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June 25, 2014

Iraq: Blood and Treasure for What?

A Combat Marine’s Perspective

“How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?” –James Madison (1788)

Many fellow Patriots reading these words served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and/or Operation Enduring Freedom. Many others have family and friends who served. Some have family and friends who returned from those combat theaters with grievous injuries, or did not return at all.

In the context of modern warfare, our nation moved with stunning efficiency to rid the world of a terror-sponsoring tyrant, Saddam Hussein. We then paid an enormous price in human lives and treasure to reform and stabilize the Republic of Iraq.

As I outlined in “The Middle East Meltdown,” our tactical objective in Iraq was to destroy any nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and disable Iraq’s state sponsorship of Islamic terrorism as a provider of WMD.

But our strategic objective, though rarely stated for political reasons, was to establish a permanent base of operations with a democratic state partner in the region, in order to contain the rapidly emerging global Jihadi threat of state-sponsored asymmetric warfare, particularly the al-Qa'ida brand.

Iraq is strategically located among Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The proximity of that forward operating base would have provided a ready striking capability against Iran and Syria, and other Islamic states in the region – which pose a direct threat to U.S. national security and critical national interests. But it would also have helped ensure, first and foremost, Iraq’s stability, particularly against Sunni v. Shia Islam sectarian violence.

Our two best base options for long-term operations were Balad (close to Iran, but within range of Syria) and Al Asad (plenty of stand-off desert space for security).

But, in 2011, in what now has proven to be another tragic example of abject foreign policy malfeasance, the U.S. abandoned its strategic basing objectives in Iraq, so that an erstwhile “community organizer,” elected by profoundly uninformed constituencies, could claim in his 2012 re-election bid, “Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did.”

Well, apparently not.

After 4485 U.S. military personnel died to secure stability in Iraq and thousands more suffered debilitating injuries, Obama turned his back on their sacrifice in order to keep a campaign promise.

Obama’s refusal to establish a status of forces agreement (SOFA) to secure our hard-won gains in Iraq and the region, predictably, left a vacuum for the resurgence of a far more dangerous incarnation of Muslim terrorism under the name Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has displaced al-Qa'ida as the dominant asymmetric threat to our national security. (Read in more detail, [The Rise of the Islamic State]( necessitating that Obama resurrect the War on Terror.

Asked recently in a closed session to summarize his foreign policy, Barack Hussein Obama arrogantly replied, “Don’t do stupid sh-t.” But that’s all Obama has done for the last five years, foreign and domestic.

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Though each vote from one of his low-information constituents is of equal electoral weight to the vote of a well-informed American Patriot, their opinions most certainly do not equal those who have sacrificially honored their oaths “to Support and Defend” our country.

This week, I asked a career Marine officer, who did combat tours in both OIF and OEF, to provide his perspective on Iraq today, after having spilled so much blood and treasure there since 2003 and then having abandoned our strategic objectives for political expedience. My friend, who is among a group of distinguished military leaders on our National Advisory Committee, not only grieves the flames now engulfing Iraq, but as with most who have served our nation with honor, he grieves the assault on Liberty in our homeland under the Obama regime.

This Marine, who served both with special operations and in an advisory capacity to Iraqi’s security forces, offered the following observations:

“I have watched with immeasurable frustration over the past several months as ISIL gained control over more and more Iraqi territory, including an operations area I called home for nearly 12 months. Whether they take Baghdad – or intend to take Baghdad – is largely irrelevant; they have humiliated Iraqi security forces and acquired critical resources (weapons, money and people) that will allow them to extend their reach well beyond the Levant.

"I came home from my second Iraq tour as the 2008 campaign cycle was ramping up and anti-Bush sentiment was reaching its peak. A statement-disguised-as-question I often heard was, ‘Don’t you hate being there, away from your family? Is it really worth it?’

"My thoughts were the same then as they are now – other than the camaraderie of my teammates, there’s not much appealing about spending months at a time in fly-infested deserts being surrounded by Islamist insurgents who want to kill you.

"However, yes, it most certainly was worth it. Regardless of whether you were part of the majority who supported the initial invasion (before it became politically correct to oppose it), that bell can’t be un-rung. My primary concern was to finish the job and that we do our best to ensure that future generations – like my children – don’t have to come back and clean up an even bigger mess, or God-forbid, suffer the consequences of an even more catastrophic attack by Islamists on our homeland.

"We – the troops at the pointy end of the spear – were probably 65-70 percent complete with our task to create a credible, sustainable security sector, with security forces that neighboring states would fear, but that law-abiding Iraqi citizens would embrace. We understood that a viable, rule-of-law-supporting security sector was a prerequisite for a stable and representative Iraqi government.

"It was clear that ensuring the success of the republic, and by extension, greater regional stability, would require a small but sustained military presence in Iraq. Lt. Gen. James Dubik, who was in charge of training Iraqi security forces before Obama took office, made clear recently, that removing our military advisers and trainers ‘was not a military decision; this was a policy decision.’

"Unfortunately, Obama and the uniformly naïve leaders of his political party insisted that our sustained presence in Iraq, including advisers in relatively non-kinetic roles, would look no different than the brutal combat environs of our early years there. And they won the contest for public opinion, setting foreign policy by polls. (Of course, nobody ‘likes’ war – especially those of us on the frontlines of combat.)

"From my perspective as citizen-soldier, the course we had set from 2003 to 2009 was one that – if supported by an appropriate military maintenance level into the future – was in the best interests of our national security objectives. A stable Iraq was a major step toward a stable region, and a stable region was our strategic objective.”

My colleague concluded, “In Iraq this week, John Kerry said that our ‘support will be intense and sustained,’ as it should have been all along. Obama may choose not to send ‘combat troops’ to Iraq now, but I have no doubt that if left unchecked, a much larger and more costly commitment will be required in the future.”

Unfortunately, the clock is now being turned back to September 2001, and the same will be true when Obama surrenders Afghanistan. The consequences of these reversals will be grave.

But alas, Obama does not see it that way. As he told the West Point class of 2014 in May, the most pressing “national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform” is climate change. If by “climate change” he means “the next catastrophic Islamist attack on our homeland,” then yes, indeed. If not, then he is woefully mistaken and we are in lethal peril.

The current dissolution in Iraq, under attack by ISIL, was predictable. In fact, Director of Central Intelligence James Clapper and Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn both warned Obama about the ISIL threat. But as has been the case with this administration since day one, politics trumps reality.

Those of us with family and friends who are active duty, guard or reserve today, know that our uniformed Patriots will one day be called to pay the price for Obama’s profound ineptitude.

So, where are our active-duty generals and admirals? Are none willing to risk their pensions and court-martial for UCMJ violations for defending the sacrifice of their war fighters today, and those who will be called to clean up Obama’s malfeasance in the future? In the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney had far more support from retired senior military officers than the paltry few who supported Obama. But where are our modern-day MacArthurs and Schwarzkopfs, those with the courage to call it as they see it while still in uniform?

And a footnote, recall if you will the prophetic warning issued by George W. Bush in July of 2007: “To begin withdrawing from Iraq…will be dangerous, for Iraq, for the region and for the United States. It will mean surrendering the future of Iraq to [al-Qa'ida]( It means that we would be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It will mean we would allow terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they had in Afghanistan. It will mean that American troops will have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.”

President Bush took the battle to the enemy in order to keep the front on their turf, not ours. Obama has retreated, opening the door for Islamists to move the front to our homeland.

(Additional Essays on the Resurgence of Jihad Terrorism: “Iran, Iraq and Syria: Jihad Part 2 Coming to a Theater Near You,” “The Obama Model of Foreign Policy Malfeasance,” “The Middle East Meltdown,” and “Obama’s Middle East Makeover”)

Pro Deo et Constitutione – Libertas aut Mors
Semper Fortis Vigilate Paratus et Fidelis

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