Tuesday, November 03, 2015

225.7 - Outrage of the Week: our expanding lovely little war in Iraq and Syria

Outrage of the Week: our expanding lovely little war in Iraq and Syria

Now for one of our regular features. It's the Outrage of the Week.

And this week, the outrage, as it should be every week, is our lovely little war in Iraq and Syria.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter went before the Senate Armed Services Committee on October 27 to answer questions about the conduct and progress of our lovely little wars. He declared that the US is considering increasing its attacks on ISIS either by supporting our ever-shifting roll of "partners" carrying out such attacks or by "conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground." "We won't hold back," he said.

Let's put that in regular English: The Obama administration, the Amazing Mr. O, our Nobel-Peace-Prize winning Prez, is considering a direct combat role, boots on the ground, for US forces in Iraq and Syria.

I warned you about this. I warned you about this back in June when Obama sent 450 more troops to Iraq to establish a new base in Anbar Province, a base that was considered a model to be replicated elsewhere in the country - more bases, more troops, more "advisers" and all this even though the 3100 US toops already in Iraq at that point were supposed to be a "ceiling" on their numbers. I warned you about Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying the Pentagon "continue[s] to plan for and ensure that [the] option" of moving US troops to the front lines "is available."

I said at that time "Watch this space."

And that space is gradually being filled. Lay the groundwork. Suggest something is "under consideration." We're "considering" this; we're "analyzing" that; we're "thinking about" the other, all while denying you're actually doing it now. Get people so accustomed to the idea that you might do something that by the time you do it, it's an anti-climax.

And now it emerges that the Amazing Mr. O’s most senior national security advisers have recommended measures that would move US troops closer to the front lines in Iraq and Syria, including positioning some number of Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria. Oh we're not doing it, oh no. It's just a "recommendation."

And lie. Lie by commission, lie by omission, lie by playing with words. But lie.

"No combat role. Just advice and assistance." That's what we kept getting told, that's what we keep getting told. But we are in combat, we have been in combat. Leaving aside the fact that all the bombing raids, yes, they are combat, and just looking at the politically-touchier issue of ground combat, yes, US forces have been in combat. The death of Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler in a raid on an ISIS prison brought that fact momentarily to the fore before it was buried under a chorus praising what a "hero" he was. But he was killed in a raid - what part of that is not combat?

Nope, not combat, lied Secretary of War Ashton Carter. Even while openly asserting "We'll do more raids," he weirdly claimed that this "doesn't represent assuming a combat role," apparently with a straight face. "It represents a continuation of our advise-and-assist mission."

Which is true only to the extent that all the other military raids, all the actions carried out by special forces, all the raids that preceded that one - including "several" into Syria since 2011 - and, by his own words, will follow that one, also were in no way combat. Just "advice."

But where this really gets offensive is when we hear things like that from CNN military analyst retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, who said "When the people you are training go into combat, you want to go with them to show your support, that's part of the deal."

So the story is "we have no combat role, it's just training." Then when it turns out we are in combat, it's "well, you should have realized all along that training involves combat. Duh."

And all of this, all the lies, the misdirections, the secret wars, are all in pursuit of a foreign policy strategy that for all its supposed nuance and sophistication still embraces the fantasy that military force is the answer to everything - as well as in pursuit of a political strategy that has the overriding intent to avoid any real cost or pain to us that might provoke resistance or resentment or even some reflection on the wisdom of our course, with all the cost and pain to be borne by unseen, unheard, "others."

And as that strategy frays as the humanitarian catastrophe that is the Syrian civil war becomes so bad that those "others" can no longer be relegated to the state of unseen and unheard, the White House and the Pentagon cast about for the change, the shift, the tweak, that will bring the gains that all the other changes, shifts, and tweaks failed to do. But they know, they have to know, they can't not know, that the increase in American military commitment they are considering would not lead to any major changes to the political situations in Iraq and Syria that gave rise to ISIS in the first place.

For all of their "advice," all of their "assistance," all the advice they truly have to offer, all the assistance they truly can give, is more blood, more death, more pain, more suffering, more refugees, more destruction.

It is a political, an ethical, a moral outrage.

Sources cited in links:

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