the sense of confusion that comes out of Iraq today can be laid to the administration's unwillingness to plan with any imagination. (In fact, I've begun to think that their unwillingness to provide even the most general budget estimates may not have been dissembling but another indicator of near non-existent planning.)

However, like Mr. Thorton, I think that the term "quagmire" is being used prematurely. It is possible that the administration will learn on the fly. (Certainly our military did so in the invasion.) They have on their side the desire of many Iraqi's to make a transition to representative government work.

Bush may get us into a quagmire if he does not pursue institution (and nation) building with greater zeal and coherence. But I would hate to see the fear of a quagmire result in our settling for a dictatorship that leaned toward us and required our military's presence to prop it up.

James Thornton - 7/8/2003

It is simply too soon tell what the outcome in Iraq will be, but I remain optimistic. While the incident in Amarah was disturbing, the Shi'a appear to continue to support the Coalition. There are rumblings of that indicate that support may be beginning to erode. That is why it is crucial that security and the standard of living in Iraq is improved beyond pre-war levels. I suspect that 90% of the attacks against US and UK forces are perpetrated by members of the former regime. Recall that thousands of Special Republican Guard, intelligence, and lower to mid-level Ba'ath Party officials evaporated during the war. They went somewhere and I doubt they left the country. Also take note how quiet the Kurd dominated north is where the US has the most influence. In time, it is my belief, that all of Iraq will come to resemble the partnership with the Kurds. I believe most of our problems in Iraq are logistical rather than political.