Sunday, August 31, 2014

Feinstein Agrees With Republicans: Obama 'Too Cautious' In Confronting Islamic State

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), appearing today in an interview with NBC's Andrea Mitchell, on Meet the Press, offered explicit criticism of Barack Obama's performance in dealing with the Islamic State. Feinstein said she was more in agreement with the ideas of Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) who have called for a more robust US confrontation with the new Caliphate.
In an interview on Meet the Press, with NBC's Andrea Mitchell, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that Barack Obama had been too cautious in confronting the threat posed by IS (The Islamic State).

When asked by Mitchell why Obama says the US still does not have a strategy to confront IS, and if that doesn't project weakness from the White House, Feinstein said:
"Well, I mean I know what you want me to say. But I'm not going to say it in that sense. I think I've learned one thing about this President, and that is he's very cautious. Maybe in this instance, too cautious. I do know that the military, I know that the State Department, I know that others have been putting plans together, and so hopefully those plans will coalesce into a strategy."
Earlier, Feinstein said she agreed with the article published yesterday in the New York Times by Republican Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) :
"I think Senator McCain and Senator Graham really laid the basis in Saturday's New York Times in an op-ed, for confrontation [with Islamic State]. And I happen to agree with what they said."
The article Feinstein refers to, entitled "Stop Dithering, Confront ISIS", goes into considerable detail about how Barack Obama's caution and "half measures" were dangerous and startling attitudes for a president to display in wartime. The fact Feinstein expressed agreement with what is essentially an attack piece on Obama by the GOP, shows the considerable challenge the White House is facing, as it attempts to explain how such an obvious and real threat could have been ignored for so long by the United States.

At another point, Mitchell asked Feinstein about Obama's now-infamous remark in a New Yorker piece in January that The Islamic State was a Jayvee team, that supposedly did not rate much US concern. Mitchell noted that Obama had clearly gotten that wrong. Feinstein agreed with Mitchell, and in illustrating how adept and resourceful Islamic State fighters were, Feinstein pointed out the following:
"[Islamic State] crossed the border into Iraq before we even knew it happened."
Mitchell then asked Feinstein:
"Was that an intelligence failure, or was the White House not listening to the community?"
And Feinstein replied in perhaps a more revealing fashion than she had intended:
"Well, I think that our intelligence in Syria has not been good, for a number of reasons. But I do know that the breaking through of the borders was not known ahead of time. I think a lot of that, hopefully, has been repaired now, and I think the intelligence community is well aware of the need to get up and running in a major way both in Iraq and in Syria." 
What Feinstein seems to be suggesting here is that the intelligence community, no doubt following Obama's earlier assessment that Islamic State was a minor player compared to al-Qaeda, was not "up and running" with sufficient resources to warn ahead of time that Islamic State fighters were massing to invade Iraq. That, if true, would constitute a massive failure on the part of the CIA/NSA, which the press has essentially ignored until now. As she indicated, Feinstein, even now, can only hope that this situation has changed, presumably because she has no direct evidence that it has.

Finally, at one point, Feinstein expressed deep skepticism that President Obama's plan, or strategy, as he expressed it during his "tan-suit" press briefing, had much chance of success. Obama had indicated that the key to defeating Islamic State would be to unite Iraq's ethnic communities, and particularly the Sunnis, in a government that all had "bought into". Obama in fact indicated that without the Sunnis onboard, Islamic State could not be defeated.

But Feinstein, taking a wearily realistic tone, assessed that idea as dubious as best:
"I'm not sure that Iraq's ever going to come together as one nation."
Clearly, Barack Obama is facing one of the biggest non-economic challenges of his presidency at this point, with even Democrats expressing doubts about Obama's leadership, his decision-making, and his ability (or willingness) to recognize and confront the most dangerous threats in the world today.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Broken World And The Tired Old Men Have No Fixes

Yesterday, tired old man Barack Obama tried to minimize the wreckage of the world he has overseen—and caused—by saying: "The truth of the matter is, is that the world has always been messy. In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through. The good news is that American leadership has never been more necessary". The bad news is that Barack Obama is the leader, and the world, and the American people, have no trust he can get the job done. Also, we should note that Obama is crazy (in addition to being old and worn out) if he thinks people only notice "messy" worlds when they have access to social media.
That revolutions are required to restart the broken world, more and more people now realize is the case.

The old solutions, the old ways of seeing the world, as a manageable marketplace for capitalism, and its imperialist pirates, is breaking down everywhere into chaos and blood.

In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has risen to wreak havoc on an entire oil-rich region. And the United States, the tiredest old man in the world, has no answers.

On the one hand, Barack Obama says that Sunnis and Shia just need to get along, like their centuries of wanting each other dead don’t matter. And, Obama says, without that impossible feat accomplished, Islamic State cannot be defeated, BECAUSE even though the US has the military power to smash IS, it does not have the youthful enthusiasm (that it used to display before George W. Bush ruined everything) to occupy other nations and make them behave.

On the other hand, Obama’s chief Republican critics in the Senate, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, demand that Obama come up with some strategy to defeat Islamic State. But here’s the thing. Even these tired old Republican men are now too afraid to call for American combat boots on the ground, or to call for another round of unilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Instead, these two old (do we need to say “white”) men, have this brilliant scheme:
“This should be more like Afghanistan in 2001.”
Perhaps you recall how that ended up. Oh wait!—it still HASN’T ENDED!

Without large numbers of American combat troops, directly destroying Islamic State, what is left, other than meaningless blather about building regional partnerships?—which by this time in Obama’s term ought to already exist—but they don’t. Yes, you can arm and train the Iraqi national military—that is the Shia military—and that will take what?—another decade of money and material wasted on another impossible task?

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin is waking up, test by test, to the obvious: tired old Barack Obama and the tired old allies of NATO, are not going to do a damned thing to stop him from gobbling up all of Ukraine. In fact, in case anybody had any doubts about that, as Putin’s tanks rolled into southeastern Ukraine, and Obama was asked if he is prepared to do something—anything—militarily to stop Putin, Obama plainly said:
“We are not taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem…it is very important to recognize that a military solution to this problem is not going to be forthcoming.”
So there, Vladimir. Take as much Ukraine as you like. Dad has gone to bed and he won’t be getting up again. He’s just too old and tired. Just make sure your Chinese neighbors are OK with it. Well, of course they are. They’re busy expanding their own empire in the South China Sea right now, after all. They understand completely what it means to assert (or reassert) your imperial identity.

It was never the case that Barack Obama was going to be a great war president or war leader. Nobody expected that would be happening, and nobody really ever wanted that to happen. After all, Barack Obama knew and knows as much about fighting a war as he does about setting up a website—nothing. And also, the USA was rightfully fed up with being led by the nose into one stupid war after another by idiot presidents. The anti-war idea sounded pretty good.

But the world isn’t going to wait on that count. Unless we build a wall around America and let the world burn while we watch, which many Americans would be fine with, our engagement with the other players on the global stage is required. Exactly how to engage is a good question. But maybe the first step is not to authorize even more killing. Maybe the first step is to analyze how our values, how our behavior in the world over these decades, led to such an incredibly fucked-up disaster.

I would suggest we start with some questions about how wealth is generated and divided in this world. First and foremost, the roots of chaos are in the unbelievably cruel and stupid inequality that rewards a handful of humans and punishes billions of others.

Read this, and ponder how, in the midst of a lucrative economic recovery (for rich people), the US imposes the most heinous instabilities right in the core of the lives of poorer Americans, just so landlords can squeeze more blood out of struggling renters. If you look at the barbaric nature of the US treatment of its own people, you will not wonder that abroad and at home, the people of the world are fighting mad.

The tired old men who have driven the world into this enormous and diversely dangerous ditch need to shut up and sit down.

Let the world remake itself without these monstrous fools fucking it up any more than they have.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Obama’s Islamic-State Strategy: Blame Iraq For Failing At Democracy!

Once again, it's the optics, stupid! When President Obama dropped by the White House yesterday, to discuss his strategy for the really bad guys making news this (well, year really), everyone was talking about his choice of suit color. There are a lot of reasons a world leader might not want to wear a tan suit (or leader uniform). Not the least of which would be the fact that tan was the color of Nazi Party leader uniforms. On a day when part of the news you're announcing is that you're rejecting the Constitutional role of Congress in warmaking, you probably don't want want to dress like Adolph Hitler. Or maybe you do.
Yes, it’s true, the big news (apart from Obama’s new Hitler suit), was the statement the President made about his plans to attack the Islamic State in Syria. Asked about this, and particularly if he needed Congressional authority to launch military strikes into Syria, Obama said “no” he didn’t need Congressional authority, and also, even if he did want to allow Congress "a voice" in Obama's warmaking, there's a little problem. Obama announced:

“We don’t have a strategy yet.”

That line shocked many people, who interpreted it to mean what seems to be the broader case, that Obama doesn’t have a strategy to deal with Islamic State—in Syria or Iraq either.

But, that isn't really true. If you parse Obama's statement and his responses to reporters' questions, and the several ways he came at and twisted about the question of his strategy against Islamic State, some things became apparent:

1. Obama does not believe IS (Islamic State) can be defeated by military means. He does believe the United States has the power to "rout" IS in any direct military confrontation, but only temporarily, because, as Obama says: "As soon as we leave, the same problems come back again." Therefore, militarily, Obama argues, it is necessary for Iraq to defeat IS. However, at this point, Obama acknowledges that Iraq cannot accomplish this on its own. So, the obvious idea would be for the United States to assist Iraq. But there's a problem in this, which is:

2. Obama argued repeatedly that Islamic State in Iraq, and in Syria, cannot be defeated militarily without a solid commitment to do so from people who seem the least likely to sign up for the campaign: the Sunnis. Obama argued that Sunni feelings of disempowerment, and alienation (especially in Iraq) had led to Sunni alliances with radical Islamist organizations like al-Qaeda in Iraq, and now Islamic State. Obama said it was the responsibility of the Iraqi government to craft a reform government that is sufficiently inclusive that the Sunnis will put down their IS flags and allegiances, and will start backing the Shia-majority Iraqi state government. Again, there is a big problem with this:

3. One of the chief defects with Obama's scheme, or strategy, is that the reason the Shia majority government acted in the manner it did all these years, in other words since the Sunni minority lost its monopoly on power in Iraq with the fall of Saddam Hussein, is that the the Shia very understandably do not trust the Sunnis, and especially they do not trust the ex-Baath Party members (Saddam's party) of that ethnic community. The Shia can be told all day long it is in their interest to create a more inclusive government, but what Obama is really arguing is that the Shia should do what is necessary to convince people who a few years ago were repressing Shia in a Sunni-dominated dictatorship, and who ever since the fall of that dictatorship have been killing Shia in a bloody civil war, that they should all be friends now. This is not much different than putting one's hopes on the willingness of the Israelis and Hamas to form a unification government. It is absurd.

4. More absurdity attaches to Obama's plans for how the Sunnis will save the say in Syria. Obama explained his strategy there: "It’s going to require us to stabilize Syria in some fashion, and stabilizing Syria in some fashion means that we’ve got to get moderate Sunnis who are able to govern and offer a real alternative and competition to what ISIL has been doing in some of these spaces." OK, but remember Obama's recent comments about why he did not make a stronger military commitment to support any of these "moderate" Sunni rebel groups in Syria. Basically, Obama rejected that idea, because the US could not find enough of these moderates to pose any real threat to what Obama described as: "a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, [&] a battle-hardened Hezbollah." And that is just the Syrian government military Obama is talking about, not the Islamic State fighters, who any moderate Sunnis would also need to defeat. Obama offered no suggestion for how that would all play out with the Sunni moderates winning, but presumably it would be enabled by the hoped-for Shia transformation into an all-forgiving, Sunni-trusting, partner in a functional Iraq.

And that brings us to the most useful (to Obama) twisting of likelihood in Obama's strategy for dealing with Islamic State.

When it comes down to it, Obama is saying that without a longterm military occupation by US troops of the Sunni regions of Iraq and Syria, there is no hope of defeating and keeping defeated The Islamic State (or some similar Sunni rebels). Obama has repeatedly promised the American people there would be no further US commitment of ground troops in Iraq. Yet, at the same time, Obama is claiming that Islamic State poses a real and growing threat to fundamental US interests in the Middle East, and there is widespread belief that threat will grow to include the risk of attacks on the US homeland and in Western European partners of the US.

Yet, the conclusion of Obama's strategy is the quite bizarre statement:
"In the end Iraqis are going to be responsible for their own security."
But, in fact, Obama is placing the Iraqis, that is the Shia majority of Iraq, in charge of the security of the entire Western world! Because, as Obama says, short of a complete transformation of the Shia ruling majority into utter fools, The Islamic State cannot be defeated.

The good news, for Obama, is that when the Islamic State cannot be defeated, he will object to anyone blaming him for the failure.

Instead, referring to his very odd war strategy, somehow Obama will be able to blame Iraq for failing to live up to the ideals of a functioning, inclusive democracy—ideals the United States of America has failed to honor since 1776.

Barack Obama's presidency has now moved to surrealist performance art. If only the pigments that keep flowing to make this "masterpiece" were not so bloody and horrible.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Most Americans Say Obama Too Weak On Foreign Policy

Let's just say this image does not communicate toughness to most Americans, and most likely not to Putin and the Islamic State crew either. But it isn't golf that's the problem. It's the world going on off the links and the way Obama is playing that game that is really disturbing more and more Americans—including many Democrats.
A new Pew Poll shows that a majority of Americans (54%) say that Barack Obama’s approach to foreign policy is “Not tough enough”, and a growing number of Americans say that the United States needs to do more to solve the problems of a world that 65% of respondents said was “more dangerous” today than a few years ago.

The Pew study showed that in the nine months since November, 2013, American opinion on the need for the US to become more involved in solving global problems has changed, with the number of people thinking the US does “too much” meddling in the world dropping from 51% to 39%. Meanwhile, those that think the US isn’t doing enough has risen from 17% to 31%.

Looking more deeply into these numbers shows that the biggest shift in the push to have the US go global comes mainly from Republicans, whose party began the War on Terror, and managed it for the first seven years, under President George W. Bush. Almost half (46%) of Republicans think the US is doing too little to solve the world’s problems.

Meanwhile, in terms of threat perception, the last few months have pushed American public awareness of IS (or ISIL, The Islamic State) as a threat to the United States to a point (67%) just behind al-Qaeda (71%). However, there are partisan differences, as Republicans, unlike the majority of Americans, view Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs as major threats to the United States as well. And meanwhile, Democrats view global climate change as even more threatening than al-Qaeda or the The Islamic State.

For Democrats, probably the most troubling single indication of the Pew survey is the news that the American people have arrived at a verdict on Barack Obama’s toughness as a world leader and they have determined he does not measure up.

Since June, 2009, respondents to Pew have answered a question about Obama’s toughness “when it comes to foreign policy and national security”. In June 2009, shortly after Obama began his presidency, a slim majority said Obama’s toughness was “about right”. This has declined to 36%, while 54% of Americans view the President as “Not tough enough”. This number is the result of a long evolution of judgment on the job Obama is doing for the US on the global stage. And while the American people cannot fire their President, they clearly have lost trust in his effectiveness as a leader.

Even 34% of Democrats say that Barack Obama is not tough enough as a leader.

In fact, and this should be a concern for America’s first black president, but Obama’s highest rating in job performance in the Pew poll is for “handling race relations”.

As Pew’s report makes clear:

“[Obama’s] ratings for handling other issues – including policy toward Israel (37% approve), the situation involving Russia and Ukraine (35%) and the situation in Iraq (35%) – are more negative than positive.”

Pax Obama Is Incessant War, Beheadings, Bombings, Global Brutality

White House website's search results give us some idea of why Barack Obama is so bad at managing the world. His focus seems to be on other topics. For example, the word "golf" returns 34,000 search results at the White House. The word "Ukraine" only comes in at 26,000 search results, and "Islamic State"?—a paltry 78 results. Obama bristles at the idea people are mad at him for golfing while the world is burning, but maybe they've bothered to read Suetonius' account of the Emperor Nero during the burning of Rome.
If, as Barack Obama keeps insisting, and many pundits keep claiming as well, the role of the United States in foreign policy is to provide a kind of political and moral gyroscope to the world, to keep it from flying apart at its seams—well, that isn’t working.

This morning, the world is increasingly aflame with wars, beheadings, bombings, and brutality spreading rapidly all over.

For example, the Obama efforts to stop Russia from grabbing more of Ukraine (than they already have) failed today as Russian tanks and troops have invaded southeastern Ukraine and seized territory, including the town of Novoazovsk. This is an expansion of the Russian war against Ukraine, with the most direct Russian involvement so far. While the label “separatist” is still applied by media sources like Reuters (they call the invaders “separatists backed by Russian soldiers”) the charge Russian troops are openly engaged in battle now with Ukrainian government troops is clearly made.

Reuters reports:
“The sudden reverses for the Ukrainian military appeared to confirm the arrival of Russian forces to support the separatists, who have in recent weeks been under pressure from government forces in their strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk, the east's two main cities.”
When Putin seized Crimea from Ukraine earlier this year, Obama had initiated a series of targeted economic sanctions against high-ranking Russian political and economic leaders. As Russia has increased its pressure against Ukraine, encouraging a "separatist" rebellion against the Ukrainian government that led to the mass murder of almost 300 people on a Malaysian commercial jet (shot down by a Russian missile), Obama has increased the sanctions.

These appeared to slow the Russians for a while, but Putin bided his time until the United States was militarily engaged against The Islamic State, in Iraq, and possibly next in Syria. The US will want Russian cooperation with any Syrian operation against IS. Has Obama “sold” Eastern Ukraine to the Russians for that cooperation? Did Obama ask Putin to at least be kind enough to call the Russian campaign against eastern Ukraine a separatist movement and not a Russian invasion?

If all Obama has to offer for the new Russian invasion of Ukraine are more sanctions, we will have good cause to doubt Obama’s sincerity in opposing Russian expansionist aggression—since continuing Obama’s ineffective, even provocative strategy, against Putin is clearly not working.

What's A Few (Thousand) Heads Amongst Crazy People?

Meanwhile, on the beheading front, with that form of public execution—always a favorite for thousands of years with all brands of monotheists and other deranged groups—now gaining in popularity across the Middle East, Reuters reports this morning that:
“A Sinai-based militant group said on Thursday it had beheaded four Egyptians, accusing them of providing Israel with intelligence for an airstrike that killed three of its fighters…In a video released on Twitter, Egypt's most dangerous militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, said the four men had been spying for Israel's Mossad spy agency. Armed men in black masks stood over the kneeling captives as one of the militants read out a statement. Minutes later, the four men had their heads cuts off.”
The Obama administration has exploited the beheading video of American journalist James Foley in its effort to whip up support for its new war against the Islamic State. While Foley’s death was no doubt brutal, to claim that the video of his beheading only now gave Obama and the American people a clear picture of the ruthless tactics employed by IS (The Islamic State), is quite remarkable. And, why should the death of one individual matter more than the mass killing (of hundreds of thousands) that has been going on in Syria and Iraq for years now?

The United States is of course the main reason the IS exists. The surging barbarism in the world, and particularly in Africa and across the Middle East, is directly attributable to the disastrous destabilizing policies of successive American administrations, which have sought to remake much of the area on American terms, with American values imposed over and against Islamic values at the point of a gun, or a drone attack, and with horrible outcomes.

While Barack Obama may not be responsible by himself for the mess the world in is today—certainly much of the horror is the fault of George W. Bush and his war-criminal gang—Obama cannot escape the charge that he has never been clear, and certainly not convincing, about whatever personal vision or aims he had for US foreign policy. His behavior in response to crisis after crisis suggests he simply has no idea what he is doing, other than to offer a desultory version of Bush's horrible ideas, for example the stupid (Obama-Petraeus) Afghan Surge, modeled on the almost-as-stupid (Bush-Petraeus) Iraq Surge.

The latter is worth mentioning—repeatedly—because it laid the groundwork for the inevitable rise of Islamic State. The Iraq Surge sought to give American troops breathing space to make a getaway, finally achieved in 2011. It employed bribery and ethnic cleansing to substitute for ends (ethnic inclusion in the Iraqi government) that everyone knew were either years away, or in fact impossible to achieve. When the Americans left, the Shia majority could not stomach continuing to bribe their former masters, the Sunnis, to play nice and not go back to being Qaeda-allied insurgents. When the money dried up, the no-longer-bribed ex-insurgents went right back to plotting the destruction of the Shia government (i.e., Iraq), this time allied with the Syrian-war-trained Islamic State fighters.

What this boils down to is that Barack Obama's failure to find a way to meaningfully stay in Iraq—at least to the point of continuing to pay off the Sunni insurgents—and his failure to find a way to meaningfully degrade ISIL in Syria, doomed thousands of people to horrible deaths, now including at least one beheaded American.

And that is just one reason that the American people have deep buyer’s remorse regarding Barack Obama. It isn’t that they love Republicans—they absolutely despise them. But in the defective American system of politics, the GOP is the only alternative allowed.

And that is no alternative at all.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Explaining And Pushing Obama's Confusing War Against Islamic State

Maybe the scariest thing about Barack Obama, Commander-in-Chief, is that when he's trying to put policy visions into terms regular Americans can understand (which automatically means sports metaphors will be in play), the analogies Obama uses, and which he claims are commonly used in the White House to help assess threats to the United States, are unbelievably stupid. As we have seen, this superficial approach to crafting war policy led Obama to completely misread the threat posed by al-Qaeda spinoff, The Islamic State.
Whether one voted for Barack Obama or not, especially in 2008, the understanding of the American electorate was that Obama was the anti-war candidate, certainly as contrasted to "Yosemite Sam" McCain and "Bomb Benghazi" Romney (in 2012).

Yet, for over a year now, as Obama has gone from defending the nation's illegal intelligence operations (directed at US citizens), to standing virtually alone against the vast majority of Americans in his failed attempt to go to war in Syria in Sept. 2013, to the current new and expanding US military campaign against the latest necessary enemy, the Islamic State, Obama has revealed himself as a president anxious to go to war.

As Cornel West put it recently, in a blistering critique of the President's pose as a progressive, Barack Obama is a "counterfeit".

Since last year's Syria debacle (the war that did not happen—to Americans anyway), Obama has learned the important lesson of getting the always war- loving American media establishment on the side of his military interventions in conflicts that have questionable relevance to United States' interests.

The American MSM default rhetoric on Obama goes: look, he's trying not to fight, so when he does, it must be right.

Maybe not so much really.

For example, in Obama's latest war in Iraq, where among other complexities confronting a president trying to explain his war policy to the American people is just figuring out what to call the enemy (ISIS, ISIL, IS?), Obama has relied on a group of "explainer" journalists to make his case to the American people.

One of the crucial memes these journalists are now advancing is the idea that the IS (Islamic State) poses a real threat of attacking the United States homeland and targets in Western Europe.

On Meet the Press today, this meme was discussed by a panel who found articulating the always-changing facts to be more than challenging.

While one of NBC's in-house Congressional warmongers, Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI), pointed out that IS clearly had designs and the capability to come to America to do harm to US citizens (in spite of over a decade of alleged upgrades to US anti-terror readiness), New York Times' Helene Cooper,* the NYTs National Security Correspondent said the following:
"It's called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Before American air strikes began, you did not hear ISIS talking about coming to the United States. You didn't hear them talking about, you know, attacks on Americans. It wasn't until after the American air strikes began that you saw them taking advantage of people, Americans, who they had kidnapped years before. Their mission has been to establish a caliphate within this region."
*NOTE: Cooper is doing part of her reporting on The Islamic State with Michael R. Gordon, one member of the infamous Gordon-Judith Miller team at the Times who falsely reported on the threat Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed to the United States. The Times' uncritical reporting of George W. Bush's pre-Iraq-War propaganda is widely viewed as one reason the American people believed that propaganda, and initially supported Bush's war.

The facts however are the following:

1. Almost two months ago, the group that had been going by the name of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) changed its name to simply The Islamic State (IS), and declared that it was the Caliphate of the world, with authority over every Muslim everywhere. Therefore, ignoring this fact, as Cooper does in her comments, ignores that The Islamic State plainly stated that its aims were global, and not just in Iraq and Syria. Many news sources, including the New York Times, have refused to adopt this new name, acting in accord with the White House, which also continues to refer to The Islamic State as ISIS or ISIL. No doubt the intent was to deny The Islamic State any acknowledgment that it had succeeded to the point of declaring itself a functioning Caliphate.

2. Unlike what Cooper claims, the first warning that ISIL, or its predecessor AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq), might attack the United States or Western Europe, was voiced long before recent US airstrikes. Those concerns came from sources many people automatically find utterly dubious, but as the Washington Post reported back on March 18, 2007:
"President Bush and Vice President Cheney have repeatedly warned that bin Laden plans to turn Iraq into the capital of an Islamic caliphate and a staging ground for attacks on the United States. "If we fail there," Bush said in a February news conference, 'the enemy will follow us here.'"
The Post noted in the 2007 article that most experts believed at the time that Bush's and Cheney's concerns were overblown and that AQI was a regional threat that "poses little danger to the security of the U.S. homeland."

This is despite the fact that shortly after the 2006 Congressional elections in the United States, which saw the Republicans lose control of Congress, AQI's then chief, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, announced a new goal for AQI: blowing up the White House:
"We will not rest from our Jihad (holy war) until...we have blown up the filthiest house— which is called the White House."
That certainly would seem to qualify as a direct, domestic threat to the United States.

In January of this year, McClatchy News Service reported that US Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, expressed explicit concern about ISIL's potential threat to the United States:
"The biggest threat to our national security is (if) this ungoverned territory becomes areas where we have terrorist organizations that become dominant and then try to export their terrorism outside of the Middle East and into several other countries, including the United States."
Why do the White House and its media servants advance a theory that is plainly deficient on a factual basis?

For one thing, Obama obviously made a fundamental error in assessing the threat of the Islamic State. Back when Obama was initially arguing to the American people that it was morally imperative to launch one of his "limited" wars in Syria, Obama was going to be attacking Syrian government forces of Bashar al-Assad, in other words the army fighting against The Islamic State (known in 2013 as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL). One of the strongest arguments against that intervention was that Obama had chosen the wrong enemy.

As Cooper noted on Meet the Press yesterday, Obama had continually dismissed the threat of the Islamic State, referring to the Qaeda spinoff army as al-Qaeda "jayvee" or junior varsity—in other words as a secondary terrorist player in the Middle East. That notion proved to be disastrously wrong.

A look at what Obama said in context regarding his jayvee-Qaeda view is helpful in getting a basic read on just how utterly contradictory and wrong Obama has been in sizing up The Islamic State. This quote, which is Obama's attempt to explain why al-Qaeda affiliates were not much of a threat to the United States, comes from Obama's long interview in January, 2014 with The New Yorker:
“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...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."
Obama then said something that, especially in light of the media furor, and the political reaction at the White House, over the beheading video of US journalist James Foley, seems a policy guideline that Obama either never took seriously, or has now totally abandoned:
“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.” 
Of course, that was offered before the US discovered that its decade-long investment in arming and training the Iraqi army had been a total failure.

When The Islamic State pushed into Iraq in force this spring, the real jayvee squad turned out to be the Iraqi government troops, who melted before the more lightly-armed but much more nimble and committed Islamic State fighters. In the the allegedly shocking collapse of the Iraqi military, ISIL captured large amounts of American-made weapons, including heavy weapons, and tons of cash (looted from Iraqi banks).

When the Islamic State advance overran the Peshmerga militia and drove deep into the Kurdish Region of northern Iraq a few weeks ago, Obama finally decided he had to go wading back into the Iraq quagmire.

Obama has been pressured hard by critics of his expanding war to explain why an enemy that he dismissed as a minor player, and indeed a group he would have effectively embraced as an ally if the US had attacked Syrian government troops in 2013, has now quickly turned into a sophisticated, well-funded, Apocalyptic army that is "beyond anything we have seen", according to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Whereas George W. Bush initially faced a simple military challenge in toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003, the complex Hydra-like opponents the US currently faces in the Middle East make extremely difficult the job of justifying—or even coherently explaining—US foreign policy (much less US war policy) to the American people.

In trying to justify the war against IS, one question the US should answer is the most troubling one of all: how responsible is the United States itself for the creation of the Islamic State and the proliferation of brutal, Qaeda-inspired, terror groups all over the world? In other words, isn't it the case that every new American war on terror or terrorists just ends up making the security situation of the United States and its allies in the world more vulnerable?

Barack Obama evades discussion of that question just as much as George W Bush did. Instead, the world and its sports metaphors get sillier and scarier, and the world gets murkier and more chaotic. All we need now is the claim that Vladimir Putin is the real power behind IS—which in today's world of Byzantine chess would hardly be surprising.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Obama Now Claims New US War In Iraq Could Last Months (Years?)

Barack Obama addresses reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, August 9, 2014. Just before taking off for a vacation at Martha's Vineyard, Obama explained that American military involvement in the new Iraq War—really just the next phase in the old Iraq War—might not end for "months". Obama also rejected any notion he should regret having failed to leave a residual military force in Iraq. Obama pointed out it was the Iraqis who wanted all Americans troops to leave the country, not Obama or the Pentagon. In fact, many Iraqis were hoping American troops would stay beyond 2011, precisely because there were expectations that if the US withdraw all its troops, Iraq would fall apart into sectarian violence and civil war. None of this pertains to the American people's view of the necessity for any continuing US commitment to Iraq. The vast majority of the American people agreed with Obama's decision (which was consistent with George W. Bush's decision in 2008) for a complete US troop pullout from Iraq by the end of 2011.
In the course of trying to explain (again) the US military policy in the newest American war in Iraq, Barack Obama this morning, in a South Lawn press update, added considerable fuel to the domestic debate about his actions, by saying the US military mission against the IS (Islamic State) could last for months, at least.

Asked by a reporter if Obama's "ambitions" in Iraq could really be achieved by a temporary military involvement, and would not instead require months or years, the President responded:
"I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks, if that’s what you mean. I think this is going to take some time." 
After initially refusing to give any timetable for the length of American operations in Iraq, Obama indicated that one timetable that could give people some indication of the length of the American commitment, was how quickly the Iraqi government could become "inconclusive" (in other words of major ethnic and religious minorities), and how quickly the Iraqi security forces, already trained and equipped by the United States, could learn to stop throwing down its arms and fleeing at the first sight of Islamic State fighters.

Since the American people have already spent thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars to enable Iraq to become fully functional and capable of defending itself from these very sorts of threats posed by the IS, and it is apparent those efforts have utterly failed, why Americans should draw anything but dread from the nature of Obama's timetable is difficult to see.

In addition, Obama also admitted that the current situation, with the United States having been caught flatfooted by the speed and effectiveness of the IS advance into Iraq, was the fault, once again, of inept US intelligence:
"Did we underestimate ISIL [now called IS]? I think that there is no doubt that their advance, their movement over the last several months has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates and I think the expectations of policymakers both in and outside of Iraq."
Finally, it is worth noting that the Shia Iraqis have responded to this latest US intervention with skepticism and cynicism, as they point out the Shia-led Baghdad government had begged for a long time for US airstrikes and additional military aid to help stop the IS advances—and slaughtering of citizens in IS-controlled areas—and Barack Obama refused to offer help. Not until Americans and Christians were threatened in northern Iraq did Obama act to try to stop the IS.

This sentiment was expressed for example, by Sami al-Askari, a Shia political associate of Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, as quoted in the New York Times:
"[Obama] should have made this decision when hundreds of Shiites and Sunnis were being killed every day...[The Americans are] protecting the Kurdish regional government and Christians, not the rest of Iraq...Iraqis must rely on themselves and their genuine friends, like Iran and Russia, who have supported Iraq in its battle against ISIS."
There is a strong sentiment in Baghdad, in the Shia community, that the United States is acting purely in its own interest and that it will push for a much stronger participation in the Iraqi national government for the Sunni population—something the Shia instinctively, and understandably, have rejected since coming to power.

One of the key elements of the allegedly successful "Surge" strategy implemented by US General David Petraeus in Iraq, was the widespread payment of bribes to Sunni tribesmen, who agreed to stop being anti-US insurgents and to start fighting al-Qaeda. As soon as the Americans left, the Shia discontinued paying bribes to the Sunnis, and began excluding Sunni leaders from effective power. This pushed many of the old Sunni insurgents back into supporting a Sunni movement, the IS, that is considered even more ruthless and radical than al-Qaeda.

Therefore, the United States once again finds itself back at square one in Iraq, with an ethnic divide that cannot or will not be reconciled by the competing factions, with a dire security situation whose solution Obama nevertheless has linked to this reconciliation, and with the American people once again being told by a US president to be patient and to ask no questions (because he has no real answers) about the once again active US military involvement in the Iraq killing fields.