Former US Military Chief: US invasion of Iraq spawned ISIL: (“Huge Error”)

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer| ( | – –

The U.S. is poised to repeat all the same mistakes in Syria that it made in Iraq after 9/11, says former head of Defense Intelligence Agency

The Islamic State (ISIS) formed in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, said (Ret.) U.S. General Mike Flynn. (Photo: AP)

The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq fueled the creation of the Islamic State (ISIS) today and must serve as a warning against similar rash military intervention in Syria, a former U.S. intelligence chief said in an interview with German media on Sunday.

“When 9/11 occurred, all the emotions took over, and our response was, ‘Where did those bastards come from? Let’s go kill them. Let’s go get them.’ Instead of asking why they attacked us, we asked where they came from,” former U.S. special forces chief Mike Flynn, who also served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), told Der Spiegel. “Then we strategically marched in the wrong direction.”

In recent weeks, ISIS has claimed responsibility for attacks in Lebanon and Paris and the bombing of a Russian airplane over the Sinai peninsula, which together killed hundreds of people. Following the attacks, French President François Hollande vowed a “merciless” response against the group in Syria and Iraq—a statement that prompted comparisons between Hollande and former U.S. President George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11.

Echoing long-held arguments made by other experts, Flynn said Sunday that increased airstrikes and other offensives could be seen as an attempt to “invade or even own Syria,” and that the fight against militant groups like ISIS will only succeed or make progress through collaborative efforts with both Western and Arab nations. “Our message must be that we want to help and that we will leave once the problems have been solved. The Arab nations must be on our side.”

Otherwise, the U.S. is poised to repeat all its past mistakes, he said.

Der Spiegel‘s Matthias Gebauer and Holger Stark noted that in February 2004, the U.S. military “already had [ISIS leader] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in your hands—he was imprisoned in a military camp, but got cleared later as harmless by a U.S. military commission. How could that fatal mistake happen?”

Flynn replied:

We were too dumb. We didn’t understand who we had there at that moment.

[….] First we went to Afghanistan, where al-Qaida was based. Then we went into Iraq. Instead of asking ourselves why the phenomenon of terror occurred, we were looking for locations. This is a major lesson we must learn in order not to make the same mistakes again.

Asked whether he regretted the Iraq War, Flynn responded simply, “Yes, absolutely.”

“It was a huge error,” Flynn said. “As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, it was a mistake to just eliminate him. The same is true for Moammar Gadhafi and for Libya, which is now a failed state. The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq. History will not be and should not be kind with that decision.”

Flynn’s interview with Der Spiegel echoes comments he made to Al Jazeera‘s Mehdi Hasan in August that the U.S. “totally blew it” in preventing the caliphate’s rise “in the very beginning.”

In fact, Flynn said, the U.S. deliberately backed extremist groups within the Syrian rebel movement as far back as 2012, when he was still DIA head. The Obama administration was aware at the time of a recently-declassified DIA memo that predicted the rise of a militant group in eastern Syria. Supporting the insurgency was a “willful decision,” he said.


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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Former DIA Head Concedes US Deliberately Backed Extremists in Syria

6 Responses

  1. Bush/Cheney invaded Iraq to steal the oil. This tall about being mad or dumb is just smoke to cover our attempt to control the oil for western oil cartels.
    Our Government has become so corrupt that unending war to steal oil to keep a few super rich men rich while ignoring the consequences for the vast majority of the people is just excepted as the way things are.

  2. While I appreciate the apparent candor of General Flynn, I somehow stumble over his assertion that “When 9/11 occurred, all the emotions took over, and our response was, ‘Where did those bastards come from? Let’s go kill them. Let’s go get them.’ Instead of asking why they attacked us, we asked where they came from…”
    When 9/11 occurred I was a retired Marine with 26 years service, twenty of them as an infantry officer. As I think of my contemporaries, the highly qualified ones, the highly decorated, intelligent and dedicated ones, I strongly doubt that they would have thought and reacted that way. They would not have invaded Afghanistan, and certainly not Iraq. So my question is, what in the world happened. Where were the ones with the brains and the experience?
    Did our promotion system fail us, did the ‘best and the brightest’ get sidelined and the ‘yes-men’ promoted instead? Probably! We need to admit that we are no longer nurturing our best leaders, either in the military or in politics, but the ones who are the most egotistical, self serving and incompetent ones.

  3. xtian,
    You and General Flynn do not disagree. You were referring to your professional colleagues–with whom I identify also–and he was referring to the general public.
    I was serving in another branch of the USG at the time, in a fairly senior position, and my experiences were similar to yours.
    The simple math, well known to politicians, is that there are more among the uninformed masses than among the professional specialists. Ergo.

  4. Too many Generals decry what they did only after retiring. Too many countries have been overrun by imperialism with disastrous consequences to assign these actions as mistakes. Invading countries, overthrowing governments, assassinating leaders has been and continues as long-term US policy. The US government and corporations are highly allergic to democracy. All the high school Civics lessons are indeed turned upside down.

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