Really, I am not making this up. James A. Haught reports George W. Bush pitched Jacques Chirac to join in America's religious battle against Gog and Magog.
Incredibly, President George W. Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse.
Honest. This isn’t a joke. The president of the United States, in a top-secret phone call to a major European ally, asked for French troops to join American soldiers in attacking Iraq as a mission from God.
Now out of office, Chirac recounts that the American leader appealed to their “common faith” (Christianity) and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”
Truth is stranger than fiction.
But even if we accept the Bible as the inerrant word of God is Bush talking sense? Nope. Bred DeLong chides Bush for misinterpreting scriptures from Revelations 20.
That George W. Bush gets Revelations so wrong--you see, Gog and Magog do not arise until 1000 years after the "first resurrection." It won't be time for Gog and Magog to show until 1000 years after an angel comes down from heaven and binds the Devil and casts him into the bottomless pit, and those who were beheaded for their witness of Jesus are resurrected and reign with Christ for a millennium.
Sure enough, I went and looked at a bunch of parallel translations of the Revelations 20 and found this translation is pretty clear that Satan will have to spend 1000 years in prison before he gathers Gog and Magog together to make war.
7 And after the thousand years, Satan will be released from his prison, 8 and he will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war; the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9 They went up over the breadth of the earth, and surrounded the camp of the saints, and the beloved city. Fire came down out of heaven from God, and devoured them. 10 The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are also. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Bush was fighting the wrong war. Does anyone want to make the effort to read Revelations and tell us what Bush should have been fighting if not Gog and Magog? Maybe Obama is following scripture in Afghanistan? Nah, I doubt it.
Update: If we are to believe one Christian Pastor Ezekiel 38 has an assortment of nations including Libya and Iran attacking Israel but suffering defeat. It is God's will that these nations should attack. As I see it Dubya was trying to defeat God's will by undermining their ability to attack.
Chapter 38 begins with a prophecy against Gog. Verse 3 states, “I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” In a short explanation, the names mentioned are sons of Japheth (Noah’s son). They are also the brothers of Magog, all who settled to the north of present day Israel. Vss 5,6 “Persia, Cush, and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its’ troops- the many nations with you.” Cush is the upper Nile region (presumably northern Egypt ) and Put is modern day Libya. Gomer is another son of Japheth and Beth Togarmah is Gomer’s son. Historically, they are regarded to have originated north of the Black Sea . North of the Black Sea is present day Ukraine and the western most reaches of Russia. All put together, the nations described are currently Muslim nations that surround Israel from all sides.
Verse 8 proclaims that these nations will “invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate.” The land that is invaded can only appear to be Israel, a nation whose people have been gathering from all over the world for 50 years.
God has intended this invasion however. In vs. 16 he declares, “In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy though you before their eyes.” Verses 17-23 describe the exact catastrophes that will befall the invading nations. They are supernaturally destroyed and no harm is done to Israel. God will not let his people be harmed. The miraculous Six Day War of 1967 should have taught everyone that, but the world has turned a blind eye.
Go read Ezekiel 38 and see for yourself. How do you interpret it?
Douglas J. Feith, in a massive score-settling work, portrays an intelligence community and a State Department that repeatedly undermined plans he developed as undersecretary of defense for policy and conspired to undercut President Bush's policies.
So it wasn't Feith's fault and if only more had shared his faith in the rightness of his vision then the Iraq invasion have turned out well. Does he really believe this?
Bush didn't care about weapons inspection results. He had already made up his mind about the invasion December 2002 (and probably much sooner than that).
Among the disclosures made by Feith in "War and Decision," scheduled for release next month by HarperCollins, is Bush's declaration, at a Dec. 18, 2002, National Security Council meeting, that "war is inevitable." The statement came weeks before U.N. weapons inspectors reported their initial findings on Iraq and months before Bush delivered an ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Feith, who says he took notes at the meeting, registered it as a "momentous comment."
Look at it this way: We can't expect a high level of competence in government. Intelligence agencies will miss evidence that goes against what their masters want to hear. War planners do not know how to rule over foreign hostile cultures and religions. The lesson from Iraq is a traditional conservative lesson on the limits to the wise use of power.
Given that the Pentagon had the bulk of the assets going into Iraq and given that the military is responsible for battlefield intelligence Feith's attempts to shift the blame elsewhere are not credible.
Although he acknowledges "serious errors" in intelligence, policy and operational plans surrounding the invasion, Feith blames them on others outside the Pentagon and notes that "even the best planning" cannot avoid all problems in wartime. While he says the decision to invade was correct, he judges that the task of creating a viable and stable Iraqi government was poorly executed and remains "grimly incomplete."
Way back in 1996 Jewish neoconservatives with US citizenship intent on protecting Israel wrote a document for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu calling for Israel to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime. Among the signers of that document, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, was Douglas Feith along with other future Bush Administration members Richard Perle, David Wurmser (who holds dual US and Swiss citizenship and advised Dick Cheney), and others. These guys have been promoting bad ideas for a long time.
I was wrong because a) one critical element of the case for war was simply not there (whether lied about or misrepresented or incompetently judged or so riddled with "evidence" from the tortured or the criminal that the info was FUBAR); b) the president did mismanage the war so grotesquely that it clearly made the US less safe, empowered Iran, gave al Qaeda a new lease on life, opened the borders of Iraq to al Qaeda, permitted the ransacking and looting of much of Iraq, and led to tens of thousands of deaths of innocent civilians; c) I fatally misread the history of Iraq and did not fully appreciate the depth of the sectarian divides, the absence of any national identity that could effectively supersede tribal loyalties, and the trauma that Saddam's regime had imposed; d) I did not realize that the Bush administration would effectively suspend the Geneva Conventions in the war thus leading to the atrocities across the theater that did a great deal to undermine the moral basis for a just war.
There are some mistakes missing from that list. How about "I failed to appreciate how much Islam is inimical to liberal democracy". Iraq is not the only Arab country. The rest of them are not models of democratic freedom either. Did we really need to invade an Arab country to discover that liberal democracy doesn't go down well with Arabs?
Or how about "I greatly overestimated the competency of government while posing as a conservative". Iraq isn't just a story of mistakes by George W. Bush and the neocons. It is also a story of a lot of people who claim to see government as far less competent than the private sector putting faith in the ability of government bureaucracies. Why should we expect high competence from CIA nuclear weapons analysts? The most talented people are turned off from the idea of working for government, let alone from working for a highly secretive agency which offers oppressive working conditions. Why should we expect competence from a bunch of US occupation administration officials? I wouldn't expect a lot of competence from people willing to go work in Iraq for the US government, even less so when a major filter on who got chosen was the extent of their loyalty to Bush.
Sullivan correctly points out that even if Iraq eventually improves that doesn't justify invading Iraq or make invading Iraq a worthwhile undertaking.
Even if, in a decade or so, we see something approaching a normal society in Iraq (which would be the first time in centuries), I will still have been fantastically wrong. Just because in the very long run, it is possible that a decision made was retrospectively the right one, that was not the basis on which I supported the war and lambasted its opponents. I'm not going to pull that excuse. And the costs of the enterprise - both human and financial - continue to bear no rational relationship to the benefits we haven't even begun to see. To have embroiled ourselves in a large, open-ended, $3 trillion occupation of a country that is clearly no longer a country, and to trap the bulk of the military in that theater while threats proliferate globally, and to have no viable exit strategy ever: this is a colossal, historic error. And all this holds even if. it turns out in the very long run to have made Iraq a more normal society than it was under Saddam.
Even if (and this is still an unknown) we can bribe and bludgeon major Iraqi faction leaders into a sustained reduction in violence that doesn't make the invasion a good idea. There's no benefit accruing to America for invading Iraq. We would have been better off had we never invaded.
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kansas: Here in this Western outpost that serves as the intellectual center of the U.S. Army, two elite officers were deep in debate at lunch on a recent day over who bore more responsibility for mistakes in Iraq - the former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, or the generals who acquiesced to him.
"The secretary of defense is an easy target," argued one of the officers, Major Kareem Montague, 34, a Harvard graduate and a commander in the Third Infantry Division that was the first to reach Baghdad in the 2003 invasion. "It's easy to pick on the political appointee."
"But he's the one that's responsible," retorted Major Michael J. Zinno, 40, a military planner who worked at the headquarters of the Coalitional Provisional Authority, the former American civilian administration in Iraq.
The size of the initial invasion force should have been bigger assuming we should have done the invasion. But that's a big assumption. Also, we didn't just need a bigger invasion force. We really needed a far larger army to occupy Iraq. But to build up an army big enough for occupation was an obstacle to invasion that George W. Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Lewis Libby didn't want to deal with.
But the questions about the needed size of the military force in Iraq are a distraction from two far more important questions. First, should we have invaded in the first place? That's an easy question: No. We harmed and did not advance American interests by invading Iraq. Yet at the end of the article we find that these officers do not know whether the war should have been fought in the first place. We have tons of evidence with which to judge that question now. These officers are very disappointing.
Second, the biggest question we face today is whether we should pull out our forces. To put it another way: what justification is there for keeping soldiers in Iraq with about 100 dying per month and about 5 or 6 times that number injured? How are we being made safer by this? I think this war is worse than pointless. It does not make us safer. These officers should justify why the US military should be used or they should advocate for withdrawal.
Michael Ignatieff, a former Harvard political science professor and now deputy leader of the Liberal Party in the Canadian Parliament, discusses why so many members of the elite got it wrong by advocating the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president. But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion. Many of us believed, as an Iraqi exile friend told me the night the war started, that it was the only chance the members of his generation would have to live in freedom in their own country. How distant a dream that now seems.
Bush gets much more criticism for Iraq than a large number of other people who were just as supportive of this on-going debacle. A lot of people would rather direct their criticism at Bush for partisan reasons or because they don't want to admit their own errors. Kudos to Ignatieff for admitting how badly he got it wrong.
I started thinking the invasion was a bad idea when it became clear that the size of the invasion force seemed too small to occupy Iraq. Plus, I couldn't figure out how Saddam could have a substantial nuclear weapons development program more advanced than Iran's when Iran had far more money, engineers, scientists, and room for action. But I thought maybe our leaders knew somethings I didn't know. Among my lessons learned: No, our leaders don't know all that much. No, there's not much to the much vaunted Central Intelligence Agency. Sufficiently talented people do not want to work for the government. Yes, I should listen to my doubts. Also, question motives of people promoting agendas. Think of all the reasons why your interests and their interests differ.
Ignatieff believes you need to admit your mistakes.
Having left an academic post at Harvard in 2005 and returned home to Canada to enter political life, I keep revisiting the Iraq debacle, trying to understand exactly how the judgments I now have to make in the political arena need to improve on the ones I used to offer from the sidelines. I’ve learned that acquiring good judgment in politics starts with knowing when to admit your mistakes.
Ignatieff notes that some people (Greg Cochran comes to mind) predicted what would follow from an invasion. I think we should listen more to the people who make correct predictions. But I doubt any of the cable news channels give more time to the people who got Iraq right than they did before the invasion.
The people who truly showed good judgment on Iraq predicted the consequences that actually ensued but also rightly evaluated the motives that led to the action. They did not necessarily possess more knowledge than the rest of us.
Leave aside the people who are reflexively anti-war. They'll be wrong when the war is necessary and right when it is a dumb idea. Look at the people who tried to evaluate American national interest rationally. What they possessed was a far better understanding of what was knowledge and what wasn't knowledge. They had a better model of human nature (and, importantly, variations in human nature) and therefore a better model of what would take place as a result of an invasion of Iraq.
They labored, as everyone did, with the same faulty intelligence and lack of knowledge of Iraq’s fissured sectarian history. What they didn’t do was take wishes for reality. They didn’t suppose, as President Bush did, that because they believed in the integrity of their own motives everyone else in the region would believe in it, too. They didn’t suppose that a free state could arise on the foundations of 35 years of police terror. They didn’t suppose that America had the power to shape political outcomes in a faraway country of which most Americans knew little. They didn’t believe that because America defended human rights and freedom in Bosnia and Kosovo it had to be doing so in Iraq. They avoided all these mistakes.
He's misrepresenting the events in Bosnia and Kosovo. The US intervened in the Balkans in order to demonstrate to Muslims that we are not reflexively opposed to them in all circumstances. If Muslims produce more babies than an unimportant group like, say, Orthodox Christian Serbs then the US will sacrifice Serbian interests and territory to Muslims in order to try (in vain as it turns out) to win points with Muslims in the Middle East.
As for 35 years of police terror: Democracy isn't working in any Arab Muslim state. To attribute its failure in Iraq to 35 years of police state terror means that Ignatieff either still doesn't get it or doesn't want to say what he's really learned from Iraq. It is hard to tell which is the case. But my guess is he still doesn't understand since to understand the relevant facts in Iraq requires accepting taboo facts about human nature (e.g. group average differences in IQ and personality as well as the incompatibility between Islam and Western freedoms)..
We need a better way to keep track who gets stuff right in politics so that we know who to listen to on future issues.
Ahmad Chalabi, once the Iraqi exile pied piper of neoconservative war hawks in Washington DC, has lost power in Iraq and moved to his Mayfair flat in London where a reporter for the New York Times interviewed him.
He is here in London, his longtime home in exile, temporarily, he says, taking his first vacation in five years. At lunch at a nearby restaurant an hour before, he ordered the sea bass wrapped in a banana leaf. He walks the streets unattended by armed guards.
But the interlude, Chalabi says, is just that, a passing thing. His doubters will come back to him; they always have. As ever, he wears a jester’s smile, wide and blank, a mask that has carried him through crises of the first world and the third. Still, a touch of bitterness can creep into Chalabi’s voice, a hint that he has concluded that his time has come and gone. Indeed, even for a man as vain and resilient as Chalabi, his present predicament stands too large to go unacknowledged. Once Iraq’s anointed leader — anointed by the Americans — Chalabi, at age 62, is without a job, spurned by the very colleagues whose ascension he engineered. His benefactors in the White House and in the Pentagon, who once gobbled up whatever half-baked intelligence Chalabi offered, now regard him as undependable and — worse — safely ignored. Chalabi’s life work, an Iraq liberated from Saddam Hussein, a modern and democratic Iraq, is spiraling toward disintegration. Indeed, for many in the West, Chalabi has become the personification of all that has gone wrong in Iraq: the lies, the arrogance, the occupation as disaster.“The real culprit in all this is Wolfowitz,” Chalabi says, referring to his erstwhile backer, the former deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz. “They chickened out. The Pentagon guys chickened out.”
Chalabi still considers Wolfowitz a friend, so he proceeds carefully. America’s big mistake, Chalabi maintains, was in failing to step out of the way after Hussein’s downfall and let the Iraqis take charge. The Iraqis, not the Americans, should have been allowed to take over immediately — the people who knew the country, who spoke the language and, most important, who could take responsibility for the chaos that was unfolding in the streets. An Iraqi government could have acted harshly, even brutally, to regain control of the place, and the Iraqis would have been without a foreigner to blame. They would have appreciated the firm hand. There would have been no guerrilla insurgency or, if there was, a small one that the new Iraqi government could have ferreted out and crushed on its own. An Iraqi leadership would have brought Moktada al-Sadr, the populist cleric, into the government and house-trained him. The Americans, in all likelihood, could have gone home. They certainly would have been home by now.
Is his argument plausible? We could have invaded, put the exile Iraqis in charge with lots of money, and then promised to leave in, say, 9 months? We certainly could have physically done this. Would that have motivated the Shias to band together to build up enough forces to keep the Sunnis from taking over? Then we could have just left regardless of the level of violence.
But would an invasion followed by a fast exit have provided the Bush Administration and the neocons enough time to play out their fantasy of setting up a democracy as the panacea to solve all ills? No, it would have been too messy by their then standards of what is an acceptable level of violence.
But wait, Wolfowitz says he wanted a faster turning over of power to the Iraqis but other people in the Bush Administration insisted upon a lengthy formal occupation instead.
Chalabi’s notion — that an Iraqi government, as opposed to an American one, could have saved the great experiment — has become one of the arguments put forth by the war’s proponents in the just-beginning debate over who lost Iraq. At best, it’s improbable: Chalabi is essentially arguing that a handful of Iraqi exiles, some of whom had not lived in the country in decades, could have put together a government and quelled the chaos that quickly engulfed the country after Hussein’s regime collapsed. They could have done this, presumably, without an army (which most wanted to dissolve) and without a police force (which was riddled with Baathists).
In fact, the Americans considered the idea and dismissed it. (But not, Wolfowitz insists, because of him. His longtime aide, Kevin Kellems, said that Wolfowitz favored turning over power “as rapidly as possible to duly elected Iraqi authorities.”) The Bush administration decided to go to the United Nations and have the American role in Iraq formally described as that of an “occupying power,” a step that no Iraqi, not even the lowliest tea seller, failed to notice. They appointed L. Paul Bremer III as viceroy. Instead of empowering Iraqis, Bremer set up an advisory panel of Iraqis — one that included Chalabi — that had no power at all. The warmth that many ordinary Iraqis felt for the Americans quickly ebbed away. It’s not clear that the Americans had any other choice. But here in his London parlor, Chalabi is now contending that excluding Iraqis was the Americans’ fatal mistake.
My view of the rapid withdrawal idea: It was a good idea then. It is a good idea now. Better late than never. Give those Shia Iraqi freedom fighters the chance to stand up and fight on their own for their liberal democratic Jeffersonian free society against those perfidious anti-democratic Sunnis. Never mind that Islam is an enemy of liberal democracy. Have liberal/neocon irrational unempirical faith in the universal desire for freedom and democracy.
One of the problems we've faced with Iraq has been the unwillingness of our elites to accept that things are going to get worse whether we leave or stay. Attempts to achieve better outcomes inevitably lead to worsening conditions. Attempts to stave off full scale civil war send us down the road of gradually intensifying civil war.
Western nations no longer have the stomach to rule an occupied country with the level of brutality needed to suppress rebellions of the sort that Arabs carry out. Saddam could rule Iraq because he was wiling to kill whole extended families if just one person stepped out of line. In a way his style of rule was more humane because while he occasionally killed whole families - many of whose members were not involved in plots against his regime - his very willingness to be that brutal greatly reduced the frequency of rebellion and therefore reduced the death toll from insurgencies.
Given that we aren't going to rule Iraq with the brutality that is required we really should just leave. We always could invade again if some part of Iraq becomes a terrrorist training center ala Afghanistan under the Taliban. But my guess is even that won't be necessary. We aren't going to turn the Iraqis into Jeffersonian democrats. Time to go.
Update: In case you aren't a long time reader of ParaPundit and might have missed the sarcasm in the phrase "Shia Iraqi freedom fighters": My point here is that once the decision to invade Iraq was made we would have been better off if Chalabi the neocon pied piper had managed to convince all the neocons in the Bush Administration that he could totally handle post-war rule in Iraq and that he, virtuous honest freedom lover that he is, would see it it that Iraq became a liberal democracy.
If the neocons could have been convinced that US troops did not need to stick around and if we'd therefore pulled out of Iraq a few months after invading and left Chalabi in charge of a Shia-dominated government then we could have been spared the death of thousands of soldiers and the maiming of tens of thousands as well as hundreds of billions of dollars. If only Chalabi had been more persuasive and if the neocons could have accepted Chalabi's exile group the Iraqi National Congress as the vanguard of liberal democracy in Iraq we would have been better off. Granted, Iraq still would have gone to hell in a handbasket. But not in our handbasket.