Yes, we do need to learn from Iraq

Democratic representative Tulsi Gabbard has been roundly criticized for her opposition to the air strike against Syria.  For once, I’m going to go on the record in favor of a Democrat politician, because I think she has a point.  The Hill reported her as saying:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has a message for the liberals attacking her criticism of President Trump’s missile strike on Syria, warning that a rush to aggression risks repeating the same mistakes that led the United States into the Iraq War.

“We need to learn from Iraq and Libya — wars that were propagated as necessary to relieve human suffering, but actually increased human suffering many times over,” she said in an email to The Hill.

Gabbard, a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard who served two tours in Iraq, has been highly critical of Trump’s decision last Thursday to launch 59 missiles at a Syrian airfield in response to a deadly chemical attack that killed scores of civilians, including children, in a western Syrian town days before.

. . .

Gabbard’s position — particularly her skepticism that the Syrian government was behind the chemical attacks — has led to an outcry from some establishment Democrats, including former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who want her out of Congress.

A meeting between Gabbard and Assad in January has only heightened the critics’ belief that she’s acting as an apologist for a tyrannical leader known to employ brutal tactics, even against his own people, to keep a grip on power in the country’s yearslong civil war.

But Gabbard, who sits on both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, maintains those critics are ignoring the lessons of recent history that have left the United States mired in costly Middle Eastern conflicts for more than a decade.

“I and thousands of my brothers- and sisters-in-arms went to war in Iraq based on false intelligence and lies from our leaders — our president, military and political leaders. We should have been skeptical then, and we weren’t,” she said. “The cost was thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars down the drain. What to speak of millions of non-American lives.”

. . .

“No leader — of either party, pro or against military intervention — should let our President take us down the path to another regime change war without … debate.”

There’s more at the link.

I think any fair, objective assessment of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would confirm her views.  This country spent up to $6 trillion (depending on whose numbers you believe) in fighting those wars, aiming to prevent further terrorist attacks, change despotic regimes, and bring democracy to those countries.  We’ve failed in every single objective, at the cost of thousands of US lives and hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries among local civilians.

Military actions must take consequences into account, otherwise they risk overreach to the point of disaster.  One that I’ve mentioned before is the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in 1942.  It was nothing more than a propaganda exercise by the USA, designed to boost morale and show the Japanese that they weren’t invulnerable.  It did a risible amount of damage to the Japanese war machine . . . but it led directly to the deaths of up to a quarter of a million Chinese civilians, killed by Japanese forces in their search for the American fliers, and in reprisal for the shelter and assistance provided to them in China.  Would any of those 250,000-odd dead have agreed that a mere propaganda gesture was worth their lives?  I somehow doubt it . . . but no-one bothered to ask them beforehand.  They didn’t count.  They weren’t Americans, after all – and besides, they weren’t even white.  Their deaths were just another statistic, nothing to worry about.

There are times when action must be taken, irrespective of the consequences.  However, that action needs to be carefully planned and even more carefully executed, always with an eye to consequences.  If it isn’t – if it’s just a knee-jerk reaction – then complications almost always arise, sometimes so great that they completely obviate the original purpose of the exercise.  I doubt that the War on Terror was worth the $6 trillion it’s cost the US taxpayer, or the lives lost or wounds suffered.  The results have not justified the expense.  In fact, the WoT has been a dismal failure.

I doubt whether I’d support Rep. Gabbard’s politics in general;  but in this specific instance, I think she has a very valid point.  What’s more, she served two deployments in Iraq.  She’s “walked the walk”, something that most Congresscritters (on both sides of the aisle) have notably failed to do.  For that, she deserves our respect, and an opportunity to state her case, whether or not we agree with her.  (I say that as a combat veteran myself.)



  1. " – and besides, they weren't even white."

    Cheap shot. I had assumed – by now – you were above that sort of thing.

  2. @Bob M: No, not a cheap shot – that was the way things were back then. Go read the contemporary histories, particularly the attitudes of US servicemen towards the Japanese and almost every Far Eastern culture. That's literally the way it was. It's historical fact.

  3. Well let's turn it around and play it that way, Pete.

    Trump sits on his hands while the curs lob nerve gas around. The Doolittle raid is called of for fear of Japanese reprisals. What message does that send to your enemies? Let me spell it out for ya: "We can be bullied. Please don't bully us!" And – if ya don't deter that bully because you can't or won't…see where I'm going with this? When those curs have WMD's, and they are stupid enough to use them on their own people without a second thought, what will prevent them from gassing yours?

    Thanks to George Bush, moslem scum of the earth are asking themselves: was all that blood and death in Iraq and Afghanistan worth the propaganda gesture they made on 911?

    Trump didn't have a choice. He HAD to react. It is far better that WE escalate it than they. Just my two bits, your mileage will vary…

  4. For all that the damage directly inflicted by the Doolittle Raid was minor, it had a significant ripple effect. It led to the victory at the Battle of Midway. It also led to serious Japanese reprisals against our Chinese allies. It is estimated that a quarter million Chinese civilians in the region the Doolittle raiders crashed were brutally murdered by Japanese troops in retaliation for assisting/allowing the raiders to be recovered by Chinese forces.

  5. In particular, the Doolittle raid gave Yamamoto the ability to push through the Midway operation, since the Army was against it — but the threat to the Emperor's person meant that the USN had to be destroyed immediately. It also meant that Midway/Operation MI couldn't wait for the repairs and rebuilding the air groups that kept Shokaku and Zuikaku out of Midway (although Yamamoto / Nagumo might well not have thought they were necessary).

    Eventually, the USN would have been able to defeat the IJN (the pipeline building Essex and Independence carriers, and somewhat the CVEs, would have overwhelmed the IJN's ability to build carriers). But the destruction of four carriers, offset only by the loss of Yorktown, made the Pacific advance possible starting with Guadalcanal only a few months after Midway, and massively hastened the end of the war.

    So it's unclear to me (and would make for an interesting aspect of an alternate history) that there were more Chinese casualties from the direct massacres after the Doolittle raid than there would have been if the war had lasted longer.

  6. Re: Doolittle raid casualties: There would most likely be far fewer American AND Japanese AND Chinese dead from WWII if we had rolled over after Pearl Harbor and sued for peace immediately. Most today would agree the sacrifice was worth it.

  7. I think you might find that, at least in this country's hives, CDH, most would NOT have thought the sacrifice was worth it. After all, it wasn't like the Japanese were White. Just another typical example of Rasicts Committing Genocide against another minority.

  8. "I doubt whether I'd support Rep. Gabbard's politics in general; but in this specific instance, I think she has a very valid point. What's more, she served two deployments in Iraq. She's "walked the walk", something that most Congresscritters (on both sides of the aisle) have notably failed to do. For that, she deserves our respect, and an opportunity to state her case, whether or not we agree with her. (I say that as a combat veteran myself.)"

    Ever notice how those who have been down range tend to be a lot less enthusiastic to "send in the troops?" John McCain being a notable exception. I think her comments are spot on.

    -another combat veteran (sort of)

  9. Hey Peter;

    I have doubts on the gassing of the civilians, who actually did it, was it Assad forces or was it ISIL or some other player. I am of the mindset that we need to let them kill each other off. perhaps it is a wrong mindset, I am a first Gulf War veteran and we had clear objectives and we left when they were done. I also blame Obama for the circus over there, his appeasement strategy encouraged our enemies and embolden Iran that wants to be "THE REGIONAL PLAYER" over there. As far as the Doolittle raid goes, It was a propaganda raid and it served its purpose, it also forced Yamamoto to push through Operation MI the attack on Midway that was designed to lure the surviving American carriers into battle and destroy them forcing the Americans to sue for peace and Japan would have this huge resource of the pacific to exploit for further empire building. It would have embolden Japan to attack us again because we would have been seen as "Weak" and under their code of Bushido that they practiced would have been seen as less then they are. The destruction of those 4 carriers and the EXPERIENCED crews was a loss that they never recovered from. It broke the aura of Japanese invincibility that they had cloaked around themselves since Pearl harbor and many victories that they accrued after the Pearl Harbot attack. As far as the Chinese casualties goes….That is on the Japanese, not us, they were the ones that overreacted and killed Chinese, after the way they had already treated Nanking in 1937, the Japanese brutality was well known and deflecting blame in us for their action is flawed logic.

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