Article

Iraq: Four Years of Chaos

Four years after the Iraq invasion, the public is no longer sure what the president's "purpose" was for invading or when our troops will be coming home.

  Features
 

GOOD NEWS

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration reversed course and decided to fully fund the agency’s Office of Women’s Health.


STATE WATCH

COLORADO: Gov. Bill Ritter (D) “signed a law requiring hospitals to tell rape victims about the availability of emergency contraception.”

NORTH CAROLINA: Study finds that North Carolina is suffering from “devastating costs” of the Iraq war.

CIVIL RIGHTS: Several states are considering legislation to express regret or apologize for their role in slavery.


BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Public support for Iraq war in fast decline since 2003.

FEMINISTING: Businesses don’t have to cover birth control pills.

FISH BOWL DC: Helen Thomas keeps her front-row seat at White House press briefings.


DAILY GRILL

“She [Valerie Plame Wilson] was not covert. She did not meet the criteria, in any way, shape, matter or form as a covert agent.”
— Fox News host Sean Hannity, 3/6/07

VERSUS

“Ms. Wilson was covert.”
— CIA Director Michael Hayden, 3/16/07


ARCHIVES

Progress Report


STUDENTS

Politics with an Attitude: Everyone from Barack Obama to Stephen Colbert talks to Campus Progress. Right-wingers seem scared of us. Find out why here.

 March 19, 2007
Four Years of Chaos
Go Beyond The Headlines
Coffee and Donuts Not Included
ThinkProgress.orgFor news and updates throughout the day, check out our blog at ThinkProgress.org.
Sign up | Contact us | Archive | Mobile


Four Years of Chaos

On March 19, 2003, President Bush spoke to the nation from the Oval Office and announced that the United States was invading Iraq. “Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly — yet, our purpose is sure. … [O]ur forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done.” Four years later, the American public is no longer sure what the President’s “purpose” was for invading Iraq, nor do we know when our troops will be coming home. Instead of “reluctantly” going to war, “the president and his administration exaggerated, cherry-picked and simplified” intelligence that it then used to tell the American public, wrongly, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. As a result, approximately 3,200 American troops have died, the military is overextended, and the world is less safe. Violence in Iraq continues to skyrocket, and Bush’s escalation seems to be driving the United States into “a much deeper and longer-term role in policing Iraq than since the earliest days of the U.S. occupation.” The White House has indicated that Bush’s plans for today include “going about business as usual,” including “playing host to the 2006 NCAA football champions, the University of Florida ‘Gators.'” The Progress Report has put together a timeline looking back over the past 48 months HERE.

IRAQIS ARE LESS SECURE: On March 17, 2003, Bush declared to Iraqis, “The day of your liberation is near.” Yet at least 150,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in violence since the beginning of the war. Car bombings reached an all-time high in January and February, and for the first time, the Pentagon last week acknowledged that “some of the violence in Iraq can be described as a civil war.” It was the Pentagon’s “bleakest assessment of the war to date.” The report also found that two-thirds of the Iraqi people “believe that conditions are worsening, and as many as 9,000 are fleeing the country each month.” A new BBC/ABC News poll finds that fewer than 40 percent of Iraqis “said things were good in their lives,” compared to 71 percent two years ago. One Jan. 10, Bush announced his plan to send 21,500 more combat troops to Baghdad, promising it would “help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad.” On March 6, Bush declared his plan to be working. “Yet even at this early hour, there are some encouraging signs,” he stated. But as the Washington Post reported, “Sectarian attacks in Baghdad are down at the moment, but the deaths of Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops have increased outside the capital.” Bush also claimed that “Iraqi and U.S. forces have rounded up more than 700 people affiliated with Shia extremists.” But according to a military official, Bush’s numbers appear “to have little to do with the new strategy. The number is ‘based on captures…since July 2006.’ … Bush first reported the same roundup — citing 600 captures — last fall.” Iraqi officials are also falling behind on the benchmarks of progress it promised to meet. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced that will miss his “self-imposed deadline for reshuffling the Cabinet,” and just two Iraqi brigades and one battalion of a third have arrived in Baghdad, despite the Iraqi government’s promise to employ three brigades.

TROOPS ARE LESS PREPARED: In 2000, Bush stated, “To point out that our military has been overextended, taken for granted and neglected, that’s no criticism of the military. That is criticism of a president and vice president and their record of neglect.” Yet now, as all signs point to a military that is overextended, the Bush administration is trying to deflect criticism and claim that the military’s readiness is “unprecedented.” In reality, the U.S. Army’s preparedness for war “has eroded to levels not witnessed by our country in decades.” Virtually all of the U.S.-based Army combat brigades are “rated as unready to deploy,” Army officials say, and a recent Pentagon survey found that troops in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from chronic shortages of armored vehicles, heavy weapons, and communications equipment. Army and Marine Corps officials say it will take years for their forces to recover from a “death spiral,” in which rapid war rotations have “consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops, and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand.” “We have a strategy right now that is outstripping the means to execute it,” Army chief of staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Similarly, troops coming back from war — with unprecedented levels of mental health disorders — are facing a bureaucracy unprepared to deal with them, as the Walter Reed scandal highlighted. Seventy-six percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, believe the Bush administration hasn’t “done enough to care for [Iraq war] veterans.” Bush plans to “cut funding for veterans’ health care two years from now,” even though “the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing rapidly — by more than 10 percent in many years.”

WORLD IS LESS SAFE: The Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy magazine recently released their second “Terrorism Index,” a bipartisan survey of America’s top national security experts. The consensus: the world is growing more dangerous, and America is losing the war on terror. Eighty-one percent of Terrorism Index respondents “see a world that is growing more dangerous for the American people, while 75 percent say the United States is losing the war on terror.” Among the 81 percent of experts who believe the world is becoming “more dangerous” to the United States, a large plurality identified the Iraq war as the primary cause. These results are supported by the findings of the National Intelligence Estimate released last fall, which stated that “the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives,” and that Iraq “has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists.” Nearly six in 10 experts of all political stripes say the Bush administration is doing the “worst possible job” in Iraq and fully 88 percent of the experts believe the war in Iraq is undermining U.S. national security.

TIME TO REDEPLOY: “For the first time since the Iraq war began, less than half of Americans believe the United States can win in Iraq, a CNN poll said Tuesday. Just 46 percent think the United States will win.” Fifty-eight percent of Americans “want to see U.S. troops leave Iraq either immediately or within a year.” Forty-nine countries joined Bush’s Coalition of the Willing at the start of the Iraq war. By mid-2007, just 20 countries will remain after Britain, Denmark, and South Korea reduce their forces. Even National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley recently acknowledged that some Iraqis want the U.S. military presence to be, “over.” The Center for American Progress has a plan called “Strategic Redeployment” that calls for a gradual drawdown of American troops coupled with increased engagement with Iraq’s political leaders. The plan goes beyond the debate between “cutting and running” and “staying the course” to show how we can more effectively achieve success in Iraq. The House Appropriations Committee also recently approved legislation to calling for troops to “leave Iraq before Sept. 2008, and possibly sooner if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks.”

Under the Radar

ETHICS — LAM’S FIRING MAY HAVE BEEN TIED TO CIA CORRUPTION PROBE: Yesterday on CBS’s Face the Nation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) revealed that then-San Diego U.S. attorney Carol Lam notified the Justice Department on May 10, 2006 that she intended to execute search warrants on Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, the No. 3 official at the CIA, as part of a corruption probe surrounding former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA). The next day, on May 11, 2006, Kyle Sampson, then Gonzales’s chief of staff, sent an e-mail to deputy White House counsel William Kelley, asking Kelley to call to discuss “the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam that leads me to conclude that we should have someone ready to be nominated on 11/18, the day her 4-year term expires.” Lam was dismissed seven months later as part of the Bush administration’s purge of eight U.S. attorneys. Lam oversaw the investigation that led to the conviction of Cunningham, who pleaded guilty in late 2005 to accepting $2.4 million in bribes. He was sentenced in March 2006 to eight years and four months in prison. Lam was expanding the Cunningham probe to also look at the actions of then-House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA). “There were clearly U.S. attorneys that were thorns in the side for one reason or another of the Justice Department,” Feinstein said. “And they decided, by strategy, in one fell swoop, to get rid of seven of them.”

ETHICS — HUME FALSELY SMEARS PLAME AS HAVING LIED UNDER OATH: Earlier this month, several prominent conservatives, including columnist Robert Novak, Fox News’s Brit Hume, and National Review Editor Jonah Goldberg, engaged in an unhalting campaign to discredit former CIA Agent Valerie Plame Wilson, claiming that there was “no evidence” to suggest she was in fact a covert agent and falsely asserting that her profession was widely known on the “Washington cocktail circuit.” While these claims were discredited by CIA Director Michael Hayden — who told Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) quite emphatically, “Ms. Wilson was covert” — Hume renewed his attempts to smear Plame yesterday by suggesting that she lied under oath when she testified that she had not recommended her husband be sent to Niger to investigate Iraq’s supposed nuclear ambitions. Hume said Plame’s testimony “flies in the face of the evidence” adduced by the “bipartisan” Senate Intelligence Committee, which said that “she very much did have something to do with it, that she recommended him and that she put it in a memo.” Hume’s false claim originated from a statement attached to the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Iraq by Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Christopher Bond (R-MO), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The three conservative senators wrote definitively, “The plan to send the former ambassador [Wilson] to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador’s wife, a CIA employee.” They based their claim on testimony by a CIA employee who appeared before the Senate Intel Committee. In fact, as Plame revealed on Friday, the CIA employee later apologized to her “with tears in his eyes” because he said “his words had been twisted and distorted” by the senators. The unnamed employee consequently drafted a memo, asking that he be re-interviewed by the Senate to correct the record. His attempts to set the record straight were previously denied, but Waxman said Friday that the House Oversight Committee would “insist on getting that memo.”

MILITARY — ARMY RESERVE OFFICERS DECLINE DEPLOYMENT TO MIDDLE EAST: Only about one-fifth of 10,000 veteran officers in the Army’s Individual Ready Reserve say they’re willing to be deployed overseas, an Army survey shows.” In a military with combat resources already pressed thin, the “Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) is one of the last resources the Army taps for manpower. It consists of former active-duty, National Guard and reserve soldiers who have moved into the Ready Reserve and lead virtually civilian lives.” Before 9/11, the Army rarely tapped into the Ready Reserve, but since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 11,000 have been called for duty, with 6,000 being deployed to the Middle East. However, “more than 200 enlisted soldiers in the Ready Reserve have defied orders to serve and are being discharged.” Retired Army colonel Jim Martin believes negative feelings about the Iraq war and the Bush administration within the Ready Reserve are likely contributors to this low morale. These sentiments are reflected in public opinion of the war, currently at an all-time low. A report by American Progress fellow Ruy Teixeira shows that public approval of the Iraq war has quickly decreased since 2003. Only 34 percent of Americans now believe the Iraq war has been worth fighting, and 59 percent believe it was a mistake to invade Iraq in the first place. Currently, President Bush’s approval rating sits at 30 percent.


Think Fast

18: The percentage of Iraqis that have confidence in U.S.-led coalition troops as the war enters its fifth year today. Six in 10 Iraqis say their lives are going badly, and only one-third expect things to improve in the next year. Nearly 90 percent “say they live in fear that the violence ravaging their country will strike themselves and the people with whom they live.”

Almost two years before the FBI publicly admitted this month that “it had ignored its own rules when demanding telephone and financial records about private citizens, a top official in that program warned the bureau about widespread lapses.”

Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who was fired “after Republican complaints that he neglected to prosecute voter fraud,” had been “heralded for his expertise in that area by the Justice Department, which twice selected him to train other federal prosecutors to pursue election crimes.”

Last week, the White House pressured the Office of Management and Budget to withhold earmark data from the public. OMB Director Rob Portman said privately last week: “My hands are tied” due to directives from the White House. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) remarked, “I think the American people should be very disappointed.”

A new twist on the “illegal immigration hunts” sponsored by right-wing college groups: A Boise State University student group is “promoting a speech about immigration with a ‘food stamp drawing’ that requires climbing through a hole in a fence and offering fake identification for a shot at winning dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.”

Censorship issues return front and center to Congress today” when the House oversight committee resumes its inquiry into reported Bush administration interference in federal climate science,” featuring testimony by infamous Bush official turned Exxon lobbyist Philip Cooney.

The White House has declared its opposition to a bill that would give Washington, DC its first full seat in the House of Representatives, “saying it is unconstitutional, and a key Senate supporter said such concerns could kill the measure.”

And finally: The long-awaited Simpsons movie debut this summer will reveal what state the family’s fictitious Springfield residence is a part of. But Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) already knows. “I think they live just down the street from me, actually,” he said. “I live in Springfield.”