Archive for category Syria
It’s a meme made famous by Bush administration officials who failed to do their jobs. Over and over again, following each Bush catastrophe from the 9/11 attacks to Hurricane Katrina to the 2008 collapse of the financial sector (causing a near depression), they told us, “no one could have predicted” what would happen.
Now we learn, via a newly declassified document from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), that in 2012 intelligence analysts predicted the rise of ISIS and the founding of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. This would be a direct consequence of the intervention of U.S. allies and the U.S. itself in the Syrian civil war, according to the report.
Just like the 9/11 attacks, we saw it coming and did nothing to prevent it. At the very least, top government officials underestimated the ISIS threat to the region and to our own national security.
Source: The Daily Mirror
The Constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.
President Obama asked Congress on Wednesday for new war powers to go after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The draft resolution (PDF) asks Congress to enact a three-year Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS. The resolution notably restricts the use of American ground troops and seeks to avoid a prolonged conflict.
Obama announced his plan to launch airstrikes against ISIS back in September, and the White House’s AUMF resolution seeks to formalize the U.S. military campaign to “degrade and defeat” ISIS.
The draft AUMF has already been criticized as imprecise. For example, it defines the enemy as “ISIL [sic] or associated persons or forces.” But that would include the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels (armed by the U.S.), who routinely fight alongside ISIS. Like the 2001 AUMF (which would remain in effect), there is no geographical limitation in the new draft AUMF. Potentially it could authorize attacking Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Asked today if he agreed that language was “fuzzy,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest replied with a firm yes, saying it is “intentionally” fuzzy “because we believe it’s important that there aren’t overly burdensome constraints that are placed on the commander-in-chief.”
I left the Army with the rank of captain, but it doesn’t take a four-star general to realize you can’t fight a war intelligently unless you know who the enemy is, and where to find them. Oh, and by the way this draft AUMF is probably a violation of the U.N. Charter – though that’s somewhat debatable.
“The devastating and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us that when we give military authority to the executive, it should not be a blank check,” Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said.
“Unfortunately, the authorization proposed by the president this week is too broad. In order to ensure meaningful limits on executive branch authority, an AUMF should at a minimum contain a clear objective and geographical limitations. It should also include an enforceable ban on the deployment of ground troops with exception for only the most limited of operations, unambiguous language, and a repeal of the 2001 AUMF,” they said.
Iraqi Army M-1 Abrams tank captured by ISIS
Here’s a military and foreign policy lesson that is being driven home by recent events in Iraq. In fourth-generation warfare (4GW), it’s not over when the USA says it’s over. Remember that whole populations are involved, and unlike foreign expeditionary forces from halfway around the world the local populace isn’t going anywhere. There is no nation state to be defeated, and no peace treaty will ever be signed.
The American military is nevertheless engaged in 4GW in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this means we are faced with the decision to (1) stay committed to an open-ended conflict without any hope of a decisive result, or (2) let the war we started (or got into while in progress) go on without us, possibly with results counter to our foreign policy goals.
There was a third option, (3) spend tens of billions of dollars to train and equip friendly(?) local government(?) forces to take over for U.S. soldiers. That was tried in Iraq and Afghanistan, and failed (most spectacularly in Iraq). Somebody please tell the Obama administration, because they are planning to try this again.
DSWright on FDL comments on the Pentagon’s latest plans:
A multiyear campaign that requires more assistance – in other words, the US is back in the nation building business in Iraq. Of course we just saw the results of a multiyear campaign to provide military assistance – total capitulation. So why not do it again? It’s only the age of austerity for domestic spending.
…The American people gave Barack Obama the presidency largely based on his promise to get out of Iraq – the more we learn how worthless our actions are in Iraq the clearer it is that that’s a promise worth keeping.
Apparently the Washington politicians of both major parties are up for another round of war in the Middle East, only this time we’re fighting in Syria too. Does anybody think this is a good idea?
Too much money spent in Iraq for too few results
Veterans not surprised Iraq’s Army collapsed
Economic Costs Summary: $4.4 Trillion and Counting
Everyone in America Could Go to College for Free for the Amount of Money Spent on Mideast Wars
U.S.: Ground Offensive Against Islamic State Still Months Away
“Until the Abadi government can get on its feet and kind of deliver some small successes, I don’t think, I don’t think we’re in a position to make any promises on behalf of that government,” the official said.
M-60A3 tanks of Turkish Armed Forces standing by at the Turkey-Syria border, as ISIS and Kurdish armed groups fight for control of nearby Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) on October 6, 2014. (Photo by Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The current situation in the war against ISIS, via CNN:
The United States and its allies have made at least 271 airstrikes in Iraq and 116 in Syria.
The cost? More than $62 million for just the munitions alone.
The effect? Negligible, some say, particularly in Iraq.
One by one, the cities have fallen to ISIS like dominoes: Hit, Albu Aytha, Kubaisya, Saqlawia and Sejal.
And standing on the western outskirts of Baghdad, ISIS is now within sight.
The Long War Journal reports that ISIS captured a battalion of tanks (that’s up to 54 tanks) at Hit after they were abandoned by fleeing Iraqi soldiers.
The U.S. is now flying risky missions around Fallujah using AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. This means the “air war” now openly includes ground combat, because American military doctrine (PDF) classifies an attack helicopter force as a maneuver element, the same as infantry or armor.
Meanwhile in Syria, ISIS is about to occupy the town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) on the Turkish border. Turkey has refused to aid the Kurdish defenders, despite U.S. requests. Air strikes in the vicinity of Kobani have failed to stop the three-week assault on the town.
Why Everyone Is Sitting Back And Letting ISIS Conquer A Key Syrian Town
Turkey’s Refusal To Help Besieged Kurds Fight ISIS Is Backfiring
As They Battle ISIS For Kurdish Town, U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebels Question Support
This Is How Close The Fight Against ISIS Is To Turkey’s Border
Islamic State Advances Deeper Into Kobani
ISIS Battles Iraqi Forces Near Baghdad
President Obama is now the fourth President in a row who’s leading us into war in Iraq. Additionally, he again wants to attack Syria (but Washington seems to have switched sides in the Syrian civil war since a year ago). Considering the outcomes of previous American military adventures in the Middle East, is this really a good idea? The plan, such as it is, will consist of using mostly air power and special operations forces in cooperation with allied ground forces. The stated objective is to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” ISIS. However, we’ve failed to “destroy” any of the Islamic insurgent forces we’ve fought against over the past 13 years – they are all still thriving, including ISIS (which started out as al-Qaeda in Iraq).
Rajiv Chandrasekaran in the WaPo:
“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead… “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”
Adding to the level of difficulty is the fact that the USA will be fighting on the same side as Bashir al-Assad, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Iran. And the nascent Iraqi government of of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is an uncertain ally at best. Probably half the Iraqi Army has been rendered combat-ineffective as a result of ISIS advances.
Posted by Firmage Ed in 9/11, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, Biological Weapons, Bush Administration, Bush Failures, CIA, Civil liberties Infringement, Conservative, Crimes, Democracy, Democrats, Dick Cheney, Drone Strikes, George W. Bush, Guantanamo, Hezbollah, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, Israel, John McCain, Liberal, Libertarianism, Mahdi Army, Mormon LDS, National Politics, nazis, Neocons, NSA Surveillance, Nuclear Weapons, Oliver North, Pakistan, Proof Bush Lied, Rumsfeld, Syria, Syria, Terrorism, This Blog, War Crimes on June 5, 2014
I’m so sorry to write this missive as a lead article (for 15 minutes) but I don’t remember how to find the comments and respond to them. The lonely little side-bar response to my article I’ve not seen, except for half a sentence. It seemed to be saying that the old days are gone now, and so we need NATO and the JN. I agree. With NATO, it is the trip-wire provision that we go to war, automatically if any NATO nation is attacked, regardless of who the attacker is. This takes not only the United States Congress, but the president, as Commander in Chief, from the decision to go to war. I support both the UN and, if handled correctly, NATO. But President J. Reuben Clark and I oppose the automatic going to war. Just like the fools, the ancient general staffs of all sides in WW I. No one wanted that war. There was no Adolph Hitler in that war that destroyed the entire 20th century. Better to have shot the general staffs, who came to deserve exactly that. What President Clark called for, and I, are what the United States has always done, before NATO. That is, to have treaties of peace and friendship with our allies and then, should hostilities commence, such treaties would call for all parties to go to war, or not, as their constitutions provide. In this way, we don’t declare war against a nation, and surely all the people, have not yet been born. How, pray tell, do we justify going to war against, and for, people not, or no longer, live on earth. With a few caveats, ditto for the UN. No provision of law allows the UN to overreach Congress in the decision for war or peace. For anyone interested, read my book with the late Francis Wormuth, To Cain the Dog of War. It is by odds the best book ever written on the way we go to war. Every single war we’ve ever fought, including our wars against the Indian tribes, is there analyzed. Francis did not live to see this book in print. I worked two years after his death to finish it. And I updated it 4 or 5 times, alone. I still put my dear friend’s name first, because I am honored to be linked, now, forever. Something like Mormon marriage through time and eternity. ed firmage xoxo
I have heard the arguments in favor of intervention in Syria.
I have yet to hear someone make a compelling case that the US is responsible for fixing what’s wrong. It seems many Americans agree.
From William Greider at The Nation:
For two generations, the US has gone to war claiming nobler purposes, the protection and liberation of helpless others. But, our statesmen add, the defense of world peace requires us occasionally to go to war pre-emptively. Shoot the bad guys before they can shoot us.
The American people evidently understand this now and want no part of it. They are overwhelmingly fed up with intervening in other people’s wars. Iraq and Afghanistan taught bitter lessons. The experiences told Americans to disregard whatever presidents and intelligence officials claim to see as an imminent threat. The patriotic exhortations from governing elites in Washington now disparage “isolationist” sentiments, but constituents back home simply want a more rational definition of “national self-interest.”
Nobody knows, of course, but it is conceivable this war of confusion could evolve into a stunning historical shift—the moment when militarism and the military-industrial complex begin to lose their iron grip on US politics. The arms industry still dominates the domestic economy and will remain influential when good jobs are still scarce. In past wars, whenever Americans were sent to fight abroad, the people quickly rallied ’round the flag. Popular patriotism soars in wartime. Only after bitter losses accumulate do people begin to turn against the war and want out.
This time feels different. People generally are already antiwar.
Ott Scharmer argues we are in an age of disruption, the old order is simply incapable of sustaining itself; it stumbles from self-inducecd crisis to self-induced crisis then furiously works to obscure the source of the disruptions and extend its privilege (think Wall Street).
What’s happening in the US with regard to Syria is a perfect case of the age of disruption in action. Not so many years ago, a bombing run on Syria would have been a foregone conclusion. Today, it’s not. Yes, it’s a cliche but the military-industrial complex wants an attack on Syria. They benefitted beyond all imagining by Iraq and Afghanistan. Why shouldn’t they want to benefit from Syria? And yet it is wildly disapproved of by the people paying the bills.
The age of disruption is all about changing our expectations and assumptions.
President Obama gave a great speech at the United Nations General Assembly this morning. The rest of the world wants to believe that America has not abandoned its founding principles, and our President says we have not. If only his actions conformed to the Constitution, I’d be happy to support him.
We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspirations of men and women who took to the streets.
We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy put us on the side of the people.
We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.
We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the U.N. Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.
And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.
We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values.
American foreign policy ought to be on the side of the 99 Percent. Similarly, our government ought to stand up for the 99 Percent of Americans.
Citing Nelson Mandela, President Obama received loud applause.
And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said: “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.
In other words, true democracy – real freedom – is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.
And he offered this comment on the limits of American power:
Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue.
He implicitly rejected the neocon view of a world divided, but failed to address the violence against innocent civilians that is perpetrated by the USA:
A politics based only on anger –one based on dividing the world between us and them – not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces. Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than ten Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; and several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.
…We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights.
President Obama concluded (as he began) by citing the example of Chris Stevens, our murdered ambassador to Libya.
And today I promise you this – long after these killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’ legacy will live on in the lives he touched. In the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the sign that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.
They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it justice will be done; that history is on our side; and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed. Thank you.
The study’s purpose was to conduct an “independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians”.
In his first major foreign policy address, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today laid out a vision for international development steeped in Tea Party ideology… Romney …threw some red meat at his base by ticking off unfavorable developments currently faced by the U.S. in the Muslim world, listing among them the fact that “the president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim brotherhood.”
…A foreign policy expert texted me a single word: “Thud.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Rep. Eric Cantor
Item: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday during an extraordinary meeting in New York that the new GOP majority in the House will “serve as a check” on the Obama administration, a statement unusual for its blunt disagreement with U.S. policy delivered directly to a foreign leader.
Via TPM: As Ron Kampeas at the Jewish Telegraph Agency put it, he couldn’t “remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president.”
Yes, that’s the same Eric Cantor who castigated Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi just three years ago for allegedly violating the Logan Act on a trip to Syria– even though she was careful not to criticize the Bush administration.
The Logan Act makes it a felony and provides for a prison sentence of up to three years for any American, “without authority of the United States,” to communicate with a foreign government in an effort to influence that government’s behavior on any “disputes or controversies with the United States.”
Fortunately for politicians like Eric Cantor, no one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act since it became law in 1799.
Also, as Glenn Greenwald points out, it is hard to imagine “that Israel needs to be protected from the extremely deferential and devoted Obama administration.”
UPDATE: Cantor spokesman walks it back, a little.
As I mentioned almost a year ago, in the last decade the U.S has been directly involved in military attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen (including two full-scale invasions and occupations). Our closest ally Israel has attacked Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, plus Turkish civilian vessels on international waters.
What national security consequences can we expect from these attacks on Muslim countries? Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani immigrant who pled guilty to an attempt to detonate a car bomb on a busy Saturday night in Times Square, tells us:
“Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun. Consider me the first droplet of the blood that will follow.”
The very idea that we’re going to spend an entire decade dropping a constant stream of bombs and other munitions on and in multiple Muslim countries and otherwise interfere in their governments — and then expect that nobody will try to attack us back — evinces such a child-like sense of imperial entitlement that it’s hard to put into words. And yet this is exactly the mindset that pervades our discussions of Terrorism: why would anyone possibly want to do something as heinous and senseless as placing a bomb in the United States? I just don’t understand it. What kind of an irrational fanatic and monster would even think of something like that? Of course, the people who say such things rarely apply the same language to our own political leaders…
Our foreign and national security policy is irrational. We are provoking a threat that the Pentagon cannot defend us against, even with a budget that exceeds military spending in all other countries put together.
UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald: They hate us for our occupations
Related One Utah post:
Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us? (October 20, 2009)
Via Raw Story: The US government’s consolidated terrorist watch list has exceeded an estimated 400,000 “unique” records of “known or suspected terrorist identities,” according to a Justice Department report (PDF) released yesterday.
As of 31 December 2008, 1.1 million records existed on the government’s watch list, according to the Inspector General’s report. That number, however, includes duplicate files and aliases and does not reflect the actual number of people listed as terrorists.
According to author James Moore, who was watch listed after he wrote books critical of Karl Rove, and cannot get his name removed from the “terrorist” list:
The terrorist watch list is an icon for government malfunction and abuse. Politicians can seemingly nominate their enemies for the list or have it done by proxy using their bureaucratic influence. And the lists are maintained using outdated matching software that is incapable of finding discrepancies in all of the various data formats used by federal agencies. The list has made a lot of work for a lot of bureaucrats but it hasn’t caught a single terrorist or made safer one American soul.
The most egregious case of consequences for an individual wrongly placed on the watch list was Canadian software engineer Maher Arar. In 2002, Arar was detained at New York City’s JFK airport, then rendered without a court order to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured—all because Canadian officials had mistakenly asked for his name to be included on a watch list.
The list of “known or suspected” terrorists includes anti-war activists, Nelson Mandela, several members of Congress, the President of Bolivia, Saddam Hussein and 14 of the 19 hijackers from 9/11.
Related One Utah posts:
A Million Terrorists, and Counting (July 15, 2008)
OMG There Are A Million Terrorists (February 27, 2008)