• Operatic Turning Points of the Iraq Invasion

    November 11, 2012

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Embassy/State, Iran, Iraq, Military

    Leon Panetta declared that the US is at a “turning point” in the Afghan War. “Turning Point,” like “robust,” is one of those words that when used by someone in government should make you run away. Still, it is the holiday season and we want to be light of tone, I’l let this one pass for Leon given that he just shut the lights off as the last US soldier left Iraq.

    And what better way to sum up some early history of the Iraq invasion and celebrate the holidays at the same time than with the gift of music. Here is the book for my upcoming operatic version of We Meant Well.


    1945-1973: several Vietnam Wars play out, with the Japanese, French and finally, the Americans. US loses over 50,000 soldiers in what Lyndon Johnson calls, “that bitch of a war,” failing in fighting a counterinsurgency. US convinces itself the anti-colonialist, nationalist North Vietnamese insurgents are the spearhead of a global Communist attack against the US and its allies, the domino theory. People say, “If we don’t fight them over there, we’ll fight them in California.” Many terrible things happen, some lessons are learned.

    Pause; Overture Resumes

    Several of what author Peter Beinart calls “Potemkin Vietnams” occur, in Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, Kosovo and the like. Some lessons previously learned are forgotten.

    1980: Iran-Iraq war starts.

    1984-87: US protects non-Iranian tankers in the Gulf from Iranian attack, allows Iraq to attack Iranian tankers.

    1987: Iraq mistakenly attacks the USS Stark, kills thirty-seven American sailors. All is forgiven as Iraq is a US friend engaged in killing Iranians.

    1988: Iran-Iraq war ends in a tie.

    1990: Iraq invades Kuwait.

    1991: Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm pushes Iraq out of Kuwait. Not much else changes, most previous lessons are forgotten, new lessons mislearned that US military power alone can quickly and cleanly change complex world events. This strategy will prove as useful as one that seeks to pay a mortgage by buying lottery tickets.

    Curtain Raises to Reveal Smoking Ruins of Twin Towers on Stage

    Act I

    October 3, 2001: US semi-invades Afghanistan and, fighting mostly with proxy local forces, pushes Taliban out of power. US takes bin Laden’s bait and stirs up wrath of Muslim world.

    January 21, 2002: In his State of the Union address, Bush discovers the Axis of Evil and starts an open-ended global war.

    March 19, 2003: US invades Iraq. Iraq becomes everything bin Laden hoped for — US ground forces killing Muslim civilians live on satellite TV. The war that makes little sense in the aftermath of 9/11 except as revenge.

    May 1, 2003: Mission Accomplished. Bush’s pouch featured on an aircraft carrier.

    Musical Refrain

    “This month will be a political turning point for Iraq,” Douglas Feith, July 2003

    “We’ve reached another great turning point,” Bush, November 2003

    December 14, 2003: We got him. Saddam is captured.

    Curtain closes as Americans cheer loudly at happy ending of disgraced evil dictator Noriega bin Laden Saddam (played by James Edwards Olmos)

    Act II

    Musical Refrain

    “That toppling of Saddam Hussein… was a turning point for the Middle East,” Bush, March 2004

    April 28, 2004: Images of torture at Abu Ghraib become public; US stirs up wrath of Muslim world by continuing occupation of Iraq. After failing to take the bait in Afghanistan, US accomplishes al-Qaeda’s goal of permanently pissing off Muslims everywhere while entering Vietnam-like counterinsurgency quagmire.

    Musical Refrain

    “Turning Point in Iraq,” The Nation, April 2004

    “A turning point will come two weeks from today,” Bush, June 2004

    June 28, 2004: US transfers sovereignty to Iraq. Bush writes note to Condi saying “Let freedom reign!”

    Musical Refrain

    “Marines Did a Good Job in Fallujah, a Battle That Might Prove a Turning Point,” Columnist Max Boot, July 2004

    January 12, 2005: WMD search in Iraq is declared over. None found.

    Musical Refrain

    “Tomorrow the world will witness a turning point in the history of Iraq,” Bush, January 2005

    “The Iraqi election of January 30, 2005… will turn out to have been a genuine turning point,” William Kristol, February 2005

    “On January 30th in Iraq, the world witnessed … a major turning point,” Rumsfeld, February 2005

    May 30, 2005: Dick Cheney tells Larry King, “The insurgency is in its last throes.” Larry mentions radio and TV were invented just so more people could hear his voice.

    October 15, 2005: Iraqis vote to ratify Constitution. Many, many photos of Iraqis with purple fingers showing they voted.

    October 25, 2005: Bush states Iraq is the central front in the Global War on Terror and Muslim extremists fighting in Iraq seek to create an Islamic Caliphate stretching from Indonesia to Spain. This essentially duplicates the Vietnam-era domino theory.

    December 15, 2005: Iraqis vote to elect members of Iraqi Assembly. Many, many photos of Iraqis with purple fingers showing they voted.

    Musical Refrain

    “I believe may be seen as a turning point in the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism.” Senator Joe Lieberman, December 2005

    “The elections were the turning point. … 2005 was the turning point,” Cheney, December 2005

    “2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of Iraq… and the history of freedom,” Bush, December 2005

    Curtain closes as Americans cheer loudly at happy voting images.

    Intermission while audience ponders attack on Iran.

    Act III

    February 22, 2006: The Golden Mosque in Samarra is badly damaged in a bomb attack that ignites the Sunni-Shia sectarian war.

    Musical Refrain

    “We believe this is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens, and it’s a new chapter in our partnership,” Bush, May 2006

    “We have now reached a turning point in the struggle between freedom and terror,” Bush, May 2006

    June 15, 2006: US troops killed in Iraq reaches 2500.

    Musical Refrain

    “This is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens.” Bush, August 2006

    September 24, 2006: Bush calls Iraq violence “just a comma” in history.

    October 4, 2006: Al-Qaeda letter says “The most important thing is you continue in your jihad in Iraq… Indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest, with God’s permission.”

    Musical Refrain

    “When a key Republican senator comes home from Iraq and says the US has to re-think its strategy, is this a new turning point?” NBC Nightly News, October 2006

    November 9, 2006: Iraqi health minister reports 150,000 Iraqis killed so far.

    December 30, 2006: Saddam is hanged.

    January 3, 2007: Death toll of US soldiers in Iraq reaches 3,000.

    Musical Refrain

    “Iraq: A Turning Point: Panel II: Reports from Iraq.” American Enterprise Institute, January 2007

    Curtain closes as Americans cheer loudly at death porn images of Saddam’s body on TV.

    Act IV

    January 10, 2007: Bush announces Surge.

    January 11, 2007: Republican senator Chuck Hagel calls Surge “The most dangerous foreign policy blunder since Vietnam.”

    Musical Refrain

    “Shrine Bombing as War’s Turning Point Debated,” Tom Ricks, March 2007

    April 16, 2007: US dead reach 3300.

    June 18, 2007: Foreign Policy Magazine shows Iraq ranks second on its failed state index.

    September 5, 2007: Bush tells the press “We’re kicking ass” in Iraq.

    Musical Refrain

    “This Bush visit could well mark a key turning point in the war in Iraq and the war on terror,” Frederick W. Kagan, September 2007

    “Bush Defends Iraq War in Speech… he touted the surge as a turning point in a war he acknowledged was faltering a year ago,” New York Times, March 2008

    July 22, 2008: Surge ends.

    Musical Refrain

    “The success of the surge in Iraq will go down in history as a turning point in the war against al-Qaeda,” The Telegraph, December 2008

    February 6, 2009: Another election, more photos of inked fingers.

    March 7, 2010: Yet another election, more photos of inked fingers.

    June 2, 2010: US deaths breach 4,400.

    September 1, 2010: Obama declares combat operations over, albeit while leaving 50,000 troops occupying 92 bases in Iraq. The official name of the war changes from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn. The weather remains the same.

    Curtain closes, then reopens with entire cast on stage for finale.

    On June 8, 2006, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader who led a brutal insurgency that included online beheadings, killed in an airstrike. According to Fox News:

    US President George W. Bush said Zarqawi’s death “is a severe blow to al-Qaeda and it is a significant victory in the war on terror.”

    Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the killing of Zarqawi was “enormously important” for the fight against terror in Iraq and around the world. “Let there be no doubt the fact he is dead is a significant victory in the battle against terrorism in that country and I would say worldwide,” Rumsfeld said.

    On April 19, 2010, four years later, the two top al-Qaeda in Iraq figures were killed. According to the AP:
    US forces commander Gen. Raymond Odierno praised the operation. “The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency.”

    On August 25, 2010, just four months later, the Army issued a press release titled “Iraq Attacks Show al-Qaeda Remains as Threat,” concluding “A wave of attacks in Iraq today demonstrates that al-Qaeda in Iraq is still capable of operating.”

    Curtain remains up with house lights on as Act comes to a close. Audience removes shoes and is searched for al-Qaeda sympathizers.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      1. Reading Rick’s take on the General’s little indiscretion, it appears Paula wasn’t the only one giving blowjobs for access.

      2. Don’t be fooled thinking we have seen the last of King David. He can always run for senator or prez, where low moral character is seen as a requirement for the job.

      11/11/12 2:56 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      RE: the pic of Freddie and the boys, Paula was the career-killer Queen.

      11/11/12 3:22 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      Don’t forget showing next weeks program previews.


      11/11/12 7:45 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      One deep throat outed by another FBI “Deep Throat.”


      11/11/12 8:20 PM | Comment Link

    • Eric Hodgdon said...


      “Fragmented and atomized where the hallmarks of the disease prevailing in old America of the early 2000s. It could not be seen of course, those elements to which sight will not find which was hidden in plain thought.

      “Unable to reason the obvious, those people followed all previous attempts of Empire. They ignored the warnings that by reaching backwards in time to the fountain of cruelty, their actions would not endear them to anyone, nor be restricted by law.”

      Yet, the power remains in each of us to correct our thoughts and replace the national government at our pleasure and peacefully so. Protest, demonstration, confrontation, and simple dismissal will win this battle against the hate and cruelty of the federal government’s elected degenerate caste.

      This modern day nobility of delusional personages are weak and decrepit lost souls best at nothing but deceit and arrogance fueled only from those surrounding them who do their bidding. The youthful trolls see illusions. Desiring the sadistic levers of pain and despair, it is these who act for their masters. Lost youth of empty minds have no hearts except those they pluck from the dead detainees. They escaped from humanity I know not when or how, or why they went undetected from their godless birth. But, they do exist. They walk among us, largely hidden. Most all who have seen them are unwilling to expose them – thus compounding those hideous crimes against nature and humanity.

      I’ll write and wait, then write again – critical mass must be reached within a lifetime or time will end my life and leave room for another to continue on the work.

      11/12/12 2:16 AM | Comment Link

    • Meloveconsullongtime said...


      The number two woman in the Petraeus affair has been identified as an “unpaid social liaison” to the US Army.

      Is that rank higher, or lower (because unpaid) than a PAID social liaison like this one?:


      11/12/12 11:44 AM | Comment Link

    • Meloveconsullongtime said...


      GB Shaw to young woman: “Would you sleep with me for a thousand pounds?”

      Woman: “I think I might!”

      Shaw: “Then would you sleep with me for five pounds?”

      Woman: “What kind of woman do you think I am?”

      Shaw: “What kind of woman you are, has already been established. Now I’m haggling about the price.”

      11/12/12 11:48 AM | Comment Link

    • Stephen M. Potopa said...


      Dear Mr. Van Buren,
      Thank you for the re-cap of all of the “turning points”. During those years, I wanted to reach into my TV and strangle whoever was using that phrase at any given moment. I’ve since thrown it away (my TV that is). However, your turning point reminder was actually quite funny (and sad) at this historical look back. By the way, your book was quite funny (and sad) and I have recommended it to everybody I could. Again, thank you.

      Stephen M. Potopa

      11/12/12 1:40 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      There is no fool like an OLD – and much decorated – fool.

      11/12/12 2:31 PM | Comment Link

    • Neil said...


      Anyone familiar with Orwel’s ‘1984’ will recognise that ‘turning point’ repetition for exactly what it is: A sure sign that the people running things want this war to continue for as long as they can use it to consolidate their power and obliterate the power of any opponents.

      I’m actually surprised we managed to get rid of them all at. If you can’t keep power with such powerful propaganda tools as an actual war going on, you really are the most inept buffon in political history.

      11/12/12 10:45 PM | Comment Link

    • Neil said...


      I forgot to add: While we did get rid of Bush, the people who really hold the reins made sure that our ‘transformational liberal president’ continued the eternal-war strategy with barely a pause for breath. Why else would Obama have turned 180 degrees and turned into a bigger hawk than Bush?

      I find learning the truth to be at once highly liberating yet utterly demoralising.

      11/12/12 10:48 PM | Comment Link

    • jhoover said...


      Once in Afghanistan, Petraeus welcomed prominent conservative hawks from Washington think tanks. As Greg Jaffe wrote in The Washington Post, they were “given permanent office space at his headquarters and access to military aircraft to tour the battlefield. They provided advice to field commanders that sometimes conflicted with orders the commanders were getting from their immediate bosses.”

      So many more American kids and Afghanistan civilians were killed and maimed in a war that went on too long. That’s the real scandal.


      11/14/12 7:06 PM | Comment Link

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