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“The GWB Created Sectarian Hornets’ Nest”: Only Two Words For Neo-Con Critics Of Obama Iraq Policy, “Brazen Chutzpah”

It takes completely brazen chutzpah for Neo-Con Republicans like John McCain to criticize President Obama’s policies in Iraq — especially as Iraq once again falls into sectarian civil war.

These are precisely the people who kicked open the sectarian hornets’ nest in 2003 when they invaded Iraq and unleashed years of civil war that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees.

Of course the current Iraqi government bears a great deal of the responsibility for the current breakdown in security. As Fareed Zakaria wrote in Friday’s Washington Post:

The prime minister and his ruling party have behaved like thugs, excluding the Sunnis from power, using the army, police forces and militias to terrorize their opponents.

The Sunni insurrection that began in 2003 was finally tamped down by General David Petraeus when he engineered power-sharing arrangements between the Shiites and key elements of the Sunni community. Prime Minister Maliki has systematically abrogated many of those deals, reneged on commitments and created the conditions where Sunni insurgents have real sympathy among many in the Sunni population.

That is why the Obama Administration has insisted that increases in U.S. military assistance be conditioned on major changes that help create a political system inclusive of all of the elements in Iraqi society.

Remember that Maliki came to power as a result of the decisions of the Neo-Cons in the Bush Administration who intentionally dismantled all vestiges of Sunni power — including the Iraqi Army and bureaucracy — shortly after the invasion.

And, most importantly, the invasion that unleashed the sectarian civil war was sold to the American people as a quest to eliminate Sadam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction — and as a means of destroying his non-existent links to Al Qaeda.

How ironic that the Neo-Con invasion itself created the conditions that allowed Al Qaeda-inspired organizations like Al Qaeda in Iraq — and now the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) — to become viable forces in the country.

Now, Neo-Cons like McCain are calling on the President to “bring back” the Bush team “who knew how to win.” Unbelievable. The people who led us into the Iraq War have no business even commenting on foreign policy — much less managing it. In fact, any self-respecting television network should simply ignore anything they have to say, since they led us into the worst foreign policy disaster in half a century.

The Iraq War will ultimately cost the American taxpayers trillions of dollars. It caused the collapse of our international reputation. It costs hundreds of thousands of lives — including 4.500 American soldiers, and it wounded and maimed hundreds of thousands more. And the Iraq War unleashed simmering sectarian conflicts that had existed for centuries throughout the Middle East.

Now those sectarian conflicts have spilled over into an awful civil war in Syria and are part and parcel of international tensions throughout the region. And these “geniuses” should be brought back to manage Iraq policy?

Oh, they say, President Obama should have been a tougher negotiator when it came to maintaining a residual force of training personnel in Iraq. But that ignores that the Maliki government refused to agree to conditions that every other country in the world provides for Americans who are stationed on their soil. The fact is that Maliki did not want American troops to remain in Iraq because he is entirely beholden to the Iranians who did not want any residual American troops in Iraq.

But that, of course, is beside the point where most Americans are concerned. The vast majority of Americans didn’t want to maintain a residual force of American troops in Iraq either. They wanted to end America’s involvement in the Iraq War — and do not want American troops to be sent back to Iraq or any other war in the Middle East.

In fact, Republican attacks on President Obama because he “didn’t finish the job” in Iraq run head-long into the buzz saw of American public opinion. It is completely out of touch with the views of ordinary Americans.

The main reason why President Obama is now faced with having to do everything he can to help stabilize the situation in Iraq — short of sending back American troops — is that the Republican Neo-Con gang kicked over the sectarian hornets’ nest with their pointless invasion and macho military adventurism in the first place.

Remember President Bush’s “mission accomplished” on the carrier deck back on May 1, 2003. That was over a decade ago. The mission was “accomplished” only if the goal was to destabilize the Middle East, cost America trillions of our treasure and kill and maim hundreds of thousands of human beings.

The people who conceived and executed the invasion of Iraq don’t deserve to be given the authority to run a lemonade stand, much less U.S. foreign policy.

And personally, the only thing I want to hear from any of them is an apology.

 

By: Robert Creamer, The Huffington Post Blog, June 14, 2014

June 15, 2014 Posted by | Iraq, Iraq War, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Obama To Iraq, Your Problem Now”: Ultimately It’s Up To The Iraqis, As A Sovereign Nation, To Solve Their Problems

In his State of the Union address, in January, President Obama said, “When I took office, nearly a hundred and eighty thousand Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq.” It was a boast, not an apology. The descent of Iraq into open civil war in the past week has not, to judge from his remarks on Friday, fundamentally changed that view. He did grant that it was alarming that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, “a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria,” had made what he delicately called “significant gains” in Iraq. (That is, it has taken control of more than one city.) He said that he wasn’t entirely surprised—things hadn’t been looking good in Iraq for a while, and we’d been giving the government there more help. “Now Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces,” he said. After all, as he put it, “Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq.” But there were limits: “We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq.”

Speaking from the South Lawn, Obama argued that this was not just a matter of what the American people would accept, or the limits of our capacity to make sacrifices for humanitarian goals. It’s more that he doesn’t see the point. As he sees it, after all our investment of lives and money—“extraordinary sacrifices”—the Iraqis have not been willing to treat each other decently, and until they do our air strikes won’t help. “This is not solely, or even primarily, a military challenge,” he said, and went on:

Unfortunately, Iraqi leaders have been unable to overcome, too often, the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there.… We can’t do it for them. And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action—including any assistance we might provide—won’t succeed.… So the United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis, as a sovereign nation, to solve their problems.

The Iraqis, from Obama’s perspective, have all too many problems that are not his. The hesitation here is the sense that the problems are ours, too: we did invade the country, setting off an upheaval in which, alongside American losses, an even greater number of Iraqis were killed. But the Administration, as Dexter Filkins has written, has been thoroughly frustrated with the government of Nuri al-Maliki, which is dominated by members of the country’s Shiite majority, and has moved against its Sunni population. It is not a simple matter, if it ever was, of the people we really like (and who like us) against the ones who don’t. (Try factoring in the role of ISIS in fighting the Assad regime, in Syria, and our possible shared interests with Iran in Iraq, and you’re left with a chalkboard of squiggly equations.) One question to emerge from our wars is our susceptibility to a certain sort of blackmail by regimes we support: without me, there is Al Qaeda and chaos. When Andrea Mitchell, of NBC, asked Senator John McCain, who had been railing against the Obama Administration’s decision to withdraw troops in Iraq, whether Maliki could really be persuaded to change his ways, McCain replied, “He has to, or he has to be changed.” How that would be accomplished was, as always in Iraq—a land we seem to associate with the granting of wishes—left unclear.

Obama talked about intensive diplomacy; he mentioned all the options his military planners were looking at, and suggested that he’d take his time looking at them. He called this moment a “wake-up call” for the Iraqi government: “As I said before, we are not going to be able to do it for them.” And then, in case anybody had missed the point:

We’re not going to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which while we’re there we’re keeping a lid on things and, after enormous sacrifices by us, as soon as we’re not there, suddenly people end up acting in ways that are not conductive to the long-term stability and prosperity of the country.

Last year, Obama sat down for several interviews with David Remnick, the editor of this magazine, in which he made clear how profoundly he did not want to be dragged. Remnick wrote, of their conversation, “I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.”

Obama replied, “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” Given that ISIS now controls cities in Iraq and trenches are being built around Baghdad, “jayvee” may not have been the word that he was looking for; it strikes one as a severe underestimation. Looking at the rest of what Obama said, though, it seems that the analogy he was looking for was just out of the frame: “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.” It’s a matter of kind, not capacity: if Albert Pujols puts on a Lakers uniform, that doesn’t make him Kobe Bryant.

Speaking with Remnick, Obama applied that notion specifically to Iraq: “Let’s just keep in mind, Falluja is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”

In other words, the horribleness of what is happening can be granted; so can the extreme Islamism of those horrible actors. That still doesn’t, per se, make it “a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.” (And those two elements—the threat and the wading—are clearly linked in the President’s calculations.) Obama, in his interview with Remnick, went on:

You have a schism between Sunni and Shia throughout the region that is profound. Some of it is directed or abetted by states who are in contests for power there. You have failed states that are just dysfunctional, and various warlords and thugs and criminals are trying to gain leverage or a foothold so that they can control resources, populations, territory… . And failed states, conflict, refugees, displacement—all that stuff has an impact on our long-term security. But how we approach those problems and the resources that we direct toward those problems is not going to be exactly the same as how we think about a transnational network of operatives who want to blow up the World Trade Center. We have to be able to distinguish between these problems analytically, so that we’re not using a pliers where we need a hammer, or we’re not using a battalion when what we should be doing is partnering with the local government to train their police force more effectively, improve their intelligence capacities.

“Failed states, conflict, refugees, displacement—all that stuff has an impact on our long-term security”; but brutally meandering wars, and all that stuff that goes with them, have an impact, too. When Remnick asked Obama if he was “haunted by Syria,” the President replied that he was “haunted by what happened,” but added, “I am not haunted by my decision not to engage in another Middle Eastern war.” Last month, in a speech at West Point, “haunted” was the word Obama chose when talking about his surge of troops in Afghanistan: “I believe America’s security demanded those deployments. But I am haunted by those deaths. I am haunted by those wounds.”

It cannot be absent from the President’s calculations that, just two weeks ago, he had to accept the resignation of General Eric Shinseki—a man he clearly liked and admired, not least for his insistence, a decade ago, that the enterprise in Iraq would be a bit trickier than George W. Bush let on—because of the dysfunction of the Veterans Administration. We’d never got around to adapting the V.A. to the needs of young men and women whose lives had been shaped and, in too many cases, shattered by their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. All Obama could say was that he’d brought them home. That was all, really, he wanted to say.

 

By: Amy Davidson, The New Yorker, June 13, 2014

June 15, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iraq, Iraq War | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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