Gimme A Couple Years To Say My Prayers


Two mortar rounds hit a U.S. military post in eastern Baghdad on Sunday, setting it on fire, police and witnesses said. A large cloud of black smoke was seen rising above Baladiyat, a predominantly Shiite area of capital, at about 3 p.m.


We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.

It occurred to me this weekend, listening to family and others talk about the war, that really what we’re doing now as a country is looking for some answer that doesn’t make us wrong, doesn’t make us assholes, doesn’t make us the people who screwed this up so catastrophically that there’s no way out.

You see that with McCain and his troop plans, you see it with various Bush officials and their whole “we have to give it time, just like Vietnam” schtick (which, way to lose the five people you still had on this issue, Genius McMensa), and you see that with every single person around the Thanksgiving table that talks about how “we can’t leave now, it’ll just turn into chaos.” And I think the liberal war supporters are most swayed by the last argument, because c’mon, they clung so desperately to their hope that Bush wouldn’t cock this up, plus they were the ones screaming about US sanctions and repression in the Middle East long before we needed those excuses to blow some stuff up.

Things will be horrible if we leave. The answer to that last is always, unequivocably yes, yes, it will. Iraq will continue to be chaos, civil war, a breeding ground for hatred of America and a place of misery for those who live there. When the bough breaks, the cradle of civilization will fall. It’s time to stop dancing around that and just admit it. If we leave, it will be awful. For us, for them, for everyone.


We lost this war three weeks after the invasion; we lost this war two and a half years ago at least. Those of you who read this blog just to be pissed off and think I take some pleasure in that can just go fuck off, you don’t know how much I wanted to be wrong about the sick feeling in my gut at seeing the looting start. We lost this war before it even began, with the piss-poor excuses for planning that gave us the Ballad of Dougie Feith and His Sidekick Ahmed Chalabi, that gave us Curveball and WMDs and letting libraries burn. We lost this war when we marched in with our own ideas about how to run Iraq and as much as said to the locals, fuck off now, let us play with our new toy. We lost this war long ago, while the majority of Americans were still waving flags and singing “we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.” The only way to fix it, the only way to win, is to build ourselves a time machine and go back and not invade in the first place.

What’s more, I think the people saying we can’t abandon the Iraqi people, I think they know it, too. I think deep down they know there’s no way this is going to end well, considering how it began. I think deep down they know there’s no way to turn this around, but they don’t want to look at it yet, stare themselves in the face, see how completely and utterly taken they got. Take responsibility for the collective American failure. Take the weight of that on their souls.

I do get it: It’s not wrong to want the best. But it is selfish and small and downright immoral to allow your wanting the best to put others in danger when you know your delusions are just that. You have the right to pretend. You don’t have the right to ask someone to die for your puppet show. You don’t have the right to keep thinking it’ll get better, not when you know it won’t.

And so the answer to the statement, the desperate excuse, the Hail Mary: “We can’t just leave, it’ll be chaos.”

Yes. Yes, it will.


26 thoughts on “Gimme A Couple Years To Say My Prayers

  1. “Do you have any suggestions on how I as John Q Public can help force this into court?”
    The main thing we can do now is DONATE TO CENTER FOR CONTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, write a letter to the German Prosecutor, and get your friends to watch the Karpinski testimony, which is VERY damning to Rumsfeld (and Bush).
    — Paul in LA

  2. That young soldier in the photo doesn’t look old enough–
    It’s heartbreaking to think of what his elders are putting him through.

  3. There is a game I play, called Go, or Wei-Qi if you prefer. An interesting game with far more strategy than “capture the king/find the pony and win.” All too often weaker players reach a point which stronger players call “just fighting,” which means pointlessly thrashing about and delaying the defeat that all knowlegable observers see as inevitable. Bush and Co. are very weak players who are not even looking at the board to read the score.

  4. Couldn’t agree with you more Paul. Do you have any suggestions on how I as John Q Public can help force this into court?
    Hopefully a democratic congress will take on the fortitude to do some investigating. But with only 2 years left on Bush, and knowing that an impeachment proceeding would take at least a year, I’m doubtful that they would spend the time and effort.
    On the world stage, it would take either the UN / Hague / other warcrimes body to dare to stand up to the USA. -or- someone with sufficient cause would have to file suit. Either way, its a tremendous political risk that is strictly no-win/no-win.
    So how can we force this into court?

  5. A., you’re spot on here, this war was lost when the plans for it were laid. And your title for this piece is particularly apt, as it will be two years of prayers at least, (see Atrios).

  6. i don’t think it was even ‘good intentions’. i think the PNAC crowd wanted a mess.
    they lost their grove when the USSR disolved. they needed a new mess.
    even throwing all of them(virgins) at iWaq(volcano) will even the playing field.

  7. Here’s a plan, maybe the Iraqis would go for it:
    Gather up all the neocons, the WH and Pentagon war criminals, and their dittohead supporters, send them on a one-way trip to the Green Zone.
    Pull out the US military presence
    and call it even?

  8. Let us recast the cliche: “The road to Hell is paved with honorable intentions.”
    Because here’s the rub:
    I do get it: It’s not wrong to want the best. But it is selfish and small and downright immoral to allow your wanting the best to put others in danger when you know your delusions are just that. You have the right to pretend. You don’t have the right to ask someone to die for your puppet show. You don’t have the right to keep thinking it’ll get better, not when you know it won’t.
    It’s never even this simple. “It’s not wrong to want the best.” Except when “the best” means what’s best for me, at the expense of you. And when does that not happen, except in a situation of absolute humility, engaged in by…me? It is just as selfish and immoral to allow your wantings to put others in danger even if you don’t realize you are delusional. This isn’t a matter of will, it’s a question of consequence. Will just makes it worse, and who among us really doubt that Bush and Cheney and Rummy don’t give a wet snap for consequences that don’t directly affect them? As Nora Ephron [] pointed out, Rummy could sleep well at night reflecting on the chaos he unleashed in Iraq, the torture he authorized. What upset him was being fired.
    It’s simpler than this, but never seen as this simple: you dont’ have the right to ask someone else to die. Period. And you don’t have the right to keep thinking “it” will get better. Period.
    You make it better. Not some system, some ideology, some theory of governance or ethics or belief. You. Period.

  9. What else can you say? You can’t unshit the bed.
    There is no good way out, thats why many thought we ought not do it in the first place.
    Its like a drunk college student getting a tatoo on impulse.You just did that, dude. You’re fucked. Deal with the consequences.
    Good insight in this post: all the bloviating is a search for a way that this wasn’t a bad decision.
    In winter of 05 I talked to a guy I know who still supported the war. He grilled me on what I thought should happen. “You can’t unshit the bed”, was all I could say. Pressed about how we would keep stability if the US leaves, I offed my ‘you can’t unshit the bed’ analogy:
    You got in your car all liquored up. I said ‘dude, don’t drive drunk, you’re gonna get fucked up’. You did it anyways, i was a pussy, real men drive drunk. Sure ‘nough, you get busted and call me from jail:’dude, I got popped for DUI, what’s your plan to fix it?’. You can’t unshit the bed.

  10. “But, the really sick part is that, just as the ordinary Germans lowered their eyes so as not to see what their government was doing in their name, we Americans have been doing the same.”
    YOU Americans may have been doing the same — I dispute that as a generality. Americans were lied to expertly, with the full-cooperation of network media.
    In Los Angeles, we have had perhaps 100 major protests. Personally, I have protested over 400 times since 2001.
    And we are not done. I know perhaps a hundred people personally who are making it their duty of the next ten years to bring these bastards to JUSTICE. Join us.
    “We, too, are guilty. Perhaps we could have pled temporary insanity before 2004, but once we reelected Bush as president we joined in his crimes.”
    GFH Bush did NOT win in 2004. We had a continuation of a vote-fraud coup. Even if you accept that illegal count, you can still only blame 1/2 of America for that result (I believe it was significantly less than 1/2).
    “There ARE plenty of “rational” people around who would argue… (3) there is no legal liability for any alleged war crimes”
    Name one. Ask them if there is any civil liability for publishing Hussein’s nuclear bomb plans on the Internet in Arabic. Ask them if there is any criminal liability for spreading 400 tons of high-explosives to our enemies. Ask them about the taking of hostages, including minors, and about torture. Because when the Supreme Court was asked about torture, they said ‘Ahem, Common Article 3 is still in effect, and what you’re doing is illegal.’
    The warcrimes issues aren’t hard to argue — but that’s IN A COURT OF LAW. All of this ‘special pleading,’ this ‘guilty-not guilty’ shit is MEANINGLESS outside of that proper venue. Your point may be that there are people who will defend this policy and its actions. Those people are NOT rational, or if they are, then they are not acquainted with the law.
    — Paul in LA

  11. I’d agree that no restitution is adequate (I killed your parents and raped your sister. Here’s $100.) and our continued dominance of the situation will make the situation worse (especially considering how dense we have been so far and listening to tonight’s 60 Minutes with our General still making the guts and glory statements).
    My guess is that we need to turn the situation over to someone else (but providing the resources for them to do the job). Even the unthinkable of putting our troops under the command of a real government.
    Based on the history, I’m also inclined to guess that a certain autonomy will have to be granted to each of the different regions of Iraq. Maybe they can do it as a confederacy? But whatever, it can’t be by fiat of the USA – its at the point that we couldn’t be a crossing guard.

  12. We lost this war when the Supremes gave Bushie the job.
    America lost a helluva lot that day, and so did Iraq.

  13. In short, we’ve broken it so we have a responsibility to find someone to make adequte restitution
    I agree with you. But I’m not sure there is anyone that can make adequate restitution. I think we’ve passed that point.
    The question on the table is whether our troops staying in country contributes towards restitution, or if it just makes things worse.
    I think the evidence points towards the latter, but if it did point toward the former then I think our troops would have to stay — regardless of how painful it is for our country.

  14. “There could hardly be a rational person who would deny that Bush and his cohorts are guilty of war crimes, and should be prosecuted for them.”
    That’s precisely my point anonymous. There ARE plenty of “rational” people around who would argue at length that (a)the invasion was legal; and (b) deaths and atrocities that subsequently occured were not the responsibility of the US leadership, because (1)international law supported the invasion of Iraq; (2) the “evidence” of WMDs provided the moral justification; (3) there is no legal liability for any alleged war crimes and (4) US leaders acted with good faith and “sincerity” covers a multitude of sins.
    This barrage of legal and moral dishonesties are on a par with “the rape victim deserved it – you can’t prove anything – even if I did it I’m a well intentioned civic leader.”
    We need to yell “war crimes” just as we yell “rape”. Loudly and insistently. When the public, the media and Congress start admitting this issue then progress can be made. And your suggestion that all profits and assets stolen from Iraq should be returned to them is an excellent one.

  15. the mess started in 2000.
    georgie can have no hand in the conclusion.
    the best answer is to hand iWaq off to the U.N. with a blank check.

  16. There could hardly be a rational person who would deny that Bush and his cohorts are guilty of war crimes, and should be prosecuted for them. But, the really sick part is that, just as the ordinary Germans lowered their eyes so as not to see what their government was doing in their name, we Americans have been doing the same. We, too, are guilty. Perhaps we could have pled temporary insanity before 2004, but once we reelected Bush as president we joined in his crimes.
    Our just punishment, and this is only because you cannot impose severe punishments on all citizens of any country, is to have to suffer by paying whatever monetary costs are required to make Iraq whole again. This punishment has to include not allowing one single American to make a profit from this project. In fact we will be getting by with a lot if there is no embargo on our goods.
    I have been thinking a lot about this lately. As a result I am just about resigned to our country suffering another great depression as a consequence of our malfeasance.

  17. The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, declared explicitly that the US-led war on Iraq was illegal. On 15 Jan 2003 the International Commission of International Law Jurists (a body with UN Consultative status), provided an open letter to all members of the Security Council that bore the signatures of hundreds of senior jurists in support of the proposition that the Iraq war was illegal as a matter of international law. Similar notices were provided by legal experts in many countries prior to the Iraq invasion.
    Professor Donald Rothwell, Professor of International Law at Sydney University, gave a detailed analysis in the Sydney Morning Herald (June 3, 2004) of the legal obligations of Australia and the USA as occupying powers in Iraq under the Geneva Convention. Quite aside from any question of the act of invasion of Iraq, his view was that the US, UK and Australia had a clear legal obligation to ensure the safety of civilians and prisoners as part an occupying force. According to Prof.Rothwell, any failure to carry out those duties constituted prosecutable war crimes. Put simply, if you invade a country you are legally required to ensure sufficient troops for the safety of the citizens.
    Official advice from senior US military leaders such as Gen. Anthony Zinni to President Bush prior to the invasion was that he would need at least 400,000 troops to stabilize Iraq. That advice was ignored. Further, the legal responsibilities of the occupying powers were not reduced by the installation of the so-called Interim Government of Iraq during the summer of 2004. Under the laws of war, the United States government remained fully accountable for the behavior of its puppet government, especially where the mechanisms for them to independantly provide effective national security were absent.
    There is a strong body of evidence in support of the claim that the war in Iraq was illegal under international law and that the invasion, the civilian deaths that arose from the shortage of troops necessary to ensure order, and the incidents of torture of prisoners that occurred under the occupying forces, all constitute prosecutable war crimes. Bush cannot legislate to remove his criminal culpability under both US and international law. Neither can Blair or Howard. 655,000 dead Iraqis are entitled to justice.

  18. “I think the people saying we can’t abandon the Iraqi people…”
    what idiocy people who say we can’t abandon the Iraqi people.
    We’ve already ravaged them.
    We destroyed their nation, their society without having a clue or concern as to who they are or what they want.
    We’d only be doing tham a favor by abandoning them – this much love, no one could take.

  19. Question as an aside as its a matter of semantics.
    Under the current definition of “Civil War” which conveniently lets Shrub say that there isn’t Civil War – would the late great War of Northern Agression (that is the great unpleasantness of the 1860’s ) make the definition for Civil War?

  20. Like 160 Shiite civilians killed, 250 + wounded –in one day – this week in Sadr City isn’t chaos?
    Oh, I forgot… that was the Dems fault, right?
    There aren’t enough prayers in the world

  21. To start with, there are a long list of items that I think we’d agree on: Thanks to the great USA, Iraq is at open war. This goes back years as we installed the Shah, then the Saddam (not to mention drew the boundaries post-WWII). I was and am solidly against the invasion (without the approval of the UN, drawn on fabricated evidence of WMDs and very probably a fight for control of oil). In the meantime, North Korea and Iran have gained in the weapons department and those who hated us before have even more reason to hate us more (and march into the nearest Al Quaidah recruitment center). This, as only part of “restoring dignity to the Whitehouse” has decimated our foreign relations in ways which will take decades to mend. It has taken a surplus and made an enormous deficit as well as crippled our future generations due to the stress on our military personnel. Throwing a bigger and better military at the problem will only incite the incident further. I think you would agree with me that Shrub et al. belong in the front of impeachment / treason proceedings at home and war crime tribunals at the Hague.
    But I cannot agree with an ethic that says to walk away and pretend that we didn’t have anything to do with the problem. (I’ve seen that way too often with corporations who would destroy a pristine area and say it isn’t avoidable.
    In a parallel situation, Ijust saw a news blurb yesterday that a maker of genetically modified rice is being sued as the genetically modified escaped to the nearby non-modified crops. As a result, many countries closed their borders to importing our rice. The company is claiming that the escape was an “act of God” / unavoidable, and therefore they are not liable. I see this as parrallel as the company did something that had easily foreseable adverse contingencies, they did it anyway, they did it over the protests of others (while poo-pooing the idea that these contingencies were at all likely), and then when the easily forseeable became fact, they claim a lack of responsibility as it was an “Act of God” (cf. Iraqis just didn’t appreciate what we’re giving them).
    No. We broke it and now we need to figure out how to pay our dues. Can we bring in someone else to correct the problem (i.e. we can’t fix it but we know who can)? Could we possibly start by abandoning our hubris that the Iraqi society is exactly like us, likes Pepperoni Pizza like we do, etc.
    Could we possibly do it in a way that is geared to the good of the Iraqi people AND TOTALLY DISREGARD how we can shill under-the-table money to our cronies?
    In short, we’ve broken it so we have a responsibility to find someone to make adequte restitution. But I also seriously doubt that Shrub has any kind of fortitude or brains to do anything other than to throw more servicemen at it as cannon fodder.

  22. I am appalled daily by the great stinking sin that is our nations excursion into Iraq. I am numb with the disgust I feel. Bush was always an arrogant and heartless fool, but now he has added war criminal to his dismal resume. And I fear we, as a nation, must share that searing brand. We will long pay for this, just as the Iraqi people pay now. The lies, the arrogance, the heartless wasting of human lives and treasure is astounding. Blood drips from Bush’s hands, and his supporters as well. May God have mercy on us.

    If just one person could make a cogent argument, grounded in reality and based on empirical fact, that the Iraqis are better off with us there than with us gone, then I’d say we owed it to them to stay. We broke their country into pieces thru our arrogance and our stupidity and if our staying was in fact making life a teeny bit better for them, then we would have no choice but to stay — regardless of the cost to ourselves. We brought it on ourselves.
    But I don’t think anyone can make that argument. I don’t think Iraqis are better off with us there and may be worse off. They’re certainly much worse off than they were before we invaded, but there’s nothing we can do about that now — except pay the total cost of reconstruction, if the country ever gets to a point where reconstruction is possible.
    I don’t think we’re going to do that though.
    As a society we owe a huge moral debt to the Iraqis and a karmic debt to the universe, and I shudder to imagine what payback will be.

  24. We have not begun to reap the whirlwind for the horrible crime of destroying the lives of millions of people. Not even hardly. And of course the newly elected Democrats are mostly buying into the madness, so they’re no help. The election was a truly sick joke in that regard, for all the rah-rah bullshit and ebullience over a Democratic victory.
    The die was cast when Bush invaded. And there are TWO YEARS of criminal incompetence ahead of us. Who gives a damn about the election of 2008? It’ll matter even less than the one we just had. My greatest fear is that it isn’t just the neocons, Bush, and the USA that are going down. It’s something much larger. We all need to find new ways to live, if we can, and 99 percent of us can’t (or won’t). Strange times, indeed, for who can believe that virtually everything we’ve learned is wrong?
    It’s come down to finding a quiet place in the heart from which to look out on my remaining years, so I can live life to the fullest while that’s still possible. I think for me the answer is to stop visiting political blogs, stop commenting, and stop writing about current events completely. I’m just about there.

  25. We lost this war the second Shrubco started it. Smash and grabs followed by murderous colonial occupations simply aren’t winnable anymore, short of wholesale genocide.
    Worst. Foreign. Policy. Decision. Ever.

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