Permanent war

So as expected, president Obama said yesterday that he will continue the long-standing US practice of all war, all the time, finding new wars to start even a the old ones drag on. ISIS/ISIL has now given momentum to that effort by moving public opinion in the US by some horrific acts. Of course, if the beheading of two Americans can anger public opinion here so much, one can imagine what is the reaction of people in that region when the US blasts so many of their people to bits with powerful hi-tech weaponry.

But many people in the US don’t see, or don’t want to see, the connection. Brutal killings of Americans are viewed as horrific crimes. Brutal killings by Americans are shrugged off as the unfortunate accidents of war or at worst, the work of a few bad apples. We are always, always, the good guys with the best of intentions, whatever the evidence to the contrary.

It seems as if drawing the US further in was the ISIS/ISIL strategy all along. They knew that the US wanted a reason to increase its destabilization efforts in Syria and they gave it one. Ironically, just as president Obama and the warmongers in the US are screaming about the threat posed by ISIS/ISIL even to the US ‘homeland’ (how I detest that word), his own head of the Department of Homeland Security says that they pose no serious threat.

Hours before Barack Obama is to announce an expanded military campaign against Islamic State (Isis) militants, his senior homeland security official assessed that the organization poses no imminent danger to America at home.

“At present, we have no credible information that [Isis] is planning to attack the homeland of the United States,” Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson told a Manhattan audience on Wednesday.

Johnson is the latest in a string of top US officials to concede that the jihadist army currently in control of much of eastern Syria and northern and central Iraq is not targeting the US at present, despite beheading two captured American journalists.

Last week, the head of the US National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olsen, issued nearly the exact same phrase. Earlier on Wednesday, Olsen’s deputy told a congressional panel that al-Qaida’s affiliates pose the greatest threat of a domestic attack, with Isis threatening US interests primarily “inside Iraq right now.”

But as Trevor Timm says the war machine is in full hyperbolic mode and nothing is going to stop it now.

Meanwhile, the media has been busy arguing whether Obama is talking “tough” enough, how closely Isis resembles the Nazis, and how much military strength the US is going to unleash to “destroy” Isis – never pausing to question whether that’s prudent or even possible (or maybe that it’s exactly what Isis wants).

How many people wake up and ask themselves, “I wonder what Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger think about Isis?” Outside of a few TV bookers, absolutely no one does – but with war on the horizon, the nation’s most awful surviving warmongers get to go back on the television circuit and address members of Congress, explaining that, if we just drop a few more bombs, it’ll actually work this time! (Unlike all the other times.)

Justin Raimondo says that this illusion that we can arm and fund ‘moderates’ in the region who will get rid of all the evildoers on our behalf and usher in an era of peace and prosperity never dies, however much it has been shown to fail in the past.

Yet Bizarro World “logic” is exactly what has been determining US policy in the region ever since the “Arab Spring,” when the Obama administration decided to hop on board the “revolution,” co-opt all that energy, and use it to generate support for regime change throughout the region. The results have been an unmitigated disaster, to wit:

  • In Libya we overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, “liberating” the country with the help of – and at the urging of – our European allies. The Libyans expressed their gratitude by murdering our Ambassador, trashing our embassy, and plunging the country into Somali-like chaos.
  • In Egypt we backed a “moderate” Islamist regime, throwing longtime American sock-puppet Hosni Mubarrak overboard without so much as a by-your-leave – and wound up supporting an even worse “secular” military dictatorship.
  • In Syria, we plotted to overthrow another Gaddafi-like secular despot, aligning with those lovable “moderate” Islamists – many of whom would soon defect to ISIS, taking their US-supplied arsenal with them.

As I’ve said in this space from the beginning, ISIS has “Made in USA” stamped all over it – and I don’t mean that just figuratively. Yes, our wrong-headed policies have so alienated the Sunnis that they’ve resorted to supporting the fanatics of ISIS, but it’s worse than that. It is literally true that we armed, trained, and deployed these monsters – what we might call the Islamist Frankenstein Brigade – and now they’ve turned on us with a vengeance.

These groups flourish in conditions of chaos and anarchy. The US has been instrumental in creating precisely those conditions in that region. This article says that US involvement in Libya and its efforts to similarly destabilize Syria is what set the stage for the birth of ISIS.

Prior to the U.S. and NATO backed intervention, Libya had the highest standard of living of any country in Africa. This according to the U.N.’s Human Development Index rankings for 2010. However in the years following the coup, the country descended into chaos, with extremism and violence running rampant. Libya is now widely regarded as failed state (of course those who were naive enough to buy into the propaganda leading up to the war get defensive when this is said).

Now after Gaddafi was overthrown, the Libyan armories were looted, and massive quantities of weapons were sent by the Libyan rebels to Syria. The weapons, which included anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles were smuggled into Syria through Turkey, a NATO ally.

While a great deal media attention has focused on the fact that the State Department did not provide adequate security at the consulate, and was slow to send assistance when the attack started, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh released an article in April of 2014 which exposed a classified agreement between the CIA, Turkey and the Syrian rebels to create what was referred to as a “rat line”. The “rat line” was covert network used to channel weapons and ammunition from Libya, through southern turkey and across the Syrian border. Funding was provided by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

It was at this time that jihadist fighters from Libya began flooding into Syria as well. And not just low level militants. Many were experienced commanders who had fought in multiple theaters.

The U.S. and its allies were now fully focused on taking down Assad’s government in Syria. As in Libya this regime change was to be framed in terms of human rights, and now overt support began to supplement the backdoor channels. The growing jihadist presence was swept under the rug and covered up.

However as the rebels gained strength, the reports of war crimes and atrocities that they were committing began to create a bit of a public relations problem for Washington. It then became standard policy to insist that U.S. support was only being given to what they referred to as “moderate” rebel forces.

This distinction, however, had no basis in reality.

One of the much-vaunted ‘moderate’ rebel forces much beloved by the White House and crazy warhawks like John McCain as the promise of the future is the Free Syrian Army (FSA) but they are hardly boy scouts.

In an interview given in April of 2014, FSA commander Jamal Maarouf admitted that his fighters regularly conduct joint operations with Al-Nusra. Al-Nusra is the official Al-Qa’ida branch in Syria. This statement is further validated by an interview given in June of 2013 by Colonel Abdel Basset Al-Tawil, commander of the FSA’s Northern Front. In this interview he openly discusses his ties with Al-Nusra, and expresses his desire to see Syria ruled by sharia law.

Reuters had reported in 2012 that the FSA’s command was dominated by Islamic extremists, and the New York Times had reported that same year that the majority of the weapons that Washington were sending into Syria was ending up in the hands Jihadists. For two years the U.S. government knew that this was happening, but they kept doing it.

And the FSA’s ties to Al-Nusra are just the beginning. In June of 2014 Al-Nusra merged with ISIS at the border between Iraq and Syria.

So to review, the FSA is working with Al-Nusra, Al-Nusra is working with ISIS, and the U.S. has been sending money and weapons to the FSA even though they’ve known since 2012 that most of these weapons were ending up in the hands of extremists. You do the math.

The author suggests that restoring stability to the region may be a better option that further destabilization.

If the world truly wants to stop ISIS, there is only one way to do it:

1. First and foremost, the U.S. government and its allies must be heavily pressured to cut all support to the rebels who are attempting to topple Assad. Even if these rebels that the U.S. is arming and funding were moderate, and they’re not, the fact that they are forcing Assad to fight a war on multiple fronts, only strengthens ISIS. This is lunacy.

2. The Syrian government should be provided with financial support, equipment, training and intelligence to enable them to turn the tide against ISIS. This is their territory, they should be the ones to reclaim it.

Now obviously this support isn’t going to come from the U.S. or any NATO country, but there are a number of nations who have a strategic interest in preventing another regime change and chaotic aftermath. If these countries respond promptly, as in right now, they could preempt a U.S. intervention, and as long this support does not include the presence of foreign troops, doing so will greatly reduce the likelihood of a major confrontation down the road.

3. The U.S. government and its allies should should be aggressively condemned for their failed regime change policies and the individuals behind these decisions should be charged for war crimes. This would have to be done on an nation by nation level since the U.N. has done nothing but enable NATO aggression. While this may not immediately result in these criminals being arrested, it would send a message. This can be done. Malaysia has already proven this by convicting the Bush administration of war crimes in abstentia.

Will this work? Who knows? The US is exceptionally good at creating situations in which the only options that become available are either terrible or disastrous. But what should be clear is that the US policy of destabilizing country after country in the region (Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Syria, with Iran next on the list) has created a mess. To think that more bombing will solve this problem is to ignore history completely.

The only people delighted with this new push for expanded war are, of course, those involved in the arms industry and in the fighting and killing business. Whatever happens on the battlefield, they always win and the ordinary people living in those regions always lose.


  1. says

    Nothing we can do will fix anything. Everything we do now will make things worse. I’m tired of war. I’m tired of money funneling into death and destruction. We could be colonizing other planets by now if we had put our money into those types of sciences, but we’re too damned violent a species to care about bolstering ourselves. We just want to kill the “other”.

  2. says

    You are very right regarding the Nazis.

    How do I know? I live in an apartment building in North Babylon and there is a Neo-Nazi gang, in my apartment building. They bring a large number of United States Citizens and residents, into the complex to torture and murder them. It is horrendous. This has been going on for years.
    The police have not brought things under control. In some instances, both the police and the FBI are involved.
    At the moment, their focus is on the murder of religious minority group members.

    I have only lived here since October of last year and this is my introduction to The United murderous States of America 🙂

  3. Numenaster says

    Catherine, what state is North Babylon in? I’m very curious to hear more about FBI involvement with neo-Nazis. But note that the article compared ISIL to Nazis, not American troops.

  4. alkaloid says

    We could be colonizing other planets by now if we had put our money into those types of sciences, but we’re too damned violent a species to care about bolstering ourselves. We just want to kill the “other”.

    Is the problem really the entire human species or is the problem more that our political systems never really developed in a way to seriously pay attention to people who want to do anything else?

    By the way, I really appreciate that you can criticize Democrats here, unlike other places, without finding yourself at risk of verbal decapitation.

  5. Lady Scientist says

    Just read this – THANK YOU, Mano. Well said. I am so sick and tired of the war hawks of BOTH parties.

    It strikes me as particularly disgusting that we waste so much money on defense when climate change is already happening and will threaten so many more lives than ISIS.

    And, the only threat that ISIS poses to the U.S. is with regard to the threat felt by certain U.S.G.-friendly puppets in the current Iraqi government. Depose the puppets, and multinational oil companies lose control over Iraqi resources. So, once again, the U.S. military gets a call to go help out the oil companies.

  6. says

    Damn. First there was There and Back Again, a Hobbit’s Journey to iraq (via Kuwait). Then there was the Fellowship of the Willing, imposing a no-fly zone. Then The Two Towers.

    Now we have the Return of the King: you thought you were done with them when George II the 2nd (sic) abdicated in 2008, but now you have a new one, exercising his Imperial War Powers.

    Question is, which side is the US in all this?

  7. lorn says

    Yep … sounds like a fine strategy. Lay off Assad so he can fight the FSA and ISIL while stopping arms shipments to so the terrorists are weakened. Brilliant!

    Except that while ISIL was anti-Assad early on, using the civil war as recruiting poster and training ground, it has decided its opportunities are to the east and has cut a deal with Assad. The telling facts are that the oil from ISIL captured wells is transported on Assad controlled pipelines and that ISIL and FSA have openly stated that they are at war. ISIL, to the extent and duration their extreme ideology allows, is an ally of the Assad regime.

    Cut support to FSA and ISIL won’t feel it because ISIL is not short of arms or funds. They have captured enough arms and oil to hold them for many months. But it will allow Assad to wipe out the FSA. At which point ISIL will face a choice between siding with Assad, or destroying him. Three years ago ISIL was too weak to take on the regime but now, it is a much larger and richer organization, it has a shot if it does full-court-press out of Iraq into Syria. Making Syria the home base of ISIL has advantages because it gives them a seaport and shipping, a border with Israel to use for propaganda purposes to win favor with Arab states if they wish, and access to Turkey with their Kurdish minority they can play off, and the trade routes to Europe to bring in recruits and export operations. On the other side making peace with Assad gives them access to Russian arms because Syria is a client state. Working through a client state makes the optics of Russian arms going to ISIL more acceptable. Going this way flatters Assad, who can be deposed at any later date, and establishes a key requirement of any successful insurgency, logistical support from a zone protected by a great power.

    Key: Safe areas and protected and generous logistical support from outside the conflict area are vital to any action.

    Aside: The American revolutionary war, which started as an insurgency, was only winnable because France provided logistical and military support and protection. The British were never able to shut down the sea lines of communication. The US-Vietnam war was only winnable by North Vietnam because of Chinese strategic protection and support and the fact that the Ho Chi Minh trail, a very extensive and complex series of trails and support bases, was never seriously damaged.

    The unwillingness to meaningfully interdict the trail in a permanent way meant all the US efforts were a holding action. The choice to keep it a limited action defined the nature of the conflict as logistics determine outcomes. This was pointed out in several pentagon studies. Winning is the least important metric. North Vietnam, ostensibly the winner, gained a Pyrrhic victory and are, even after forty years, still lagging behind the rest of the region. The US paid in 60,000 dead, suspicion of government, inflation, a failed presidency, and internal political conflict that would make the Southern Strategy (race baiting) the only way the GOP held on. All issues we are still dealing with.

    I realize that this is going to run counter the inversion of the pro-gun folks motto, more guns good/fewer guns good, but in this case cutting support isn’t going to lower the violence. Nor is all the violence necessarily bad. There are existential issues that are essentially nonnegotiable in the near term. All it will do is benefit ISIL, the one organization that has more arms than it needs.

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