By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor
Sep 17, 2014
Related news: ISIS: Made in the U.S.A.?
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – In response to rapidly changing events on the ground in Iraq and Syria, President Obama has authorized U.S. airstrikes for the first time in Syria and their expansion in Iraq against the militant group Islamic State.
In a prime-time address, Obama vowed to hunt down Islamic State militants wherever they are. “We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” Mr. Obama said in a live prime-time address from the White House Sept. 10. “That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
“I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Mr. Obama continued. “It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partners’ forces on the ground.”
But in a clever exercise of rhetorical dexterity, Mr. Obama also announced he is sending 475 more U.S. military troops to Iraq, bringing the total to 1,600, while insisting the new operation does not constitute a new “war” in Iraq and Syria.
Reactions were predictable and drawn mostly along party lines. Conservative Republicans insisted the president had not gone far enough. Anti-war activists called the new policy wrongheaded.
“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
This is a direct quote from an interview with then-Senator Obama in the Boston Globe on December 20, 2007, former Congress member Dennis Kucinich revealed in a Facebook status update concerning the President’s apparent flip-flop.
“We agree with the president that there is no military solution to the problems posed by ISIS,” Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action said in a statement immediately after the address. “And yet his proposed strategy relies far too heavily on the use of military force. It’s time to stop the bombing and escalation and use the other tools of U.S. foreign policy—working with allies in cutting off weapons, oil and funding streams for starters—which will be much more active in dealing with ISIS.”
“History shows that U.S. arms tends to fall into the wrong hands like in Afghanistan and now ISIS. More weapons in the Mideast is not the solution and is more like pouring fuel on a fire,” added Paul Kawika Martin, political director of Peace Action. Founded in 1957 when it was called SANE/FREEZE, Peace Action is the nation’s oldest and largest disarmament organization with more than 100,000 paid members in 100 chapters in 36 states.
Immediately following the President’s address, on a trip to Saudi Arabia—the chief early funding source for ISIS according to many accounts—Secretary of State John Kerry announced the formation of a new “coalition of the willing,” so-to-speak.
He said a coalition of 10 Arab countries—Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and six Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar—agreed to help the United States fight the Sunni militants that have seized swaths of Iraq and Syria. The commitment came after foreign ministers from the countries met with Secretary of State John Kerry in Saudi Arabia.
“Arab nations play a critical role in that coalition,” Secretary Kerry said, “the leading role, really, across all lines of effort: military support, humanitarian aid, our work to stop the flow of illegal funds and foreign fighters, which ISIL requires in order to thrive, and certainly the effort to repudiate once and for all the dangerous, the offensive, the insulting distortion of Islam that ISIL propaganda attempts to spread throughout the region and the world.”
In the one year since the Obama administration floated the idea, and then abandoned it, to engage in military strikes against Syria, U.S. policymakers and their allies in the corporate-owned media, have managed to “flip the script” so that today a majority of the U.S. public favors deeper U.S. intervention in the crisis created by the invasion, occupation, and destabilization of Iraq over the past 11 years.
“I think President Obama has been hounded by the media, by the war hawks in Congress, mostly from the Republican side but also from the Democrats,” Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK and author of “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control” told Pacifica Radio’s “Democracy Now!”
The U.S. is headed along “this insane (course) not only bombing in Iraq, but also talking about going into Syria, at a time when just a couple of months ago the American people had made it very clear that we were very tired of war,” Ms. Benjamin continued.
“In fact, when (President) Obama tried to do this a year ago, the American people rose up and demanded that Congress take a vote and that Congress say no, and Obama backed out. So, I think the support of the American people is very skin deep, and that if we, as a peace-loving people, do our job right now in getting out there and making some noise, we can actually have an impact in stopping the U.S. from getting into Syria and, I think, in stopping the U.S. from this insane, never-ending war.”
The never-ending nature of such military adventures is compounded by their utter futility, according to Phyllis Bennis, director of the Project for a New Internationalism at the Institute for Policy Studies. “This was a speech set in a vortex of solutions,” Ms. Bennis told The Final Call. “Despite what President Obama has said, we all know there is no military solution.
“Calling it something other than a war doesn’t change the fact that it is a war, and we know that wars don’t work to stamp out terrorism. In fact it will make it worse, partly because it’s going to encourage more Iraqi Sunnis to believe that the U. S. is acting as the air force for the Shia and the Kurds against them—against the Sunnis,” Ms. Bennis continued.
“And they are therefore going to look to ISIS as their protector, not because they’re right, not because they agree with them, but rather because Iraq’s Shia dominated government has never done right by them.
“That’s the lesson of Afghanistan in the 1980s. You can’t create a viable military that can stand up to a powerful militia that has a lot of support, that is fighting with U.S. provided weapons.” President Obama would have done better had he said, “I tell you tonight, my fellow Americans, that the intelligence agencies have confirmed ISIS does not provide a threat to the United States. Period. Stop,” Ms. Bennis said.
Others agree that there are other important issues which should command more national attention. “ISIS is not the only problem facing America,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement. “The Republicans cannot continue to ignore youth unemployment at 20 percent, the starvation federal minimum wage of $7.25, the unaffordable cost of college education, the planetary crisis of global warming, and the massive wealth and income inequality which exists in our country.”
Diplomats from around the world met in Paris, France September 15 pledging to support the fight against the Islamic State. Leaders from more than 20 nations met with Sec. Kerry for high-level discussions. The reported beheading of British aid worker David Haines—the third in recent weeks—has added increased urgency to the formation of this supposed “broad-based coalition” that aims to neutralize the threat.
French president Francois Hollande, who hosted the leaders, is very unpopular at present. A recent poll showed nearly 62 percent of voters want him to resign. In Baghdad, Iraq on September 12 during a one-day visit, Pres. Hollande announced that France would provide even more support in the fight against ISIS. It is unclear right now how much his outspokenness and support for military action will help him at home. His term is up in 2017.
According to The Guardian, the conference participants were Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Arab League, European Union and theUnited Nations.
“They all expressed their commitment to the unity, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of Iraq. They welcomed the formation of a new government under the authority of the Prime Minister, Mr. Haïdar al-Abadi, and offered him their full support to strengthen the rule of law, implement a policy of inclusiveness, and ensure that all components are fairly represented within the federal institutions and all citizens are treated equally,” said a statement released after the Sept. 15 talks.
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