Saturday, March 22, 2008

5 Years Of LA Times Iraq Editorials

Five years of Iraq editorials

What The Times had to say since it staked its
antiwar-without-the-U.N. position in 2003.

In five years of war, The Times editorial board has written over 200 editorials discussing Iraq, from its early position against the war, penned on March 14, 2003, to last week's discussion of global insurgency and the fallout between Adm. William J. Fallon and Gen. David H. Petraeus. This Sunday the board will consider the status of the army as it fights two wars. Below are selections from editorials that appeared at the start of the war, and at every anniversary since.

On the eve of war, The Times editorial board remained persistent in its call for the United Nations to approve action against Iraq, even though it took the liberal hawkish position that Saddam Hussein needed to be disarmed for his tyranny and, The Times believed, his pursuit and possession of weapons of mass destruction. This still put it to the left of all the major papers. Below, we quote at length from that editorial, and its prescient consideration of costs and rising threats from North Korea and Iran.
Friday, March 14, 2003

The Right Way in Iraq

In a post- 9/11 world, the president argues, things are different. The nation must protect itself. Yes. So the question becomes, would an invasion of Iraq make the United States and the world safer? If the world community unites to do it, yes. But a U.S.-led invasion, without sanction from the United Nations, would make this nation and the world at large more dangerous.
Six days later, the war had begun. Noticing that "shock and awe" weren't happening, The Times hoped for a brief conflict with low casualties:
Thursday, March 20, 2003

The Beginnings of War

The limited early strikes contrasted sharply with what had been expected after Pentagon officers spoke of beginning the war with massive airstrikes designed to "shock and awe" or overwhelm Iraq....

The "gee whiz" effect of the most modern armaments should not cloak their result: death and destruction. The targets will be military and government installations; Pentagon planners say they have tried to minimize civilian casualties. But war brings carnage....
Exactly one year later, after the "Mission Accomplished" banner flew, after no weapons of mass destruction were found, and as an insurgency wore on, The Times reflected grimly on how the war had become a rallying point for terrorists:
Saturday, March 20, 2004

A War's Woeful Results

At least the president might score a debatable point in asserting that life in Iraq is far better without Saddam Hussein. But he's the president of the United States and leader of the free world. So it's fair to ask whether the war has made life better for this nation and its allies. In our assessment, it has not. Although ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction was the administration's major selling point for the war, it is now clear that Hussein's regime no longer possessed those weapons....
Spring of 2005 brought an occasion for optimism — many Iraqis risked much to vote for a National Assembly in January of that year — but The Times focused on the challenges Iraqis still faced:
Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Brief 'Bright Moment' in Iraq

The new National Assembly did meet Wednesday, but there was no new president, prime minister, speaker of the Assembly or other Cabinet officer to congratulate. No government formed to make the laws that might move the nation toward normality. It may have been a "bright moment," as President Bush described it in his Wednesday news conference, but moments are fleeting.

After announcements last week that the winning Shiite coalition and second-place Kurds had reached a tentative agreement on naming a Cabinet and forming the new government, the deal fell apart on the disputed point of Kurdish control of the oil city of Kirkuk, among other things....
By the following year, Iraq had devolved into violence after the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. U.S. casualties were rising and public opinion was turning against the war. The Times bluntly listed the failures of war planners but also chided "revisionist" critics:
Sunday, March 19, 2006

Shock, awe and humility

Three years ago today, Iraqis were "shocked and awed" by the power of the U.S. military. Today, Americans are shocked and awed by its limits. [snip] Bush's messianic idealism was never justified, and in any event the administration's flawed execution would have undermined his purpose. The list of gaffes is by now distressingly familiar: the flawed intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, the lack of sufficient troops, the tainted contracting process and so on.

To be fair, Washington has persevered in its quest to create a representative democracy in Iraq. But American surprise at the unfolding Sunni-Shiite schism, and our lack of preparedness to deal with the early dismantlement of the Iraqi military, have made the world's reigning superpower look, once again, oddly naive.

And though it pledges to "stay the course" in Iraq, the Bush administration has long since fled the battlefield of ideas. It embarrassingly resorts only to Orwellian talk of a "war on terror" instead of addressing real issues, and its claims of relentless success are not to be taken seriously.
Last year, The Times avoided an outright anniversary piece, noting instead at the end of March that Congress seemed ready to set withdrawal deadlines for spring 2008, even if picking a date was "arbitrary" and "purely symbolic," unlike a funding cut-off. The Times also plainly expressed its opinion of withdrawal — that Congress shouldn't micromanage, that criteria need to be met first, and that Iraqi leaders needed to be pressured:
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Endgame on Iraq

The withdrawal language is wrongheaded. As we have argued before, it is bad precedent and bad public policy for Congress to attempt to micromanage military operations in Iraq.... If the United States, through a last-ditch military effort combined with political initiatives, can quell the violence in Iraq and demonstrate progress, then a U.S. military presence for more than the congressionally approved year might be a good investment. But if the troop surge, after some months, fails to improve either the security or political situation, then a year would be too long to leave U.S. troops in Iraq.

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