Robert is a freelance writer/researcher in the Seattle, WA area. He covers current political, economic, and geopolitical news.
Bombings Rock Baghdad
Bombings almost every day last week in and around Baghdad, Iraq killed over 200 people. The Islamic State (ISIS) has been shifting the battle lines while adopting new and deadlier tactics in more populated areas. These attacks have been labeled as a sign of weakness by some in the Obama administration, but they are more likely saying this to distract Americans from the failure of their policy on the greater Middle East.
“We are seeing them use more traditional terror tactics to strike out in part because they’re weaker,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby. “They don’t have the same quasi-military capabilities they once had.” Yet, this supposedly incompetent terror group was able to hit a major market with an improvised explosive device and suicide bombing, Sadr City with a truck bomb, and the eastern district of Habibiya in another suicide bombing. All on Tuesday.
Most of these attacks were directed against Shiite neighborhoods or targets. ISIS, a predominantly Sunni group, also known as “Daesh” locally, has been hitting hard anyone it can to instill terror in the populace, while also taking out certain groups that oppose them.
Around 50% of Iraq’s active military forces are dedicated to protecting Baghdad already. Yet, no matter how many resources Iraq were to pull back to the capital, they are likely to have little effect in preventing the sort of guerrilla warfare, lone-wolf style attacks of quick bombings. Especially of the suicide kind.
Despite these strings of attacks, the US is urging its Iraqi counterparts to stay the course and prepare for an assault to take back Mosul, the second largest city in the country, located north of Baghdad. ISIS has controlled it since mid-2014. Instead of pulling troops back from the front lines near Mosul, US advisers stress that the major city in the north needs to be retaken. A full scale offensive is likely to be initiated later this year. Iraqi officials have said they have no plans of delaying their Mosul offensive any more than they already have.
Since the end of 2014, the US has gotten increasingly involved in the fight against the extremist group. The US and others in the coalition have combined to train over 31,000 Iraqi troops. This “train-equip-advise” strategy employed by Mr. Obama and his foreign policy team have proven ineffective so far. Especially in Iraq, but even more so in Syria. Yet, somehow, Obama’s team seems to be doubling down on this strategy in the convoluted battle against ISIS.
Shift in ISIS Tactics
The shift in ISIS’ tactics from taking and holding ground in the north and west of Iraq to a more disorderly design of hitting the mostly Shiite central in the middle of the country goes to show that this could be a result of the fight not going well for them in other parts of the country. It also highlights the sectarian origins of this conflict, something no amount of American intervention or involvement can resolve. This recent streak of car bombings and suicide explosion runs is eerily reminiscent of the worst days of the Iraq occupation in the mid-2000s and highlights the inadequate Iraqi government forces put in place by American military puppet masters.
The core of the country formerly known as Iraq is under attack. This bombardment reached a boiling point last month when supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr invaded the Green Zone, a four square mile area of government buildings in the center of the capital. Sadr left the country to go to his main supporters, the Iranian regime. There, he decried the Iraqi government’s ability to protect its citizens, saying the breakdown on the day-to-day security of the city shows “the clearest evidence that your government has become incapable of protecting you and providing you with security.” Iraqi citizens from across the country are now fearing for their lives on a daily basis, if they were not doing so already. The violent supporters of Sadr did not leave the Green Zone until told to do so by the cleric himself.
Tuesday’s bombings last week killed almost 70 in four different explosions. Wednesday brought another barrage of blasts that killed over 100 in under 24 hours. Thursday night, ISIS gunmen shot up a cafe. And Sunday say 15 dead in four separate bombings. Five straight days of bombings and bloodshed in and around the capital.
ISIS appears to be on the defensive in some respects, but they are certainly not in “its death throes,” as Tim Arango recently pointed out in The New York Times. The focus on Baghdad is likely because it can sow the most terror in the most people. Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was mostly decimated by 2011 after years of deadly bombings resulting in the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers. But they would came back into existence in another form a few years later.
As has been covered before, the departure of a large contingent of American troops on the ground in Iraq led to the rise of ISIS (formerly AQI) in the country. US troops are now back in the same deserts where they lost good men before taking cities like Ramadi and Mosul from deadly insurgents who have now likely entered ISIS ranks. Now, thousands of military advisers and Special Operations soldiers are back on the ground. The war in Iraq never really ended. It merely adopted a new phase.
Obama, the anti-war president, wages constant war
The most gross aspect of our 21st century war waging machine is the fact that we bend over backwards to say we are not fighting them. The Obama administration has done everything they can spin the fact that he is the longest war-time president in our country’s history. He has literally been at war since the day he entered office and will likely be at ware in multiple countries when he leaves at the beginning of next year. Sure, the Iraq war and Afghanistan wars he inherited, but Obama has expanded the US interventionary map to countries like Libya, Somalia, and now Syria.
“If the United States remains in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria until the end of Mr. Obama’s term — a near-certainty given the president’s recent announcement that he will send 250 additional Special Operations forces to Syria — he will leave behind an improbable legacy as the only president in American history to serve two complete terms with the nation at war.”
Yes, we are still at war in Afghanistan, after fifteen years. While American involvement has decreased over Obama’s tenure, he has been unable to end the war there while doing everything he can to convince the world that his Nobel Peace Prize was not presented to him in vain. Yet, he will incredibly be unable to avoid the fact that he will have served two full terms as president at war.
Former Obama Defense Secretary Bob Gates said the White House was engaging in political “backflips” to avoid describing US forces in Iraq and Syria as engaged in a combat mission. President Obama’s spokesman proved this verbal jiu-jitsu when saying our troops over there are sometimes in a combat “situation” but not a combat mission.
Mr. Gates went so far as to call Obama’s definition of our involvement in Iraq and Syria a “disservice” to our military men and women. “I think that it is incredibly unfortunate not to speak openly about what’s going on,” Gates said in a recent MSNBC interview. Men and women are putting their lives on the line and our president stands there and says we are not in any kind of combat role over there.
What do you think they’re doing?!?!
Unfortunately, President Obama cares about one thing and one thing only. His legacy. And that legacy to him is that he ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (even though they are both far from over). Still, Mr. Obama has sent 5,500 soldiers back into Iraq, while simultaneously saying we are not at war and he is an anti-war president.
“While their presence in Iraq and in Syria is dangerous, and on occasion, our men and women in uniform have found themselves in combat situations that are dangerous, they have not been deployed to Iraq to wage combat on the ground against” the Islamic State, Mr. Earnest said. Well, when they are sent to an area of the world where people are shooting at each other, then yes, our soldiers too are likely to be in a scenario where their lives are in more than a little danger.
Learn from your mistakes
Our politics take priority as always as the current administration continues its line of convincing Americans they ended combat operations in Iraq and it’s all over now. Tell that to the families of the six US troops killed in Iraq in 2016 so far. That number totals the entire amount of American deaths in the country from all of 2015 by the way.
Our governments will continue to lie to us, telling us what they want us to hear. They have been doing that since at least the Vietnam War. Truth is always the first casualty in war, so they say. So let’s make sure we all pay attention to what is really going on and see past the meaningless words spouting from Obama, the Left, and the mainstream media.
The foreign policy establishment in Washington DC thinks they have the antidote to all the ills coming from places like Iraq and Syria. More intervention! They somehow continue to fail to realize the failures of the past and neglect the truth that America has only made matters worse when we invade and occupy a country. We cannot force something on someone else. We cannot fix everything and we should not fix everything. Who are we to decide how another culture lives?
Neoconservatives and others who believe in the good that comes from the flexing of American might think we have not gone far enough in the Middle East. With more bombs, more guns, more advisors, and maybe even another ground invasion of American troops, we can then we can solve all the issues facing the Muslim countries spanning North Africa and West Asia. Sure, this could certainly “take out” ISIS and maybe other terrorist organizations in those areas by sending the full power of America down on them, but then what? That is the question interventionists always fail to answer.
The worst instance of this failure to plan for what comes after came most recently in Afghanistan. Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute recently wrote in the National Interest that American power is limited in what it can achieve. The sooner we realize this, the better. Following the ousting of the Taliban from Afghanistan, many in the American military sphere were relishing in their own brilliance and execution. However, they remained entirely “oblivious to what the restoration of order was now likely to require.”
America cannot shape the world to do its bidding. It certainly cannot shape other countries into democracies. Yet, lessons from history seem to depart from memory very quickly. “A greater appreciation for the limits of military power should restrain our willingness to use it.” If one does not take an objective look back on one’s track record in order to not make similar mistakes in the future, then one is doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
With peaceful countries to our north and south and a large ocean on both sides of us, America does not need to wage constant war in order to survive and remain the sole superpower of the world. By maintaining its economic eminence and passing on entangling itself in far-fetched fights, the United States can stay on top for some time. Yet, since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, American leaders have increased our load and doubled our burdens, looking exert military power to every corner of the world.
Military leaders and advisers need to stop preaching more military intervention to our political leaders and start learning the meaning of another word.