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Did George W. Bush created ISIS? George Not that smart. But Satan Cheney and his team

Jeb Bush replied by repeating his earlier criticism of President Obama: that Iraq had been stable until American troops had departed.

“When we left Iraq, security had been arranged,” Bush said. The removal of American troops had created a security vacuum that ISIS exploited. “The result was the opposite occurred. Immediately, that void was filled.”

“Your brother created ISIS” is the kind of sound bite that grabs our attention, because it’s obviously false yet oddly rings true.

Bush didn’t like it: he offered a retort and then left the stage. Meanwhile, Ziedrich had started a conversation that rippled across Twitter, Facebook, and any number of American dinner tables. Who is actually right?

Here is what happened:

In 2003, the U.S. military, on orders of President Bush, invaded Iraq, and nineteen days later threw out Hussein’s government.

A few days after that, President Bush or someone in his Administration decreed the dissolution of the Iraqi Army. (Israel was extremely relieved: Iraqi army was the best trained and equipped in the Arab World).

This decision didn’t throw “thirty thousand individuals” out of a job, as Ziedrich said—the number was closer to ten times that. Overnight, at least  250,000  Iraqi men—armed, angry, and with military training—were suddenly humiliated and out of work.

This was probably the single most catastrophic decision of the American venture in Iraq.

In a stroke, the Administration helped enable the creation of the Iraqi insurgency. Bush Administration officials involved in the decision—like Paul Bremer and Walter Slocombe—argued that they were effectively ratifying the reality that the Iraqi Army had already disintegrated. (A silly argument that many could fall in)

This was manifestly not true.

I talked to American military commanders who told me that leaders of entire Iraqi divisions (a division has roughly ten thousand troops) had come to them for instructions and expressed a willingness to cooperate.

In fact, many American commanders argued vehemently at the time that the Iraqi military should be kept intact—that disbanding it would turn too many angry young men against the United States. But the Bush White House went ahead.

Many of those suddenly unemployed Iraqi soldiers took up arms against the United States. We’ll never know for sure how many Iraqis would have stayed in the Iraqi Army—and stayed peaceful—had it remained intact. But the evidence is overwhelming that former Iraqi soldiers formed the foundation of the insurgency.

On this point, although she understated the numbers, Ziedrich was exactly right. But how did the dissolution of the Iraqi Army lead to the creation of ISIS?

During the course of the war, Al Qaeda in Iraq grew to be the most powerful wing of the insurgency, as well as the most violent and the most psychotic. They drove truck bombs into mosques and weddings and beheaded their prisoners. But, by the time the last American soldiers had departed, in 2011, the Islamic State of Iraq, as it was then calling itself, was in a state of near-total defeat. The combination of the Iraqi-led “awakening,” along with persistent American pressure, had decimated the group and pushed them into a handful of enclaves.

Indeed, by 2011 the situation in Iraq—as former Governor Bush said—was relatively stable. “Relatively” is the key word here. Iraq was still a violent place, but nowhere near as violent as it had been. The Iraqi government was being run by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a fervent Al Qaeda foe and ostensible American ally.

In this sense, Ziedrich is right again, at least notionally: some of the men fighting in ISIS were put out of work by the American occupiers in 2003. Still, it’s not clear—and it will never be clear—how many of these Iraqis might have remained peaceful had the Americans kept the Iraqi Army intact. One of the Iraqis closest to Baghdadi was Ibrahim Izzat al-Douri, a senior official in Saddam’s government until 2003. (Douri was reported killed last month—it’s still not clear if he was or not.)

It’s hard to imagine that Douri—or any other hardcore member of Saddam’s Baath Party—would have ever willingly taken part in an American occupation, whether he had a job or not. So, in this sense, Ziedrich is overstating the case. While it’s true that George W. Bush took actions that helped enable the creation of the Iraqi insurgency, and that some leaders of the insurgency formed ISIS, it’s not true that he “created” ISIS. And there’s a good argument to be made that an insurgency would have formed following the invasion of Iraq even if President Bush had kept the Iraqi Army together. He just helped to make the insurgency bigger.

But let’s get to Governor Bush’s assertion—that Iraq went down the tubes because of President Obama’s decision to pull out all American forces, and that Obama could easily have left behind a residual force that would have kept the peace.

I took up this issue last year in a Profile of Maliki, the Iraqi leader we left in place. Maliki didn’t really want any Americans to stay in Iraq, and Obama didn’t, either. But—and this is a crucial point—it seems possible that, if Obama had pushed Maliki harder, the United States could have retained a small force of soldiers there in noncombat roles. More than a few Americans and Iraqis told me this. They blame Obama for not trying harder. “You just had this policy vacuum and this apathy,” Michael Barbero, the commander of American forces in Iraq in 2011, told me, describing the Obama White House.

So, on this, Governor Bush isn’t entirely accurate, but makes a good point: the Obama Administration might have been able to keep some forces in Iraq if it had really tried.

And what if the Americans had stayed? Could a small force of American soldiers have prevented Iraq from sliding back into chaos, as Governor Bush claims? Americans like Barbero—and a number of Iraqis, as well—argue that the mere presence of a small number of American troops, not in combat roles, could have made a crucial difference. The idea here is that after the American invasion, which destroyed the Iraqi state, the Iraqi political system was not stable enough to act without an honest broker to negotiate with its many factions, which is the role that the Americans had played.

This much is clear: after 2011, with no Americans on the ground, Maliki was free to indulge his worst sectarian impulses, and he rapidly and ruthlessly repressed Iraq’s Sunni minority, imprisoning thousands of young men on no charges, thereby radicalizing the Sunnis who weren’t in prison. When, in June, 2014, ISIS came rolling in, anything seemed better than Maliki to many of Iraq’s Sunnis.

Could all that have been prevented? It’s impossible to know, of course, although President Obama, by sending American forces back to Iraq, seems at least implicitly to think so. Historians—along with Governor Bush and Ivy Ziedrich—will be arguing about the question for a long time.

Andrew Bossone shared this link

“At least two hundred and fifty thousand Iraqi men—armed, angry, and with military training—were suddenly humiliated and out of work.”

A college student in Reno started a conversation that rippled across Twitter, Facebook, and any number of American dinner tables. Who is actually right?
newyorker.com|By Dexter Filkins

Ivy Ziedrich, College Student, Warms to Role as Jeb Bush Critic on ISIS

Photo

Ivy Ziedrich, a 19-year-old college student at the University of Nevada.
Ivy Ziedrich, a 19-year-old college student at the University of Nevada.Credit Nikita Lee

RENO, Nev. — On Wednesday afternoon, just as she sat down to watch TV and eat a corn dog, Ivy Ziedrich’s phone rang. It was her sister in Montana.

“I am so proud of you,” her sister said, “for yelling at a politician.”

It was the first inkling that Ms. Ziedrich, a 19-year-old college student with a passion for the debate team and the finer points of Middle Eastern policy, had gone viral.

Her confrontation with Jeb Bush, in which she told the former Florida governor a few hours earlier, “Your brother created ISIS,” was suddenly everywhere online, casting an unwelcome hue on President George W. Bush’s legacy from the war in Iraq.

“My sister started freaking out,” Ms. Ziedrich recalled.

In an interview, Ms. Ziedrich described a dizzying 24 hours of social media frenzy, her upbringing in a conservative Republican family, and the circumstances that prompted her to approach Jeb Bush, who was in Reno for a town hall-style meeting on Wednesday.

She had shown up with a few college friends uncertain of whether she wanted to ask anything at all. But as Mr. Bush spoke about the rise of the Islamic State, and put blame on President Obama for removing troops from Iraq, Ms. Ziedrich found herself becoming furious. ISIS, she believed, was the product of George W. Bush’s bungled war in Iraq.

“A Bush was trying to blame ISIS on Obama’s foreign policy — it was hilarious,” said Ms. Ziedrich, who attends the University of Nevada. “It was like somebody crashing their car and blaming the passenger.”

She acknowledged she was deeply nervous about walking up to him after the meeting and asking her question. “I get nervous any time I talk to an authority figure — he wants to be president of the United States,” she said.

Her question and his reply seemed to distill deep, lingering anger of the war in Iraq and encapsulate Mr. Bush’s political challenges as the brother of George W. Bush. Much online commentary has focused on her somewhat aggressive tone, a fact that Ms. Ziedrich finds a bit baffling.

“I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful,” she said. In fact, she said she is grateful that Mr. Bush responded, even if it did not exactly satisfy her.

Ms. Ziedrich, a high school debater who specialized in the parliamentary style and still helps coach her former team, said that all the attention she is garnering from those on the right (who thought she was rude) and those on the left (who want to canonize her) is confounding given her own political journey. Growing up in Northern California, she considered herself a conservative like her mother and father, who is a loyal Fox News viewer.

Then she identified as a libertarian and, ultimately, as Democratic, influenced by her time spent debating and by books like Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.”

Speaking from her apartment, Ms. Ziedrich says she is busy juggling calls from old friends and media outlets.

“I am still trying to process all of this,” she said.

So far, her mother has expressed approval of the confrontation. But she hasn’t yet spoken with her father. “I am hoping he will be proud of me,” she said.

And the Purge Begins In Turkey:

Planned before the failed military coup

The coup in Turkey is over, and now the purge begins.

On Saturday, Turkish soldiers and police—those who had remained loyal to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the uncertain hours of the previous day—were rounding up their enemies across the security services, reportedly arresting thousands. There will be thousands more.

In the high-stakes world of Turkish politics—nominally democratic but played with authoritarian ferocity—justice for the losers will be swift and brutal.

The remarkable thing about Friday’s coup attempt is not that it failed but that, after years of Erdoğan’s relentless purging of his opposition, there was a faction inside the Turkish military strong enough to mount one at all.

The confrontation was a long time coming.

When Erdoğan first became Prime Minister, in 2003, he was the Islamic world’s great democratic hope, a leader of enormous vitality who would show the world that an avowedly Islamist politician could lead a stable democracy and carry on as a member of NATO, too.

Those hopes evaporated quickly.

Erdoğan, who was elected Turkey’s president in 2014, has taken a page from Vladimir Putin’s playbook, using democratic institutions to legitimize his rule while crushing his opponents, with an eye to ultimately smothering democracy itself.

Over the past decade, Erdoğan has silenced, marginalized, or crushed nearly anyone in the country who might oppose him, including newspaper editors, university professors, aid workers, and dissident politicians. (What an irony that Erdoğan, who has imprisoned so many journalists, and gone to great lengths to censor Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, may have saved his Presidency by using FaceTime to make an early Saturday appearance on a Turkish television news channel.)

President Obama and other Western leaders, seeing Erdoğan as a bulwark against chaos, largely gave him a pass.

In his most recent grab for authoritarian powers, Erdoğan pushed through a law that stripped members of parliament of immunity from prosecution, a measure that his critics fear, with good reason, that he will use to remove the few remaining lawmakers who still oppose him.

Then there’s the military.

Since the Turkish republic was founded, in 1923, the county’s generals have imagined themselves the ultimate arbiters of its politics, stepping into power—sometimes savagely—whenever they felt the government had become either too leftist or too Islamic.

(After the military overthrew a democratically elected government in 1960, the generals executed the Prime Minister.) The military has had a special contempt for Erdoğan, whom they regarded as a dangerous Islamist—but they have proven no match for him.

In 2007, Erdoğan’s henchmen initiated a series of show trials, known collectively as Sledgehammer, in which fabricated evidence was used to remove the top tier of the Turkish officer corps.

Hundreds were sent to prison, and the military itself seemed banished from politics forever.

Indeed, Erdoğan must have been surprised that there was still a dissident faction of the armed forces large enough to try to bring him down. On Friday, the coup’s organizers didn’t even have the sense to detain the man they were trying to overthrow, and they apparently never seriously contemplated shooting their way into the palace.

(After a coup in 1980, the military killed and imprisoned tens of thousands.) In the wake of their failure, the military will be soon be under Erdoğan’s total control, like virtually every other institution in the country.

Andrew Bossone shared this link

Erdogan called the coup attempt “a gift from god.” He even called the Turkish army The army of Mohammad

newyorker.com|By Dexter Filkins. July 16, 2016

In his dramatic appearance at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport on Friday night, Erdoğan blamed the insurrection on the exiled cleric Fatullah Gulen, a reclusive figure who lives in the Poconos (Pennsylvania). “I have a message for Pennsylvania,’’ Erdoğan said, a reference that must have baffled many non-Turks. “You have engaged in enough treason against this nation. If you dare, come back to your country.”

Gulen, an aging cleric who heads one of the world’s largest Islamic orders, fled Turkey in 1999, when it appeared that the military was going to arrest him.

For years, Gulen was one of Erdoğan’s closest allies, helping him in his rise to power. While Gulen preaches a message of love and tolerance, there has often been something mysterious about him and his followers, who do not readily advertise either their affiliation or their intentions.

Over the years, Gulen’s followers quietly found positions within many Turkish institutions, particularly the courts and police. (It was the Gulenists who led the show trials against the generals and the press.)

In 2008, James Jeffrey, the American ambassador, wrote a memo about the Gulenist infiltration of the Turkish National Police. “The assertion that the T.N.P is controlled by the Gulenists is impossible to confirm, but we have found no one who disputes it,” Jeffrey said.

Then, in 2013, Gulen and Erdoğan split, in what appears to be part of a naked struggle for power.

In the years since, Erdoğan has purged the courts and police of thousands of men and women presumed to be Gulen loyalists. It’s hard to know whether Gulen was behind Friday’s attempted putsch, but at this point it seems unlikely.

While Gulen’s followers predominated in the security services, they were not generally believed to be a large force inside the military. It seems more likely that the officers who led the revolt represented the remnant of the military’s old secular order. Now they’re finished.

During his speech last night at the Istanbul airport, Erdoğan referred to the attempted coup as a “gift from God.” Erdoğan is usually a precise speaker, but in this case, perhaps in his excitement, he showed his cards.

With the coup attempt thwarted, he will no doubt seize the moment. In recent months, Erdogan has made little secret of his desire to rewrite the constitution to give himself near total power. There will be no stopping him now.

Note 1: French foreign minister reminded Erdogan that the military coup cannot extend Erdogan any blank check to do whatever he pleases: No executions or trials without due process. The EU constitution should be respected, otherwise, Turkey should kiss good-bye to adhering to the EU

Note 2: The Turkish police force invaded the US Injerlik air-force base, confirming my conjecture that the US was partially behind this coup.

Note 3: Summer tourism to Turkey is Shot. Greece will take the slack. Instability is there to stay for a long while.

Note 4: The successive news are confirming my story https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/military-coup-in-turkey-objectives-and-potential-consequences/

 

 

Before the Beheadings mania: Time for recalling 

In the spring of 2000, I lived for a month in a Taliban madrasa, a religious seminary, located on the Grand Trunk Road outside of Peshawar, in Pakistan.

The chancellor of the madrasa, a wrinkled, bearded, and often barefoot man named Samiul Haq, was said to be a confidante of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader. I did not believe, when we first met, that he would agree to my presence in his school.

I was open about my intentions: my goal was to write about the religious education of Pashtun boys who would soon be fighting on behalf of the Taliban, and by extension al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan.

Before the Beheadings

Remembering a time when Islamist extremists wanted to persuade reporters, not kill them

The author observes a class at the Haqqania madrassa, outside of Peshawar Pakistan, in 2000. (Laurent Van Der Stockt/Gamma-Rapho/Getty)

It turned out that Haq was keen to have me understand the work of his madrasa. In our first meeting, he even made an attempt at bonding. “The problem is not between us Muslims and Christians,” he said. “The only enemy Islam and Christianity have is the Jews. It was the Jews who crucified Christ.”

In my travels, Palestinian terrorists generally understood the implication of my last name, as did many members of Hezbollah, the Shia extremist group. But Islamists in Pakistan and Afghanistan seemed less Semitically attuned.

“I’m Jewish,” I said.

He paused. “Well,” he said, “you are most welcome here.”

Not long after my stay at the madrasa, I visited a mosque outside Muzaffarabad, in Kashmir. The mosque was affiliated with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that would go on to commit the famous massacre in Mumbai in 2008.

The subject of my religion came up in conversation. The imam was fascinated. He was anti-Semitic, but impersonally so. His abstract detestation of Jews was trumped by a practical curiosity. He phoned a friend who, like him, had never met someone from my tribe.

That friend brought another friend. Soon, we were having a colloquy on several subjects—the putative righteousness of Osama bin Laden’s cause, the alleged treachery of Bill Clinton—but our focus narrowed to matters of faith.

I raised the subject of Muhammad’s often complicated, sometimes violent relationship with the Jews of Arabia. These men, like many Muslims, believed that the Jews had behaved perfidiously toward their Prophet, and they endorsed Muhammad’s decision to behead some 600 of his Jewish enemies, the males of the vanquished Banu Qurayza tribe.

The extremists don’t need a middleman anymore. Journalists have been replaced by YouTube.

Back then, it did not seem foolhardy to engage Muslim terrorists on the subject of beheading.

It was not as though they didn’t already hate Jews, and Americans. Even in the 1990s, the hatred, particularly in Pakistan, was sometimes palpable. I once went, at night, to a sketchy section of Rawalpindi, to interview a man named Fazlur Rehman Khalil, the leader of a terrorist group then called Harkat ul-Mujahideen.

Khalil had co-signed bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa calling for the killing of Americans and Jews. He gave me tea, and told me that he would happily use nuclear weapons to eradicate the enemies of Islam. “If we had them, we would use them as necessary. But they’re very expensive,” he said. The conversation turned to the fatwa.

Why Jews?, I asked. “Because you are from Satan,” he said. When we were done with the interview, our transaction complete, I left for my hotel.

I had glimpsed a treacherous and secret subculture, and I was happy, because a reporter’s deepest need is to see what is on the other side of a closed door. In exchange, I would tell people in the West about Khalil and his beliefs.

I was appalled by his message, and I wanted readers to understand the horror of it. But Khalil believe 5 d he 6a1 was doing good works, and he wanted the world to celebrate his philosophy. Back then, the transaction worked for both parties. Today, when I think about the meeting, I shudder.

I spoke recently with a friend, Dexter Filkins, of The New Yorker, about the assumptions we used to make. I first met Dexter in the spring of 1998, on the runway of the airport in Kabul, a couple of months after bin Laden issued his fatwa. The order seemed like the grandiose outburst of an impotent fantasist, and Western reporters who traveled in Afghanistan did not take it seriously, at least not as concerned their own safety.

“I used to tell people that as a reporter for an American news organization, it was like we were wearing armor,” Dexter recalled. “People just didn’t go after American reporters.”

The attacks of 9/11 weren’t the decisive break in the relationship between jihadists and journalists. It was the decision made by a set of extremists in Pakistan to kidnap the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in January 2002 that represented a shift in jihadist thought. To his kidnappers, Pearl was not a messenger to the outside world, but a scapegoat to be sacrificed for the sins of his fellow infidels. Murder was becoming their message.

Danny Pearl was the reporter who first gave me telephone numbers for important figures in Pakistani extremist circles. Danny was generous, Danny was careful, but Danny was unlucky. Even after his murder, I convinced myself that this horrible moment was the exception that proved the rule.

Non-Jewish reporters, meanwhile, could tell themselves that Danny’s death had more to do with his religion than his profession.

“It just seemed to me like a freakish anomaly,” Dexter said. “I went to the tribal areas in Pakistan, to Wana, by taxi, after he was killed. It used to be pretty easy. You could go into situations that were very dangerous, and the chances of being hurt were very small.”

Today, Western journalists who seek out jihadists are courting death. The beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff by ISIS, the Islamic State terror group, are persuasive arguments for prudence.

Why have some groups rejected the notion of journalistic neutrality?

For one thing, the extremists have become more extreme. Look at the fractious relationship between al-Qaeda and ISIS, which is an offshoot of al-Qaeda but which has rejected criticism from Qaeda leaders about its particularly baroque application of violence.

Another, more important, reason relates to the mechanisms of publicity itself. The extremists don’t need us anymore. Fourteen years ago, while I was staying at the Taliban madrasa, its administrators were launching a Web site. I remember being amused by this. I shouldn’t have been.

There is no need for a middleman now. Journalists have been replaced by YouTube and Twitter. And when there is no need for us, we become targets.

Three years ago, Dexter and I both found ourselves in Pakistan again, staying in the same anonymous guesthouse in Islamabad, which seemed safer than any alternative. Especially after the killing of Osama bin Laden, when so many people in Pakistan were contemplating revenge, the large hotels had become irresistible targets for terrorists. They were also infested with agents of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, the handmaiden of many of the terrorist groups.

I was reporting on the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons; Dexter was investigating the murder of a Pakistani journalist who was killed, apparently, by agents of the ISI.

Both topics were dangerous territory, and we came under harassment. I was followed; Dexter’s phone was tapped. Each time I returned to the guesthouse, I could tell that strangers had been in my room. One day, I got a call from someone who identified himself as a reporter for a major Urdu daily newspaper. “We understand that you’re a prominent Zionist, and we want to write about you on the front page,” he said.

Such an article would have gotten me killed. The reporter’s call represented an invitation from the ISI to leave Pakistan right away. I knocked on Dexter’s door. He had been in the country for a month, and he seemed haunted. His room reminded me of Martin Sheen’s in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now.

Time to go, I said. In the taxi to the airport, we discovered that Dexter’s visa had expired. We edited his passport with a Sharpie, while standing behind a tree outside the terminal. The ISI did not impede our departure.

Each unhappy place has its own rules.

In Iran, Western reporters are often welcome, and sometimes arrested while performing their duties.

In Gaza over the summer, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch, was both eager to help reporters inspect the damage done by Israeli air strikes, and rigorous about denying reporters access to the rocket crews launching attacks on Israeli civilians.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah maintains a sophisticated media-relations operation designed in part to thwart independent reporting.

I no longer spend much time with Islamist groups.

Today, even places that shouldn’t be dangerous for journalists are dangerous. Whole stretches of Muslim countries are becoming off-limits. This is a minor facet of a much larger calamity, but it has consequences: the problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan and Syria and Iraq are not going away.

Our ability to see these problems, however, is becoming progressively more circumscribed.

Once, in Upper Egypt, in Minya, a Salafist cleric was lecturing me on the characteristics of unbelievers. It was a typical rant, and it ended with a justification for sacred violence, to be directed by followers of the one true faith against those who defy God.

I must have been tired, or frustrated, because I impulsively asked: “Why haven’t you personally killed any unbelievers? What are you waiting for?” Left unspoken was: Here’s my throat.

He answered simply, “Everything happens according to a plan.” In other words: All in good time.

Young reporters sometimes come to me for advice about working in the Middle East.

In years past, I would tell them that this was an excellent idea: save some money, go learn Arabic, be a newspaper stringer, grab for the big stories, and you’ll have an interesting life.

Steven Sotloff was one of those who sought my advice.

His Middle East career was already under way (he was living in Israel at the time), and I prefer to think that he could not have been dissuaded.

But I’m capable of learning, and my advice now is to go somewhere else.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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