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Jeb Bush got it wrong

Posted on August 31st, 2015 in Politics by Robert Miller
Hilary Clinton

Hilary Clinton

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush

Recently Jeb Bush criticized Hilary Clinton by claiming her actions as Secretary of State in 2007, led directly to the formation of ISIS (ISIL, Daesh). In his criticism he boldly stated that it was interruption of the surge in 2007 that led to the formation if ISIS. If this strikes you as not quite right, that you have a vague feeling that Jeb Bush fell a little short of the mark, then join the majority of your countrymen who are similarly puzzled, but left in a daze by the poor reporting of facts related to the details about our invasion of Iraq in 2003. The mainstream press is nothing more than a propaganda machine for our military adventures and they do a disservice to all of us by their shoddy work.

The single best person available to evaluate the facts around this issue is Juan Cole from the University of Michigan, one of our foremost experts on the Middle East. Juan obligingly stepped up to the plate and delivered a retort. In an article published in Truthdig, entitled “Memo to Jeb Bush: It Was W’s Surge That Created Islamic State, Not Hillary.” As Juan Cole points out, “every time he [Jeb Bush] mentions Iraq, he loses more votes.” He probably got that information from one of his brothers advisers, many of whom are on his election team, including Paul Wolfowitz, who can’t get anything right (Wolfowitz was the one who testified before congress, in part to justify our invasion of Iraq, by suggesting that Iraq did not have a history of sectarian violence).

Here is a summary of what Juan Cole says about the situation: Jeb Bush claimed that it was the “surge” that was pointing the way to success in Iraq and when Obama (and Hilary Clinton) started the withdrawal in 2011, killing the “surge,” and voila, ISIS was created. The truth is just the opposite: When Nouri-al-Maliki was installed as Prime Minister of Iraq in 2006, no one in the Bush administration knew quite what they were getting. Al-Maliki belonged to the Da`wa party, which is a fanatical Shiite group that wanted a Shiite dominated Iraq, and al-Maliki was going to give it to them. Al-Maliki viewed the Sunnis as either Baathists or al-Qaeda. W liked al-Maliki so much that the two shared a weekly video conference for the rest of Bush’s presidency. When Bush’s advisers warned him that al-Maliki was too secterian in his leadership, Bush insisted in keeping him in place as the PM. In the summer of 2006 during Israel’s attack on Lebanon, al-Maliki came to Washington where congressmen demanded that he denounce Hizbullah, not knowing that al-Maliki was actually in favor of the group and was probably at least partially responsible for its formation.

Now enter Gen. David Petraeus, who considered himself to have expertise in counter-insurgency. He thought he could pacify Baghdad and al-Anbar province with about 30,000 additional troops. Because “troop escalation” had such a bad name, associated with Gen. Westmoreland in Vietnman, the Bush team came up with the name “surge.” So in the late fall of 2006, Petraeus went to al-Maliki and said he wanted to move on the Shiite militias and Sunni al-Qaeda. But al-Maliki said the the Shiite militias were not the problem, that the real problem was with the radical Sunnis. Thus Petraeus was asked to defeat and disarm the Sunnis and once that threat was gone, al-Maliki would go to his own people, the fundamentalist Shiites, and ask them to lay down their arms. Petraeus was not in a position to argue with al-Maliki. So he went to work in Baghdad, targeting Sunni neighborhoods, defeating them and disarming them.

  • “In the meantime Baghdad was in the midst of a Sunni-Shiite civil war started when al-Qaeda blew up the Shiite shrine, the Golden Dome in Samarra. At night, Shiite militias went into the disarmed Sunni neighborhoods and ethnically cleansed them. Juan Cole points out that “UCLA’s Geography Department looked at satellite photos of ambient light in late 2007 and discovered that West Baghdad (a Sunni area) was completely dark at night. Nice house, nobody home. Under Petraeus’s surge and disarming of the Sunnis Baghdad was turned into a Shiite city. When Bush invaded it had been perhaps 55% Shiite. By 2008 it was probably 80% Shiite. Baghdad is a symbolic capital going back to the Abbasid caliphate so the Sunnis sort of minded losing it that way.”
  • “Petraeus’s predecessors had already started a parallel program that he picked up on of paying some Sunnis (Awakening Councils) to fight al-Qaeda.  Especially in al-Anbar Province, where tribal people hated the fundamentalists, that strategy bore some fruit and al-Qaeda was pushed back.”
  • “But al-Maliki did not want to see the Sunnis armed.  So as the US started withdrawing under W. (yes, Jeb), it put pressure on al-Maliki to hire the 100,000 members of the Awakening Councils into the police and army.  Al-Maliki in the end took about 17,000 of them.  He left the others twisting in the wind with a big red X on their backs.  Since they had fought al-Qaeda and now had no US or Iraqi government backing, many were assassinated.  Al-Maliki even prosecuted some of them for deeds done before they turned on al-Qaeda.
  • “Ma[n]y of the 83,000 Awakening Council members who no longer got a US stipend of $300 a month and were cut off by al-Maliki had not choice but gradually to drift back into al-Qaeda.  In the meantime, the 800,000 Sunni Arabs ethnically cleansed from Baghdad had lost everything and were refugees and increasingly radicalized.”
  • “So when Abu Omar al-Baghdadi changed al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia into the Islamic State of Iraq he found many willing recruits, and the organization grew in strength and influence.”
  • “Because, Jeb, of the Surge.  Not to mention the US invasion and occupation in the first place, and the backing of al-Maliki.””Hillary didn’t build that.”

So there you have it, it was Petraus’s surge that led directly to ISIS and Jeb Bush got it completely backwards. What else do you expect from Republican leadership.

Here of course is the most sobering lesson of all. You can be certain that Jeb Bush does not read Juan Cole—-he has probably never heard of him. So he is free to continue to assert this nonsense despite its lack of merit. And you know what Republicans say—-if you repeat a falsehood many times it begins to take on the veneer of truth. That is the sad story of American politics today—-no press members that are willing to ask the tough questions of political pundits.



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