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Posts Tagged ‘iraq’

Ultimately Destroy ISIL

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

President Obama declared war on the Islamic State:

In an address from the State Floor of the White House, President Obama spoke to the nation tonight about ISIL — and our comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group.

The President reiterated that as Commander-in-Chief, his “highest priority is the security of the American people,” and noted that we have “consistently taken the fight to terrorists” that threaten the United States:

We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia.  We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year.  Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.

“Still,” he said, “we continue to face a terrorist threat.”

We can’t erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm.  That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today.  And that’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge.  At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain.  And one of those groups is ISIL — which calls itself the “Islamic State.”

ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has since gained territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border by taking advantage of sectarian strife and the Syrian civil war. Although ISIL calls itself the “Islamic State,” the President emphasized that the terrorist group is neither Islamic nor a state.

“ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’ No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim,” President Obama said. “And ISIL is certainly not a state. … It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates.”


“ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple.”


Adding that ISIL’s sole vision is the slaughter of anyone and everyone who stands in its way, the President detailed the threat that ISIL poses to Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East. And “if left unchecked,” he said, “these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region.”

In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality.  They execute captured prisoners.  They kill children.  They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage.  They threatened a religious minority with genocide.  And in acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists — Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, personnel and facilities.  If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States.  While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies.  Our Intelligence Community believes that thousands of foreigners -– including Europeans and some Americans –- have joined them in Syria and Iraq.  Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.

Noting the concern that many Americans have about these threats, he made clear that the U.S. is “meeting them with strength and resolve.”


“Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.”


President Obama delivers an address to the nation on the U.S. Counterterrorism strategy to combat ISIL (2)President Barack Obama delivers an address to the nation on the U.S. Counterterrorism strategy to combat ISIL, in the Cross Hall of the White House, Sept. 10, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The four parts of the U.S. strategy

In his address, the President outlined the four key parts of the United States’ strategy to defeat ISIL:

1. A systematic campaign of airstrikes against ISIL

Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense.  Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.  That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.  This is a core principle of my presidency:  If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

2. Increased support to forces fighting ISIL on the ground

In June, I deployed several hundred American servicemembers to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces.  Now that those teams have completed their work –- and Iraq has formed a government –- we will send an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq.  As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission –- we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.  But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment.  We’ll also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL’s control.

Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition.  Tonight, I call on Congress again to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters.  In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people — a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost.  Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.

3. Drawing on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks

Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East.  And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.

4. Providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians displaced by ISIL

This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities.  We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.

“This is our strategy,” the President said, adding that the United States has a “broad coalition of partners” joining us in this effort:

Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid.  Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity.  And in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria, to drive these terrorists from their lands.  This is American leadership at its best:  We stand with people who fight for their own freedom, and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.

President Obama also noted the bipartisan support for this strategy here in the United States, and welcomed congressional support for the strategy “in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.”

President Obama delivers an address to the nation on the U.S. Counterterrorism strategy to combat ISILPresident Barack Obama delivers an address to the nation on the U.S. Counterterrorism strategy to combat ISIL, in the Cross Hall of the White House, Sept. 10, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

“Different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan”

The President made clear that eradicating ISIL won’t happen overnight, but he also detailed how this effort isn’t the same as our previous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL.  And any time we take military action, there are risks involved — especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions.  But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.  This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.  This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.  And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year:  to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.

America’s responsibility to lead

President Obama called American leadership the “one constant in an uncertain world.” From fighting terrorism, to rallying the world against Russian aggression, to helping to stop the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the U.S. continues to play a critical leading role across the globe:

It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists.  It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny.  It is America — our scientists, our doctors, our know-how — that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola.  It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again.  And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, and tolerance, and a more hopeful future.


“Our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead.”


When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said:  “We owe our American friends our lives.  Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”

That is the difference we make in the world.  And our own safety, our own security, depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation and uphold the values that we stand for –- timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.

May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

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Iraq Aftermath

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Ten years ago the peace and anti-war movements warned the leaders of the global community that war was not the answer, and that war once unleashed would bring only destruction and death. United for Peace and Justice finds no pleasure in being right about this U.S. made catastrophe of human suffering. There is no joy or self-satisfaction that can be felt. This is not an “I told you so” moment. But we will use both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars as examples of how violence begets violence and how war, if it ever was, is no longer a moral means to solve conflicts.

The people of Iraq have suffered for decades: first under Saddam Hussein; then the 1991 U.S.-led invasion, followed by U.S.-led sanctions; and finally another U.S.-led invasion and occupation. The Iraq War must not be swept aside to be forgotten like a national nightmare, and we must not let the nightmare of the war be repackaged in patriotic rhetoric to support future wars. Our nation has an obligation to the people of Iraq, and to the U.S. service members sent to fight, bleed and die there. There is still much work ahead to help the people of Iraq and the U.S. troops and communities to which they have returned to heal.

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Iraq

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

by United for Peace and Justice

Ten years ago this month the United Sates embarked on one of the worst foreign policy decisions in the nation’s history. Fooling itself into believing that U.S. soldiers would be welcomed as liberators, the Bush Administration ordered the invasion of Iraq. March 19th began a more intensified subjugation and destruction of Iraq that really began with Operation Desert Storm in January 1991 when I was part of that invading force.

Today due to the resistance of the Iraqi people and domestic pressure created by the peace movement here in the U.S., officially U.S. forces have left Iraq and the Iraqi people are picking up the pieces of a destroyed national infrastructure and fragmented society. The two decades of Iraq Wars from 1991 to when the last U.S. troops left in 2011 must not be swept aside like a bad dream to be forgotten. Our nation has an obligation to the people of Iraq and to U.S. service members sent to fight, bleed and die there. I congratulate the peace movement for its successful efforts to bring our troops home and end the violence caused by U.S. military operations and or the presence of our forces, but there is still much work to do to help the people of Iraq and U.S. troops and the communities to which they have returned heal.

As always the peace and anti-war community is busy with over flowing plates of work to do. There have been important developments in the Bradley Manning case. He needs our support as much as anyone. March is Women’s History month and as we celebrate the triumphs and continuing struggles of women here at home, the challenges women face around the world in the U.S. war machine and in the aftermath of U.S. wars must be part of the dialogue.

We are beginning preparations for the April 15th Global Day of Action on Military Spending to end the madness of international squandering of material resources and people’s lives and we must support our allies in the struggle for a clean and sustainable environment so that we can have safe food and clean air and water.

Thank you for your devotion to peace and justice. We will continue in the struggle because it honors those who brought us this far, it is the right thing to do, and we know that together we are making a difference for the better.

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Veterans Group Calls On Soldiers to Refuse Orders to Deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Veterans Group Calls On Soldiers to Refuse Orders to Deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Dahr Jamail
Truthout
Tue, 15 Dec 2009 18:55 EST

In response to President Barack Obama’s announcement on December 1 to deploy 30,000 additional troops to the occupation of Afghanistan, the organization March Forward!, comprising both veterans and active-duty members of the US military, has called on all soldiers to refuse their orders to deploy.

“March Forward! calls on all service members to refuse orders to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq,” reads a press release from the group from December 3. “We offer our unconditional support and solidarity. Join us in the fight to ensure that no more soldiers or civilians lose their lives in these criminal wars.”

Michael Prysner, a former corporal in the Army who served from 2001-2005 and a veteran of the occupation of Iraq, co-founded the group with another Iraq war veteran, James Circello.

Truthout asked Prysner how he responds to those who believe a soldier should always follow orders, no matter what.

“In my experience the majority of people joining the military today join out of necessity, like money, jobs, help for their family, etc., so most don’t join for ideological or patriotic reasons. Most are driven into the military by economic conditions. We see this playing out now, as people are joining in droves because of the economy.”

Prysner added, “Yes, people do sign a contract to follow orders, but those orders are wrong and unlawful. We want to educate people to the fact that these are immoral orders, and they [soldiers] are being used as muscle for corporations, to colonize the developing world, and it’s not legitimate. People who join and take this oath seriously who think they are in [the military] to defend the US, this is not what we are being used for in the military today.”

Prysner has written about his experience in Iraq, “… there was no computer screen separating me from the suffering civilian population. I spent 12 months in Iraq, doing everything from prisoner interrogations, to ground surveillance missions, to home raids. It was my firsthand experiences in Iraq that radicalized me. I believed I was going to Iraq to help liberate and better the lives of an oppressed people, but I soon realized that my purpose in Iraq was to be the oppressor, and to clear the way for US corporations with no regard for human life.”

After he separated from the Army in 2005, Prysner “understood that the occupation I was a part of was a crime against humanity. I understood that illegal conquering of Iraq was for profit, carried out by a system that serves a tiny class of super-rich whose endless drive for wealth is at the expense of working people in the United States and abroad.”

According to Prysner, the lessons he learned from being part of the US occupation of Iraq taught him that, “I still had the same drive to fight for freedom, justice and equality as I did when I joined, and I understood that fighting for those things meant fighting against the US government, not on behalf of it.”

To those who call him and his organization “anti-American” and/or “unpatriotic,” Prysner has this to say:

“I would say that I have more in common with my sisters and brothers in Iraq and Afghanistan than I do with these people in DC who’ve sent us to war. If that’s unpatriotic, then yes, I am. But patriotism and racism are the only things the military has to fall back on to convince people to do the things we are being asked to do today.”

March Forward! was founded in 2008, and the aim of the organization is “to unite all those who have served and who currently serve in the US military, and who want to stand up for our rights and for that which is right.”

“We are new and growing,” Prysner explained. “We have seen somewhat consistent growth, and we’re expecting this to accelerate now.”

The group’s statement from December 3 adds, “On December 1, we got a clear order from President Obama. For many more years, we will be sent to kill, to die, to be maimed and wounded, in a war where ‘victory’ is impossible, against a people who are not our enemies. For over eight years, we have come home in coffins, in wheelchairs, with our skin burned and with our days and nights haunted by the trauma of war. We return home to a VA whose services are so inadequate that active duty soldiers who succumb to suicide outnumber those killed in combat.”

James Circello is a former Army sergeant and veteran of the US occupation of Iraq. Circello, who joined the military in 2001, describes his experience in Iraq as follows:

“During the occupation of Iraq, the truth about what the United States government has done to the country of Iraq became more apparent. Open wastewater flowed through neighborhood streets where children played soccer. Families were thrown out of their homes with simple accusations from others. Vehicles were taken on sight by the military if individuals couldn’t provide proper documents claiming they own the vehicle. These events and others helped in strengthening my opposition to the so-called ‘War on Terror.’”

In April 2007, Circello left his base in Vicenza, Italy, and went absent without leave (AWOL) in protest of US policy in the Middle East. In November 2007, he turned himself in to the military at Fort Knox and was discharged within three days.

Circello has remained very active with his work against US Foreign Policy, having worked with Iraq Veterans Against the War and the group Courage to Resist before joining March Forward!.

Circello’s decision to go AWOL was his way of refusing to deploy to Afghanistan.

I had been fighting myself internally after my time in Iraq, about whether to deploy again,” he explained to Truthout, “I ended up back in my old unit that was preparing to deploy, so at that moment I took it into my hands, and decided I wasn’t going to go kill Afghans that had done nothing to me, or the American people. It was a defining moment for me.”

According to Pentagon figures, since October 2001, more than 50,000 soldiers from all branches of the military have gone AWOL.

John Raughter is the communications director for the American Legion, an organization that describes itself as “a patriotic, war-time veterans organization, devoted to mutual helpfulness,” according to its web site.

Raughter is clear about his stance on the rights of soldiers. “We have an all-volunteer force,” he explained to Truthout, “These are not draftees. They swore an oath to obey the orders of the Commander in Chief.”

According to Raughter, the American Legion does not, in any way, support AWOL soldiers or those who refuse to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. “Within reason, the military should be able to enforce obedience. Obedience and order are critical for the military to do its mission. People can’t pick and choose which orders to obey and which not to [obey]. If it’s a lawful order, they are obliged to obey.”

Yet the oath enlisted soldiers must take before being deployed, reads:

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild, is the co-author of “Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent” with Kathleen Gilberd. In the book, they write, “Rules of Engagement limit forms of combat, levels of force, and legitimate enemy targets, defining what is legal in warfare and what is not. (They’re also) defined by an established body of international (and US) law that leaves no ambiguity.”

Cohn and Gilberd argue that every US war since WWII has been illegal. Article 51 of the UN Charter only permits the “right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member … until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security.”

In addition, Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 (the war powers clause) of the US Constitution authorizes only both houses of Congress, not the president, to declare war. Nonetheless, that process has been followed only five times in our history and last used on December 8, 1941, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

Nevertheless, Raughter believes soldiers who are dissenting against the occupations should have never joined the ranks. “If they are ethically opposed to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I would say that most of these people have enlisted or reenlisted since the beginning of the war. These wars were occurring when they made this oath of enlistment. It should have come to their minds.”

Circello’s response to those who refer to their tactic of encouraging soldiers to refuse deployment orders as being “unpatriotic or un-American?

“This is a tactic of demonization and we reject it,” he explained, “The corporations profiting in these wars don’t care about America or the American people. Is providing mercenaries to kill innocent people overseas, and bombs to kill innocent people, is that American and patriotic? The people who use these terms are demagogues. We can’t forget that America was a land of institutionalized slavery, slavery was American, and folks like Dr. Martin Luther King, when they stood up to racism were called un-American … so the same thing happens today. When you protest war, or call on soldiers to desert based on their own interest, you are called un-American.”

Prysner and Circello’s organization has stated, “March Forward! supports the right of all service members to refuse illegal and immoral orders. Orders to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq are just that: illegal and immoral. We have no reason to fight in these wars, and we have every right to refuse to be a part of them.”

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Another $130 billion for war and no exit strategy?

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Dear UFPJ Supporter,

In the next 24 hours, Congress is set to authorize
$550 billion in FY 2010 defense spending — and with it,
an additional $130 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This, on top of the $75 billion Congress approved for
continuing the wars and occupations last week. Not to
mention the fact that 6 million jobs have been lost and
our communities continue to face stiffening budget cuts.
To put it plainly, our nation’s priorities are out of whack.

The sole bright spot in this is the McGovern amendment.
House Representatives Jim McGovern (MA), Walter Jones (NC),
and Chellie Pingree (ME) have introduced an amendment to
the 2010 military authorization bill, requiring the Pentagon
to provide an ‘exit strategy’ to Congress by the end of this
year.

That’s why we need you to call your Representatives TODAY
and TOMORROW and urge them to vote for the McGovern
amendment. You can call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Supporting the McGovern amendment and forcing the
Defense Secretary to submit an ‘exit strategy’ will allow
us to insert our voices into the debate and push for a
complete and immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Before we can do that with success, though, we need
to ensure that the debate happens at all – and this
amendment is a step towards doing that.

So make sure to call your Member of Congress and urge
them to support the McGovern amendment. Call the
Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Tell them
we need to end the wars and occupations and redirect
spending to our urgent domestic needs!

Thanks,

United For Peace and Justice

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Ron Paul’s Strong Opposition to the War Funding Bill

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Ron Paul, before the US House of Representatives, June 15, 2009:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this conference report on the War Supplemental Appropriations. I wonder what happened to all of my colleagues who said they were opposed to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wonder what happened to my colleagues who voted with me as I opposed every war supplemental request under the previous administration. It seems, with very few exceptions, they have changed their position on the war now that the White House has changed hands. I find this troubling. As I have said while opposing previous war funding requests, a vote to fund the war is a vote in favor of the war. Congress exercises its constitutional prerogatives through the power of the purse.

This conference report, being a Washington-style compromise, reflects one thing Congress agrees on: spending money we do not have. So this “compromise” bill spends 15 percent more than the president requested, which is $9 billion more than in the original House bill and $14.6 billion more than the original Senate version. Included in this final version — in addition to the $106 billion to continue the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — is a $108 billion loan guarantee to the International Monetary Fund, allowing that destructive organization to continue spending taxpayer money to prop up corrupt elites and promote harmful economic policies overseas.

As Americans struggle through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, this emergency supplemental appropriations bill sends billions of dollars overseas as foreign aid. Included in this appropriation is $660 million for Gaza, $555 million for Israel, $310 million for Egypt, $300 million for Jordan, and $420 million for Mexico. Some $889 million will be sent to the United Nations for “peacekeeping” missions. Almost one billion dollars will be sent overseas to address the global financial crisis outside our borders and nearly $8 billion will be spent to address a “potential pandemic flu.”

Mr. Speaker, I continue to believe that the best way to support our troops is to bring them home from Iraq and Afghanistan. If one looks at the original authorization for the use of force in Afghanistan, it is clear that the ongoing and expanding nation-building mission there has nothing to do with our goal of capturing and bringing to justice those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. Our continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan does not make us safer at home, but in fact it undermines our national security. I urge my colleagues to defeat this reckless conference report.

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