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Friday, August 8, 2014

U.S. Bombs -- How Do You Define "Humanitarian"?

Maybe I lack compassion, but I don't understand the most recent actions taken by the U.S. government to ease the threats by ISIS militants in Iraq. In case you haven't heard, here is the latest development of August 8, 2014:

"Two U.S. F/A-18 jet fighters bombed artillery of Sunni Islamic extremists in Iraq on Friday, escalating America's military involvement more than two years after President Barack Obama brought home forces from the country.

"Obama authorized 'targeted airstrikes' if needed to protect U.S. personnel from fighters with ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. military also could use airstrikes to prevent what officials warn could be a genocide of minority groups by the ISIS fighters."

(Tom Cohen and Ben Brumfield.  "U.S. Airstrikes Begin 
on ISIS Militants in Iraq.CNN. August 8, 2014)

Rear Adm. John Kirby said the two F/A 18 fighter jets dropped 500 pound laser guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish province. He said the artillery was being "used against Kurdish forces defending Erbil, near US personnel."

 ("US Carries Out Airstrike Against ISIS in Iraq." ABC News. August 8, 2014)

President Obama said there will "be no U.S. combat troops on the ground." At the same time he made this ominous statement: "We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq."

Obama claims he will not allow the United States to be "dragged into fighting another war in Iraq." Administration officials believe the Iraqis are best-suited to deal with the threat of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, over the long term.

"We're laying down a marker here that even though [ISIS] is not penetrating Erbil, just their presence on the periphery, and the potential threat they pose, could lead us to take action if the targets present themselves," an official told ABC News.

In addition, U.S. forces are conducting a difficult and dangerous humanitarian mission in Iraq, with three U.S. Air Force cargo jets escorted by two F-18 fighter jets dropping critical supplies. In a race to stop a catastrophe, thousands of families who fled to the top of a mountain in Sinjar now face a worrisome predicament, battling blistering heat, pleading that there is no water or bread. Nearly 20 children have already died.

They are trapped 3,000 feet up with no escape. Down below, ISIS terrorists have taken over their homes, warning of a slaughter if they return. The U.S. aircraft dropped 5,300 gallons of water and 8,000 ready-to-eat meals.

The actions reflected the deepest American engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in late 2011 after nearly a decade of war.

("Obama Authorizes Airstrikes in Iraq, Says 'America Is Coming to Help.'" August 8, 2014)

Death, Threats, Bombs -- Iraqis and ISIS Terrorists

America has known about ISIS activities in Iraq for years. According to National View Online, "In congressional testimony as far back as November, U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials made clear that the United States had been closely tracking the al Qaida spinoff since 2012, when it enlarged its operations from Iraq to civil war-torn Syria, seized an oil-rich province there and signed up thousands of foreign fighters who’d infiltrated Syria through NATO ally Turkey."

The ISIS campaign has a stated objective to cause the collapse of the Iraqi state as part of creating a "caliphate." Here is what ISIS feels must happen:

* Create an Islamic State in the Levant (including areas in Northern Syria and Western Iraq)

* Make the caliphate ruled by one leader

* Enforce their view of conservative Islamic traditions

Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is now Caliph Abrahim, and caliphs are regarded as political successors to the Prophet Muhammad. He is the jihadi leader with the most power and newfound notoriety. Terrence McCoy reports ...

“For the last 10 years or more, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been holed up in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area and hasn’t really done very much more than issue a few statements and videos,” Richard Barrett, a former counterterrorism chief with the British foreign intelligence service, told Agence France-Presse last week. 

“Whereas Baghdadi has done an amazing amount — he has captured cities, he has mobilized huge amounts of people, he is killing ruthlessly throughout Iraq and Syria…. If you were a guy who wanted action, you would go with Baghdadi.”

(Terrence McCoy. "How ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Became the World’s Most Powerful Jihadist Leader." The Washington Post. June 11, 2014)

ISIS is estimated to have up to 10,000 fighters known for their brutality. In addition, the group has assets up to $2 billion and weapons from bases it has already overrun.

Iraq's army has benefited from years of U.S. and British training, as well as billions of dollars in military aid. Iraq has 270,000 troops, and military spending in 2013 was as high as $17 billion. The army has helicopters and F16 jets acquired from the U.S.

But, it has lost major Iraqi cities -- including Mosul, Tikrit and Falluja -- to a far smaller number of Jihadist militants. The jihadist attacks demoralize troops, inflict many casualties, and cause soldiers to desert. In Mosul alone, 30,000 troops fled hundreds of militants. They abandoned vehicles and weapons that ISIS confiscated.

(Michael Hirst. BBC News. June 30, 2014)

I feel very bad counting myself among those who feel Iraqis have had enough American support in their struggles with terrorists and murderous religious zealots. I believe in freedom, and I believe in human rights; however, enough is enough. The President's response to ISIS attacks is risky. I wonder how ISIS will react to the bombing. How do you keep a group of bloodthirsty terrorists from regrouping and continuing their campaign?

I also wonder how we can maintain the safety of Americans at the U.S. Embassy there. Eventually, more military action will be needed. I strongly believe that will be a reality if we stay there.

The government's reaction to the "presence" of ISIS is so disturbing. I've heard phrases in the past such as "laying down a marker" that became preludes to all-out war. The phraseology of no one "dragging" us into war is also especially disconcerting given the overwhelming public support for withdrawal from Iraq, which was completed at the end of 2011. The Iraqis, themselves, wanted us out. Now, just a couple years later, we face getting deeper involved.

Considering the inefficiency of the Iraqi Army to fight its own battles, I cannot support any bombing in Iraq. I wish we would close the embassy and transport all Americans safely out of the country. A civil conflict, a religious war, a terrorist action, a fight for control -- no matter the reason for the fighting, the killing, and the continued unrest, I believe Americans must stand up to the government and demand we stop playing "chess" in Iraq. Money and politics contribute to slaughter.

Who is ready to sacrifice their son or daughter for the Iraqi cause now? Do we even know what that "cause" is? Water, food, humanitarian efforts -- couldn't these staples be accomplished without bombs? God bless an America I am seeking ... teach your children well. Learn from mistakes.

Shades of Grey

By Billy Joel

"Some things were perfectly clear, seen with the vision of youth
No doubts and nothing to fear, I claimed the corner on truth
These days it's harder to say I know what I'm fighting for
My faith is falling away
I'm not that sure anymore"

Watch the Youtube Video:

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