Iraq on the Brink of Civil War, Again—U.S. Troops Could Return Any Time

AUMF still in effect


Earlier this week, fighters from the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) overran Mosul, taking over the international airport there, provincial government offices, and army facilities. About 500,000 residents fled the city, and the insurgents now have control of most of Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the seat. The militants arrived at Mosul from Fallujah, which they seized at the beginning of the year, taking control then also of much of the Anbar province.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged to drive the terrorists out of Mosul; a similar pledge about driving them out of Fallujah in January came to nothing. Maliki has also renewed calls for U.S. involvement in the fighting, apparently requesting a U.S. airstrike last month. Like his government's calls earlier in the year to secure a U.S. intervention in Iraq, nothing came of them. Nevertheless, the U.S. has been providing military assistance, if not outright intervention, since at least January, sending military equipment such as Hellfire missiles and surveillance drones to help Iraq's counterinsurgency efforts.

While the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent occupation played a definitive role in creating the space for Al Qaeda to establish itself in the country, as U.S. interventions often do, Maliki, with the help of the U.S. and on his own, has also contributed to the problem. Re-elected in parliamentary elections in April, Maliki has been unable as of yet to form a new government. In power for more than eight years, Maliki embarked on a campaign to crack down on his political opponents the moment the U.S. withdrew the last of its combat troops in 2011. In his book Indispensable Nation, Vali Nasr suggested Maliki may have believed he got a green light from President Obama about turning the state's apparatus on his political opponents when the president did not appear to respond negatively when Maliki expressed the idea to him. A warrant for the arrest of Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, was issued the day after U.S. troops left—he was eventually sentenced to death in abstenia. Given U.S. disengagement in Iraq, there's little indication a negative response from Obama would've made a difference in the situation.

Either way, under Maliki Iraq's government has become a kind of pale knock-off of Saddam Hussein's regime. His government has been accused of a slew of human rights abuses, including rape, torture, and executions. And despite the assertions of the Bush Administration, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was not linked to Al Qaeda. Today's Iraqi government, however, is in a death-struggle with the Al Qaeda-linked militants overrunning the country.

This year's dramatic gains by ISIS would have been much more difficult to achieve without years of political dysfunction in Iraq, including fights over oil- and power-sharing. When ISIS and other Al Qaeda linked groups threatened to push Iraq over the brink and into a civil war during the U.S. occupation, American military leaders focused on the so-called Anbar awakening. That strategy rested on the idea that engaging disaffected Sunnis in the local governing process would rob Al Qaeda-linked groups of the popular base they needed to continue operating. It worked, creating the conditions that allowed the U.S. to negotiate a withdrawal from Iraq.

Now U.S. military leaders have not ruled out new intervention in Iraq. In January, Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno, formerly a commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, would not rule out eventually putting boots back on the ground in Iraq, saying while it was not yet time the U.S. ought to take a "wait and see" approach. Because the 2002 congressional authorization of the use of military force (AUMF) in Iraq has not yet been rescinded, the Obama Administration could conceivably commit troops to Iraq without any new authorization. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) submitted a bill to repeal the AUMF this January, but it has remained unacted upon by the Democrat-controlled Senate.

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  1. Ah, Nation Building!

    1. “Nation Building” actually worked out pretty well in places like post-WWII Western Europe and Japan, and South Korea. The problem is that it requires a long-term commitment and a focus on strategy, instead of the next reelection campaign.

      1. The problem was the idea of invading Iraq in the first place, ignoring even this latest event, the country has been facing one calamity after another. Just admit you were wrong, the Iraq war was a great strategic blunder since the start, it was not driven by strategy but merely the thirst for vengeance that you and so many others were driven by.

      2. Anon E. Mouse,

        The places you mention are very different from Iraq. None of them are Muslim. Western Europe, Japan, and South Korea have very different collective national mentalities than Iraq.

        1. And the South Korea we supported was a military dictatorship until the 1980s. It took them a long time to turn into a more Western-style government…they had several coups first. Had we just turned it over to a popular vote after a couple of years, like in Iraq, South Korea probably would have collapsed.

          In Japan, we forced their emperor to renounce his status as a god and we had to write their constitution for them.

          Germany was more like us culturally, and they were scared shitless of the Russians so they were inclined to work with us rather than become another part of Stalin’s expanding empire.

          And all of this stuff took decades. We’re *still* positioning military in all of those countries. Places like Iraq and Afghanistan just aren’t worth the effort it would take to do successful nation-building.

  2. “The problem is that it requires a long-term commitment and a focus on strategy, instead of the next reelection campaign.”

    That, plus a reason for going in in the first place, which we also had post-WWII.

    Iraq, not so much.

    1. Once the decision was made to go to war, there should have been a plan to make it worthwhile, regardless of the reasons for going to war.

      1. “there should have been a plan to make it worthwhile, regardless of the reasons for going to war”

        What if there wasn’t one? What if there was literally no way to make it worthwhile?

        Signed, a former Marine who served in Iraq

        1. Thanks for serving our country. Too bad you and other good men had to deal with that place in all the ways you did. But you obeyed the orders of the civilian leaders and did they best you could under the circumstances. Thanks again.

  3. The United States should never have invaded Iraq in the first place. All we accomplished there was to ruin the good health (mentally and physically) of a lot of good Americans. Any thoughts of going back there is insane. However, with some of the mediocre generals we have, nothing would surprise me.

    Had we not invaded that stink hole, arm pit place in 2003, the dictator would have been overthrown by his own people anyway. All we did by being their is make things worse. The asshole jihadists are a byproduct of our presence. They know that the current government is nothing but a puppet of the U.S.

    Iraq is a perfect example of how the U.S. has fucked things up in the “Fertile Crescent” to the extent that the entire place is almost beyond repair. It was always fucked up but we made it worse. Americans can all thank Bush and Cheney for this. Meglomaniacs who thought they military geniuses on a mission for God. What a pile of shit they put us in.

    1. All we accomplished there was to ruin the good health (mentally and physically) of a lot of good Americans.

      If his head were still attached to his shoulders, Saddam Hussein might disagree.

      1. Most expensive head ever!

  4. “Vali Nasr suggested Maliki may have believed he got a green light from President Obama about turning the state’s apparatus on his political opponents when the president did not appear to respond negatively when Maliki expressed the idea to him.”

    Of course he didn’t respond negatively, Obama does the same thing.

    1. Haha…a horrible leader took his cues from another horrible leader and now he’s getting screwed as things fall down around his ears.

      That is pretty great. 🙂

      1. It is, it’s just a shame that the people in Iraq, our troops, and to a much lesser extent us (taxes), have to suffer the consequences.

        1. Yes, it is – it doesn’t take much imagination to envision the bloodbath that is going to take place there now.

          Think of all the blood and treasure that has been expended on that place – all the dead or maimed and crippled soldiers. All for nothing, all because some fuckwit in the White House wanted to declare the war over and bring the troops out so as to make himself look good for the next election.

          Oh yes, Bush is to blame for getting us into that war, and it was definitely an ill-advised one – especially at that point in time. But whatever bit of victory or accomplishment we enjoyed in Iraq has been thrown away by the current piece of crap in the White House. Easy to see just how much regard he has for our military men and women.

          1. Bush isn’t entirely to blame. In the years preceding, Clinton dropped more bombs on Iraq than we did during the “shock and awe” campaign during OIF.

            It was the Dems who insisted that both Clinton and Bush engage Iraq:

            “[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.”

            Letter to President Clinton, signed by:
            — Democratic Senators Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others, Oct. 9, 1998

            “There is no doubt that … Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.”
            Letter to President Bush, Signed by:
            — Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), and others, Dec 5, 2001

            1. Dude….you are fucking up the Meme.

              BUSH !!!!!!!!

  5. So we arm AQ in Syria and fight them in Iraq. Is this a strategy? Or just tactics. Or stupidity? Or malice?

    Simon’s Law:
    It is unwise to attribute to malice alone that which can be attributed to malice and stupidity.

  6. Now U.S. military leaders have not ruled out new intervention in Iraq

    No, you assclowns. Just fucking no.

    1. We broke it. We own it.

      But I agree the current assclown in chief is not up to the job.

      1. We broke it. We own it.


        Or is this actually GWB posting?

  7. A month ago Iraq asked America for help bomb the Islamics Do you know what Obama did Nothing yet he hasn’t gotten in touch yet but that’s ok Iraq will fall soon and Obama will smile as he plays golf!
    He held his first Islamic rose garden party when he set free the Terrorists!! Just a few days ago!

    The Poor girls from Africa who one merited a Hash Tag merit nothing now the But that is the story of deceit and lies of the past 6 years.

    Do any of you remember 2 ? years go when The white house said at that time. Iran They cant do it for couple of years!!! What you don’t understand is the time is just about up and yet Barrack did nothing yet it seems to be a pattern of some type!

    1. I hope English is not your first language or that you depended on a language translation utility.

  8. “Maliki may have believed he got a green light from President Obama about turning the state’s apparatus on his political opponents when the president did not appear to respond negatively when Maliki expressed the idea to him.”

    If I’m not mistaken that is how Saddam came to invade Kuwait, a misunderstanding with our then ambassador. If they want to send US troops back to Iraq, they’ll have to start a draft. The volunteer Army will revolt. If we were to go back in, we should go only with the intention of creating rubble, killing people and taking the oil. Nation building in a goat-fornicating mooslem country is so yesterday.

    1. “If they want to send US troops back to Iraq, they’ll have to start a draft. The volunteer Army will revolt.”

      Nonsense. If ordered to, the volunteer Military will pack its bags and go, with few complaints. Many of them feel they weren’t allowed to finish the job they started 10 years ago.

      1. Finish? Finish what? I wonder how the NSA you love so much didn’t see this coming.

        1. I’m sure that everyone with a fucking brain saw it coming.

          Let me explain how shit works, Junior: Intelligence Agencies collect intelligence. They pass it on to the customer; generally the DoD and its component services. It also gets passed to the President’s National Security Adviser, some members of Congress, and a few other people. THOSE people present the facts as known to the President along with some reasonable recommendations, and the FUCKING PRESIDENT has to choose a course-of-action.

          What DOES NOT happen, is that the Army or the NSA or whoever gets some intel, and then just puts some guys on an airplane to go handle it.

  9. Al Qaeda??? But…but… Al Qaeda’s core has been destroyed and the rest are on the run. It’s been defeated and Osama Bin Laden killed. We won in Iraq – our Glorious Leader, Obama, has said so!!! It’s why he declared the war over and brought the troops home!!! It’s why he was re-elected, for goodness sake!!! Is he not a great man? No one can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory the way Obama can.


    1. Reason has been agreeing for some time with Obama about this. al Qaeda and violent Islamists aren’t a threat they’ve bee saying. They also could give a damn about the holocaust these degenerates perpetrate wherever they go.

  10. That’s all they need more rapist in their country!

    1. Yea, and all we need is another fucking idiot that paints everybody with the same broad brush. Just so you’re aware, all branches of the military have a lower crime rate, and higher average education, than the population at large.

  11. ISIS is committing a Holocaust wherever it is in Iraq or Syria. We have got to destroy these degenerates.

    1. Why? That’s not our problem.

      1. Um, it is our problem. Just like it was our problem that Nazis were killing Jews and the Japanese were butchering people.

        Furthermore, Libertarians must stand up for liberty wherever and whenever, and a Holocaust going down ain’t liberty.

        These guys will also attack us if they’re able to build themselves a mini-state in the Middle East like they did in Afghanistan. You know, that’s how we got 9/11.

        1. Go there and fight if you think its all about saving liberty you coward, stop asking others to do your neocon dirty work.

          1. It’s got nothing to do with “saving liberty”, you fucking imbecile. It has everything to do with preventing an army of psychopathic sadists who think they’re doing “god’s work”, from taking over the Middle East and spreading like a cancer from there.

            1. i rec this

        2. Not even vaguely our problem. If the countries in that region feel threatened, they can deal with it.

          Libertarianism does NOT mean killing lots of people so that one dictator can substitute for another.

          1. Does Libertarianism include being blind to the second and third-order effects of seemingly distant events?

            1. Not. Our. Business.

              Substituting one dictator for another is not libertarian. The alternative of creating a free society there is up to them, not us. And they have no inclination to do so.

              1. I should mention, though, that if a dictator IS a threat to us, there’s no philosophical barrier to knocking him and his government off. That doesn’t take massive killing and invasion/occupation, but rather, a few well-placed bombs and missiles. There were approximately 200,000 people killed in our invasion/occupation of Iraq, and the same thing could have been accomplished with about 198,000 fewer deaths.

            2. Many Reason libertarians are exactly blind to the second and third-order effects of seemingly distant events.

              1. We lack the vision of Woodrow Wilson.

      2. Yea, because there’s no way they could ever get over here and attack us where we live….oh wait.

  12. Well, with Iraq in the danger zone, it looks like it’s time for Operation: Defend the Iraqi Nation (ODIN) so Barry can thwart those ISIS bastards.

  13. Freak’n Islam: We put up with this vicious filth at our peril.

  14. What in Blue Blazes are we helpless civilian smellvillian AmeriKKKans EVER gonna do if we let the goat-fuckers goat-fuck w/o Our Own Morally Superior USA Hoooray Government Almighty Military Supervisions of their Goat-Fucking?!?! Hunh?!?! HUNH?!?! ANSWER me that riddle, ye Smart Fellers & Fart Smellers, Ye?!?!?! WHOOOO will stand up to that them thar TERRORISTS?!?!?!

    1. WHOOO is gonna make darn SURE that they goat-fuck in the RIGHT, politically acceptasble, multi-culturally, ethnically sensitive way?!?! HUNH?!?!? If not you & me &n Government Almighty, then WHO?!?!? Guns & military might will make it ALL right, & any other thoughts are for PUSSIES & wusses!!!

      1. Again, this is why nobody takes Libertarianism seriously: There’s been a war going on for 1400 years between the civilized world (the West)and the uncivilized world (Islam), and you think it’s a fucking comedy, that it’s our fault they attack us, and that if we just leave them alone, the problem will solve itself.

        1. Reason biggest weakest is foreign policy. They don’t have a single expert writing for them. It’s just de facto non-interventionism pushed superficially day after day. It’s really ignorant and unserious.

        2. Straw man, that’s a severe fire hazard.

          Many libertarians (I am one) believe in absolutely destroying a government which attacks us directly or via a proxy. We also fervently believe that if we’re not attacked, we stay the fuck out and let countries (and their neighbors) sort things out for themselves. We further believe that, once the government is destroyed, putting the place back together is that country’s problem, not ours.

          Not all libertarians, in fact probably most, aren’t as blazingly stupid as Sheldon Richman.

          1. Hypothetically, there’s been a rash of violent home invasions in your neighborhood, and your neighbor’s home was just invaded. It’s carried out into the front yard, and you can plainly see that your friend and neighbor is getting the shit kicked out of him, and his wife is getting raped. You have not been directly attacked. Do you:

            A: Stand there with your hands in your pockets reciting “It’s not my problem.”?


            B: Hitch up your belt, grab your AR, and put an end to the assault, even if it means shooting someone?


            C: Go back to your football game and pretend that nothing’s happening?

            1. There’s a distinct difference between saving a human being’s life and one’s government meddling in the affairs of another country.

              Perhaps if Mohamed sees an ISIS militia member raping his neighbor’s wife, he will grab whatever he has and try to stop him.

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