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Colin Powell's New Book: Iraq War Never Debated
Old 05-11-2012, 22:51   #1
Broadsword2004
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Colin Powell's New Book: Iraq War Never Debated

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So I don't really have an opinion on this as I don't know enough about the subject, but if President Bush said he was a dissenting voice in his "Decision Points" and Powell says there was no debate, then the truth is getting twisted somewhere in this. Was wondering other's thoughts though? Is this sour grapes on Powell's part? Neither he nor Bush strike me as men who would twist the truth.
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Old 05-11-2012, 23:08   #2
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Originally Posted by Broadsword2004 View Post
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So I don't really have an opinion on this as I don't know enough about the subject, but if President Bush said he was a dissenting voice in his "Decision Points" and Powell says there was no debate, then the truth is getting twisted somewhere in this. Was wondering other's thoughts though? Is this sour grapes on Powell's part? Neither he nor Bush strike me as men who would twist the truth.
BS2004--

It may not be an issue of 'twisting the truth' but rather different individuals having different perceptions of what constitutes "serious debate" and differing visions of an appropriate process in place to manage that debate.

It will be interesting to see if GEN Powell's experiences in Bush the Elder's administration (which had a profoundly positive reputation for handling internal debate) informed his expectations of how a discussion should be run in Bush the Younger's White House.
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just irks me...
Old 05-12-2012, 02:37   #3
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just irks me...

Is it wrong for me to get mad reading this?

You can say that the world is a better place without Saddam all day long, but, in the end, a war was started and fought for reasons that never existed, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.
It's cynical and jaded to say this, but it seems that it would have taken Saddam quite a bit of time to do that kind of damage on his own, and our men and women would most likely still be alive. Was it worth it? I guess that remains to be seen. But Iraq's future isn't looking too good at the moment.

Am I missing something?

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Old 05-12-2012, 11:58   #4
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Originally Posted by Geenie View Post
Is it wrong for me to get mad reading this?

You can say that the world is a better place without Saddam all day long, but, in the end, a war was started and fought for reasons that never existed, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.
It's cynical and jaded to say this, but it seems that it would have taken Saddam quite a bit of time to do that kind of damage on his own, and our men and women would most likely still be alive. Was it worth it? I guess that remains to be seen. But Iraq's future isn't looking too good at the moment.

Am I missing something?
If I were an Iraqi citizen under Saddam, and had a choice between living that way, or taking a 1:100 chance of being killed during the liberation and aftermath, I would have taken it.

FWIW, Saddam wanted everyone to think that he had weapons, whether he did or not, and sent signatures that he did. He had used them against the Iranians and Kurds in Iraq.

Saddam consistently defied UN resolutions and his own treaties, doing as he pleased. He imprisoned, tortured, and killed hundreds of thousands of his citizens. There is no indication that he planned to abdicate and hold free and democratic elections anytime soon.

We destroyed a LOT of chemical WMDs in the first Gulf War. There was no reason to believe that we had gotten all of them. I personally believe that he had a chem and bio capability that he hid and we never found. We did find the drums of yellowcake uranium that he had acquired, evidence that he had the basis for a nuclear weapons program.

Iraq's future looks a lot brighter to me than it did in 2001.

Just my .02, YMMV.

TR
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Old 05-12-2012, 13:21   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geenie View Post
Is it wrong for me to get mad reading this?

You can say that the world is a better place without Saddam all day long, but, in the end, a war was started and fought for reasons that never existed, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.
It's cynical and jaded to say this, but it seems that it would have taken Saddam quite a bit of time to do that kind of damage on his own, and our men and women would most likely still be alive. Was it worth it? I guess that remains to be seen. But Iraq's future isn't looking too good at the moment.

Am I missing something?
After reading extensively on the countless atrocities and human rights violations that were committed by members of Saddam Hussein's regime (especially his two depraved sons), there is no doubt in my mind that Iraq as we see it now is a far safer country than before the invasion. Iraqi citizens from all walks of life were constantly oppressed and often lived in fear of being arrested and executed (often gruesomely) for "dissent". Had he possessed the same resources, Hussein could very well have carried out as much genocide as Hitler or Stalin.

Could certain things have been handled better by some in the Bush administration and our government in general? I'm sure they could have. But the Iraqi people were rid of a brutal and oppressive regime, and hopefully Iraq can be a useful and trusted ally of the United States for years to come.
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Old 05-14-2012, 11:07   #6
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Is it wrong for me to get mad reading this? . . .
Yeah, you're right to feel that way. I do, too. The ends don't justify the means in our society. In this case I doubt the ends justified anything. This was often called a war of convenience. I'm of the group that thinks war should be of necessity and a last resort. But, they made read St Thomas Aquinas.

As for everything after going in?
Well that was pure. Once "we're in" we were "IN". We did the best we could, and that was pretty darn good by a lot of people as TR points out. Of course once we are "out" it moves back to the political side and they got us into this mess. .02
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Old 05-14-2012, 21:51   #7
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MOO: There are other regimes that continue to defy the US in the same manner and commit similar human rights violations and atrocities as well, North Korea and Iran come to mind. Why Iraq?
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Old 05-15-2012, 00:20   #8
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MOO: There are other regimes that continue to defy the US in the same manner and commit similar human rights violations and atrocities as well, North Korea and Iran come to mind. Why Iraq?
From the zoomie perspective we were still actively engaged in NFZ enforcement, routinely getting shot at and shooting back with our "response options" for ONW/OSW NFZ violations. There was a quiet air war with a lot of oversight and ops restrictions being waged since 1991 which may have made Iraq appear a slightly more dangerous beast. It was certainly manageable, but every day we wondered if they'd get lucky with a magic bb.
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Old 05-15-2012, 01:50   #9
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Originally Posted by BOfH View Post
MOO: There are other regimes that continue to defy the US in the same manner and commit similar human rights violations and atrocities as well, North Korea and Iran come to mind. Why Iraq?
I'm not sure it was a "let's go to war, now who are we going to choose" situation, but you never know.

I am guessing that at the time we thought there was going to be alot more support from the populous then you'd find in am occupation of Iran or NK.

S
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Old 05-15-2012, 05:25   #10
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Originally Posted by Scimitar View Post
I'm not sure it was a "let's go to war, now who are we going to choose" situation, but you never know.

I am guessing that at the time we thought there was going to be alot more support from the populous then you'd find in am occupation of Iran or NK.

S
They made a few mistakes, such as underestimating the cost of the war and firing one of the guys who said the war would cost a lot more than it was being estimated to, and also assuming that it would be a quick operation. That said though, I think they really saw Hussein as being a major threat. The things Bush did behind-the-scenes for the troops, he doesn't strike me as a man who would just have flippantly sent soldiers into a war. Also, Hussein was a man who had actively sought WMDs in the past and showed he was willing to use them.

The population supported the war a lot more initially as they thought it would be quick. Americans don't like long, drawn-out, dirty wars with infantry soldiers and IEDs and such, they like wars Gulf War-style, i.e. the American military goes in, destroys the enemy with all of our super high-tech weapons and firepower, shows the enemy who's boss, and then we leave.

Also, Iran and North Korea are totally different. Iran is a lot bigger than Iraq so you'd have had that problem. And as for North Korea, the last time the U.S. fought in there, it ended up fighting China. You can directly invade China from North Korea. Plus NK could have launched a huge attack on South Korea if the U.S. decided to invade.
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I seem to recall a lot of debate
Old 05-15-2012, 05:47   #11
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I seem to recall a lot of debate

I seem to recall a lot of debate, both in Congress and on the world stage prior to beginning the war.

I seem to recall a bunch of Democrat Senators who looked at the same intel Bush did and came to the same conclusion - and said so on the Senate floor.

And in everything hindsight is 20/20.
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Old 05-15-2012, 23:24   #12
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All, thanks for the insightful responses, definitely a few points to think about.

@Broadsword2004, I believe you are correct with regards to Iran and North Korea; there are some analysts who believe for the same reason, Israel is trying to goad the US into joining them in an Iran campaign as they do not have the resources themselves for an all out war.

My .002
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Old 05-16-2012, 13:51   #13
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And in everything hindsight is 20/20.
Actually, the worst thing about hindsight isn't that it's 20/20, but that it is a form of tunnelvision. In hindsight, the course of action is usually clear, and it is blitheringly obvious, especially to media pundits, how wrong everybody but them was.

I am pretty sure that was a big theme of President Bush's book Decision Points, though I haven't finished it yet. He didn't want to write a traditional autobiography where you look back with your newfound clarity and second-guess or make excuses for your actions. Rather, he wanted to take you through the decision-making process, to show future leaders how decisions are made, and why the have to be made, even with imperfect information.

Also, when the decision is made, you own it, and no foisting off responsibility for failures on subordinates or hiding behind excuses. Unfortunately and ironically, though, I think one of the Bush Administration's biggest failures was in not vigorously defending the decisions it made in the light of what was known when they were made, and allowing his political rivals and the media to redefine the narrative.

How many people to this day believe that the Administration falsely claimed that Iraq was an imminent threat to world peace, when in fact the Bush Doctrine was predicated on the opposite assumption, that in the light of events such as the 9-11 attacks, if you wait for the threat to become "imminent", you may already be too late? And how many people believe "there were no WMDs" in Iraq, based on not discovering the (admittedly expected) stockpiles of ready-to-fire CWs, when the case for war was based not on such stockpiles, but on the fact that the failing sanctions regime would allow Saddam to quickly reconstitute his WMD programs, for which huge amounts of evidence have been uncovered since 2003?

Regarding the original point of this thread, I have a certain level of respect for Gen. Powell for many of his accomplishments, but one of the things he is most accomplished at is covering his own ass. Powell has over the years been one of Bob Woodward's favorite insiders (Woodward's style is to write insider exposÚs where the insiders who talk to him come off glowingly and those who don't are treated negatively). Powell claimed as far back as Woodward's 2004 Plan of Attack that he [Powell] was kept out of the loop and that VP Cheney and his minions had a war fever, then backtracked when publicly called out for it [see "Colin Powell, the leader who might have been", for some more color].

On the question of why Iraq and not Iran or North Korea, or for that matter Syria, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Cuba, Pakistan, Burma, China or any other roguish potential threats to the US and world peace: First, I am not aware of any rule, ethical or otherwise, that says you can't do something if you won't do everything, so there is no grounds for forbearing to deal with the Iraq threat because you are not prepared to deal with the Iran threat. Second, a decision to use force isn't based just on the threat, imminent or latent, grave or just pesky, and so forth. It is also based on the means available to meet that threat, the alternative courses of action available to counter the threat, the likelihood that force will in fact be effective in countering the threat, and a host of other factors.

Iran, for example, is a much bigger nut to crack than Iraq. It has 2 1/2 times Iraq's population and 3.75 times Iraq's area. None of the states which border Iran, with the possible exceptions of Afghanistan and Azerbaijan, would likely have allowed us to base an invasion force, and none had the logistical infrastructure we already had in place in Kuwait. Getting forces to Afghanistan or Azerbaijan would have required going through places not likely supportive of military action (the Turkish-controlled straits between the Med and the Black Sea, and Pakistan). Iran maintained and maintains far more friends and supporters in the international community, including China and Russia, than Saddam's Iraq. Iran's military has its weaknesses, but it is not nearly as degraded as Saddam's in the wake of the destruction of the 1991 war, the sanctions regime, and the ongoing no-fly zones. On the flip side, Iran's clerical regime has a lot of internal opposition, which, if properly supported, could potentially have brought down the regime from within (unfortunately less likely now in the wake of the Obama Administration's tepid reaction to Iran's 2009 uprising).

With North Korea, you obviously have the China factor, but you also have to consider South Korea's reluctance to risk the destruction of almost everything within artillery range of the DMZ. As well you have to consider the terrain and the strength of the NKPA.

You also have to consider the second-order effects. In 2003, it was reasonable to assume that overthrowing Saddam might put the fear of God into other dictators, making military action unnecessary in their cases. In the case of Libya, those assumptions were borne out. How different might NATO's reaction to the Libyan Uprising have been if Qadhafi still had his WMD programs? With our 20/20 hindsight, of course, we can now say that the unexpected difficulty we had in Iraq may have emboldened other rogue states, and allayed their fears of a vigorous response.

Well, I've babbled on for a while now, so I will cut this response short [too late!].
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Old 05-16-2012, 20:56   #14
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As I have argued before, I think that any leader, whether he articulates it or not, must establish what the burden of proof will be prior to starting a fight.

In criminal cases, prior to taking someone's liberty or life, the state must prove a case "beyond a reasonable doubt", which is a pretty high standard. In a civil case, a party must only prove their case to be "more likely than not". Call it 50.1%.

Clearly, this can be pretty subjective. However, in the case of Iraq, did we really need to have perfect proof? If we screwed-up, would anybody really miss Hussein? How many thousands of his own people had he murdered? Invasions of neighboring countries? This guys was a thug and murderer who trampled on the rights of people all over the region.

Moreover, this was not a case where if we messed up, the country we punched would show up on our shore with a landing force. Further, if Iraq had a large stockpile of WMD's, and we did nothing, the balance of power in the world could seriously tilt to a land full of nutballs.

On the contrary, let's say our next leader wants to invade a friendly country. I would then argue that our proof should be unassailable that we will suffer grievous harm before we launch a strike. Call it risk-vs-reward, or whatever, I'm comfortable with Hussein being dead, his regime gone, and a different government in power.
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Old 05-16-2012, 21:30   #15
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I have not read the book so this is a blind shot.
I do remember Gen. Powell arguing the administrations point for going to war, complete with powerpoint, to various national and international audiances.
Every senior leader, wether a General Officer or CSM, has the ability to resign/retire almost immediately if they cannot stand by a decision that has been made.
To say that he did not have the appropriate input, or did not agree with the decision yet REMAINED ON ACTIVE DUTY is a cop out of the highest order.
I've lost a great deal of respect for Gen. Powell since his retirement for his coulda/shoulda/woulda positions.
I'm of the opinion presently that he was more of a politician than a General Officer.
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