Mission Creep

Today is the third anniversary of USA President George W Bush declaring “major combat operations in Iraq have ended”, while standing in front of a huge banner reading “Mission Accomplished”.

Click here to read some of the extraordinary media commentary in the USA at the time of the President’s declaration – most of which focused on how cool it was that he got out of a fighter jet in military uniform after landing on an air craft carrier.

Click here to access the Iraq Body Count website which details the reported civilian deaths in Iraq since the war started – currently at a minimum of nearly 35 000.

Click here to access details of the casualties from the Coalition armed forces in Iraq – currently at nearly 2400 USA personnel, 104 UK and 110 from other countries (including 2 Australians). The site also lists the number of wounded in action at around 17 500 and says there have been about 3700 deaths from Iraqi security forces.

According to this site, the direct cost to the USA has been over $277 billion (which is slightly less than what is stated in this report in The Washington Post).

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimates the direct cost to Australian taxpayers is around $1.2 billion.

In March 2003, a resolution endorsing Australia’s involvement in starting the war failed to pass the Australian Senate.

On March 29, 2003, the Sydney Morning Herald published the following quotes from Prime Minster Howard:

“an unprecedented level of concern to avoid civilian casualties”, would necessarily lengthen the war. But he was eager to head off suggestions that coalition forces would become bogged down, saying a war timetable of several months “sounds stretched to me”.

(Media Matters and SMH links found through Road to Surfdom)

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42 Comments

  1. “most of which focused on how cool it was that he got out of a fighter jet in military uniform after landing on an air craft carrier.”

    Oh! I thought most attention was on the strapping to the groin area, adding bulging emphasis to the prez’s crotch!

  2. Nevertheless, it had to be done.

    Iraq is just one battlefront in a much larger war. It’s wrong to analyse it as if the war there were an isolated event.

    The first mission goal of toppling Saddam’s regime was indeed accomplished. The second mission, of establishing a stable, democratic state in its place is proving more difficult; nevertheless it is succeeding.

  3. The Oil things has been debunked from here to eternity. Only hardcore Lefties even mention it now. :roll:
    The war wasn’t about Iraqi oil.

  4. Geoff, It does not matter if the war was over oil or not, the fact remains that the war has succeeded in restricting supply of oil from Iraq at a time of increased demand.

    If the Bush Administation were halfway competent Iraq would be pumping something in the order of 5 million barrels a day into the world market. They are not, and the major reason is because the invasion has been a failure.

  5. And your solution for Iraq was what exactly, Andrew.

    I really don’t think getting your marching orders from the daily Kos suffices as a policy. Then again…

  6. pc police, Our northern neighbour overthrew a despot, tyrant and dictator on their own. They have since made remarkable strides toward liberal democracy and a market economy, with very little, to none, of the disturbances that Iraq faces daily.

    Iraqs problem wasn’t lack of democracy, Hussein held elections to try and legitimise his regime domestically and internationally, the problem was the elections weren’t Australian – and didn’t use the Australian ballot. Known around the world as the secret ballot.

    Hussein’s opponents had different coloured ballots at election time, making it easy for Hussein’s thugs to brutalise anyone daring enough to vote against him. This is similar to the thuggery in Australian election up until the mid-1880s when Australia introduced the secret ballot.

    The vector of weakness into these regimes is their desire to be seen as legitimate. It was Suharto’s downfall, and it will be the downfall of other despots too.

    We didnt have to invade and destroy all of Iraq’s political and civil service institutions; we just had to make sure they had an election with a secret ballot. Iraq could be advancing at the same pace as Indonesia if we had pursued that policy, rather than what it is now.

  7. “They are not, and the major reason is because the invasion has been a failure.”

    While I disagreed with the invasion of Iraq, I think the time taken in Iraq’s rebuilding needs to be put into perspective. Trying to build a democracy from scratch isn’t easy.

    Think of how long Australia has been involved with the Solomon Islands – we’ve been working with them since 2003 trying to rebuild democracy and restore order, and after almost three years, there is still enough ethnic and social tension that lead to the riots we saw a few weeks ago. And the Solomon Islands has only 500,000 residents, wasn’t taken in a bloody invasion and isn’t surrounded by hostile states who are supporting an internal insurgency.

    There was lots of BS and propaganda surrounding Iraq, as Andrew points out, and I think the invasion itself was certainly wrong. But declaring the rebuilding efforts to be a “failure”, when nation-building is inherently a difficult task, is premature.

  8. Leon, when nation-building is inherently a difficult task, is premature.

    There is going to have to be a time when we ask ourselves if Japan wasn’t the exception. Even then it had liberal tendencies despite an emperor dependant on religio-militant-nationalist fanaticism for his legitimacy.

    The institutions that make up a functioning nation are built up over centuries. We have even seen large nations that we converted to liberal democracy peacefully fall back into autocratic persuasions that their institutions are more comfortable with.

    Russia being a good example.

    Is Putin’s autocratic Russia an improvement over Gorbachev’s communist Russia? We have replaced a failed communist economic system with a kleptocratic one. Both have a history of failure; bringing poverty to their people and instability to their nation-state neighbours.

  9. We are in the third year, not the third month, and we are discovering that a dictator who ran an inefficient economic kleptocracy (of which the AWB was a willing participant with) was capable of producing 3.5 times the oil output per day of our much vaunted liberation of Iraq.

    We are going backwards.

  10. Well EP, pc and others there have certainly been a huge number of liberations in Iraq – Palestinians trapped at the Jordan border because they have been liberated from their homes of more than 50 years.

    Somewhere between 38,000 – 100,000 dead Iraqis.

    About 500,000 christians liberated from their secular protection and their homes.

    Now it is said about 100,000 shi’ite families have been liberated of their homes.

    Sure is a lot of liberty going around in Iraq these days.

    The bottom line is that at the time of the invasion the Iraqi government was nobbled – gee I forgot of course that Australia was propping them up.

    Human rights watch, Amnesty International, the UNSC and almost the entire world know Hussein was not doing anything.

    for the most brilliant piece read what Paul Sheehan has to say today in the SMH about our cosmetic wars. I never agree with Sheehan – until today.

  11. “There is going to have to be a time when we ask ourselves if Japan wasn’t the exception.”

    Japan is hardly the only example of nations that have thrived based on Western intervention. West Germany was doing far better than East Germany before the wall came down; South Korea is obviously far more advanced and free than the oppressive North Korean regime.

    “We have even seen large nations that we converted to liberal democracy peacefully fall back into autocratic persuasions that their institutions are more comfortable with.”

    Yes, this happens; it is a constant struggle. But to allow nations to exist in chaos is, I think, a far worse option.

    “We have replaced a failed communist economic system with a kleptocratic one.”

    We didn’t replace the communists, the Russian people did – it wasn’t Western nation-building that lead to the current situation in Russia. And, yes, I think Russia is better off now than it was under Communist rule.

    “We are going backwards.”

    Do you have any solutions to the slowing down of Iraqi oil production? If the war is currently being run incompetently, as you claim, how do you propose things are improved so that oil production is increased? You can’t just criticize Iraq as “failed” and not offer a reasonable solution.

  12. Meanwhile, regardless of what we opinionated people believe about whether or not it is just, the war is losing popular support. The cost in both lives and money is a major reason for that loss.

    You can’t say it’s worth the cost to ensure democracy in the Middle East if it means ignoring democracy in your own backyard. Unless of course, the democracy you have in your own backyard is a bit different to the kind you have planned for the Middle East.

  13. “…regardless of what we opinionated people believe about whether or not it is just, the war is losing popular support.”

    Agreed, and that is a shame. Think of what that implies: At a moment’s notice, the public is willing to go to war to destroy a dictator if he supposedly possesses threatening WMDs, but they are NOT prepared to stand by and rebuild the damage done. Bush’s WMD rhetoric and “Mission Accomplished” propaganda probably contributed to this disillusionment, but it’s a shame either way.

    As I said, I was against the invasion: but it’s done now, and I think it’s our responsibility, as the invaders, to help rebuild the shattered country we created.

    “You can’t say it’s worth the cost to ensure democracy in the Middle East if it means ignoring democracy in your own backyard.”

    How are we ignoring democracy in our own backyard? What issues exactly are you referring to?

  14. Well I am glad someone has mentioned Weapons of mass destruction. As I remember it we did not invade Iraq to bring a democratic system, but to protect the world from WMDs. The mission has crept a long way since then.

    Now, in hindsight, it is hard to believe that those “in the know” thought there was a serious WMD threat coming from Iraq. It seems to me that that was just a public relations exercise to justify what was going to happen anyway. There has been no serious plan for social order let alone democracy in the post bombing phase, so it would seeem that wasn’t a priority. Despite Geoff’s dismissal of Oil as the reason for the war, it is interesting to note that the very first, and continuing priority of the invasion was to protect the oilwells and pipelines. They were secured months before hospitals, law and order, water and electricity systems etc. were secured (or attempted to secure) It seems that considerable detailed planning went into securing the oil infrastructure before the invasion.

    When we (the coalition of the willing?) are willing to put serious energy into peace, security, industry and infrastructure into Iraq, by supporting the will of the Iraqis, within their own dispute resolution frameworks, then we will have a good reason to be there. But at present we are just in crisis management with no direction except propping up the Iraqi Oil industry and U.S. style decoratic illusions while the rest of the county descends into civil war.

    As long as Iraq is in turmoil the international Oil companies have free range of it’s resources. When Iraq becomes strong it will demand the wealth from the oil stays in Iraq. In terms of peak oil stuff, the west needs Iraq to be a broken down nation, so the present mission is achieving it’s purpose and will continue in chaos. That’s the plan.

  15. The theory of oil being a key motivation was one I always found improbable, as I didn’t think the market was that predictable, or that national leaders would be so brazen and blatant about such an agenda, let alone the large number of potential downsides (or potential blowbacks) to justify it.

    But then I also believed that there must have been solid evidence of WMD, as I couldn’t believe they would make up all that stuff or say it was so certain if it wasn’t. I genuinely believed there must have some WMD – not that I though that was sufficient legally or morally to invade a country which clearly is not threatening us. To discover afterwards that this was just the convenient facade which only needed to hold until war commenced, left a hollow feeling right where any respect for our political leaders should have been.

    For a Long time my view was the same as Leon’s (#16) – we shouldn’t have gone there, but we’ve helped make the mess, so we’ve gotta help fix it up. Unfortunately it seems on balance our presence and that of western troops is now hindering more than helping and it’s time we helped changed the political dynamic there by pulling out.

    But back to oil as a motivation for invasion. As I said above. I never gave this much credence + they seemed to wantto go to war, so to worry about whether this was amongst the motivations was a bit irrelevant when they had enough other public reasons they were putting forward. There’s only a few people who could have stopped Bush’s invasion – Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch being 2 key ones. Instead, Murdoch was so gung ho for war he made it riskier for people like Blair to back out. All his major papers around the world ran a pro-war line and dumped on opponents.

    So while Geoff (#5) dismisses the oil agenda, (as I did too for some time), this very telling piece in The Guardian from February 2003 suggests otherwise:

    Most revealing of all was Murdoch’s reference to the rationale for going to war, blatantly using the o-word. Politicians in the United States and Britain have strenuously denied the significance of oil, but Murdoch wasn’t so reticent. He believes that deposing the Iraqi leader would lead to cheaper oil. “The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy…would be $20 a barrel for oil. That’s bigger than any tax cut in any country.

    He went even further down this road in an interview the week before with America’s Fortune magazine by forecasting a postwar economic boom. “Once it [Iraq] is behind us, the whole world will benefit from cheaper oil which will be a bigger stimulus than anything else.”

  16. John Tracey – ‘In terms of peak oil stuff, the west needs Iraq to be a broken down nation’

    John, I’m not sure that is exactly the case. Could it be that the main motivation of the COW invasion was to prevent Iraq’s oilfields falling into the hands of Iran?

    We know that Iraq, militarily weakened after years of wars and the blockade, was surrounded by hostile neighbours with much larger armies. The WMD ruse was in all likelihood Hussein’s bluff to deter invasion by Iran, Syria or Kuwait. Hussein needed to maintain that story while also stopping the UN arms inspectors from discovering that the WMD stockpile was long gone.

  17. Leon, West Germany was doing far better than East Germany before the wall came down;

    Bad analogy. Germany was a market economy before WWII. East Germany had communism foistered on them. Communism is an exceptionally poor economic system that is largely incapable of bringing its people prosperity.

    South Korea is obviously far more advanced and free than the oppressive North Korean regime.

    South Korea did not become democratic until 1987.

    You can’t just criticize Iraq as ‘failed’ and not offer a reasonable solution.

    Yes I can criticize the handling of Iraq without offering a solution to the present problems, as the big clanger was the invasion in the first place. If nation-building is nigh on impossible after an invasion, then we set ourselves up for failure.

    I argued further up the thread that the vector of weakness into these oppresive regimes is that they hold corrupt elections. Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, etc all hold elections. If we can set up a meta-national institution that is backed by force, who can oversee these elections to ensure they are fair, held with a secret ballot and without retribution to the incumbents political opponents we will bring about regime much faster, and with less chaos than invasion.

    The institutions that make up nationhood can be strengthened too. By nations and metanational institutions refusing to deal with them in a corrupt manner. The World Bank, under Wolfowitz, is targetting corruption. Unfortunately, he is doctrinaire, and will probably screw it up like the invasion of Iraq through his own inflexibility. But the World Bank has been focusing on corruption for a while. That is a good thing and will strengthen the institutions that lead to a nation joining the global order.

  18. Speaking of Mission Creep, I just came across this report from YNet that people may find of interest.

    Turkey won’t let U.S. attack Iran from its land

    Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Sunday that his country refused a request from the United States to attack Iran from its Air Force base in Incirlik, despite the U.S. offer of a nuclear reactor, according to a report in Al Biyan.

    In an interview for the United Arab Emirates newspaper, Gul noted that America’s efforts to attack Iran are “imaginary” and that Turkey’s stance is “strategic” and refuses the use of its land for any belligerent activity against neighboring countries.

  19. That’s right Cameron, although I gather the vote in the Turkish Parliament was very close, and actually depended on whether abstentions were counted as ‘against’ or just not counted. Still, at least their Parliament has the power to authorise these things like initiating or participating in a war, unlike Australia.

    Interesting you should mention the action on the PKK – the Australian Government have just move to legally proscribe the PKK as a terrorist organisation under Australian law, even though they do not fit the criteria that has been developed by ASIO. I was thinking of writing a separate piece on it, but for now see this article by Duncan Kerr in today’s Age.

    It is hard not to assume that this was done by Australia as a ‘goodwill’ gesture to Turkey following their President’s visit here eariler this year.

    There are many PKK sympathisers amongst Australia’s Kurdish community, and of course the Kurds are currently a key part of the Iraq government, but definitely have some links to the Kurds over the border in Turkey.

    Perhaps Amanda Vanstone will now call all of those Kurds wanting self-determination as racists running a toxic campaign, like she just has with the West Papuans.

  20. “Germany was a market economy before WWII.”

    True, but West Germany was also utterly devasted by the war. The point is, we helped them rebuild through direct aid and nation-building efforts and succeeded. It’s a far better analogy than your reference to Russia.

    “South Korea did not become democratic until 1987.”

    Even in the dark days of the 60s and 70s in Korea, you were better off in the South than the North. And these days, South Korea IS democratic, and far more rich and prosperous than North Korea. You’re point doesn’t really counter what I have to say; South Korea is another legitimate success story in Western political and economic nation-building.

    “If nation-building is nigh on impossible after an invasion, then we set ourselves up for failure.”

    I agree. But the fact remains: The invasion took place. We destroyed the government and now occupy the country. What do we do NOW? Nothing of what you’ve said is an answer to that. Do you think there would be “secret ballot” elections in Iraq if we pulled out all coalition forces now and allowed whoever has the most guns and bombs to take control?

    I don’t want to see Iraq go to chaos (like Afghanistan) or fall under the control of radical Islamic fundamentalists (like Iran or Saudi Arabia). The only guaranteed way I can see us preventing such outcomes is to stay there in force.

  21. Feral Abacus

    yes I reckon that’s part of it. I was trying not to cover too many points but obviously holding Iraq is a key point to maintaining U.S. interests in the whole region and the complex powerplays within it, nationally and tribally.

    The powers that be need to keep the whole region unstable, not just Iraq . Just watch them now on Iran, Palistine and Afghanistan which is all the same process. They don’t want peace or stability.

  22. Leon, Germany was a liberal democratic market economy before WWII, they happily fell back into what they were comfortable and stable with. Same with Russia, and South Korea who was an autocratic state until recently.

    It is suggested that it takes at bare minimum of twenty troops per thousand of population to ensure basic security. For Iraq, who has a population of 25 million, that means over 500,000 troops are needed at a bare minimum.

    Get nations to commit half a million troops and you might, just might, stand a chance of Iraq not continuing on the same downward path. The US currently has 140,000 troops there. We have about 1,000 (because we pull our weight when we commit to stuff), even with the UK having about 8,000 there until recently ….. we are approximately 350,000 short.

    The invasion was set up for failure.

  23. Actually Andrew, Scott Ritter said that all the WMD had been effectively destroyed by the end of 1991 and Saddam had no money – at least before we stepped in with $300 million.

    Interestingly Alexander “I don’t do cables” Downer has a piece in the Australian today claiming all the ALP are appeasers since Curtin.

    With the twin fiascos of Vietnam and Iraq and now the appeasing of Jakarta to the extend that we have cut Australia out of the migration zone, and the above mentioned $300 million to Saddam, I wonder which tongue was firmly in this moron’s cheek.

    Hasn’t it occurred to him yet that he should have resigned?

  24. Cameron Riley: “Germany was a liberal democratic market economy before WWII, they happily fell back into what they were comfortable and stable with.”

    Which disproves my point… how?

    “Same with Russia, and South Korea who was an autocratic state until recently.”

    Russia was an aristocracy ruled by the Czars, hardly a liberal democracy. Plus, 50+ years of Communism more or less destroyed all the social structures set by the Czars. And Korea was NEVER a liberal democracy until recently: it was an Asian feudal kingdom until it was annexed as a Japanese colony, then liberated after WW2.

    “It is suggested that it takes at bare minimum of twenty troops per thousand of population to ensure basic security. For Iraq, who has a population of 25 million, that means over 500,000 troops are needed at a bare minimum.”

    That’s an interesting article, but what it doesn’t take into account is the security forces of the Iraqis themselves. Remember, we’re not just occupying Iraq: we’re trying to train the Iraqi military and police forces to defend themselves, which is different from other peacekeeping efforts in places like Somalia and Haiti. The RAND article doesn’t take numbers of Iraqi security forces into account, just foreign troops.

    The key to winning in Iraq is the rebuilding of an internal military and police force that can handle their own security. If this is possible, Iraq can be won. In the meantime, if a larger troop commitment is necessary, then I’m for it.

  25. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,18996280-31477,00.html

    IRAQI President Jalal Talabani has claimed a ceasefire is possible with seven insurgent groups after a series of meetings with US and Iraqi officials and rebel leaders.

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,18992851-7583,00.html

    The Arab street is rising in outrage, all right, but it is outrage as much or more directed against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as it is against George W. Bush. After Zarqawi’s henchmen murdered 59 people in three Jordanian hotels this past November, more than 200,000 people turned out in the streets of Amman in protest. Even Zarqawi’s clan disowned him. The anti-American “blowback” widely predicted by opponents of the invasion of Iraq may yet materialise, but so far we’ve seen as much or more anti-terrorist blowback.

  26. “Actually Andrew, Scott Ritter said that all the WMD had been effectively destroyed by the end of 1991 and Saddam had no money – at least before we stepped in with $300 million.”

    The problem with Scott Ritter is that he had no way of knowing if it were true that Saddam’s weaponry had been destroyed when he made that claim. Then he compromised his integrity by taking money from saddam cronies. We know Saddam had money, the OFF fiasco provided it. That’s how he continued to build palaces while the Iraqi people did without.

  27. “But then I also believed that there must have been solid evidence of WMD, as I couldn’t believe they would make up all that stuff or say it was so certain if it wasn’t.”

    To me, the 12,000 page declaration that Saddam himself turned over the the UN inspectors was pretty solid proof that he had WMD. His use of WMD, chemical ones, is also pretty good proof.

    “I genuinely believed there must have some WMD – not that I though that was sufficient legally or morally to invade a country which clearly is not threatening us.”

    To be able to say this, you would have had to have been against every UNSC resolution passed against Saddam. All 17 of them. Was that the case?

  28. The sobbering question is regarding the WMD is where are they now. There is no question as to him not having them.
    Of course he had them.

    I am all for stopping the attack on the west in their own countries.

    Like the man said your either for the west or against the west.

    Anybody who deludes themselves that the world trade center was not to start and the begining is this war is *

  29. I’m not sure that it’s just the west. India or Japan couldn’t correctly be considered the west, yet both have an interest in stopping terror, in their own countries as well as around the world. It’s more about democracies I think. It would be a stretch to think that countries that don’t permit freedoms that we take for granted (speech, religion, association, etc) to their own people would be willing to fight for such rights for people outside their borders. This, IMO, is why China will never vote for intervention against any non-chinese dictator. How can you vote to stop someone from doing what you’d like to preserve your own right to do?

  30. Scott Ritter didn’t take a single cent off anyone – he quit for heavens sake because Bush was lying through his teeth. He knew there were no weapons after about 1991 – it is in his book he put out.

    I think some people get a trifle confused here.

  31. When the United States and the UN Security Council failed to take action against Iraq for their ongoing failure to cooperate fully with inspectors (a breach of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1154), Ritter resigned from the United Nations Special Commission) on August 26, 1998. [2]

    In his letter of resignation, Ritter said the Security Council’s reaction to Iraq’s decision earlier that month to suspend co-operation with the inspection team made a mockery of the disarmament work. Ritter later said, in an interview, that he resigned from his role as a United Nations weapons inspector over inconsistencies between United Nations Security Council Resolution 1154 and how it was implemented.

    “The investigations had come to a standstill, were making no effective progress, and in order to make effective progress, we really needed the Security Council to step in a meaningful fashion and seek to enforce its resolutions that we’re not complying with.” [3]

  32. Ritter criticized the US policy of containment in the absence of inspections as inadequate to prevent Iraq’s re-acquisition of WMD’s in the long term.

  33. What about this money marilyn…

    Ritter has been criticized for the financing of his 2000 documentary In Shifting Sands: The Truth About UNSCOM and the Disarming of Iraq.

    Detroit businessman Shakir al Khafaji, an American citizen of Iraqi descent, gave Ritter $400,000 to produce his film. Al Khafaji later disclosed to media sources that he had profited from the sale of oil allocations distributed by the Iraqi government under the Oil-for-Food programme run by the UN. [12] Some commentators have speculated that Al-Khafaji’s fianancial support of Ritter’s film may have been part of a quid-pro-quo with the Iraqi govenment, since the film supported the official Iraqi claim that WMD capabilities had been eliminated. Ritter has stated that at the time, he accepted Al-Khafaji’s personal assurance that the money was not connected to the Iraqi regime.

  34. Geoff you are so tedious – the AWB gave Saddam Hussein $300 million for pete’s sake and got nothing for it except starved kids.

    Wendy, there were no weapons – if there had been weapons they would have been used to kill the invaders. Beside all of that – what was Iraq doing to us and how dare we decide to pre-emptively slaughter thousands of people because we don’t like one bloke anymore.

  35. “Scott Ritter didn’t take a single cent off anyone”

    No, that’s not correct.

    “By his own admission, Ritter accepted $400,000 in funding two years ago from an Iraqi-American businessman named Shakir al-Khafaji. Ritter used the money to visit Baghdad and film a documentary purporting to tell the true story of the weapons inspections (which in his telling were corrupted by sinister American manipulation).”

    http://www.slate.com/?id=2071502

  36. “Wendy, there were no weapons”

    Then why did Saddam turn in a 12,000 page declaration of his weapons to the UN?

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