Production for use . . .that’s what a gun’s for Earl, to shoot, of course! Maybe that’s why you used it — Yes, I think you’re right. That’s what a gun’s for isn’t it? Production for use! There’s nothing crazy about that is it? –Star reporter Hildy Johnson interviews a convict, “His Girl Friday” (1940)
I’m reminded of this surreal scene from Howard Hawk’s movie production whenever our government makes reflexive moves toward war – the scene where the newspaper’s lead reporter is rationalizing responsibility away from the hapless killer and putting the finger on the gun manufacturer for responsibility for his violence.
I listened to President Obama address Americans underneath a portrait of Lincoln at the end of the summer, explaining that he’d ordered the military forces he’s sent to Iraq to strike targets if the rebel forces called ISIL/ISIS moved toward the city of Irbil where U.S. personnel are based.
The order represented a clear escalation from the original mission described by the commander-in-chief which was the protection of U.S. embassy personnel and the insertion of military ‘advisers’ to help the Iraqi military attack the insurgent forces and defend Maliki’s embattled regime.
Declaring that, “Today America is coming to help,” President Obama, nonetheless insisted that, “I will not allow America to be dragged into another war in Iraq.”
Despite the fact that it was the President’s decision to re-introduce U.S troops into Iraq back in June as a ‘stopgap measure,’ he nonetheless, opportunistically wrapped his decision to significantly escalate our military involvement there as a defense of U.S. personnel, saying, “When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action. That is my responsibility as Commander-in-Chief.”
In June, as he ordered additional troops to Iraq to join the several hundred he had already sent under the auspices of protecting U.S. embassy personnel, Pres. Obama cautioned (presumably himself) that, “We always have to guard against mission creep … American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again.”
That admonition against mission creep from the President may have seemed to some a remote possibility when he declared it in June; now, in the wake of his order for U.S. forces to defend the Americans he chose to place in harm’s way in Iraq — and the subsequent escalation of U.S. forces and U.S. airstrikes into Iraq and Syria — that promise appears as hollow as the expectation most Americans had for the majority of his term that his decision to pull all troops out represented a complete end to the Iraq war. Certainly that was the belief of those who voted for him in the expectation he’d end U.S. military involvement there.
Although the President and the State Dept. initially justified his order of military action as a protection against genocide — as a protection of the Yazidi minority who were besieged outside of the city of Sinjar — that wasn’t the true substance of the order he first described, which was to be little more than a defense of the U.S. troops he’d inserted into the middle of Iraq’s civil conflict.
“To stop the advance on Irbil,” he said, “I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city. We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Irbil and our embassy in Baghdad.”
Earlier, before his address to the nation, the president was said to be ‘weighing’ a decision between humanitarian airdrops of food and supplies and airstrikes. The President chose both. This deployment and defense of that deployment is the same form of protection scheme that George Bush used to justify keeping our military bogged down in Iraq for years in a self-actualizing, self-perpetuating defense of his own prerogatives there.
I’ll attest to our moral obligation to assist civilians in danger. I wonder, though, about other times when our government doesn’t seem to give a damn about civilian deaths. It makes these defenses offered as justification for escalated militarism in Iraq seem opportunistic to our government’s present ambitions there. Why do we provide weapons to one occupying military force (Israel) who is operating with blatant disregard for civilian lives (Palestinians) in the way of their guns and missiles?
The weapons we’re attacking today — in the hands of the ISIS/ISIL insurgents — are the same weapons we provided the Sunnis whose ranks were recruited into this rebel band of combatants. Many more armaments that the airstrikes seek to destroy are remnants of the weapons we supplied members of the Iraqi forces that we spent countless millions training and arming.
I’ve wondered: Why Iraqis couldn’t be counted on to defend the besieged civilians in question? Why we resisted Iranians from providing military assistance we say is necessary? Why did we re-introduce our troops there right after Russia began supplying warplanes and fighters?
Is our opposition to anything the Syrian government does behind our resistance against Syrian forces defending against the very same threats in Northern Iraq that the President ordered defenses against, against the same ISIS forces Syria is defending against in their own country?
I’ll attest to the apparent and relatively new attitude of restraint from the White House following the period where more troops were sacrificed in Afghanistan defending the Karzai regime by Pres. Obama than Bush lost defending 9-11. I’ll acknowledge an apparently new attitude of restraint since the height of his use of the often indiscriminate and extra-judicial targeting of weaponized drones (which he still assumes authority to launch).
In Yemen, the Sudan, Libya, and even Syria, the president has demonstrated a new doctrine of sorts which emphasizes diplomatic and international efforts — buttressed by the big stick threat of a declaration, made several times by President Obama, that he holds the power to unilaterally commit military force or forces abroad without initial congressional approval.
Throughout the facedown and resolution of the question of chemical weapons in Syria, the president maintained that, through his own interpretation of a threat to the U.S. or our interests, he has the authority — notwithstanding his reluctance and fortunate diplomacy led by a Russian initiative — to unilaterally initiate attacks and deploy troops when he saw fit.
The House passed a resolution July 25 on Iraq with a strong bipartisan vote of 370-40 to require the President to come to Congress before authorizing new combat in Iraq, but for now, even though he did consult key members of Congress today, Obama believes he has authority to initiate attacks on his own.
It’s a similar argument that he uses in ‘leaving his options open’ on initiating attacks in Iraq — notwithstanding any stated intention of his to refrain from such action — President Obama has insisted that he has all the authority he needs to initiate airstrikes; even introduce troops, if he sees fit. The retention of that assumed authority is a loaded gun just waiting for an excuse or reason to use it. Production for use.
What happens if our military advisers trigger a deepening or intensifying of Iraq’s sectarian conflict? The introduction of that element of violence is a pretext to use it, as well as a trigger to the need for even deeper involvement. It’s also a pretext for future presidents to use this commander-in-chief’s justifications for war as their own.
However efficient and practical it may seem to provide only a smidge of violence in helping direct attacks in Iraq against Iraqis — now ordering our own troops to conduct those attacks — however efficient and logical it may seem to give rebels weapons to carry out the political missions Americans certainly aren’t willing to sacrifice lives for — there are real and tragic consequences on the ground.
1000+ US troops to Iraq, Hellfire missiles, Apache helicopters, drones, arms and weapons for ‘resistance’ fighters in Syria … all of these weapons re-introduced into a country from which we just withdrew. The President’s insistence that his order didn’t represent escalation was either a naive promise, or an outright deception.
Shoveling more weapons into Iraq — maintaining the sophistry of ‘military advisers’ only gives the U.S. political mercenaries the illusion of clean hands, but we are the merchants of those misdeeds of Congress and the White House. Who are we arming? Who will they be killing? Where does the violence end?
One of the ironies since that initial withdrawal from Iraq has been the degree our government’s hawkishness has increased with a myriad of justifications to war — maybe not the unbridled military imperialism of the Bush-era, but threatening measures designed to frighten our adversaries away from their own military conquests; their sectarian violence fueled and inflamed by the seemingly deliberate vacuum created out of our own disruptive, self-serving military meddling.
In Part 2, if Americans are weary of war why does the US keep starting them?
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