Play It Again Sam! (A Look Back on How Bush’s Plan to Invade Iraq, Would be a Recipe for Disaster: March 28, 2003)
Earlier this month, the Bush administration unveiled plans to station a force of 200,000 troops in Iraq for an indefinite period of time. Only the day before, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki declared that “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably a figure that would be required,” to garrison Iraq after the war. Both Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz responded by attacking Gen. Shinseki and stating that his estimates “were wildly off the mark.”
Retired Army Colonel David Hackworth has stated that virtually all the Joint Chiefs and top Pentagon brass oppose the administration’s plan to invade Iraq, a claim supported by Defense insiders. Accordingly, Gen. Shinseki may have deliberately highballed the number of troops that it would take to occupy Iraq to intimidate supporters of the war and to shore up opposition to a US invasion. Previous estimates held that a force of “only” 75,000 troops would suffice.
The latest conservative Department of Defense estimates of the war’s cost are $95 billion. With this latest revelation that 200,000 troops might be needed to garrison Iraq indefinitely, it seems that this estimate would have to be revised substantially upward. Unofficial estimates, including the costs of planned reconstruction, go as high as $1 trillion.
The administration has yet to explain the rationale behind a permanent garrison in Iraq, let alone an occupying army of 200,000 troops. It seems that President Bush is intent on remaking the Middle East in America’s image in a bid to make a name for himself in the history books. A permanent commitment of US troops on this scale has not been contemplated since the Cold War occupation of post-war Germany. For 45 years, this massive commitment of US military forces in Europe consumed fully half of the US defense budget. Could an occupation of Iraq consuming as much as one-third of the defense budget be justified? Could it be that liberals are right that the administration wants to secure permanent, imperial access to the oilfields of the second largest oil-producing country in the world? After all, Democrats in the Senate refuse to allow him to develop our own ample reserves of oil here at home.
Some have hinted that this massive troop deployment might be aimed at effecting regime change in Iran, despite recent reports that that country might already possess intermediate-range nuclear missiles. However, the president declared terrorist-supporting Iran off limits to US military attack early last year. He has since reiterated his determination to avoid war with Iran, despite that country’s clear links to Al Queda and other terrorists. This is after all not about fighting the soon-to-be-defunct and, in all likelihood, soon-to-be-lost, war against terrorism. It is about fighting a war to “get Saddam.”
A US invasion of Iraq and the indefinite occupation of its territory will serve to inflame the Middle East, incite further acts of terrorism against the US, and make the current level of anti-Americanism there look tame in comparison. In short, a permanent occupation of Iraq is a recipe not for peace as recently proclaimed by the president but rather a recipe for perpetual war.
In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute on Feb. 26th, the president stated that “the new government of Israel…will be expected to support the creation of a viable Palestinian state — and to work as quickly as possible toward a final status agreement.” Accordingly, even as the president is unflinching in his determination to invade and occupy Iraq, whose links to terrorists are essentially limited to providing death benefits to Palestinian suicide bombers, he appears to be calling for the creation of what could potentially be a new terrorist-supporting state which could pose a dire threat to our closest ally in the region–Israel. The creation of a Palestinian state would provide safe haven to terrorists and suicide bombers in manifest opposition to Israel’s interests. At least that is the assessment provided by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Once again, it seems that the president’s plan to reshape the Middle East will do far more to fuel the fire of terrorism than it will do to dampen it.
In his speech, Bush invoked visions of World War II and the reconstruction that followed. The president, it seems, is attempting to re-fight World War II. For him Saddam is Hitler, Iraq is Nazi Germany and Iraq must be liberated from that unique brand of secular tyranny known as Saddamism. The country must be garrisoned indefinitely with nearly half of the US Army, even though the Army is already badly overstretched by its current commitments.
Such an occupation would leave the US powerless to fight and win even one major war and our enemies would be left free to attack, overwhelm, and occupy our allies on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his overly anxious chief of US conventional military disarmament, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Steven Cambone are reportedly preparing to move forward with plans to cut the Army’s already diminished force by as much as 40% later this year. Such a draconian force cut combined with a massive US troop commitment in soon-to-be occupied Iraq could leave the new American Empire without sufficient troops to even defend the US homeland from illegal border incursions, let alone fight new wars abroad. So much for homeland defense.
Secretary of State Colin Powell cited Usama bin Laden’s recent tirade calling for all Muslims to rise up and attack the United States in defense of Iraq as further evidence of Al Qaeda’s alleged ties to Iraq. In the same speech, bin Laden also attacked Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government as “socialists” and “infidels”. Interestingly, in a second audiotape aired by Al Jazeera, bin Laden used the same term, “infidels,” to describe Americans, whom he exhorted all Muslims to fight and kill. Far from demonstrating a link between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden, the tape seems to indicate that bin Laden considers Saddam an enemy, which he equates with the would-be American invaders of Iraq. The purpose of the tape seems to demonstrate solidarity with the Iraqi people both against invading US forces and against secularist dictator Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden’s verbal denunciation of Saddam Hussein two weeks ago seems to indicate that he wants to see Saddam replaced, presumably by an Islamist leader like himself. He may get his wish.
The destruction of Iraq and its military will likely fracture the country along ethnic and religious fault lines. Three principal ethno-religious components comprise the Iraqi citizenry: Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. The mad scramble for ascendancy after the fall of Hussein will leave Iraq and much of the Middle East wide open to Iranian, Shiite (and thus Islamist) control. Many senior British and US intelligence officials have pointed out that Saddam and radical Islamists, such as members of Al Qaeda and other Iranian-supported terrorist organizations, are natural enemies. Those same officials have largely debunked links between Saddam and Al Qaeda, only to see Pres. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair politicize their respective intelligence communities in attempting to find and demonstrate purported links between the two where there are none to be found.
Currently, Usama bin Laden is relegated to hiding and has been unable or unready to repeat the spectacular attacks of 9-11. He needs a provocation on the part of the US to fuel his terrorist organization-building efforts. A military occupation of Iraq would likely be bin Laden’s dream come true as terrorist recruits would flock to his anti-American standard and swell Al Qaeda’s ranks. Hundreds of millions of dollars more funding and several thousand additional recruits would enable him to stage attacks on a scale beyond those of 9-11. CIA Director George Tenet and FBI Director Robert Mueller recently declared that the intelligence community believes Usama bin Laden, not Saddam Hussein, remains the greatest risk to US homeland security. One wonders if the administration is listening. ***
David T Pyne currently serves as DUV-PAC Chairman, President of the Utah Republican Assembly, and as Vice President for the Association of the United States Army’s Utah Chapter. A former national security expert, he has served as President of the Center for the National Security Interest, worked as a defense contractor and International Programs Manager, as an International Analyst for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Department of the Navy, and as a Research Assistant for the Center for Security Policy.