Archive for category War

Destroy ISIS – That’s The Objective?

ISIS

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.

More info:
5 Questions About The War Against ISIS That No One Should Be Embarrassed To Ask

UPDATE:
John Kerry Says U.S. Is ‘At War’ With ISIS. Last week he claimed just the opposite.

30 Comments

Tom Engelhardt: ISIS Can Thank Washington

ISIS

At this point, I think everyone has finally realized that following the al-Qaeda game plan post-9/11 didn’t turn out well. The aim of strategy is to force the enemy to conform to your will. Al-Qaeda had a strategy, and we really didn’t. The Bush administration sent our military to chase after who-knows-who in some 60 countries. When President Obama says, “we don’t have a strategy yet” to avoid spending more trillions and more American lives to give ISIS exactly what they want, he is stating a fact.

Tom Engelhardt (emphasis added):

Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington. Thirteen years of regional war, occupation, and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for them. They may be our worst nightmare (thus far), but they are also our legacy — and not just because so many of their leaders came from the Iraqi army we disbanded, had their beliefs and skills honed in the prisons we set up (Camp Bucca seems to have been the West Point of Iraqi extremism), and gained experience facing U.S. counterterror operations in the “surge” years of the occupation. In fact, just about everything done in the war on terror has facilitated their rise. After all, we dismantled the Iraqi army and rebuilt one that would flee at the first signs of ISIS’s fighters, abandoning vast stores of Washington’s weaponry to them. We essentially destroyed the Iraqi state, while fostering a Shia leader who would oppress enough Sunnis in enough ways to create a situation in which ISIS would be welcomed or tolerated throughout significant areas of the country.

“Blowback” can’t even begin to describe a strategic failure of this magnitude. It would be nice to think that the Obama administration has the intelligence and fortitude to design a new strategy that goes beyond “don’t do stupid shit.” I don’t think that. Nobody in Washington is prepared to call the Global War on Terror an utter failure, or admit that ISIS could not have triumphed without our help. It’s reasonable to predict the USA will keep doing the same thing (if only for lack of a better idea), hoping for different results.

UPDATE:
ISIS Is Beheading Journalists to Lure America Into Another Ground War. Remember the Iraq War’s Lessons

9 Comments

Congress Must Authorize New Iraq/Syria War

FA-18 Hornet
An FA-18 takes off from the US Navy aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush in the Gulf last Friday

CENTCOM confirms airstrikes against ISIS forces near the Mosul Dam. These attacks were offensive actions that went beyond the stated reasons for U.S. military action, namely to protect refugees and the city of Erbil.

Congress must get involved as soon as possible. Our Constitution does not allow the President to conduct offensive military operations on his own, without congressional authorization.

I get it. Democrats don’t want to vote for a new war in Iraq before the November elections, and the Tea-GOP/neocons are extremely reluctant to approve anything President Obama does or might do, even if they agree with it in principle.

Well, too bad. Congress (and only Congress) has the responsibility to either authorize another war or rein in this President. Mission creep is already underway – soon there will be about 1,000 U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq. The Pentagon has disclosed that a failed hostage rescue attempt last month resulted in a firefight with ISIS on the ground in Syria.

Any decision to wage war on ISIS has to take into account the fact that Syria is their base of operations. Are we going to commit our armed forces to fight, effectively, on behalf of the Assad regime in Damascus?

More info:
Iraq crisis: US strikes aid Kurdish bid to retake dam

UPDATES:
Bill Roggio, editor of The Long War Journal:
US launches 6 more airstrikes against Islamic State

The US has now “conducted a total of 90 airstrikes across Iraq. Of those 90 strikes, 57 have been in support of Iraqi forces near the Mosul Dam.”

…When President Obama “authorized the U.S. Armed Forces to conduct targeted air strikes to support operations by Iraqi forces to recapture the Mosul Dam” on Aug. 14, he permitted the United States military to serve as Iraq’s air arm as Iraqi and Kurdish forces went on the offensive in northern Iraq.

The Obama administration should be very explicit about its goals and objectives in Iraq if it wants to retain the support of the American public for an extended period of time. If the goal is to conduct limited airstrikes in the north to help the Iraqi government and the Kurds regain some lost ground with the hopes of containing the Islamic State, then it should say so. If the goal is to further the defeat of the Islamic State by striking in other theaters and possibly putting advisers, forward air controllers, and special operations forces on the ground, then the administration should communicate that as well.

DSWright on FDL: Secretary Hagel Claims ISIS Is ‘Threat To Every Interest We Have’, ‘Beyond Anything We’ve Seen’

[T]he Pentagon now appears to be on board with launching attacks in Syria if they target ISIS with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey saying ISIS would be a threat as long as they had safe zones in Syria and that “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of- days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated.” General Dempsey went on to call the Syrian-Iraq border “essentially non-existent.”

So, to recap, the Obama Administration now wants to fight with the Assad government against ISIS. Degrading Assad’s capability to kill his own people no longer a priority because he is also using that capability to kill ISIS forces. There’s still a red line somewhere it’s just not very straight.

ISIS Labeled ‘Imminent Threat’ As US Strikes Set To Expand Into Syria

In the aftermath of the killing of James Foley the Obama Administration has ratcheted up the rhetoric against ISIS now calling the group an imminent threat to US national security and global interests. Part of that label apparently entails attacking ISIS wherever they are including outside of current “limited” US operations in Iraq with plans to expand the US military campaign against ISIS into Syria.

Of course, in the real world there is no way ISIS constitutes an imminent threat to U.S. national security.

19 Comments

Iraq War III

ISIS flag

Here we go again. Iraq War updates via HuffPo.

29 Comments

‘Mowing the Grass’ in Gaza

Mowing the grass

Several announcements by Israel’s Ministry of Defense spokespersons during the first stage of their latest attack on Gaza stated that they were “mowing the grass.” This is their term for the periodic ritual slaughter of the Palestinians, which is politically popular in Israel and America but nowhere else.

“Mowing the grass” isn’t a winning strategy. It’s what you do to maintain the status quo, which is permanent war. It’s the Israeli government’s admission that they don’t want peace, because that would entail unacceptable compromises – for example, lifting the blockade of Gaza. It’s also a clue to the mindset of Israeli decision makers, who seem to regard Palestinian civilians as nothing more than blades of grass to be cut down.

The notion that repeated attacks on Gaza are nothing more than “mowing the grass” raises serious moral and strategic questions. Cutting down civilians, like the children playing on that Gaza beach, is not like cutting blades of grass. To compare the two is dehumanizing. And to embrace a policy that entails the killing of hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians with each application violates the conscience, if not the basic rule of law. Use of force should always be a last resort, not a premeditated policy of first choice.

Efaim Inbar and Eitan Shamir of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) are the leading spokespersons for “mowing the grass.” They wrote in an op-ed for the Jerusalem Post:

Western thinking is solution-oriented.

This explains part of the lack of understanding in the West for what Israel is doing.

Against an implacable, well-entrenched, non-state enemy like the Hamas, Israel simply needs to “mow the grass” once in a while to degrade the enemy’s capabilities.

As anybody with a lawn can tell you, when you mow the grass the roots grow stronger. Hence the long-term stupidity of the Israeli plan. The use of force against civilians won’t ever bring them peace, but they keep on anyway because they have no imagination. Israel is perpetrating enormous war crimes, deliberately as a tactic of collective punishment of Palestinians. Why do we keep supplying weapons and ammo to Israel with our tax dollars?

More info:
Israel mows the lawn
‘Mowing The Grass’ In Gaza: A War In The Mideast Every Four Years?
Israeli code word for genocide: “Mowing the lawn”

UPDATES:
Israel Hits Gaza With Heaviest Bombardment In 3 Weeks
Heartbreak: Reporting on Gaza’s child victims
Gaza: This Is No Life
Why Don’t Palestinians Just Leave Gaza? They Can’t.
Gaza Death Toll Soars As Israel Presses Offensive
Strike On Gaza Market Kills At Least 15
Israel Kills 15 During Assault On UN School As Military Intensifies Attack On Refugee Camp
UN rights chief slams Israel’s ‘defiance’ of international law
FDL: Haunting the Conscience of the World

This is a turning point, Israel has crossed all the red lines and the world will hold them accountable for it. This long night for the people of Gaza will end, the light of justice will finally shine on them, and there will be no more darkness.

Gaza death toll surpasses that of Cast Lead as count hits 1,437

56 Comments

Iraq Update – Depends On Who You Believe

ISIS truck column

The Iraqi Army is either locked in a stalemate in the battle for Tikrit and surrounding areas about 100 miles northwest of Baghdad, or (according to a claim by ISIS) has completely lost the city and Camp Speicher, a nearby military post and helicopter base.

Here’s the story according to The Long War Journal:

The Iraqi military made its first effort to retake Tikrit in late June, when it airlifted commandos into Tikrit University in an effort to gain a toehold north of the city. An advance on the city from the south was defeated. Then, on July 16, the Iraqi military launched Operation Decisive Sword. A large column of military and militia units entered southern Tikrit and thought they liberated the city, but as they celebrated they were ambushed with suicide bombers, IEDs, and conventional attacks. The Iraqi forces then withdrew from the city.

After the Iraqi military withdrew from southern Tikrit on July 16, the Islamic State immediately began its assault on Camp Speicher, as the base was the last remaining holdout of Iraqi forces near the city (Iraqi forces were withdrawn from Tikrit University sometime before the second offensive was launched).

The loss of Camp Speicher, and perhaps more importantly, the loss of the helicopters and its pilots if the Islamic State’s claims are true, is a serious blow to both the morale and the operational capabilities of the Iraqi military. The Iraqi military, which has failed to retake major cities and towns from the Islamic State and its allies, now may find it more difficult to support and defend the Bayji oil refinery just to the north, which has been largely resupplied by helicopters.

The Daily Beast cast doubt on the ISIS claim of victory in Tikrit:

On Friday, multiple news reports claimed that ISIS had won a major victory, seizing control of a vital army base outside of Tikrit and killing or capturing the hundreds of soldiers stationed there. If true, ISIS’s capture of Camp Speicher would signal a crucial turning point in the battle for the city and a humiliating setback for the Iraqi Army.

But the reports are false according to multiple Iraqi sources, who say Speicher was attacked on Friday but that ISIS never entered the base. According to an Iraqi Army soldier, who said he is currently stationed at the base: “Ten suicide bombers tried to blow themselves up at the gate so 15 more ISIS fighters in support could enter the base but we killed all of them. Only one Iraqi soldier was killed.”

Even if neither side is in control of Tikrit, the Iraqi government remains in deep serious trouble. A week ago The Long War Journal estimated that half of Iraq’s 15 army divisions have become ineffective or have completely disappeared.

11 Comments

Kerry Caught On Hot Mic Mocking Precision Of Israeli Strikes As Gaza Operation Intensifies

Air strike on Gaza

Via FDL:

Secretary of State John Kerry, who was on every network political show over the weekend justifying Israel’s actions in Gaza, was caught on a hot mic giving a very different assessment. Kerry said “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” while talking to an aide on the phone, mocking the accuracy of Israel’s weapons strikes which Israel claims are limited and precise.

Precision is of course one thing, while accuracy is another thing. A bomb, missile, or tank round can precisely hit the wrong target. Which is what is happening, inevitably, in Gaza. Israeli air strikes and artillery fire have hit civilian homes, mosques, and hospitals. Ambulances have been destroyed.

More info:
In Gaza, whatever the target, children often the victims
Panicked residents flee Gaza City neighborhood hit by tank fire as Israel widens offensive
CNN: Israeli Airstrike Hits Cafe Packed With People Watching World Cup
Four dead at Gaza hospital hit by Israeli strike
Three More Children Killed in Latest Air Strike on Gaza
More than 30 members of two Palestinian families are killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza
Israeli Airstrikes Injure Three Journalists in Gaza

UPDATES:
Hamas Offers Reasonable Truce, Greeted by Deafening Silence

The 7-year Israeli/Egyptian blockade of Gaza is a violation of international law, an act of war, and a crime against humanity.

Graphic Photos From The Gaza Strip Show Destruction And Death
“This is not war, this is annihilation”
US Only Country To Vote No On UN Resolution Against Killing Civilians In Gaza

The result of the resolution – which passed despite the US’ no vote – will be a UN probe into how Israel is using force in Gaza, particularly against civilians. Of the 732 Palestinians now reported killed from Operation Protective Edge an estimated 80% have been civilians.

Gaza Death Toll Over 1,000

More than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed and more than 6,000 have been wounded over the past 19 days, al-Kidra said. Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.

35 Comments

Don’t Go Back To Iraq!

I can’t believe that anybody needs to say this. There is nothing good that can be accomplished by the U.S. military in Iraq. We don’t even know what side to fight on. But MoveOn is right– we can’t just assume that Washington politicians have enough sense to make a smart decision, even after the nine-year fiasco that was the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We must make our voices heard now.

Petition by Iraq War veteran Matthew Hoh: “Tell President Obama and Congress: Keep America Out Of Iraq!”

Petition demanding a vote in Congress: “Join Barbara Lee & Scott Rigell, Stop Rush to Iraq War”

13 Comments

ISIS Declares Caliphate In Syria And Iraq

ISIS caliphate
ISIS declares caliphate – those little derrick symbols represent oil fields.

Osama bin Laden’s vision of a Muslim caliphate in the Middle East is now a reality, thanks in large part to the USA. On Sunday morning, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) pronounced the reformation of the caliphate—the historical Islamic state that once stretched over much of the modern-day Muslim world—with ISIS emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as the man in charge.

DSWright on FDL:

Al Qaeda’s strategy of trying to force a US overreaction with the 9/11 attack has proved considerably successful in destabilizing the regional regimes that opposed establishing a caliphate and promulgating fundamentalist Islamic law. …12 million people are estimated to live under the control of ISIS already and if the now declared caliphate continues its expansion it could be considerably more.

…Apparently using the US military to topple secular leaders did little to thwart the rise of Islamic extremism. In fact, it seems to have had the opposite effect.

Add to the “no one could have anticipated…” file. Which is getting pretty thick by now.

More info:
ISIS Declares Themselves an Islamic State
The Beginning of a Caliphate: The Spread of ISIS, in Five Maps

UPDATES:
According to Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal, the proclamation of a caliphate was “a controversial move that is sure to send shockwaves throughout the jihadist world.”

59 Comments

Mrs. Heimann’s Mother (reprint)

This post is a reprint from December 2007.

It feels relevant today.

***********

Some 20 years ago, I was taking an evening German course from a woman named Phila Heimann. Mrs. Heimann recounted her experiences in the US. For instance, as recent immigrants, during World War Two, her school-aged children faced discrimination from their American born peers. When asked “Are you Germans?” her kids responded proudly, “No, we are Austrians and we speak Austrian, not German!”

Mrs. Heimann introduced me to a powerful book – a photojournalists book of photos of buildings in an around Vienna. There were two photos of each site – a pre-war and post-war photo, the post war photo showing the ruins. The book was called The Pearl of Vienna in Hitler’s Setting (I think the German was Die Perle Wien Im Hitlers Fassung).

Anyway, I’m thinking about Mrs. Heimann’s mother today.

When she was 5, little Phila went with her mother to watch the troops march off to fight what we know today as World War One. Surrounded by cheering crowds, her mother was weeping. Phila asked, “Why are you crying? Everyone else is happy?” And her mother replied,

“All these men are going to die. They won’t be coming home.”

War is never good, never a grand and glorious thing. It is always and forever a tragedy. No matter what our leaders say or believe or want us to believe, war is always and forever a failure.

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June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in the streets of Sarajevo by a man named Gavrilo Princip. The Archduke’s assassination sparked World War One. That was one hundred years ago.

I wonder if we learned anything in the intervening, bloody century.

2 Comments

Media Welcomes Back Consistently Wrong Iraq ‘Experts’… Wolfowitz, Feith, Bremer, Kristol… Even Judith Miller!


Via HuffPo: CNN’s Erin Burnett Confronts Paul Bremer Over His Iraq Failures

This morning my breakfast was spoiled when Paul Wolfowitz — Paul Wolfowitz! came on MSNBC to pontificate about Iraq. I don’t want to look at that guy, much less hear what he has to say about Iraq of all subjects!

I don’t want to minimize the suffering of the Iraqi people, who are being shafted in the worst possible way by both the Maliki government and the ISIS insurgents, but there is something seriously wrong with our media when Doug Feith is treated as an expert on Iraq (by Politico). For those who don’t remember, Feith was known as “the Undersecretary of Defense for Fiascoes.” General Tommy Franks once described Feith as “the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth.”

And Paul Bremer. Paul Bremer! The guy who started the Sunni insurgency in the first place by disbanding the old Iraqi government and dismissing their entire army without pay. He was on CNN (see video). I don’t like Erin Burnett, but even she is smart enough to realize that Paul Bremer has no business giving anybody advice about Iraq.

We didn’t miss Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, only because he never went away. Kristol infamously predicted the Iraq conflict was “going to be a two month war,” (the war lasted approximately 104 months) and testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging military action, he proclaimed that “American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators.”

Ari Fleischer is back, too. As Press Secretary in the Bush administration, Fleischer was in charge of selling the illegal invasion of Iraq, claiming “there’s no question that if force is used, it will achieve the objective of preserving the peace far faster than the current path that we’re on.”

Judith Miller, the NYT reporter who spun fanciful tales about Saddam’s nonexistent arsenal of so-called “weapons of mass destruction,” now appears on the Faux News Channel to talk about Iraq. Presumably they even pay her.

What is the matter with our news media?

More info:
Iraq War Boosters Get Second Chance In Media Spotlight
The People Who Broke Iraq Have A Lot of Ideas About Fixing It Now
CNN’s Cuomo Calls Out Bush Administration’s Paul Wolfowitz For GOP Hypocrisy On Iraq
True Chyrons For Bush-Era Iraq War ‘Experts’
Rachel Maddow Hammers Media For Booking Iraq War Hawks Who Got Things So Wrong

48 Comments

Insurgents Seize Iraqi City of Mosul as Security Forces Flee

Map of northern Iraq

I’ve been watching cable TV news for any sign of this story. Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran most of Mosul yesterday. Iraqi soldiers and police officers abandoned their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the insurgents.

Mosul is Iraq’s third-largest city. ISIS already controls Fallujah and part of Ramadi in Anbar Province. The same group has taken over several cities in eastern Syria. Today it is being reported that a half million people have fled Mosul and ISIS has seized Iraq’s biggest oil refinery in Baiji. Other advances have been reported in areas west and south of the city of Kirkuk.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced a “general mobilization” of the country’s security forces and asked parliament to declare a state of emergency. He is asking the Kurdish Peshmerga forces for help. Meanwhile, reports indicate that ISIS has captured helicopters and significant stocks of U.S. – made weapons.

It would take a long time to list all of the errors that led to this point. Sunni insurgents, bought off by U.S. taxpayers in the so-called “surge” during the Bush administration, are back because the al-Maliki regime didn’t give them any concessions. Last year, they raided Abu Ghraib prison and liberated up to a thousand fighters. In January, they took Fallujah. Iraqi Army counter-attacks have failed thus far.

More info:
One Of The World’s Scariest Terrorist Groups Now Controls Major City In Iraq
ISIS: The group too extreme for al-Qaida that is taking over Iraq
ISIS Now Controls A Shocking Percentage Of Iraq And Syria

UPDATE:
ISIS Militants Seize Iraqi City Of Tikrit

BAGHDAD (AP) — Al-Qaida-inspired militants seized effective control Wednesday of Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, expanding their offensive closer to the Iraqi capital as soldiers and security forces abandoned their posts following clashes with the insurgents.

UPDATE:
Iraq Asked The White House For Air Support Against Militants — But They Said No

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked last month for the U.S. to consider carrying out air strikes against its growing insurgency and the White House turned him down, The New York Times reports.

UPDATE:
Iraqi Kurds ‘fully control Kirkuk’ as army flees

“The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” Kurdish spokesman Jabbar Yawar told Reuters. “No Iraq army remains in Kirkuk now.”

UPDATE:
President Obama Puts Military Option on the Table With Iraq

64 Comments

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