01/21/2006 06:41 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

President Bush is Endangering Our Lives 8: "Post-Defeat War" in Iraq

"We're establishing clear lesson plans in professional ethics for all nine Iraqi police academies."
-- President Bush, speech on "A National Strategy for Victory", January 10, 2006

"Badr fighters have joined the security services, like the police and commando units under the control of the interior minister ... Hundreds of accounts of killings and abductions have emerged in recent weeks ... Some Sunni men have been found dead in ditches and fields, with bullet holes in their temples, acid burns on their skin, and holes in their bodies apparently made by electric drills".
-- "Sunnis Accuse Iraqi Military of Kidnappings and Slayings", N.Y. Times, November 29, 2005

Mr. Bush's strategy for Iraq has clearly been defeated already, although he can continue to wage a "post-defeat war" and compound our losses if he is not stopped. That he would mention "establishing clear lesson plans on ethics" to help control wild-eyed Shiite Iraqi police sadistically torturing and killing hundreds of Sunnis in exchange for their equaly murderous acts against the Shiites, is only one of countless examples of his Administration's near-total cluelessness about Iraq. As we shall discuss in part 9, it is clear that he has already failed to achieve any of the three goals he has defined as "victory" - establishing a political "model of freedom", creating viableIraqi security forces, or reconstructing the economy. And there is no reasonable prospect that he will be any closer to his goals a year from now. On the contrary. He has, for example, ended reconstruction aid, making economic prospects even worse. Iraqi security forces are stepping up torture and murder. The Shiites have shown no signs of giving up their plans to monopolize the oil-rich South, increasing the prospects for civil war.

Since he cannot achieve his goals for Iraq, every day he continues to conduct "post-defeat war" harms our national security: it prolongs our neglect of homeland security, strengthens terrorism, weakens our military, strengthening U.S. foes like Iran, destabilizes U.S. allies in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Jordan, depletes our resources, divides us at home, and alienates public opinion throughout Muslim nations and the world.

It is understandable that so many Americans - including Congressional Democrats and foreign policy elites - are in denial about our urgent need to withdraw from Iraq. For it means acknowledging a frightening truth: we are leaderless in the war against terrorism. Neither our national psychology nor institutional structures have been able to absorb this fact. But acknowledging that our current President is a threat to U.S. national security is critical to decreasing the likelihood that hundreds of thousands of us will die from attacks on the homeland whose security he has so neglected, and to ensuring that America remains a democracy should such a horrendous act occur.

To help us break through our denial on how American leaders really can harm national security by fighting a "post-defeat war", it is important to note that this is not just a theory. It has happened before, in our lifetimes.

"Post-Defeat War" in Indochina, 1969-75

Just as failure abroad and disillusionment at home mean that George Bush has already been defeated in Iraq in January 2006, historians agree that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger took over a Vietnam war in January 1969 that had already been lost. Like George Bush, however, they stubbornly refused to withdraw. They (with Gerald Ford) instead prolonged the war by six and half years. And as George Bush is likely to do, they actually increased American violence from the air even as they too slowly withdrew U.S. ground troops.

From January 20, 1969 until April 30, 1975, 20,503 American soldiers lost their lives (vs. 35,723 from 1961-8); 7,860,013 officially-estimated Indochinese were killed, wounded or made homeless, and 1,541,398 died (vs. 6,496,057 and 682,742 from 1965-8); 3,984,963 tons of bombs were dropped on Indochina, mostly on civilian targets (vs. 2,742,521 from 1964-8, and 2,000,000 on Europe and the Pacific theater in World War II); the U.S. military collapsed from within, with soldiers "fragging" their officers; $83 billion was expended, the equivalent of $284 billion today.

And all for nothing. 20,000 American and over 1 million Indochinese lives were lost for no valid reason. The U.S. was totally defeated, and none of Nixon or Kissinger's major rationales for prolonging the war proved to be true. The Indochinese communists not only won but seek capitalist investment and pose no threat whatsoever to their neighbors or the United States. Had Nixon and Kissinger negotiated an immediate pullout, more than 20,000 Americans and a million Indochinese would be alive, we would be economically and militarily far stronger, and our position in the world far more secure.

Iraq: The Implications Are Far More Serious

Those who argue that Iraq is not Vietnam, and that our failure there is having even more catastrophic consequences than in Indochina, are correct. But the way to reduce these negative consequences is not to continue waging a "post-defeat war" which is daily strengthening our opponents. We will not only eventually be forced out anyway but, unlike in Vietnam, the longer we stay the more serious will be consequences that will outlive our withdrawal. Mr. Bush's remaining in Iraq is an even greater betrayal of national security than the Nixon/Ford/Kissinger "post-defeat war" in Indochina.

The horrible truth is that Mr. Bush's invasion has turned into such a disaster there will be negative consequences whether we stay or pull out. The list of negative consequences for either position, in fact, looks quite similar: ongoing terrorist activity, civil war, a shaky Iraqi government, army and police force, economic misery, etc.

There is one difference, however, between staying or withdrawing: the negative consequences of staying are real, cannot be reversed, and will only increase geometrically as time goes on. The negative consequences of pulling out are hypothetical. As with Vietnam noone, and certainly not Mr. Bush, really knows what will occur in the future.

If America pulls out, will Iraqis turn on Al-Zarqawi's foreign fighters, or will Al-Zarqawi grow stronger? Once the U.S. is no longer an occupier, will it enjoy more cooperation from the Iraqis in targeting specific threats like Al-Zarqawi? Will Sunni insurgents be more willing to enter the political fray? Will a Shiite government facing civil war and economic collapse, and unable to rely on the Americans, be more willing to compromise with the Sunnis? Or will the Shiites turn to Iran to wage civil war against Sunnis?

We cannot know. Noone can foretell the future. As we shall discuss in the conclusion to this series, however, we can know two things right now:

(1) An American pullout now can cut our real losses in the present, and far better equip us to avoid hypothetical ones should they occur in the future; and

(2) More importantly, we will end Mr. Bush's cardinal error of look at Iraq in isolation. Iraq is only one element of many in the rational strategy for combatting terror we so desperately need. But as long as Mr. Bush is allowed to continue mismanaging the war in Iraq, it will be impossible to develop such a strategy.

It is long past time to regroup and rethink our strategy for combatting the real threats we face. And the first step doing so is to realize how profoundly our Commander-in-Chief has failed in Iraq and forfeited his right to lead us any longer. Every day he is allowed to continue "post-defeat war" he is endangering our lives even further.