U.S. soldiers stand guard near a burning oil well in the Rumaylah oil fields in southern Iraq in 2003. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) from 2012 to 2014, has spoken out about how the Iraq War has led to the rise of the Islamic State terror group.

In an interview with the German Der Spiegel on Sunday, Flynn, who was in Afghanistan and Iraq as director of intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command from 2004 to 2007, was asked about how the U.S. arrested Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi back in February 2004 and released him, allowing him to go on and establish Islamic State.

When Der Spiegel asked Flynn why the militant was released, Flynn replied:

“We were too dumb. We didn’t understand who we had there at that moment. 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. Then we strategically marched in the wrong direction.”

AlterNet provides a portion of the interview in which Flynn goes on to concede that the occupation of Iraq was a mistake:

Spiegel Online: The US invaded Iraq even though Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

Flynn: 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.

Spiegel Online: The Islamic State wouldn’t be where it is now without the fall of Baghdad. Do you regret …

Flynn: … yes, absolutely …

Spiegel Online: … the Iraq war?

Flynn: It was a huge error. 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.

Read more here.

About 500,000 deaths resulted from the near decade-long Iraq War. Researchers estimate that about 60 percent of the deaths were violent and have blamed poor health infrastructure for the remaining 40 percent, emphasizing the importance of providing sufficient health care after conflict.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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