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William Rivers Pitt | “Boots on the Ground” in Iraq: Here We Go Again

There has to be a way off this merry-go-round.

US soldiers shipping out to Iraq in November, 2010. The latest US deployments are small, but floods always start with a drip. (Photo: Greg Bishop / Flickr)

In September of 2014, President Obama went all the way around the block and back again trying to explain how the United States and its allies would destroy ISIS (also known as Daesh) without deploying soldiers. Airstrikes would do the trick. “No boots on the ground,” he said.

After his proclamation, I wrote this:

The fact that ISIS controls Mosul is not compatible with the idea that air strikes alone can accomplish the president’s plan. Ground troops will be required to ultimately accomplish the stated goal, and since we seem to be in this applecart pretty much by ourselves, it isn’t difficult to guess which uniform those ground troops will be wearing.

I am not, with this, advocating for the deployment of US ground troops. I believe there are a number of ways to skin this particular cat without going to war in Iraq for the third time in 24 years. I am also firmly in the camp of none other than President Obama’s former top counterterrorism adviser, Daniel Benjamin, who describes the ramped-up depiction of the alleged ISIS threat as a “farce” peddled by “members of the cabinet and top military officers all over the place describing the threat in lurid terms that are not justified.”

Speaking of spinning the public into a panic, it is also worthwhile to know that the loudest drumbeats for war in the media are coming from “pundits” who are umbilically and financially connected to the defense industry. This next war, like the last war, stands to make them a great deal of money by selling US-made bombs for use against the American-made weapons they sold to us already, which are now in the hands of ISIS, because war profit is a wheel, and it always comes around.

Here we are just about two years later, and US soldiers wearing boots are on the ground in Iraq and Syria. The Green Zone in Baghdad has been stormed. The latest US deployments are small, but floods always start with a drip. About 217 US soldiers have been sent to Iraq to augment the more than 4,000 troops already there, along with an additional 250 sent to the urban death zone that is Syria. They’re going to a place where hospitals are deliberately destroyed; a medical facility in Aleppo was recently obliterated in an airstrike, killing 14 people. The US blamed the Syrian government, the Syrians and Russians blamed the US, and the dead lie still.

“We see a continual escalation with the now 250 additional troops,” said Rep. Barbara Lee. “Whenever you have troops in harm’s way, unintended consequences could occur. I’m very worried that our troops, while advisers, are still in the middle of the war and without authorization from Congress.” Sen. John McCain, in a rare moment of sense, said, “We used to call it ‘mission creep.’ I’ve seen this movie before. It’s called Vietnam.”

“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in its petty pace,” wrote Shakespeare. A quarter century of war in that region likewise creeps in its own petty pace, fed by the bodies of soldiers and civilians and the ever-present profit motive that lubricates large-scale mechanized murder. While I damn the Bush administration for causing all this and recoil at the Obama administration’s decision to send more troops, my attention at present is fixed upon a different, potentially catastrophic scenario. You see, we have a presidential election coming up, and the two most likely contenders will have this situation waiting on their desk when they arrive in the Oval Office.

If Donald Trump wins in November, only the wind knows what will happen. In his utterly incoherent and truly frightening “foreign policy” speech the other day, he said, “We must, as a nation, be more unpredictable.” Current and former military officials are literally freaking out over the prospect of Trump becoming commander-in-chief. It reminds me of that scene from The Dead Zone when President Stilson launches the missiles. No one as unstable as Trump should be allowed within a mile of the nuclear button, but come January, it could be a phone call away.

If Hillary Clinton wins in November, we’re in the same boat without all the shouting. She is not as frightening as her presumed opponent, but her judgment on matters of war and personal freedom have been shown to be sorely lacking. Clinton voted with the Bush administration on the Iraq war (which gave us ISIS) and the Patriot Act. Her recent hawkish speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention would have made Barry Goldwater hide under the bed with a daisy pressed between his palms. Should she enter that round room after inauguration come January, you can bet your last dime that our 25-year adventure in Iraq will continue, and expand, unabated.

Obama is deploying more troops to Iraq and Syria. Trump and Clinton will surely do the same given the chance. We are doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. There has to be a way off this merry-go-round, but I don’t see it presenting itself any time soon. Get ready for more folded flags, and more economic collapse as our hard-earned tax dollars, and our children and theirs, are fed into the frictionless machine of eternal war.

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