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home : opinions : opinions September 15, 2014

2/20/2013 9:59:00 PM
Column: Surgical strikes should be US war policy

Richard F. (Buz) Williams
Courier Columnist

When my wife and I moved to Prescott in May of 2004, our son was still in Iraq recovering from injuries he received in Fallujah in April of that year. A few months later, I wrote a letter to the editor in support of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which the Daily Courier published. My friend, Jerry Jackson, sent me an email disagreeing, in a friendly way, with my letter. Jerry felt that we should not have invaded Iraq at all. I don't recall for sure, but I believe Jerry thought we should have left Afghanistan after the Taliban was defeated. In retrospect, I believe Jerry was right and I was wrong.

Don't get the wrong impression. I think we had every right to go into both Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, the Taliban in Afghanistan wouldn't turn over Osama bin Laden to us after he had masterminded the 9/11 attacks. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein had violated the cease-fire agreements from the first Gulf War by firing on our aircraft numerous times, by failing to allow UN weapons inspectors access to certain areas and by violating something like 16 other violations of UN resolutions.

But those who said, "Bush lied, people died," are deluding themselves. If Bush lied, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright lied on Feb. 18, 1998, when she said that the possibility of Iraq using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies "is the greatest security risk we face." And Nancy Pelosi lied on Nov. 17, 2002, when she said, "Saddam Hussein certainly has chemical and biological weapons, there's no question about that." And Senator Jay Rockefeller lied on Oct. 10, 2002, when he said, "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons." And then Senator Joe Biden lied on Aug. 4, 2002, when he said on "Meet The Press," "We know (Saddam Hussein) continues to attempt to gain access to additional capability, including nuclear capability."

The point is that President Bush - and these Democrats - were not lying. They all believed what they were saying was true, and Saddam was certainly acting like he had weapons of mass destruction and was attempting to acquire more. The first obligation of a government is the protection of its citizens and President Bush and Congress acted properly, in that sense, in proposing and voting for the war in Iraq. The constitutionally correct thing to do, however, was for Congress to declare war.

Jerry was absolutely right if he was suggesting that we shouldn't have stayed there after Saddam was defeated. In the eight years we were in Iraq, our military lost 4,487 killed and had 32,223 injuries. What do we have to show for it? Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government already appears to show signs of eroding into what that region of the world had been for centuries, a constant killing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and the mini-sects within each of those groups. Another experiment in nation building that didn't work.

Afghanistan is much worse. President Hamid Karzai was re-elected in 2009 under the shadow of a low voter turnout and reports of massive voter fraud. In addition, his brother is reported to be the country's biggest crook in growing and selling opium and the opium poppy. If and when our combat troops finally leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014, our military deaths will exceed the 2,177 that was the figure for January of 2013. We will still have support troops in country. We will leave behind a corrupt government ripe for the Taliban to re-conquer or negotiate some form of a coalition.

In both of these wars, we handcuffed our fighting soldiers and marines with rules of engagement that were geared to win the "hearts and minds" of the indigenous people. I wonder how many of our fighting men and women were killed, when the rules forbade them from firing on mosques, even when they were taking fire from them. How many were killed when they were forbidden to fire on armed enemy combatants until they were fired upon first?

As Americans, we are hardly pacifists, but neither do we like long, drawn-out, endless wars. So, what is our response supposed to be to terrorist attacks like 911? Michael Scheuer, former CIA intelligence officer, chief of the Osama bin Laden unit at the Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999 and Special Adviser to the Chief of the bin Laden Unit from 2001 to 2004, had made the statement that if such an attack happens again we should go to wherever these terrorists are, kill as many as we can and leave. I would think a judicious use of drones should be part of the equations, too. Scheuer does not think we can win the "hearts and minds" in tribal societies. With many energy experts saying that with new technologies, we have enough fossil fuel reserves to last more than 100 years, we should pull all of our troops and military bases out of the Middle East, and let the Sunnis and Shiites battle it out. We really don't have a dog in that fight.

Buz Williams is a retired Long Beach, Calif., police officer who has lived in Prescott since 2004.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, February 22, 2013
Article comment by: bob lynne

I agree with Buz that we don't have a dog in this fight. However, I totally disagree with the premise that Bush did not lie about the WMD's. Bush and his neocons thought they could democratize the Middle East and get the oil, and planned on going into Iraq from the get go. Others based their assumptions on the original bogus CIA/Cheney information. These lies and ultimate bad decisions are the cause of much of the current deficit, and will be the Bush legacy.

Posted: Friday, February 22, 2013
Article comment by: Common Senzi

We did a surgical strike on Bin Laden (Clinton) This is a big part of the reason for Bin Laden's retaliation with 9/11

Drone strikes are very effective at pissing people off. Would you expect to attack someone and not have them strike back?

A better idea would be to examine the policies which have lead to these problems. The Shah of Iran, Mubarrak, our support of various dictatorships and questionable monarchies.

The repressive states of the middle east will all eventually fall and nothing we can do will prop them up. We can be on the right side of history, or we can once again wind up on the wrong side.

The root of the problem is that we perceive freedom as a threat to our oil.

By the way, the object of war is not to kill the enemy, it is to end the war.

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Article comment by: gene kaiser

Thanks for a great article. I only wish you could have continued on and included the comments of these people after the war became unpopular and we would be able to see the l ying hypocrites that they truely are.

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Article comment by: Funny Stuff

Regardless of whether we get our oil from the middle east or not, it is a fungible commodity. This means the price is set world wide, regardless of where it comes from and if it was derived from oil sands, tight oil, deep water, or the oil from Saudi Arabia. That is why we are in the middle east, to protect the overall supply of oil at a level that keeps the price down. As soon as there is a situation where demand exceeds supply, the world ends as we know it. This is fact. The hundred year fossil fuel supply is a myth propagated by those who benefit financially. Most of this hype is around the gas and oil obtained by fracking. The gas myth is already being abandoned by the initial investors as they started to lose money. The wells they drill are short lived, couple years maybe, and there is no way they can make-up the difference being lost to the "easy" oil", which has been in terminal decline since the mid 70's. This is a fact. The situation is much like the queen said in "Alice in Wonderland", we have to run harder and harder just to stay in the same place. You know nothing about fossil fuels Buz. You only propagate the lies that you have read and regard as truth. I wonder if you get all your information you talk about in this editorial the same way.

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Article comment by: Oh please

Buz -- Let me see if I can follow your logic here. GW Bush couldn't have been lying, because if he lied, then Madeline Albright, Nancy Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller and Joe Biden lied, too? I'll bet they all say that marijuana is a very dangerous drug, too.

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Article comment by: Peter, Yavapai County

I agree, Buzz, and so does the military.

It was a so called "surgical strike" by Navy Seals which finally killed bin Laden (in Pakistan!).

The first gulf war was a kind of surgical strike - to force Saddam to retreat from Kuwait. The plan was clear and our forces went in with a well defined purpose, accomplished that mission, and left upon the orders of the civilian commander, G.H.W. Bush. (We lost about 300.)

And the "shock and awe" was supposed to somehow scare all the Iraqis into suddenly embracing democracy, except it was planned by folks who lacked real war experience and so were too over confident.

After America gained it's liberty in 1776, it took a long time for Americans to stop shooting at Americans. We had had "liberty" and "democracy" for for over eighty years before the devastating Civil War (about 1 million casualties).

One last point: We can no longer afford anything BUT surgical strikes.

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Article comment by: dog on

"The first obligation of a government is the protection of its citizens and President Bush and Congress acted properly, in that sense, in proposing and voting for the war in Iraq." How were we as the United States in any jeopardy from Iraq at that point in time?

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Article comment by: open book

Interesting commentary. I disagree, however, with the argument, that the reasons for invading Iraq were not based on lies, just because several people made their judgments based on the original lies. I think our leaders were very naive to believe that we, as invaders and occupiers, would be viewed as liberators by the local people, tribal or not. I commend you for admitting in your last paragraph that oil was a big reason for the war. In regards to "surgical stikes," I believe that there needs to be some sort of process of checks and balances so that we, or anyone else, can go into a country, "kill as many as we can," then leave. These is a wholly new kind of global warfare, and we need to be sure that we underastand that.

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Article comment by: Just Another Madison

Given the opportunity, you'd think a retired policeman might show a little moxy, and come up with 500 words about something local.

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Article comment by: There You Go Again

Buz, thanks for you opinion. However, it is just that, opinion and everybody has one, thus the limited value of yours. Why not let our highly trained and experienced military resolve military issues? After all that is why we have not won major victories since WWII. We have had interference with battlefield decisions from politicians (mostly liberal at that). Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan all have had defeat or retreat snatched from the jaws of victory by weak kneed politicians in Washington. Those who do not know and understand history are doomed to repeat it.

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Steele

Amen. The blood and treasure we are loosing over in the middle east is for nothing long term. The tribal and religious rules they go by plus Europe's dividing their world into countries means nothing to them. Let's get out now. In 1-2 years it will be just like 1630 except for cell phones.

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Article comment by: Remember The Alamo

A very well written letter to which I agree. Maybe except for the title. The object of war is to kill the enemy. Annihilate. Warring people have always used their best, largest weapons to try to achieve that goal while sustaining the fewest casualties to themselves. Our last several wars we tried "not hurting" the local people(whom could have all been combatants). Surgical strikes are fine but a much bigger knife can be used.

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