Tag Archives: iraqi

The United States Just Dropped a 21,600-Pound Bomb In Afghanistan

Mother Jones

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On Thursday, US forces dropped the largest conventional bomb in its arsenal on an ISIS tunnel complex in Nangahar province, eastern Afghanistan. The GBU-43 Massive Ordinance Air Blast, aka the “Mother of All Bombs,” or “MOAB,” is a 21,600-pound bomb developed in 2003 during the first Iraq War. Its explosion is reportedly equivalent to 11 tons of TNT and creates a one-mile blast radius in every direction. As one of its creators stated at the time of its testing, “It is the largest guided bomb in the history of the world with a tremendous impact and detonation.” This marks its first use in combat, and serves as a reminder that the longest war in US history rages on over 15 years after the US first invaded Afghanistan.

United States Forces-Afghanistan issued a statement Thursday morning confirming the strike, stating that it was “designed to minimize the risk of Afghan and U.S. Forces conducting clearing operations in the area while maximizing the destruction of ISIS-K fighters and facilities.” General John W. Nicholson, Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan, said, “As ISIS-K’s losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense. This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our defensive against ISIS-K.”

In Thursday morning’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “The GBU 43 is a large, powerful & accurately delivered weapon. The US took all precautions against civilian casualties.” When reporters asked for details, Spicer declined to comment further.

“The hard truth is…when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, over 90 percent of those killed or injured will be civilians,” Iain Overton, the executive director of Action on Armed Violence, said in an e-mail. “And when explosive violence is used in lesser populated areas, at last 25 percent of those killed or injured will be civilians. In short, the bigger the blast you create, the more civilians will be killed.”

Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Military Times, “What the MOAB does is basically suck out all of the oxygen and lights the air on fire. It’s a way to get into areas where conventional bombs can’t reach.”

Matthew Bolton, director of the International Disarmament Institute at Pace University, is worried that the military’s decision could encourage other countries to develop or deploy similar weapons. Bolton also says it is unlikely that this sort of weapon could spare civilians. “It is difficult to imagine how it might be used in the kind of wars the US now fights—often in urban areas—without posing serious dangers to civilians,” he says, “both as a result of its immediate wide area effect and the impact on vital infrastructure like electricity, water, sewers, schools, and health services.”

While the number of civilian casualties and destruction to civilian property remains unknown, the strike comes amidst concerns that the Trump administration has loosened the rules of engagement that had sought to minimize civilian casualties for airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. During the campaign, Trump promised that in the fight against ISIS he would “bomb the shit out of ’em” and pledged to “take out their families.”

Last month, Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, the top US commander in Iraq, acknowledged that the coalition “probably had a role” in an airstrike in al-Jadida, Iraq, that killed as many as 240 Iraqi civilians. According to Airwars, an international airstrikes monitoring organization, March marked the third month in a row in which alleged US-led coalition civilian casualty events outnumbered those of Russia, and the number of US munitions dropped in the first three months of 2017 is up 59-percent over last year.

Of the MOAB, Overton adds, “That bomb cannot be targeted, it cannot be proportional and it cannot but kill civilians.”

This story has been updated.

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The United States Just Dropped a 21,600-Pound Bomb In Afghanistan

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In Mosul, Yet Another Botched Operation

Mother Jones

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A US airstrike in Mosul last week appears to have killed upwards of 200 civilians. The New York Times reports:

American military officials insisted on Friday that the rules of engagement had not changed. They acknowledged, however, that American airstrikes in Syria and Iraq had been heavier in an effort to press the Islamic State on multiple fronts.

….Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for the United States Central Command, said that the military was seeking to determine whether the explosion in Mosul might have been prompted by an American or coalition airstrike, or was a bomb or booby trap placed by the Islamic State….Iraqi officers, though, say they know exactly what happened: Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi, a commander of the Iraqi special forces, said that the civilian deaths were a result of a coalition airstrike that his men had called in, to take out snipers on the roofs of three houses in a neighborhood called Mosul Jidideh. General Saadi said the special forces were unaware that the houses’ basements were filled with civilians.

….Before, Iraqi officers were highly critical of the Obama administration’s rules, saying that many requests for airstrikes were denied because of the risk that civilians would be hurt. Now, the officer said, it has become much easier to call in airstrikes. Some American military officials had also chafed at what they viewed as long and onerous White House procedures for approving strikes under the Obama administration.

This may simply be an appalling incident not related to any change in policy. Even with the best preparation, sometimes horrible things happen when you’re at war. Still, in the past two months we’ve had a botched raid in Yemen; two attacks in Syria with heavy civilian casualties; and now an airstrike in Mosul that left hundreds of civilians dead. It’s fair to wonder if a guy whose idea of military strategy is to “bomb the shit out of ISIS” has also decided that he doesn’t much care about civilian casualties while he’s doing it.

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In Mosul, Yet Another Botched Operation

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This American Company Is Finally Getting Out of the Cluster Bomb Business

Mother Jones

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The CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon first saw combat in the early months of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On April 2, 2003, an Iraqi tank column was advancing toward a Marine unit in southwest Baghdad. The marines had no tank support, but a new weapon was on its way. A B-52 bomber dropped two CBU-105 cluster bombs aimed at the leading edge of the Iraqi armor. “The entire first third of the Iraqi tank column was decimated,” said Air Force Col. James Knox. “The Iraqis in the back of the tank column immediately stopped and surrendered to the Marines.”

It was the perfect unveiling for the CBU-105, which quickly became the United States’ go-to anti-armored vehicle munition. But in the past decade, cluster munitions have become known not for deadly accuracy but indiscriminate carnage and civilian casualties. And now, after sustained international pressure, the internationally-banned weapon will no longer be made in the United States—at least for now.

On Tuesday, Textron Manufacturing Systems announced that it is ceasing production of the controversial CBU-105, citing reduced orders, a volatile political environment, and international weapons treaties that negatively affect the “ownability” of its shares. “Historically, sensor-fuzed weapon sales have relied on foreign military and direct commercial international customers for which both executive branch and congressional approval is required,” Textron said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. “The current political environment has made it difficult to obtain these approvals.”

The announcement comes three months after Textron’s CEO defended the weapon in a Providence Journal op-ed amid ongoing protests at the company’s Rhode Island headquarters. Around the same time, the Obama Administration blocked the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia in a rare display of unease over the growing civilian death toll in the Saudi Arabia-led war against Shiite rebels in Yemen.

Cluster bombs, which are dropped from aircraft or launched from the ground, contain submunitions, or “bomblets,” that spread over a wide area before exploding. They’re intended to target military convoys or installations, but can kill or injure anyone who happens to be nearby. Bomblets that fail to detonate can become de facto landmines, laying in wait for anyone unfortunate enough to come across them. The CBU-105 cluster bomb contains 10 canisters, each of which disperses 4 explosive bomblets, called “skeets,” which can spread out over an area the size of a football field before detonating.

In 2008, the United States came up with a policy to end its use and export of all cluster munitions by 2018 except for those whose failure rates are less than one percent. In lab settings, the CBU-105 meets the criteria, blowing up 99 percent of the time they’re deployed. But many observers and activists question whether that’s been the case on the battlefield after documenting numerous cases of unexploded skeets.

Morgan Stritzinger, a Textron spokesperson, defended the CBU-105 in a statement to Mother Jones. “The Sensor Fuzed Weapon is a smart, reliable air-to-ground weapon that is in full compliance with the US Defense Department policy and current law,” she wrote.

According to the 2016 Cluster Munition Monitor, civilians made up 97 percent of cluster-bomb casualties in 2015. More than a third were children. Since the beginning of 2015, Syrian government forces have dropped 13 types of cluster munitions in at least 360 attacks, resulting in 248 deaths. And the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has used cluster munitions in at least 19 attacks, killing more than 100. Casualties from cluster munition remnants have also been documented in six other countries.

Under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, more than 100 countries have banned the CBU-105. Yet major arms-supplying nations, including United States and Russia, have refused to sign the treaty. Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates stated that eliminating cluster munitions from US stockpiles “would put the lives of our soldiers and those of our coalition partners at risk.” The last known time the United States used cluster bombs was in 2009, when it sent a Tomahawk missile armed with cluster bombs at an alleged Al Qaeda training camp in Yemen. The attack killed 35 women and children and as many 14 militants.

“Textron has taken the right decision to discontinue its production of sensor fuzed weapons, which are prohibited by the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions,” Mary Wareham, the arms advocacy director at Human Rights Watch told Mother Jones in an e-mail. “This decision now clears the path for the administration and Congress to work together to permanently end US production, transfer, and use of all cluster munitions. Such steps would help bring the US into alignment with the international ban treaty and enable it to join.”

How likely that is remains to be seen. This week, states parties and advocates meet in Geneva for the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. But as former Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer turned public radio reporter John Ismay notes, the United States doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to arms treaties. “We haven’t signed the land mine treaty. We still have nuclear weapons. We still have napalm bombs in the inventory,” he says. “I have a feeling these are things we’ll hang on to.”

Plus, they’re still legal under US law. While Textron Systems is ending its cluster bomb program, the Pentagon could turn to a different manufacturer. Or Textron may be willing to license its technology to other defense contractors. On that point, the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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This American Company Is Finally Getting Out of the Cluster Bomb Business

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In 2006 Interview, Trump Demanded US Troops Leave Iraq—Even if Chaos and ISIS-Like Violence Occurred

Mother Jones

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Last week, Donald Trump repeatedly asserted that President Barack Obama was the “founder” of ISIS and blasted Hillary Clinton as a “co-founder” of the terror group that has taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria. But Obama was not in the White House and Clinton was not secretary of state when ISIS originated.

When a conservative radio host on Thursday asked if Trump meant that the Obama administration had “created the vacuum” in the region that allowed ISIS to grow, the GOP nominee stuck to his nonsensical statement: “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS.” Next, Trump claimed he was being sarcastic. Then at a campaign rally, he added, “But not that sarcastic.” It was a very Trumpian couple of days. And on Monday, with a speech on national security that Trump read off a teleprompter, he had a chance to declare what he really thought about Obama, Clinton, and ISIS. After repeating the lie that he had opposed the Iraq War before the invasion, Trump did not restate his “founder” claim, but he said that because of Obama and Clinton, “Iraq is in chaos, and ISIS is on the loose.” He added, “the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has unleashed ISIS.” He insisted that Obama’s withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (which actually was compelled by an agreement reached with the Iraqi government by President George W. Bush) “led directly to the rise of ISIS.”

Here’s the problem for Trump—if being wildly inconsistent and attacking an opponent for supposedly holding a position that Trump himself once advocated is a problem: 10 years ago, Trump called for a complete US withdrawal of troops from Iraq and indicated that he didn’t give a damn if this led to civil war and greater violence there. He even predicted that such a move would cause the rise of “vicious” forces in Iraq. But Trump believed this would not be the United States’ problem. That is, Trump was ardently in favor of the very actions that he now decries and for which he wrongfully blames Obama and Clinton.

In a 2006 CNBC interview, Trump was asked to critique Bush’s performance in the White House. Trump immediately brought up the Iraq War:

I would like to see our president get us out of the war in Iraq because the war is a total catastrophe. I would like to see President Bush get us out of Iraq, which is a total mess, a total catastrophe, and it’s not going to get any better. It’s only going to get worse. It’s a mess.

Trump was passionate and insistent. Bush had to get the hell out of Iraq right away:

What you have to do is get out of Iraq. You can do it nicely. You can do it slowly. You can do it radically.

Trump fancied the do-it-fast approach. And he noted that a US withdrawal should proceed, even though it would precipitate more violence in the region and the worst and most violent forces would benefit. It’s almost as if Trump foresaw the rise of ISIS—but didn’t believe that this mattered for the United States:

I would announce that we have been victorious in Iraq and all the troops are coming home and let those people have their civil war. And, by the way, no matter if we stay or if we leave, the most vicious person that you’ve ever seen in your—. Saddam Hussein is going to be like a nice guy compared to the one who’s taking over Iraq. Somebody will take over Iraq, whether we’re there or not, but probably when we leave, will take over Iraq. He will make Saddam Hussein…He will make Saddam Hussein look like a baby.

In his characteristic manner, Trump did not mince his words and he reiterated his solution:

I just said, announce victory, get them home…Let’s say, “Victory, Tremendous.” Have a big thing in the streets. Then get out real fast before you get shot. Let’s get home…Hey, hate us over there. Now how, how, do you—. The people that like us hate us. Those are the good ones. Then you have the double hate where they wanna just shoot us. But how do you solve that problem? You got to get out of Iraq.

Trump was clear at the time: The United States had to remove its troops, even if that would cause a civil war and a dramatic expansion of violence and terror in Iraq and the region. Now he denounces Obama and Clinton, who were not in charge of US foreign policy at that time, for supposedly implementing the policy he demanded. By Trump’s own standards—sarcastic or not—he is at least an honorary founder of ISIS.

Watch Trump take the exact position he now slams as “naive” and an example of “bad judgment”:

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In 2006 Interview, Trump Demanded US Troops Leave Iraq—Even if Chaos and ISIS-Like Violence Occurred

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Shia Mob in Iraq Demands More Technocrats

Mother Jones

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Protesters stormed the Iraqi parliament today:

Baghdad Operations Command declared a state of emergency and said all roads into the capital had been closed….Iraq is in the grip of a political crisis, with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attempting to reshuffle his cabinet and meet the demands of the demonstrators, who have been spurred on by the powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. But Abadi has been hampered by chaotic parliament sessions, where lawmakers have thrown water bottles and punches at one another.

Oddly, the “firebrand cleric” Sadr (remember when that practically used to be his first name in news reports?) is demanding that…the current hacks running government ministries be replaced with nonpartisan technocrats. “More bean counters in the cabinet!” isn’t the usual rallying cry of a populist uprising, but there you have it.

Needless to say, the sectarian hacks currently in charge have been resisting this change for the past month. In the meantime, Iraq is in chaos. Again.

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Shia Mob in Iraq Demands More Technocrats

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25 Years Later: Photos From the First Time We Invaded Iraq

Mother Jones

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Twenty-five years ago, former President George H.W. Bush took to the airwaves to announce the launch of what is now known as Operation Desert Storm, a US-led military operation to drive Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait. “Just two hours ago, allied air forces began an attack on military targets in Iraq and Kuwait,” Bush said on the evening of January 16, 1991. “These attacks continue as I speak.” For five weeks, coalition forces bombarded Iraqi positions from the air and sea. When a ground invasion followed in February, it took only 100 hours to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.

Operation Desert Storm marked a shift in how Americans experience combat when the US military deploys in far-flung countries. For the first time, the beginning of a conflict played out on live TV, and viewers could “watch the war” from the comfort of home as it unfolded.

It was billed as a smashing success: an “accurate” bombing campaign, followed up by a swift, four-day ground assault that led to Iraq’s expulsion from Kuwait and a ceasefire. Then again, how does one define success in Iraq? Coalition losses reached the hundreds, while Iraqi troop deaths reached into the tens of thousands, and another 2,000-plus civilians were killed.

The anniversary of Operation Desert Storm is a reminder of the unfinished history of the United States at war in Iraq. After all, here we are 25 years later, still dropping bombs there.

Here is a collection of images from the first Gulf War.

Stephen Levin of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, watches President George H.W. Bush announce allied forces’ airstrikes against Iraq at an appliance store in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, on the night of January 17, 1991. Amy Sancetta/AP

CNN took Desert Storm as a moment to show the power of what a 24-hour news channel could do.

Source: YouTube.

Iraqi anti-aircraft fire is launched on January 18, 1991, from Baghdad in response to a US and allied aircraft attack on the city. Dominique Mollard/AP

Three US nationals wearing gas masks listen to a news broadcast on a short-wave radio as Iraqi Scud missiles hit the city on Friday, January 18, 1991, in Tel Aviv. People in the city spent most of the night on full alert for a gas and chemical warfare attack. Martin Cleave/AP

A protester in a skull mask and wearing an American flag holds up the late-afternoon edition of the San Francisco Examiner during a demonstration in downtown San Francisco on January 16, 1991. Thousands of demonstrators marched through downtown San Francisco calling for a peaceful solution to the Gulf crisis. The San Francisco protests turned violent, with protesters burning a police car. Paul Sakuma/AP

Senior Airman Richard Phillips of Mobile, Alabama, steps along a line of 2,000-pound bombs at a US airbase on the Saudi Arabian Peninsula. AP

F-16A, F-15C and F-15E flying during Desert Storm US Air Force

US Marines in full combat NBC gear as part of a chemical-weapons drill during Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia DOD/Planet Pix/ZUMA

Aerial view of a destroyed Iraqi T-72 tank, a BMP-1, and Type 63 armored personnel carriers and trucks on Highway 8. Staff Sgt. Dean Wagner/DOD

US President George H.W. Bush talks to reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House on Monday, February 12, 1991, in Washington after meeting with advisers to discuss the Persian Gulf War. From left: Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, Vice President Quayle, White House Chief of Staff John Sununu, the president, Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Colin Powell. Dennis Cook/AP

A US Marine honor guard carries the casket bearing the remains of Marine Captain Manual Rivera Jr. outside St. Anselm’s Roman Catholic Church in the Bronx borough of New York. Rivera was killed when a Harrier jet he was flying crashed on a training mission in the Persian Gulf. Mark Lennihan/AP

An Iraqi prisoner waits with his hands up while a Saudi trooper inspects papers at an Iraqi bunker complex in southern Kuwait. The coalition advance, and massive surrenders by Iraqi troops, continued throughout the second full day of Operation Desert Storm’s ground warfare in the Gulf War. Laurent Rebours/AP

A motorist in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates holds a special afternoon edition of Gulf News, published in response to Saddam Hussein’s Tuesday announcement on Baghdad Radio of the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait on February 27, 1991. Gill Allen/AP

A humvee drives along a road in the Kuwaiti desert following Operation Desert Storm. Oil wells set ablaze by retreating Iraqi forces burn in the background. DOD

A wounded Ken Kozakiewicz, left, cries after being given the dog tags and learning of the death of a fellow tank crewman, body bag at right. The widely published photo came to define the Persian Gulf War for many. At right is wounded comrade Michael Santarakis. The soldiers were from the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division. David Turnley/DOD Pool/AP

Desert Storm trading cards

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25 Years Later: Photos From the First Time We Invaded Iraq

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Vladimir Putin Thought His Boys Would Be Home By Christmas

Mother Jones

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BloombergBusiness reports on the Russian mission in Syria:

Many senior officials in Moscow underestimated how long the operation in support of Bashar al-Assad would take when Putin entered Syria’s civil war on Sept. 30 and no longer talk in terms of just a few months, with one saying the hope now is that it won’t last several years.

With the mission in its third month, Putin is pouring materiel and manpower into Syria at a pace unanticipated by lawmakers already struggling to meet his spending goals….“This operation will last a year at a minimum,” said Frants Klintsevich, deputy head of the Defense Committee in the upper house of parliament. “I was expecting more from Syria’s army.”

….While Syrian forces backed by Russian firepower have had some successes, such as breaking Islamic State’s two-year siege of a strategic air base near Aleppo, Putin is only now starting to realize that he can’t defeat the group through air power alone, said Anton Lavrov, a Russian military analyst….Russia now has as many as 5,000 servicemen on the ground, more than double the original estimate of 2,000, according to RUSI researcher Igor Sutyagin. While Putin continues to rule out a land offensive, hundreds of advisers are already embedded with the Syrian army, he said.

I suppose I should be immune to this kind of thing by now, but did Putin seriously think he’d wipe out ISIS and the Syrian opposition in a few months? It’s not as if Russia doesn’t have plenty of recent experience with long quagmire-ish campaigns—in Afghanistan in the 80s, in Tajikistan in the 90s, and against Chechen rebels in both the 90s and aughts. After the United States spent over a decade in Afghanistan and Iraq without winning a decisive victory, did Putin really think that Syria would be just a bit of military muscle stretching, like South Ossetia?

Beats me. And I love Klintsevich’s comment: he was “expecting more” from Syria’s army. Join the club. For more than a decade we’ve been expecting more from the Iraqi army and the Afghani army and every other army in the Middle East. Oddly enough, they’re all poorly trained and riven with sectarian tension. Who could have predicted the same would be true in Syria?

Blowhards are the same the world over, I guess. Always convinced that their wars will be short and victorious, and never willing to listen to anyone else. They just don’t learn.

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Vladimir Putin Thought His Boys Would Be Home By Christmas

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Republicans All Seem to Like Obama’s Strategy to Defeat ISIS

Mother Jones

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Do any of the Republican candidates have a plan for defeating ISIS? As near as I can tell, most of them have offered up variations on this:

Bomb ISIS, just like Obama, but better.
Use Iraqi ground troops, just like Obama, but better.
Put together a coalition of local allies, just like Obama, but better.

Am I missing anything? Aside from being more bellicose (the sand will glow, we’ll bomb the shit out of them, etc.), all of the candidates are saying that Obama’s strategy is basically sound, but they’d tweak it a bit here and there. They’d stop worrying about civilian deaths so they could drop more bombs. They’d somehow train Iraqi forces better than the Army is doing right now. And they’d put together a real coalition, though it’s never really clear what they mean by that or how they’d accomplish it.

Anything else?

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Republicans All Seem to Like Obama’s Strategy to Defeat ISIS

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Here’s Why "Arming the Opposition" Usually Doesn’t Work

Mother Jones

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I routinely mock the tiresomely predictable calls from conservative hawks to “arm the opposition.” It never seems to matter who the opposition is. Nor does it matter if we’re already arming them. If we are, then we need to send them even better arms. Does this do any good? Can allied forces always benefit from more American arms and training? That gets tactfully left unsaid.

Today, Phil Carter, who has firsthand experience with this, writes a longer piece explaining just why the theory of indirect military assistance is so wobbly in practice:

The theory briefs well as a way to achieve U.S. goals without great expenditure of U.S. blood and treasure. Unfortunately, decades of experience (including the current messes in Iraq and Syria) suggest that the theory works only in incredibly narrow situations in which states need just a little assistance. In the most unstable places and in the largest conflagrations, where we tend to feel the greatest urge to do something, the strategy crumbles.

It fails first and most basically because it hinges upon an alignment of interests that rarely exists between Washington and its proxies.

….Second, the security-assistance strategy gives too much weight to the efficacy of U.S. war-fighting systems and capabilities….For security assistance to have any chance, it must build on existing institutions, adding something that fits within or atop a partner’s forces….But giving night-vision goggles and F-16 aircraft to a third-rate military like the Iraqi army won’t produce a first-rate force, let alone instill the will to fight.

….The third problem with security assistance is that it risks further destabilizing already unstable situations and actually countering U.S. interests. As in Syria, we may train soldiers who end up fighting for the other side or provide equipment that eventually falls into enemy hands.

There are some things we should have learned over the past couple of decades, and one of them is this: “train-and-equip” missions usually don’t work. Sometimes they do, as in Afghanistan in the 80s. But that’s the rare success. In Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan in the aughts, they failed.

So why do we hear cries to arm our allies during practically every conflict? Because it turns out there aren’t very many good choices in between doing nothing and launching a full-scale ground war. One option is aerial support and bombing. Another option is arming someone else’s troops. So if you know the public won’t support an invasion with US troops, but you still want to show that you’re more hawkish than whoever’s in charge now, your only real alternative is to call for one or the other of these things—or both—regardless of whether they’ll work.

And of course, the louder the better. It might not help the war effort any, but it sure will help your next reelection campaign.


Here’s Why "Arming the Opposition" Usually Doesn’t Work

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Donald Trump’s Curious Relationship With an Iraq War Hawk

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump regularly boasts that he was opposed to the Iraq War. On Meet the Press this past weekend, he said, “And, as you know, for years I’ve been saying, ‘Don’t go into Iraq.’ They went into Iraq. They destabilized the Middle East. It was a big mistake.” In July, he reportedly told a conservative group in Hollywood that instead of invading Iraq the United States “should have invaded Mexico.” And he’s been consistent on this point for years. In a 2004 interview with Esquire, Trump dumped on the Bush-Cheney crowd for initiating a dumb war:

Look at the war in Iraq and the mess that we’re in. I would never have handled it that way. Does anybody really believe that Iraq is going to be a wonderful democracy where people are going to run down to the voting box and gently put in their ballot and the winner is happily going to step up to lead the county? C’mon. Two minutes after we leave, there’s going to be a revolution, and the meanest, toughest, smartest, most vicious guy will take over. And he’ll have weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam didn’t have. What was the purpose of this whole thing? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs? Not to mention the other side. All those Iraqi kids who’ve been blown to pieces. And it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong. All this for nothing!

So here’s the puzzle: Why would Trump pick one of the lead cheerleaders for the Iraq War to be a top foreign policy adviser?

In that Meet the Press interview, host Chuck Todd asked Trump to identify his “go-to” experts for national security matters. Trump said he “probably” had two or three. Todd pressed the tycoon for names, and the first one Trump mentioned was John Bolton, the George W. Bush administration’s ambassador to the United Nations. “He’s, you know, a tough cookie, knows what he’s talking about,” Trump said. (He also named retired Col. Jack Jacobs, an MSNBC military analyst.)

Bolton has long been one of the most hawkish of all the neoconservative hawks. He was part of the Bush-Cheney crew that claimed Saddam Hussein had amassed weapons of mass destruction and that war was the only option. As a top State Department official prior to the 2003 Iraq invasion, Bolton pushed the false claims that Iraq had obtained aluminum tubes and uranium for its supposed nuclear weapons program. He was also a supporter of a conspiracy theorist named Laurie Mylroie who contended that Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks. Before Bush launched the Iraq War, Bolton predicted that “the American role actually will be fairly minimal.” (In 1997, he was one of several conservatives who wrote to President Bill Clinton and urged him to attack Saddam.)

Not surprisingly, Bolton has stuck to the position that the Iraq invasion was the right move. In May, he said, “I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for an explanation of Trump’s reliance on Bolton’s advice.

Bolton, who flirted with the notion of running for president in 2016, has a long history of extreme positions. In 2009, he noted that the only way to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons would be an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran—an option he seemed to endorse. In 2012, he backed then-Rep. Michele Bachmann’s call for an investigation of members of Congress supposedly connected to a Muslim Brotherhood plot to infiltrate the US government. This past March, Bolton called for the United States and/or Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

Bolton is not in an exclusive relationship with Trump. He has also advised other GOP 2016ers, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Bobby Jindal. But Trump’s reliance on Bolton is curious, for Bolton was neck-deep using false assertions to promote a war that Trump himself says was all for “nothing.” Bolton ought to have received a “you’re fired” pink slip from Trump. Instead, Trump solicits his views.

Would Trump have retained an apprentice who screwed up this badly?

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Donald Trump’s Curious Relationship With an Iraq War Hawk

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