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Who ‘Lost’ Iraq? Bush? Obama? Military? State? Maliki? How About ‘All of the Above’?

Iraqi and American soldiers, 2007

Who lost Iraq? All of the above.

Supported by post-9/11 bloodlust among the American people, Congress and the media, the Bush administration invaded a relatively stable country amid the volatile Middle East.

Procounsel Paul Bremer almost immediately disbanded the two elements that held Iraq together—the civil service, including the police, and the army.

The U.S. military first stood aside as chaos and looting engulfed the country, then responded with ever-increasing violence, as represented by the medieval siege of Fallujah.

Near comic-failures in reconstruction by contractors, the State Department and USAID, outlined in my book.

Unnecessary violence toward civilians by mercenaries like Blackwater; and CIA torture in Iraq and elsewhere all ensured that no hearts and minds would be won.

Failing to impose a unity government through nine years of occupation, the U.S. Embassy stood on the sidelines as the Iranians brokered the election of Prime Minister Maliki in 2010, and then stood helpless again as the newly empowered Shias led by Maliki almost immediately turned against the violent Sunni minority, almost begging al Qaeda to come in as their protectors.

The Obama administration funded al Qaeda elements in Syria and clumsily unleashed stores of weapons from Libya into the mix.

The failure to close Guantanamo kept the pool of jihadi fighters well motivated. The final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of 2011 served almost as a mercy killing for our failed policy.

Given the foundational mistake of destroying a country in hopes of rebuilding it, perhaps we should better ask, prior to the next U.S. military action, “Could we have not lost Iraq?”

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Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well, and writes about current events at his blog. Van Buren’s next book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent is available now for preorder from Amazon.

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jacob H. Smith

CommunityFDL Main BlogThe Dissenter

Who “Lost” Iraq? Bush? Obama? Military? State? Maliki? How About “All of the Above”?

Iraqi and American soldiers, 2007

Who lost Iraq? All of the above.

Supported by post-9/11 bloodlust among the American people, Congress and the media, the Bush administration invaded a relatively stable country amid the volatile Middle East.

Procounsel Paul Bremer almost immediately disbanded the two elements that held Iraq together—the civil service, including the police, and the army.

The U.S. military first stood aside as chaos and looting engulfed the country, then responded with ever-increasing violence, as represented by the medieval siege of Fallujah.

Near comic-failures in reconstruction by contractors, the State Department and USAID, outlined in my book.

Unnecessary violence toward civilians by mercenaries like Blackwater; and CIA torture in Iraq and elsewhere all ensured that no hearts and minds would be won.

Failing to impose a unity government through nine years of occupation, the U.S. Embassy stood on the sidelines as the Iranians brokered the election of Prime Minister Maliki in 2010, and then stood helpless again as the newly empowered Shias led by Maliki almost immediately turned against the violent Sunni minority, almost begging al Qaeda to come in as their protectors.

The Obama administration funded al Qaeda elements in Syria and clumsily unleashed stores of weapons from Libya into the mix.

The failure to close Guantanamo kept the pool of jihadi fighters well motivated. The final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of 2011 served almost as a mercy killing for our failed policy.

Given the foundational mistake of destroying a country in hopes of rebuilding it, perhaps we should better ask, prior to the next U.S. military action, “Could we have not lost Iraq?”

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Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren has served with the Foreign Service for over 23 years. He received a Meritorious Honor Award for assistance to Americans following the Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, a Superior Honor Award for helping an American rape victim in Japan, and another award for work in the tsunami relief efforts in Thailand. Previous assignments include Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the UK and Hong Kong. He volunteered for Iraq service and was assigned to ePRT duty 2009-10. His tour extended past the withdrawal of the last combat troops.

Van Buren worked extensively with the military while overseeing evacuation planning in Japan and Korea. This experience included multiple field exercises, plus civil-military work in Seoul, Tokyo, Hawaii, and Sydney with allies from the UK, Australia, and elsewhere. The Marine Corps selected Van Buren to travel to Camp Lejeune in 2006 to participate in a field exercise that included simulated Iraqi conditions. Van Buren spent a year on the Hill in the Department of State’s Congressional Liaison Office.

Van Buren speaks Japanese, Chinese Mandarin, and some Korean (the book’s all in English, don’t worry). Born in New York City, he lives in Virginia with his spouse, two daughters, and a docile Rottweiler.

Though this is his first book, Peter’s commentary has been featured on TomDispatch, Salon, Huffington Post, The Nation, American Conservative Magazine, Mother Jones, Michael Moore.com, Le Monde, Daily Kos, Middle East Online, Guernica and others.

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