The summer/fall of 2014 has seen wall to wall pants-shitting over two emergent and omnipresent storylines – ISIS & Ebola. While neither should be ignored, the mass hysteria surrounding each far outweigh either’s respective/relative level of threat.
Ebola has so far killed nearly 5000 people so far this year, the vast majority of which have occurred in Western Africa. A single person has died in the United States. One.
Yet, the American corporate news-media establishment (90% of American media is owned by six corporations) have been going mad fear-mongering Ebola to the American public. To the point that nearly 40% of Americans believe that they or someone they know will catch Ebola in the next year.
Odd, considering the fact that more people die from AIDS worldwide every single day than have died from Ebola this year. Or the fact that roughly one hundred Americans die from the plain old flu every single day.
Five hundred American kids in forty-three states caught Enterovirus D68 this past summer. Four kids died of various causes, and tested positive for the mysterious disease; another who tested positive caught pink-eye and didn’t wake up the next morning. We don’t have a clue how all of these kids are catching it, nor what exactly the symptoms are – some get cold-like symptoms, others get polio-like symptoms. And yet, the corporate media tells me to be afraid (be VERY afraid!) of Ebola.
There are certainly valid concerns surrounding Ebola. Of primary concern are the people of West Africa. The threat of Ebola to Americans will remain so long as it keeps spreading in Africa, no matter what measures we attempt to put into place here in the US (including counterproductive travel-bans). The biggest immediate threat of Ebola to Americans is the fact that we only have capacity to effectively disinfect the by-products (fluid loss of up to 20 liters per day) of roughly ten Ebola patients. With additional investment in man-hours, we could likely double that. Twenty beds for 300+ million people is certainly not ideal. But rest assured, Nigeria and Senegal have effectively rid themselves of Ebola, it just takes the wherewithal and commitment to studious attention to the individuals at risk until the incubation period (21+ days) has passed. Again – Nigeria and Senegal.
ISIS/Daash? Those people are abhorrent, they are despicable. If the term ’terrorist’ means anything anymore, they are certainly deserving. But Boko Haram are easily as demented. Daash behead people, but our A#1 ally Saudi Arabia beheaded 31 people in August alone. Daash occupy and invade Iraq, we occupied and invaded Iraq. Daash kill civilians & enemies with guns & bombs, we kill civilians & enemies with drones & air-strikes. Daash execute with knives, we execute with needles. They have hostages, we have Guantanamo.
Why are we so afraid? Fear sells, and the corporate news-media has an endless supply on demand. They are the megaphone for their fellow profiteers of fear.
Defense contractors always want more war, war is their raison d’etre. Generals (et al) know they have cushy jobs with defense contractors waiting for them, and they want to please their future bosses. The Pentagon is the hammer who sees everything as a nail, and need to justify the ever-increasing defense budget. Our politicians are already being paid by the defense contractors by way of legal bribery, and have defense-lobbying jobs waiting for them, so they are basically towing the company line. And the election is fast approaching, so anything they can possibly use to point a finger at Obama, goes.
War makes money for an elite few. It is the people who suffer.
But why are we so easily moved?
For starters, fear is a rational and necessary feeling. Secondarily, the profit-motives of the elites listed above. And perhaps as disturbing – an ugly amalgamation of nativism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia.
Ebola is killing Africans, and that’s where black people come from, so it’s easier to fear-monger Ebola in largely-white America. And ISIS/Daash are Muslim, so it’s easier to fear-monger them in largely-Christian America.
Two American journalists were beheaded, so President Obama took to the Cross Hall of the White House to declare that the US would ’degrade and destroy’ ISIL. ISIS. IS. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the ‘caliph’ of DAASH (Dulat al-Islam fi al-Iraq wal-Sham), so that‘s what we‘ll call them. Google it.
Daash are despicable. They’ve beheaded journalists and aid workers. They’ve enslaved hundreds (at least) of women and sold them into slavery/forced marriages. They’ve shot rows of blindfolded, kneeling men in it the back of their heads, filling mass graves along their way. They kill Christians, they kill Yazidi, they kill Shia. Their message is: convert, or die.
So, what do they want, how did we get here, and what should we do? Luckily, I have answers.
First, we need to know what Daash wants – they’re aim is to unite under a single political border, all majority-Muslim areas of the world, to be ruled by their religious leader.
To that end, they want to bait the West into more war on the ground in more Arab countries, in an effort to unite the Muslim world against the West in a world-wide religious holy war.
What makes them think that this is a reasonable goal to be attained?
The Prophet Muhammad ruled the first Islamic caliphate (state led by religious leader) for 10 years before dying in 632. They were of course in need of a successor (caliph). Some (Shia) wanted a blood-line caliph (Ali, cousin/son-in-law), while others (Sunni) believed that the Prophet had personally appointed his close companion, Abu Bakr. Hence the Sunnia-Shia divide.
By 750, the caliphate grew to include basically the entire Middle East – as far as modern-day Pakistan to the east; Syria, Iraq, much of Turkey to the north; and all of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman to the south – and west to include the entire southern coast of the Mediterranean (Egypt, Libya, Algeria…), even Spain.
What got us to this point?
Well, it goes back to the post-WWI, Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1916. Westerners (Britain and France specifically) ignored all religious, ethnic, and tribal borders – and scratched out their own Middle Eastern borders, likely (kidding) on the back of a napkin over a cup of Starbucks…
Of course, this only served to push local tensions to the fore. By 1949, the US had little choice (…) but to force regime change in Syria. A few years later, Iran’s democratically elected leader was ousted via coup d’etat, again pushed by the US (CIA specifically, and admittedly).
The Iraq-Iran War began in 1980. President Reagan decided that Saddam Hussein was the more preferable/moderate option, so he had Iraq removed from the ’State Sponsors of Terrorism’ list, and sent Rumsfeld over to shake Saddam’s hand and reaffirm US intelligence and material support for Iraq. In the process, Reagan illegally traded weapons to Iran in exchange for hostages (Iran Contra).
The month the Iraq-Iran cease-fire was signed (Aug ‘88), our main man Saddam turned the chemical weapons he had used to defeat the Iranians, toward ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq. Two years later, he invaded Kuwait. At that point, we realized that the guy we thought was cool so we helped him, wasn’t so cool so we had to drop some bombs on his head.
While the Iraq-Iran War was being waged, Russia was fighting jihadis in Afghanistan (1979-1989). You know – enemy of your enemy. So, we (US) launched Operation Cyclone, and armed the Mujahideen. It worked in the short-term, Russia was bled financially, which led Gorbachev to seek the end of the Cold War with the US. Success!
Nineteen Saudi hijackers, plotted out in Germany. So of course, President George W. Bush lied (well, Halliburton gave Cheney a $34 million exit bonus quid, so he lied to Dubya), and we went to decade-plus wars in both Iraq & Afghanistan (whilst Halliburton made a $40 billion quo). Not Saudi Arabia, where the attackers were actually from, but Iraq & Afghanistan. Bin Ladin? Bin Ladin was Saudi, was funded by Saudis, and was captured in Afghanistan by JSOC via Seal Team Six. Not by declared war or 100k boots-on-the-ground, but by intelligence and special forces.
Our main man from the 1980’s, Saddam, wound up being decapitated by way of hanging at the hands of his own people. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in the process of deposing him. Eventually, Iraqis decided it was time for us to leave, so they refused to allow our military personnel legal amnesty for their actions. Dubya had little choice, and agreed to pull out. Obama was elected, and had little choice but to follow through with Dubya’s forcedwithdrawal. Luckily, we spent 7 years training and arming Iraqi gov’t forces…
Our new main man in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, took over in 2006. His predecessor, Saddam, was Sunni, and ruled with an iron fist. Al-Maliki is Shia, and when forming his gov’t, chose not to include Sunni representation, but to simply turn the tables. The entire country was torn asunder. And we were the instigators.
The most vile of these groups has apparently turned out to be Daash, excommunicated from al-Qaeda, the previous ‘worst guys on the planet‘ . How have Daash risen above the rest, at least in the minds of the West? (I’ll take this time to note Boko Haram.)
Well, Daash are good at social media. They’ve adopted some Capone or Pablo-esque tactics – they publicly do nice things for folks in order to curry local favor, and to distract from their blatant abhorrence and brutality.
Meanwhile in Syria, ongoing civil war has seen the deaths of hundreds of thousands, as President Bashar al-Assad has unleashed chemical weapons on his own people (sound familiar?). Just one year ago, Obama was calling for the ouster of Assad, and calling on Congress to let him drop some good-ole American freedom-bombs on Assad’s head. Congress said no, so we worked with Russia, and confiscated/disposed of Assad’s chemical weapons cache.
As per usual, US success in the Middle East could only be short-lived. Given the power vacuum in Iraq, and the rise of rebels in Syria, numerous militant/rebel groups have risen like phoenix from the ashes.
Most importantly, they’ve taken oil fields. Ah yes, Texas tea. Daash is making $2-3m/day off of stolen oil. Given Daash’ income, they can afford to pay tens of thousands of mercenaries to join their cause. And of course, winning breeds band-wagon support (there‘ve been reports of ‘Islam for Dummies‘ being shipped by Amazon to Daash recruits en route). Daash’ social media aptitude also includes video of beheadings and mass killings.
These public displays of brutality have dissuaded the Iraqi (Shia) gov’t forces – which, again, the US spent 7 years training and arming – from risking their literal necks to defend Sunni territory in Iraq. Thus, Iraqi gov’t forces have simply dropped their (made in the US) equipment and tucked tail, rather than defend people they don‘t particularly care for.
Here inlies one of our bigger problems – Iraq is really three countries in one.
Ethnic Kurds are the majority in northern/northeastern Iraq, bordering Turkey and Iran. Shia are the majority in eastern Iraq, along the Iranian border and south to the Persian Gulf. Sunni control the majority of Iraq, including the entire western and southern regions.
Biggest problem with a three-state solution? Iraq is largely land-locked, with a scant 36 mile coastline along the Persian Gulf. This renders control of the sister oil terminals of Al Basrah & Khor al-Amaya a matter of great import. The Kurds would certainly be land-locked, and the Sunni & Shia could conceivably fight ad infinitum over control over the all-important port cities. Sunni and Shia have never been in agreement, and aren’t likely to be. But as they say – you can disagree without being disagreeable.
So how can there be peace?
We can be certain of a few things: the US/West dropping freedom-bombs on Middle Eastern heads, and the US/West placing our thumbs on the scales where political rule is concerned, does not produce desired results. We overthrow democratically elected rulers, it turns out poorly. We defend brutal dictators, it turns out poorly. We prop up strong-men, it turns out poorly. We arm the rebels, it turns out poorly. We assist the supposed moderates, it turns out poorly.
We need to stop.
Since we have a lot to do with the current situation, it could be argued that we cannot simply wash our hands of it. And of course, the world is dependant upon their oil. The solution to that problem is the same as before, we need to stop. Unfortunately, moving away from oil-guzzling autos and single-use plastics, and toward renewables & advanced energy storage/portability are not exactly short-term propositions.
Moreover, Daash itself is a symptom. Daash could be wiped off the face of the planet, but another worst of the worst would simply take it’s place. Employment is low, poverty is high, and foreigners have been occupying their land for over a decade.
So what do we do now?
There is a possible ‘wash our hands’ solution. Daash could have their own Islamic State (apart from Kurdistan and say, Shiastan or what-have-you). Just because Daash is good at beheadings and social media, does not mean that they are capable of governing. Governing requires roads and schools and assisting the poor, elderly, & disabled. Daash forbids soccer and music, movies and dancing – all are distractions from faith. If allowed to govern, Daash would collapse under their own weight.
Of course, there is still the matter of the 40-odd journalists/aide workers held by Daash. Personally, I don’t think 40 hostages demand a full-fledged war. But simply wishing that the Kurdish Pershmerga, the Free Syrian Army, and the Iraqi gov’t forces are capable of taking back Mosul, Tikrit, Fallujah, Raqqa, et al does not make it so.
So how do we get them back? By currying support among Arab nations.
Daash has a hit list. It includes Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, the UAE. We need Egypt, whom we give $1.5b/year in aid, to step up. We need Qatar, with their vast wealth (natural gas), to stop funding terrorists and get on the right side here. Same goes for Kuwait. Most importantly, we need our A#1 ally, Saudi Arabia, to get right. Not only have they funded extremists, possibly including Daash specifically, but the Saudi gov’t beheaded 31 people in August alone! (Cut to Rick Perry sighing with envy…)
Arab states must figure out how to stand up for themselves. If they require air-support, let them (plural, not just Iraq) ask for it explicitly before we go jumping in head-first to yet another perfectly avoidable, decade-plus debacle that we cannot afford.
In the summer of 2014, a group known as ISIS was reported to have acquired, either by force or payment, roughly forty Western journalists & aid workers. ISIS (Daash, Dulat al-Islam fi al-Iraq wal-Sham) was also reported to be threatening genocide against a group known as the Yazidi. Daash believed the Yazidi to be devil worshippers, and were forcing them to convert or die. Tens of thousands of Yazidi fled atop Mount Sinjar, and were dying from lack of sustenance.
And whom emerged from the sky to answer the prayers of the Yazidi? Good ole Uncle Sam, that’s who. Uncle Sam came to air-drop aid for a dying people. Unfortunately, food and water didn’t change their being trapped on a mountain, with certain death lurking below. So, President Obama announced that the US would begin air attacks on the Daash fighters at the foot of the mountain, so that the Yazidi could flee to safety in neighboring Syria.
And that, folks, is what it means to be a superpower. This is what superiority is supposed to look like.
Alas, Obama thwarted any goodwill earned by helping the Yazidi, by using their plight as cover for his broader mission. In the very same speech Obama said ‘America is coming to help’ the Yazidi, he also announced that the US would be launching additional strikes against Daash apart from the mission to save the Yazidi.
We attacked them. Not just to save the Yazidi, we attacked them under the guise of helping the Yazidi. They were but a pawn.
In response, American journalist James Foley was executed. Daash wanted a $132 million ransom for Foley. The US does not negotiate with terrorists*, and the Foley family was advised that paying ransom equates to funding terrorism. So he was beheaded, and the US was warned that there would be further beheadings should the US continue air strikes against them. Which we did. And they did. Steven Sotloff was beheaded next.
At which point, the US media went into a state of hysteria from which they‘ve yet to escape.
Fear sells. War sells. War equals ratings. Ratings equal ad revenue. US media, from television networks and newspapers, from movie studios to books and magazines – it’s all owned by six mega-media conglomerates. And they’re hungry. They get fed when we get scared. And boy are we good at being scared. (We have an entire political party in this country that is based upon a perpetual state of fear.)
So, on September 10th, 2014, Obama gave address which had the distinct look and feel of a war declaration. We would be launching attacks against Daash, in an effort to ‘degrade and destroy’ them. However, he also assured us that Daash posed no imminent threat, and that there would be no boots-on-the-ground.
Why the obfuscation? (Obamafuscation?) As a constitutional scholar, Obama was well aware that an official declaration of war would put him on the clock. The War Powers Act authorizes the executive to deploy military force on an emergency basis, but demands the Congress formally & affirmatively approve and deployment beyond 60 days. Sixty days from September 10th is roughly a week after the midterm elections.
Obama doesn’t want to be on that clock. He was turned down last time he asked Congress for permission to go into Syria. Not all Congressfolk are nincompoops, some of them remember that Hillary lost to Obama because of how she voted on Iraq.
Speaker Boehner has said that the House doesn’t plan to vote until next year. In fact, Boehner called upon Obama to call upon Boehner to call for a vote. Leader Reid neither seems to have any inclination to hold a vote any time soon. Those 60 days will be long-passed come 2015.
What’s a president to do? Lie and obfuscate.
There’s no immediate threat, and there won’t be ground troops. We’re going to war, but not call it war.
For two days. Day-and-a-half. On September 12, White House surrogates were sat in front of cameras and microphones to drone on the brand new talking point: We’re at war with ISIL, in the same way that we are at war with al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda? The president said ISIL. Apparently, Obama and his legal team have determined that the 2001,3 Authorization(s) for Use of Military Force in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively, were broad enough to authorize force in Syria over a decade later. Oh by the way, the same AUMF this same President said just last year should be repealed. Funny that.
And more importantly, since when do underlings get to declare war? Especially against a group that the president himself poses no immediate threat to the homeland?
Oh, don’t worry your pretty little head about the Constitution. There was yet another twist: Khorasan. Dun-dun-dun.
A group which no one had ever heard of. A group which no one in Syria had ever heard of. Khorasan was the new worst of the worst. Even more worse that the other worst of the worst: ISIS. Which was even worse than the previous worst of the worst: Al-Qaeda.
Khorasan was supposedly an elite offshoot whom were plotting an imminent attack on the homeland.
Of course they were. Hindquarters legally covered.
Then miraculously, the leader of Khorasan was killed seemingly the next day. Threat averted. Phew, that was a close one. Thanks Obama!
In the weeks following, we learned that Khorasan is an ancient term, which US intelligence used generically. We also heard that if there was an actual Khorasan group, their threat was simply aspirational, they had no imminent plans on the homeland. Other reports told of a rogue French agent, whose name was found on a list of 13 individuals, under the heading of Khorasan. Regardless, either the bad, bad boogeymen simply didn’t like us, or a single rogue agent was on the loose, hence legal basis for war in Syria. See how that works?
Maybe Obama doesn’t care about traveling to Switzerland, but he needs to be concerned about his job security.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) lost his primary. He won’t be returning to Congress in 2015. He can finally afford to tell the truth.
“A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later.’ It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”
Hear that Obama?
Those 60 days will pass. The election will pass. More specifically, those 60 days will be up a week after the mid-term elections. Those in the know expect Mitch McConnell will be Majority Leader come January. Sending us to war on shaky legal grounds, with the prospect of the GOP controlling both the Upper and Lower Chambers in a few months? The moment anything goes awry in Syria, the Republicans will pounce. Democrats will want Hillary to come fund-raise for them on the campaign trail, and Hillary will be running against Obama nearly as much as against the republican nominee. The democrats won’t save him.
Obama is playing a dangerous game.