Jun 132014
 June 13, 2014

Iraq Turns into Vietnam Quagmire -Again?

sul June 10, 2014 (Reuters/Stringer)

Mosul, June 10, 2014 (Reuters/Stringer)

Nearly 9,000 Iraqis were killed in Iraq in 2013. Just this past May, sectarian violence killed almost 800 people. Now 500,000 thousand Iraqis have fled the rapidly escalating violence. While both US media and politicians are busy demanding a new war and assigning blame, it is highly unlikely American elected officials will ever point to the US-led war for a disintegrating Iraq.

Quite the opposite is predictably happening: in the ever more militaristic US Congress, warmongers are already blaming Obama and demanding a new US invasion. Their task is made easier by their war-loving media allies.  The mainstream narrative faults the US ending its occupation, not the long war itself.

The same unreliable sources who pushed the US to invade, such as Kenneth Pollack, are quoted as voices of wisdom once again. And the consequences of the war, like attracting al-Qaeda into Iraq, are buried in this neocon narrative. As are some of the real reasons for the disintegrating state of that country —like US ally Shiite Prime Minister Maliki’s corruption, repression of Sunnis and arbitrary arrests.

In its 8+year occupation, the US trained Iraqi government security forces, often turning a blind eye to their brutality and torture –or even enabling it. As violence escalated along with the repression, jihad fighters flocked into Iraq from Arab countries. The US responded with more troops, touted subsequently as a successful “surge”. Robert Parry described it:

“However, across Official Washington, the simplistic – and self-serving — conventional wisdom was that the “surge” was the sole explanation for the drop in the killings, a myth that had lethal consequences in 2009 when pro-surge hardliners, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Gen. David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton maneuvered President Obama into adopting a similar “surge” in Afghanistan.”

Instead, the fighters continued their war through suicide attacks that killed thousands of innocent bystanders. And more repression by the Maliki government only brought a backlash — by local radicalized Sunnis, others from abroad, and now the offshoot of al-Qaeda ISIS, a group even too vicious for al-Qaeda.

For exceptionalist US media, however, the only ones suffering in this whole tragedy are Americans. Never mind the 100,000 dead Iraqis after the war —or several thousand more in frequent attacks since the end of it. Only US sacrifice matters, is the narrative. FAIR’s Peter Hart gave some examples:

“On ABC World News (6/10/14), Martha Raddatz declared that “Mosul was once a focal point of America’s fight to bring peace and stability to this country.” It is hard to imagine many Iraqis would think of the Iraq invasion as an effort to bring peace, but this is not a new approach for ABC. When militants seized control of Fallujah in January, ABC’s Terry Moran spoke of  “a decade of US-led war to plant democracy in Iraq” (Extra!, 2/14).

…And here’s CNN host Wolf Blitzer (6/10/14):

This is heartbreaking. The United States spent 10 years there. We assumed that Iraq would emerge a peaceful, stable democracy after the hundreds of billions of dollars the US invested, the 4,500 US troops killed, tens of thousands who came home without arms or legs or burned, post-traumatic stress, and look at this disaster.”

The wisdom of (un)learned history


Families fleeing the violence in Mosul wait at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region, on June 10, 2014 (Reuters/Azad Lashkari)

Families fleeing the violence in Mosul wait at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Arbil, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, on June 10, 2014 (Reuters/Azad Lashkari)

Meanwhile, former counter-terrorism CIA officer Robert Grenier advocates for a new Vietnam: as if Iraq did not have enough in nearly 9 years occupied, he calls for “trainers and mentors on the ground, who can help to stiffen their resolve and develop them into a more capable, tactical force”.

The Obama administration has already been sending Hellfire missiles, drones and other weapons to its Iraqi ally, and is now likely to send many more emergency aid. President Obama said:

“My team is working around the clock to identify how we can provide the most effective assistance to them. I don’t rule out anything, because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold”

However, among “the most effective assistance” demanding accountability and an end to sectarian repression from the Maliki administration is sadly not an option, which only portends ever increasing circles of bloodshed and quagmire.