I've put off writing about Iraq, mostly out of cowardice. Time to face the issue squarely. Should we -- and by "we" I mean folks who criticize Obama from the hippy-dippy flower-power librul peacenik point of view -- give a vote of approval to Obama's air strikes against ISIS?
And it freakin' kills
me to say that.
After all, Dianne Feinstein
and Thomas Friedman seem to respect Obama's decision to use force, and it's usually a good idea to do the exact opposite of what those two advise, at least when it comes to foreign policy. We certainly don't want the Pam Gellerites to receive any further ammunition for their fantasies: "The Caliphate is coming! The CALIPHATE is coming!"
On the other hand, if you visit even the most radical online clubhouses for us librul peacenik types, you won't see many people arguing in favor of non-intervention. In fact, you'll see a lot of stories confirming what we all already know: ISIS is atrocious
So let us offer this president a very provisional thumbs up.
However, let us also keep in mind a few key points:
1. Although the mainstream media will never so admit, ISIS represents the very same Islamic force that the Washington Establishment wanted us to support in the Syrian civil war. Remember? It was just last year...
The administration likes to pretend that reasonable and decent non
-jihadis have been leading the fight against Assad, and that the more fanatical Sunni warriors (ISIS, al Nusrah) were nothing more than a handful of annoying opportunists whose ultra-violence made the "good guys" look bad. That narrative was always delusional. Everyone who has spent any amount of time looking into the matter knows that the hard-core, heart-eating ultra-fundamentalist wackos have always provided the real muscle in that civil war. They were -- are -- the ones most likely to benefit from Bashar Assad's overthrow. If Assad had fallen in 2013, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi might now be sitting on his throne.
In essence, we have now switched sides. Obama will never admit
that we have switched sides, but we have.
2. Tellingly, Obama allowed Congress to make the decision to intervene in Syria -- yet he did not
ask for Congressional approval before acting in Iraq. Why? I think he knew damned well that Assad was not responsible for those sarin attacks. By now, he must also know that Syria will go from bad to worse if Assad goes bye-bye.
3. We still don't have a complete picture as to how ISIS came to be. Many reports indicate that the group received Saudi funding. The following comes from an Iranian news source, so caveat lector
-- but note that this piece
cites American mainstream sources...
As the Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin documents, “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now threatening Baghdad, was funded for years by wealthy donors in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, three US allies that have dual agendas in the war on terror.”
In addition to funding itself through criminal activity and punitive taxes imposed on the local population on pain of death, ISIS relies on a steady stream of income from countries that have bankrolled extremists… for years yet have faced zero backlash from successive White House administrations. Even evidence of direct Saudi involvement in 9/11 failed to generate any reconsideration of who America calls its friends.
“Everybody knows the money is going through Kuwait and that it’s coming from the (Persian) Gulf,” said Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Kuwait’s banking system and its money changers have long been a huge problem because they are a major conduit for money to extremist groups in Syria and now Iraq.”
State backing for ISIS, now the wealthiest terror group in the world, prompted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to point the finger directly at Saudi Arabia and Qatar during a France 24 television interview. “I accuse them of inciting and encouraging the terrorist movements. I accuse them of supporting them politically and in the media, of supporting them with money and by buying weapons for them,” said al-Maliki.
In failing to call these countries to account for funding ISIS, the White House has deliberately placed the importance of isolating Iran and Syria over and above the stability of the entire region.
The White House is also directly responsible for the spread of ISIS militants having backed other rebel groups in Syria which were once allied with and then taken over by ISIS.
Indeed, some evidence suggests that the US even trained some of the fighters who went on to join ISIS at a secret base in Jordan in 2012.
There are even those who think that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself is CIA. Here's the argument.
I'm not convinced, but neither am I totally dismissive of the idea.
So what's going on?
Right now, the narrative that makes the most sense to me is this: We are seeing a fast-motion replay of the Al Qaeda story. In the 1980s, we were so focused on making life miserable for the USSR that nothing else seemed to matter; thus, we helped the Saudis create a multinational Arab fighting force within Afghanistan. These Islamic warriors turned against the United States and rallied around Osama Bin Laden, and old friends became new arch-enemies.
ISIS recapitulates this tale. We had hoped to use these Sunni warriors as a weapon against Bashar Assad's Allawite regime in Syria and, after that, the Shiite regime in Tehran. Although ISIS was an army of fanatics, they were supposed to be our
fanatics, striking at our
enemies. (Or at least Israel's enemies.)
But things took an unplanned turn, as often happens when you try to work with fanatics.
The only more-or-less coherent argument against intervention I've seen so far comes from David Stockman
. He correctly traces the disaster back to Bush's supremely idiotic decision to invade:
Then came the neo-cons who for no discernible reason of national security could not leave well enough alone. By god, they were going to have regime change, a stable supplier of 6 million barrels of oil per day, and a stalwart ally armed to the teeth on the very doorstep of the Axis-Of-Evil; that is, the Iranian Shiite theocracy which happened to be religious kin to the single largest block of the Iraqi population.
What these fools did was to open the gates of hell. The end result of Washington’s 20-year campaign to liberate Iraq, beginning with the first gulf war and followed by the devastating trade sanctions of the 1990s and the brutal desecrations of Bush II’s “shock and awe” and all the military mayhem which followed, was to aggravate, widen and mobilize all of the latent ethnic and religious conflicts and enmities that had been bottled up for decades inside the Sykes-Picot illusion.
Now the furies have come. Ironically, the bloodthirsty ISIS is comprised of fighters who were first enabled by the misbegotten Bush maneuver known as the “surge”; then armed and trained by the CIA for the campaign against Assad; and now brandish the best weapons that any ramshackle jihadist group ever had.
So far, I am in complete agreement. Here's where we part company:
And yet America’s “peace” President is sending the bombers back in because there is a “humanitarian crisis” involving a religious sect no American has ever heard of, stranded on a mountain top that has nothing to do with the security and safety of the citizens of Lincoln NE and Spokane WA.
Has not the American war machine turned the entirety of Mesopotamia and the Levant into a humanitarian crisis—of which this is only a tiny manifestation? Isn’t it time to at least stop fueling the blowback?
Actually, I had
heard of the Yezidis (often spelled Yazidis). How could anyone with a taste for the outre not
be aware of an ancient and mysterious sect that may or may not worship the devil in the form of a peacock "angel" called Malek Taus?
Decades ago, I read up on two fascinating minority religious groups in northern Iraq: The Yezidis and the Mandaeans. The latter is a gnostic group which reveres John the Baptist. Being more affluent, the Mandaeans started to file out of Iraq during the war with Iran -- moving en masse
to Australia, of all places. (Stockman's old boss, St. Ronnie, bears some responsibility for the prolongation of that war -- but that's another story). The Yezedis were poorer and had no place to run.
Of course, it's not just the Yezidis who are threatened with extinction. It's also the Christians of Iraq. Not to mention the Shiites of Iraq. And the Kurds. And anyone connected with old regime. Ultimately, of course, they will go after the Jews. Despite my anger and disgust with Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, I obviously do not wish to see Jews in Iraq suffer the fate of the Yezidis.
Stockman is right: We did
unleash the furies. But what do we do now?
Should we let the Furies wreak havoc without hindrance? Should we sit on our hands while innocents suffer the consequences of Bush's foolishness?