Why We Still Can't Get It Right in Iraq and Afghanistan

E-mail Col. Hunt

For me it is a sad fact, probably not a surprise to the reader, that I am not a very good writer. I wish I was a better writer, as I'm unable to get my points across on what is important when it comes to wars and how we get into them and who always pays for them. The truth is I used to get a lot of help with my writing, but no longer, so please bear with me.

As I watch those who just lost the presidential election and a ton of seats in both the House and Senate now try to take a pass and rewrite some very recent history, I am reminded how self-serving our leaders can truly be. The talking points are committed to memory. If I could write I would tell you what is going on, but because I am pissed of I will still give it a try despite my lack of talent.

The line of thinking and talking from those who still support the previous administration seems to be that "although we made a few mistakes in Iraq" — not that going there was not the right thing to do, so they will tell us, but how we fought it could have been done better, we finally got it right in the end — "it's all worth it." If there were any mistakes, the line of stupidity and denial goes, "Those mistakes were mostly done by the intelligence community. Those bastards!"

If only I could write and tell you how inspirationally insipid this is. However, I am not that good of a writer, so I might not be getting my point across here. Let me try it this way: People are making things up, trying to get us to forget how bad it was in Iraq and how bad it still is in Afghanistan and who is responsible for both. Time for full disclosure again: I fully supported us going into Iraq. I was wrong. I have been very outspoken about how we have been conducting this war but that does not let me off the "guilt hook." I said during the run-up to the war "mushroom clouds over Boston." I was wrong. Our going into Iraq has not made us safer. What we do have is a great combat-experienced military, but at a terrible price.

We will never figure out how to fight and win against terrorists until we face what really happened and why. We must hold accountable those that screwed this up, move out smartly and never do it again. I am here not speaking of the tactical level, the men and women doing most of the dying for us. I'm talking about those who made the decisions, the policy, and the generals that carry them out. All three types need a thorough and complete ass kicking. The type of war we are trying to fight is ugly, not conducive to clear victories or parades. However, this type of war is the exactly the type we are going to be fighting for the foreseeable future, so maybe we ought to figure out how to do it. Just saying.

The legend of mistakes made by our government in Iraq have cost us 4,300 lives, over 40,000 wounded and over 300,000 post-traumatic stress cases. It has cost us hundreds of billions of dollars and huge chunks of our collective reputations. In the most basic terms, it must be understood: Mistakes equal lives lost. Mistakes equal a war that should never have lasted over seven years. You want credit for the surge? I want you to explain why the hell it took you four years to figure out to use it! You want to take credit for our not being attacked since 9/11? I want you to take responsibility for not being prepared on 9/11. While there is less violence in Iraq, a very good thing, there is also the reality that Iran is now a full partner in economic and religious activities in Iraq. Iran is now the most powerful nation in Middle East. We let this happen. Talk about your unintended consequences.

None of this is news and would be forgotten as we have some rather serious stuff to deal with now besides Iraq. However, the past administration officials and their surrogates are running around suggesting that its not their fault, or they did not do it, or it's all Clinton's fault and now of course Obama's. This nonsense compels us to examine what happened and why. What I want is for us to get this right. We cannot get it right (fighting terrorists) as long as we continue to avoid responsibility for our failures, while going to extraordinary lengths to take credit for our successes.

Here are the facts, Jack. We still have over 120,000 soldiers inside Iraq after almost seven years. We are deploying an additional 21,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. Pakistan is in danger of collapsing. This is kind of important for two big reasons. No. 1, Pakistan has the atomic bomb and No. 2, Al Qaeda and the Taliban could destabilize Pakistan. And if you do not like reason two, refer back to reason one. The Afghanistan government is more corrupt and incompetent than the Iraq government and that is saying something.

We live in the greatest country on earth. We are fighting for our existence against a very dedicated and competent enemy. We are in the middle of the worst recession in over 70 years. We have a new government that does not even have all of its people in place. If we are ever to get this fighting thing down, it begins with taking responsibility for our actions, making the corrections and trying to do better. Right now we seem to be stuck on "it aint my fault." If only I could write better, you might get that. We will never move forward without first acknowledging and learning from your past.

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Colonel David Hunt, U.S. Army (Ret.), is a FOX News military analyst and the author of the New York Times bestseller They Just Don’t Get It. He has extensive operational experience in counterterrorism, special operations, and intelligence operations. He has trained the FBI and Special Forces in counterterrorism tactics, served as the security adviser to six different Olympic Games, testified as an expert at many major terrorist trials, and lectured at the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Agency. You can read his complete bio here.