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For U.S., ‘long road’ of mistakes in Iraq

June 19th, 2014
09:27 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

The United States has travelled a “long road” of “numerous mistakes” in Iraq, Jay Garner, who led America’s post-war Iraq reconstruction efforts in 2003, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

“We did a good job getting in and we did a lousy job getting out,” he said. “This is a bed we've been making for the last 11 years.”

As U.S. President Barack Obama weighs how to respond to the Sunni extremist conquest across Iraq, the government in Baghdad formally requested air support from the United States.

That, Garner said, is something America should stay well away from.

“I think what we're seeing right now is an Arab-on-Arab war, we're seeing a religious war, and I don't think we need to get in the middle of that.”

“We’re in a situation there that is a far greater threat to Iran than it is to us in the United States, and I for one do not support putting any air power in there or putting any more troops on the ground than necessary to evacuate our embassy or to protect those people in the embassy.”

The United States, Garner said, should have implemented a federal system of government in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, “and then they would have been ethnically and tribally and religiously comfortable.”

“No one over there wants to be ruled by Baghdad.”

“Then we backed Maliki in 2010, with full knowledge that he's going to disenfranchise the Kurds, persecute the Sunnis and was really a puppet of the Iranians.”

The United States and Iraq failed to agree on a deal to keep the U.S. military in the country after 2011; this, Garner said, jeopardized the “gains and the good work we had done.”

“Then in 2013, we drew the red line in the sand in Syria and then cowardly backed away from it, which told all the militants that we're not going to do anything.”

“And then in 2014, we again backed Maliki with full knowledge of who he was, what he was and the persecution that he was doing.”

Prime Minister Maliki, a Shiite, has been widely accused of stoking sectarian tensions.

Amanpour asked Garner whether the United States should have armed Syria’s moderate opposition early in that conflict, as former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocated.

“I agree with that wholeheartedly. If we had done that, I don't think you would see ISIS where they are right now. They'd still be in Syria and they wouldn't be - have the command and control structure and the power that they have right now.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Latest Episode
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. noneofdabove

    Our role in Iraq, and the errors, are not an isolated case but a pattern: The Shah in Iran, Batista in Cuba, Somoza in Nicaragua, Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam, and our latest exploit: Ukraine. These are countries where we have intervened and created bloody civil wars, some of which we were involved in and then agonized on how to get out. The very messes we helped to create entrap us. Not in any case we were 100% responsible but we certainly interfered to make things worse. It is part of a pattern of foreign policy which continues to this day, under Obama: We almost attacked Syria too.

    June 19, 2014 at 11:11 am | Reply
    • AllAmerican

      Look we engage in to Iraq now, we will loose House and 2016 to Republicans.
      Iraq is dealing with effect of bad choices made by Bush, Cheney and Maliki.
      Let Iraq get readjusted and Let Maliki fall, Let them loose Baghdad.
      they will be fine, We don't need to buy into media hype.

      June 19, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Reply
      • Dirk

        Bad choices made by our government which happens to consist of Democrats and Republicans. As much as you would like it to be a one-sided affair it's not. Republicans didn't operate in a vacuum. We did this and so we, without putting boots on the ground, should take part in finding a solution. BTW – I always thought going into Iraq in 2003 was a bad idea.

        June 19, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
  2. duane - st.pete FL

     "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."
    -Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998
    "Hussein has ... chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies."
    - Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999
    "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."
    –President Bill Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998
    "Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face."
    –Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998
    "He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983."
    –Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998

    June 19, 2014 at 11:17 am | Reply
    • jstringer7

      I love late 90s quotes

      June 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Reply
  3. AllAmerican

    If want to go down the list, it is very, very large.
    The fact is, this conflict was in making for many years
    Now that it happened, we should step back and let them readjust
    For Republicans this is race against time to push Obama into Iraq
    Obama engages in Iraq, Democrats will loose House and even 2016 race.

    June 19, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  4. geopolitical perspective

    Recently an 89 year old former Nazi participant was arrested in PA for his involvement in the Nazi holocaust. One has to wonder when warrants would be served for the arrests of Bush, Cheynes, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell and their right wing accomplices in congress. Perhaps time will tell!!!

    June 19, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Reply
    • tim bukktuu

      I totally agree that having g w bush and his administration stand trial for crimes against humanity would be a huge step forward for the USA. Period.

      June 19, 2014 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  5. jamesdmacdonald

    “We did a good job getting in and we did a lousy job getting out,” he said.

    Actually, "getting in" wasn't "a good job" - or a good idea. Remember that there were demonstrations against the war before Bush even started it.

    June 19, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  6. B Schmitt


    June 19, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Reply
    • tim bukktuu

      agreed. Neither is it rectally inserted

      June 19, 2014 at 5:43 pm | Reply
  7. R Weider

    American short sightedness in Iraq includes the complete failure to assess the consequences of uncorking the huge mistake that are Iraq and Syria from the day of their inception in the mid-20th century. The boundaries were flawed – similar to the mess in India. Thank you UK and other post-colonialist problem solvers

    June 19, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Reply
  8. Johnny

    Only Iraq mistake was BUSH, the war criminal

    June 19, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Reply
    • tim bukktuu

      agreed. let's start there

      June 19, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Reply
  9. ashok

    We did a good job getting in ... Many would wonder why the getting in was done in the first place.

    June 19, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Reply
    • tim bukktuu

      if memory serves correctly, we did not do such a good job getting in either.

      June 19, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  10. Factsseeker

    The world watched as Yugoslavia broke up. There was considerable violence and brutality, but now there is relative peace and stability and each group has their own independent country. The US leaders seemed unable to draw the parallel between the Yugoslav break-up and the similar problem left by the British in Iraq after WW2. The British drew the boundaries of Iraq in their usual arbitrary way of doing things and left the world with a powder keg. The US then came in with their "bomb our way to civilization" intervention approach and after much killing and destruction, naively believed that all the pieces will miraculously glue back together again in a new, cooperative enlightened Iraq. What a disaster. Iraq is made up of three very different fiercely independent groups. Two of the groups, the Sunnis and the Shiites, have powerful neighboring backers. There has to be some sort of federal option for Iraq that the US should have organized before leaving Iraq after the invasion. This is another example which shows that have a Harvard law degree does not equip one for foreign policy. US leaders should sit down more with historians than with military generals when planning foreign actions and policy.

    June 19, 2014 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  11. coderjones

    no one will be held accountable and that is why they are able to get away with this ...

    June 19, 2014 at 5:53 pm | Reply
  12. duvenstedter

    What is the reason that my recent comment does not appear here? It was accepted without any objections. An attempt to re-post it received a reply that I was posting a duplicate comment. True, it was 844 words. If CNN/soundoff has a limit, it should be posted! This is the second time this has happened.

    June 19, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Reply
  13. Toppies Van Vuuren

    Mandela strongly warned about invading Iraq.
    Anyway as People we should learn to solve our problems in a better way. As individuals and nations become more powerful technologically it is obvious that we have consider forgiveness and peace as viable options.

    June 24, 2014 at 5:46 am | Reply
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