1) Iraq has been destroyed as an independent country capable of challenging Israeli or U.S. regional dominance.
2) Iraq has been destroyed as an independent country capable of controlling its own oil export business.
3) Washington has established a series of some 14 huge, city-like military bases in Iraq that can serve as launch platforms for whatever regional military adventure it may desire.
Mission accomplished? You bet it was!
If you thought the Iraq war was about destroying a WMD industrial capacity that the U.S. had been attacking and degrading ever since the 1991 Iraq War, wake up. If you thought the Iraq War was about democracy, take a look at the vicious slaughter Washington is now conducting in Sadr City. And, by the way, democracy does not come at the point of 14 huge, offensive military bases, nor does it require a 100-acre fortress-embassy.
The Neo-Con offensive in the Mideast has always had two themes: imperialist power politics and extremist religious fundamentalism. These two themes are fundamentally contradictory since the former is about establishing a position of power, the latter about destroying mankind in an orgy of slaughter to hasten the arrival of the savior (if you are confused about the distinction between fundamentalist Protestant rapture and fundamentalist twelver Shi’ite return of the Mahdi, you should be). Nevertheless, a political link of the crassest expediency (i.e., two groups with fundamentally divergent goals making a short-term agreement) was formed.
The imperialist goals were essentially to:
- place the Mideast in the hands of militant, right-wing Israeli politicians who, over the last three decades (see Trita Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance) developed Israel’s security-through-offense foreign policy;
- to cement U.S. dominance by controlling global oil.
But neither half of that vision could be realized by “stopping with Iraq, which even by Mideast standards is not a large country and was very much in decline by 2003 as a result of 12 years of U.S. attack.” Tehran is no more willing to kowtow to Israel or Washington than Baghdad was after 1990, when Saddam Frankenstein asserted his independence. The "mission" accomplished in Baghdad was never more than a pitstop on the road to Tehran.
Bad as that is, it is still not the whole story. Accomplishing the mission in Iraq also accomplished something else that, perhaps, was not part of that mission: it empowered al Qua’ida, both directly by effectively given bin Laden a pass while Washington focused on the wholly unrelated issue of destroying secular dictator Saddam, and indirectly by the nature of the long, brutal U.S. occupation that became a cause celebre for jihadis worldwide.
As I wrote in an earlier discussion of the impact of the Iraqi War:
Five years of war have produced a shattered society, a destroyed economy, and a mirage of a state: fertile soil indeed for cultivating a new jihadist movement that truly will be a threat to the U.S. …the longer American air war against Iraqi cities continues, the more likely it becomes. The longer groups that have formed to fill the power vacuum are prevented from participating as equals in the political process (be they Sunni Awakening forces or Moqtada al Sadr’s militia or others), the more likely it becomes. The longer the Iraqi oil industry remains structured for the benefit of the international oil industry rather than for Iraq’s benefit, the more likely it becomes. The longer U.S. military bases remain in Iraq, the more likely it becomes.
Al Qua’ida itself...benefits in a far more significant manner: as long as American troops and bases remain in Iraq, they serve as a convenient target for al Qua’ida and represent an incredibly powerful motivational issue to aid in the recruitment of new members. For this reason, the termination of U.S. military operations in Iraq would constitute an immediate and very significant loss for al Qua’ida. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was a gift to al Qua’ida, eliminating an Arab Sunni enemy, creating a convenient battleground, enhancing al Qua’ida’s reputation, and distracting attention from the shattered al Qua’ida headquarters organization. Five years later, al Qua’ida itself has gained time to reorganize, and the chaos flowing out of the U.S. occupation of Iraq has given the al Qua’ida message of global Sunni jihad a huge boost. That the U.S. succeeds in eliminating al Qua’ida from Iraq should come to Americans as little solace: such a victory would only return the situation to what it was after 9/11; Washington invites them into Iraq and then kicks them out. Iraq has been a sideshow for al Qua’ida, but one that brought al Qua’ida much profit.
So, yes, Bush accomplished his mission. The question is, was this America’s mission?