Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The myths of war

There are five great myths underlying our new war against ISIS.

Myth number one: There are "moderates" in the anti-Assad coalition whom we can train and equip to fight both Assad and ISIS.

In the interview embedded above, Bob Baer -- formerly of the CIA, now of CNN -- tears this idea to shreds.

"There are no moderates in Syria," he says of the anti-Assad forces. When asked if there are any rebels within Syria that the United States can trust, Baer responds: "None at all. If we were to give arms to the Free Syrian Army, they would sell them to ISIS, sell them to other groups that would be even worse, if that's possible. Again, this is such a chaotic mess, there are no obvious solutions."

Myth number two: Assad created ISIS.

I've long considered this the most insulting of all the disinformation memes out there right now, yet it seems to be the official line. Patrick Cockburn (author of the new book The Jihadis Return) addresses this canard at the end of the very informative interview embedded below. Cockburn may not always be the world's most riveting speaker, but everything he says makes sense, and I'm sure that his book will prove invaluable.

"I think the idea that ISIS is somehow the creation or the secret ally of Assad is the old Middle East conspiracy theory in overdrive," says Cockburn.

"Sure, at certain points there was a certain interest in Assad encouraging the idea that the opposition to him in Syria was run by jihadis who cut the heads off Christians or Alawites or anybody else they disagree with, because this tended to discredit the opposition inside Syria and abroad. But politics is about taking advantage of the mistakes of the other side. So, you know, this is opportunism."

Then he addresses the claim that Assad has not attacked ISIS militarily.

"I think the idea that he never attacked them and they never attacked him -- first of all, it was never true. One of the few opposition clear-cut victories in 2013 was the attack on the big military airbase outside Aleppo, which was led by ISIS. And it's obviously not true now, with the attack on the gas field near Homs. So I think they were in different parts of the country, fighting different enemies. It doesn't mean that they were in cahoots."

Myth number three: ISIS had no state backing from American allies.

In the interview below, Cockburn details the inner dynamics of the Saudi funding for ISIS.

"There is another point, which is that if you look at all American investigations of who is supporting so-called terrorist organizations since 9/11, they all say it is primarily private donors, probably with the state turning a blind eye, in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states."

Lindsey Graham, who has been beating the war drums quite vigorously, nevertheless makes this same point.
Senator Graham, who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that successive administrations in Washington had turned a blind eye to Saudi support for Sunni extremists. He added: “I believe that the failure to shine a full light on Saudi actions and particularly its involvement in 9/11 has contributed to the Saudi ability to continue to engage in actions that are damaging to the US – and in particular their support for Isis.”
Many of you will recall that Graham tried his damnedest to draw attention to Saudi involvement with Al Qaeda, only to be stymied. The important question is: Why did we turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabian funding of Al Qaeda and, later, of ISIS?

And is the money really coming from wealthy Saudis in the private sector, or are they simply acting as straw men? Everyone knows that Saudi princelings are notoriously self-centered and stingy when it comes to aid for the Palestinians.

Even though he knows more than most people do about what the Saudis have been getting up to, Graham continues to press for war.

Myth Number Four: Obama can destroy both ISIS and Assad.

This thing is shaping up to be one hell of a goatfuck: General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicates that ground troops will probably be necessary. He and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also plan to train 5000 anti-Assad Syrian troops. Remember: Robert Baer thinks that "None at all" are trustworthy.

Dempsey also says that
“Truly there is no military solution to ISIL,” he said, adding that it could be defeated only with a more comprehensive approach that includes diplomacy. “That may be a tough pill to swallow. But there is no military solution.”
This is not true. (Yes, I am lecturing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on military matters. Prove me wrong.) A military solution that includes a coalition with Assad's government and Iran could prevail. Alas, such an alliance would appear to be politically impossible.

Putting the words "diplomacy" and "ISIS" in the same sentence constitutes an exercise in surrealism. ISIS wants to create a theocratic state, and any "diplomatic" solution will inevitably cede territory to them. Why, then, is Dempsy talking about diplomacy with ISIS? I think that he is trying to prepare us for a planned outcome in which ISIS prevails. It may not get everything it wants, and it may have to change its brand name. But it will come out of this fight with land, power and legitimacy.

And that brings us to...

Myth number five: The war against ISIS is a war against ISIS.

Actually, it's a war against Bashar Assad.

Let's be clear that the alliance against ISIS with Syria and Iran is "politically impossible" because Israel has controlling interest of the United States.
Aligning with Syria and Iran would also piss off Saudi Arabia who wants to derail construction of the Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline.
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