Tuesday, June 17, 2014

ISIS Springs from Bushes in Iraq

If dire news reports rippling out of Iraq these past few days are to be believed, the political crisis in that ancient country is entering a new chapter of inhumanity.

I question the credibility of these dire news reports from Iraq because the same reporters and governments that didn't even see ISIS coming are the same folks who now are predicting the end if Iraq as we knew it.

Or at least, the end of Iraq as Presidents George W. Bush and Barak Obama have tried to convince us could exist.

After all, it was the second Bush president that threw our military into the Iraqi quagmire to begin with.  Remember that?  The hunt for those elusive weapons of mass destruction (WMD) - a hunt that was elusive because those weapons didn't exist?  Nobody ever claimed Saddam Hussein was a nice guy, but the freedoms and economic advantages that his country enjoyed before Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld convinced their boss to overthrow Saddam never managed to survive our invasion.

At first liberals challenged Bush and his conservative admirers that the Iraq war was a folly, driven more by paternal angst than any imminent threat against America.  Saddam was the guy who famously tried to have 43's father, George H.W. Bush, assassinated, and it was hard to watch the Bush dynasty's transition from Afghanistan to Iraq after 9-11 without wondering how much of it was payback.

And then, after Obama won the presidency, liberals found themselves having to defend a war they'd never embraced.  We'd gotten ourselves stuck too deeply in the Iraqi quagmire, and Democrats were the relief pitchers in Bush's slugfest, gamely trying to pull out a win for at least the Democratic party, if not the country as a whole.

Much can be said about the botched diplomacy, erratic military moves, and outright failures of the Obama administration's execution of their part of the war.  But it can't be ignored that Obama simply inherited a colossal mess, and that the guy who'd started it all was re-crafting his image as a peaceable gentleman rancher down in Texas.

I've never supported the Iraq war.  I've admired the bravery and sacrifice of America's military personnel who dutifully went over there, and fought, and got wounded, and died over there.  Indeed, I firmly believe that the sacrifice our military has made at the behest of their commanders-in-chief says many positive things about our country.  Which is a good thing, considering what the many bad things done by their commanders-in-chief say about our country.

It would have been nice - and I'd have gladly admitted to having been in error - if the Iraq war could have somehow morphed into a gilded trophy of American imperialism.  Because Iraqis didn't have democracy under Saddam, they could have benefited from having a greater voice in their present, and their future.  But many Western politicians have been taken aback by the almost blatant refusal by Iraqis to embrace our Western style of governance.  After Bush's "liberation," ethnic struggles and religious stratification that Saddam had managed to forcibly control burst back into Iraqi society after being pent up for generations.  It was like Saddam was holding tightly to the narrow opening of a giant balloon, and when Bush forced him to let go, the balloon that is Iraq was free all right - free to ricochet around, deflating wildly, and finally lying limp and empty on the dusty ground.

Ready for ISIS to grab.

I'm no historian or political scholar, so back when America invaded Iraq, I opposed the war simply for the obvious reasons.  First, there was a lack of WMD evidence.  In addition, we were crippling our credibility in the international community by invading a sovereign nation.  I also worried that Bush would take his post-9-11 focus off of Afghanistan and al  Qaeda, to the detriment of our effectiveness there.  Like many conservatives, I didn't realize the extent to which Saddam's autocracy was actually keeping a tight lid on the fierce religious and cultural rivalries that make Iraq practically ungovernable without a centralized authority figure.

Today, I'm saddened as an American for the role that our elected leadership has played in the stunning unraveling of Iraq.  It's a country whose society we've woefully misunderstood, to both their detriment, and ours.  We've also abused Iraq for the purposes of political gamesmanship here in the United States.  And it's been both Democrats and Republicans who have sought to exploit Iraq for votes and military contracts.

Many American soldiers who served in Iraq are beginning to question the legitimacy of their service, especially considering how rapidly the American-trained security forces in Iraq are falling apart in the face of ISIS.  To those veterans who are watching all of this stateside, and to the families of servicemembers who were killed in Iraq, I can only hope that their pride of service and their sacrifice for the ideals we say we value as Americans can be some sort of balm.

Some "experts" have begun to speculate that since most of the victories being won by ISIS are located in the northern parts of Iraq, it's possible the country could eventually be split in two, since a war for Baghdad and the country's vast oil industry to the south would undoubtedly be more sophisticated, and attract international military might against which ISIS is so far untested.

But considering how wrong, deluded, and partisan the experts have been all along, even a short civil war seems hopelessly optimistic.

Meanwhile, the mainstream Western media has begun to goad the Obama administration into some sort of armed engagement with ISIS, as if yet more American swagger can fix anything.

As if the fact that "ISIS" wasn't even in our lexicon a week ago represents a good testament of Washington's recent competence in handling global crises.

May God grant peace to Jerusalem - and Baghdad.

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