The U.S. war hawks are picking the bones of the nation’s involvement in the Middle East after the tragedy in Paris, hoping that the fear that they engender can get them elected. For those who blame the current administration for the mess in the Middle East, here’s a little background.
Although Middle East problems go back a century because of our drive to take oil out of the region, it was largely contained until the Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush to the presidency. In 2012, Kurt Eichenwald wrote about the August 6, 2001, daily brief with the headline, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S,” given to Bush, 36 days before 19 terrorists attacked the United States. The Bush White House claimed that it wasn’t a warning, but other documents prove them wrong.
Warnings began earlier, on May 1, and another daily brief on June 22 reported that the strikes could be “imminent.” The CIA analysis pleaded with the White House to accept the danger that they reported, and more warnings were issued during that summer. On July 1, the brief to Bush stated that the operation “will occur soon.” Bush officials tried to justify not paying attention because the warnings didn’t give them the exact place and date. During this time two co-conspirators were stopped coming into the U.S. or arrested.
Recently, former CIA Director George Tenet and counter-terrorism chief Cofer Black confirmed that the Bush administration ignored warnings in May 2001 about an imminent terrorist attack. Tenet said that the CIA presented a plan, the “Blue Sky” paper, to deal with these threats and was told to shelve the plans and hide the paper trail proving the warnings to the Bush administration. Cofer said that the information about the terrorist attack in the U.S. from the CIA’s Al Qaeda unit was “absolutely compelling [and] multiple sourced”—and was ignored. Nineteen volunteers and a budget of $500,000 destroyed the World Trade Centers, killed thousands of people in the U.S., and cost U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars in two wars that have led to increased terrorism in the Middle East.
Bush’s advisors had long wanted to take over leadership of countries in the Middle East, as far back as 1992, and their fixation on this approach led them to ignore the warnings. Even after 9/11, they could not believe that terrorists could operate without government sanction, leading them to start a war in Afghanistan and then Iraq although the latter country had no relationship to 9/11. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on that date were Saudi Arabia citizens, yet Bush allowed Saudis in the United States to leave the country while all other flights were grounded. Osama bin Laden, blamed for perpetrating the attacks in the U.S., wasn’t killed until May 2011, during President Obama’s first term.
Emails released because of the Benghazi investigation show that Bush plotted with then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to invade Iraq in April 2002, almost a year before the actual invasion. Blair also colluded with the Bush administration to fabricate and sell “evidence” of the non-existent weapons of mass destruction and false plans to strike the United States. Bush also used spies in the British Labor Party to manipulate public opinion in favor of the war.
Bush’s decision to attack Iraq in March 2003 and kill Saddam Hussein led to a power vacuum in the Middle East that was filled by terrorists. The U.S. installation of Ahmed Chalabi, considered a “Western stooge” by his constituents, was a failure, and U.S. appointed head of Iraq, Paul Bremer, passed the de-Baathification law, barring 400,000 Iraqi members from government employment and driving them into becoming insurgents and terrorists. The training that they received and the guns that they were allowed to keep made them deadly. Almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, and they also bring the smuggling networks from avoiding sanctions in the 1990s to now facilitating the group’s illicit oil trading.
As far back as 2006, the media reported that Bush’s wars were recruitment vehicles for terrorists with numbers increasing faster than the rest of the world could reduce the threat. A National Intelligence Estimate cites the Iraqi invasion as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks united by an anti-Western agenda. The situation in Iraq worsened the U.S. position. NIE issued the report at the same time that Bush bragged about how he “removed terrorist sanctuaries … and stopped new attacks.” The terrorist networks spread and decentralized because U.S. invasion and torture alienated possible allies and led to radicalizing Muslims.
In this clip from the last June’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart shows why the growth of ISIS is not the fault of President Obama. He also shows how the president’s failure to arm Syrian rebels kept U.S. arms from the terrorists.
In their effort to place blame for the rise of ISIS during and after the Iraq War on the Democrats, Republicans are intent on accusing President Obama of withdrawing the troops too soon. The current president took office on January 20, 2009, 37 days after George W. Bush signed the Status of Forces Agreement requiring that “all the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.” In her 2011 book, No Higher Honor, Condoleezza Rice wrote that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki insisted on “the withdrawal of all U.S. forces by the end of 2011.” Bush agreed. Negotiations to change the agreement broke down in October 2011 over whether U.S. troops would be shielded from criminal prosecution by Iraqi authorities.
Republicans ignore the U.S. Constitution that makes Congress, not the president, responsible for authorizing war. GOP congressional members continually dodge their responsibility. Their last vote in this issue was last June when a House committee passed a measure stating that “Congress has a constitutional duty to debate and determine whether or not to authorize the use of military force” against ISIS. Twenty-two Republicans voted against the nonbinding amendment. There has been no debate. President Obama’s airstrikes are done under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. After lawmakers disputed the point, the president sent them a proposal last February—nine months ago—and asked for a vote on it. Then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) ignored the proposal.
While the GOP avoids their responsibilities, they protest any Syrian refugees being allowed in the U.S. Ghaled, a 22-year-old dentistry student forced to flee to Germany, gave a perspective from the refugees about the tragedy in Paris. “We are with them right now, just to help them with this crisis. What’s happening to them is happening every day in Syria, 100 times per day for five years, so we know what that means.” The Syrian refugee, who walked for 17 days to escape his country, was talking about the 210,060 people, an average of 144 people each day, who died in Syria since the beginning of its civil war four years ago, at least half of them civilians.
In a poll taken last weekend after attacks in Paris, 65 percent of people in the United States oppose sending troops to the Middle East.
GOP presidential candidates are following Jeb Bush’s declaration on Meet the Press when he said, “You destroy ISIS.” They just don’t say how. They pretend that ISIS is a country and not a terrorist group found around the world. Keep Syrian refugees out of the U.S., they cry because the terrorists left a Syrian passport, perhaps on purpose, near one of the bomb strikes. Three of the seven perpetrators were French nationals, and others came from Belgium. Ben Carson called for a coalition to fight ISIS, but he couldn’t name even one ally when Chris Wallace pressed him for specifics during the interview on Fox network. Carson admitted that Hillary Clinton had the experience to keep the people in the U.S. safe.
Those who believe that ISIS attacked Paris think that the reason was France’s interference in the Middle East. Marco Rubio says that ISIS hates us because women can drive cars and because we are “tolerant.” (That last part is subject to disagreement.) Peter Beinart wrote, “Women drive in Costa Rica too, but the Islamic State is unlikely to attack it, because Costa Rica is not contesting ISIS’s control of the Middle East.” ISIS isn’t jealous of the U.S.; it just wants us out of the Middle East. Congress might want to stop trying to stop Planned Parenthood and start trying to stop ISIS.
As neocons continue to call for expulsion of Muslims to the Middle East and refuse to accept refugees who are running from ISIS, they create hundreds and thousands of more ISIS members. The past 15 years give a history to why ISIS has bloomed. If we ignore this history, we are doomed to face even greater devastation to the world.