I just heard Marie Harf, the Deputy Spokesperson of the US State Department, speak on CNN about the attempted genocide of Iraqi minorities by Islamic State terrorist fighters.
Hart’s doublespeak was appalling. She failed to label what Islamic State is trying to do as genocide and repeatedly sidestepped questions about why the US is not directly arming the Kurds.
There are several points that we all need to keep in focus – points Hart’s boss, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and his boss, the ever-hesitant US President Barack Obama, do not appear to be fully confronting.
1. The majority of what in Israel would be called the Security Cabinet (including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) told Obama last year that failure to arm and aid the moderate Syrian opposition would lead to it being taken over and swamped by Jihadis. The same advice was given by the US Embassy in Iraq and other US professionals on the ground.
Obama refused to listen, argued in part that the US weapons given to the moderate opposition would fall into Jihadi hands, and refused to act – and what we now know as Islamic State was born.
2. Islamic State attacked the US trained and equipped Iraqi Army, which fled – even though it vastly outnumbered the Islamic State terrorist fighters and was far better equipped than them.
Islamic State captured a lot of heavy arms and advanced weapons – weapons that the Kurds don’t have.
3. As Islamic State rampaged through parts of Syria and Iraq, it executed minorities who refused to convert to Islamic State’s radical version of Islam. This was known to US intelligence and known to the White House.
Obama did nothing.
4. When tens of thousands of Iraqi Yazidis fled to a mountain to escape Islamic State terrorist fighters bent on killing them, Obama again did nothing – until the plight of these poor people was publicized by Iraqi Kurds, who had taken in as refugees those who reached them and who wanted to help the rest but could not – because they lacked the weapons necessary to do so.
The US has not provided them with those weapons and has not rescued any of the Yazidis. All the US has done so far are two things: a) air drop food, water and some medicine to tens of thousands of people living without shelter in 120 heat on a mountain top; and b) conduct a handful of targeted air strikes against Islamic State terrorist fighters who approach the mountain and who approach the Kurdish stronghold of Ibril.
In the meantime, Yzaidis keep dying.
5. The US could rescue all of these Yazidis today if it wanted to, but Obama refuses because conducting this rescue would require US “boots on the ground.”
6. Obama also refuses to take steps to crush Islamic State – even though they pose a real and credible threat to the US and Europe and openly state they want to export their terror here.
Why does Obama refuse to act?
a) He claims to want Iraq to resolve its own political issues and is using this situation as leverage to force it to do so.
b) He in any case refuses to put US “boots on the ground.”
7. Former US President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq was certainly wrong, and history will judge it as a colossal blunder and a failure.
But the mess that war created is our mess. Our invasion made it and Obama’s distance from Mid East foreign policy and his coolness arguably worsened it.
Those Yazidi’s are ultimately on that mountain top because the US screwed up.
Speaking briefly today from his vacation residence in Martha’s Vinyard, Obama touted the good the US was doing to help the Yazidis and stressed that there is no US military solution to Iraq’s troubles. And that may be true.
But there is a US military solution to the plight of the Yazidis and other Iraqi minorities and there is – or, at least there once was – a US military solution to Islamic State.
The problem is that Obama – who is a nice man, it must be said – shares a trait with former US President Jimmy Carter – who by most accounts is an insufferable ass.
But just like Carter, Obama always appears to have the need to be the smartest person in the room, meaning that his understanding of a problem and its solution is always the correct understanding and the correct solution, and when it isn’t, there’s something wrong with everyone else first, and a him only second.
Obama doesn’t want to send US soldiers into Iraq and he refuses sufficiently arm the Kurds (likely as much due to opposition from Turkey as to anything else).
So Yazidis and other minorities die – and that is inexcusable.
It also sends a clear message to US allies in the region, especially Israel, Egypt and Jordan, that Obama is man who really doesn’t get it. And that bodes ill for US interests in the region, perhaps for decades to come.
Iraq is our mess, whether we like it or not, whether Obama likes it or not. And we need to clean it up now.