Wednesday, August 20, 2014




TODAY, HE WROTE, "With his speech on Wednesday condemning ISIS in newly stark, determined language, President Obama now needs to step up his military campaign in equally dramatic fashion."


Yesterday found US President Barack Obama declaring:

Today, with our support, Iraqi and Kurdish forces took a major step forward by recapturing the largest dam in Iraq, near the city of Mosul. The Mosul dam fell under terrorist control earlier this month, and is directly tied to our objective of protecting Americans in Iraq.
[. . .]
Iraqi and Kurdish forces took the lead on the ground and performed with courage and determination. So this operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together and taking the fight to ISIL. If they continue to do so, they will have the strong support of the United States of America.

And today?

No speeches to the world today. 

Not on the day that found Lizzie Dearden (Independent) reporting the battle for the dam continues and that, "Government forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are trying to push back the militants on the ground around the dam, which is 45 miles from Mosul."  Australia's Sky News (link is text and video) reports:

  Sky's Alex Crawford, at Mosul Dam, said: "We heard firing behind us about 1km away. The president's son said he suspected some hardened IS fighters were in the south of the dam who had not been cleared from the area."
She added: "They are still clearly holding out and putting up some sort of defence."

Crawford said she heard heavy machine-gun fire and possibly mortar shelling as well as jets overhead.

AFP states, "Fighting erupted Tuesday in the area surrounding the dam and U.S. warplanes carried out fresh strikes targeting ISIS, a senior officer in the Kurdish peshmerga forces told AFP."

At the Pentagon today, spokesperson Rear Adm Jack Kirby took questions from the press.

Q: Where do the missions -- the airstrikes for Mosul, where do they fit into the two -- the missions the president delineated, protecting humanitarian issues and then protecting U.S. personnel? Because this seems like a classic softening up the opposition, close-air support for invading -- a counter-invading force. Where do -- where do the missions fit? And wasn't that -- this an example of mission creep, albeit maybe accidental?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, let's take the second part first. Mission creep -- you know, this is a phrase that gets bandied about quite a bit, but let's just kind of talk about it for a second. Mission creep refers to the growth or expansion of the goals and objectives of a military operation, that the goals and objectives change, morph into something bigger than they were at the outset.
It doesn't talk about -- mission creep doesn't refer to numbers of sorties, numbers of troops, numbers of anything. It doesn't refer to timelines. It doesn't even refer to intensity. It's about the mission itself. Nothing has changed about the mission, missions that we're conducting inside Iraq. As I said before, airstrikes are authorized under two mission areas -- humanitarian assistance and the protection of U.S. personnel and facilities.
The airstrikes that we conducted in and around Mosul dam over the last 72 hours or so fit into both those categories, both helping prevent what could be a huge humanitarian problem should the dam be blown or the gates -- they're just allowed to flood, and also to protect U.S. personnel and facilities. So there's been no -- well, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to say a negative. What I'll just tell you is, the missions are clear. The operations that we're conducting are inside the authorizations for those missions. And we're going to continue to be vigilant going forward. And if there is a need for more airstrikes in conjunction with either of those two mission areas, those two authorizations, we'll conduct them.

Q: How effective, how crucial were the strikes to retaking the dam? Do you have a sense of that? What -- you know, without those airstrikes, would the Iraqis and Peshmerga have been able to have retaken the dam?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: It's hard to, you know, arm-chair quarterback here a military operation that just wound up. We believe they were critical to assisting in that -- in the retaking of the dam. But I also would -- at the same time -- point to the courage, the bravery, the skill of both the Kurdish forces and Iraqi forces and their extensive cooperation with one another in conducting this operation. Yes, we were a critical part of it, but it was a team effort.

It was a team effort?  What's Kirby trying to say?  "IS just wanted it more"?

Before the bad news that the issue of the dam was still up in the air, Barack was preaching Operation Happy Talk.  As Matthew Weaver (Guardian) observes:

Barack Obama hailed the retaking of the Mosul dam as a symbol of how Isis militants could be defeated by co-operation between Kurdish, Iraqi and US forces. “This operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together and taking the fight to Isil [Islamic State]. If they continue to do so, they will have the strong support of the United States of America.”

On the topic of mission creep, William Saletan (Slate) notes the changing scope of Barack's misadventure:

On Aug. 7, Obama specified two grounds for military action: to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq and to prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis trapped by ISIS on Mt. Sinjar. Two days later, however, he added another issue: “We have to make sure that ISIL is not engaging in the actions that could cripple a country permanently. There’s key infrastructure inside of Iraq that we have to be concerned about.” Specifically, on Thursday, he authorized airstrikes “to recapture the Mosul Dam,” arguing that its destruction “could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger U.S. personnel and facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad [280 miles away], and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace.” In Obama’s foreign policy, nation-building is out. But using force to help governments provide “critical services” is in.

Gordon Lubold and Kate Brannen (Foreign Policy) also address the issue:

The administration entered the conflict with an aggressive airstrike and airdrop campaign in northern Iraq based, it said, on the need to protect the U.S. personnel in the country and to prevent militants from slaughtering members of the Yazidi religious minority sect stranded atop Mount Sinjar. Then last week, U.S. officials announced that a reconnaissance team that had visited Sinjar discovered that the humanitarian crisis wasn't as bad as first feared, thus removing one of the main justifications for the air campaign. In recent days, the United States has launched a barrage of airstrikes in and around Mosul that appear to be directly targeting the Islamic State, leading many to conclude that the mission is expanding beyond the administration's stated goals and objectives.
"The administration can call it whatever they want, but semantics aside, they're now waging war," said Stephen Biddle, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. 

The word games leaders resort to in order to deceive the people they supposedly represent.

The Los Angeles Times' Doyle McManus observes, "Even without American boots on the ground, Obama has entered the United States in its fourth Iraq war. It won’t be over quickly. As the president said, this is going to be a long-term project."

It's a reality few want to tackle, let alone acknowledge.

BBC News, noting the United Kingdom's involvement, reported yesterday, "Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said the UK's military involvement in the country could last for 'months', and has revealed that RAF surveillance aircraft are operating there."  However, wire services carry British Prime Minister David Cameron's denial, "Britain is not going to get involved in another war n Iraq.  We're not going to be putting boots on the ground."

And, like Barack Obama, Cameron thinks as long as he can insist that it's just dropping bombs, it's not really war.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"