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President Bush’s Father Warned Against US Invasion of Iraq
by David T. Pyne
25 November 2003George H.W. Bush

Bush the Elder wrote in his book, "Trying to eliminate Saddam ... would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. ...We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq."

Overly domineering senior neocon officials in the Bush Administration successfully persuaded the President to invade Iraq in direct opposition to the wise counsel of his father written in his published 1995 memoirs, entitled A World Transformed. In his book, former President George H.W. Bush wrote that the reason he decided not to invade and occupy Iraq was that he realized that to do so would have required a prolonged US occupation of Iraq which would have been far too difficult and costly for the US in terms of both mounting casualties and alienated allies with no conceivable exit strategy. Former President Bush Sr. explained, "Trying to eliminate Saddam ... would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. ... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. ... [T]here was no viable 'exit strategy' we could see, violating another of our principles…Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."

Retired General Wesley Clark, who was until recently the Democratic presidential frontrunner, joined with many other prominent, retired general officers in opposing the US invasion of Iraq. Clark and his fellow retired senior military officers know a lot more about war-making and when wars are justified than the neocon acolytes in the Bush Administration. However, he states in his newly published book, Winning Modern Wars: Iraq, Terrorism and the American Empire, that his solution to bringing peace to Iraq would be to double the number of US troops in Iraq to nearly 300,000 men. The implementation of such a radical proposal would be all but impossible given the fact that the US does not have so much as an active-duty Army battalion to send to reinforce the US contingent of Afghanistan, let alone Iraq. In fact, for the first time in contemporary US history, the US has no active Army combat brigades in reserve as a contingency to guard against other potential threats.

With the recent supplemental authorization for the war in Iraq, the total cost of the US occupation of Iraq has risen to nearly $150 billion, contributing to this year’s record-breaking budget deficit of nearly $400 billion. It is estimated that next year’s budget deficit will range from $500-550 billion and that does not account for any additional supplemental requests which the Administration may ask the Congress to support to pay for the rising costs of the Iraq occupation. Accordingly, the ongoing US occupation of Iraq is going far to help bankrupt the country. Empire, it seems, does not pay, and has only downsides as measured in American blood and treasure. The deteriorating situation in Iraq poses a serious threat to the President’s re-election efforts and with the slight upturn in the economy appears to be the main issue that his opponents will use against him in the upcoming presidential campaign.

With over 400 US troops now having died in Iraq, nearly two thirds of whom have died since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1st, and over 2,300 wounded, the time has come to devise an exit strategy which will allow US forces to declare victory. Such a strategy would require a phased withdrawal from Iraq over the near term with the objective of achieving what Nixon referred to as “peace with honor.” In response to a mid-October attack in which a US ammunition truck was destroyed in a spectacular explosion and several Iraqi civilians were mistakenly shot and killed by US soldiers retreating from the ensuing firefight, former President of the Iraq Governing Council, Iyad Allawi, called upon the United States to begin an immediate mobilization of the Iraqi Army.

CPA head Paul Bremer unwisely ordered the Iraqi Army demobilized back in May, a step which created a massive security vacuum in Iraq, which facilitated the recent spate of terror attacks, directed against US forces. Mobilizing a large part of the old Iraqi Army to take over internal security and policing duties particularly in Iraq’s largest cities, where US troops are suffering the most casualties from guerilla attacks, would enable US forces to more quickly extricate themselves from such duties and enable a swifter withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.

Once the US has finished calling up much of the Iraqi Army and passed on security responsibilities to them, it should immediately withdraw 100,000 troops, leaving only 30,000-40,000 US troops as a hedge against a radical Shiite takeover of the country. The US should also reverse its current ban and allow low-level former Baath Party members who would like to participate in the new Iraqi government. That might be enough to mollify many Baathists into abandoning their resistance against US occupation forces. Despite recent reports that the Administration plans to cut a substantial number of US troops in Iraq over the next eighteen months, there is little chance that it will do so, given that such reductions are entirely dependent on security conditions in Iraq, which are continuing to worsen, not improve.

If the US lacks sufficient troops necessary to occupy and pacify Iraq, how will the US military fare if called upon by the President to invade other more threatening nations like Iran or Syria, which some reports indicate might be next on the neocons' list of imperial conquest? With the coming hemorrhage of tens of thousands of our troops fleeing the service to escape further tours in the no-win war that is Iraq, the Administration will soon have to seriously consider reintroducing the draft to provide the manpower necessary to wage perpetual war and occupy conquered lands in pursuit of the neocon vision of establishing a new American Empire. In a move reminiscent of the Vietnam era, the Administration has already begun calling for volunteers to serve on yet-to-be-established Draft Boards, just in case. However, it is unlikely to resort to such a drastic measure, as it would amount to political suicide.

David T. Pyne, Esq. is President of the Center for the National Security Interest, a national security think-tank based in Arlington, VA.

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