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Reagan: The hard lessons of Iraq

Posted: June 26, 2014 - 4:52pm

Nearly 5,000 of our fine men and women died in Iraq.

Who’s going to explain Iraq to their loved ones now?

Who’s going to explain why, if it was so important that we had to go to Iraq in 2003, we just walked away?

Iraq is back in our living rooms every night. Only this time, it’s not a prime-time miniseries about how American military superiority topples the bad guy and democratizes a brutal dictatorship.

This time it’s about a war with another bad ending for the United States — another Vietnam.

We’re watching the Iraqi government we created and propped up with billions being humiliated by a bunch of Muslim extremists in pickup trucks.

A third of Iraq is in the hands of ISIS. The Iraqi army, like the South Vietnamese army we trained before we bailed out of Vietnam, dropped their weapons, stripped off their uniforms and pretended to be plumbers.

How can the families of our dead and wounded soldiers stand watching Iraq split into three parts and descend into a bloody sectarian Hell again?

I feel so sorry for the military families. What do you say now to a Gold Star Mother who lost her child fighting in Iraq?

Can you explain to her what her son died for? Or explain why we wasted 5,000 American lives and spent a trillion dollars there — and then left?

What was it that was so vital to our national interest that we went there in the first place?

If the whole idea of going to Iraq simply was to get rid of Saddam Hussein and his invisible weapons of mass destruction, we should have just sent some Special Forces guys in to do the job in the middle of the night.

Or we could have dropped a few smart bombs on Saddam’s favorite palace, the way my father did with Gaddafi in Libya in 1986. We didn’t kill Moammar, but after that he didn’t misbehave.

I had serious doubts about the United States going to war in Iraq in 2003. But I joined the bipartisan parade and supported the commander in chief.

I figured George W. Bush knew more than I did about the situation in the Middle East. I also figured he had lots of good reasons to go to war and assumed his administration knew what it was going to do after our easy military victory.

The Bush II administration thought it was going to reengineer Iraq into a democracy where Sunni, Shia and Kurd would live in peace and harmony like Germans, Italians and French do in Switzerland.

My friend David Hackworth, who died in 2005, knew better. He was the most decorated solider in the history of the United States, a critic of the military and a great military journalist.

“David,” I once asked him, “when will there be peace in the Middle East?” His answer was blunt — “When they’re all dead.”

I’m afraid “Hack” was right. The most powerful country on Earth hasn’t been able to force peace to break out in the Middle East — or even just Iraq.

What’s happening before our eyes in Iraq can be blamed on lots of people. Obama’s Number One on my Top 10 list.

But we conservatives have to take a lot of the blame too. It was us who supported going to war in Iraq in the first place, even though Bush 43 didn’t have an entrance strategy or an exit strategy.

Back in 2003 I believe I really knew in my heart that Iraq was a bad idea. But I took the conservative position of supporting the president on military and defense matters. I thought it was a good idea for us to go over there and kick Saddam’s butt.

As a conservative who supported the war in Iraq and my president, I apologize to all of the families of those killed or wounded in Iraq.

Going to war in Iraq seemed so right at the time. But I didn’t think it through and neither did Washington. Next time, I promise I’ll know better. Can Washington make that same promise?

(Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution.” Visit his websites at www.reagan.com and www.michaelereagan.com. Send comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com. Follow @reaganworld on Twitter.)

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reader
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reader 06/28/14 - 08:46 am
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I rarely agree with Michael Reagan

but in much of what he say here there is truth. However, President Obama, who was against the Iraq war in the Senate, is not even on my list of blame bearers.

Those of us who opposed the war, were aware we were only stirring a hornet's nest. I have no doubt our military can defeat any army in the world, but no one can defeat thousands of years of tribalism, sectarian divides, and religious hatreds.

We should have known the Iraqis would never have a solid standing army after thousands of them surrendered to journalists in the Gulf War. Remember that?

Until the people of the area demand freedom and human rights in their own churches/mosques, neighborhoods, cities and states, and grant the same to their neighbors, there will be no peace. No nation or army in the world can build it for them.

The road to the Iraqi war was littered with untruth, out right lies, and a concentrated effort to deceive the American people for someone's agenda, not democracy for Iraq.

conwaygerl
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conwaygerl 06/28/14 - 02:52 pm
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Surrendered to journalists

They were left in the desert without food and water supplies due to indifference from Baghdad and air strikes from the coalition forces.

Hard to call them cowards under those circumstances.

We sit at keyboards and judge actions that we have very little understanding of.

InsGuru
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InsGuru 06/30/14 - 09:15 am
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ummm

"Until the people of the area demand freedom and human rights in their own churches/mosques, neighborhoods, cities and states, and grant the same to their neighbors, there will be no peace."

They certainly do that, the majority of the people over there get along just fine with their neighbors, but what would you do if some ISIS (or any other terrorist group) person came and said "do this or we'll kill your family"? This just shows how little you know about the region, but I wouldn't expect you to know alot watching CNN.

"The road to the Iraqi war was littered with untruth, out right lies, and a concentrated effort to deceive the American people for someone's agenda, not democracy for Iraq."

The same could be said about NObamacare....

I can't imagine what the world would be like today if there had been people like you around during WW2...

reader
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reader 07/01/14 - 08:38 am
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Despite the juvenile ad hominem

I had to take a moment to stop laughing.

"They certainly do that, the majority of the people over there get along just fine with their neighbors, . . ."

LOL ROFL! Yeah it's just a big Disneyland in the mid east!

InsGuru
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InsGuru 07/01/14 - 11:26 am
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typical

"ad hominem"

What's next? something about the strawman? I can't even say this is typical lib tactic, it's just YOUR only response you can ever give... nothing ever involving a fact.... Hold on, I have to take a moment to stop laughing at that.

"LOL ROFL! Yeah it's just a big Disneyland in the mid east"

Right, because you have so much first had knowledge and experience on the subject and region.... Once again typical lib, pretending to be an expert on something they are not. Watched the same thing happen with NObamacare.

*let me guess, some sort of ad hominem response is coming* It's pretty safe to presume at this point that you aren't even sure what an "ad hominem" is because at no point did I make an ad hominem.... soooo, yeaaaaa......

Elmer Fudd
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Elmer Fudd 06/28/14 - 09:51 am
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Reader

I was agreeing with you on everything until the last paragraph. I will act like I never read it reader. Pun intended.

reader
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reader 06/28/14 - 10:18 am
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At least we seem

to agree to disagree on some things but retain civil discourse. Thumbs up for you!

lachowsj
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lachowsj 06/28/14 - 07:23 pm
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Bush I

Over time I have more and more respect for the foreign policy decisions of Bush I. He went into Iraq with a strong international coalition, a clear objective and an exit strategy. He was criticized at the time for not chasing the Iraqis all the way into Baghdad. Contrast that with Bush II who had a coalition of Britain and only symbolic support from others, no cultural understanding and no exit strategy.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the beginning of the First World War. Following that war, nations of the Middle East were arbitrarily invented, ignoring hundreds of years of sectarian history and almost guaranteeing the conflicts we are seeing to this day. When will we learn that we cannot impose our will on that area no matter how powerful our military?

InsGuru
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InsGuru 07/01/14 - 11:06 am
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I would like to point out

"My friend David Hackworth, who died in 2005, knew better. He was the most decorated solider in the history of the United States, a critic of the military and a great military journalist."

No **disrespect** to Col Hackworth, but Gen. Douglas McArthuer is the most decorated solider in US history to date.

mikeng1994
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mikeng1994 06/30/14 - 09:57 am
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tough Subject

I've tried 5 times now to comment on this, but its just to dam hard. All I will say is we didn't impose our will on them, and most of the lies and misinformation came from the liberal press.

I can say, that if you were not there, you views are biased as to what actually went on. You just have no f'ing clue.

And I dare anyone to look me in the eye and tell me that we, the soldiers, we duped into fighting another man's fight for the sake of oil or what ever you think it was. I lost one to many friends for you to say that.

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