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Forum Post: The Slow March Back Into Iraq and Toward Disaster

Posted 7 years ago on June 24, 2014, 9:52 p.m. EST by LeoYoh (115)
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The Slow March Back Into Iraq and Toward Disaster

Tuesday, 24 June 2014 11:35
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch | Op-Ed


Imagine the president, speaking on Iraq from the White House Press Briefing Room last Thursday, as the proverbial deer in the headlights -- and it's not difficult to guess just what those headlights were. Think of them as Benghazi on steroids. If the killing of an American ambassador, a Foreign Service officer, and two CIA private security contractors could cause almost two years of domestic political uproar, unending Republican criticism, and potential damage to the president's "legacy," consider what an Iraq in shambles and a terrorist state stretching across "the Levant" might do. It's hardly surprising, then, that a president regularly described as "reluctant" nonetheless stepped before the press corps and began the slow march back into Iraq and toward disaster.

It was a moment of remarkable contradictions. Obama managed, for example, to warn against "mission creep" even as he was laying out what could only be described as mission creep. Earlier that week, he had notified Congress that 275 troops would be sent to Iraq, largely to defend the vast U.S. embassy in Baghdad, once an almost three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar symbol of imperial hubris, now a white elephant of the first order. A hundred more military personnel were to be moved into the region for backup.

Then on Thursday, the president added 300 "military advisers" drawn from Special Operations forces and evidently meant to staff new "joint operation centers in Baghdad and northern Iraq to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the terrorist threat." (If you are of a certain age, that word "adviser" will ring an eerie Vietnam-ish bell. You should, in fact, already be hearing a giant sucking sound somewhere in the distance.) He also spoke vaguely of positioning "additional U.S. military assets in the region" into which the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, accompanied by a guided-missile cruiser and destroyer, had already sailed. And mind you, this was only the reasonably public part of whatever build-up is underway. While the president spoke of being "prepared to take targeted and precise military action" in Iraq, at least one unnamed "senior administration official" was already at work opening up the possibility of air strikes in Syria. "We don't restrict potential U.S. action to a specific geographic space," was the ominous way that official put it.

In other words, short of combat troops on the ground in significant numbers, that table on which "all options" are always kept open was visibly moved into Washington's War Room of the Levant. It's quite a development for a president who took special pride in getting us out of Iraq (even though that departure was engineered by the Bush administration, while Obama's officials tried to negotiate leaving a force behind, only to be thwarted by the Iraqi government). In tandem with the military moves, the president and his national security team, perhaps reflecting through a glass darkly the "democracy agenda" of the Bush era, also seemed to have dipped their fingers in purple ink. They were reportedly pressuring Iraqi politicians to dump Prime Minister Maliki and appoint a "unity" government to fight the war they want. (Adding to the farcical nature of the moment, one name raised for Maliki's position was Ahmed Chalabi, once the darling of Bush-era officials and their choice for that same post.)

There is, however, no way that an American intervention won't be viewed as a move to back the Shia side in an incipient set of civil wars, as even retired general and former CIA director David Petraeus warned last week. In fact, in opinion polls Americans overwhelmingly reject military intervention of any sort, just as every experience in the post-9/11 era should signal one simple lesson: Don't do it! But Obama and his top officials evidently can't help themselves. The rising tide of criticism-to-come is undoubtedly already pre-echoing in their heads -- previewed by the endless media appearances of Senator John McCain and a stream of op-eds from former vice president Dick Cheney, former occupation proconsul L. Paul Bremer III, and others from the crowd of "experts" who created the Iraq disaster and for whom being wrong about that country is a badge of honor.

We are clearly in the early stages of the intervention sweepstakes. The initial moves may even be greeted as auspicious, but watch out for the long-run destabilizing effects in an already chaotic region. Washington only imagines it can control such combustible situations. In reality, it hasn't in the past and it won't be able to this time either, which means unexpected ugliness will ensue. (And just wait until, in one of those joint operation centers or elsewhere, the first Iraqi soldier, like his Afghan counterparts, turns his gun on one of those special ops advisers.)

All that's missing at the moment is the final touch on the Obama version of mission creep. I'm talking about the signature gesture for this administration in its conflicts across the Greater Middle East (and increasingly Africa). If you listen carefully, you can already hear the theme music for the era rising in the background and -- with apologies to Stephen Sondheim for mangling his beautiful elegy to a lost relationship -- it's clearly "Send in the Drones."

In the meantime, whatever the president is saying, he never mentioned oil. No one does. Nor, generally, did the Bush administration when it invaded and occupied Iraq. If you paid attention to our media, you would never know that it sits on one of the great, easily accessible fossil-fuel reserves on the planet, though that should never be far from anyone's mind. Fortunately, sociologist Michael Schwartz, an old-time TomDispatch regular, is back after a long absence to remind us of The One Fact in Iraq, the one we should never forget.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.



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[-] 2 points by Shule (2638) 7 years ago

Looks like Iraq is in for another mass bombing, and we here in the States are in for another quantitative easing; bend over everybody.

[-] 1 points by LeoYoh (115) 7 years ago

Iraq's Depleted Uranium Threat

Thursday, 26 June 2014 10:55
By John LaForge, Consortium News | Report


A new report from the Netherlands based on U.S. Air Force firing coordinates shows that the U.S. military fired its armor-piercing munitions - made of waste uranium-238 which is called “depleted uranium” or DU - into civilian areas of Iraq and at Iraqi troops during the 2003 invasion and occupation, defying the U.S. Air Force’s own legal advice that the toxic and radioactive ammunition be used only against hardened targets in compliance with the Laws of War.

The study, “Laid to Waste,” by the Dutch organization PAX found that the lack of legal obligations on U.S.-led militaries in Iraq to help clean-up after using DU weapons has resulted in Iraqi civilians and workers continuing to be exposed to the highly toxic heavy metal years after the war. The health risks posed by the inadequate management of Iraq’s DU contamination are unclear because neither U.S.-led forces nor the Iraqi government have supported health research into civilian DU exposures.

High-risk groups include people living near or working on dozens of Iraqi scrap metal sites where thousands of military vehicles - destroyed in the 1991 and 2003 bombardments - are stored or processed. Waste sites often lack official oversight and in places it has taken more than 10 years to decontaminate military wreckage from residential neighborhoods.

Hundreds of locations that were hit by the weapons, many of which are in populated areas, remain undocumented, and concern among Iraqi civilians over potential health effects from exposure, ingestion and inhalation is widespread.

“To help clean-up we urgently need to know the location and quantities of DU fired,” said the report’s author Wim Zwijnenburg. “The Iraqi government is also in dire need of technical support to help manage the many scrap metal sites where contaminated vehicles are stored.”

The ongoing refusal by the United States to release targeting information continues to hinder the assessment and management of DU in Iraq. The Dutch military contributed a few thousand troops to the Coalition Forces in Iraq, and peacekeepers in Kosovo, and raised alarms overcontamination in 2001 and 2006.

A handful of U.S. targeting coordinates held by the Dutch Ministry of Defense, and released after a Freedom of Information Act request, show that U.S. war planes used DU weapons against a far wider range of targets and sites than previously suspected, including Iraqi troops. The U.S. and British governments have long asserted that DU is only for use against armored vehicles. They have often been called “tank busters.”

Depleted Uranium, a by-product of uranium enrichment for reactor fuel and H-bombs, is categorized as an intermediate-level radioactive waste; contaminated rubble and scrap metal are considered low-level radioactive waste. The Dutch study finds that international guidelines for dealing with both kinds of waste - from the International Commission on Radiological Protection - were ignored and that the Iraqi government did not have the technical capacity to safely manage such contamination.

Unlike anti-personnel landmines and other explosive remnants of war, no treaty currently obliges DU users to help clean-up after the war. However, civil radiation protection standards place the responsibility firmly at the foot of the polluters.

Low estimates suggest that at least 440,000 kilograms (488 tons) of DU was fired by the United States in both Gulf Wars in 1991 and 2003. Civilians living near contaminated sites, scrap-yard workers, Iraqi doctors and researchers have repeatedly voiced concerns over the effects of DU on health and the environment.

Hans von Sponeck, a former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, told the Guardian last October, “There is definitive evidence of an alarming rise in birth defects, leukemia, cancer and other carcinogenic diseases in Iraq after the war.”

“In 2001, I saw in Geneva how a World Health Organization mission to conduct on-spot assessments in Basra and southern Iraq, where DU had led to devastating environmental health problems, was aborted under U.S. political pressure,” Sponeck said.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by trashyharry (3084) from Waterville, NY 7 years ago

The print for the GDP 1st quarter '14= -2.9; QE until now = 4 t;estimated cost of the Iraq War = 2.9 t; US budget deficit = 16 t.They can't stop or even actually taper QE.I think a mobilization for heavy bombing would cost billions.Maybe they won't do it because of cost? I suppose if the people who have been sent submit a list of targets people at the Pentagon want to hit,they might do some bombing,but how can you do anything to a force like ISIS by bombing?They don't seem to have armor or huge exposed convoys or heavy artillery that would be hard to hide or move.They will probably dispatch drones.but you need quite a bit of data before it can be decided where to dispatch the drones to.I think the architects of the Iraq War have already got what they wanted and the Pentagon is going to let the Iraqi gov't fail.The American people are boned no matter what the Pentagon does or doesn't do in Iraq with regard to The Mission.Because Mission Accomplished.

[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 7 years ago

Iraq was once under shallow water

lots of ancient marine life left it oil