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As we watch the collapsing government in Baghdad surrounded by a highly disciplined and serious force of Sunni-oriented fighters that has taken control of the most populous third of the country, we must, in John Adams’ words, resist the temptation to slay the world’s monsters. This time around, the monsters are the Sunni — who ran the government of Iraq in the Saddam Hussein years and who are the ancient and persistent enemy of the Shia, who run the government today.

The political and military force that is aiming at Iraq’s capital calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Its fighting force consists of about 8,000 men, yet it has marched through Iraq quickly. Last week, as ISIS forces approached the capital, a half-million Iraqi civilians got out of their way and tens of thousands of Iraqi security forces dropped their American military gear and Iraqi military uniforms and fled. The Iraqi army — which the U.S. decimated 10 years ago — cannot defend the current Iraqi government, which is as corrupt, authoritarian, anti-democratic and untrustworthy as Saddam’s was, yet far less competent.

There is a lesson in this, and it reveals the power of religious fanaticism when resisted by unprincipled political force. ISIS fighters are motivated by a hatred of American invaders and their Iraqi defenders and an embrace of fundamental Sharia principles, which are anathema to Judeo-Christian principles. These ISIS fighters truly are monsters — they have crucified and decapitated deserters, traitors, captives, recalcitrants, Christians and Jews –_ and many Iraqi soldiers would rather join or walk away from them than resist them. The U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers by and large view themselves as defending a temporary and inconsequential government. The ISIS fighters view themselves as being on a triumphal crusade.

Complicating this is the affiliation that many of the political forces in ISIS have with the rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. And adding to the politics-makes-strange-bedfellows aura of this mess is the offer of the Quds fighters from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard — which the State Department considers to be a terrorist organization — to help defend Baghdad, relying on American air power to assist it. It is almost inconceivable that we could fight side-by-side, or bombs protecting boots, with the aspect of the government of Iran that both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have characterized as anathema to U.S. interests, and that has sworn to destroy Israel.

Hence, Obama’s dilemma is daunting. He is on record as saying that the war in Iraq was “dumb”; that the government there is secure and its forces are well-trained; that the rebels fighting Assad are freedom fighters who deserve American military support; and that the American troops he brought home from Iraq are not returning on his watch.


Should he send troops back to Iraq to defend the government we installed when we toppled Saddam? _Should American lives and tax dollars be spent in another pointless effort to bring democracy to a culture that has persistently rejected it? Should we take sides using our military in what is essentially an ancient religious civil war? Is the national security of the U.S. even remotely affected by the outcome of the current Iraqi civil war?

Since Bush persuaded Congress and the American people in 2003 that an appropriate response to 9/11 somehow was an invasion of Iraq, that country’s stability has been undermined by the U.S., and it is now ripe for the sectarian violence that is devouring it. The stated purpose of the Iraq war was to root out weapons of mass destruction, which we now know did not exist there. Then the stated purpose became regime change, because Saddam tried to kill the elder President Bush. The other stated purpose of the war was our thoughtless embrace of the fanciful Bush doctrine, which was basically the rebranding of the discredited Wilsonian nonsense that we can use force to spread democracy.

That, too, failed profoundly. In the process, 5,000 Americans died; 45,000 Americans were injured; 650,000 Iraqis died; 2,000,000 Iraqis fled the country; a half-trillion dollars in Iraqi assets were destroyed; and we borrowed a trillion dollars to invade and occupy Iraq (and another trillion to invade and occupy Afghanistan), which we still owe to the people who loaned it to us. Al-Qaida, which was not present in Iraq before 2003, is now openly there along with ISIS, its sister organization that is about to conquer the most politically important parts of the country.

America is no safer because of the Iraq war, but we are weaker. Our relationships among the people in the Middle East are far less sanguine, we have planted three generations’ worth of hatred, distrust, and lust for vengeance among Middle Eastern youth, and we have a crushing war debt. We also have American cash and military hardware, including expensive and lethal Stinger missiles, now in the hands of ISIS.

We are witnessing the contemporary incarnation of the old Sunni/Shia/Kurd rivalry that has persisted in what is today called Iraq for 1,000 years, and will persist until the country returns to its pre-modern sectarian borders and each ancient group has its own land.

There is no bona fide American national security interest in jeopardy because of the persistent Iraqi civil war, and we have no lawful right to choose a side and assist it militarily. But the American military-industrial-neocon complex wants more war. We must resist them. We should gather all Americans in Iraq, take what moveable wealth is ours and come home — and stop searching the world for monsters to destroy, as that will end up destroying us.

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. Judge Napolitano has written seven books on the U.S. Constitution. The most recent is “Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom.”

Copyright 2014 Andrew P. Napolitano. Distributed by

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, ISIS 
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  1. Our country is now a land corrupted by addiction to violence and war, for pleasure and big business. All the empty talk about spreading democracy – code phrase for puppets installed by coup reporting to foreign domination – is the thin moral cover for the grossest lust of a minority for money and power over others. The donorists who control policy care naught for self-determination abroad nor democratic accountability at home.

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  2. What is the relationship between the Military Industrial Complex and the Israel Lobby? Allies? Or just coincidental friends?

    I suspect the Complex is largely non-Jewish while the Wall Streeters are mostly Jewish. They have not always been together on the Zionist agenda and may split in the future. At one time oil interests were very anti-Zionist.

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  3. rod1963 says:

    The Judge is spot on in his assessment, however I suspect it is falling on deaf ears in D.C. elite and ex-military who are now already banging the drums of war.

    Crazy old warmongers/Neo-Con imperialists like Cheney, Krauthammer, Kristol and others are now coming to the fore again, saying we should have left a division or two of troops in Iraq as a permanent garrison force.

    What they don’t say, if the country is so unstable or corrupt that it needs the equivalent of a American Praetorian guard to guarantee it’s stability and provide soldiers for it’s defense, then it’s not a country worth protecting or wasting our treasury on it.

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  4. Judge Napolitano is brighter than I thought. I was misled by his crazy libertarianism but I can see that he is good for more than Neapolitan pizza!

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  5. SF says:

    We might want to take the description of ISIS as Islamic fundamentalists with a grain of salt. Not that it isn’t true, but dedicated warriors tend to be more religious than the population as a whole. It helps them ignore the possibility of violent death. I suspect our own military contains a disproportionate number of evangelical Christian fundamentalists.

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  6. The neocon Zionists are out front again urging war. There is of course Cheney, a war criminal if ever there were one since Nuremberg. Then there is Paul Wolfowitz who is a noted liar. He claims his father left Poland to avoid the Bolsheviks after WWI, but actually he left after the Poles had defeated the Bolsheviks at the battle of the Vistula. He just wants to show how anti-communist he is, even though his family was probably Judaeo-Bolsheviks at the time. Then there is Scooter Libby, whose real first name is Isaac or Israel but he likes Scooter since it makes him sound like a New England WASP.

    These people are unscrupulous scoundrels. I won’t even bother to tell you what I think of Bill Kristol or John Bolten or Fred Barnes: Zionists all whether Jewish or not. It is interesting that although the evangelicals support Zionism for their own perverted reasons not a single evangelical is on the board of the Elders of Zion. They still don’t like Christians who take Christianity seriously. Evangelicals ought to reconsider whether their alliance with the Pharisees may not be what Jesus had in mind.

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  7. “It helps them ignore the possibility of violent death. I
    suspect our own military contains a disproportionate number of
    evangelical Christian fundamentalists.”

    Look for this factor to become less important as the military is transformed by the LGBT mandate it’s been given.

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  8. Dave37 says:

    Back in my day, Viet-Nam 1969, evangelical Christian fundamentalists in the Army were unknown or at least I never heard them mentioned. The possibility of violent death was best to be avoided by air-strikes and supportive fire and maybe some Jack Daniels.

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  9. Steven says:

    mr. Neapolitano is misinformed. This material is a misinformation of the ISIS origin and facts. Some points about obama may be consistent.

    I watched Fox News for 15 years.

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  10. The Assad government in Syria is an enemy of israel so therefor it must be an enemy of the US too.
    So you think there is something strange about supporting ISIS in Syria but opposing them in Iraq? The reconciling principal is this: israel and its interests first.

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