You are hereIraq
By Reese Erlich
Veteran foreign correspondent Reese Erlich was in northern Iraq at the start of the U.S. bombing campaign against Islamic State. He interviewed Kurdish leaders, peshmerga fighters and U.S. officials. He says the reality on the ground is far different from the propaganda coming out of Washington.
By John Grant
Ain’t no time to wonder why.
Whoopee, we’re all gonna die.
- Country Joe MacDonald
Freedom’s just another word: US Launches Wars and Backs Coups in the Name of Democracy, but Won’t Back Real Democracy Activists
By Dave Lindorff
The US claims to be supporting democracy from Ukraine to Cuba, and from Somalia to Iraq, often by bombing the alleged opposition, or by supporting proxy wars and subversion. But one place where real democracy activists are battling against the forces of repression they are curiously getting no backing from the United States: Hong Kong.
By Gar Smith
When the Islamic State (IS) released a sickening video purporting to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley, a militant chorus of neocon voices thundered: "It's an act of war!" On Fox News' "The Kelly File," Charles Krautheimer excoriated Attorney General Eric Holder for announcing the Department of Justice planned to investigate the murder as a criminal case. "Acts of terror," Krautheimer erupted, are not criminal acts. "They are acts of war!"
This could be open to debate. Under 18 U.S. Code § 2331 the term "act of war" means "any act occurring in the course of (A) declared war; (B) armed conflict, whether or not war has been declared, between two or more nations; or (C) armed conflict between military forces of any origin."
An "act of war" generally requires two or more national, sovereign belligerents. While an attack by a group of dissident insurgents may constitute an act of rebellion, it may not constitute an act of war.
Interestingly, if Washington were to "declare war" on the Islamic State, that might serve to grant diplomatic status to the Islamic forces and thereby acknowledge their claim to having established an "Islamic Caliphate." There would seem to be a moral argument for intervening against IS, a militant force that routinely executes captured soldiers, murders "infidels" and also has reportedly beheaded children. But there is a strategic caveat: Does bringing force to bear guarantee less violence or greater violence? In short: Is the cure to war, more war?
An Act of War or an Act of Revenge?
But there is a more fundamental flaw behind the "act of war" cry.
What happened to James Foley—and subsequently to fellow American Steven Soltoff and British citizen David Haines—was not an act of war but an act of retaliation.
President Barack Obama understood there was a quick and clear path to avoiding the death of James Foley and the threats to ISIS' other US and UK hostages: Simply call a halt to the US' punishing aerial campaign. And the president clearly understood the consequences of continuing to wage a war against ISIS targets: If US attacks continued, American hostages would most likely die.
Barack Obama and his advisors chose the path that they knew would result in the deaths of US hostages. And each time a hostage was brutally murdered, the White House invoked the name of the dead American to help fuel the passion for resuming and expanding a new US military adventure in Iraq.
The timeline (though subsequently muddled by the US media) is clear: The barbaric beheadings, shocking as they were, followed a series of US aerial attacks on ISIS ground forces that killed scores of Islamic fighters and, inevitably, a number of adjacent civilians.
And the use of the term "barbaric" deserves some attention. Certainly, the use of a knife blade to commit a beheading is "barbaric" but is it any less barbaric than blowing someone to pieces with a Hellfire missile? A beheading is a surgical operation with limited impact committed by an individual who is personally accountable and can be held criminally responsible for the act. The use of a Hellfire missile tears entire bodies into heaps of bloody, (Collateral Damage) or breaking into song (see video).
First the Bombs, Then the Beheadings
The IS beheadings did not occur in a vacuum. They were acts of revenge triggered in response to American military attacks. It was America that committed the first "act of war" when it launched an aerial assault inside Iraq on August 8. On that date, US Navy McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighters flew into Iraq and bombed Islamic State artillery units and destroyed an Islamic State military convoy.
Still much of the American media has trumpeted the false narrative that ISIS—in the form of a masked murderer with a British accent—was the aggressor. On September 18, the San Francisco Chronicle's Washington bureau correspondent Carolyn Lochhead reported: "Obama had resisted intervening until the Islamic State group beheaded two American journalists and captured several Iraqi cities."
This was a patent falsehood. But it was a widely disseminated falsehood. Still, the cause-and-effect relationship remains: The US began bombing Islamic rebel forces in early August. It was not until 12 days later that ISIS executed James Foley.
On August 12, ISIS sent Foley's parents an emailed warning that their son would be executed in retaliation for US airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq. The email read, in part:
We have left you [the USA] alone since your disgraceful defeat in Iraq. We did not interfere in your country or attack your citizens while they were safe in their homes despite our capability to do so! You were given many chances to negotiate the release of your people via cash transactions as other governments have accepted. We have also offered prisoner exchanges to free the Muslims currently in your detention like our sister Dr. Afi Sidiqqi, however you proved very quickly to us that this is NOT what you are interested in.You have no motivation to deal with the Muslims except with the language of force….
Now you return to bomb the Muslims of Iraq once again, this time resorting to Arial [sic] attacks and "proxy armies", all the while cowardly shying away from a face-to-face confrontation! You do not spare our weak, elderly, women or children so we will NOT spare yours!
You and your citizens will pay the price of your bombings!
The first of which being the blood of the American citizen, James Foley!
He will be executed as a DIRECT result of your transgressions towards us!
In the video of James Foley's execution, the ISIS spokesman specifically ties the commencement of US bombing attacks to Foley's fate:
Today, your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq. Your strikes have caused casualties amongst Muslims. You're no longer fighting an insurgency, we are an Islamic army and a State that has been accepted by a large number of Muslims worldwide, so effectively, any aggression towards the Islamic State is an aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic Caliphate as their leadership.
So any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic Caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people."
James Foley's final statement (a prepared statement that may or may not have represented Foley's actual thoughts) reinforced the point that his fate was an outcome of renewed US bombing in Iraq, stated that the US decision to launch bombing raids on ISIS was the "last nail in my coffin":
I call on my friends, family, and loved to rise up against my real killers, the U.S. government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency criminality…. I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope for freedom to see my family once again, but that ship has sailed. I guess all in all, I wish I wasn't an American. [Read the complete statement below.]
The Beheading Was Not Shown
Another surprising media misstatement involved the videos themselves. The US media—from TIME Magazine, The New York Times and The Washington Post on down—routinely and repeatedly claimed that the IS videos "showed the beheading" of hostages. (In fact, the actual act of the beheading was deleted. See details below.) With this excuse in hand, the videos were scrubbed from the Internet—along with the videotaped final statements of the victims and the anti-US commentary of the IS executioner. (Many people refused to view the videos because they believed they depicted a gruesome "beheading.")
The response of the media/government complex was schizophrenic. On one had the government claimed the videos provided justification US retaliation. On the other hand, government pressure made it impossible for the American public to assess the criticisms of US global military policies that were cited as justification for the killings. The critical political content was the major reason the videos were released in the first place. The beheadings were simply a barbaric tool in the IS public relations tool kit. Government pressure to promote the videos as propaganda tool while denying the public an opportunity to watch and judge the content. In the UK, ABC reported, merely watching the James Foley video could expose viewers to a terrorism charge. At the same time, Twitter and Facebook were tracking down everyone who posted the video and were deleting their accounts.
Those who did watch the videos before they were purged from the Internet, expressed surprise. Popular Resistance, writing on TopInfoPost noted:
The most interesting thing about the video is that despite the hype in the media, there was no actual beheading in the video. The TIME article headline was not an accurate description of the video. There was a dead body that was, as many in the media have said, 'purportedly' a beheaded James Foley, but the actual act of beheading is not shown. The video does show someone purportedly using a knife to saw at Foley's neck, but there is no blood and seems to be no actual cut.
We have seen the videos out of Syria, which are truly atrocious, or the video of the beheading of Daniel Pearl a journalist killed by Al-Qaeda, but unlike those there was a strange absence of blood in this video. The supposed killer just puts the knife to Foley's neck, saws back and forth for a few moments and no blood comes out. Then it cuts to a shot of a severed head over a dead body.
Why didn't the most brutal terrorist group, according to western media, show the actually bloody murder to get the full terrorizingeffect? And why hadn't the lack of that scene been a crucial part of the media's coverage?
Are Beheadings Not 'Barbaric' When Done by Allies?
In a September 17 interview on Democracy Now! Phyllis Bennis elaborated on an article she had published in The Nation in which she pointed out that acts of criminal brutality were happening on both sides of the Syrian/Iraq conflict.
According to Bennis, "The New York Times was the only mainstream media outlet that reported … that the Free Syrian Army—the so-called moderate part of the Syrian rebels, who the US wants now to increase aid and military support and training and arming—that the Free Syrian Army had itself beheaded six captives. Six prisoners that they had control of, they beheaded them, right after shooting to death -- right after the shooting death of an American who had been caught by ISIS."
(Barak Barfi, a spokesperson for Steven Sotloff's family, raised another inconvenient truth that was not widely reported. Barfi pointed out that the so-called "moderate" Syrian rebels that Washington has chosen to support were the same ones that first captured, then sold Steven Sotloff to ISIS.)
Human rights organizations have also expressed concern over the number of beheadings by officials in Saudi Arabia. During the first three weeks of August, Saudi executioners decapitated more than one prisoner per day. On August 18, four family members were beheaded for smuggling marijuana. A day later, another Saudi was beheaded for committing an act of "sorcery." In the first seven months of 2014, the Saudis beheaded 41 victims. No one in the US government condemned (let alone mentioned) these apparently "acceptable" beheadings.
And it is not just our Allies that commit acts of barbarism. America itself is also culpable.
The President Invokes Victim's Names to Justify War
Speaking from The Edgartown School in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts on August 20, President Obama somberly declared: "Today, the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group, ISIL." The president then went on tooffer the following characterization of ISIS: "They have rampaged across cities and villages -- killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children, and subject them to torture and rape and slavery." (Worth noting: nearly every one of these crimes also has been ascribed to US forces during American assaults on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.)
Speaking from Estonia after ISIS made good on its promise to execute reporter Steven Sotloff, President Obama condemned ISIS and insisted "Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists." And then, the Commander-in-Chief used the occasion to further ramp up the rhetoric of war:
It's not only that we're going to be bringing to justice those who perpetrated this terrible crime against these two fine young men. The United States will continue to lead a regional and international effort against the kind of barbaric and ultimately empty vision. Our objective is clear, and that is: degrade and destroy ISIL so that it's no longer a threat, not just to Iraq but also to the region and to the United States.
Looking at the timing, the lost opportunities and the rhetorical escalation, one comes away with an apprehension that this president (like many presidents before him) had engineered a casus belli—allowing the sacrifice of innocent American lives to provide an excuse for war that would outrage and galvanize the American public against the latest "barbaric enemy" to threaten the world.
Look Who's Funding ISIS: Some of our Closest Allies
In her Democracy Now! interview, Phyllis Bennis tried to draw attention to the bloody hands behind ISIS's rampage across the border from Syria into Iraq. According to Bennis:
Saudi Arabia is the source of the largest amount of money, from what all the reports are indicating, that is going to ISIS as well as a host of other Islamist and other organizations…. Some of it probably comes from the government, although that's never been confirmed. But this is a very tightly controlled society where, if there was an interest by the government in stopping its own citizens—whether they are Saudi princes or ordinary citizens, who are the source of a huge amount of the money funding these organizations, including ISIS—it could be contained.
Bennis concluded by pointing out the close military ties between Washington and Riyadh:
The Saudis don't want to talk about that alliance with the United States. But there is $60 billion worth of arms that they've been engaged in buying from the United States over this last two years. Many of those arms are the ones ending up in the hands of ISIS. It's US arms and it's Saudi arms that are ending up there.
Whether it's individuals or whether it's part of the government, that money is coming to a large degree from Saudi Arabia, from other parts of the region, as well—from Qatar, from Kuwait, from UAE, from a number of countries—but Saudi Arabia is very much at the center of this.
And the US-Saudi alliance is such that if the US chose to challenge the arms sellers in this country, who are making a killing on this new war, this Iraq War 3.0, we might say—if they were to prepared to challenge those arms suppliers, and thus challenge the Saudi government, there could be a real effort to put a stop to the funding and arming of these terrible organizations like ISIS.
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Lost Testimony in the War of Words
After the IS hostage videos were falsely described as containing actual footage of beheadings, they were quickly removed from online viewing. This act of censorship prevented much of the public from hearing the full statements of the victims and the executioner contained in the videos. The brutality of the IS executions cannot be fully understood without listening to the justifications offered by the killers. Here are transcripts of the complete statements contained in three IS execution videos.
Transcript of Video: The Final Words
Of US Hostage and Journalist James Foley
I call on my friends, family, and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the U.S. government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency criminality.
My message to my beloved parents: Save me some dignity and don't accept any meager compensation for my death from the same people who effectively hit the last nail in my coffin with the recent aerial campaign in Iraq.
I call on my brother John who is a member of the U.S. Air Force: Think about what you are doing. Think about the lives you destroy, including those of your own family. I call on you, John, think about who made the decision to bomb Iraq recently and kill those people, whoever they may have been. Think John, who did they really kill? Did they think about me, your and our family when they
made that decision? I died that day, John. When your colleagues dropped that bomb on those people they signed my death certificate.
I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope for freedom to see my family once again, but that ship has sailed. I guess all in all, I wish I wasn't an American.
Transcript of Video: The Final Words
Of US Hostage and Journalist Steven Sotloff
I am Steven Joel Sotloff.
I'm sure you know exactly who I am by now, and why I am appearing before you.
And now it is time for my message.
Obama, your foreign policy of intervention in Iraq was supposed to be for the preservation of American lives and interests, so why is it that I'm having to pay the price of your interference with my life.
Am I not an American citizen?
You've spent billions of US taxpayers dollars and we've lost thousands of our troops in our previous fighting against the Islamic State.
So where is the American people's interests in reigniting this war?
From what little I know about foreign policy I remember a time when you could not win an election without promising to bring our troops back home from Iraq, from Afghanistan, and to close down Guantanamo.
Here you are now Obama, nearing the end of your term, having achieved none of the above, and seemingly marching us, the American people, into a blazing fire.
The man who appears to wield the knife seems to have a British accent that has been disguised. His statement suggests he is the same fighter who killed James Foley last month. Below is a transcript of what he says:
I'm back Obama. And I'm back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards Islamic State, because of your insistence in continuing your bombings in Amerli, Samarra and Mosul Dam despite our serious warnings. You, Obama, have yet again through your actions, killed yet another American citizen. So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.
Transcript of Video: The Final Words
Of UK Hostage David Haines
My name is David Cawthorne Haines. I would like to declare that I hold you David Cameron entirely responsible for my execution. You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State just as your predecessor Tony Blair did following a trend amongst our British Prime Minsters who can't find the courage to say no to the Americans. Unfortunately, it is we, the British public, who will pay the price for our parliament's selfish decisions."
The man the Western media has nicknamed "Jihadi John" then says:
This British man has to the pay the price for your promise Cameron to arm the Peshmerga against the Islamic State. Ironically, he has spent a decade of his life serving under the same Royal Air Force that is responsible for delivering those arms.
Your evil alliance with America, which continues to strike the Muslims of Iraq and most recently bombed the Haditha Dam, will only accelerate your destruction. And playing the role of the obedient lapdog, Cameron, will only drag you and your people into another bloody and unwinable war."
The footage then shows another British hostage paraded before the camera. Jihadi John says:
If you, Cameron, persist in fighting the Islamic State then you like your master Obama, will have the blood of your people on your hands."
Here's Francis Boyle on the draft resolution:
So this is a Chapter 7 Resolution, which arguably establishes the predicate for the use of force. It should have been adopted under Chapter 6 to rule out any use of force against Syria. It was not. SC resolutions are binding under either Chapter 6 or Chapter 7 according to ICJ in Namibia Advisory Opinion. So obviously, Obama wants to set the predicate here for using force against ISIS in Syria, which will ultimately lead to the deposition of the Assad government, the crack up of Syria, and genocide against the Alawites and the Christians.
OK. Well obama’s puppet government that he just installed in Iraq could on the basis of this Resolution, Article 51 right of collective self-defense and the bogus doctrine of hot pursuit ask Obama to bomb ISIS in Syria in order to prevent their cross-border movement from Syria into Iraq and back. Under international law there is no doctrine of hot pursuit on land, only at sea. That Obama scenario and strategy become very clear in OP5 and OP10 and OP14, inter alia. Basically trying to create a right of hot pursuit across land borders where it did not previously exist —at least Obama will interpret it that way to justify bombing ISIS in Syria at the request of Iraq. There is nothing in this Resolution to rule out that scenario. Indeed, it seems that this Resolution has been drafted for precisely that purpose.
OK. I have read but am not going to go through the rest of this Resolution. It appears that USG specifically drafted this Resolution so that its puppet government in Iraq can on its basis as well as UN Charter Article 51 right of collective self-defense bomb ISIS in Syria. Otherwise, it would be naked aggression against the wishes of the Syrian government. So Obama will use this Resolution as his legal fig-leaf to start the bombing campaign in Syria upon his return to Washington. He will do to Assad and Syria what he did to Ghadafy and Libya.
Finally, somebody commenting on the state of Iraq thinks George W. Bush got something right. Turns out it's ISIS. In the new hour-long ISIS-produced film about how nice it is to die for ISIS -- Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun -- Bush is quoted: "You are with us or against us." Video shows him saying "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." A graphic in the upper corner of the screen reads: "Bush spoke the truth, although he's a liar."
What truth does ISIS think Bush spoke? The Manichean truth that there are two groups of people on earth with nothing in common between them and a shared dedication to annihilate each other. Of course, the notion that they have nothing in common is delusional. They have almost everything in common: their belief in violence, their monotheism, their stupidity, their desire for a U.S. war in the Middle East.
"In the face of the dark wave of the crusader force..." begins the ISIS movie.
"This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while," said Bush.
ISIS shows Obama as well as Bush and denounces both as liars, including rejecting Obama's lie that he won't send combat troops to Iraq. As even a number of U.S. Senators and Congress Members have pointed out, the 1600 troops he's already sent are trained and equipped for nothing other than combat, and a pilot in a plane is engaged in combat.
But ISIS wants more. This film is not aimed at provoking the United States the way the beheading films were. It's far too long and boring for Americans to watch.
(Why did ISIS make a full-length movie? Because they couldn't find an editor.)
This film is aimed at recruiting fighters. ISIS claims to be fighting the United States, to have long been the core of the resistance to the United States, and to be defeating troops armed with U.S. weapons. (ISIS never mentions that its own "beloved" weapons come from various infidels, including the U.S.) Here's the ISIS pitch to recruits:
Join us in fighting the evil empire. If you die you'll go to paradise. The afterlife is far longer and more important than this life. "Unshakable faith" is the "most effective weapon of war." Come join "Allah's soldiers" and experience courage, excitement, vengeance, adrenaline, the thrill of victory, and martyrdom. Never mind that our movie is so boring, the fighting is really fun, and Allah is guiding our RPGs!
Of course, ISIS is mistaken. God does not have time to be guiding their RPGs when he's busy making sure the football team that prays the loudest wins each game. And of course Obama has told us that "No religion condones the killing of innocents," forgetting that all the religions of Moses contain this teaching: "Kill every male among the little ones and Kill every woman that has known man by lying with him. But all the women children that have not known a man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves" -- forgetting in fact that all of these religions have violent and peaceful traditions but venerate as holy ancient texts from a barbaric age and teach as essential the idea that there is another magical world that matters more than this one whose climate we are destroying. Sing it, soldiers!
Here's the ISIS pitch to the U.S. government:
We will accept only victory or death, just like Patrick Henry, and we will fight you. Fighting you builds our movement because people hate you so much after the past decades of your attacks. We have no doubt that you are stupid enough to fight us if we keep insulting you.
Here's their pitch to opponents:
Oppose us, and we will make you dig your own grave on camera, because we are so courageous and brave that we wear masks to hide out faces and shoot anybody we don't know how to talk to.
Here's their pitch to Hollywood:
We've got dramatic potential. Sure, make us the bad guys, but put us on the silver screen. We're not as slick and convincing as a White House video news release aired by an "independent" media outlet, but we're way more dramatic. We only have a narrator, no actual characters, but we're still more entertaining than C-Span, and the weapons makers are going to absolutely love us -- just check with them about funding. Then die, you faithless dogs.
In 1969, at the height of the U.S. war against Vietnam, Edwin Starr recorded a song called ‘War’, that reached number one on the charts. Among the lyrics are these:
War: What is it good for?
Much as one would like to believe these simple lyrics, there are facts that belie them. In a report from the Financial Times from March of 2013, it is stated that private contractors earned at least a whopping $139 billion dollars from the U.S. war against Iraq up to that time, and that total is ever increasing. Kellogg, Brown and Root, a former subsidiary of Haliburton, the company once run by former Vice President Dick Cheney, the architect of this war, earned nearly $40 billion.
Barack Obama’s central dilemma last week, when he tried to sell a new war to the American public on the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11, was to speak convincingly about the wisdom and effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy over the last decade-plus while at the same time, alas, dropping the bad news that it didn’t work.
Thus: “Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.”
Hurray! God bless drones and “mission accomplished” and a million Iraqi dead and birth defects in Fallujah. God bless torture. God bless the CIA. But guess what?
“Still we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm.”
So it’s bombs away again, boys — another trace of evil has popped up in the Middle East — and I find myself at the edge of outrage, the edge of despair, groping for language to counter my own incredulity that the God of War is on the verge of another victory and Planet Earth and human evolution lose again.
Obama ended his executive declaration of more war with words that the military-industrial shills have slowly managed to turn into an obscenity: “May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.”
God bless another war?
Tom Engelhardt, writing a few days ago at TomDispatch, called it “Iraq 3.0,” noting: “Nowhere, at home or abroad, does the obvious might of the United States translate into expected results, or much of anything else except a kind of roiling chaos. . . . And one thing is remarkably clear: each and every application of American military power globally since 9/11 has furthered the fragmentation process, destabilizing whole regions.
“In the twenty-first century, the U.S. military has been neither a nation- nor an army-builder, nor has it found victory, no matter how hard it’s searched. It has instead been the equivalent of the whirlwind in international affairs, and so, however the most recent Iraq war works out, one thing seems predictable: the region will be further destabilized and in worse shape when it’s over.”
Obama’s speech is addressed to a nation with a dead imagination. Doing “something” about the Islamic State means dropping bombs on it. Bombing runs don’t inconvenience a politician’s constituents and always seem like stalwart action: a squirt of Raid on an infestation of bugs. They never kill innocent people or result in unintended consequences; nor, apparently, do they provoke an instant sense of horror, the way a beheading does.
Indeed, declarations of war always seem to lift people up. This is because they separate us from the evil that our enemies are committing. Addressing the complexity of others’ brutal behavior means facing our terrifying complicity in it — which is asking far too much of any Beltway-entrenched U.S. politician. Obama hasn’t broken in any way from his inarticulate predecessor in attempting to exploit the simplistic emotional safe haven of war and militarism.
“How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America?” George Bush asked during a press conference a month after the 9/11 attacks (quoted recently by William Blum in his latest Anti-Empire Report). “I’ll tell you how I respond: I’m amazed. I’m amazed that there’s such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. I am — like most Americans, I just can’t believe it because I know how good we are.”
Obama is trying to extract the same public acquiescence to military aggression from the IS beheadings of two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker as Bush did from 9/11. Bush had the distinct advantage of not having himself — and the disastrous mess he created — as his predecessor. Nevertheless, Iraq 3.0 is going to become a reality, even though bombing Iraq will just strengthen IS and likely open the door to the next multi-year military quagmire.
As David Swanson laments on the website World Beyond War, speaking of the first journalist IS brutally murdered, “James Foley is not a war ad.”
“When 9/11 victims were used as a justification to kill hundreds of times the number of people killed on 9/11, some of the victims’ relatives pushed back,” Swanson writes. Linking to a video in which Foley talks about the hell and absurdity of war with filmmaker Haskell Wexler during the NATO protests in Chicago two years ago, he adds: “Now James Foley is pushing back from the grave.”
He invites us to watch Foley talk about “the dehumanization needed before people can be killed, the shallowness of media coverage” and other toxic realities of war that usually don’t show up in presidential speeches.
“We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world . . .”
I can’t believe I live in a country that still tolerates such simplistic, knife-edged rhetoric. Oh, so much evil out there! The U.S. government, in all its might and purity, has no choice but to go after it with every weapon in its arsenal. What Obama doesn’t bother to say, though perhaps in some helpless, futile way he knows, is that engaging in the game of war is always an act of defeat. And the opponents, in their brutal aggression toward each other and everyone else, are always on the same side.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at email@example.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.
ISIS has created a movie preview for the coming war, a war it eagerly wants Washington to take part in. The White House and Congress would like to oblige, as long as the movie can be a short one, on the model of Libya. Here's the plot: Evil force arises out of nowhere; United States destroys it; credits roll. If Libya-The-Movie had begun with years of support for Gadaffi or ended with the disaster left behind, the critics would have hated it. Framing is everything.
Kathy Kelly published an article on Wednesday describing her visit some years back to a U.S. prison camp in Iraq where Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai spent four years under the name Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi before becoming the leader of ISIS.
Imagine a Hollywood-like movie that began in that camp. An opening scene might show Baghdadi and his fellow prisoners paraded naked in front of female soldiers and forced to say "I love George Bush" before they could get their food rations. We'd see them sleeping on the ground in the cold, cursing their captors and swearing every last drop of energy and instant of remaining life to that highest of all Hollywood values: violent revenge.
Cut to the present and a scene in a small house in Iraq with 500-pound U.S. bombs exploding just outside. Baghdadi and his gang of loveable heroes look horrified, but -- with a twinkle in his eye -- Baghdadi gathers the others to him and begins to smile. Then he begins to laugh. His comrades look bewildered. Then they start to catch on. "You wanted this, didn't you?" exclaims Sexy Female Rebel. "This was your plan, wasn't it!"
"Hand me the ultimate weapon," Baghdadi says, turning to a future nominee for best male supporting actor. BMSA grins and pulls out a video camera. Baghdadi raises the camera over his head with one hand. Turning to Sexy Female Rebel he says "Go on the roof and look north. Tell me what you see coming."
Cut to view through binoculars as music swells to high enthusiasm. Countless oceans of people on foot are making their way over the land with burning U.S. flags on sticks leading the way.
Of course, even Hollywood, which made Avatar, wouldn't make exactly THIS movie. The White House is going to have to make it. But who's directing? President Obama is hunting around for a name for this war, while ISIS has already released one in its video preview. Even the U.S. public seems increasingly interested in the full-length feature. "How does this end?" they want to know. "This was begun by Bush" they say, depending on their partisanship.
What if the script were flipped, not to portray the Iraqi as protagonist, but to abandon the religion of violent revenge? What if Washington were to say to ISIS this:
We see that you want a war with us. We understand that you would gain local support because of how deeply we are hated. We're tired of being hated. We're tired of taking direction from criminals like you. We're not going to play along. We're going to make ourselves loved rather than hated. We're going to apologize for our occupations and bombings and prisons and torture. We're going to make restitution. We're going to provide aid to the entire region. It'll cost us a lot less to do that than to keep dropping bombs on you, so you can forget the plan to bankrupt us. We're going to save trillions of dollars in fact by ceasing to arm ourselves and the rest of the world to the teeth. We're going to announce a ban on shipping weapons to the Middle East. And since we ship 80% of them, not even counting our own military's, we're already off to a huge start. We're going to prosecute any oil company or country that does business with your organization. But we're going to hold no grudges against anyone who abandons your organization and seeks peace, just as we ask you to do what you can toward overcoming grudges against our past barbarity.
What would happen? You might be surprised. Gandhi-The-Movie brought in over $50 million in 1982.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
The Senators leading the pack of war-dogs, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, opined in The New York Times this week on the need for the U.S. to go all-out in the Middle East: We must face facts: A comprehensive strategy to defeat ISIS would require more troops, assets, resources and time. Such an undertaking should involve Congress. We have consistently advocated revising the Authorization for Use of Military Force that has provided congressional backing for counterterrorism operations since September 2001.These plans carry with them a repeat, or worse, of the mass death and destruction of society the U.S. carried out in an attempt to control Iraq.
By Staff, www.PopularResistance.org
Below are views of people whose voices are not often heard in the corporate media but who have worked on issues of militarism and war for many years. We sought out the views of those who recognize that war is not the answer to complex foreign policy issues for their views on President Obama’s recent speech declaring war on ISIS. Obama did not use the word “war” as he prefers to avoid explicitly stating what is really happening by talking about “air strikes” and “counter terrorism.”
In reality his speech was a declaration of war. And, he says it will last three years, which we suspect underestimates the war-quagmire he is beginning. As we have said in previous columns, President Obama needs to get (1) authorization for the use of military force from Congress, and (2) authorization from the United Nations before the attack he has announced. He is not pursuing either but instead has taken on the power to send the United States into a new war on his own. In fact, this July the House passed a resolution requiring authorization from Congress for a sustained presence of combat troops in Iraq. The resolution passed with bipartisan support in a 370-40 vote. The House has warned Obama to seek authorization, he has ignored them. President Obama is violating both domestic and international law. When unilateral military action is taken then every action taken in support of this illegal war is a war crime.
The US public has generally shown opposition to more war in consistent polling — leading to Americans being described as ‘war weary.’ With the recent focus on the extremism of ISIS, especially the beheading of two journalists, there has been a brief spike of support for military action. But as the quicksand of conflict with ISIS takes hold and this war drags on, public opinion will shift back to its opposition to war. People will see that US military intervention is not destroying anti-Americanism but increasing it and thereby strengthening ISIS and similar groups. It is important for those who oppose war to build a campaign now against the war on ISIS in order to move public opinion and end this military conflict as quickly as possible.
This is not about legalisms and US public opinion polls, it is going to be about the killing of tens of thousands of people with air strikes that primarily kill civilians. US military action will add to the chaos in the region, chaos made worse, if not caused, by US intervention in Iraq, Libya, Syria as well as the many countries President Obama has unilaterally bombed. The US has conducted 94,000 air strikes in the Middle East since 9/11 why does anyone think that continuing this strategy will being peace and security to the region or the United States. When has more of the same ever worked? If the goal is more chaos, division and destruction, Obama has chosen the right path; if the goal is peace and security, he is going in the wrong direction, when there are many other more sensible and effective paths to follow.
Perspectives of those who Oppose War in Iraq and Syria Against ISIS
David Swanson, Director, World Beyond War
Operation Unchanging Hopelessness is going to leave a lot of people feeling degraded and destroyed. ISIS on the other hand is getting what it wanted when it published the videos that have scared so many people into ignorant and soon-to-be-regretted support for mass murder. Just after the speech, Rachel Maddow was glorying in the fact that ISIS wouldn’t get U.S. troops on the ground which, she said, is what they really, really want. But if you’re aware of being manipulated into an act of mass-murder should you be happy that you’re picking a second-choice method that will actually mean MORE dying, only dying of non-Americans? And since when is 1500 troops on the ground with a promise to Chuck Todd to keep it under 100,000 a decision not to have troops on the ground? Remember, 1,000 Russian troops (albeit fictional) constitutes an invasion of Ukraine. Now that I mention it, I’m feeling a bit degraded already.
Veterans for Peace
President Obama outlined a strategy no different from what the U.S. has done for the past thirteen years. It is not a plan for success, it is a gamble that war will work this time when it has spectacularly failed thus far. We at Veterans For Peace challenge the American people to ask whose interests does endless war serve? Who is paying for these wars, whose children are dying in these wars and who is getting paid to finance and provide weapons for these wars? We the people are being driven by manipulated fear to support polices that are not in our interest. Peace is harder than war, but it is cheaper in blood and treasure. After thirteen years it is time to take another path, the path of peace.
Cindy Sheehan, peace activist
I believe the reason that the presidents of the US can continue to make such belligerent and jingoistic speeches and follow through with the continuation of endless wars is because the American people keep falling for the propaganda and the lie that either one of the two major political parties is better than the other when it comes to war for profit. I think last night’s speech by Obama was just a regurgitation of any speech by GWB and shame on anybody who is falling for this same tired, yet hostile, rhetoric. It would be funny if so many lives weren’t unnecessarily compromised because of US aggression.
As we commemorate the 13th anniversary of 9/11, we recall the invasion of Afghanistan the US launched one month after the attacks, and the war on Iraq launched on lies in 2002 – and look in horror at conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan today. The lesson? War and violence are the problem, NOT the solution to terrorism. Based on the speech President Obama gave yesterday, it seems like he –– and the entire US government –– still haven’t learned that lesson. The situation in Iraq and Syria is complicated, with no easy or perfect solutions. While we are concerned for the safety of the Iraqi and Syrian people threatened by ISIS, we know that American military force and contractors will only make the crisis worse and cause more suffering.
Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel
Did I miss where Obama recognized that elements of the “Free Syrian Army” that the US has been arming and assisting to topple Assad, presumably after being vetted as the “good guys” were actually the ones who sold, at least one if not both, American journalists to the “bad guys” who then beheaded them? Did I miss where he admitted that drone bombing Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, ETC –which resulted in deaths of wedding parties and other innocent civilians as well as mostly low level “foot soldiers”—and putting hundreds of men who had nothing to do with 9-11 in Guantanamo prison camps without any due process, torturing and killing some of them, has ratcheted up a certain amount of hatred of the US world wide but especially in the Mid-east thus making it fertile ground for radicalization and recruitment by Islamic State and other extremists? Did Obama even admit what most of his military commanders have concluded, that “there is no military solution”? Did he close with God bless our exceptional country that luckily is so exceptional that it’s above the law in its pursuit of “full spectrum dominance” yet has the neocon chutzpah to expect other (non-dominant, non-exceptional) countries to follow? Maybe I just missed the parts where Obama told the truth.
Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
Here’s how you know you live in an empire devoted to endless militarism: when a new 3-year war is announced and very few people seem to think the president needs anyone’s permission to start it (including Congress) and, more so, when the announcement - of a new multiple-year war - seems quite run-of-the-mill and normal.
Sheldon Richman, Vice President, Future of Freedom Foundation
The US government went to war against al Qaeda and got ISIS. Now it’s going to war against ISIS. What will come next? The only thing we know for sure is that, as Randolph Bourne said, “War is the health of the state.
President Obama’s new war plans in Iraq and Syria will not liberate the people of either country but will lead to more destruction. The U.S. military defeat of the secular Iraqi and Libyan governments (in 2003 and 2011) and its policy of fueling armed civil war against the secular, nationalist government in Syria are the fundamental reasons the so-called Islamic State has grown and become strong. Perpetuating a now 23-year-long U.S. political tradition, President Obama is announcing tonight that he, like the three preceding U.S. presidents, will go forward with another bombing campaign in Iraq. This is a war that will lead only to more catastrophe and destruction.
Nathan Goodman, Lysander Spooner Research Scholar in Abolitionist Studies at the Center for a Stateless Society
Obama’s speech embodies a cycle of violence that remains inevitable as long as the US remains an empire. As UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk and others have noted, ISIL’s power is blowback from prior US intervention. Much of that intervention stems from a “War on Terror” that began in response to the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11 attacks themselves were retaliation for US aggression in the Middle East, including the disastrous sanctions against Iraq. The attacks were orchestrated by Osama bin Laden, who was previously backed by the CIA in order to fight the Soviet Union. Who knows what blowback Obama’s new campaign of bombing will unleash? Rather than responding to every problem with more intervention, violence, and bloodshed, the US needs to dismantle its empire. Until this happens, intervention followed by blowback will leave us with a vicious cycle of violence, bloodshed, and imperial murders euphemistically termed “collateral damage.”
Matthew Hoh, Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy and former Director of the Afghanistan Study Group
The United States’ official policy in the Middle East is now perpetual war. What has been known for some time, including by those of us who have served overseas, by the millions who have suffered through our bombs and our bullets, and, of course, by the hundreds of thousands whose lives have been ripped from their families and from any promised futures, President Obama solidified last night. The United States, by agreeing to airstrikes without end in support of a corrupt and sectarian government in Baghdad; by championing a Shia and Kurdish invasion of Sunni lands; and by promising arms, munitions and money to rebel groups in the middle of the Syrian Civil War, the same groups that sold Steven Sotloff to his beheading, has adopted a policy that will exacerbate the civil wars in both Iraq and Syria and deepen the nightmare existence of their people. President Obama’s speech will be remembered as a mark of moral shame on the United States.
Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of “Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.”
Since 9/11 the United States has launched more than 94,000 air strikes, mostly on Afghanistan and Iraq, but also on Libya, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Rumsfeld’s plan has undoubtedly achieved his goal of changing the way people live in those countries, killing a million of them and reducing tens of millions more to lives of disability, disfigurement, dislocation, grief and poverty. A sophisticated propaganda campaign has politically justified 13 years of systematic U.S. war crimes. The chaos that Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy war has wreaked in Libya, Syria and Iraq should be a reminder of one of the obvious but unlearned lessons of September 11, that creating and arming groups of religious fanatics as proxies to fight secular enemies has huge potential for blowback and unintended consequences as they gain power and escape external control. Now that ISIS is once again fighting in Iraq as well as Syria, we have come full circle and Western propaganda and ISIS itself have again found common cause in exaggerating its strength and highlighting its brutality. The dirty little secret that our propaganda system cannot mention is that the current crises are all deeply rooted in U.S. policy.
Michael D. Ostrolenk, conservative activist
“No American President has the authority to unilaterally declare war on either a state actor or non-state actor. According to our Founding Fathers , the President, unless responding to an attack or imminent threat, must seek approval from Congress for acts of war. President Obama should go to Congress, lay out his case, and allow for a real debate to take place amongst the People’s representatives.”
Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)
The president yesterday announced his “strategy” for dealing with the threat posed by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. He has given terror networks and the international arms industry cause for great celebration. The former because he is giving them just what they want – a direct confrontation with the “Great Satan” and powerful recruiting inducement, both in the region and around the world. The latter because at a moment when actual cuts are possible in the obscene level of funding for the Pentagon and war, he has opened the door to yet another bountiful feast at the public trough for the armaments industry. In the process, he is turning his back on the millions of Americans who continue to suffer unemployment, under-employment, substandard (or no) housing, education beyond reach for many and a source of lifetime indentured servitude to the banks for those who must borrow to obtain a higher education, and the multitude of other urgent unmet needs we have here.
He also disregards the consequences for the environment and global climate of war and militarism, which are not only crimes against humanity but also crimes against the planet the consequences of which will be born by generations to come, since the Pentagon is the single largest polluter on the planet and wars escalate the severity of that pollution. And he, a constitutional lawyer who was elected on a platform of ending war, demonstrates utter contempt for the separation of powers and congressional authority alone to declare war and commit U.S. forces to battle. And as has been the case with so many presidents before him, he is telling the rest of the international community that national sovereignty can be violated at will without regard for international law, the U.N. Charter and other treaties whenever it suits the U.S. but that our borders are inviolate, including by those escaping the ravages and horror of wars (both military and economic) which our country has engaged in and supported in our own hemisphere. Shame on him and a supine Congress that has abdicated its constitutional duty, and shame on us if we allow this to happen without a determined struggle to stop it.
Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies
Military actions will not set the stage for political solutions; they will prevent those solutions from taking hold. Escalating military actions against this violent extremist organization is not going to work.
The bottom line is there is no immediate action that will make ISIS disappear, even if U.S. airstrikes manage to get the right target somewhere and take out an APC or a truckload of guys with RPGs or whatever.
You can’t destroy an ideology – or even an organization -through bombing (look at the efforts to do so with Al Qaeda . . . lots of members killed in Afghanistan, but the organization took root in a bunch of other countries). A military strike might bring some immediate satisfaction, but we all know revenge is a bad basis for foreign policy, especially when it has such dangerous consequences.
Susan Kerin, Fund Our Communities
We need to support a global diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic effort, not U.S. military escalation. U.S. military action only adds fuel to the sectarian fire. And what will be the costs for this misadventure? Perhaps you recall what happened in Iraq—a war that was supposed to pay for itself (via Iraqi oil) and be over in a couple of months actually cost us over $3 trillion and lasted 8 years. And guess what: in this new air campaign, we will be compounding the costs of that war, as we will be paying to blow up the weapons we previously sent to the region. Meanwhile, food insecurity is at an all-time high in the U.S., our infrastructure continues to deteriorate, and we don’t seem to have the funds to adequately care for children who are crossing our southern border in fear of their lives. Our priorities are way out of whack.
Debra Sweet, The World Can’t Wait
On this 9/11 anniversary, I’m hearing — including from Obama last night — that what happened 13 years ago means the U.S. must create even more 9/11′s in the Middle East. But all the US bombs and occupation have done is generate and strengthen the very forces they tell us they will destroy with more of the same. Even the examples Obama put forward of “success” — Yemen and Somalia — show that yes, the US can conduct secret drone assassination campaigns, but no, that does not bring liberation for the people living in those countries.
People, even those who have been anti-war during the Bush years, are getting drawn into supporting this unjust, illegitimate, immoral plan for unending U.S. war for empire. This time, with no visible opposition in Congress, the supporters of this war can’t be dismissed as Bush regime Republican thugs. There’s unity at the top that US interests require aggressive “going on the offense” for “‘America” as Obama puts it. We can’t let that stand unchallenged. In the streets, the newspapers, in the schools and religious institutions, protest and dissent must be heard.
Alice Slater, Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War
It is heartbreaking to see our country embarking on another futile effort to bomb our way out of a situation that calls out for diplomacy, foreign aid, UN supervision, refugee assistance, almost anything you can think of in place of the devastating US assaults that inevitably murder innocent civilians. How is the evil beheading of innocent journalists any worse than the impersonal murder of innocents on the ground by a thoroughly detached computer nerd, sitting at his lap top someplace in Colorado, pulling on his joystick and destroying, by drone, unseen victims on the ground tens of thousands of miles away. We haven’t even had a body count for all the people who died in Iraq at the point of a US weapon. Meanwhile we repeatedly honor and memorialize our dead soldiers, sent on a wild goose chase after “terrorists” whose destruction of the twin towers was a criminal act that deserved arrest and trial, not perpetual war on two countries, and now three countries. Echoes of 911 are constantly flung in our face like metaphysical war paint, to stir the loins for battle and death. At this time, sensible people should be calling for a global moratorium on all arms sales. We need to stop the only ones who benefit from all this—the arms manufacturers and their co-conspirators in endless war and grasping Empire. Those who truly yearn for peace on earth should also be calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, emulating the great success enjoyed by South Africa when it ended a potential bloodbath and years of slaughter by inviting people from all sides of the conflict to come forth, admit their wrong doing, apologize, and be granted amnesty to go free. As long as we hold out for bringing murderers to justice, they will fight us to the last bullet, knife, and bomb. That goes not only for the irregulars in the knife slashing brigades but for our own soldiers and our leaders who ordered them into this cruel conflict as well.
Vijay Prishad, professor of international studies at Trinity College
A rational observer of United States intervention in the swath of land that runs from Libya to Afghanistan would come to a simple conclusion: U.S. military action leads to chaos. Examples are legion, but the two most dramatic are Iraq and Libya. In both cases, the U.S. bombed the state institutions to smithereens. It takes a hundred years to build state institutions. They can be destroyed in an afternoon. The chaos that followed in both countries was the ideal condition for the flotsam of al-Qaida. In Iraq, al-Qaida in Mesopotamia (2004) morphed into the Islamic State of Iraq, and eventually ISIS.
United for Peace and Justice
President Obama may prefer the term “counter-terrorism,” but it is clear from last night’s speech that he is taking the United States into another war.
His long-term plan for bombing Iraq and Syria, for placing U.S. troops on the ground as “trainers,” and for assistance to allied fighters, is opening another tragic chapter in the failed “war on terrorism,” initiated by President Bush and rejected by the voters in 2008.
We deplore the brutality and violence of ISIS, but we do not believe that U.S. air strikes will solve the problem, even if there are short-term military gains. Despite the President’s many references to “a coalition,”in reality the United States will be intervening unilaterally in two civil wars, each of which has multiple factions and complex roots.
U.S. air-strikes –whether in Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan or Afghanistan- have never had the precision that is claimed. Thousands of civilians have been killed, with the result that America’s enemies multiplied. The “new strategy” the President just unveiled isn’t new. It was tried by President George W. Bush in Afghanistan, where it failed, creating a Washington demand for tens of thousands of U.S. combat troops.
Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action
We agree with the president that there is no military solution to the problems posed by ISIS. And yet his proposed strategy relies far too heavily on the use of military force. It’s time to stop the bombing and escalation and use the other tools of U.S. foreign policy — working with allies in cutting off weapons, oil and funding streams for starters — which will be much more active in dealing with ISIS.
John Fullinwider, President, Dallas Peace Center
To effectively oppose the President on this one, we need to spell out what should be done instead of bombing ISIS. I want a response that is credible to the everyday, non-political person to this question: “ISIS cut off the heads of two American journalists – are you saying just let them get away with it?” The case to be made involves diplomacy at the U.N. and directly with the regional powers, particularly Iran and Turkey; humanitarian assistance to the dispossessed; a cut off of the weapons supply and funding to all militias and non-state actors, specifically pressuring Qatar and Saudi Arabia on this point; and – you name it. But let’s make the case clearly and concisely. The U.S. opened the “gates of hell” in the Middle East with the invasion of Iraq more than a decade ago; we can’t close them with a new bombing campaign. To effectively oppose this campaign, we will need all the tools of organizing and activism, from letters and calls to social media to lawful street protest to civil disobedience.
Jim Albertini, Malu ‘Aina, Center for non-violent education and action
Here We go again! War profiteers want endless War. Obama’s bamboozle strategy is create fear and panic –scare the hell out of people. Don’t buy into the manufactured fear. Bombs are not tools for justice and peace. Stop the wars. Save the planet.
Roger Kotila, Earth Federation News & Views
Unfortunately, anything President Obama has to say is something like the “pot calling the kettle black.” ISIS (or ISIL, or Islamic State) allegedly cuts off heads, while US/NATO blows them off. It’s time to put the Earth Federation Movement’s Earth Constitution into place, upgrading the UN so that there is enforceable world law. The UN and the International Criminal Court remain helpless to deal with VIP world criminals who go about their murderous (war) business with impunity. No individual should be above the law.
By Buddy Bell, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
If someone is not accustomed to hearing much about death and suffering, it can be very upsetting to suddenly hear that a human being was brutally killed in some foreign location. Another someone who has a larger context in which to place that death, while not less upset, might feel less of a sense of momentary kneejerk urgency regarding that singular piece of news. Put in another way, the increment between 0 and 1 human deaths feels intuitively much greater than that between 1000 and 1001 human deaths.
What the first ‘someone’ lacks is proportion. This kind of haziness has been exploited, in one generation after another, as a foundation to construct justifications for war. Those who want to justify war don’t want us to see, let alone value, the first 1000 human beings.
Media attention to the daily murderous instability in Iraq and Afghanistan has been sorely lacking. Even the consistently repeating deaths and injuries of U.S. soldiers receive only momentary pause. Yet when General Harold Greene was recently killed in a ‘green on blue’ attack IN Afghanistan or when James Foley and Steven Sotloff were beheaded in Iraq, the story moves to the top of the page for days; people talk; the dead have names. It looks like there is an acute crisis on our hands when actually it is a chronic one.
The reasons for renewed energy on the part of the media go beyond the pure attention-grabbing novelty of these killings. There is an internalized perception of self-superiority, to which viewers and readers often respond, and from which reporters and editors are not necessarily immune. Ever-ambitious politicians, especially those who are bought by defense contractors and resource extraction industries, construct the case for starting or widening wars in this context. The shooting of a general at a training facility is seen as more vile than breaking down the door and shooting into a family home. Beheading one’s victims becomes more disgusting than burning them alive with a hellfire missile or with white phosphorous. And for some reason, I haven’t heard Dick Cheney on the radio saying that ISIS waterboarding is not torture.
If we could somehow put aside the double-standards, what would the picture in Iraq look like?
Two facts would not be in doubt: ISIS is a murderous threat to the people in its immediate vicinity and U.S. military force has often been a murderous threat to people in its immediate vicinity and beyond.
History is not on the side of the U.S. military. The War on Terror– ostensibly meant to destroy Al-Qaeda, a terrorist group with little consolidated territory of its own at the time, zero in Iraq– has brought us to the point where a worse group is controlling and governing a third of Iraq and a third of Syria next to that. The Iraq War never led to building a cohesive state in the shell of the one it completely and rapidly dismantled. Sectarian divisions in the government excluded a large Sunni population, and the U.S. gave weapons and money to preferred local Shi’a militias. Baghdad became violently segregated. The standard of living declined for many and rose for a few. Oil companies were not hurting very much, and people noticed it. The Pentagon could not or would not address the problem of Christian extremists embedding themselves with U.S. Army and Blackwater mercenaries. I haven’t yet gone into the torture at Abu Ghraib, the poisoning of Fallujah, the massacre in Nisoor Square. All of these factors were generators of unemployment, aimlessness and trauma among young people who were and continue to be vulnerable to manipulation by ambitious warlords.
Whether the U.S. sends ground forces, drones or conventional aircraft to target ISIS fighters, they will end up making the problem worse. Sending planes to bomb high-level leaders will have the effect of encouraging the most extreme behavior possible among militia fighters. The most extreme and brutal will be the most likely successor to fill a power vacuum.
For the most part, the U.S. ought to be authentically extracting itself from the sovereign country of Iraq.
If U.S. citizens working in Iraq need the protection of the U.S. military, that is a sign that these citizens should leave along with the military, or else stay at their own risk. This of course would not be in the short-term interest of U.S. companies, but it would be in the long-term interest of the Iraqi and U.S. populations: ISIS stands to lose significant power once its major unifying antagonist is no longer on the scene.
If there is a helpful role for the U.S. and other countries to play, it has to do with arresting the cycle of revenge. This can be accomplished by: encouraging Iraq’s government to form a more equitable power-sharing structure; ending all interference in Iraq’s elections; paying for the medical treatment of those maimed by U.S. bombs and munitions; engaging diplomatically with wealthy neighbors Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey to help Iraqis locally administer a system that will supply Iraqis with basic human needs– clean water, food, shelter, medicine; and providing meaningful help to Iraqi entrepreneurs who can create employment.
If such measures were promised and demonstrated on the frontier of ISIS control, their appeal may be strong enough to encourage potential defectors who might elude the more brutal ideologues in their camps and successfully escape with their lives. (If this is to happen, the defectors would also need to have confidence in a government de-militarization and re-entry system.) Multiplied enough times, such defections could disable ISIS, as well as other militias. Those who would call this set of ideas a pipe dream should ask themselves what they would call another campaign of bombing when alternatives haven’t yet been attempted.
The U.S. and the U.K. can start paying for these humanitarian measures with money they would have spent anyway: on the order of $110,000 for each Hellfire missile they plan to drop in Iraq.
ISIL replaces Russia as the top threat to the United States according to president
Tonight's viewing event featured ISIL, the latest excuse for increased military spending. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is also called ISIS and IS. The name really doesn't matter. ISIL is code for angry Muslims who decapitate reporters. ISIL didn't quite pass public relations muster when it stood for angry Muslims who attack Iraqi towns and cities.
Early in the speech, the president said, "we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country." Therefore, we're taking "the fight" to ISIL, right? It's a little more complicated than that.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Address to the Nation
September 10, 2014
As Prepared for Delivery
My fellow Americans – tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
By Sherwood Ross
Approximately 3.3 million Iraqis, including 750,000 children, were “exterminated” by economic sanctions and/or illegal wars conducted by the U.S. and Great Britain between 1990 and 2012, an eminent international legal authority says.
The slaughter fits the classic definition of Genocide Convention Article II of, “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” says Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign, and who in 1991 filed a class-action complaint with the UN against President George H.W. Bush.
The U.S. and U.K. “obstinately insisted” that their sanctions remain in place until after the “illegal” Gulf War II aggression perpetrated by President George W. Bush and UK’s Tony Blair in March, 2003, “not with a view to easing the over decade-long suffering of the Iraqi people and children” but “to better facilitate the U.S./U.K. unsupervised looting and plundering of the Iraqi economy and oil fields in violation of the international laws of war as well as to the grave detriment of the Iraqi people,” Boyle said.
In an address last Nov. 22 to The International Conference on War-affected Children in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Boyle tallied the death toll on Iraq by U.S.-U.K. actions as follows:
# The slaughter of 200,000 Iraqis by President Bush in his illegal 1991 Gulf War I.
# The deaths of 1.4 million Iraqis as a result of the illegal 2003 war of aggression ordered by President Bush Jr. and Prime Minister Blair.
# The deaths of 1.7 million Iraqis “as a direct result” of the genocidal sanctions.
Boyle’s class-action complaint demanded an end to all economic sanctions against Iraq; criminal proceedings for genocide against President George H.W. Bush; monetary compensation to the children of Iraq and their families for deaths, physical and mental injury; and for shipping massive humanitarian relief supplies to that country.
The “grossly hypocritical” UN refused to terminate the sanctions, Boyle pointed out, even though its own Food and Agricultural Organization’s Report estimated that by 1995 the sanctions had killed 560,000 Iraqi children during the previous five years.
Boyle noted that then U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright was interviewed on CBS-TV on May 12, 1996, in response to a question by Leslie Stahl if the price of half a million dead children was worth it, and replied, “we (the U.S. government) think the price is worth it.”
Albright’s shocking response provides “proof positive of the genocidal intent by the U.S. government against Iraq” under the Genocide Convention, Boyle said, adding that the government of Iraq today could still bring legal action against the U.S. and the U.K. in the International Court of Justice. He said the U.S.-U.K. genocide also violated the municipal legal systems of all civilized nations in the world; the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and its Additional Protocol 1 of 1977.
Boyle, who was stirred to take action pro bono by Mothers in Iraq after the economic sanctions had been imposed upon them by the Security Council in August, 1990, in response to pressure from the Bush Senior Administration. He is the author of numerous books on international affairs, including “Destroying World Order” (Clarity Press.)
(Sherwood Ross is a columnist, broadcast commentator and public relations consultant “for good causes.” He formerly reported for major dailies and wire services and is the author of “Gruening of Alaska”(Best). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org )
I know you mean well. I know you think you've found a bargain that nobody else noticed hidden in a back corner of the used car lot. Let me warn you: it's a clunker. Here, I'll list the defects. You can have your own mechanic check them out:
1. If you want to bomb a country every time an evil group murders people in a gruesome manner, you'll have to bomb a lot of countries including our own. ISIS draws its strength in Iraq from resentment of the Iraqi government, which bombs its own cities using U.S. weapons, and which beheads people, albeit in grainier footage with lower production values. Allies in the region, including allies that support ISIS, including allies armed by the United States (some of which arms end up in the hands of ISIS), themselves behead people regularly. But is that worse than other types of killing? When President Barack Obama blew up a 16 year old American boy whom nobody had ever accused of so much as jaywalking, and blew up six other kids who were too close to him at the time, do you imagine his head remained on his body?
As with most drone strikes, that boy could have been arrested and questioned. Had he been, though, gruesome death would have remained a possibility. In April, the United States injected a man with chemicals that made him writhe in excruciating pain for 43 minutes and die. Last week in the United States a man facing a similar fate on death row was proven innocent and freed. The prosecutor who had put him there 30 years earlier showed zero remorse. Now I'm not proposing that we bomb North Carolina because I'm angry at that prosecutor. I'm not even angry at that prosecutor. I am suggesting that there are evil killers all over the place, some wearing Western suits and ties, some wearing military uniforms. Bombs, which mostly kill innocent people who had nothing to do with it, won't help.
2. The bombs will mostly kill innocent people who had nothing to do with it, and will only make the crisis worse. Most people who die in wars are civilians by everyone's definition. People still use words like "battlefield" as if wars were waged in a field the way a football game is played. They couldn't play football on our streets and sidewalks because grandparents and baby strollers would end up tackled and crushed. Well, wars are waged on people's streets and sidewalks, even when one side is only present in the sky above in the form of unmanned robot death planes. The slow-moving die first: the very old and the very young. And when anyone dies, according to top U.S. officials, more enemies are created in greater numbers. Thus, the operation is counterproductive on its own terms, making us less safe rather than safer. This is why President Obama is always saying "There is no military solution" just before proposing to use the military to seek a solution. When he proposes bombing Iraq for three more years, that number has no basis in military calculation whatsoever. I challenge you to find a general who says otherwise. It is a number almost certainly based on the U.S. election schedule, aimed at convincing us to accept a war without question until a date after the next presidential election. When Obama says he's going to get a good government in place in Iraq this week and then make a speech, he's delusional or enjoying toying with your gullibility, but he's also pointing to the actual problem: a nation destroyed by 24 years of wars and sanctions and lacking a legitimate governing system.
3. Bombing is crazy, and bombing for three years is certifiable. Bombing strengthens ISIS. Three years is longer than most U.S. wars have taken from beginning to end. The U.S. Constitution, which did not foresee a permanent standing army, much less one permanently standing in most other nations on earth, did not permit -- and does not permit -- creating and funding one for a longer period than two years at a time (Article I. Section 8.). But of course nothing guarantees that the bombing will stop after three years and not go on for thirty more. And nothing guarantees that this war will involve only bombing. Already Obama has sent over 1,100 troops, and is promising to send some number less than 100,000. Read that twice please, slowly. Obama wants Congress to debate his war plans but not vote on them. Why not? Because Congress might be compelled by you and me to vote no, if not on this war then on the next one. Obama wants himself and all future presidents free to launch wars without Congress, exactly what he campaigned for office opposing.
"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." —Senator Barack Obama.
The U.S. "intelligence" agencies, by the way, deem ISIS no threat to the United States. Apart from trashing the Constitution and really the one thing its framers got right, President Obama is trashing the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact, laws that forbid war.
4. The fact that it's Obama doesn't make it OK. A majority of you supported attacking Afghanistan and within a couple of years a majority of you said Afghanistan should not have been attacked. Why not? Not because there weren't evil people in Afghanistan, but because bombing the country made everything worse, not better. You kept telling pollsters it was a bad idea for over another decade, but the war rolled on, and still rolls on. Iraq is a similar story, although you were even faster to change your mind. And the occupation ended when President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki signed an agreement for three more years of that war, and then the three years ran out. At that point, President Obama tried to win approval from the Iraqi government to keep U.S. troops in Iraq longer, but with immunity for any crimes they might commit. Failing at that, Obama withdrew the troops. Having won that concession now, he's sending them back in. Does the fact that it's Obama doing it, rather than Bush, make it OK? Remember the massive protests when Bush proposed a war on Iraq? Obama just put the band back together in Wales, and you're squealing with delight that he visited Stonehenge, or you're busy coloring in your "I'm Ready for Hillary" posters.
The nation of Iraq was utterly destroyed last time. The place is in total chaos: violence, hatred, poverty, illness, desperation, fanaticism. Dumping gasoline on that fire is worse now than before, not better. And now we have NATO toying with a nuclear confrontation with Russia, drone wars generating violence and terrorism in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia, the U.S. Navy poking China in the eye with a stick, troops heading into a dozen new parts of Africa -- How is starting a war this time better than last time, which you came to view as a mistake by 2004, elected a Congress to end in 2006, thought you were voting against again in 2008, and cheered for the eventual ending of in 2011? Observers have called this the most dangerous moment since World War II. Please don't tell me you trust Obama, believed the fraudulent threat to Benghazi and are now unaware of the disaster he created in Libya, where France has just proposed yet another war to fix the damage of the last war. Please don't tell me you believed the disproven claims of evidence that Assad used chemical weapons or Russia shot down an airplane. This is a government that lies about possible grounds for war and possible outcomes of war, just like its predecessors.
5. The enemy of your enemy is your other weapons customer. Public pressure was instrumental last year in halting proposed attacks on Syria, the plans for which involved massive death and destruction. But the White House and CIA went right ahead and armed and trained one side in that war, the ISIS side. ISIS now has weapons provided directly to it and indirectly to it by the United States, including those seized from the Iraqi government. ISIS has troops trained by the United States and "radicalized" (enraged) by the United States in its brutal prisons in Iraq, as well as troops previously in the Iraqi military who were thrown out of work in 2003 by the U.S. occupation. Last year, the evil to be confronted was Assad, at all costs. To your great credit you didn't fall for it. Why not? Not because Assad doesn't do evil things, but because you understood that more war would make things even worse.
Now you're being told that Assad's enemies must be attacked at all cost, and you're falling for it, to your great discredit. With supposed surgical precision the "moderate" beheaders will be spared, in order to blow up only the "extremist" beheaders. Don't believe it. Six months ago the great Satan was Iran. Now you're on Iran's side. Were you aware of that? You're stirring up trouble to the ultimate benefit of only one group: the weapons makers. You think of the Middle East as a violent place, but 80% of the weapons come from the United States. Imagine how much less violent the Middle East could be if it only had 20% of the weapons. We're not talking about stockpiles. These weapons get used.
6. There are other options. Try telling a four-year-old he has only two choices: eat the broccoli or eat the lima beans. He'll throw another 18 alternatives at you in less than a minute, beginning with eating ice cream. Try telling a non-American adult about the current state of disaster in Iraq, and they'll begin by opposing making it worse, and then start discussing a variety of steps to make it better, from humanitarian aid to diplomacy to disarmament to emergency U.N. police forces, etc. But tell a U.S. adult that Iraq must be bombed or we must do nothing other than sit back and revel in our evil state of ISIS-loving, and your befuddled manipulated subject will shout "Bomb em! Bomb em!" Why?
Last year we were told that we had to bomb Syria or love the poisoning of children with chemical weapons. We did not accept that those were the only two choices. Why not? Because we were thinking straight. We hadn't been frightened into blind stupidity by high-quality videos of beheadings and threats that we might be next. Nobody thinks well when they're scared. That's why the government likes to scare you. That's why
your you're hearing all this nonsense about ISIS coming to your neighborhood. The more the U.S. keeps bombing people, the more some of those people will want to fight back. Did you ever wonder why nations that spend 2% what the U.S. does on its military feel so much safer than you do? Part of it is the reality that war generates enemies rather than removing them, but mostly it's a culture of cowardice that we're living in. Here are 15 things we could do about ISIS instead of bombing.
7. We don't have time for this barbaric insanity. War is sucking our resources and energy and attention away from where they are needed, namely on a massive campaign to protect the climate of the earth. Imagine a proposal to dump untold trillions of dollars and every ounce of energy into that project! Would Congress step aside and allow it? It would benefit even your short-term economic interests, but would you permit it? Would you demand it? Would you join with me in insisting that we stop the wars and save the climate?
UPDATE 2: Matt Hoh Says the Beheadings Are Bait
The U.S. is racing down a slippery slope towards war in Iraq and Syria. Since Aug. 8, the U.S. has conducted more than 124 airstrikes in Iraq. Approximately 1,000 U.S. troops are now on the ground in Iraq, with at least 350 more currently on their way.
President Obama initially said the bombing was part of a humanitarian mission to assist the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq being threatened by ISIS, the fundamentalist Islamic army that now controls wide swaths of Iraq and Syria. But Obama has now announced an open-ended bombing campaign, and he has ordered Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry into the region to build military and political coalitions to sustain a long term war against ISIS.
According to the New York Times, President Obama has also authorized U.S. surveillance flights over Syria, reportedly in search of ISIS targets for later bombing missions. The Syrian government has offered to coordinate with U.S. military action against ISIS, the strongest rebel force fighting to overthrow the Assad government in Syria. But the U.S., which has aided ISIS' growth by facilitating the arming and training of rebels in Syria, has not asked permission for its flights into Syrian airspace.
Veterans For Peace members have witnessed the brutality and the futility of war, including the war in Iraq. We were sent to a war based on lies and we became part of the killing of a nation, along with as many as one million of its people. We watched as U.S. policy makers consciously stirred up ethnic and religious divisions, creating the conditions for civil war today.
Veterans know from first hand experience that you cannot bomb your way to peace. More bombing will ultimately mean more division, bloodshed, recruitment for extremist organizations, and a continual cycle of violent intervention.
Last year the American people overwhelmingly sent a message to President Obama and the Congress: No U.S. Bombing in Syria. Last month, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H. Con. Res. 105 stating that there is no legal authority for U.S. military involvement in Iraq without express Congressional approval. By unilaterally pursuing miltiary action in Iraq and Syria, President Obama is acting in contempt of the American people, as well as of U.S. and international law.
We support the troops who refuse to fight and who blow the whistle on war crimes. Under international law, military personnel have the right and the responsibility to refuse to be part of illegal wars and war crimes. U.S. troops are not the cops of the world. There is no legitimate mission for any U.S. service members in Iraq or Syria. We encourage GI's to find out their rights at the GI Rights Hotline.
Veterans For Peace absolutely opposes U.S. military intervention in the Middle East, no matter what the rationalization. We call on all our members to speak out against any U.S. attacks on Iraq and Syria.
We wish to see a U.S. foreign policy based on true humanitariasm and real diplomacy based on mutual respect, guided by internatianal law, and dedicated to human rights and equality for all.
We call attention to the excellent constructive proposals in a recent letter from 53 National Religious Groups, Academics, and Ministers Urging Alternatives to U.S. Military Action in Iraq.
We applaud the initiatives of several key peace groups and we encourage our members to participate.
Sign Code Pink's letter telling President Obama not to bomb Syria or Iraq.
Sign Peace Action's petition restricting U.S. arms sales around the world.
VETERANS FOR PEACE WORKS FOR PEACE AT HOME AND PEACE ABROAD!
By Dave Lindorff
Flash! The US has re-invaded Iraq!
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
Dangerous arguments and actions came this week from both President Obama, who plans to increase airstrikes on Iraq & Syria and announced drone surveillance (as if that has not been happening for years), and from John McCain, leader of the “US has to get back in Iraq” cabal.“Limited” airstrikes by the world's most powerful military combined with U.S.
by Debra Sweet Dangerous arguments and actions came this week from both President Obama, who plans to increase airstrikes on Iraq & Syria and announced drone surveillance (as if that has not been happening for years), and from John McCain, leader of the “US has to get back in Iraq” cabal.“Limited” airstrikes by the world's most powerful military combined with U.S. more troops going into this extremely volatile region will not bring peace, stability, or safety.
53 National Religious Groups, Academics, and Ministers Urge Alternatives to U.S. Military Action in Iraq
August 27, 2014
Dear President Obama:
As religious communities, leaders, and academics, we write to express our deep concern over the
recent escalation of U.S. military action in Iraq. While the dire plight of Iraqi civilians should
compel the international community to respond in some way, U.S. military action is not the
answer. Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq. As
difficult as it might be, in the face of this great challenge, we believe that the way to address the
crisis is through long-term investments in supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy,
nonviolent resistance, sustainable development, and community-level peace and reconciliation
Pope Francis has affirmed that “peacemaking is more courageous than warfare,” and more
recently said that “it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop;’ I don’t say
bomb, make war---stop him.” But how we ask?
John Horgan asked me for a paragraph on what to do about ISIS. I sent him this:
1. Apologize for brutalizing the leader of ISIS in Abu Ghraib and to every other prisoner victimized under U.S. occupation
2. Apologize for destroying the nation of Iraq and to every family there
3. Begin making restitution by delivering aid (not "military aid" but actual aid, food, medicine) to the entire nation of Iraq
4. Apologize for role in war in Syria
5. Begin making restitution by delivering actual aid to Syria
6. Announce a commitment not to provide weapons to Iraq or Syria or Israel or Jordan or Egypt or Bahrain or any other nation anywhere on earth and to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from foreign territories and seas, including Afghanistan. (The U.S. Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf has clearly forgotten where the coast of the U.S. is!)
7. Announce a commitment to invest heavily in solar, wind, and other green energy and to provide the same to democratic representative governments.
8. Begin providing Iran with free wind and solar technologies -- at much lower cost of course than what it is costing the U.S. and Israel to threaten Iran over a nonexistent nuclear weapons program.
9. End economic sanctions.
10. Send diplomats to Baghdad and Damascus to negotiate aid and to encourage serious reforms.
11. Send journalists, aid workers, peaceworkers, human shields, and negotiators into crisis zones, understanding that this means risking lives, but fewer lives than further militarization risks.
12. Empower people with agricultural assistance, education, cameras, and internet access.
13. Launch a communications campaign in the United States to replace military recruitment campaigns, focused on building sympathy and desire to serve as critical aid workers, persuading doctors and engineers to volunteer their time to travel to and visit these areas of crisis.
14. Work through the United Nations on all of this.
15. Sign the United States on to the International Criminal Court and voluntarily propose the prosecution of top U.S. officials of this and the preceding regimes for their crimes.