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Saturday, April 19, 2003
Looking back, looking forward
"I would anticipate that the major combat engagements are over," Major General Stanley McChrystal said of the war in Iraq on Monday.
With that, it is fair to say that at least the first stage of Operation Iraqi Freedom is over. There will likely still be less than "major combat engagements," but the concept known as "the war" is done, with the U.S. having prevailed far more easily than many people, including the author of this entry, thought it would.
What is perhaps most striking about this victory is how little is known about it and how many questions are in the air:
-What intelligence on Iraq did the U.S. have before the war started with regard to the weapons of mass destruction, the whereabouts of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, ties between Sadddam's regime and terrorist groups and the planned tactics of the Iraqi military? What were the sources of this intelligence?
-Why did Iraqi military fall so quickly and with so little of a fight? Is this the best they could have done?
-In the opening days of the conflict, there were reports that the White House was trying to negotiate a mass surrender of the Iraqi military. Was this actually the case? If so, who was the Bush Administration negotiating with and what were the issues raised in the negotiations?
-Will there be more reports such as this one saying that the U.S. military engaged in atrocities? If so, will they be substantiated?
-What happened to Saddam and many of those around him? If they are alive, where are they now and what did they do while the war was going on? Will the U.S. ever find out exactly what happened?
-Will the U.S. find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? If so, what will be the specifics and why did the Iraqi military not use them in the war?
-What links between Saddam's regime and terrorist groups and terrorists will be found?
-Will this war lead to a greater number of people being willing to attack the U.S. in order to get "revenge"?
-Who amongst the Iraqis, if anyone, will be tried for "crimes against humanity" and "war crimes"? What will be the specifics of these trials?
-What will be done with Iraqi oil? Who will benefit from it and in what ways?
-What sort of system of government and political culture will take hold in Iraq? What sort of civil, political and religious liberties will exist? Who will be allowed to participate in government and who won't be? How much influence will the U.S. government have? Will changes in Iraq spur changes in other countries in the Middle East?
-How long will U.S. troops stay in Iraq?
This list of questions is far from exhaustive. Some of the questions have definitive answers right now -although those answers aren't known- and some of the questions will only be answered with time. I thought about breaking up the list into two parts along those lines but decided not to since which questions are which is hardly an exact science.