Publius Speaks

Publius Speaks
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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Here we go again...! The Drums of War are sounding all around, and President Obama was caught for a time in the rhythm of the sound and the fury. I think we know what he plans to do now. It’s a thoughtful response, as usual. He is positioning U.S. naval vessels near Iraqi shores to both intimidate the ISIS terrorists and to prepare for evacuation of Americans. He is sending a minimal number of special troops to help guard the embassy in Baghdad, and to offer training and guidance to Iraqi troops. He is positioning some of those Special Forces to help get American personnel out of Baghdad if necessary. Will he fire missiles into Iraq? I don't know. Will he use drones to take out ISIS leaders? Probably. After all, he already scored one point by capturing the leader of the Benghazi attack with Special Forces. Will he be pressured into the sending of substantial numbers of troops to fight against the Sunni rebels? He has said he won't. Going back into Iraq is not the smartest of moves. It is the same quagmire as all the other Middle Eastern countries like Libya, Syria, and Lebanon. The religious disputes of the Middle East Islamist countries are not our fight. 

Sure, we have to guard against the founding of terrorist/radical Islamist bases in these countries, as best we can. Of course we don't want another 9/11. But, fighting costly wars in countries hostile to our way of life, our democratic ideals and our Judeo-Christian heritage is not going to stop terrorists from attacking this country whenever they can. They are going to do so because they are zealously committed to destroying the Great Satan, as they have called us more than once. Yes, they scored a successful raid on 9/11, but their record since then has been less than stellar, not because we were fighting to defeat them in Iraq and Afghanistan, but because we were better prepared to stop them here in America. Could Islamist terrorists manage another 9/11? Probably not. Could they attack us in some way? Probably so. Can we always stop them? I doubt it, but their numbers and tactics are not a threat to our national security. They are a threat to pockets of our citizenry. That is not something we want, but it is something with which we will now be living, just as other countries have had to do.

The blowhards, like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney are politicians who like to play the war card every chance they get because they know nothing else. They are pitiful in their puny attempts to scare us and to convince us that war is the answer to foreign threats and disputes. They live in a past when war was fraught with honor and meaningful outcomes. Today, war is simply a failed expression of frustration and nationalistic, jingoistic fervor, but thanks to General David Petreus, we have had a bit of reality inserted into the "debate" from the general who implemented the "surge" in Iraq. Even Senator Rand Paul says to "stay out."

War does not, in our time, solve much of anything. It costs us the lives (both of dead and wounded) of promising young men and women. And, it costs us trillions of tax dollars that are desperately needed in other areas of our national life. Finally, it costs us the enmity and the disrespect of nations and peoples who end up tasting the concomitant effects of combat and war as a threat to their very existence. Ask the multiple millions of refugees from countries that we have tried to "save." Do they feel that we are a great and exceptional nation because we devastated their homeland and their lives? Funny how we take polls at home on the devastation and effects of war, but rarely see any polls that express the opinions of those whose countries are in ruins.

Ask yourself some more questions: are we free from danger from others because we have fought wars? It does not appear that way; not in Korea, not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not even in Somalia, and certainly not with either Russia or China.

Have we planted "seeds of democracy" anywhere? Perhaps in Germany, Italy, Poland, and Japan; maybe even South Korea. But, the truth is, the seeds of democracy (human rights) were planted in those countries long before we invaded Europe or Asia. Maybe we could say we forced them to "water the seeds" they had long neglected. What we forget too often is that we are not the Savior of the world, or of other nations, or of peoples. We are too often seen as the invaders, the conquerors, the destroyers, the foreigners who brought destruction, harm, disruption and chaos. We are not necessarily proclaimed as heroic "liberators" as George Bush had declared we would be in Iraq.

There is a lingering temptation to believe what some rebels declare in certain countries where revolutionary protest is underway on behalf of democratic ideals: that their best hope is the USA coming to their rescue and aid. Enticements like that appeal to many, but are fraught with the dangers of complicated alliances and issues. It is never clear in a revolution just what is being sought by each group that joins in. It is never clear who will hold the reins of power or how trustworthy the power-brokers are or will be. When we engage in "rescue" we engage in untying ancient Gordian knots of which we have little understanding in the first place.

What lasting outcomes have we achieved lately with war-like interventions in Vietnam, Sinai, Grenada, Panama, Haiti, Bosnia, Desert Storm (Kuwait), Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom? Dictators survive, democracy does not flourish, major problems remain unsolved although some immediate problems were solved (we got rid of Ortega and Hussein!). Not only don't we resolve long-term problems in these countries, we don't even gain anything for our country! Just what lasting value have we achieved for the USA from all this fighting? A military that is battle-ready and battle-tested? Friendly partnerships? Profits for private contractors who moved in after the wars and skirmishes were over? Inflation? More oil?

The best we seem to do with war is to solve an immediate problem or crisis, but what we are often left with is over-spending, inflation, and dead and wounded soldiers. War is not a good answer for solving long-term problems or even for keeping short-term problems from re-emerging.

So, let us not even consider going back into Iraq to solve their religious disagreements, or to get them to establish an inclusive government, or to keep ISIS out of power and to prevent them from establishing a base of operations.

If people want help to resolve their problems, let them make a request for our expertise, not our weapons. Let them ask for food and clothing and not for our military. Let them ask for our ability to train a nation of volunteers and citizens, not for our missiles. Are we mature enough to eschew our violent natures and offer our helpful aid and experience instead?

What's wrong with being a helpful resource instead of a war machine or a "super-power"? Why not build peace instead of building more conflict? Is that a sign of weakness? Not in my book. Giving unselfishly of your resources and people and expertise is a sign of the strength of a vibrant unafraid nation. War is a sign of a fearful nation; a paranoid nation that believes threats are everywhere and must be met with overwhelming force. So sad.... We bomb a country like Iraq to smithereens because they supposedly had "weapons of mass destruction." Ooops - sorry, Mr. Cheney. I don't want to disturb your escape from history and reality.

By the way - that's not, in my opinion, why the Bush II administration at the time went to war with Iraq. Yes, they wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein - not because he was a major threat to us as a nation or even because he killed his own people. We destroyed Saddam because he dared to threaten the life of George H.W. Bush. It was REVENGE we sought, not freedom for Iraqis or protection for us! The war machine in this country was run by men who had worked for George H. W. Bush -- Dick Cheney (Secretary of Defense); Paul Wolfowitz (Undersecretary of Defense); Colin Powell (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff); and more.

As one commentator from indicates: "The Bush administration was a tight knit group composed largely of long time Bush family loyalists and people from many former administrations. As has already been pointed out, the administration also has a large number of corporate ties and ties to the oil industry, the largest number of ties in history. There are also a significant number of people in the Bush administration with questionable backgrounds, such as Richard Armitage and John Negroponte. In addition to that it is also relevant that many of the members of the Bush cabinet are associated with the Partnership for a New American Century. Aside from the obvious implications of such a cabinet it is also likely that top officials in the Bush administration, including Bush himself, have a high degree of leverage on the members of the cabinet because of the histories of the cabinet members."

That high degree of leverage, and a loyalty to the Bushes that was more than evident, is the key to my assertion about the reason for the Iraq War. Even though doubt has since been cast on whether a real plot against H. W. ever took place, it is clear that George W. believed it did, and he expressed it more than once.

"During a campaign speech in September 2002, Bush cited a number of reasons -- in addition to alleged terrorist links and weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-- about why Saddam was so dangerous to the U.S., noting, in particular that, ''After all, this is the guy who tired to kill my dad.''

He was referring, of course, to an alleged plot by Iraqi intelligence to assassinate Bush's father, former president George H.W. Bush, during his triumphal visit to Kuwait in April, 1993, 25 months after U.S.-led forces chased Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in the first Gulf War and three months after Bush Sr. surrendered the White House to Bill Clinton.

Although he did not name his father, Bush Jr. also cited the assassination attempt in his September 2002 address at the United Nations General Assembly where he called on the U.N. Security Council to approve a tough resolution demanding that Saddam fully give up his (non-existent) WMD weapons and programs. While the alleged plot was never cited officially as a cause for going to war, some pundits -- including Maureen Dowd of the 'New York Times'-- have speculated that revenge might have been one of the factors that drove him to Baghdad -- as the sign of one demonstrator suggested in a big anti-war march here just before the war: 'I love my dad, too, but come on!'" (Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service).

Now, you might say, "Well, how do you know that for sure?" From my own experience is how I know because I worked inside government for 25 years, and I saw acts of revenge taken on people and agencies and organizations by government leaders. I was personally, in fact, the target of such a plot under the Reagan administration. I will not go into detail here, but those who believe that politicians and leaders of our country would not go to war over an assassination attempt upon a POTUS, have a somnambulant problem, and are ignoring history as well.

I want to conclude with the record of calling for military intervention by John McCain, Lindsey Graham and other congressional Republicans. Above all -- do not listen to them! They are devoid of any creative ideas or strategies for dealing with international conflicts. They have no credibility because they have nothing but arrows of war in their quivers (irrelevant to present-day warfare). They can't think in any terms other than 19th and 20th century battle strategies (only some of which barely apply to today's terrorist cells). They have narrowed their principles to bellicosity in every instance. They have accepted the simplistic view that proactive, massive-strike warfare is the answer to every threat. Here they are:

During his failed 2000 presidential bid, McCain proclaimed his support for “rogue-state rollback,” which would have required America to “arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically elected governments.” McCain also suggested that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and called for Saddam Hussein’s ouster (The Daily Beast). Since then, Politicus USA claims that he has called for military intervention in 15 countries, of which Syria, Iran, and Libya are but a few stand-outs!

Dick Cheney went on Fox TV and other programs just to make a fool of himself. He couldn't answer a host's question about his involvement in the mistakes of the Iraq War. He simply is the quintessential War-Monger, who not only has a transplanted heart; he possesses a mummified brain as well!

Graham is no better. "Although sometimes characterized as a Republican "maverick" for his bipartisan forays into domestic policy, Graham is also a staunch foreign policy hawk, promoting U.S. military intervention across the Greater Middle East. In 2013, he took issue with (President) Obama's stated desire to end the "war on terror," arguing that the "Middle East is going to blow up. Graham and his allies have been at the forefront of congressional efforts to promote war in recent years, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Iran." (

My main point is this: you can't trust anything you hear about reasons to go to war. They can be fabricated, they can be trumped-up; they can be personal; they can be stupid, melodramatic and devoid of information. One thing they will never be is free from political ties and intrigues, economic issues and nationalistic egoism.

WE Must Not Go Back Into Iraq to Fight!