Thursday, September 18, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, September 18, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, John Kerry fails to give Barack his due credit, the Senate votes to arm thugs, Senator Rand Paul speaks out, and much more.

Yesterday in the US, the House of Representatives voted to approve funding for the training and arming of so-called 'rebels' in Syria.  Today it was the Senate's turn.

And they also passed funding more war and destruction and a 'plan' that just isn't there.

22 members of the Senate voted against it:

Senators Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Sanders,  Mark Begich, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Barrasso, Sherrod Brown, Tom Coburn, Joe Manchin, Mike Lee, Patrick Leahy, Dean Heller, Ron Paul, Jeff Sessions, James E. Risch, Pat Roberts, Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cruz, Mike Crapo, Ed Markey, Jerry Moran, Chris Murphy and Mike Enzi.

The other 78 US senators voted for it -- no one abstained.

Senator Sanders' office issued the following statement:

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday voted against the United States training and arming Syrian rebels. Sanders said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria “is a brutal and dangerous extremist organization which must be defeated, but this war cannot be won by the United States alone. There needs to be a real international coalition led by the countries most threatened – Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey and Iran. The worst thing that we can do now is allow ISIS to portray this struggle as East vs. West, as Muslim vs. Christian, as the Middle East vs. America. That is exactly what they want and that is exactly what we should not be giving them.”
The senator faulted wealthy Middle East nations for doing too little to protect their own interests, especially when Saudi Arabia has the fourth largest military budget in the world. He also questioned why American taxpayers are footing the bill when royal families that rule those Mideast nations are worth hundreds of billions of dollars. 
“This is not just a question of whether young men and women in Vermont and across America should be putting their lives on the line in another Mideast war.  It is not just about whether the taxpayers of our country should once again pay for a war in the Middle East. It is about the reality that, long term, this struggle will never be won by the United States alone.  It must be won with the active participation of the Muslim countries in the region,” Sanders said.
Sanders said he supports President Barack Obama’s judicious use of airstrikes which already have shown some success, but in opposing the resolution Sanders said, “I fear very much that supporting questionable groups in Syria who will be outnumbered and outgunned by both ISIS and the Assad regime could open the door to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement.”
The provision to fund forces battling the ISIS terrorist group was included in a stopgap spending bill to fund the government through Dec. 11. The measure, approved by the Senate, had passed the House on Wednesday.

US President Barack Obama insisted the vote demonstrated that Americans were united, Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney (Reuters) report..

Uh, no, it didn't.  America didn't get to vote.  Members of Congress voted.

And AFP reports:

For the first time since President Barack Obama took office, more Americans disapprove than approve his handling of terror threats, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing a new poll.
The slide in the president’s approval ratings on terrorism comes as the White House ramps up its fight against the Islamic State group that recently beheaded three Westerners, including two US journalists.  The New York Times-CBS poll found that 50 percent hold a negative view of how Obama is generally dealing with terrorism, while only 41 percent approve.

US Senator Rand Paul got to vote and he voted against the measure while declaring "make no mistake arming Islamic rebels in Syria will only make it harder to destroy ISIS."  We'll close the snapshot with Rand Paul's remarks in full but it's much too long to drop in at the start of the snapshot.

Sharif Nashashibi (Information Clearing House) notes:

Like Bush, Obama is accused of abusing executive authority by saying he does not need the approval of Congress. The White House cites the 2001 Authorisation for Military Force against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, which was passed by Congress after the 9/11 attacks.
However, this applies to nations and organisations that "planned, authorised, committed or aided" the attacks. The IS did not exist at that time, and was disavowed by its parent organisation, al-Qaeda in February this year.
"It's preposterous to suggest that a congressional vote 13 years ago can be used to legalise new bombings in Syria and additional (non-combat) forces in Iraq," Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and political science at Yale University, wrote in the New York Times. Obama's "refusal even to ask the Justice Department to provide a formal legal pretext for the war on ISIS is astonishing."

Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) points out that Secretary of State John Kerry also cited the 9/11 authorization and went further by insisting Article II of the Constitution provides Barack with all the authorization he needs:

Kerry’s invocation of Article Two is eerily reminiscent of the rationales offered by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and their Justice Department lawyers, who claimed that the President in time of war could do anything he wanted abroad and even at home. (John Yoo, the White House is on the line…)
For liberals, it was an embarrassing day. Senator Barbara Boxer of California was there to defend the President and his misuse of the AUMF. And the most ardent defender of the Constitution and Congress’s power to declare war was not a Democrat but Senator Rand Paul.

John Kerry appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today and he declared:

Early this summer, the ISIL threat accelerated when it effectively obliterated the Iraq-Syria border and the Mosul Dam fell. And there are complicated reasons for why that happened. It’s not just a straightforward they-ran-over-them deal. It has to do with the kind of army that Prime Minister Maliki began to create. It has to do with Shia and Sunni. It has to do with a lot of other ingredients. But as a result of that, we further surged our ISR missions immediately over Iraq. We immediately set up joint operation centers in Baghdad and Erbil. And our Special Forces conducted immediately a very detailed assessment of the Iraqi Security Forces, because we needed to know in order to be able to answer your questions and the questions of the American people what might we be getting into here. Do we have an Iraqi army that’s capable of fighting? To what degree? What will it take to reconstitute it? So whatever judgments are coming to you now are coming to you as a consequence of that assessment. And in addition to that, I’m proud to say that thanks to American engagement, ISIL’s movement, which was rapid at that point in time and perilous, was stopped. Together with the Peshmerga and the brave, courageous souls, the Kurds who stood up, we were able to not only stop them there but to liberate Amirli, which had been under siege, liberate Sinjar Mountain, to begin to bring our efforts to bear on Haditha Dam and make a difference. And by the time ISIL had launched its offensive in the north, President Obama began airstrikes to begin with on a humanitarian basis to protect American personnel and prevent major catastrophes such as the fall of Haditha Dam or the maintenance of the Mosul Dam and also to bolster the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish forces.  To date, we’ve launched more than 150 airstrikes. And I know that sounds like – it doesn’t sound like – that’s very few compared to the 16,000 that was mentioned earlier. But it’s a different deal right now, because I believe we rightfully, absolutely needed to get in place a structured, clear, Iraqi-chosen Iraqi effort that provided a government with which we can work going forward. If you didn’t have a government with which you could work going forward, nothing that we tried to do would have had the impact necessary. So the platforms we put in place last June have enabled us to be able to do what we’ve done now, and there’s absolute clarity to the fact that we blunted ISIL’s momentum, created the time and space to be able to put together a comprehensive strategy, get the inclusive government, and build a broad coalition. And that’s the way we ought to go at this.

It's amazing how far they'll go to spin.

Reality, Barack's actions have led the Islamic State to more than double its membership -- and that's according to CIA figures.

All his attacks have done is act as a recruiting tool.

Tom Perry and Larry King (Reuters) report::

Islamic State has won new recruits in Syria since President Barack Obama signaled last week that air strikes against the group will be expanded from Iraq to its strongholds in northern and eastern Syria, a group monitoring the war said on Wednesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 162 people had joined Islamic State training camps in Aleppo province since Sept 10, when Obama said he would not hesitate to strike Islamic State in Syria.

Barack's very good at turning out new members for the Islamic State.  He's yet to prove himself to be good at 'decimating' the Islamic State

Violence continues today in Iraq with multiple examples including the 6 corpses discovered dumped in the streets of Tuz Khurmato. IANS notes 100 violent deaths in Iraq today with seventy-nine more people left injured.

This as the residential neighborhoods of Falluja continue to be bombed daily.  NINA notes that today's bombings left 4 civilians dead and twenty more (including two children) injured.

Those are the bombings that new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered stopped on Saturday.  They didn't stop.  Not even for a day.

The point we've been making is that the press (and the US Congress) needs to determine did al-Abadi lie about giving an order (which would reflect poorly on him as the new leader, lying out of the gate) or was his order ignored?

If his order was ignored, this is very serious because the Iraqi military has refused a direct order from the prime minister meaning it is no longer under civilian control -- meaning the US doesn't need to be training it, arming it or assisting it.

While everyone in the US has worked hard to avoid the issue, it's being raised in Iraq today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

MP Hamid al-Mutlaq, for the coalition of Alwataniya demanded the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Haider Abadi to proceed to accountability of military leadership, who violated his orders by carrying out indiscriminate bombing on residential areas in Fallujah of Anbar and Yusufiyah of Baghdad. 

Maybe at some point, the US press will ask the needed questions.

As noted earlier, Senator Rand Paul was one of 22 voting against Barack's desire to provide 'rebels' in Syria with weapons and backing.  Paul's office issued the following:

Sep 18, 2014
Sen. Rand Paul today took to the Senate floor to offer a unanimous consent request to separate the Syria rebel funding language from the Continuing Resolution. Senate Democrats objected to this request. Sen. Paul then delivered a foreign policy address outlining his opposition to arming the Syrian rebels. A video and copy of Sen. Paul's remarks as prepared for delivery can be found HERE or below.


If there is one theme that connects the dots in the Middle East, it is that chaos breeds terrorism. 

What much of the foreign policy elite fails to grasp is that intervention to topple secular dictators has been the prime source of that chaos.

From Hussein to Assad to Ghaddafi we have the same history.

Intervention topples the secular dictator. Chaos ensues and radical jihadists emerge.
The pattern has been repeated time after time and yet what we have here is a failure to understand, a failure to reflect on the outcome our involvement in Arab civil wars.

They say nature abhors a vacuum. Radical jihadists have again and again filled the chaotic vacuum of the Middle East.

Secular dictators, despots who terrorized their own people, are replaced by radical jihadists who seek terror at home and abroad.

Intervention when both choices are bad is a mistake.

Intervention when both sides are evil is a mistake.

Intervention that destabilizes the region is a mistake.

And yet here we are again, wading into another civil war in Syria. I warned a year ago that involving us in Syria's civil war was a mistake.

That the inescapable irony is that someday the arms we supply would be used against us, or Israel.

That day is now. ISIS has grabbed up U.S., Saudi, Qatari weapons by the truckload and we are now forced to fight against our own weapons.

Now, even those of us who have been reluctant to become involved in the wars of the Middle East feel that American vital interests are at stake, that our consulate, our embassy are threatened and that left to their own devices ISIS will fulfill what they have boasted-an attack on us at home.

So, yes we must now defend ourselves from these barbarous jihadists, but let's not compound the problem by arming feckless rebels in Syria who seem to be merely a pit stop for the arms that are inevitably scarfed up by ISIS.

Remember clearly the President and his Republican allies that clamored for air strikes against Assad.

Had those airstrikes occurred, in all likelihood ISIS would now be in Damascus and the threat to America even greater.

Remember that all the hawks who now clamor for boots on the ground also wanted to take out Assad last year. 
Had the hawks been successful last year, we could very well now be facing an ISIS in charge of all of Syria and parts of Iraq.

Intervention is not always the answer and often leads to unintended consequences

Some will argue: No, no it's not intervention that led to this chaos, but not enough intervention.

They say: If only we'd given the rebels more arms, ISIS wouldn't be as strong now.

The only problem is-the facts argue otherwise.

One reason is, we did give arms and assistance to these rebels, through secret CIA operations, and through our allies and not so allied countries in the region.

Reports show that the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have supplied roughly 600 tons of weapons to the militants in Syria in 2013 alone.

According to U.N. records, Turkey has sent 47 tons of weaponry to the Syrian Rebels-sending 29 tons in just this month.

Videos appear online of Free Syrian Army rebels with downed M8 helicopters and MANDPAD air defense systems.

An American made TOW anti-tank system was shown in the hands of Harakat Hazm, a group of so-called moderate rebels.

A Wall Street Journal report detailed Saudi Arabia providing weapons like this to the rebels. It also detailed millions of dollars in direct US aid to rebels - all from nearly 8 months ago or more.

The NY Times reports that Qatar used "a shadowy arms network to move shoulder fired missiles" into the hands of Syrian rebels.

According to Gulfnews, Saudi Arabia also partnered with Pakistan to provide a Pakistani made version of Chinese shoulder launched missiles to the rebels.

Iraqi officials publicly accused Saudi Arabia and Quatar of also funding and arming ISIS at the same time.

Kuwaitis, a Sunni majority country bordering Iraq, have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to a wide range of opposition forces both in Iraq and Syria, according to reports by the Brooking Institute.

According to a New York Times report, over a year ago, the CIA began training Syrian rebels in nearby Jordan, thousands of them, along with delivering arms and ammunition.

New York Times reports also detailed the huge arms and financial transfers from Quatar to the Syrian rebels, beginning as early as 2011.

No one really knows where that all ended up: Jane's Terrorism Center noted, the transfer of Quatari arms to targeted groups has the same practical effect as shipping them to Al Nusra, a violent jihadist force.

The New York Times further detailed that Sudan has provided anti-tank missiles and other arms.

So the idea that these rebels haven't been armed before is ludicrous on it's face.

It is also ludicrous to believe that we know where all of the money, arms and ammunition will end up, or who will end up benefitting from these shipments.


Because we don't know for sure who the groups all are.

Even when we think we do, loyalties shift and groups become amorphous, with alleged moderates lining up with jihadists.

And finally, moderate groups have often sold their weapons or had them seized by the jihadist elements led by ISIS.

According to the Carnegie Endowment, There are no neat, clean, secular rebels groups. They don't exist. They reiterate that this is a "very dirty war" with no clear good guys for us to ally with.

The German Ambassador to the U.S. has fully admitted what our State Department tries to hide - that we can't fully control the final destination of these arms.

Former officials are more forthright with their criticism.

According to a former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Syria, "We need to do everything we can to figure out who the non-ISIS opposition, is...Frankly, we don't have a clue."

The rebels have been all over the map. There are said to be 1500 different rebel groups. The largest coalition other than ISIS, Al Quada and Al Nusra, all jihadist extremists, is the FSA-- which has three people who claim to be the leader.

There are estimates that half of the FSA has defected.

And we prove time and time again we don't know how to vet their leaders.

Two groups that were initially provided US and ally help last year provide good examples.

A top official of Ahrar al Sham, one of the largest rebel groups at the time, announced publicly that he now considers himself allied with Al Qaeda.

Robert Ford, our most recent Ambassador to Syria, said, "We must understand two vital points going in, the moderate armed opposition's biggest enemy is not ISIS, it is the Assad regime...moderate forces have and will tactically coordinate with the Al Qaeda linked Nusra front on the ground."

According to the Washington Free Beacon, one of the militants provided access to advance U.S. weapons said that it is seeking "the return of all Syrian land occupied by Israel."

These are among the many problems we have in arming the Syrian opposition.

Who are we really arming? What will be the result? Where will the arms end up?

There are too many here who believe they have the answers to these questions, when they do not, indeed when all indicators are that it may well be unknowable.

I am a skeptic of this administration's policies, though I share their new-found belief that the jihadists in the region are the biggest threat.

Where I differ is whether to arm the same side as the jihadists.

Regarding whether we go to war at all, or under what circumstance, remember that the President last year wanted to intervene on the OTHER side of this war.

Let me reiterate that: This administration and its allies on both sides of the aisle in seeking perpetual war, last year wanted the United States to join this war on the side of ISIS, against the Assad regime.

I opposed them, for reasons that have now suddenly become clear to everyone else.

It's not that I am against all intervention. I favor striking ISIS.

I supported the decision to go to war with Afghanistan after our nation was attacked on 9/11.

There are valid reasons for war. And importantly, there are ways to do it and ways not to do it.

Colin Powell wrote in his autobiography: "War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support."

I believe that he had it right.

America should only go to war to win.

War should occur only when America is attacked, when it is threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened.

I don't think the situation in Syria passes that test.

Even the State Department argues that:
"There's no military solution here that's good for the Syrian people, and that the best path forward is a political solution."

The U.S. should not fight a war to save face.

I will not vote to send young men and women to sacrifice life and limb for stalemate.

I will not vote to send our nation's best and brightest to fight for anything less than victory.

When American interests are at stake, then it is incumbent upon those advocating for military action to convince Congress and the American people of that threat.

Too often, the debate begins and ends with an assertion that our national interest is at stake without any evidence of that assertion.

The burden of proof lies with those who wish to engage in war, and they must convince the people and their representatives in Congress.

Bashar Assad is clearly not an American ally. But does his ouster encourage stability in the Middle East, or would his ouster actually encourage instability?

Are any of the Islamic rebels our allies?

Will they defend American interests?

Will they acknowledge Israel's right to exist? Will they impose Shari'ah law?

Will they tolerate Christians, or will they pillage and destroy ancient Christian churches and people?

The President and his Administration have not provided good answers to any of these questions.

Shooting first and aiming later has not worked for us in the past, and it should not be our game plan now.

In 2007, then Senator Obama stated that no President should unilaterally go to war without congressional authority unless there is an actual or imminent threat to our nation.

I would like for President Obama to re-read some of the speeches of candidate Obama.

Our Founding Fathers understood that the Executive Branch was the most prone to war and so with due deliberation they gave the power to declare war to legislative branch.

President Obama's new position, though, is that while he requests congressional input, he doesn't necessarily need Congress's approval.

Secretary Kerry stated explicitly yesterday his understanding of the constitution when he argued that NO congressional authorization was necessary.

The President and his Administration view this vote as a courtesy vote.

Even if Congress votes against it, the President still believes that he reserves the right to involve our soldiers in a war unilaterally.

But Mr. President, that is not how our Constitution works.

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 gives Congress - and Congress alone - the power to declare war. If Congress does not approve this military action, the President must abide by that decision.

Our founders understood this.

Thomas Jefferson said the Constitution gave "one effectual check to the Dog of war by transferring the power [to declare war] from the Executive [branch] to the Legislative body."

Madison wrote even more clearly:
"The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature."

There is no debate more significant for a legislator than the decision to engage in war.
We must hold our leaders accountable.

If we do not, there will be no end to war. The ridiculous and the absurd must be laid to rest. You've all heard it before.

Toppling Ghaddafi led to a jihadist wonderland in Libya,

Toppling Hussein led to the chaos that is Iraq,
Toppling Assad will lead to a new chaos and greater danger from the jihadists.

The moss covered too-long-in-Washington crowd cannot help themselves.  War, war, what we need is more, more war . . .

Their policies and the combination of feckless disinterest, fraudulent red lines, and selective combativeness of this administration have led us to this point.

Yes, we must now confront ISIS, in part for penance for the President's role in their rise.

But while we do so to protect our interests here, what we need is someone to shout:
War, war, what are we fighting for...

Amidst the interventionist's disjointed and frankly incoherent rhetoric,
Amidst the gathering gloom that sees enemies behind every friend,
And friends behind every enemy,
The only consistent theme is war.

These barnacled enablers have never met a war they didn't like.

They beat their chests in rhythmic ode to failed policies.

Their drums beat to policies that display their outrage but fail to find a cure.

Unintended consequences drown and smother the possibility of good intentions.

Must we act to check and destroy ISIS? Yes, and again yes, because of the foolishness of the interventionists.

But let's not mistake what we must do.

We shouldn't give a pass to forever intervene in the civil wars of the Middle East.

Intervention created the chaos.

Intervention aided and abetted the rise of radical Islam and intervention made us less safe in Libya and Syria and Iraq.

To those who wish unlimited intervention and boots on the ground everywhere:
Remember the smiling poses of politicians pontificating about so-called freedom fighters and "heroes" in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq...unaware that so-called freedom fighters may well have been allied with kidnappers, killers or both.
Are the so-called moderate Islamic rebels in Syria friends or foes? Do we know who they really are? All debatable questions at best.

As the interventionists clamor for boots on the ground, we should remember that they were wrong about Iraq.
They were wrong about Libya.

They were trying to intervene last year on the wrong side of the Syrian war.

When will we quit listening to the advocates of perpetual war?

When does a track record of being consistently wrong stop you from being a so-called expert when the next crisis arises?

We should remember that they were wrong, that there were no WMD's, that Hussein, Khaddifi, and Assad were no threat to us.

We should remember that radical Islam now roams about in Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

We should remember that those who believe that war is the answer for every problem, were wrong.

We should remember that war against Hussein, that war against Khaddafi, that war against Assad led to chaos.

That intervention enhanced the rise of radical Islam, and ultimately led to more danger for Americans.

Before we arm the so-called moderate Muslims of Syria, remember what I said a year ago:
"The irony you will not be able to overcome is that these arms will someday be used against America."

That prediction is now true.

We will fight ISIS, a war I accept as necessary, largely because our own arms and the arms of our allies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar have enabled our new enemy ISIS.

Will we ever learn?

President Obama now wishes to bomb ISIS and arm their Islamic allies in Syria.

The Emperor has no clothes.  Admit it.

The truth is sometimes painful.

We must protect ourselves from radical Islam, but we should never, ever have armed radical Islam, and we could make it worse by arming it more today!

We have enabled the enemy we must now confront.

Sending arms to so-called moderate Islamic rebels in Syria is a fool's errand and will only make ISIS stronger.

ISIS grew as the U.S. and our allies armed the Islamic rebels in Syria.

The barnacled purveyors of war should admit their mistakes and not compound them.

ISIS is now a threat.  Let's get on with destroying them.

But make no mistake arming Islamic rebels in Syria will only make it harder to destroy ISIS.