Eleven years ago, President George W. Bush stood on the deck of an American aircraft carrier under a banner that proclaimed “Mission Accomplished” while the corporate media replayed a statue of Saddam Hussein being toppled, in a staged event, over and over. Remember that?Fast forward to yesterday: A force of maybe 600 Al Qaeda militants drove the forces of the puppet Baghdad regime, which numbered about 60,000 in the region, out of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. Meanwhile, in Syria, the imperial American government shamelessly backs the same group, the Islamic Group of Syria and Iraq (ISIS), in its ongoing effort to overthrow the last remaining Baathist regime in the region headed by Bashar al-Assad, after the American people said “HELL NO!” to direct American military intervention in that country. For an excellent factual article on the subject, as well as an opinion many of you no doubt share, read this article from those adorable Trotskyite Communists in Detroit.
Fallujah–remember that city, which took a full-scale assault by the American Army to conquer from Sunni insurgents in 2004?–fell to ISIS some time ago. Remember Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town? Well, ISIS has taken that, too.
ISIS now controls significant parts of both Syria and Iraq(about a third of each country according to the German TV news program Journal), advancing their goal of establishing a new, fundamentalist Sunni, Islamic Caliphate in both countries. So, I have a couple of questions to which I confess I don’t know the answers, so maybe you can help.
First, why did Iraqi government forces, who clearly had the ISIS forces ridiculously outnumbered and outgunned, mostly run away from Mosul? Have they been paid lately, or what? I really don’t know.
Second, what the hell is our own imperial regime thinking? On the one hand, they funnel money and arms to the corrupt Shia regime in Baghdad, which also enjoys support from Iran, BTW. On the other hand, they funnel the same, often through Saudi and other Gulf State intermediaries, to the same people they are so opposed to in Iraq. As Star Trek’s Mr. Spock might say, such behavior is fascinatingly illogical.
From a military historian’s perspective, the situation in Iraq has some strong similarities to South Vietnam in 1975. Advancing North Vietnamese troops captured, almost without a fight, all sorts of advanced military equipment the Americans had left behind for the benefit of the Saigon regime. Reports from Mosul say that ISIS has done exactly the same thing there. The humanitarian crisis is huge, just as in Vietnam, with hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the fighting into the very doubtful safety of areas still controlled by a regime that appears doomed. Meanwhile, just as in Saigon, the Baghdad regime fiddles away while its country burns.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban waits for the final American withdrawal so they can come back to power in Kabul. How much of a chance does the American-supported regime there have without Western troops? Yeah, that’s about what I thought.
Meanwhile, our government shamelessly backs an openly Fascist, neo-Nazi, regime in Ukraine, and goes out of its way to provoke a military confrontation with China in Obama’s “Pivot to Asia.” All of this is similar to the behavior of past empires which were crumbling–the French in Algeria and Vietnam in the 1950’s, the British in Kenya in the same decade, the Russians in Manchuria in 1905, the Spanish in Latin America a century ago, the Romans in what is now Iraq and Scotland almost 2000 years ago.
All those empires fell, in one way or the other. Ours is no different. And good riddance to bad rubbish.
USACE HQ photo, ACoE photographer Jim Gordon, public domain