A Better Approach to ISIS: Don’t Bomb!

From the October 2014 PNL #838

by the SPC Steering Committee

President Obama has launched a new wave of US-led war, this time against ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL or simply the Islamic State). Obama has made clear we are getting into this for the long haul, stating that the US must sustain military action beyond the end of his presidential term.

Members of the SPC Steering Committee are not surprised that the US is turning to a show of military might instead of seeking partners to negotiate a just peace, but we mourn the fact that we are at war yet again.  Or perhaps we should not say “again,” because this new battle front is part of the perpetual war fostered by US and other western leaders whose friends stand to benefit politically and financially.

We believe that Obama’s new policies in Iraq and Syria are hugely mistaken and we are outraged because this new wave of war comes largely thanks to the actions and policies of our own government.

US Lays Groundwork for ISIS

Any analysis of the current crisis must begin by acknowledging that ISIS, as we know it today, exists due to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. ISIS is a radicalized version of an al-Qaeda splinter group formed in response to the Iraq invasion by US forces.

The US implemented a policy of de-Ba’athification in Iraq from 2003-2004 that precluded any member of Saddam Hussein’s former party from present or future employment in Iraq’s public sector. De-Ba’athification eviscerated Iraq’s already-fragile government ministries and police force, exacerbated crime and social turmoil, and laid the foundation for over a decade of sectarian tensions. After the transfer of authority to the US-backed Maliki’s Shiite government in 2004, many say the policy continued unofficially as unaddressed discriminatory policies against Iraqi Sunnis fueled the eruption of sectarian tensions into civil war. ISIS traces its roots to 1999 but claimed its identity as ISIS, and its current and most successful leader during this period.

ISIS was the strongest insurgent force in Iraq that outlasted the US occupation and departure, and also enjoyed de-facto territory ownership in Syria beginning in 2013. The group leveraged its familiarity with the weaknesses and sectarian loyalties of Iraqi defense forces to successfully invade and capture Iraqi cities. The Shia-dominated Iraqi military, weary from a decade of sectarian violence, generally proved unwilling to risk their lives defending Mosul, a primarily Sunni city, in a conflict with ISIS. As a result, the US is bombing its own weapons, vehicles and military equipment which were abandoned to ISIS forces in Mosul and other cities in Northern Iraq.
The heavy weapons supplied to the Iraqi army are not the first American weapons wielded by ISIS. The Obama administration armed and trained several Syrian rebel factions in attempts to stack pressure against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Many of those weapons were taken by ISIS as the group made military gains across the eastern part of the country.

A Better Approach

We disagree with the bombing of Iraq and Syria and call for the following actions from the US government:

1. Do not arm anyone. The President himself acknowledged that there is no militarysolution to this crisis. We agree with him. This why we oppose sending weapons to the region and arming any factions. We especially oppose arming the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group which has committed some of the very same atrocities that we rightly condemn ISIS for committing (such as beheadings).

2. No US arms or personnel. We oppose bombing raids as well as sending more troops to the region. The debacle in Iraq was not just a disaster militarily; it created the very chaos that we now see in Iraq and Syria. We should not add fuel to the fire.

3. End blowback-generating practices. We call for an end to techniques—such as torture and the use of drones—that are not only immoral in themselves but virtually guarantee a violent blowback when they become recruiting tools for groups like ISIS.

4. Fund non-military humanitarian aid. We support the implementation of a humanitarian aid process to be administered by an international agency such as the UN.

5. Support diplomacy. And finally we encourage a diplomatic effort that would include all of the players in the region in order to come to a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
In trying to resolve this crisis, we should take the lead from peace groups in Iraq and Syria, as they should have the right to determine their own futures.