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It’s quite a surprise that John McCain did not rise on his hind legs when he got wind of what U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter had said on the Memorial Day week-end. It was just the thing to make the War Party irate–even more so than the Iraqi prime minister was. (Who is he these days? Ah: Haider al-AbadiIt.)

Defense Secretary Carter’s quip was a no-brainer, really. Observations such as his were routine when Bush 43 began swinging the wrecking ball in Iraq. The War Party line, however, is to continue duping its ditto-heads into believing that the sorry state of Iraq began with Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama.

Said Carter: “The rout of Iraqi forces at the city of Ramadi showed they lacked the will to fight against the Islamic State. … They chose to withdraw. … What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. … They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. We can give them training, we can give them equipment – we obviously can’t give them the will to fight.”

ISIS captured Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar province, in early May.

The ineptness of the reconstituted Iraqi Army is nothing new. In 2006, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton demanded to know when the “Iraqi government and the Iraqi Army would step up to the task.” “I have heard over and over again, that the government must do this, the Iraqi Army must do that,” griped Clinton to Gen. John P. Abizaid, then top American military commander in the Middle East. “Can you offer us more than the hope that the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Army will step up to the task?”

Indeed, the War Party is in the habit of thrashing about in an ahistorical void—or creating its own reality, as warbot Karl Rove, George Bush’s muse, is notorious for saying. The neoconservative creed as disgorged by Rove deserves repeating:

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

The lowly “you” Rove reserved for “the reality-based community” (guilty).

Curiously, a military that has done nothing but flee before the opposition ever since the Americans commandeered Iraq, had fought and won a protracted war against Iran, under Saddam Hussein. The thing we currently call the Iraqi military has been unable and unwilling to fight the wars America commands it to fight.

Why?

ORDER IT NOW

For one, Bush’s envoy to Iraq, Paul Bremer, made the decision to dissolve the Iraqi Army and civil service, early in 2003, with the blessing of Bush at whose pleasure Bremer served. Bush’s minions viewed the dissolution of the Iraqi Army as part of the “De-Ba’thification” process.

Not the least of the difficulties, as DEBKA file has observed, is that many in the Arab world see the battle with the Islamic State “not as an Arab but as a U.S.-European war. This line resonates widely in the other Arab countries aligned with the coalition.” It goes a long way in explaining the lackluster participation of the Emiratis, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in the coalition against ISIS. In fact, the involvement by Amman turned out to be more symbolic than substantive, too.

Having grown up in Israel, I confess to harboring a bias about the mettle of the Arab fighting force, raised as I was on images of army boots piled up high in the Sinai desert, where in 1967, Egyptians (who had actually fought bravely) shed those shoes and fled before the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). Al-Qaida and ISIS reversed these biases; they’re fierce, disciplined fighters. Ditto the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, now leading the Shiite militias in the battle against ISIS.

Yes, let the locals take out their trash. Let regional players take care of ISIS. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seemed to second the sentiment. He thinks Iran’s involvement “could turn out to be ‘a positive thing.’”

But not if Chucky Krauthammer can help it. The influential neoconservative commentator was decidedly unhappy about Jordan’s initial and fleeting enthusiasm for the battle. The consensus in the U.S., as reflected by Chucky, is that only Muslims approved by the world superpower (the U.S.) and the region’s superpower (Israel) are fit to fight ISIS.

Another dynamic is at play in the region besides the Sunni-Shia divide. It is that between the forces of centralization and the forces of decentralization. As a rule, the U.S. sides with the former; the Arab people with whom we meddle generally side with the latter. Given the tribal, familial focus of their societies; Arabs are unlikely to abandon their particularism in favor of American statism.

Take the Houthi rebels of Yemen. Like the Kurds of Iraq, they are demanding greater regional autonomy. Alas, the U.S. is looking to empower another puppet central power like former Yemeni president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the better to lord it over its Yemeni client state. And never mind that the Houthis are fighting against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, whom we revile as well.

In the words of Sir Walter Scott, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, ISIS 
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  1. Art says:

    Karl Rove: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

    Well Karl – look what you and yours created – looks like ISIS is your doing!

    Karl – maybe you should be in jail. Think of all the death and destruction you have “created”.

    Maybe you, and Bush, and Cheney, and Rumsfeld, and all the signers of PNAC, and Charles Krauthammer should all be in jail.

    Are you not all war criminals?

    • Replies: @GeorgyOrwell
  2. I seem to remember a lot of female blue fingers voting-equality and all that jazz…so where are the female brigades egalitarian warriors and so forth. I thought we welcomed Iraq into the 21st century of an American homosexual feminist Utopia?

  3. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I remember that in 2006 or thereabouts, if you pointed out that Iraq was a mess sooner or later a true believer would trumpet benefits that almost inevitably included a bunch of schoolhouses being painted. I could never figure out why the schoolhouses were such an important KPI, but I wonder how all those schoolhouses looked by 2008, or how they look now.

  4. Gene Su says:

    I have some questions that I would like a properly informed person to answer:

    1. The Israeli government (and particularly Netanyahu) seems to have quite an apathetic attitude to the Islamic State. There are even some who say that the Israeli government wants to support ISIS against Iran. Don’t they know that ISIS would be far less hesitant to go to war with Israel than any established Middle Eastern state?
    2. I heard some ISIS wacko stating that they will soon march for Saudi Arabia and destroy the Kaaba at Mecca. Is there any plausibility to that? Don’t they know that destroying the Kaaba will create a schism among Muslims and make enemies left and right?
    3. Speaking about making enemies among Muslims, how much support and opposition is there for ISIS in the “House of Islam?” Michael Scheuer once said that the popularity of Bin Laden and Al-Qaida is generated by the incompetence and brutality of the Middle Eastern tyrranies. Yet ISIS seems to be killing many Muslims, more than Christians and Yazidis.
    4. On a least important note, what is up with the Al Khansa brigade? A lot of people say these fundamentalist Muslims oppress women. However, Muslim women have been employed as suicide bombers for about a decade and now they are using Muslim women as police and even soldiers?

  5. unit472 says:

    Islamic State fighters are well equipped, well led and believe in their cause. So much so they have virtually unlimited supply of suicide bombers. They are also barbaric and merciless to anyone who resists them and falls into their hands. You aren’t going to beat these guys using US Army training manuals and observing UN Human Rights Law. They lie beyond the rules of war and if you aren’t willing to fight at the extremes of human brutality you are unlikely to prevail against them. This administration wrings its hands and worries that the Shia militias will commit war crimes if they take Islamic State prisoners and territories. Well if you are worried about that then don’t fight Islamic State. You can’t fight them without getting your hands dirty.

  6. Hersh says:

    I’m watching cspan and a congressman (Steve King – R of Iowa) is saying he takes it seriously that ISIS says “their black flag is going to fly over the White House” and that they want to kill Americans any where they can.

    Our entire political and media leadership establishment has been to some degree on board with that hysterical paranoia. I am sure that a lot of them don’t believe it but they are on board with it because its the safest thing for themselves and their careers.

    MS-13, the transnational gang that originated in Los Angeles, is at least twice the size of ISIS and they are here. They are much more dangerous to Americans than ISIS but its not much of an issue because our elites want more Central Americans in the US and are willing to overlook a percentage of them being likely MS-13 recruits. They’ll have to get to a few million strong before it becomes an issue on the TV.

  7. Realist says:

    The Iraqi military is like the South Vietnamese ‘military’….they want us to fight for them.

  8. Sean says:

    Another dynamic is at play in the region besides the Sunni-Shia divide. It is that between the forces of centralization and the forces of decentralization. As a rule, the U.S. sides with the former; the Arab people with whom we meddle generally side with the latter. Given the tribal, familial focus of their societies; Arabs are unlikely to abandon their particularism in favor of American statism,

    Yes, the Arabs are unlikely to abandon local allegiances, for now. But there is already the beginning of the antithesis. History suggests those who try to force a pattern on reality provoke reactive changes, and end up in a world very different from the one they envisioned. Another people was kept weak and divided and had religious wars (Thirty Years war), occupation by foreign armies, calls for religious tolerance and unity by military leaders (Wallenstein) and division into minor states constituted so as to prevent coalescence into a regional superpower (Treaty of Westphalia). That settlement worked for a while. However, being powerless to stop other countries meddling is a trauma that is not forgotten and tends to slowly but surely drive a fractious people into becoming a unified regional force. The US will increasingly be dragged into preventing reactive super-centralisation and keeping Middle East states from breaking apart in order to form up as larger and more formidable entities. Sometimes that unifying will take the form of apparent conquests. There will be no stability in the new realities; Rove was correct about that.

  9. @unit472

    They are also barbaric and merciless to anyone who resists them and falls into their hands. You aren’t going to beat these guys using US Army training manuals and observing UN Human Rights Law. They lie beyond the rules of war and if you aren’t willing to fight at the extremes of human brutality you are unlikely to prevail against them. This administration wrings its hands and worries that the Shia militias will commit war crimes if they take Islamic State prisoners and territories. Well if you are worried about that then don’t fight Islamic State. You can’t fight them without getting your hands dirty.

    That’s the beauty of high-tech mechanized industrialized cyberized remote-control warfare: You can kill with far more lethality than those brutes without “getting your hands dirty”.
    USA and Britain fought World War II from the air, and essentially, against civilians: the firebombing of Germany and Japan was designed to kill civilians. But pilots of Allied planes suffered heavy casualties in that war.
    In the current mechanized war, also against, basically, un-armed or disproportionately under-armed civilians, the not-so-greatest generation experiences no threat to life and limb more consequential than a fender-bender on the way home from the air-conditioned cube in the desert where his joystick is plugged in.

    If you stretch things a bit, you can even make your modes of killing expand the UN Human Rights Law and the extremes of human brutality merely by slapping a feel-good label on it, like “R2P.” USA collaborated in the destruction of Libya and the assassination-by-rape of “We Came We Saw He Died” Qaddafi all in the name of “Responsibility 2 Protect” (cackle not included).

    For the record: United Nations Charter states as its first principle:

    1. The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.

    The Charter further defines sovereignty in paragraphs 4. and 7.:

    4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

    7. Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state . . .

    • Replies: @unit472
  10. unit472 says:
    @SolontoCroesus

    Unfortunately, for our leadership, our technology has been rendered more or less useless by the very rules and laws they adopted. In WW2 we could bomb a city and claim ( with some honesty) that that was the limit of our technology. To hit a factory from 25,000 feet with gravity bombs was impossible so you had to ‘carpet bomb’.

    Today our precision guided munitions makes any civilian casualties potentially a war crime so all Islamic State, Hamas or any other irregular combat force need do is hide among civilian populations to avoid the full power of the US or Israeli air forces and they do just that. If we aren’t willing to commit war crimes we really cannot fight on our terms enemies like Islamic State. Shia militias are under no such constraints and neither is Bashar Assad so either we leave the war against ISIS to them ( whose fight it really is) or we use our air power against Islamic State wherever they may hide.

    • Replies: @Sean
    , @SolontoCroesus
  11. Sean says:
    @unit472

    Many within the Syrian National Coalition say that Assad regime’s forces ignore ISIS. Assad’s most dangerous enemy is the mainstream Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Coalition, which is acceptable to the US and nearly got overwhelming US airpower used on him. His aim is to survive, he can best do that be going after the most dangerous opponent. Assad knows the US will rain airstrikes on ISIS if it looks like getting strong enough to take power in Syria.

    His best strategy is to ceaselessly attack (and barrel bomb the noncombatants) of anyone except ISIS and similar groups unacceptable to the US. If he can drive members of the Syrian opposition to join ISIS that is ideal from his point of view. The stronger ISIS gets the more indispensable Assad’s regime is to the US, and the more reluctant the US will be to give meaningful help to the Syrian National Coalition.

  12. The Iraqi army does fight, at least that part of the army that became ICIS.

  13. annamaria says:
    @unit472

    But first and foremost, do not create Islamic State by enacting the stupid neocons’ policies in the Middle East, which were prompted by the powerful oilmen, war profiteers, and grandiose “thinkers” like Wolfowitz

  14. @unit472

    In WW2 we could bomb a city and claim ( with some honesty) that that was the limit of our technology. To hit a factory from 25,000 feet with gravity bombs was impossible so you had to ‘carpet bomb’.

    The facts are against your claims, unit 472.

    Carpet bombing in WWII deliberately targeted civilians. This is irrefutable. “German Village,” the building that US Air Force and Standard Oil used to develop and perfect the efficacy of creating a firestorm still stands in the desert at Dugway, Utah. The US Department of the Interior has catalogued the building(s) and their purpose, construction, furnishings and the persons & organizations that worked on the project beginning in 1939 when FDR signed the executive order to acquire the land, through 1942 when Erich Mendelsohn & other Harvard architects designed it, to RKO Studio’s specifications for furnishings.

    Those furnishings included a crib in each bedroom, anticipating that the apartment would house a young German family with a child.

    No such mock-up of the Reichstag was constructed, and neither the US nor Britain was able to destroy that building in Berlin; Russians did that after Germany’s surrender. The Allies did not really want to kill Hitler, they wanted to force the capitulation of the German government by slaughtering its citizens. Jorg Friedrich documents this by, among other things, referring to the leaflets that Allies dropped on cities to be bombed.

    In a round-table discussion on “western values and the war” moderated by Norman Podhoretz in 1966, historian C E Hughes stated that the fire bombings of Germany and Japan were far worse war crimes than even the atomic bombings of Japan, and that they represented the first known use of “weapons of mass destruction in a campaign of terror.”

    The fire bombings of Germany and Japan deliberately targeted civilians. Period. full stop.

    Your claim that “Hamas hides among civilians” also has the whiff of bogusity. The Palestinians imprisoned in Gaza have neither places to shelter themselves nor the armaments to form the kind of defense much less offense that could counter the weaponry Israel brings to bear on those people. The moment Israel lifts the first jet from the runway, or fires up the first tank to target Gaza, it has already violated the principle of proportionality.

    German cities were defended by antiaircraft emplacements and fighter pilots; the Allied pilots who flew over Germany and Japan had a 50-50 chance of being killed. I still consider them cowards: they deliberately targeted babies. That’s disgusting.

    Israeli ‘soldiers’ — thugs in uniform, really, are beyond cowards and beyond disgusting: Gaza has nothing approaching the defensive arms that, for example, Germany had. IDF are gutless, soulless cowards shooting fish in a barrel. Israel deals with the commission of war crimes — which it does — by compelling those who would judge their crimes to recant their judgment — i.e. Goldstone. To its shame the USA backs Israel up in its criminality.

    • Replies: @unit472
    , @Ryan
    , @in the middle
  15. unit472 says:
    @SolontoCroesus

    I see you want to refight WW2 so you are aware that the US was not alone in bombing Germany. In fact, up until November 1943, the RAF was dropping more bombs than the US and it never fell very far behind. The Germans were pioneers in aerial bombardment of cities in WW1 and they didn’t refrain from it in WW2 either but the reality was gravity bombs dropped from high altitude were not accurate enough to avoid hitting civilian areas even if you wanted to.

    I would also point out that your ‘principle of proportionality’ is yours and not mine. I believe that if you are going to fight a war you do it as hard as you are able because inflicting ‘disproportionate’ losses on an enemy is how you win them.

    • Replies: @annamaria
  16. annamaria says:
    @unit472

    “…because inflicting ‘disproportionate’ losses on an enemy is how you win them”
    You realize, don’t you, that you present you statement in the context of Israel’s war on people of Israel-occupied territories, in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

  17. “The thing we currently call the Iraqi military has been unable and unwilling to fight the wars America commands it to fight.”

    The wars America commands it to fight? I tried, but I just couldn’t get past this bit of idiocy.

  18. Sean says:

    The South Vietnam army did not fight as well as the North’s did. The lesson is that a country will not fight for what are perceived to be foreign objectives. Bringing in non Arabs (especially former overlord countries) will lose the Iraqi government all credibility.

  19. MarkinLA says:

    I don’t know what the problem is. ISIS is the first US proxy army to actually fight. Most were just criminal organizations scamming the US government like Reagan’s Contras.

  20. Ryan says:
    @SolontoCroesus

    Thanks for the short history of “German Village”. I’ve studied WWII for decades including the strategic bombing campaign but have never heard about this. Stuff like this increases my disgust for not only WWII, but also WWI and the amount of govt. lying that goes into leaving out little details like this one.

  21. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “…What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. … They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force….. ”

    on paper at least……we know now that fewer than half the soldiers officially listed
    on the company rosters have ever spent a day in their units. captains and majors
    purchase their billets from colonels, who purchase theirs from generals, who have
    “investments” in various politicians. the rank and file soldiers, after enlistment
    and basic training, report to their units, where they simply sign over half their
    pay to the unit commander and then leave for home…..never to be seen again…

  22. Joe says:

    We have had three days of whining and whaling, with and a eulogy given by the president at Beau Biden,s spectacle that lasted three days with two wakes and a burial ceremony. Yes, Joe Biden son’s death is a tragedy, but so are all the deaths of the young and innocent caused by the wars Biden supported. Who laments those victims? And Obama with a eulogy is difficult to bear. How about the eulogy for all the innocents killed by the drones, or all the Palestinians that daily die from Israeli actions, supported and paid for by the United States.

  23. @Art

    We created ISIS…..as a deliberate plan of geostrategy. ISIS was created by Western, Saudi, Turkish and Israeli Intel to go after Assad in Syria and Iran. Here is the smoking gun:

    http://levantreport.com/2015/05/19/2012-defense-intelligence-agency-document-west-will-facilitate-rise-of-islamic-state-in-order-to-isolate-the-syrian-regime/

    Any discussion cannot ignore these pertinent facts!

  24. Only a historical illiterate will imagine Iraq “won” the war against Iran. It achieved none of its objectives – not one – against an Iranian military which was virtually moribund, its senior commanders executed, its pilots and technicians imprisoned, its initial defence in the hands of local militias. By 1982 Iraq had been driven out of Iranian territory, and the rest of the war comprised of defensive actions meant to prevent Iranian capture of Basra, Kut and the Al Faw peninsula. And all through, despite the plentiful supply and use of poison gas and weapons from the West, with Gulf Sheikhdom financing, and overwhelming technological superiority, Iraq still couldn’t beat back a force which till the end depended – among other things – human wave attacks led by 14-year-old Basij volunteers. I wonder how the author of this article would like to spin that into a “victory” for Iraq.

  25. @Sean

    The so-called Syrian National Coalition is a fictional entity with as much credibility as Ahmed Chalabi’s gang was in Iraq. It’s an Amerikastani-funded group of puppets held in contempt by even Obama’s cannibal headhunters – the so-called Free Syrian Army to you – and it never makes any statement that is not prepared in advance by its masters in Warshington. Just answer this question, genius – who fought against ISIS in Palmyra? Assad’s army. And who teamed up with ISIS at the siege of Al Minaj airbase in 2013, and insisted he was allied with ISIS? The s0-called leader of your Syrian National Coalition.

  26. bobsays says:
    @unit472

    ISIS receives large monies from very, very wealthy donors in Saudi Arabia. Qatar, Kuwait, all the Gulf States, which are Sunni and from where the whole Wahaabi Sunni extremism comes from. These donors are well known to the Saudi etc governments, and are often very close to the hereditary rulers there, as the ruling cliques patronise their tribal clans with opportunity.
    In truth these states quite like their fiery young militant Sunni males (raised on diet of anti Iran/Shiite ideology) to go to jihad outside their own states, and Syria and Iraq are ideal to keep trouble out of home states.
    None of this is nerews to US elites – Hilary complained about Gulf sponsorship in Snowden’s leaked cables, and the foreign department likewise critiqued Kuwait as the cash register for rich Gulf donors to cleanse money into weapons to send onto militias.

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