The New Pottery Barn Rule: You Break it, You Move On

Contrary to Colin Powell’s much quoted warning “You Break it, You Own It,” the policy and military elites of the United States who broke Iraq have just moved on in their always comfortable lives.  This week is the 11th anniversary of the Bush-Cheney invasion.  Last year, 2013, some 8,000 Iraqi’s died in the continuing sectarian violence triggered by that invasion.

Here are some reminders.

Greg Mitchell at The Nation:

As we approach the eleventh anniversary of the US attack on Iraq this week, we may face a bit more media coverage of that tragic conflict than usual. How much of it will focus on the media misconduct that helped make the war possible (and then continue for so long)? It’s certainly not something the media like to dwell on.

For now, let’s relive just some of the good, the bad and the ugly in war coverage from the run-up to the invasion through the five years of controversy that followed. In updating the first e-book version of my book, So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits—and the President—Failed on Iraq, which features a preface by Bruce Springsteen, I was surprised to come across once-prominent quotes and incidents that had faded a bit, even for me. Here is a list of fifteen episodes, in roughly chronological order.

1) In late March 2003, the day before the US invasion, Bill O’Reilly said, “If the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it’s clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation; I will not trust the Bush administration again, all right?”

2) After the fall of Baghdad in April, Joe Scarborough, on MSNBC, said, “I’m waiting to hear the words ‘I was wrong’ from some of the world’s most elite journalists, politicians and Hollywood types.”

3) The same day, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews declared, “We’re all neocons now.”

4) Thomas Friedman, who had called this a “legitimate war of choice,” now wrote at The New York Times, “As far as I am concerned, we do not need to find any weapons of mass destruction to justify this war…. Mr. Bush doesn’t owe the world any explanation for missing chemical weapons.”

read all

Katrina vanden Heuvel at the Nation looks back at the warnings and predictions of some who opposed the invasion:

This Monday marks the eleventh anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq—a solemn punctuation mark to the steadily increasing violence that has gripped that country over the past two years. Sectarian violence claimed more than 8,000 Iraqis in 2013 alone, and this year’s toll has already surpassed 2,000. Iraq today is a broken and failing state: the war that many would prefer to believe ended in 2011 continues unabated, with Iraqis continuing to suffer, as much as ever, the fallout from this country’s callous lies and avoidable mistakes. Despite Colin Powell’s sanctimonious “Pottery Barn rule,” John Feffer wrote on his Foreign Policy in Focus blog at last month, the United States has made no effort to “own up to our responsibility for breaking the country.”

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Rachel Maddow put together a substantial investigation about the pre-planning to take over Iraq’s oil fields, much before the 9/11 attacks.  This is the first part of it, which you can find at MSNBC

Lies Unredacted

Senator Karl Levin (our hero), from the great state of Michigan, and Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee (election 2004 be praised,) released the declassified version of the Inspector General of the Pentagon’s report about Douglas Feith’s criminal mis-deeds.

Feith was the Wolfowitz deputy in the Pentagon who created the toxic brew of pro-war propaganda out of sheer assertion, distortion, puffery and selective blinding.

The report, in a passage previously marked secret, said Feith’s office had asserted in a briefing given to Cheney’s chief of staff in September 2002 that the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda was “mature” and “symbiotic,” marked by shared interests and evidenced by cooperation across 10 categories, including training, financing and logistics.

Instead, the report said, the CIA had concluded in June 2002 that there were few substantiated contacts between al-Qaeda operatives and Iraqi officials and had said that it lacked evidence of a long-term relationship like the ones Iraq had forged with other terrorist groups.

“Overall, the reporting provides no conclusive signs of cooperation on specific terrorist operations,” that CIA report said, adding that discussions on the issue were “necessarily speculative.”

WashingtonPost report.

San Francisco Chronicle report.

Senator Levin’s
press release.

The actual report (pdf.)

Let’s be clear here. Feith’s nefarious work is to be remembered in the ranks of other cloacally extruded matter. The much more serious issue however is how his efforts rose to the stature and importance they had. Despite a certain amount of CIA and DIA disagreement and push back the information, analysis and opinion of a hand full of actors became United States policy. If the structural impediments to such roguery are not enough, and those who disagreed with it are not brave enough to stand up and publically contest it, we are in serious danger as a nation.

Photo Op

Bush Hakim

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — A trio of car bombs ripped through a southwestern Baghdad neighborhood Tuesday morning, killing at least 14 people and wounding 25 more, Baghdad emergency police said.

About 90 minutes earlier, gunmen in northern Baghdad opened fire on a bus carrying employees of the Shiite Endowment, a group that oversees religious sites and Shiite mosques.

The attack killed 15 people and wounded nine others.

Meanwhile, a U.S. soldier was killed and five others wounded when insurgents attacked a Multi-National Division-Baghdad patrol in northeastern Baghdad Monday …

Another U.S. soldier was killed in southeastern Iraq on Monday when his armored security vehicle overturned, the military said.

The accident took place near the town of Talil, about 185 miles (300 km) southeast of Baghdad.

The deaths brought to 2,899 the number of U.S. troops who have died in the Iraq war. Seven civilian contractors of the Defense Department also have died.

There’s more…

Anti War Representatives Heard – 4 Years Late

Walter Pincus is among the best reporters we have had in the whole miserable run up to and sorry execution of the war. It is very nice to have him write this retrospective of Democrats now about to take power.

Although given little public credit at the time, or since, many of the 126 House Democrats who spoke out and voted against the October 2002 resolution that gave President Bush authority to wage war against Iraq have turned out to be correct in their warnings about the problems a war would create.

With the Democrats taking over control of the House next January, the views that some voiced during two days of debate four years ago are worth recalling, since many of those lawmakers will move into positions of power. They include not only members of the new House leadership but also the incoming chairmen of the Appropriations, Armed Services, Budget and Judiciary committees and the Select Committee on Intelligence.

Democrats Move Into Power

However, I think the closing sentence of his piece needs a thorough and tough-minded piece or two all on its own.

[Congresswoman Barbara] Lee was described as giving a “fiery denunciation” of the administration’s “rush to war,” with only 14 colleagues in the House chamber to hear her.

None of the reasons she gave to justify her concerns, nor those voiced by other Democratic opponents, was reported in the two Post stories about passage of the resolution that day.

Iraq: US

With no good options in Iraq the usual tough guys are coming up with the usual tough language: “Crack down” will be the operative word.

The Iraq Study Group, filled with men who have done little good in the world, will exercise their muscle over a draft report written by their staff after interviewing all the other tough guys in the area. As usual, if you don’t have a gun your opinion won’t matter. As usual nothing will be said about the men and ideas who got us into the situation. It wouldn’t do to ridicule, we might need the strategy again some day.

A draft report on strategies for Iraq, which will be debated here by a bipartisan commission beginning Monday, urges an aggressive regional diplomatic initiative that includes direct talks with Iran and Syria but sets no timetables for a military withdrawal, according to officials who have seen all or parts of the document. …

President Bush is not bound by the commission’s recommendations, and during a trip to Southeast Asia that ended just before Thanksgiving, he made it clear that he would also give considerable weight to studies under way by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his own National Security Council.

Administration officials appear to be taking steps that will enable them to declare that they are already implementing parts of the Baker-Hamilton report, even before its release. On Saturday, Vice President Dick Cheney flew to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with King Abdullah, whom he has known for 17 years.

US Panel

Meanwhile, the President of Iraq, Jalal Talibani, not to be confused with the Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, is having a reunion with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
while Syria’s President Bashar Assad is playing coy, perhaps in expectation of even bigger fish flopping into his pan.

Iraq: Anti Bush

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi politicians allied with militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr threatened Friday to resign from the government if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki meets next week with President Bush, adding to the pressure on an embattled premier who appears unable to halt his nation’s plunge into full-fledged civil war.

Threat to Resign

Iraq: The Bloody Calculus

From Laura Rozen, whose War and Piece we scan daily.

AS SECTARIAN violence rises in Iraq and the White House comes under increasing pressure to revamp its strategy there, a debate is emerging inside the Bush administration: Should the U.S. abandon its efforts to act as a neutral referee in the ongoing civil war and, instead, throw its lot in with the Shiites?

Rozen in LA Times

Iraq: The New Congress

Of all the things that might be investigated by the New Dems it seems to me that the unbelievable triumverate of Greed, Corruption and Incompetence which had a bachannal with American billions in Iraq would be the softest target. We are talking of the loss and theft of so much money we couldn’t count it before we die. We are talking about the party of business — those who take pride in their acumen and fiscal sense — who are constantly painting the Dems with their tax and spend brush. Here we have the tax and steal Republicans without a shred of shame. Investigations of military matters, strategic assumptions etc would tend to get mired in secrecy and “don’t dishonor the troops” logic. But going after the tax payer’s dollar might return enormous dividends for 2008.

I recommend reading this review of several investigative documents and sending it on to staffers of every congressperson you might know.

The Least Accountable Regime in the Middle East
Ed Harriman

US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction
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US Government Accountability Office
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US Congressional Research Service
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US Department of State
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Kurdistan Regional Government
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American military spending on Iraq is now approaching $8 billion a month. Accounting for inflation, this is half as much again as the average monthly cost of the Vietnam War; the total spent so far has long surpassed the cost of the entire Apollo space programme. Three and a half months of occupation costs the equivalent of Iraq’s estimated oil revenues for the current financial year. We now know, thanks to the leaked report of James Baker’s Iraq Study Group, that if US troops withdrew, they would in all probability be redeployed to neighbouring countries, increasing the already massive expenditure and inevitably threatening new arenas of conflict. Here’s an unimaginable alternative. If the US army left the region, and if the money was instead handed out to every Iraqi man, woman and child, they would each receive more than $300 a month.

The Least Accountable Regime in the Middle East