Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Who Lost Iraq?

I love history. You can see events repeated over and over and over again and, literally, nobody learns a blessed thing. Every decade or so, Americans wonder "who lost (insert name of country)?"

Millions of words are written analyzing the question. Republicans always end up blaming traitorous Democrats while scholars note that the American side has corrupt officials, lost support of the public, and soldiers with no interest in dying for criminals they hate.

Who Lost China? (1950's)
Chiang Kai-shek and his wife.
When Japan invaded China, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek chose to ignore the Japanese and continue his war against Mao Zedong. After the fall of Shanghai and Nanjing, his own people concluded Chiang was an ally of Japan. It took rebellions by his own generals to change his focus to the Japanese invaders. Chiang believed in money first, fight later. Of the $100 million the US spent building air bases in China to fight Japan, more than half was siphoned off by Chiang and his warlord subordinates. FDR's nickname for Chiang was "Cash My Check." Chiang's soldiers were short of provisions and weapons because his generals were more interested in filling their Swiss bank accounts than caring for their men. When faced with numerically inferior Communist forces Chiang's armies ran away leading to the quick fall of his government.

Republicans had a simplistic answer to the question.  They blamed Communist infiltration of the State Department and Pentagon and, led by Sen. Joe McCarthy, began the great Red Scare of the 1950's.

Who Lost Cuba? (1960's)
ITT Corp. and US Ambassador Arthur Gardner gave Batista this solid gold telephone in 1957.
Cuba's murderous dictator, Fulgencio Batista, had friends in the United States. They included Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Santo Trafficante and other American mobsters. He got a cut of the take of their Havana casinos, brothels, and drug running. Batista allowed American corporations to exploit Cubans in exchange for hefty bribes. His secret police would kidnap, torture, and kill people at random to keep the rest of the population oppressed. Batista's army always outnumber the rebels but Batista was hated and his soldiers weren't willing to die to keep Coca-Cola's profits up.

Batista actually protected the small rebellion of Fidel Castro for years because it caused the United States to continue sending millions in foreign aid which Batista would transfer to his Swiss banks. When Batista fled Cuba in 1959 he took as much as $700 million with him.

Republicans continue to blame "liberals" in the State Department for losing Cuba by cutting off the bribes to Batista leading him to lose interest in staying in Cuba.

Who Lost Vietnam? (1970's)
America had every advantage during the Vietnam War. Our forces outnumbered the enemy by 4 to 1 and more. We had massive technological superiority. And the US, in its dumb pride, never lost a battle during the war. The governments of South Vietnam was a succession of corrupt thieves (Notice a trend there). When Nguyen Van Thieu evacuated Saigon he brought with him a "planeload of suitcases containing heavy metal" (i.e. hundreds of pounds of gold). South Vietnamese soldiers had no interest in fighting and dying (trend), that was what American servicemembers were for. Top general Duong Van Minh was described as a "a model of lethargy."

A different was the direct involvement of American troops, a dynamic to be repeated in Iraq. As in Iraq, US forces had little interest in understanding the Vietnamese as a people. We called them "gooks" just as soldiers later called Iraqis "haji." American troops feared that any Vietnamese could be with the Viet Cong and, like in Iraq, believed everyone was a potential enemy. As in Iraq, a counter-insurgency program was begun to "win the hearts and minds" of the Vietnamese that was a miserable failure because, while they appreciated getting stuff they hated that it came from foreign invaders who would also kill or interrogate and torture people.

Republicans, of course, called Democrats traitors for pulling out and if we had simply continued fighting for a few more decades victory would have been ours.

Who Lost Iran? (1980's)
The Shah of Iran
In 1953, the CIA initiated a coup that deposed the democratically elected government of Iran and imposed an absolute monarch on the country. He was a brutal dictator whose secret police (SAVAK) tortured and murdered citizens at will (see Batista above). He was an extravagant spender, in 1971 he spend $100 million of government funds celebrating his monarchy. The Shah was hated by his countrymen as was the United States for putting him in power. When the Shah became sickly revolution became inevitable.

Republicans blamed Democrats for betraying our vicious ally.

Who Lost Iraq?
Have you seen all the similarities? A corrupt regime more interested in pocketing American cash than fighting insurgents. A demoralized Iraqi army betrayed by its own generals that would rather run than fight. A clearly superior American military force that outnumbered the enemy by over 5 to 1, never lost a battle in the field but never won the "hearts and minds" of the people. Funny how killing and torturing people doesn't endear you to them.

Then we have a Republican party that believes if we only continued the war for a few more decades we would have won it all. And, as always, blame the Democrats.

The truth? None of these countries were ever ours to lose.

1 comment:

Katy Anders said...

It reminds me of the old 1991 SNL sketch in which Dana Carvey's George HW Bush says, "Iraq is not Vietnam. We have learned the lesson of Vietnam, which is 'Stay out of Vietnam.'"