Monday, December 18, 2006

Powell Says We're Losing the War Now

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose presentation to the UN Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003 helped provide the pretext needed to invade Iraq, now says "we are losing" the war.

Powell said he agreed with the assessment of the Iraq Study Group co-chairmen, Lee Hamilton and James Baker, that the situation in Iraq is "grave and deteriorating," and he also agreed with recently-confirmed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that the U.S. is not winning the war.

"So if it's grave and deteriorating and we're not winning, we are losing," Powell told Bob Schieffer in an exclusive interview. More here.

Of course, some of us have been saying that the war in Iraq has been lost for a long time. On March 30, 2003 -- eleven days after the initial invasion -- reported,

Whatever happens in the weeks ahead, George W. Bush has “lost” the war in Iraq. The only question now is how big a price America will pay, both in terms of battlefield casualties and political hatred swelling around the world.

That is the view slowly dawning on U.S. military analysts, who privately are asking whether the cost of ousting Saddam Hussein has grown so large that “victory” will constitute a strategic defeat of historic proportions. At best, even assuming Saddam’s ouster, the Bush administration may be looking at an indefinite period of governing something akin to a California-size Gaza Strip.

Despite some indications that they understand the war isn't going well, Powell and other establishment figures still refuse to acknowledge precisely how bad the situation in Iraq is, and continue to insist that "victory" is possible, whatever victory means. While admitting that the situation is "grave and deteriorating," there seems to be little appreciation within official Washington of exactly what sort of horror the U.S. has unleashed in Iraq, and exactly how grave the situation really is.

Discussing the recent Lancet study which estimated that 655,000 Iraqi civilians have died due to the U.S. invasion, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole painted a more accurate picture of the situation in Iraq. "The sheer horror of this war is something that we miss," he says.

When it's reported in the news that 50 bodies were found in Baghdad -- do you realize that there's actually a corpse patrol in the Iraqi police, that this is one of the duties if you're a policeman, that you get up in the morning and you go around looking for the bodies that are showing up in the streets that day? And the UN reports that these bodies show signs of drilling, of chemical exposure, of torture of various sorts, and then typically they have a bullet behind the ear, Mafia style.

And 50, 60 of them every day are showing up in Baghdad, and then more are showing up in places like Baqubah and elsewhere. And even in Mosul now you begin to see some of these statistics emerging. And this is the tip of the iceberg. It was thrown up against the Lancet report that, well, it implies that there are 500 deaths around the country a day from political and criminal violence. How could that be?

Well, I mean, the news reports that we're getting, if you consider them to be the tip of the iceberg, if you just think about, well, what are the forces that are producing these results on a daily basis, it's obvious that only a small number of the deaths that actually occur are being reported in the wire services. I see deaths reported in the Arabic press all the time that never surface in the English-language wire services. More at Democracy Now!

The full scale of the catastrophe in Iraq hasn't been reported in the American press. When the sheer horror of the war is acknowledged at all, it is primarily mentioned within the context of the need a new "way forward" in order to achieve U.S. objectives.

But the bottom line is that U.S. policy makers are responsible for a disaster of epic proportions, and the rest of the world may not be as forgiving. People may remember that according to the Nuremberg Principles, the initiator of a war of aggression is ultimately responsible for all the horrors that follow. As American prosecutor Robert Jackson stated at Nuremberg,

To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

As the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, it should be remembered that Colin Powell and other administration officials are ultimately responsible for it all.


Peter Dyer said...

Good quote from Nuremberg. Although the Nuremberg Trials and the Nuremberg Principles were an international effort, we Americans seem to have largely forgotten not only the trials but the critical role which we played. This is unfortunate because like so much of the rest of our “lost history” (to borrow Robert Parry’s phrase) the Nuremberg Trials and Principles could have done much to inform us during the series of events and decisions which led to the catastrophe in Iraq.
Though this proud chapter in our history and the important lessons it holds for the present and for the future are little known, much less discussed (by Americans) it’s important that we do what we can to raise our awareness of our own legacy. The more that Americans think and talk about Nuremberg, the more likely it is that those who began this conflict will be held personally accountable and the less likely it is that Americans or anybody else will launch an unprovoked war of aggression. And the better humanity’s chances will be of realizing the fundamental goal of the United Nations: a world without war. Thank you for your contribution to this important effort.

SirScud said...

Robert, Sam, Nat,
Many thanks for your unflappable adherence to the tenets of quality professional journalism and your principled stand against 'revisionist' history.
Although I agree with "peter dyer" that we need to 'remember' the lessons of history, the Nuremberg Trials were a flawed exercise in many instances, and did not establish a "principled" example for deterring future simular events. Virually none of the political and financial facilitators of the Nazis were even brought before the tribunal, and thus far have seldom been mentioned by the revisionists.
Many of those that involved us in this current adventure are decendant, philosophically and biologically, from the very people that avoided prosecution subsequent to WWII. This time, the bad actors must be tried for their crimes against humanity, as well as for their malfeasance in public office.

Nat Parry said...

I certainly agree, sirscud, that the Nuremberg Tribunal was flawed, and would say that its biggest flaw was that it could not serve as a universal legal precedent. In fact, I would say that all ad hoc tribunals are flawed, in that for one, they are inherently unfair and biased against the accused, and secondly that they are inherently limited in their scope, and by their nature, cannot be used as a standing deterrent.

International law is a nebulous concept, and at the moment is more of a promise than a reality. There is some exciting movement toward universal jurisdiction, particularly with the International Criminal Court, but the US of course is resistant and hostile to these institutions. Current US policy is working to roll back international law and places its emphasis on maintaining our freedom of action. That should change, and a good start would be to point out that our leaders are guilty of some of the same offenses as those who were tried at Nuremberg.