Saturday, June 21, 2014

Don’t Go Back to Iraq! Five Steps the U.S. Can Take in Iraq Without Going Back to War

There is no military solution in Iraq—so end the threats of U.S. airstrikes, bring home the Special Forces, and turn the aircraft carrier around. (Photo: Jayel Aheram / Flickr)

By Phyllis Bennis

Beaver County Peace Links via Common Dreams

This is how wars begin.

Barack Obama says we’re not going back to Iraq. “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq,” he said on June 19th, “but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.”

The White House says it’s “only” sending 275 soldiers to protect the embassy, it’s only sending 300 Special Forces, they’re only “advisers.” There’s only one aircraft carrier in the region, they say, and a few other warships. They’re considering missile strikes but they’re not going to send ground troops.

Iraq isn’t a start-up war for the United States—we’ve been there before. And these actions increase the danger we could be heading there again. We thought we had a president who learned the lesson, at least about Iraq—he even repeats it every chance he gets: “There is no military solution.”

This is a very dangerous move. President Obama’s words are right: there is no military solution.But his actions are wrong. When there is no military solution, airstrikes, Special Forces, arms deals, and aircraft carriers will only make it worse.

We need to stop it now. Before the first Special Forces guy gets captured and suddenly there are boots on the ground to find him. Before the first surveillance plane gets shot down and suddenly there are helicopter crews and more boots on the ground to rescue the pilot. Before the first missile hits a wedding party that some faulty intel guy thought looked like a truckload of terrorists—we seem to be good at that. And before we’re fully back at war.

Iraq is on the verge of full-scale civil war along the fault lines set in place when U.S. troops invaded and occupied the country more than a decade ago. We need to demand that our government do five things right away:

First, do no harm. There is no military solution in Iraq—so end the threats of airstrikes, bring home the evac troops and Special Forces, and turn the aircraft carrier around.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Warning: Military Advisers also Fight, History Tells Us


Beaver County Peace Links via AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's announcement that he's sending military advisers to Iraq raises questions — in some quarters, red flags — about whether that could mean a return to warfare under another name.

Obama says flatly: "American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again." Yet the mission as he's defined it — sending up to 300 military advisers "to assess how we can best train, advise and support Iraqi security forces" — is open-ended enough to chance putting at least a limited number of Americans back into the thick of battle.

Modern American history has examples of military advisers limiting themselves to just that job, such as times during the Cold War when the U.S. helped arm and train military forces in developing countries aligned with Washington. It also has examples of mission creep, most infamously in Vietnam.

A glance at some missions, past and present:

Post-World War II: U.S. military officers at the highest level led the restructuring of the German and Japanese governments after World War II. The use of senior military advisers to work alongside foreign political leaders and government officials, not just armed forces, has been seen in Korea, Haiti, Bosnia, Afghanistan and other countries.

Vietnam: U.S. involvement began with the deployment of fewer than 1,000 military advisers by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and mushroomed. U.S. personnel grew to more than 16,000 in 1963 and 23,000 in 1964, according to CQ's Guide to the Presidency and the Executive Branch. And while they were still called advisers at that point, they were in combat. More than 500,000 Americans were fighting in Vietnam by 1968 in a conflict that became known as America's quagmire.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Madness in Iraq and the Comeback of the Neocons


Iraqi tribesmen gather to join Iraqi security forces in the fight against Jihadist militants. Photo from AFP / Getty Images.

The original blame for this disaster is on the Bush administration, but also on all those who succumbed to a Superpower Syndrome, which claimed we could redesign the Middle East.

By Tom Hayden |

Beaver County Peace Links via The Rag Blog

June 17, 2014 - American activist anti-war networks are perfectly right in standing against renewed U.S. intervention in Iraq. So far Obama has been forced by events to send some 275 U.S. troops for embassy protection, while a decision on bombing is being mulled. The confused Congress needs to be called upon to be a counterweight against the hawks who want nothing more than to blame Obama instead of themselves for “losing” Iraq.

But there is far more to do. We are deep into the battle over memory.

Wars start and end on the battlefields of memory. The “loss” of China, for example, presaged the McCarthy era of the Fifties. Thousands on the left lost their jobs and were discredited and demonized as enemies of the state. As a result, the Vietnam War began with a climate of anti-communism as its rationale, allowing the administration to babble about “falling dominoes.” That war ended in predictable military defeat after hundreds of thousands of American soldiers were killed, maimed or sentenced to lifetime trauma. The dead in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were uncountable but in the millions.

According to President George H. W. Bush, the early Iraq war was fought to purge what he called the “Vietnam syndrome” because he feared that Americans would turn skeptical towards unwinnable, unaffordable wars. Even today, to cover its Vietnam defeat and shame, our government is poised to be spending millions of dollars on sanitizing our Vietnam memory.

In its fabricated origin, the invasion of Iraq was described as a response to the War on Terrorism, a latter-day Cold War against the sinister new global conspiracy of international terrorism. As in Vietnam, the fate of Iraqi women, children, and religious minorities was offered as propaganda for sadly gullible liberal humanitarians.

Now that Iraq is on the verge of its unexpected collapse, the newly-manufactured myth is that American air strikes, guided by on-the-ground special intelligence units, are desperately needed to stave off the defeat of the corrupt Shiite regime, which thousands of young Americans died to install. The political effect of the myth is to pin the blame on Obama for withdrawing our troops as he promised.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Overview from China: Iraq – Failure of US Policy

By Zhao Jinglun

Beaver County Peace Links via

June 16, 2014 - All eyes are on Iraq, as the situation there is deteriorating fast.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaeda offshoot, captured Mosul, Iraq's second largest city with a population of 1.5-2 million, and is pushing toward Baghdad.

Why has ISIL been successful so far despite the fact that it was outnumbered by Iraqi government's security forces 15 to one in the fight for Mosul.

Al-Maliki's Shiite dominated government pursues a repressive sectarian policy that has alienated the Sunni population, so Sunni tribes and townspeople support ISIL and join in the attacks on the Iraqi military, which is green, corrupt and demoralized. It just melted away under pressure of fierce fighting.

In contrast, ISIL led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi since 2010, is battle-hardened as it has been involved in guerrilla war for two years. And it is way ahead on tactics. It keeps Iraqi security forces dispersed and under pressure by striking where security forces are weak and withdrawing where the government has concentrated its combat power.

Veteran journalist Robert Fisk reported that ISIL is bankrolled by Saudi Wahabis and Kuwaiti oligarchs. So far, the Saudis are keeping quiet, for a reason.

But in the last analysis it was the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, which instead of bringing about democracy and the rule of law, greatly intensified sectarian conflicts.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Behind the Madness in Iraq


By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via HuffPost

June 13, 2014 - The U.S. had no business invading Iraq. We toppled a dictatorship on a false 9/11 rationale, which plunged Iraq into a sectarian civil war inside a war with the United States. We left behind a vengeance-driven Shiite regime aligned with Iran. Now the sectarian war in Syria is enlarging into a regional one. The primary blame for this disaster is on the Bush administration, but also on all those who succumbed to a Superpower Syndrome, which said we could redesign the Middle East. There is no reason whatsoever to justify further loss of American lives or tax dollars on a conflict that we do not understand and that started before the United States was born.

Anti-war networks already are sending online messages to Congress opposing any U.S. military re-intervention in Iraq. Representative Nancy Pelosi already is there. Those voices need to be amplified to help President Barack Obama stave off the most irrational forces during this crisis.

Then we need to construct a narrative that blocks the hawks from blaming Obama for "losing" Iraq, and turns the focus on the neo-conservatives, Republicans, and Democratic hawks who took this country into a sea of blood. Most of them remain in power, unscathed and immune, even occupying high positions in this administration. What they fear most is not an Iraqi insurgency, but the risen families of the dead and wounded, on all sides, that increasingly ask who led them into an unwinnable, unaffordable war. The duty-driven bravery of their lost sons and daughters stands in direct contrast to shameless privilege of those who sent them into harm's way.

As this immediate crisis unfolds, we must act to strip away certain delusions. The least of these, though still irritating, is the view of many visible anti-war "radicals" that says the United States never really withdrew from Iraq, but instead secretly left behind tens of thousands of Special Forces in disguise. This silly notion was meant to refute the belief that Obama had "ended" the war.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Americans Welcome Sgt. Bergdahl Home

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links

June 3, 2014 - A still from a video released by the Taliban of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held captive since 2009. (Photo: 2014)After the negotiated release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, I called an old friend who spent years as a POW in Vietnam's prison camps to ask for his response. Preferring to keep his name out of the papers for the moment, he was following the situation closely. In summary though, what he said was as follows:

First, the Pentagon will debrief Bergdahl for as long as two weeks, eight hours per day, assuming they follow protocols used in Vietnam.

Second, after debriefing, the Pentagon team will take on crisis management, how to shape and control Bergdahl's narrative, whether to ignore criticism about his anti-war statements made in captivity or even to blame Bergdahl. "They did the same kind of thing with us."

Third, "so far, they are not into punishing him."

Fourth, that is because, "Public opinion so far is solidly behind him,” and therefore, "It won't help to play that card." My POW friend thinks most Americans will be supportive of him whatever the facts turn out to be because, "People are sick of the war."

If the political right "tries anything, people will need to speak out" he added. 

Already there is grumbling among Republicans, neo-conservatives, and within the armed forces about Bergdahl's statements, and rumors that he went AWOL. It is likely that Fox News will fan the flames.

Before a storm gathers against Bergdahl, some facts are in order.

Bergdahl could have been released in the same prisoner swap nearly three years ago, but the Republican-led opposition scuttled the deal by opposing, "negotiating with terrorists." See the New York Times account of the suspension of secret talks between the US and the Taliban in March 2012, published December 20, 2012. Those talks held in Paris included US and French officials, a Taliban delegation and Abdullah Abdullah, then a CIA-supported leader of the Northern Alliance, who currently is poised to become Afghanistan's new president.