National Security

The Iraq War Never Really Ended

While the administration declared the Iraq war over, terrorists in Iraq never got the memo.

Aug. 14, 2014
Boots on the ground

Just a few days ago, Barack Obama promised, “I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.” We’ll see about that. Obama spent his 2008 campaign pledging total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, regardless of whether or not the mission was met. It’s no wonder he won’t admit that, while his administration declared the Iraq war over, terrorists in Iraq never got the memo.

Now, as Obama claims it was never really his decision to withdraw troops (the buck stops over there), he’s facing the reality of sending troops back to Iraq in a continuation of the war that never really ended. This week, following Obama’s drive-by bombing, the Pentagon sent 130 Marines and Special Ops forces into Northern Iraq in an “advisory” capacity to come up with a plan to possibly rescue the thousands of Yazidi refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar after fleeing the jihadist terror of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Continuing the strategy of merely claiming victory, however, the administration quickly declared the Yazidi operation a success after 24 airstrikes and said a rescue mission is unnecessary.

In other words, the administration really wants jihadis to know we don’t intend to actually fight them. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel insisted the troop deployment “is not a combat boots on the ground kind of operation.” Apparently, there is a difference between “ground” troops and “combat” boots. Either way, there are nearly 1,000 soldiers in Iraq now. As Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes explained for the plebeian masses, “What [the president’s] ruled out is reintroducing U.S. forces into combat on the ground in Iraq.” And we imagine Obama sent a monogrammed stationary note to ISIL letting them know that the U.S. troops they may see are simply ground troops and not intended for combat, so please don’t shoot. Tea and crumpets to follow.

The problem – well, one among many – is that ISIL is a radical Islamic terrorist organization bent on imposing absolute rule in the region and then spreading terror throughout the world, with no exception clause for the United States. In fact, Sen. John McCain recently noted the U.S. is now tracking 100 ISIL jihadis within our own borders. And ISIL spokesman Abu Mosa recently threatened America by saying “the Islamic Caliphate has been established,” adding that “we will not stop” and “God willing, we will raise the flag of Allah in the White House.”

It seems Obama’s “JV team” of terrorists is acting rather varsity-ish. But not to worry; the State Department assured us Wednesday they’ve been “looking at” a long-term strategy to deal with ISIL for “a year or so now.” What a relief to know they’re so prepared.

Despite the very real and imminent threat, the president seems to think a political solution is feasible. This week, he announced his administration’s backing of Iraq’s new president, Fuad Masum, and endorsement of the new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, effectively withdrawing support for current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is stubbornly refusing to step down and make way for his successor. The administration blames Maliki for not building an “inclusive” government, thereby leading Sunni minorities to join ISIL. Obama has pledged to consider support for a “new inclusive government” – in essence, a government that will negotiate with Sunnis and, in the process, lure them away from ISIL.

The Wall Street Journal writes, “The main U.S. strategic priority now should be rolling back and defeating [ISIL] so it can’t establish a terrorist caliphate. Such a state will become a mecca for jihadists who will train and then disperse to kill around the world. They will attempt to strike Americans in ways that grab world attention, including the U.S. homeland. A strategy merely to contain [ISIL] does not reduce this threat.” So far, it’s a threat whose strength both the Pentagon and the White House badly underestimated. Or worse, they didn’t misjudge.

While the administration talks Baghdad politics and clings ever so fiercely to the empty claim of ending U.S. involvement in Iraq, the war rages on. Only this time, it’s worse. Because, as National Review Editor Rich Lowry writes, “Now that the most powerful terrorist group of modern times controls large parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria, we are back at war, although without the requisite seriousness or comprehensive strategy.” Indeed, Lowry continues, the president “never ended the Iraq War. … He only abandoned it.”

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