ISIS and Empire Follies, Part 2

Dennis Loo | September 16, 2014

As I pointed out in the first part of this series, the US inadvertently created ISIS, a nightmare that Obama is now feverishly trying - but will be unable - to wake up from.

He's tripling down on an ever-deepening disastrous and counter-productive strategy, drawing the entire world into the chasm of disorder that the US’s policies have been generating. But you have to feel for the guy, being the head of the greatest empire since Rome is way worse than being the Godfather. Mafia bosses only have other mafioso to contend with. The head of the US empire has billions of people opposed to him.

Obama’s previous declarations that Iraq was a “stupid” war and that he would only fight “smart” wars, using “smart” means – i.e., killing thousands, including hundreds of children, with drones so he need not deal with more hunger striking detainees such as those at GTMO who he tortures daily with forced feedings, and his subsequent claims of a successful withdrawal of ground troops from Iraq (but didn’t he say the Iraq war was over in 2011?!) - have now been exposed as extraordinary failures, blowing up in his face with the dramatic spread of ISIS across Syria and Iraq.

Obama’s “smart” policies are like Monty Python’s Black Knight who keeps losing limb after limb, blood spurting from all gaping wounds, declaring that he’s still standing and winning.



Terry Gross, host of NPR’s Fresh Air, interviewed NYT Baghdad Bureau Chief Tim Arango on September 10, 2014. The interview is full of useful insights, including his explanation of how the US concretely and specifically produced ISIS:

[T]here's been a Sunni elite governing Iraq for, you know, centuries. And they [the US] come in. The Sunnis realize they're going to be left out of this. They're not going to be running the country anymore. And so resistance movements sprung up. And the other things the Americans did was disbanding the Iraqi army, which created a whole group of would-be potential insurgents. And so al-Qaida in Iraq is formed. And, you know, many of the things that the Maliki government has done to alienate Sunnis they learned from the Americans. The Americans taught them how to exclude Sunnis from political life with debathification and things like that. The other thing Maliki's done is, you know, these mass arrests of Sunni men and of suspected terrorists. And that's exactly what the Americans did. And so as the Americans tried to fight these guys, they would do these mass arrests. And they would put them in places like Camp Bucca. And most of the leaders of ISIS were in Camp Bucca. And, you know, they got to know each other. They got to plan. They got to hang out. And so, you know, on every turn in the Iraq story, now, is the American legacy and the epic American failure in Iraq. (Emphasis added).

The US civilian government and military officials, in other words, under both the hawk Bush and the smart hawk Obama, created their own enemies - this virulent cancer - that they now say require using even more of the same poisonous medicine to eliminate what was produced by following their "preventive" measures in the first place. Arrogant, imperialist bullies just can't help being arrogant, imperialist bullies.

Systems, to put this in a larger framework, do not operate as they do because of the individual traits or even subjective intentions of those who occupy and lead those systems. Systems operate according to their internal logic. That is what makes them systems. It doesn’t matter if Obama really had intended or really does mean to dismantle the Empire and let the world be free of imperialist machinations and domination. In any case, anyone paying even a little attention to what Obama’s done and said since being elected can see that the man is not secretly on our side when he extols American exceptionalism. 

Nevertheless, old habits and institutional and organizational interests die hard. Witness, for example, these August statements of the Democratic Party action group MoveOn. I have interspersed some editorial commentary within their missive.

Note as you read this the way they take the onus of blame off of Obama’s shoulders for the ongoing wars and instead blame “right-wing hawks.”

Dear MoveOn member,

U.S. bombing strikes are now well under way in Iraq in a military mission that President Obama said could go on for months.1 U.S. military planes have also been delivering vital humanitarian assistance to civilians fleeing the violence, including Yazidis who were forced onto Iraq’s Mount Sinjar by ISIS militants laying siege on the mountain.2

MoveOn members across the country have weighed in with thoughts on what’s happening in Iraq. There are varying opinions on different aspects of this crisis, but there are some common threads. Our hearts break for the people of Iraq who are living through this conflict. We know there are no simple solutions. And we’re united in our opposition to America sliding down the slippery slope to another war in Iraq.

[If your hearts are breaking about the Iraqi people, then why aren’t you angry at the Commander-in-Chief who is ordering these US bombing strikes that could go on for months? If there are “no simple solutions,” how about considering the simple demand that the US get out, now!?]

As we all try to make sense of the events that are unfolding, here are eight things that you should know about the Iraq crisis. 

Please read on and then share the list on Facebook or Twitter, or just forward this email. It’s vital that we engage the country in a conversation about the U.S. role in Iraq.

8 Things to Know about the Iraq Crisis   

1.  Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham, other Republicans in Congress, and right-wing figures—who blindly led America into invading and occupying Iraq—are now demanding more military action that could drag us back into full-scale war in the region.3,4,5 

[That’s right. The real problem isn’t the POTUS. It’s those damn right-wing hawks. They’re “demanding more military action” unlike President Obama who is demanding more military action and ordering relentless airstrikes. Wait. What?]

2. The slippery slope is real.

Mission creep can too easily occur—along with unintended consequences and new problems created by the use of U.S. military force.6,7 History shows us that many big wars start out looking small, including the Korean War and the Vietnam War.8 And we are now dealing with a prime example of unintended consequences: Bush’s war of choice and military occupation of Iraq set the stage for Iraq’s troubles today, including the rise of ISIS.9,10,11,12

[Ah, a little bit of truth here: ISIS is an example of unintended consequences. But then, while Bush started the wars, Obama’s been in charge since 2008. That’s six years. Is it only Cheney and those “right-wing hawks” who’ve been calling for more military action? Is Cheney pulling Obama’s strings and Obama’s really only a puppet?]

3. Voters elected President Obama to end the Iraq war that George W. Bush recklessly started.

President Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war before it began and his pledge to end it—as part of the contrast between him and those who pushed for war—were key to his success in both the Democratic primary election and the general election in 2008.13 He continues to pledge that he “will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.”14,15

[Avoid at all costs stating the otherwise obvious truth that it’s Obama who is escalating the war in Iraq. Harken back to his pre-2008 opposition to the Iraq War, but don’t mention that his opposition was that it was a “dumb” war, not that he was opposed to US invasions and occupations on principle.]

4. Ultimately, Iraq’s problems can be solved only by an Iraqi-led political solution. 

President Obama has said that there is no military solution to the crisis in Iraq and that there can only be “an Iraqi solution.”16 

[Which is why he keeps using military might to try to solve the knotty contradictions that US policy, with him in charge, has created.]

As this Vox explainer lays out: 

“ISIS isn’t just a terrorist group rampaging through Iraq (though they definitely are that). It’s in many ways an expression of the Sunni Muslim minority’s anger at the Shia-dominated government. . . Some Sunni grievances get to more fundamental issues within the Iraqi state itself, beyond what even a better government could easily fix.”17 

These are not problems that more U.S. bombings can solve. That’s why experts are saying that “any lasting solution has to be regional in nature and must address the political interests of all the major factions in an equitable and inclusive manner.”18

5. Members of Congress, including Democratic lawmakers, are insisting that the president come to Congress for authorization. 

MoveOn members have long opposed endless war in Iraq. Earlier this summer, before the current bombing strikes began, MoveOn members made more than 15,000 calls to lawmakers, urging them to oppose U.S. military intervention in Iraq. In July, the House of Representatives listened to them and the rest of the American people to require, by a bipartisan vote of 370-40, the president to seek congressional authorization before deploying or maintaining a sustained combat role in Iraq.19 Congress should continue to assert its authority under the Constitution to authorize and oversee U.S. commitments to open-ended war overseas.

[If Congress authorizes military action, would that then make it okay?]

6. The Middle East is a complicated place where U.S. military intervention has a troubling track record. 

[Troubling? Troubling? That’s like saying that Dracula has a troubled relationship with his dinner guests.]

The Middle East has many armed actors whose motivations often compete with each other and conflict with American values, and U.S. military intervention there has a track record of often making things worse.20,21 One tragic absurdity of this moment is that the U.S. military is now using U.S. equipment to bomb U.S. weapons wielded by enemies the U.S. didn’t intend to arm against the U.S. and U.S. allies.22 That’s a good reason to be concerned about the U.S. arming rebels in nearby Syria, which experts say wouldn’t have stopped the rise of ISIS anyway.23 Experts further warn that U.S. military force in the region only tends to create more problems, including the risk of terrorist retaliation.24 

7. Military action could lead to even more innocent civilians getting caught in the crossfire and suffering. 

[Especially when the US deliberately targets innocents and large groupings such as funerals and weddings and with their practice of “double-tapping.” Repeat after me: relentless airstrikes do not equal military action. Say that 100 times until you're dizzy and convinced.]

The Iraq war that Bush started didn’t just cost America the lives of nearly 4,500 service members, plus $2 trillion according to modest estimates.25,26,27 Approximately 500,000 Iraqi civilians also died in the armed conflict—possibly more.28 In the current conflict, ISIS militants are persecuting various minority populations of Iraq, such as the Yazidis who had fled to Mount Sinjar.29 Escalating military action, including drone strikes, risks catching more civilians in the crossfire.30

[Must keep repeating: "The Iraq war that Bush started...The Iraq war that Bush started... The Iraq war that Obama has continued" - opps, no, no, not that last one! Anything but that!]

8. Opposing endless war isn’t the same as being an isolationist. The Iraq crisis, including the humanitarian disaster, demands an international, diplomatic response.

We have options to support the people of Iraq, as well as tackle this crisis in a way that reflects America’s best interests and 21st century realities. For one, the U.S. can work through the United Nations and other multilateral organizations to support a major global diplomatic initiative.31 

["America's best interests" and "21st century realities." We want to support those poor Iraqis but we also want to do so in a way that preserves "America's best interests" and the Number One "21st century reality" that America's interests come first!]

In the face of the current crisis, the Friends Committee on National Legislation also recommends a number of steps instead of U.S. bombings, such as working with other nations through the United Nations to organize humanitarian evacuations of stranded and trapped civilians, pressing for and upholding an arms embargo in Iraq and Syria, engaging with the UN to reinvigorate efforts for a lasting political solution for Iraq and Syria, and increasing humanitarian aid.32,33

It’s critically important that we engage the nation in conversation and debate to avoid endless war in Iraq. Can you share this “8 Things to Know about the Iraq Crisis” list with your family and friends?

Thanks for all you do.

[Hopefully you don’t wake up and realize that this embracing of the Democratic Party is a killing one, leading you to side with smart hawks against the people of the world and the planet. At all costs, don’t start thinking outside of that box!]

Dennis Loo is a member of the World Can't Wait Steering Committee. This article first appeared at his website on September 15, 2014.


World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.