Fun with James Goldsborough

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on July 9, 2009

Former Union-Tribune columnist James Goldsborough now writes occasionally for the non-profit, but his rhetoric and fact-checking abilities (or lack thereof) haven't changed.

As U.S. combat troops finished their withdrawal from Iraqi cities last month, the U.S. war in Iraq began its endgame, reminding us of the endgame in Vietnam, which ended the war for us, not for the Vietnamese. This much is certain: Six years after George W. Bush announced "mission accomplished," it is anything but accomplished.

This war, launched in illegal and dishonest circumstances known now by heart, has had debilitating consequences for America and the world. For America, the war’s tremendous draining of resources -- somewhere between $2 trillion and $3 trillion when all is added up, accompanied by Bush’s unconscionable wartime tax cut -- played the primary role in turning a $500 billion federal surplus into a $1.8 trillion deficit.

First, definitions: A war authorized by Congress, as this one was, cannot be illegal -- whatever Goldsborough would like to believe.

Second, his math is crap. According to the National Priorities Project -- a left-wing group -- the total cost of the Iraq war as of this writing is $685 Billion. So, the number is going to triple in the year or two of heavily scaled-back operations during President Obama's term?

When we left Vietnam the same thing happened as will happen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Call it the lessons of history: a civil war is fought out, the stronger side wins and peace is made. The only difference between Vietnam today and Vietnam had we never been there is 3 million dead Vietnamese and 60,000 dead Americans. And those figures do not include the wounded, whose lives in many cases were as destroyed as if they had been killed.

When we leave Iraq the same dynamic will exist as before we arrived. There will be three groups, Sunnis, Shias and Kurds, fighting for power, and question is -- will it be military or a civil combat, one fought on the field of battle or the field of politics? One thing is certain: The U.S. presence has strengthened the group most hostile to America, the Shias, the group closest to Iran, the nation that most benefited from Bush’s war.
Strengthening the Shias and Iran and weakening secular Iraqis was the worst of many Bush miscalculations and indicates inevitable conflict when U.S. troops are gone.

We did such a good job of strengthening the Shias and Iran that the latter has undergone weeks of turmoil. Some have suggested that Shia pilgrims from Iran to holy cities in southern Iraq have been influenced by seeing real democracy in that country.

Nothing in the Iraq war went as we expected, which is why nothing in the future will go as we expect. The lessons of history, those ignored by Bush, tell us that in a war such as Iraq, the occupied nation will revert to what it was before the occupation. A colonizer imposes his peace, but must stay in place to assure it.

The British imposed peace on India and Palestine and the French on Indo-China, but when they departed, the conflicts they had long suppressed erupted into real ones that still have not been resolved. The reason a few of us argued so strenuously against Bush’s war from the beginning is that we saw no precedent for success. It was a war of hubris and ignorance, and the chances for turning it into anything good were always remote.

That is the dilemma of modern colonial wars. You can’t stay and you can’t leave.

Colonial wars? Only the fever swamps of the left continue to believe that this was a colonial war. Iraq wasn't a colonial war -- we didn't go there because we wanted the oil -- it was a war against a terror-supporting tyrant who couldn't be trusted not to find some way to give WMDs to terrorists to use against us. While he had no WMDs when we invaded, the Duelfer report made it clear that Saddam Hussein was committed to reconstituting that capability as soon as sanctions were lifted -- as France, China, Russia and others were pushing for before we invaded.

And then there's the big laugher from the experience Goldsborough who has written on foreign affairs for more than four decades and worked as a foreign correspondent -- but apparently doesn't own an atlas.

Lebanon, which borders Iraq and has many of the same ethnic and religious issues, nearly destroyed itself in the 1980s, only reaching a truce among its sects after a gruesomely brutal stalemate of arms was reached.

Here's today's test: please print out this map and circle the Lebanon-Iraq border.

Finally, we get a prediction from Goldsborough on what the future holds.

By any measure the Iraq war was not worth the cost to Americans. We will see in coming years if anything better than Saddam Hussein comes to power in Iraq, and it is not hard to imagine scenarios where something much worse takes over. As Middle East moguls go, Saddam was not out of the ordinary and what has risen in his wake, namely the dominance of the Islamic Republic in Iran is worse. Saddam held Iraq together and opposed Iran. In his war against Iran, we took his side. How soon we forget.

Actually, we took both sides in that war. Time will tell if Goldsborough is right. Maybe his Middle East political analysis is better than his Middle East geography.

0 comments on “Fun with James Goldsborough”

  1. "Lebanon, which borders Iraq . . ."

    What. A. Howler!

    Thanks for pointing that out, Matt, and good luck with your job hunt.

    BTW, I'm beginning a project to monitor AP's factual errors, in collaboration with Tom Blumer of Bizzyblog. This is non-ideological. The goal is to be a watchdog specifically on AP, which as you must know can be astoundingly inaccurate:



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