The front page of Tuesday's New York Times made for one of the most debilitating brain cramps in recent memory. The banner headline, set beside a photograph of missiles being fired from an American warship, was, "US and Allies Strike ISIS Targets in Syria." This, as we have since learned, was the announcement that the United States had opened its aerial campaign against terrible people in yet another country, one more bellicose headline out of fifty dozen we've seen since the US began this war some 24 years ago.
The brain cramp, however, came with the second headline, just beneath the proclamation that we were in the process of attacking ISIS in Syria with air strikes. "In Iraq," it read, "Strikes Fail to Dislodge ISIS." The accompanying text underscored the grim, yet utterly predictable facts read: "After six weeks of Western air support, Iraqi forces have scarcely budged the militant fighters from their hold on more than a quarter of the country."
Take those two headlines and run them through the Magical Media Nonsense Translation Machine, and you get one cogent sentence: "Even though air strikes don't work against ISIS, as has been clearly established in Iraq, the US is deploying air strikes against ISIS in Syria." Because, yay! Another country to bomb! Bombing the problems we caused by bombing the problems we caused will totally work this time, honest to golly, we swear, because bombing our way out of the mess we made by bombing the problems we've already bombed has never led to more bombing after we tried to bomb away the consequences of our bombs, because you, American, are expected to be stupid, and not remember the history you've seen unfold on your television time and time and time and time again for the better part of the last three decades.
Speaking of history unfolding on television, it was Eugene O'Neil who said, "There is no present or future - only the past happening over and over again - now." In that spirit, President Obama appeared before the United Nations on Wednesday to deploy a brand new rhetorical lash with which to whip the people of the United States, and especially the "news" media that "informs" them, into a proper froth to help ignore the upcoming casualty lists: ISIS, he declared, is a "Network of Death." Not to be confused, of course, with "Axis of Evil," or "Hussein is Hitler," or any of the other slogans or promises or threats that have been burped up to sustain this quarter-century beating we have delivered upon Iraq and the surrounding region, which includes, of course, Syria.
See, when we unleashed our war in Iraq eleven years ago, we did two things almost immediately: 1) We obliterated the Sunni-led government in Baghdad and installed a Shi'ite government directly controlled by Iran, and that government made life a living Hell for Iraq's Sunnis, so millions of them fled Iraq and flooded into Syria, destabilizing that country; 2) We disbanded the standing Iraqi Army, which was comprised of Sunni war veterans hardened by battles against the US and Iran, and those displaced and pissed-off seasoned war veterans eventually swelled the ranks of ISIS, which explains not only their prowess on the battlefield, but also their acumen in deploying the kind of scary propaganda the US "news" media gobbles up and spreads like rancid butter on moldy bread.
Then, some years later after Syria started coming apart under the weight of millions of refugees, the United States under President Obama began actively advocating for Syrian rebels to overthrow Assad's Syrian regime. That lasted until ISIS was born, and swept through southern Syria and northern Iraq, routing Iraq's army and the Kurdish peshmerga while cutting off heads on the internet...and now, of course, we're lobbing bombs in defense of Syria against a faction of the same rebel groups we were cheerleading for just two years ago.
But here's the funny part.
President Obama and his administration have been dancing as fast as they can to explain why this newest chapter in the Iraq war can be called legal. His basis for this claim is two-fold: the Bush-era Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed in hysterics 72 hours after the Towers came down in 2001, dubiously claims the president can bomb anything, anywhere, at any time, and without permission from any other standing bodies of law. The fact that Mr. Obama is now leaning heavily on the AUMF after actively campaigning against this particularly egregious bit of Constitutional overreach is merely coda for an administration that has been in full moral retreat since its people first figured out how to use the phones in the West Wing.
The really nifty part, however, is the specific reasons being peddled for why we are totally justified in dropping bombs and missiles in Syria and Iraq simultaneously: Syria is too weak to defend itself, and Iraq is too weak to defend itself, so we have to defend them instead. Nowhere in these justifications is the acknowledgement that the US has been actively destabilizing Syria for the last two years by promoting Syrian rebels, in effect helping to create ISIS. Neither is there acknowledgement that Iraq is weak because we have been bombing them for 24 years, and with vigor since 2003, and never mind the Iraq-war refugee crisis that helped to subsume Syria in the first place.
See, the reason we have to bomb them is because we bombed them, and then fired the Iraq Army and gave ISIS a pile of battle-seasoned veterans the opportunity to re-take the country they lost when we bombed them, then we bombed them some more to make them really angry, and then encouraged the people we bombed to bomb Syria because Assad is bad, but now Assad is less bad because we have to bomb the people trying to bomb him because we're afraid they will bomb us, thanks to a "news" media that desperately wants us to be convinced that we're all about to be bombed.
Twenty-four years of this, and counting, from Bush to Clinton to Bush to Obama.
One man gathers what another man spills.