Monday, August 30, 2010

General Odierno's Candid Confession: When the US Went Into Iraq, We Were Clueless

From Anthony Shadid's report ("U.S. Commander Fears Political Stalemate in Iraq") in today's NY Times comes an amazingly candid confession - one that says so much about the idiocy of the 2003 invasion in the first place:
“We all came in very naïve about Iraq,” he said.

“We came in naïve about what the problems were in Iraq; I don’t think we understood what I call the societal devastation that occurred,” he said, citing the Iran-Iraq war, the Persian Gulf war and the international sanctions from 1990 to 2003 that wiped out the middle class. “And then we attacked to overthrow the government,” he said.

The same went for the country’s ethnic and sectarian divisions, he said: “We just didn’t understand it.”

To advocates of the counterinsurgency strategy that General Odierno has, in part, come to symbolize, the learning curve might highlight the military’s adaptiveness. Critics of a conflict that killed an estimated 100,000 Iraqis, perhaps far more, and more than 4,400 American soldiers might see the acknowledgment as evidence of the war’s folly.

Asked if the United States had made the country’s divisions worse, General Odierno said, “I don’t know.”

“There’s all these issues that we didn’t understand and that we had to work our way through,” he said. “And did maybe that cause it to get worse? Maybe.”

We know - from his own admission - that "Boy George" W. Bush, that brave ex-commander-in-chief who launched the entire business in 2003, doesn't read much, and that the NY Times is hardly his favorite source of information.  I do pray, though, that someone passes the word along to him that the commanding general in Iraq - one who spent the early years of the war telling his troops to smash down doors and round up "insurgents" before he found Petraeus' counterintelligence religion - has admitted that we went in clueless from the beginning.

And I wonder what Colin Powell's thinking these days about those "Pottery Barn" rules: you break it, you own it.

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