How the fall of Ramadi in 2015 began with the fall of Saddam’s statue in 2003

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ISIS extremists this week captured Ramadi, a Sunni-dominated city that is also Iraq’s largest and most important provincial capital. Although some in the Pentagon and White House have tried to downplay its importance, the fall of Ramadi represents a major victory for ISIS and a major setback for those attempting to confront it.

But the most worrisome aspect of Ramadi’s fall is not the loss of a major Iraqi city. It is why and how Ramadi fell, and what that portends for the future:

— Ramadi fell because the Iraqi Army again chose not to fight, pulling thousands of troops out of the city rather than battle the few hundred ISIS irregulars trying to take the city. In the process, they abandoned U.S.-provided weaponry to ISIS as well. If Iraqis will not fight for themselves, it is hard to argue that others should do so for them.

— Ramadi fell because even those Sunni tribesmen who oppose ISIS and recognize its danger were reluctant to fight it on behalf of an Iraqi government that is dominated by Shiites, whom they also view as enemies. Forced to choose which of two enemies to support, they choose to sit it out.

— Ramadi fell because the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government is reluctant to arm those Sunni Iraqis who are willing to fight ISIS. They fear that any weapons that it provides the Sunni tribes will in time be turned against Shiites instead, and that distrust is probably justified.

In short, Ramadi fell because the violent struggle that we unleashed a dozen years ago between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq continues unabated, feeding the chaos on which ISIS thrives.  This is the original sin, still playing itself out. This is the consequence of the ignorance demonstrated by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, assuring Congress in 2003, before the invasion, that our occupation of Iraq would go easily because as he put it, the Iraqis have no longstanding ethnic divisions, there’s “none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another” that would require “large policing forces to separate those militias.”

We did not know, and if we knew we did not care.

The fall of Ramadi to ISIS is also sad confirmation of the failure of the 2007 “surge”. Yes, in strictly military terms, the surge succeeded to the surprise of many, including me. Well-conceived and well-executed by American military leaders, it succeeded in temporarily tamping down the sectarian violence and create space in which Sunni and Shiite could reconcile and come to a political arrangement that would bring peace down the road.

But that reconciliation never occurred. Forced into a truce by U.S. firepower, the two parties did not seek to make peace; they simply retreated to their corners and sulked, each plotting to renew hostilities at the first available chance.

“Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people,” President Bush said in announcing the surge, and they did not do so then and show no signs of doing so today.

Give Bush credit for this much: Toward the end, having cut himself loose from the dark influence of Dick Cheney and having sought wiser counsel, he had begun to see the true scale of his mistake and where it might lead. It scared him, as it should have. The surge represented his last-ditch, desperate effort to avoid disaster, and he all but acknowledged that fact.

If reconciliation didn’t occur, if Shiite and Sunni did not seize this chance to reach an accommodation, “the consequences of failure are clear,” Bush warned in announcing the surge.

“Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people.”

Which pretty much describes the situation as it exists today.

Not surprisingly, Republicans have seized upon the fall of Ramadi as evidence that Obama’s policy against ISIS hasn’t been effective. They’re right: It has not been effective. But the absence of better options is glaring.

Even the most strident, bellicose candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, for example, are not advocating a more forceful approach in anything but the vaguest rhetorical terms. Marco Rubio isn’t demanding the direct use of American combat troops in Iraq. Neither is Lindsey Graham. Jeb Bush will only say that as president, “I would take the best advice that you could get from the military,” which tells us exactly nothing.

And as a whole, Congress is so divided on the issue that it cannot even pass a simple war-powers resolution that would allow Obama to take the steps — air strikes, advisers, special forces raids — that he has already taken to assist in the battle against ISIS.

In his recent comments, Jeb Bush did go on to suggest that the current troubles in Iraq can be traced not to the invasion, but to the withdrawal of U.S. troops. If Obama had kept 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, this wouldn’t be happening, Bush claimed.

“ISIS didn’t exist when my brother was president,” he argued. “Al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when my brother was president. There were mistakes made in Iraq, for sure, but the surge created a fragile but stable Iraq that the president could’ve built on and it would’ve not allowed ISIS.”

That description of post-surge Iraq is fantasy. It ignores the fact that President Bush himself tried hard but failed to negotiate a deal to keep U.S. troops in Iraq. We departed Iraq by the deadline that Bush himself had agreed to with Iraqi leaders. It further ignores the hard fact that the surge had failed in its major goal of inspiring a reconciliation between Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, and if they weren’t going to travel down the path of reconciliation, they were going to head down the path that leads them right to where they are today.

Even if we had somehow managed to keep 10,000 troops in Iraq (and without making them subject to Iraqi law), I’m not sure what it would have accomplished. Today, we would have 10,000 American troops still caught in the middle trying to keep Sunni and Shiite from killing each other, still dying in IED attacks, still trying as clueless outsiders to use military firepower to suppress a civil war that we do not understand and cannot stop, even if we did play a tragically large role in its ignition.

The idea that we, the United States, are supposed to have a solution to it is wishful thinking by this point. What President Bush said eight years ago remains true today — “Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people.”

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772 comments
DawgDad1958
DawgDad1958

And Saint JFK and I-Will-Leave-The-Mess-For-Someone-Else LBJ started Vietnam, yet most people today blame Nixon due to the left-wing revisionists ("Tin soldiers and Nixon coming.."


Sometimes sucks to be president, I suppose, until you leave the crap you made for someone else to clean up as you live the life of a multi-gazillionaire, such as the Clintons.


In hindsight, we probably should not have liberated a people that aren't willing to fight for themselves (no, I'm not referring to the World War II era French).  Especially a people where the majority say they were "better off" under Saddam Hussein.  We need to stop assuming that people in 3rd world countries have the same ideals that thousands of brave men and women fought and died for.  


We have Memorial Day.  They have Surrender Day.

lvg
lvg

"The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – ISIS – was on the move Sunday, May 24, from central Syria to the Jordanian border, . They were advancing from the central town of Palmyra, which they seized last week, in columns of US-made tanks and armored cars taken booty in Iraq. No Syrian military force was there to block their advance on the border.

Our sources report that the initial ISIS mission is to take control of the eastern section of the border, including the meeting point between the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi frontiers. They are estimated to cover the 250 km from Palmyra to the Jordanian border byTuesday, May 26, passing through Deir el-Zour in the east, which they already occupy.


The Jordanian army, our sources report, had the foresight earlier this month to reinforce its western frontier against a potential ISIS assault on the frontier from point where it links with the Israeli and Syrian borders and up to the Tanaf border crossing, However, the Islamists are heading for the eastern sections whic the Jordanian army did not fortify with extra troops.


It is important to note that the United States maintains in the Kingdom of Jordan 7,000 special operations troops and an air force unit to guard its northwestern border with Syria. Most are stationed at Jordanian military bases in Mafraq, opposite the central sector of the border with Syria.


By reaching Jordan’s doorstep, the Islamic State is posing a challenge to President Barack Obama and forcing him to reach a decision, avoided thus far, about sending US troops to confront the terrorists.""


from Debka File 5/24/2015


Happy Memorial Day- 

LeninTime
LeninTime

So, has anybody - aside from me - been able to successfully identify the importance to the current discussion of the Obama administration's continuing funding and training of jihadi elements in Syria?

Jackie_36
Jackie_36

@FIGMO2 All vets who were in combat situations laments their personal war experiences.

This vet was put into an untenable situation in Ramadi where the civilians were part of the Iraq opposition.  The Marines went in an kicked them hard, but, when your forces number in the low thousands against 100's of thousands, that is a fight you can not win.

The Marines, to their credit, went back multiple times and was finally able to establish control over some of the city, only to have the Iraqi government have them pulled out.

Corey
Corey

Jay, are you familiar with a recent article in the NY Times which talked about Sadam's former intelligence chief being the brains and tactics behind Isis and that he was killed by US special forces acting as advisors to the Syrian opposition? The religious element of Isis, according to the article, is basically a smoke screen to provide cover for the true intention of former Baathists to regain control of Iraq.

LeninTime
LeninTime

@Corey 

The folks around here don't seem particularly interested in these murky details, or anything else that doesn't line up neatly along Dem-Republican lines.

josef
josef

@Jackie_36 @Corey 

With all due respect, that's where you're wrong.  It's a whole lot more than that.  A whole lot more.

Jackie_36
Jackie_36

@Corey I think many fail to appreciate the founder of ISIS is a former member of Saddam's party and was in jail for stealing vast amounts of money.

ISIS is nothing more than an organized crime entity that has captured military weapons and are using them to terrorize the populace.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Recon: "We held the cards, Maliki did not and BTW....Obama was the sitting president that ordered the withdrawal not GWB."


When negotiating with a sovereign country, you treat that country as sovereign.  If you think the US held all the cards and could force anything on another sovereign country, then that isn't really allowing that country to be sovereign, is it? 

Bush signed the withdrawal along with Iraq.  It was an agreement, not an order. If you call it an order, then sure, you can say Obama ordered some of the troops home by abiding by the agreement with another sovereign country. 


You and other conservative/Republican posters here keep on harping about Obama doing the withdrawing as if Bush never made an agreement with Iraq. 

That. is. a. lie. 


Obama agreed with the terms of the withdrawal.  Any forces in Iraq today are because of the invitation by Iraq.  Trying to put more troops there without that invitation would be invasion and/or occupation.  The US nor Iraq wants that again. 

alexander2
alexander2

@LogicalDude Obama just sent special forces into Syria without their agreement to kill the ISIS "leader'....thus he has invaded once, what keeps him out of Iraq? Do NOT construe this as thinking he should go in...

straker
straker

Jackie - "the overthrow of Saddam would plunge the Middle East into chaos"


There were some in Washington and elsewhere who knew this.

However, for reasons of politics and profits, they were ignored by the power elite.


Only in America.

josef
josef

Let’s see.Who is the president responsible for the debacle in the Cradle of Western Civilization?Hmmm, hard to say, was it Woodrow Wilson or Warren G. Harding?Seems they both were fine with the Treaty of Sèvres.One was a Democrat, the other a Republican, so let the blame game begin!

 

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@josef I blame the Brits.  They acted poorly, causing the reaction in the colonies and secede. They also acted poorly in the Middle East, drawing odd lines in the sand. 



gotalife
gotalife

We broke it we own it.


Act like responsible adults.

Doggone_GA
Doggone_GA

@gotalife And sometimes being adult means sitting back and letting the kids work it out on their own.

Normd
Normd

Josef,


I always knew you were a politician...hitting "like" on both sides of an argument...lol

gotalife
gotalife

We have 3000 troops in Iraq helping the Iraqi people. We have a large footprint in the world with troops fighting terrorism,. The war on terror is not over so we show resolve and patriotism to support them. Support the troops is not just a bumper sticker slogan...

Jackie_36
Jackie_36

Wait!!!!!

Did President Obama invade Iraq?

Did President Malaki refuse to sign the Status of Forces agreement to leave at least 10,000 US troops in the country?

Did Sen. Biden(D-DE) warn the Bush administration the overthrow of Saddam would plunge the Middle East into chaos?

Did Saddam have the founder of ISIS - a former member of Saddam's party - in jail for stealing?

Did Saddam have al Qaeda under control in Iraq?


td1234
td1234

@Jackie_36 Did Obama send 3 to 4000 troops back into Iraq without a SOFA? 

Jackie_36
Jackie_36

@td1234 @Jackie_36 Do you believe the President should send our military back to a country that has stated our troops would be subject to Iraq law during THEIR conflict?

Tell the truth!

Captain-Obvious
Captain-Obvious

I'm convinced that a lot of the liberal regulars on here have been dipping into the beer cooler way too early today.

KUTGF
KUTGF

@honested Also looks like a complete "surrender" to the entire blog.

Doggone_GA
Doggone_GA

@Wena Mow Masipa How @Doggone_GA @barkingfrog @Captain-Obvious Thanks for the apology.  It's just that I couldn't remember how long you had been here...and sometimes new people have difficulty adjusting to the way a particular blog is managed, so I tried to let you know how it was.

Personally, I don't like heavily monitored blogs...because I think they stifle the free flow of ideas.  As many here can tell you, we learn a lot here...even if sometimes it's on the order of what NOT to do!

td1234
td1234

@Captain-Obvious Yep, it happens everyday. When a conservative puts up a compelling argument or debunks a progressive talking point the personal attacks begin. 

Jackie_36
Jackie_36

@Captain-Obvious No need to dip into anything when it comes to the prevarication of the so-called conservatives and new secessionists.  ROFLMAO