• Why Airstrikes in Iraq are a Mistake

    August 8, 2014

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iran, Iraq, Military, Syria

    As America goes back to war in Iraq with airstrikes, here’s what to know and do instead:

    — This is a slippery slope if those words have any meaning left. Airstrikes are in part to protect American advisors sent earlier to Erbil to support Kurds there because Iraqi central government won’t. The U.S. is assuming the role of the de facto Iraqi Air Force. What happens next week, next crisis, next “genocide?” Tell me how that ends.

    — Understand how deep the U.S. is already in. It is highly likely that U.S. Special Forces are active on the ground, conducting reconnaissance missions and laser-designating targets for circling U.S. aircraft. If U.S. planes are overhead, U.S. search and rescue assets are not far away, perhaps in desert forward operating positions. Protecting/evacuating Americans from Erbil will be a major military operation. This is how bigger wars begin. Go Google “Vietnam War,” say starting about 1963.

    — The U.S. media is playing the meme that the U.S. is worried about Christian minority in Iraq, as a way to engorge the American people with blood. But the media fails to note that over half of Iraq’s Christians were killed or fled during the U.S. occupation. The play in the Arab world that the U.S. cares more about a limited number of Christians now than untold thousands of Muslim lives will not aid U.S. long-term goals.

    — The questions of why what is happening in Iraq is “genocide” and why what is happening in Gaza is not remains unaddressed by the United States. Even if Americans are not asking for an answer, many others are.

    — Wait a tic– are we again “buying time” by putting American lives at risk so the Iraqis can form a government and reconcile in some short-term thing? Isn’t that what America had been doing since 2003? Wasn’t that what the “success of the Surge” in 2007 was all about? We have seen this movie already friends.

    — The only realistic hope to derail ISIS is to alienate them from Iraq Sunnis, who provide the on-the-ground support any insurgency must have to succeed. Mao called a sympathetic population “the water the fish swims in.” Separating the people from the insurgents is CounterInsurgency 101. Instead, via airstrikes, the U.S. has gone all-in on side of Iraqi Shias and Kurds. You cannot bomb away a political movement. You cannot kill an idea that motivates millions of people with a Hellfire missile.

    — Sunnis are not confined by the borders of Iraq and this is not a chessboard. U.S. actions toward Sunnis in Iraq (or Syria, or wherever) resonate throughout the Sunni world. There is no better recruitment tool for Sunni extremists than showing their fight is actually against the Americans. ISIS seems to be playing to this, calling the Americans “defenders of the cross.”

    — Throughout the broader Islamic world, the takeaway is that again the U.S. unleashes war against Muslims. Nothing can inspire jihad like seeing the struggle in Iraq as one against the Crusaders. ISIS seems to know this, and taunts America into deeper involvement with statements such as “the flag of Allah will fly over the White House.”

    — Precise, Surgical Strikes: Sure, just ask those wedding parties in Yemen and Afghanistan how that has worked out. It is near-evitable that mistakes will be made and innocents will die at American hands.

    — ISIS’ connections to al Qaeda are tenuous at present. However, just like when Sunnis felt threatened during the U.S. occupation, fear and military needs will inevitably drive them closer to al Qaeda.

    — Irony: Back to the Future: U.S. airstrikes on Iraq are being launched from an aircraft carrier named after George H.W. Bush, who first involved the U.S. in a shooting war against Iraq in 1991’s Desert Storm.

    — Air strikes will not resolve anything significant. The short answer is through nine years of war and occupation U.S. air power in Iraq, employed on an unfettered scale, combined with the full-weight of the U.S. military on the ground plus billions of dollars in reconstruction funds, failed to resolve the issues now playing out in Iraq. Why would anyone think a lesser series of strikes would work any better? We also have a recent Iraqi example of the pointlessness of air strikes. The Maliki government employed them with great vigor against Sunnis in western Iraq, including in Fallujah, only six months ago, and here we are again, with an even more powerful Sunni force in the field.

    — Oh, but what should we do?!?!? The U.S. lost the war in Iraq years ago, probably as early as 2003. It is time to accept that.

    Step One: Stop digging the hole deeper (see above, Sunni-Shia-Kurd problem);

    Step Two: 2: Demand the Iraqi government stop persecuting and alienating their own Sunni population, the root of these insurgent problems;

    Step Three: Demand the Saudis and others stop funding ISIS in hopes of choking back their strength;

    Step Four: Demand the Iraqi government launch airstrikes in support of the Kurds as a show of support;

    Step Five: Deliver humanitarian aid only through the UN and the Red Crescent. In Vietnam, this mistake was colloquially expressed as “F*ck ’em, then Feed ’em.” So instead, divorce the good U.S. stuff from the bad U.S. stuff.

    Those things will be a good start. Airstrikes are a terrible start that begs a tragic finish.

    Be sure to also see Ten Reasons Airstrikes in Iraq are a Terrible Idea.

    Related Articles:

    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Obomb-da doesn’t want his legacy to be tarnished with the next 9-11. Of course, bombing ISIS will only ensure they will attack US:


      08/8/14 2:47 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      NYT editorial: “After so many years in Iraq, Americans are justifiably skeptical about what military involvement can accomplish anywhere — and the Middle East is so complicated that even seemingly benign decisions can have unintended consequences.”

      Yes, so complicated. Who could have foreseen this fiasco?

      You can include the NYT War Party propaganda in the things American are justifiably skeptical.

      08/8/14 3:10 PM | Comment Link

    • Jhoover said...


      To connecting the dots:
      Refreshing for the past here about the Iraqi minorities the tyrant regime,.
      All of you knew about Halabja and all the story folded then with some figures put 5000 innocent killed babies and women …. Now same Iraq, same minorities living in Iraq crying for help NOT by a regime with his fist and all those MDW how ranked his military forces the sixth the world they killed in cold blood with their voices and their crying for help from the Pop to US and UK but their vices faded by their death and the fled of innocent for the last few weeks of human with daily 300 babies /day, dying of eating leaves of the shrubs to thirstiness and other causes.
      So what difference now and past then about Iraqi minorities and I bring one very loud voices for Halabja which she is now deaf and blind about same minorities in Iraq despite she is very close to Iraq than before, the name is: Baroness Emma Nicholson

      08/8/14 7:22 PM | Comment Link

    • Jhoover said...


      بيشمركة ايرانية في الموصل وغطاء جوي امريكي لحرب كردستان المقدسة

      08/8/14 7:29 PM | Comment Link

    • Jhoover said...


      While US fighter bombing ISIS now Mosul Dam in hand of Da’ash?

      How good US have the Air all, and ISIS move further and get what they talking and planing about a week ago?

      Dam in Iraq Is Life or Death for Half Million People


      08/8/14 7:35 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      OBOMBA: “There’s no American military solution to the larger crisis there (Iraq).

      That’s very comforting to the families when they visit the graves of the fallen soldiers.

      08/9/14 3:33 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      1. So much for operation Iraqi Freedom. Yeah the Baronness Nicholson story is embarassingly hypocritical. Meanwhile, the stone age crusader-gangsters, some riding on horseback, are just taking Iraq one, two, three. We need to correct our policy of alienating mainstream Sunnis and allowing crazy sects free reign to roll through the region. That’s just upside down. There are alot of Sunnis who can’t stand these guys, stop lumping everyone together. There is no ‘one size-fits all’ in such a diverse region

      It also highlights the need to make sure defense contractors who do military and security training — are really doing that. Whatever text book they are working with — throw that away. This is an epic failure, with some aspects repeating themselves from World War I for heaven’s sake. No excuses for not studying campaign styles and, more importantly, learning from that. Instead, we get stuck in the beltway box mentality. Plan B-Washington style, epitomized as ‘what problem? ignore whatever is miserably falling appart’, also needs to be shelved.

      “The U.S. media is playing the meme that the U.S. is worried about Christian minority in Iraq, as a way to engorge the American people with blood. But the media fails to note that over half of Iraq’s Christians were killed or fled during the U.S. occupation.”

      That’s kinda the bitter irony of our policy in the entire Middle Easter — Indigenous (and the first Christians) have fared just as bad or worse thanks to our foreign policies. It’s been terrible. Related to this, Islamist groups have fed on this, making things worse. Then we are misinformed that all Muslims behave this way — but per the paper JHoover linked too, this english translation by that website noted that there were Muslims attending a liturgy and flashed signs in support of their fellow citizens, ie Christian Iraqis — see the article here —


      08/9/14 3:53 PM | Comment Link

    • Jhoover said...


      The Head of Snake here?
      When this head be crashed?

      The kingdom spews out the corrosive poison that helps fuel religion-based fanaticism


      08/9/14 7:41 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      Kyzl Orda said…

      things that make sense.

      I, on the other hand don’t give a fuck anymore.

      bartender..pour me a double and call me a cab before the entire US of A collapses into the abyss of delusion…er..wait…nevermind. I think I’ll just stay here and get drunk.

      08/10/14 12:00 AM | Comment Link

    • “Humanitarian bombing” is not humanitarian | Phil Ebersole's Blog said...


      […] Why Airstrikes are a Mistake: Reality and Iraq by Peter Van Buren.  An excellent post by a former State Department staff member who worked in Iraq during the occupation, and lost his job after writing a book, We Meant Well, about the fiasco (I haven’t read the book, but have been told it is excellent).  The next two links are to articles making a case in favor of a U.S. bombing campaign. […]

      08/10/14 1:19 AM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      The NY Times: “… the Middle East is so complicated that even seemingly benign decisions can have unintended consequences…”

      Rich: “Yes, so complicated. Who could have foreseen this fiasco?”

      Dear Rich, Right?? The NY Times (aka ‘Omit the news that’s fit to print’) has to be kidding — ‘benign’ decisions?? What a Downton Abbey view on things

      Dear Pitchfork, please share lol

      08/10/14 5:19 AM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      kyzl said:
      “Dear Pitchfork, please share lol”

      Hahahaha. Well, I have to say, last night, after a full day of off and on reading the news of the day, I’d pretty much had my fill of bullshit. hence throwing my hands in the air and saying fuck it. The world’s gone completely insane.
      Hence use of my usual.. “bartender” metaphor ..getting drunk. Of which, was partially true, but not really. 🙂

      Notwithstanding Peter’s subject, starting with the news regarding the USG trying to get the Judge in “Jewel” to wipe out part of the court transcript, IN SECRET, started my day off in full blown outrage.
      Then, various police state actions where police have murdered innocent citizens…outrage up a notch.
      Then, the Gaza genocide bullshit… outrage up another notch.
      Then, …well, as if that weren’t enough…there was the Ukraine, Syria, and a half dozen other court related stories.

      Ya know..I think I’m going to change my morning routine. Instead of coffee and news, I’ll simply get drunk first. Then I won’t give a fuck.

      btw, you’re welcome to join me. 🙂

      08/10/14 1:57 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      Damn, speaking of Ukraine..


      Here we go again..(insert facepalm smiley here)

      jeezus…where’d I put that bottle of vodka.

      08/10/14 2:06 PM | Comment Link

    • Jhoover said...


      All of you very knowledgeable about the looks of the ISIS “Da’ash” fighters?
      Aren’t you?

      Let go to those news bulletins about ISIS killed by either Iraqi or others and see their faces after they killed how they look?

      Why those faces for killed bodies so different from those face which Da’ash screening on YouTube or other media outlet?

      Why the killed faces so different from what we see on western media and others who spread those ugly faces any answers?

      08/10/14 7:40 PM | Comment Link

    • teri said...


      Now we are also arming the Kurds.

      “The US has reportedly started direct arms supplies to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq to help them battle the Islamic State militants.

      “Previously the US insisted on selling arms only to the Iraqi government, but that policy has changed now, senior US officials told AP.

      “The officials would not disclose what kinds of weapons are being supplied or which agency is funneling them.

      “One official said it was not the Pentagon. Historically, the CIA has been involved in the clandestine arming of foreign fighters in various conflicts.[…]”


      I have read a couple of articles which report that the US arms manufacturers are running their plants 7 days a week to keep up with demand. That will surely benefit the economy in some trickle-down way, right? Oh, wait, no. It will benefit the shareholders and CEOs of these companies, but the US taxpayer will fund these contracts and pay out the backside.

      The US gov’t is doing two things: one, they are scared to death of an economic explosion which will collapse the US. See: BRICs nations going off dollar, Germany and France talking about going off dollar and joining BRICs bank, insider trading, $2 quadrillion derivatives market, completely fabricated statistics on US unemployment, inflation, and GDP, outsourced US jobs, US trade imbalance, debt to banking cartel, etc. The only thing they can think of is to create more chaos everywhere as a distraction and a vague hope that some dollars will come back into the US as a result of arms sales. And, quite frankly, all these wars are an effort to steal some other country’s stuff without having to pay for it. See: Iraq having to pay reparations to the US for the invasion of Iraq as an example, or the outright theft of Libya’s and Ukraine’s gold deposits.

      The second thing they are doing is giving absolute decision-making over to the corporate sector. No-one in any country benefits from all this vigorous planned chaos except the banks and corporations. And once (if) they can sneak the TTP and TTIP trade agreements through, national sovereignty is wiped out for any country that signs on to them. The corporate oligarchy wins and takes it all. The US will simply be a source of soldiers for corporation fighting corporation for hegemony in various sectors of business. Even the US land mass and water sources are being given to the corporations; they will frack and drill the US into a toxic stew unfit for human life, but an income-producer for Halliburton and Exxon. (Exxon, BTW, seems to be exempt from the sanctions on Russia, and is going through with their joint oil deals with Russia’s oil companies, unimpeded by those pesky sanctions. The Ukraine junta has just announced it is planning to shut off the natural gas pipeline which runs through Ukraine from Russia to the Eurozone. Now how odd is that? Ukraine is turning on the EU? Let’s not forget who put that junta into place – the US – and that what the US wants is for the EU to have to buy nat’l gas from the US. European leaders must be dumb as shit to consider us as “allies”.) Fighters for corporate interests is basically what the US “warrior class” is now, anyway. This is why we have US troops guarding JPMorgan’s gold mines in Afghanistan and the oil fields in Libya and why the US Congress can only stir themselves to vote on issues that benefit veterans. ISIS, bred from a mix of CIA and House of Saud funding, has gotten too close to the one and only oil field in northern Iraq. At this point, I am sort of disinclined to believe there even ARE any Christians and Rastafarians (or members of the Elks Club, or whomever is supposedly trapped on that mountain) on a hill in Iraq. It just all seems too conveniently “Wag the Dog”.

      End of rant. Greetings to Pitch and to you, PVB, from the (so-far) unoccupied hills of the eastern seaboard.

      08/11/14 10:34 AM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      quote”Greetings to Pitch and to you, PVB, from the (so-far) unoccupied hills of the eastern seaboard.”unquote

      And greetings to you too teri! Been a while since you’ve posted here. Although, having your own blog probably absorbs a lot of your time. And mind. Ha!
      Heck, just visiting my usual morning round of blogs takes up most of my morning…to the chagrin of my wife. Hahahaha!

      But don’t worry about ranting. What else are we supposed to do..pick up a weapon? Frankly, given some events that are occurring in the “homeland”, I’d say it’s not a bad idea to own one. Just make sure there’s a round in the chamber should you need to use it…vs some who learned the hard way..


      Meanwhile, I’m almost out of rant energy. After spending almost 5 years, a billion words..WTF is the point. This world is spinning out of control and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. In that regard.. I propose a toast. Here’s to rants. May they flush the anger from your soul. At least for the next hour. Of course..there’s always a bartender to do the same thing. 🙂

      08/11/14 12:04 PM | Comment Link

    Leave A Comment

    Mail (will not be published) (required)