Sunday, November 29, 2015

High-Level Blunders

I wrote the following piece as a newspaper column in March of 2003 -- about 18 months after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and during George W. Bush's incursion into Iraq.

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Due to a series of high-level blunders, the world has become increasingly divided over the Iraq situation.

BLUNDER #1 – Ultimatum to friendly nations.

Shortly after the 9/11 tragedy, President George Bush made a speech where he announced to the world that “you’re either for us or against us.” This gross error of judgement caused a great deal of resentment. No nation wants to be put into a position where they are required to either join someone else’s battle or automatically become associated with the opposing forces. There are, and always have been, nations that prefer to remain neutral whenever other countries go to war. Individual nations should be allowed to have their own viewpoint without being coerced.

BLUNDER #2 – Guilt by association.

Simply because a couple dozen crazed zealots rammed a few airplanes into our buildings doesn’t mean that the country of Iraq was responsible for the attack. No credible evidence has been presented to indicate Saddam Hussein had anything to do with it. To the rest of the world, it looks like the USA is taking out its 9/11 frustration on the wrong party.

BLUNDER #3 – Lack of proper focus.

Much of the bad publicity against Iraq has come in TV briefings by government officials claiming Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, cleverly hidden, which he intends to use on innocent people. They insist they know for certain that the weapons exist but aren’t willing to say how they know or point out where they may be hidden because of national security. If we truly know where some of these weapons are located, reveal the whereabouts and let’s get on with it. And to keep harping that Saddam Hussein has evil intentions is meaningless unless you can explain how you can read his mind.

BLUNDER #4 – The time lag.

The Gulf War ended in 1991 with Iraq agreeing to disarm itself of certain types of weapons. UN inspectors were to oversee the disarmament. Eventually, Iraq failed to cooperate and expelled the inspectors in 1996. The Clinton Administration (1992-2000), more concerned with Lewinsky matters, failed to react properly at the time, allowing Iraq to flaunt UN mandates. Twelve years have now passed. Many people no longer perceive Iraq to be an imminent threat and question the urgency for a preemptive attack.

BLUNDER #5 – Historical misconceptions.

Many people blame the whole problem on George Bush Sr. for not marching into Baghdad during the 1991 Iraqi War and capturing Saddam Hussein. Basically, he had no choice. The UN mandate was to remove the Iraqi Army from Kuwait. The only way certain Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, would agree to allow US Armed Forces to use their countries as staging areas was if the USA agreed not to march on Baghdad.

BLUNDER #6 – The trade factor.

There was a business trade show in Baghdad last year. Representatives from 81 French companies attended, seeking business connections with Iraq. France currently supplies spare military parts and other goods to Iraq. Turkey allows Iraqi oil across its border in violation of UN sanctions. Hussein has promised vast quantities of oil to France, Russia and China when the oil embargo is lifted. The fact that France, Turkey, Russia and China are resistant to a war with Iraq is primarily motivated by greed.

BLUNDER #7 – Global perceptions.

Iraq is in clear violation of UN sanctions. But too much time has passed and second thoughts are creeping in. If the USA invades Iraq without UN approval, the USA will be perceived as a global bully instead of a freedom fighter -- we will win a war and lose our prestige. The whole thing is now a colossal mess, a no-win situation, with too many potential adverse consequences.

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In retrospect, many people now believe the USA make a major blunder by initiating a war against Iraq shortly after the events of September 11, 2001. But once we entered into armed conflict in the Middle East, those in power had made too many blunders to turn back.

Quote for the Day -- “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where tomorrow is a new day with no blunders in it yet.