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LEON: You Have the Watches, They Have the Time

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III | 1/15/2014, 3 p.m.
Wilmer Leon

“Time in jail and time in the jihad mean nothing to us…Your watch’s battery will run down, and its hands will stop. But our time in the struggle will never end. We will win.” — Mujahid Rahman, Afghan fighter, Newsweek, 2011

According to the BBC News and other sources, the U.S. installed and backed government in Iraq has lost control of the city of Fallujah to fighters aligned with al-Qaeda affiliated militants. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Residents and officials said U.S. weapons were pillaged from armories after fighters took control of Fallujah and skirmished with Iraqi government troops on the road to Baghdad.” 

After eight years of war, the lives of more than 4,000 American troops and approximately 134,000 Iraqi civilians; and close to $2 trillion in directly associated costs, armed rebels are regaining control of a major Iraqi city and using U.S. weapons to do it. Prominent Republicans are blaming the Obama administrations withdrawal from Iraq for these recent developments. Some have called it “predictable”

Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have jointly stated that these events are, “…as tragic as they were predictable.” They went on to accuse the Obama administration of misleading the American people into believing that Iraqi government officials wanted US forces out of their country. “The administration’s narrative that Iraq’s political leadership objected to U.S. forces remaining in Iraq after 2011 is patently false.”

McCain and Graham are correct, these events are, “…as tragic as they were predictable.” The problem with their assessment is that their “predictions” come ten years, thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars too late. President Obama merely extracted U.S. forces from the fool’s errand called “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” There was never a belief by any objective analyst that the U.S. could “win” a war in Iraq. The American people were never willing to invest the time, blood, and treasure necessary to “win” once American forces became bogged down in the predictable slog called Iraq. History is replete with examples of the difference in mindset between those who invade to steal resources and those who are willing to die to repel it. As was stated in Afghanistan applies to Iraq as well, “Americans have the watches; we have the time.”

McCain and Gram are correct; the American people were misled by a narrative on the issue of Iraq but not by the Obama administration. They were misled by former President Bush, VP Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld and a number of other officials in the Bush 41’ administration. Lest we forget the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon led by Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith from September 2002 to June 2003?

On March 19, 2003, U.S. forces began military operations in Iraq. President Bush stated: “The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.” According to Representative Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) report Iraq on the Record, Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, and Rumsfeld made 237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq in 125 public appearances. These appearances consisted of “…40 speeches, 26 press conferences and briefings, 53 interviews, 4 written statements, and 2 congressional testimonies. Most of the statements in the database (report) were misleading because they expressed certainty where none existed or failed to acknowledge the doubts of intelligence officials. Ten of the statements were simply false.”