Here we are going too far with paradoxes. Obama, Nobel Prize for Peace, the president who chose for his second election to play the card of the withdrawal from Iraq, now goes to the US Congress and asks for “war powers” to fight Isis. It is the first war vote in 13 years: in 2002, this key was entrusted to George W. Bush after 9/11.
Obama wants to give an answer to the public opinion’s horror for the execution of the 26-year-old American Kayla Mueller, and he is looking for a leading role in reconquering Mosul and Kirkuk, pride and joy of the Caliphate, symbol of the pernicious vanishing of the Americans. Something that even Obama starts to see as a wrong flight, the very source of the bloodshed. These days in Mosul, the battle between Isis and the Iraqi army is raging on, and the air raids of the coalition do not seem to be enough to defeat Isis.
Obama is not asking for a deployment of ground combat forces, but perhaps he is thinking about it. Nevertheless, it is embarrassing: everyone remembers how, in 2008, Obama used the vote with which some of his fellow democrats had granted George W. Bush war powers as a lethal weapon to get rid of his opponents in the primary elections. Until now, even if his drones are killing Isis’ militants, he had used the same powers instated in 2002.
The fact that he wants them now, suggests that sooner or later he will need “boots on the ground”. But the lawmakers are already quarreling: what war powers? Until when? What will be marking the end of the conflict? And will it be only against Isis or would it be better to widen the scope? For now, Obama, in a draft resolution delivered to the Congress, foresees three years of war powers with no geographic limitations and which, although “not allowing offensive operations”, would not completely rule out the deployment of ground troops.
So, the special forces will be allowed to carry on rescue missions and – as the President’s men say – to use ground forces for intelligence collection. A vague program, offering no guarantees, at the mercy of the same political winds that in the past had de facto let Iraq, together with Syria, turn in the core of the Caliphate.
Thus far, the American Presidents made many mistakes with Iraq, always thinking that they had prevailed when, on the contrary, they had just managed to create vipers nests doomed to infect the world with terror. Everyone left too early. The first George Bush after six months, believing that the withdrawal from Kuwait was the key to appease Saddam. George W. fantasizing, as many of us did, about the possibility of Iraq hitting the road to democracy, and even exporting it.
Bush was the first one to give in to the international pacifist demand, allowing Iraq to remain what it was: a country lacerated by Sunni–Shia clashes, dominated by a Shia power ready to team up with Iran and to force itself on the Sunnis. Who, in turn, enraged by their defeat and humiliation, were pushed toward Al Qaeda, bringing Saddam’s legacy in money and weapons with them. It was in this setting that Isis was born. At that time, Iraq was what it has always been: a sharia society, violent in its every aspect, in which the persecution of religious minorities, women and homosexuals is routine, just like the hatred for the US.
General Petraeus understood that the US had to reach the population, invest in their future, encourage them against terrorism, Al Qaeda and Shia arrogance… but the investment on him did not last long either. Then, Obama decamped in order to portrait himself in the part of the great pacifist, and left the field for the establishment of the same Isis he now wants to destroy.
To Bush’s credit, we must recall the prophetic speech he gave on July 12, 2007: “I know some in Washington would like us to start leaving Iraq now… It would mean surrendering the future of the country to Al Qaeda… It would mean allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan… It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return in Iraq at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous”. Here Bush predicted “mass killings on a horrific scale”. He was feeling the magnitude of the tragedy the world was about to enter because of the traumatic experience of 9/11. Obama won the election, and he acted upon the delusion to be out of the tunnel, which, on the contrary, is still long and dark.
This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (February 12, 2015)