On Aug. 7, President Obama announced his authorization of targeted strikes over Iraq in order to quell the ongoing Islamic State offensive. Just as important are the statements his administration has made through the actions that followed. The bombs actually started to fall on Friday, announcing without words that the US government’s policy of actively managing Iraqi affairs from afar is far from over.
This reminder is unsurprising. Throughout Iraq’s history, western powers have always stood over its shoulders, issuing their own demands for their own purposes. Ever since its birth, Iraq has been a prime example of why foreign interventions almost always create more problems than they solve.
For instance, the current chaos in Iraq is a direct result of the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Going further back, Saddam Hussein’s crimes were aided by a US government that sold him chemical weapons, which he then infamously used against the Kurds. In fact, much of the nation’s ethnic tensions can be blamed on the arbitrary borders drawn by the British after defeating the Ottoman Empire in the First World War.
Obama assures us that he “will not allow the United States to be dragged into another war in Iraq,” acknowledging that “there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.” Yet as his actions show, what counts as a solution will be determined by terms laid down by him and the government he represents.
Even if he keeps his word and does not issue another full-scale invasion, he still presumes the right to dictate Iraq’s future. Iraq is still the property of the United States.
A second unspoken message has been the disregard for whatever human life happens to be in the way of operations carried out by the United States military. Obama is right to condemn the truly horrifying crimes committed by ISIL in the harshest terms possible. Even so, this is not an excuse for his administration to begin slaughtering innocents on its own through the inevitable collateral damage.
No matter how precisely “targeted” these strikes really are, completely innocent people will be a part of the body count. Of course, those deaths come as a regretted, unintentional, undesired side-effect of the strikes, which are aimed at ISIL combatants. However, because modern warfare is such that these deaths will not be of an insubstantial number, and because they can be predicted to happen with near certainty, it is not overstating things to say that this is still murder.
Just as the news of continued American hegemony is no shock, no one should be surprised to learn that the United States government will incinerate innocents in large numbers without impunity. While asserting its claim to strike wherever it wants whenever it wants, the United States government has killed over 2,400 people in the past five years alone with its drone program.
There is another thing that Obama opted not to say, but can be heard loud and clear from his actions, of which the American people should take special note. No matter what commendable values you think a politician holds, you can count on power to push them elsewhere.
The United States government’s long campaign of chaos in Iraq has been a thoroughly bi-partisan project. Under Democrat John F. Kennedy, the CIA took actions to overthrow unfriendly leaders. Republicans Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush sold Saddam Hussein the weapons he would use against his own people, before Bush invaded the country in the First Gulf War. Democrat Bill Clinton spent the 90s starving children with sanctions, dropping bombs, and officially changing United States’s Iraq policy to one of regime change.
In 2003, Republican George Walker Bush actualized that policy, by initiating the Second Gulf War. As Americans grew to hate that war more and more, two Democratic Presidential candidates in a row ran campaigns that heavily capitalized off calls for peace.
Now those candidates are in positions to actually decide U.S. policy in Iraq: John Kerry as Secretary of State, and Barack Obama as President. With that power, they have decided to send in military personnel, drop bombs, and maintain American dominance.
Having heard all this, the American people must start to make a statement of their own. They must refuse to fight.
Knowing that the United States military will be used for aggression and domination, no matter who controls it, they must refuse to join. Moreover, they must do all they can to work toward the day when Presidents and Secretaries of State are deprived of the voice they need to make their threats and stake their claims.
Jason Lee Byas is a writer and activist living in Norman, Oklahoma. He is a fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org), a contributor to the independent media outlet Liberty Minded, president of the University of Oklahoma Young Americans for Liberty, a co-founder of the University of Oklahoma Students for a Stateless Society, and a campus coordinator for Students For Liberty. Byas is also a philosophy and sociology senior at the University of Oklahoma.