Gelhorn prize winner Gareth Porter notes this week that in 2008, after the US had destroyed Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands of people and sending millions fleeing, George W. Bush wanted to establish indefinite military occupation of the country. But the then Iraqi government lead by prime minister Nouri al Maliki “rebuffed that demand” and forced the largely defeated US “to agree to withdraw all combat forces in a strict timetable.”
In 2007, Hillary Clinton, an advocate for expanding the US military empire and a supporter of the illegal invasion of Iraq, and who would become Obama’s secretary of State, had already called for Maliki’s removal, expressing the general feelings and pretexts of the neocon-dominated Bush regime.
For example, as Porter noted in 2008, the “former US military proconsul” wrote an op-ed at the time expressing “that the United States has both the right and power to preempt Iraq’s national interests in order to continue to build its military empire in the Middle East”.
The Bush regime began expressing an “intention to try to intimidate al-Maliki”.
Obama, who, with sec-state Clinton, continued Bush plans for regime change across the region and offered protection to all members of the Bush cadre who engaged in aggression, torture and other war crimes against Iraq and elsewhere, informed the New York Times in 2014 that he “did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL [ISIS] came in”, as “that would have taken the pressure off of al-Maliki.”
Maliki determined Iraq, devastated by the US invasion, was incapable of itself repelling the militant group. He thus specifically asked for US assistance in the form of airstrikes against ISIS, which was taking control of Mosul and Tikrit.
Maliki was “rebuffed” by Obama, as NYT put it, but Obama assured the paper that standing by while the Sunni death squad (which became a factor largely as a result of the US invasion) seized Iraqi territory was not related to Bush regime plans to intimidate al Maliki or to create a pretext for the US to reestablish bases in the country, but just the opposite: it was for Iraq’s own good, to encourage it to be self-reliant; to ensure, seemingly paradoxically and in opposition to previous US intentions, that US forces would never be needed in Iraq again.
But despite Obama’s best efforts to help Iraqis stand on their own feet by rebuffing Maliki’s requests for airstrikes and instead allowing ISIS to pressure him, the situation inexplicably, and undoubtedly to the horror of US officials, “shifted dramatically in favor of the U.S. military’s ambitions”, Porter continues, of establishing indefinite basing in the country.
As ISIS took Mosul, oil refineries, and other territory, al Maliki buckled under Obama’s well-intended “pressure” and stepped down under murky circumstances. Obama then decided ISIS had applied enough pressure to move Iraq towards independence, and soon began airstrikes against the group. However, he then oddly changed his mind, determining the result of watching ISIS take over key points in the country and refusing airstrikes should no longer be an independent Iraq, but reestablishment of the US occupation. As the Wall Street Journal reported in June 2015, the “Obama administration is considering opening a hub of new bases in Iraq” to “deepen the US role in the war against Islamic State.”
Assessing what happened, Maliki, says he thinks the US allowed ISIS to expand in Iraq to disrupt the country’s reconstruction and create a pretext for renewed and indefinite US military presence and operations – an analysis similar to Naomi Klein’s “shock doctrine“.
The US is now, as Porter notes, back on track with its 2008 goals, currently “negotiating on an agreement that would station U.S. forces in Iraq indefinitely”.
Similarly, regarding Syria, John Kerry, who became Obama’s secretary of state after Clinton, said on a leaked tape that the US was “watching” ISIS grow in strength in Syria and hoping the death squad would “threaten” Assad. Ousting Assad and installing a US proxy, who would better understand the need for Syria not to be self reliant (or worse, Russia reliant), but rather to have US armed forces indefinitely stationed in the country, has been a longstanding, sometimes openly stated US goal. The US has been making efforts to conquer Syria since 1948 and has made several attempts. Recently declassified CIA documents shed new light on efforts in the 1980s.
As Porter notes this week, the “initial plan for the defeat of ISIS in Syria, submitted to Trump in February, called for an increase in the size of U.S. ground forces beyond the present level of 1,000” and would involve troops occupying Syria for “many years across a wide expanse” of the country’s east, though a group of US officers has been pushing for an even more “ambitious” plan, including perhaps “many thousands” of troops.
The plan “bears striking resemblance to the one developed for Hillary Clinton by the Center for New American Security when she was viewed as the president-in-waiting.”
A Defense Intelligence Agency document from 2012, though somewhat unclear and partially censored, may be an early indication of the US viewing the ISIS death squad as a strategic asset in the region that could eat away at (“pressure”, “threaten”) leaders the US seeks to remove.
The NYT columnist who interviewed Obama in 2014, above, recently published an opinion piece saying he thinks the US should stop fighting ISIS in Syria and allow it to eat away at the Syrian government. Neither in this piece or another NYT article that covers the leaked Kerry tape, cited above, does NYT mention evidence that the US already views ISIS in this sense. (Or that this is not an anomaly, but standard behavior for the US.) Nor does it mention that the US is not invited to operate in the country anyway – the Syrian government continually calls for the US to leave – making US operations in Syria illegal; a crime of aggression.
Robert J. Barsocchini is an independent researcher and reporter whose interest in the discrepancy between Western self-image and reality arose from working as a cross-cultural intermediary for large corporations in the US film and Television industry. His work has been cited, published, or followed by numerous professors, economists, lawyers, military and intelligence veterans, and journalists. He begins work on a Master’s Degree in American Studies in the fall.