The Irony Of "Mission Accomplished": The US Is Now Bombing Its Own Guns In Iraq

By Max Fisher at Vox

When President Obama announced US airstrikes in Iraq, most observers understood that the US would be bombing members of ISIS. What many did not know was that, in a twist of such bitterly symbolic irony that it could only occur in the Middle East, the US would also be bombing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of American military equipment.

Here's why: in the decade since the 2003 US-led Iraq invasion, the US has spent a fortune training and arming the Iraqi army in the hopes of readying it to secure the country once America left. That meant arming the Iraqi army with high-tech and extremely expensive American-made guns, tanks, jeeps, artillery, and more.

But the Iraqi army has been largely a failure. When ISIS invaded northern Iraq from Syria in June, the Iraqi forces deserted or retreated en masse. Many of them abandoned their American equipment. ISIS scooped it up themselves and are now using it to rampage across Iraq, seizing whole cities, terrorizing minorities, and finally pushing into even once-secure Kurdish territory. All with shiny American military equipment.

So the US air strikes against ISIS are in part to destroy US military equipment, such as the artillery ISIS has been using against Kurdish forces.

The absurdity runs deep: America is using American military equipment to bomb other pieces of American military equipment halfway around the world. The reason the American military equipment got there in the first place was because, in 2003, the US had to use its military to rebuild the Iraqi army, which it just finished destroying with the American military. The American weapons the US gave the Iraqi army totally failed at making Iraq secure and have become tools of terror used by an offshoot of al-Qaeda to terrorize the Iraqis that the US supposedly liberated a decade ago. And so now the US has to use American weaponry to destroy the American weaponry it gave Iraqis to make Iraqis safer, in order to make Iraqis safer.

It keeps going: the US is intervening on behalf of Iraqi Kurds, our ally, because their military has old Russian-made weapons, whereas ISIS, which is America's enemy, has higher-quality American weapons. "[Kurdish forces] are literally outgunned by an ISIS that is fighting with hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. military equipment seized from the Iraqi Army who abandoned it," Ali Khedery, a former American official in Iraq, told the New York Times.

More: One reason that ISIS has been so successful at conquering northern Iraq is that it has a huge base of operations in Syria, where it had exploited the civil war to overtake huge swathes of Syrian territory. One reason that ISIS was so successful in Syria is that the US refused to arm moderate Syrian rebels, for fear that the weapons would fall into ISIS's hands. So that made it easier for ISIS to overpower the under-funded moderate rebels, and now ISIS has seized, in Iraq, much better versions of the weapons that we were so worried they might acquire in Syria. So now we're bombing the guns that we didn't mean to give ISIS because we didn't give guns to their enemies because then ISIS might get guns.

It's not just ironic; it's a symbol of how disastrous the last 15 years of US Iraq policy have been, how circuitous and self-perpetuating the violence, that we are now bombing our own guns. Welcome to American grand strategy in the Middle East.

What US airstrikes mean for Iraq's crisis, explained in 2 minutes

Card 1 of 18 Launch cards

ISIS used to be al-Qaeda in Iraq

460910779

An Iraqi soldier during a fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq in January 2014. Ali al-Saadi/AFP/Getty Images

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) used to have a different name: al Qaeda in Iraq.

US troops and allied Sunni militias defeated al Qaeda in Iraq during the post-2006 "surge" — but it didn't destroy them. The US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, described the group in 2010 as down but "fundamentally the same." In 2011, the group rebooted. ISIS successfully freed a number of prisoners held by the Iraqi government and, slowly but surely, began rebuilding their strength.

ISIS and al-Qaeda divorced in February 2014. "Over the years, there have been many signs that the relationship between al Qaeda Central (AQC) and the group's strongest, most unruly franchise was strained," Barack Mendelsohn, a political scientist at Haverford College, writes. Their relationship "had always been more a matter of mutual interests than of shared ideology."

According to Mendelsohn, Syria pushed that relationship to the breaking point. ISIS claimed that it controlled Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda splinter in Syria, and defied orders from al-Qaeda's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to back off. "This was the first time a leader of an al-Qaeda franchise had publicly disobeyed" a movement leader, he says. ISIS also defied repeated orders to kill fewer civilians in Syria, and the tensions led to al-Qaeda disavowing any connection with ISIS in a February communiqué.

Today, ISIS and al-Qaeda compete for influence over Islamist extremist groups around the world. Some experts believe ISIS may overtake al-Qaeda as the most influential group in this area globally.

http://www.vox.com/2014/8/8/5982501/the-us-is-now-bombing-its-own-military-equipment-in-iraq?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=voxdotcom&utm_content=friday

 

David Stockman's Contra Corner is the only place where mainstream delusions and cant about the Warfare State, the Bailout State, Bubble Finance and Beltway Banditry are ripped, refuted and rebuked. Subscribe now to receive David Stockman’s latest posts by email each day as well as his model portfolio, Lee Adler’s Daily Data Dive and David’s personally curated insights and analysis from leading contrarian thinkers.

Get Access