When the US ended the combat phase of Desert Storm on February 28, 1991, after 5 weeks of relentless air bombardment and 100 hours of land warfare, it routed the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait, but left the doors open for future wars.
The US, while imposing devastating economic sanctions on the Iraqi population, allowed Saddam Hussein to use his helicopter forces to stage deadly and destructive attacks on a Shiite uprising in the South that had been abandoned by the US, after it encouraged them to rise up against Saddam. The US also imposed a no-fly zone by Iraqi air force over “Kurdish” protected areas. It failed to do the same on the Assad air force.
Dick Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, could not forgive himself for allowing Saddam to stay on. The attack on September 11, 2001, was the chance Vice-President Cheney was looking for to get even with Saddam, though he was a long-time friend and ally of the US in his 8-year war against the newly established Islamic Republic of Iran.
According to PBS Frontline’s “The Rise of ISIS” aired on October 28, 2014, and Frontline’s “The Secret History of the ISIS”, Cheney was itching to get even with Saddam. The US chose to ignore the fact that the majority of the September 11 terrorists were of Saudi origin, and began to work very hard to make a “connection” between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attack on the US.
According to CIA analyst Nada Bakos, Vice-President Cheney was relentless in his pursuance to find a connection, traveling to the CIA headquarter and even making phone calls to the analyst. Simply the CIA could find nothing there to connect Saddam with the terrorists’ attack on NYC. Once again, the US was and especially Dick Cheney was persistent to go to war in Iraq, by any means, and for any reasons.
The US invented the story of Iraq “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, with New York Times columnist Judith Miller leading the charge with “Fake News” (invented by the NYT). Fake News began with NYT and Judith Miller.
Ignoring UN Weapon Inspection reports
According to “The Director-General of the IAEA, Mr. ElBaradei, reported that, after three months of intrusive inspections, the Agency had found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq. There was also no indication that Iraq had attempted to import uranium since 1990 or that it has attempted to import aluminum tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment”.
Not withstanding such a clear report exonerating Iraq of having Weapons of Mass Destruction, the Cheney-Bush administration ignored it and continued to push for a link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda.
Meanwhile, the CIA was monitoring and tracking a Jordanian by the name of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi imprisoned by the Jordanian authority. Released from jail, al-Zarqawi, along with well-known thugs lacking any religious credentials, traveled to Afghanistan to meet with both Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri; both were “unimpressed” with this newcomer. He returns to Iraq in time to organize the insurgency against the American occupying forces.
It was Colin Powell who elevated al-Zarqawi to international prominence when, in his speech to the UN Security Council on 5th February 2003, General Powell mentioned al-Zarqawi 21 times “with the aim of establishing a line between Al Qaeda and Iraq” – a lie that took the US to war and led to the destruction of Iraq.
In an interview with Frontline’s Jim Gilmore, Secretary Powell reported on his meeting with President Bush in the summer of 2002. Secretary Powell stated, “In the Summer of 2002 when I returned from an overseas trip, I could see the president had been receiving a lot of military briefings about how one would go into Iraq, but they did not take him all the way through what might happen once you go into Iraq, so I asked to see him, and I went up to his quarters at the White House on the evening of Aug. 5, 2002”.
Secretary Powell continued, “I said: ‘Mr. President, it isn’t just as a simple matter of going to Baghdad. I know how to do to that. What happens after? You need to understand, if you take out a government, take out a regime, guess who becomes the government and regime and is responsible for the country? You are. So if you break it, you own it.’”
This is precisely what happened. President George Bush and his Vice-President decided to go war based on lies and “fake news” and the appointment of a team lacking any experience let alone any knowledge of the Middle East, especially Iraq.
Disbanding the competent Iraqi Army
President George Bush decided to appoint Paul Bremer, a man with no experience in the Middle East, associated with Henry Kissinger, responsible for devastating decisions in the Middle East as the Head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq, to rule over a country of 25 millions, perhaps the most diverse country in terms of ethnicity and religions of all countries in the Middle East, certainly perhaps the most difficult to rule and govern.
Perhaps the most deadly decision with deadly consequences for Iraq and Syria and the entire Middle East that people live through now, and directly responsible for the death of millions in both Iraq and Syria and the destruction of both countries was the decision by an incompetent, inexperienced Paul Bremer to disband the Iraqi Army and the removal of the “Ba’athist Party” members “from professional positions- alienating tens of thousands of unemployed Sunnis likely to join budding insurgency”. Please watch the PBS Frontline “Losing Iraq”.
George Bush certainly “broke Iraq” and he owns it. Within weeks of disbanding the Iraqi Army, a full-fledged insurgency took place, turning every part of Iraq into a deadly war zone. Iraqi expats who returned to Iraq on top of US army tanks were of no use and were marginalized in favor of young inexperienced staff that came from the Israeli think tanks in Washington.
The al-Maliki Appointment
To add to the mess created by Paul Bremer, the US CIA plucked out of obscurity a man named Nouri al-Maliki to become Iraq’s Prime Minister. Once again, PBS Frontline “Losing Iraq” reports, “he was so unknown that officials in the Bush administration didn’t even use his correct first name.”
Rather than bridge the ever-widening gap between Sunnis and Shiites, al-Maliki proved no different from the late Saddam Hussein – both were two sides of the same coin – the most ruthless, hateful, vengeful leaders ever seen in Iraq. His tenure was marked by being the most deadly period of any Iraqi leaders, including Nouri-el-Saeed, Abdul-Karim Qassem, and Saddam. During his administration, deadly bloody sectarianism took hold, allowing the rise of ISIS; the al-Maliki Dawa Party during Saddam’s regime was engaging in terrorist attacks, including the suicide bombing of the Iraqi embassy in Lebanon that killed 61 people. Two years later, the same group struck the US and French embassies in Kuwait.
With the rise of sectarian violence, American officials decided to change prime ministers and they saw qualities in al-Maliki they could not resist, such as “strong leadership qualities, little evidence of corruption and the potential to form a broad coalition”. American officials were wrong on every count.
al-Maliki proved to be the most sectarian of any Iraqi politicians and he went on to preside over the most corrupt period in Iraqi history. One only needs to remember how the Iraqi army performed under his leadership.
With over $42 billion spent on rebuilding the Iraqi army and with over 350,000 members and with additional 300,000 local security forces, the Iraqi army simply collapsed and disappeared in the face of some 1,200 members of ISIS abandoning the Mosul the second largest Iraqi city of over 2 million.
The Iraqi army simply disintegrated and disappeared, leaving the people to their fate. Al-Maliki was responsible for the removal of the most professional and competent officers, and appointed officers along sectarian lines.
The rise of ISIS was no accident, and US policies and the policies of al-Maliki certainly contributed to the rise of ISIS as a potent military force. With over 40,000 men, many of them former officers and enlisted men of the disbanded Iraqi army, and with thousands of recruits from Arab countries, North Africa and Europe, well-funded by rich Sunni Gulf states and from taxes and oil revenue, and using new army equipment, such as army tanks and hundreds of humvees that had been abandoned by the Iraqi army, and with over $500 million looted from the Iraqi central bank in Mosul, ISIS proved to be a potent force to be reckoned with.
It is hard to imagine that such a small force can withstand the onslaught of professional armies from Iraq, the US and some 20-member coalitions. Certainly, professional Arab commanders should learn a lot from ISIS.
Going back to the words of Secretary Powell as told to President George Bush, “You break it, you own it.” So far, the US simply failed to own what it broke in Iraq, and failed to take responsibility for the deaths of millions, for the sanctions that killed over a million babies, the destruction of the only credible institution that kept Iraq together, its army, let alone the sponsorship of the “sectarian politics” of al-Maliki.
The US went to war against Iraq not to take out Saddam, but to destroy Iraq and it sure did, and it should pay for it.