Why Airstrikes in Iraq Are a Mistake
- 08/08/2014 by Linda Perry (WBAI)

A piece of political street art by Banksy. Photo: Ben Leto h/t commondreams.org
On Friday, the U.S. military launched airstrikes against Islamic State (Isis) targets in Iraq. They used drones and fighter jets. This is three years after U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq.

Thursday night President Obama gave a speech on Iraq "Today I authorized two operations in Iraq -- targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort..." 

Speaking of the Yazidis, Iraq religious minorities who fled a week ago to the top of a mountain, Mount Sinjar, to get away from militants below, Obama said, "When we have the capabilities to avoid a massacre, I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye. We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent an act of genocide."  

Obama made no mention of genocide in Syria or what many say is genocide in Palestine. His speech, which you can watch below, was solely on justification for intervention in Iraq, which he said was at the request of the Iraqi government. 

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby issued a statement announcing Friday's airstrike. He did not comment on the people on that mountain, only of U.S. personnel who may be in danger in the city of Erbil, the largest Christian city in Iraq.

"At approximately 6:45 a.m. EDT, the U.S. military conducted a targeted airstrike against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists.

Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil. ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where U.S. personnel are located.

The decision to strike was made by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief.

As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities."

Peter Van Buren with The Dissenter, Firedoglake, says going into Iraq is a terrible mistake:  

"As America goes back to war in Iraq with airstrikes, here’s what to know and do instead:

– This is a slippery slope if those words have any meaning left. Airstrikes are in part to protect American advisors sent earlier to Erbil to support Kurds there because Iraqi central government won’t. The U.S. is assuming the role of the de facto Iraqi Air Force. What happens next week, next crisis, next “genocide?” Tell me how that ends.

– Understand how deep the U.S. is already in. It is highly likely that U.S. Special Forces are active on the ground, conducting reconnaissance missions and laser-designating targets for circling U.S. aircraft. If U.S. planes are overhead, U.S. search and rescue assets are not far away, perhaps in desert forward operating positions. This is how bigger wars begin. Go Google “Vietnam War,” say starting about 1963.

– The U.S. media is playing the meme that the U.S. is worried about Christian minority in Iraq, as a way to engorge the American people with blood. But the media fails to note that over half of Iraq’s Christians were killed or fled during the U.S. occupation.

– The only realistic hope to derail ISIS is to alienate them from Iraq Sunnis, who provide the on-the-ground support any insurgency must have to succeed. Mao called a sympathetic population “the water the fish swims in.” Separating the people from the insurgents is CounterInsurgency 101. Instead, via airstrikes, the U.S. has gone all-in on side of Iraqi Shias and Kurds. You cannot bomb away a political movement. You cannot kill an idea that motivates millions of people with a Hellfire missile.

– Sunnis are not confined by the borders of Iraq and this is not a chessboard. U.S. actions toward Sunnis in Iraq (or Syria, or wherever) resonate throughout the Sunni world. There is no better recruitment tool for Sunni extremists than showing their fight is actually against the Americans.

– Throughout the broader Islamic world, the takeaway is that again the U.S. unleashes war against Muslims. Nothing can inspire jihad like seeing the struggle in Iraq as one against the Crusaders.

– Precise, Surgical Strikes: Sure, just ask those wedding parties in Yemen and Afghanistan how that has worked out.

– ISIS’ connections to al Qaeda are tenuous at present. However, just like when Sunnis felt threatened during the U.S. occupation, fear and military needs will inevitably drive them closer to al Qaeda.

– Irony: Back to the Future: U.S. airstrikes on Iraq are being launched from an aircraft carrier named after George H.W. Bush, who first involved the U.S. in a shooting war against Iraq in 1991′s Desert Storm.

– Air strikes will not resolve anything significant. The short answer is through nine years of war and occupation U.S. air power in Iraq, employed on an unfettered scale, combined with the full-weight of the U.S. military on the ground plus billions of dollars in reconstruction funds, failed to resolve the issues now playing out in Iraq. Why would anyone think a lesser series of strikes would work any better? We also have a recent Iraqi example of the pointlessness of air strikes. The Maliki government employed them with great vigor against Sunnis in western Iraq, including in Fallujah, only six months ago, and here we are again, with an even more powerful Sunni force in the field.

– Oh, but what should we do?!?!? The U.S. lost the war in Iraq years ago, probably as early as 2003. It is time to accept that.

Step One: Stop digging the hole deeper (see above, Sunni-Shia-Kurd problem;

Step Two: 2: Demand the Iraqi government stop persecuting and alienating their own Sunni population, the root of these insurgent problems;

Step Three: Demand the Saudis and others stop funding ISIS in hopes of choking back their strength;

Step Four: Demand the Iraqi government launch airstrikes in support of the Kurds as a show of support;

Step Five: Deliver humanitarian aid only through the UN and the Red Crescent. In Vietnam, this mistake was colloquially expressed as “F*ck ‘em, then Feed ‘em.” So instead, divorce the good U.S. stuff from the bad U.S. stuff.

Those things will be a good start. Airstrikes are a terrible start that begs a tragic finish.

Be sure to also see Ten Reasons Airstrikes in Iraq are a Terrible Idea."


Peter Van Buren is a former Foreign Service officer at the Department of State and author most recently of Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent.

Here is President Obama's speech on Iraq: 

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