On Monday, it was announced that President Barack Obama was ordering an additional 250 special operations forces to Syria. The US has already been bombing Syria and Iraq in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).
The US already has forces operating in Syria, even establishing a military base in Syria’s Hasakah province. The base at the Rmeilan airfield is the first US military base in Syria ever, though it has yet to be officially recognized as such.
The increased US military footprint in Syria comes after months and months of official denials by the White House that the US was going to put ground forces into the Syrian Civil War. This “no boots on the ground” pledge has clearly been violated, but if you believe State Department Spokesman John Kirby, the pledge itself was never made.
That assertion drew instant criticism during a press conference, when Associated Press Reporter Matthew Lee exasperatingly told Kirby that his predecessor and President Obama himself had, in fact, made a specific pledge not to send in ground forces:
“For months and months and months, the mantra from the president and everyone else in the administration has been the no boots on the ground, and how…” Lee said.
“That is not true,” Kirby replied, cutting him off.
“What?” Lee exclaimed.
“It’s just not true, Matt. It’s just not true,” Kirby said. “I just flatly, absolutely disagree with you,” the spokesman said while pounding his fist on the podium.
For the record, it absolutely is true.
President Obama continually said there would be no boots on the ground in Syria. So when asked by RT’s Gayane Chichakyan what the difference was between the forces Obama ruled out and the ones he was sending in, Kirby replied that “There is a big difference between saying, ‘no boots on the ground’ ‒ we’ve all recognized since almost the outset that we’ve had US troops in Iraq, which are very much on the ground ‒ and the colloquial meaning of the term, which is what many people when they say ‘no boots on the ground’ are referring to, which is large-scale, intentionally combat ground troops engaged in combat operations that they themselves are conducting independently” of the country’s ‘indigenous forces.’
Kirby later said “There’s no point in arguing about the ‘boots on the ground’ rhetoric. Absolutely no point. And I’m not disputing the fact that we have troops on the ground and they’re wearing boots.”
On some level, you have to sympathize with Mr. Kirby. He has to speak on behalf of a government that is continually lying, often blatantly. It is hard not to remember one of his predecessors, current White House Communications Director Jen Psaki, who tried to say with a straight face that “As a matter of long-standing policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means.”
Not surprisingly, Psaki faced laughter and incredulity from the press for uttering something so thoroughly untrue. But as Kirby’s most recent act clearly demonstrated, the empire can not be shamed and the show must go on.