Iraq

Against Another Pointless War

Searching the world for monsters to destroy will only end up destroying us.

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Thomas Hartwell/Wikimedia

As we watch the collapsing government in Baghdad surrounded by a highly disciplined and serious force of Sunni-oriented fighters that has taken control of the most populous third of the country, we must, in John Adams' words, resist the temptation to slay the world's monsters. This time around, the monsters are the Sunni—who ran the government of Iraq in the Saddam Hussein years and who are the ancient and persistent enemy of the Shia, who run the government today.

The political and military force that is aiming at Iraq's capital calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Its fighting force consists of about 8,000 men, yet it has marched through Iraq quickly. Last week, as ISIS forces approached the capital, a half-million Iraqi civilians got out of their way and tens of thousands of Iraqi security forces dropped their American military gear and Iraqi military uniforms and fled. The Iraqi army—which the U.S. decimated 10 years ago—cannot defend the current Iraqi government, which is as corrupt, authoritarian, anti-democratic, and untrustworthy as Saddam's was, yet far less competent.

There is a lesson in this, and it reveals the power of religious fanaticism when resisted by unprincipled political force. ISIS fighters are motivated by a hatred of American invaders and their Iraqi defenders and an embrace of fundamental Sharia principles, which are anathema to Judeo-Christian principles. These ISIS fighters truly are monsters—they have crucified and decapitated deserters, traitors, captives, recalcitrants, Christians, and Jews—and many Iraqi soldiers would rather join or walk away from them than resist them. The U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers by and large view themselves as defending a temporary and inconsequential government. The ISIS fighters view themselves as being on a triumphal crusade.

Complicating this is the affiliation that many of the political forces in ISIS have with the rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. And adding to the politics-makes-strange-bedfellows aura of this mess is the offer of the Quds fighters from Iran's Revolutionary Guard—which the State Department considers to be a terrorist organization—to help defend Baghdad, relying on American air power to assist it. It is almost inconceivable that we could fight side-by-side, or bombs protecting boots, with the aspect of the government of Iran that both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have characterized as anathema to U.S. interests, and that has sworn to destroy Israel.

Hence, Obama's dilemma is daunting. He is on record as saying that the war in Iraq was "dumb"; that the government there is secure and its forces are well-trained; that the rebels fighting Assad are freedom fighters who deserve American military support; and that the American troops he brought home from Iraq are not returning on his watch.

Should he send troops back to Iraq to defend the government we installed when we toppled Saddam? Should American lives and tax dollars be spent in another pointless effort to bring democracy to a culture that has persistently rejected it? Should we take sides using our military in what is essentially an ancient religious civil war? Is the national security of the U.S. even remotely affected by the outcome of the current Iraqi civil war?

Since Bush persuaded Congress and the American people in 2003 that an appropriate response to 9/11 somehow was an invasion of Iraq, that country's stability has been undermined by the U.S., and it is now ripe for the sectarian violence that is devouring it. The stated purpose of the Iraq war was to root out weapons of mass destruction, which we now know did not exist there. Then the stated purpose became regime change, because Saddam tried to kill the elder President Bush. The other stated purpose of the war was our thoughtless embrace of the fanciful Bush doctrine, which was basically the rebranding of the discredited Wilsonian nonsense that we can use force to spread democracy.

That, too, failed profoundly. In the process, 5,000 Americans died; 45,000 Americans were injured; 650,000 Iraqis died; 2,000,000 Iraqis fled the country; a half-trillion dollars in Iraqi assets were destroyed; and we borrowed a trillion dollars to invade and occupy Iraq (and another trillion to invade and occupy Afghanistan), which we still owe to the people who loaned it to us. Al-Qaida, which was not present in Iraq before 2003, is now openly there along with ISIS, its sister organization that is about to conquer the most politically important parts of the country.

America is no safer because of the Iraq war, but we are weaker. Our relationships among the people in the Middle East are far less sanguine, we have planted three generations' worth of hatred, distrust, and lust for vengeance among Middle Eastern youth, and we have a crushing war debt. We also have American cash and military hardware, including expensive and lethal Stinger missiles, now in the hands of ISIS. 

We are witnessing the contemporary incarnation of the old Sunni/Shia/Kurd rivalry that has persisted in what is today called Iraq for 1,000 years, and will persist until the country returns to its pre-modern sectarian borders and each ancient group has its own land.

There is no bona fide American national security interest in jeopardy because of the persistent Iraqi civil war, and we have no lawful right to choose a side and assist it militarily. But the American military-industrial-neocon complex wants more war. We must resist them. We should gather all Americans in Iraq, take what moveable wealth is ours and come home—and stop searching the world for monsters to destroy, as that will end up destroying us.

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  1. “John Adams”

    That would be John *Quincy* Adams –

    https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/jqadams.htm

    “It is almost inconceivable that we could fight side-by-side, or bombs protecting boots, with the [Revolutionary Guard]”

    And since they’re a designated terrorist organization, a private person who fought “side-by-side” with them would be guilty of aiding terrorists and might even go to prison.

    1. You beat me to it! Although JQA made those comments as Secretary of State, there’s a name for presidents who avoid unnecessary wars: one termers.

  2. Last week, as ISIS forces approached the capital, a half-million Iraqi civilians got out of their way and tens of thousands of Iraqi security forces dropped their American military gear and Iraqi military uniforms and fled.

    Sounds like they were greeted as liberators.

    1. Asymmetric Shock and Awe.

  3. But the American military-industrial-neocon complex wants more war.

    Scapegoating for democracy and American voters.

  4. “”””Searching the world for monsters to destroy”””

    And finding out that its monsters all the way down.

    “”””will persist until the country returns to its pre-modern sectarian borders and each ancient group has its own land.”””

    It will have to go way back since the place has been part of various empires most of its written history. The British and French get a lot of blame but they were just following the example of the Ottoman Empire and it all goes way back before the Ottomans.

    1. Anyone who follows the example of the Ottomans should understand that what the Ottomans did was only possible because they were ruthless and barbaric.

      The Brits were just clueless and couldn’t have cared much less when they drew the borders after WW1.

      1. Anyone who follows the example of the Ottomans should understand that what the Ottomans did was only possible because they were ruthless and barbaric.

        When my biggest criticism of a post amounts to “I would have said brutal,” I suppose I should just agree, huh?

        I’ve been saying since the 2nd Gulf War build-up that if we were going to do this, we need to make an agreement with the Turks to just keep going until we meet up with them, then back out again like a Sunday drive. Afterwards we just tell the Muslim world that if anyone else cares to join Ottoman II, we’ll be happy to help.

        1. Barbruthless.

  5. Judge, John Bolton would like to have a few words with you.

    1. All John Bolton can do any more is froth at the mouth.

  6. Doin’ Right Ain’t Got No End.

    1. “They were decently treated. They were decently fed, then they were decently shot.”

  7. Oliver North is making it known he’s ready to help.

  8. If Iran is afraid of this, and has the military force to keep it out of its borders shouldn’t we allow them to take over Iraq? The thing that kept Iran in check for decades was another equal power neighboring it and if they are opposed to having the militants next door then maybe that’s a good thing.
    It sucks for the Iraquis who just wanted to be left the fuck alone but the Judge is right there will always be monsters to slay plenty to worry about in our own borders

  9. Searching the world for monsters to destroy

    Start with the government-sector monsters created by the War on Drugs.

  10. We’ve been this way ever since Wilson, and probably before that to a lesser degree.

    Face it, people. We’ve only fought one righteous war in the last two centuries yet the warmongers keep getting elected. That tells me that a majority of Americans, same as their brethren from other developed countries, love the measure their dicks by slaughtering people in shitholes that pose no threat whatsoever to their security.

    1. slaughtering people in shitholes that pose no threat

      “Doing nothing is not an option.”
      “We cannot stand idly by as innocent ….”
      “The world’s only superpower.”
      “Humanitarian crisis.”

      Did I forget anything?

      1. “All options are on the table.”

      2. “They’re fueling terrorism.”

        “[fill in the blank leader] is evil.”

        “Disrupt the world’s oil supply.”

        “Haven for terrorists.”

        “They hate freedom.”

      3. “If we don’t attack them there, they’ll attack us here.”

      4. What ever happened to: “We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away to to a job Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves” or something like that?

        Of course, he took us full-bore into the war anyway.

      5. “Pacifism is pro-Fascism”

    2. I remember my stepfather cheering, literally, when CNN broadcasted bombs being dropped on Baghdad.

      Team USA!

      Fuck yeah!

      We kick ass!

      People treat war like it’s sports or something. Then again, I never got into sports either.

      1. They do loves them some ‘splosions. Zowie!

        1. That’s why, we’re I ever elected president, I’d nominate Michael Bay for SecDef. And I’d order him to blow up the moon.

          1. Yes! Keep nuking it until it’s literally blasted apart!

            *** pumps fist ***

      2. Ahh, yes. I was staying with some military friends when the invasion started. It was exactly like watching the Super Bowl had been a month earlier, except without the buffalo wings and seven-layer dip.

        I sure don’t miss the Armchair Chickenhawk Cocksmoking Warrior Commentary on the Internet either: Only a simple-minded buffoon would mistake the bomb that destroyed that marketplace for a Raytheon WidgetX 200-Z series. If you knew everything about every weapon ever made, like I did (excuse me while I’m away from my keyboard to polish my extensive collection of Franklin Mint samurai swords and microwave about 10 Hot Pockets upstairs in Mom’s kitchen), you would have recognized that as a Pierce-Graham series 18-44XmT-6 antipersonnel land mine. Hmph, as any kindergartener might.

        Seriously, anybody who wants to go back to that Allah-bothering desert shithole is perfectly free to do so. Pack your bags, and pay for your trip your damned self.

  11. Doesn’t the ISIS takeover and concentration of certain areas make it easier to fight them without collateral damage, especially since they are relatively few in number overall? This is where if the US did not have ITAR and many other regulations and laws forbidding private international action, a free market could provide a viable solution.

    1. They’re not just driving away the local government. They’re replacing it. They’re the police now. They are who the people call when they need help. And many of the people like it that way. I don’t believe the people want democracy. That’s not in their culture. They want a brutal dictatorship. And they’re going to get one.

      1. I don’t believe the people want democracy. That’s not in their culture.

        *** rising intonation ***

        What about all those ink-stained fingers?

      2. See also: Hamas

      3. I don’t believe the people want democracy. That’s not in their culture. They want a brutal dictatorship.

        As long as the dictator is one of their guys. Otherwise, they want democracy.

      4. Oh I fully understand ISIS’s intent on establishing a theocratic state. But that’s what I meant, with the would-be government tyrants and those who join them as target of mercenary action. Restitution for all the individuals decapitated, crucified, and the many more who have fled or reluctantly acquiesce (or face death). There would be also be a robust arms trade to help individuals and groups affected. Maybe the natives with the help of foreign private efforts wouldn’t have to flee anymore.

        (Actually this kind of arms deregulation, nullifying treaties, and defunding of world policing would also require a sort of revolution on the US side beforehand)

      5. They’re not just driving away the local government. They’re replacing it. They’re the police now.

        They’re managing infrastructure and capturing oil wells for profits. They watched the footage and copied the playbook while the West was on the field.

        It’s like they saw why the US strategy wasn’t working and the lightbulb went on.

    2. Seriously
      i like the word Private international action as the pc term for mercs

  12. Ware’s teh lynx?

    1. Oh good, it’s not just me. This place is going to hell in a handbasket.

      1. Unlike you, we’re not precogs.

      2. *** rubs eyes, clicks heels together ***

        I can see ’em, Fist! I SEE THEM!!

  13. Fist is gonna boycott unless there’s links! WHO’S WITH HIM???

    1. Road promises its his last post evah!

  14. Did I forget anything?

    NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE

  15. Resisting the Temptation to Slay the World’s Monsters

    Finn has a sad.

    1. Come along with me, with the butterflies and bees…

      1. *fistbump*

        1. +1 MATHMATICAL!!!

  16. “The Iraqi army?which the U.S. decimated 10 years ago?cannot defend the current Iraqi government”,

    Cannot or will not? I find it hard to believe a competent professional army cannot be created in ten years time with the help of U.S. advisors. Plenty of citizen armies (U.S. WWII) have been created in far less time. So did the U.S. trainers screw up or don’t the Iraqis give a crap about fighting off ISIL or terrorists?

    1. The Iraqis are cowards. The only way they’ll ever be a coherent fighting force is if the threat from the rear (their own officers) is greater than the threat to their front. For the most part, there is no sense of National unity and “Iraq” is just some meaningless lines on a map drawn by someone else.

  17. I don’t always agree with everything the Judge says, but his articles are always well written and informative. I totally agree with him regarding his comments in this article. He is absolutely correct in his assessment of the situation in Iraq as being a “contemporary incarnation of the old Sunni/Shia/Kurd rivalry” and everything related to that.

    I might add that this is NOT a Democrat, Republican, Liberal, and Conservative issue, or even a Libertarian one. It is a common sense issue, and the Judge’s remarks that the U.S. needs to stay out of this completely is right on target. However, we should not forget that all of our forces who fought there in the past, did so with honor and bravery of the highest order.

    1. And once one comprehends the welfare/warfare connection, the common sense continues to fill in pretty much all economic/monetary/fiscal issues outside of the mentioned partisanship. Unfortunately the warmongers rarely see the full welfare costs, nor do the welfarists note the brutality (foreign and domestic) necessary for its aims.

      1. The common denominator is altruism–the idea that you are morally obligated to be your brother’s keeper–and that brother is anyone besides yourself.

        In foreign policy a wealthy country with a strong military is morally compelled to fight, not for the rights or interest of its citizens, but for the supposed rights and interest of citizens in other countries. In Iraqi’s case Bush justified the war so that citizens of that barbaric country would have the “right” to vote the dictator of their choice. Our defenders–our military is sacrificed for such nonsense.

        In domestic policy one class of people–the middle class/upper middle class–are told since they are more productive and frugal than most, they are morally obligated to provide for the needs of others–their health care, retirement funds, education, housing etc., etc. The productive, frugal, and hardworking thus morally give up their individual rights, not because they are bad, but because they are good and productive people.

        Altruism is used to justify wars, redistribution of wealth from the productive to the non-productive, collectivism, dictatorships, and mass killing. It is root of most evils and injustice we see today.

        1. Horseshit. They may TRY to justify it as altruism but it’s really arrogance, vanity, superiority and a sense of entitlement.

          True altruism doesn’t ask for credit, doesn’t accept a Nobel Peace Prize it hasn’t earned and doesn’t use force to compel others to help others.

          There is no altruism in government. It’s all force.

    2. Even those serving our country at Abu Ghraib?

      1. The Last American Hero

        Obviously NOT those who did what they did at Abu Ghraib prison. That speaks for itself. Unfortunately, they did a good job at smearing the reputations of all those good men and women who served in Iraq.

        I doubt your comment is a question, but rather a statement posing as a question. Have a nice day.

    3. A common sense issue IS a Libertarian issue.

      1. Brandon Magoon,

        Yes of course it is a Libertarian trait also. However, Libertarians don’t have a monopoly on it anymore than the other political movements and parties. In fact, a lot of Libertarian beliefs make no sense at all, at least no more or less than the beliefs of other parties and movements. However, my point was that not going back into Iraq is NOT a political issue as such, but an American issue. It should be a concern of ALL Americans regardless of party.

  18. AFAIK, the Ottoman Turks were perfectly happy to let these idiots keep killing each other in petty tribal and sectarian squabbles so long as the taxes and troop levies kept flowing to Constantinople.

    There’s no winning scenario in this for the USA.

    1. You mean “flowing into Istanbul” don’t you? Anyway, the Ottoman Empire is gone. It had its place in the sun while it lasted.

    2. The only winning move is not to play.

  19. “These ISIS fighters truly are monsters?they have crucified and decapitated deserters, traitors, captives, recalcitrants, Christians, and Jews?and many Iraqi soldiers would rather join or walk away from them than resist them. The U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers by and large view themselves as defending a temporary and inconsequential government. The ISIS fighters view themselves as being on a triumphal crusade.”

    This “crusade” will not stop with Iraq. Like it or not, sometimes you’ve got to slay the dragon before it grows into something you can’t control.

    And Judge, you should refrain from using terms like “American military-industrial-neocon complex”. It just sounds like something that would come from a flea-bitten OWS protester, and there really is no political partisanship when it comes to business. I guess the “American Automotive-industrial-neoprogressive complex” just doesn’t grab people’s attention the same way that “American military-industrial-neocon complex” does, even though it kills way more people.

    1. Derptastic!

    2. I’ll need a citation that this fight is going to spill over to U.S. soil.

    3. ISIS may at one point achieve country size, but with that comes the limitations of government and governing through a theocracy and a bloody brutal one at that, Iran will keep them in check because they are of the opposing tribe of Islam we literally need to do noting and this situation will sort itself out.
      Too bad they didn’t fight for their freedom or nation, fucking cowards deserve whatever happens to them at this point. only a news report of 3 men who stood up and fought against them in the beginnning of this and i thought that more would stand up to evil…it feels like such a waste to have lost friends there this is fucking depressing as fuck

      1. Yes, it is. An old friend of mine died there by way of roadside bomb. And for what? Not to emote, but I feel cheated by having my buddy die for no good goddamn purpose.

        I was a typical numb minded Republican/American imperialist in my early twenties at the outbreak of the Iraq war. I cheered along with the rest while watching Shock and Awe on the television. It took some explaining from my Marine older brother to understand how futile trying to nation build in Iraq would be. “Iraq isn’t a nation that’s interested in getting along with itself.” That simple statement of his began to eat away at the wall of my faulty reasoning and hypocrisy on the issue.

        1. Erasmus vs. Luther,

          And don’t forget that Iraq is a country that the British invented after World War I. Jordan is another country the British invented after World War I. The British replaced the Ottoman Turks as masters of the Middle East, and the U.S. replaced the British.

      2. Nonsense. Iran is the biggest state-sponsor of terrorism on the planet. They had no problem supplying sunni insurgents with explosively-formed penetrators and other weaponry during OIF, and they had no problem using the opportunity to directly engage Coalition forces. They’ll end up being Iran’s Trunk Monkey in exchange for a lack of Iranian intervention.

    4. Anon E. Mouse,

      All the Judge is saying is that the U.S. will NOT benefit by getting re involved in Iraq. In any event, Islamist/ Jihadists have attempted to take over governments elsewhere in the Muslim world and ultimately failed. This happened in Algeria where they lost, and also in Egypt recently. The U.S. did not send troops into those countries.

    5. you can’t control.

      See, now, that’s where you go off the rails. Nobody who makes this case ever seems to competently explain why we need to “control” people who are not attacking us. There is no need or right to control people just because they live differently, might hate us, and hold vastly different views than us.

      If ISIS someday tries to attack the U.S., then I say, freely stomp the shit out of them. Nuke and pave them. Don’t put them in Gitmo; don’t care about their pweshus widdle feelings or their Qu’ran or their voting rights or their burkas or their children…just bomb them until they’re a smoking crater.

      But until they attack the U.S., or credibly start plotting such an attack, the only duty to “control” them comes from Iraqis.

    6. Like it or not, sometimes you’ve got to slay the dragon before it grows into something you can’t control.

      We have nukes and highly capable delivery mechanisms. If ISIS starts developing long-range ICBMs and acquiring nuclear weapons, which is the line past which they’re untouchable, then we act.

  20. We don’t have to go “searching for monsters”, they have always been out there, and always will be. That’s part of the problem. Those on the left-for the most part-don’t seem to believe in monsters. They seem to think those that enjoy wrecking terror and havoc were forced to by their condition, or the fact that someone else has more than they do. The left never considers the alternative-that they enjoy it. That’s why they’re monsters.

    1. They certainly believe in monsters. Racists, homophobes, tea partiers, just to name a few, are all monsters to the contemporary American left.

  21. The Hefty Left believes in monsters the same as The Righteous Right. Remember LBJ and Vietnam? Remember Clinton and the Bosnian crisis? Remember Clinton invading Haiti? This is NOT a left-right issue. It is an American Imperial issue pushed by both the right and left. Each creates its own monsters.

    1. I don’t think many here disagree with you.

  22. We should gather all Americans in Iraq

    Took me a bit to realize “in” meant “who are in”, rather than “into”.

  23. We don’t need to ‘search the world’, they come eagerly to our gates.
    The only question is do we have the will to smite them?

  24. Do not attempt to slay the monster, lest ye wish to become a monster.

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