Despite the sincerest of declarations by State Department Spokesman Jack Kirby that there are “no boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria, members of the US military keep dying in combat there.
The latest death is US Navy SEAL Charles Keating, who was killed in combat saving US military “advisers” from ISIS fighters in northern Iraq. Keating becomes the third US service member to be publicly admitted to have been killed in action in Iraq since more US forces re-entered the country in 2014.
The circumstances of Keating’s death, much like the US role in the fight against ISIS, are murky. According to Reuters, Kurdish fighters believe Keating was hit by sniper fire and later died of his wounds. The fighters also said that far from just advising them, the US advisers were taking an active role in the fighting.
OK, so what exactly is the threshold for having “boots on the ground,” or US forces not classified as just advisers? Because the US has setup new bases in Iraq and Syria and has clearly been using ground forces for offensive actions. There are already hundreds of advisers in the field, so is it a numbers game? Over 1,000? Over 10,000? Or does it only count if the US government actually calls them combat forces?
No matter what they are being called, these US forces are in open warfare with ISIS and perhaps other militants in Iraq and Syria. So whatever operational fear there was in having “boots on the ground” has been practically realized. Americans are, once again, fighting and dying in Iraq. They are just as dead as if they were classified as “boots on the ground.”
It would seem the only fear in conceding the “boots on the ground” point not yet realized is the political blowback from restarting the war in Iraq. The Obama Administration appears to be succeeding (so far) in obfuscating the reality of their actions with a public distracted by a presidential election and other concerns.
Is this all the American people needed to support another Iraq War? Just call it something else, just keep the number of troops down. If that’s the standard, expect more “advisers” to be sent to the Middle East and beyond.