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.

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