Thursday, May 28, 2015

Something Else to Know - 28 May

From the Albany (California) News Bureau - this just in.   This column from the San Francisco Chronicle really gets to the nitty-gritty of the bottom line of Iraq and our involvement.  This is a compelling narrative of why we should just be honest and throw in the towel.  Are we mature and adult enough to admit that there is nothing we can do to help a helpless situation?   Let's fix what is wrong within our own borders, and quit trying to support a failed state that was created after World War I.


Stand and fight, noble patriots, or maybe not

By Jon Carroll

May 28, 2015

As you may be aware, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the performance of the Iraqi troops at the recent battle of Ramadi was disappointing in the extreme. The troops had "vastly outnumbered" the forces from the Islamic State, yet they had still "showed no will to fight" and had fled the battle rather than engaging the enemy.

Joe Biden called the president of Iraq the next day, saying of course the Iraqi troops were brave and the United States honored the blah blah blah. It does seem, however, that Carter was telling the truth as he saw it.

Which fits right into a persistent American narrative, reinforced by a century's worth of filmmaking, that the little brown men of foreign lands will have no stomach for a fight and will say "Ai-yee" while putting their hands to their cheeks. Then they will hide in a rain barrel.

So hard to get good help when you're fighting a war.

But suppose it's true that the Iraqi troops did cut and run after encountering the Islamic State. Can we think of any reasons why that might be so?

Well, let's see. They were fighting for a corrupt and lackadaisical government, a puppet state kept alive by American money and American guns. Recent events have forced the Shiite government to be more inclusive, but nobody takes that seriously except American spin doctors.

Nor do the soldiers have any large popular support. According to interviews, some citizens can't seem to figure out which side is worse. They're both terrible: The Islamic State is killing indiscriminately and knocking down treasured landmarks. The Americans have bombed indiscriminately (they tried not to, but fog of war and all that), have locked up ordinary Iraqis in torture camps, and, worst of all, they've kept losing.

Did I mention that the Americans disbanded the old Iraqi army? All of them Sunnis, a lot of them Baathists, gone now. So any kind of esprit de corps, any invocations of a proud military tradition, were impossible. The new recruits were essentially agents of a foreign expeditionary force preying on their nation.

Our soldiers paid a price for that. Kids, mostly poor kids, who saw an opportunity for employment and advancement and stability were force-fed a toxic combination of patriotism and adrenaline and told that they were protecting their country, which was not true. They were betrayed by their leaders over and over, to our shame — and to the great sorrow of the Iraqi people.

So we ask why, in 2015, Iraqi soldiers may not want to die for their government. Perhaps they weren't cowardly so much as calculating. Perhaps they reached the same conclusion that we might: On the one hand, die on the battlefield or be captured by the Islamic State; on the other hand, try to find safe harbor and protect your family. Neither choice is great, but only one offers the continuing opportunity to keep breathing.

What we're doing in Iraq now is pointless, a series of political calculations. We're losing. We're wasting money and lives. The Islamic State is terrorizing the countryside. It would seem like, sometime around now, the world would become more upset about the Islamic State than it is about the other stuff, and some kind of coalition could be formed.

And we'd have to put those boots on the ground, and let's all find a different phrase for that concept. We'd have to fight a war of territory, just like World War II, and we're pretty darned good at that. We might be able to defeat the Islamic State and take back the land they've grabbed.

Or we could let it go. The Islamic State is now approaching the natural limits of its hegemony. It is boxed in by powerful nations. Shiite Iran isn't going to take any lip from some jumped-up Islamic State thugs, no matter how good their social media strategy. Turkey is a NATO country and has a formidable army. Jordan has many friends worldwide, and Israel has nukes and a bellicose government.

And we have done nothing but harm over there. The Western powers broke the Middle East up into fiefdoms at the end of World War I. They stole a whole lot of oil and supported sundry friendly dictators. It's still happening; we're selling arms to the current butchers in charge of Egypt. Egypt is fighting with our buddies the Saudis in Yemen against an Islamic State offshoot. We're all friends here; just don't ask about human rights.

So we get in or we stay out. We do anything other than what we're currently doing. Sen. John McCain is right about that; current policies are constrained by a conscientious search for peace and an equally conscientious effort to make the military ever larger, ever stronger.

That's the mixed message we're sending. That's the mixed message that the soldiers in the new Iraqi army are facing. Nobody worth fighting for; maybe it's still time to plant crops, or find a way to Lebanon. Honor has nothing to do with it.

"They all quarrel so dreadfully one can't hear oneself speak — and they don't seem to


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