John McCain and Lindsey Graham Want to invade Falluja Yet Again

(By Juan Cole)

There were conflicting reports on Sunday morning about whether the Iraqi government and its allied tribal levies had regained control of the western city of Falluja, which had fallen to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) on Saturday. What was not in doubt was that some in the leadership of the GOP have a screw loose when it comes to foreign affairs.

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tried to blame President Obama for the al-Qaeda presence in Falluja, saying that he had been wrong to withdraw all US troops from Iraq in December of 2011.

It is really rich that these two should try to blame Obama for the problem that they caused. There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2002 and the Iraqi government would not have allowed such a thing.
It is really rich that these two should try to blame Obama for the problem that they caused. There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2002 and the Iraqi government would not have allowed such a thing. McCain and Graham decided to invade Iraq with no justification in international law, overthrow its government, dissolve its army, fire most Sunni Arabs from their jobs, and dissolve most of the state-owned industries, creating massive unemployment. What did they expect to happen? In contrast, Obama opposed the Iraq War when he was in the Illinois Senate.

McCain and Graham are wrong on this matter for the following reasons:

1. The Iraqi parliament rejected a Status of Forces Agreement with the US on George W. Bush’s watch and refused to reconsider. Without a SOFA, as Sen. McCain knows very well, US troops could not engage in combat without risking being brought to Iraqi courts and charged with war crimes.
The only way Obama could have kept troops in Iraq would have been to invade the country all over again, abolish parliament and install a puppet government that would invite the US to stay. Actually, that is exactly what Leonid Brezhnev did in Afghanistan. How did that work out for the Soviet Union? In fact, McCain pursued in the 1980s more or less allied with Muslim holy warriors against the Soviets in Afghanistan, contributing the the rise of . . . al-Qaeda. So we have seen this picture.

2. The Islamic State of Iraq and other extremist Sunni fundamentalists controlled city quarters of Falluja while the American troops were there! The US invaded Falluja twice directly in 2004 and then conducted a proxy campaign there in 2007-8 using tribal levies (the “Awakening Councils”) a third time! So the US military presence in Iraq 2003-2011 did not crush the Sunni extremists in Falluja, which they had to keep invading over and over again, as is proved by the way the extremists were back in control of the city just this past weekend. If a small contingent of US troops were in Iraq now, what would they do? Could they even tell which Iraqis in Falluja were the bad guys?

3. Sen. McCain has never comprehended that the Iraqis did not want US troops in their country. Many Iraqis who don’t even like Sunni extremists would be perfectly happy to join them in fighting US troops were they again to be on the ground in Iraq. They’re just not that into you, Lindjohn. A US troop presence in a place like Iraq is radicalizing and destabilizing, not a solution to the problems.

The two maintained that US power has declined in the Middle East in the past 5 years. But if we went back to 2007 we would find the US mired in two quagmires, in Afghanistan and Iraq, its forces over-extended and doing 3 and 4 18-month rotations. It was the bogged down US in 2007 that was weak and irrelevant. No one in the Middle East cared what W. thought.

They also wanted a direct US intervention in Syria, apparently because their Iraq adventure went so well. There is no prospect that the US could intervene effectively in Syria. Even if it could, do they want to put the Syrian rebels in power in Damascus? Do they even realize that one major rebel group in Syria is — you guessed it– the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the same “al-Qaeda affiliate” they want to sent troops in to fight in Falluja!

Some people think war is the answer to every problem. It isn’t even the answer to most problems.

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39 Responses

    • From McCain’s website:

      “… we cannot afford to remain disengaged any longer.”

      By the way, McCain’s Washington Office now has a copy of Professor Cole’s article.

    • We could destroy the Syrian Air Force and maintain a no fly zone over Syria meaning no military aircraft flights including helicopters. But no troops on the ground.

      • We would have to disregard international law and the Russian and Chinese veto at the UN to deploy force. NATO & even the British parliament is also against it.

        • They would veto it because they were bamboozled by Obama to abstain on his intervention to remove a secular regime in Libya.

        • Refresh my memory: Was Russia particularly eager to authorize military actions against its client states (Syria is a major recipient of Russian military aid, including its air force and its chemical weapons arsenal, as well as the host of a Russian naval base) before the Libya operation?

    • If you are really curious, sir, here are some examples:

      “I am sorry for the role I played in Fallujah”
      link to theguardian.com

      “Wall Street’s Wars:
      Fallujah Veteran: ‘I Served The 1%’”
      link to informationclearinghouse.info

      And a whole bunch more at search term “veterans speak about Fallujah”. There are also whole rafts of webspaces created by and dedicated to all those men and women who “took the King’s shilling” and went off to flatten Fallujah, kick in doors in Kandahar and find themselves hating and killing “hajjis” and “towelheads” because the Brass pushed them into “contact” as invaders, the way cock- and dog-fighters rub the faces of their “champions” together to stir them up for those negative-sum games in “pits” across the planet… See, e.g., Iraq Veterans Against The War/You Are Not Alone, at link to ivaw.org

      Doesn’t matter. Some here sneer at repetitive references to Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler’s statement of the truth: “War is nothing but a racket.” He goes on to explain that he speaks of the imperial wars of our great Republic, of which the business is “business.” link to ratical.org The sneerers appear to be people who profit and gain personally from, and/or have been personally involved in, or glued their identities to, the “business” activities that engender the stuff Butler, as a very experienced practitioner sickened by it, so properly decried. And it is beyond argument that the same crap continues, and because it is so profitable and has such career- and opportunity-generating momentum, it’s gaining speed…

      It ain’t about “protecting the nation” or HAHAHAHA “supporting and defending the Constitution” or “preserving our democracy” much less “our way of life,” except in the sense that all those brave and scared Troops are preserving the prerogatives and wealth of a very very few.

      • ” Some here sneer at repetitive references to Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler’s statement of the truth: “War is nothing but a racket.” ”

        The last time I checked the official website for the Marine Corps I couldn’t find any reference to General Butler, two-time Medal of Honor recipient. It looks like his statement about war being a racket made him persona non grata there.

      • “The sneerers appear to be people who profit and gain personally from, and/or have been personally involved in, or glued their identities to, the “business” activities that engender the stuff Butler, as a very experienced practitioner sickened by it, so properly decried.”

        OK, I’ll bite: what, exactly… makes one “appear to profit from” American foreign policy?

        You know, JT, all those weeks you spent insisting that the Syrian government had never used chemical weapons, and pushing the crack-pot theory that the rebels had gassed themselves, I don’t recall anyone ever accusing you of profiting from or being involved with the Syrian government.

    • What we need is an artist to give his or her rendition of Fallujah as Picasso did for Guernica. As for veterans of that carnage they probably don’t want to talk about and would most likely prefer to forget it if they could.

    • Wouldn’t it be a fourth if the assault by tribal levies is included? We shouldn’t lose track of any opportunities to bask in Fallujan glory.

  1. “Some people think war is the answer to every problem. It isn’t even the answer to most problems.”

    This is entirely too generous to war. War is in fact the answer to very few, if any problems.

      • That’s one. As in, “…very few, if any…” Also, see Nazi love of War as ultimate answer to most if not all questions. And of course we lose most if not all arguments by being the first to bring up Nazis;^)

        • Bringing up the Nazis is usually bad form because they are brought in as an irrelevant or extreme case, but when discussing the utility of war in the past 100 years one can hardly omit them.

      • Once Nazism arose it was probably one of those “very few”.

        However, a more generous peace at the end of the First World War might have avoided the Second by preventing the punitive measures that led to an impossible political situation in Germany in the 1920s, which in turn led to the rise of the Nazis.

        • “However, a more generous peace at the end of the First World War might have avoided the Second by preventing the punitive measures that led to an impossible political situation in Germany in the 1920s, which in turn led to the rise of the Nazis.”

          Actually, one might draw the exact opposite conclusion. At the time of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, except for the Battles of Tannenberg and Marsurian Lakes on the Eastern Front, not one square inch of German territory had experienced fighting or allied troops. This was one of the reasons the “stab in the back” theory” gained credence, that the politicians had “sold out” the Germans.

          World War II in Europe ended, however, with the unconditional surrender and occupation of Germany, which in turn resulted in a peaceful Germany becoming a member of the international community. Perhaps the lesson to be drawn when comparing how the two wars ended is that unconditional surrender and allied occupation resulted in the better outcome.

        • I wouldn’t disagree with “Bill”, and it is exactly what I was thinking. WW II ended with a generous peace that did not try to exact huge pounds of flesh from the Germans, but instead tried to bring that (devastated) nation back in. Yes, it was occupied, but the goal was always to make it part of the world, instead of punishing it for the fact that it lost WW I, and exacting revenge in the form of punitive reparations.

          I would have mentioned the better outcome from WW II, but I would have thought it obvious.

          Just the fact of occupation (as also in Japan, BTW) doesn’t mean that the peace after WW II wasn’t much better and more generously managed by the allied powers than it was after WW I.

          What if the outcome of WW I had been managed more like the outcome of WW II was? Would there ever have been a WW II?

          That is my point.

        • I wrote:

          “Yes, it was occupied, but the goal was always to make it part of the world, instead of punishing it for the fact that it lost WW I, and exacting revenge in the form of punitive reparations.”

          This is a bit confusing. I meant to say:

          “Yes, it was occupied, but the goal was always to make it part of the world, instead of punishing it for the fact that it lost WW II, and exacting revenge in the form of punitive reparations, as happened after WW I.”

        • ” Perhaps the lesson to be drawn when comparing how the two wars ended is that unconditional surrender and allied occupation resulted in the better outcome.”

          On the other hand, a more likely reason was the relative magnanimity shown by the victors to the defeated after World War II compared with the vindictiveness demanded by the French after WWI. The Marshall Plan compared with vicious demands for reparations that created fertile soil for Hitler’s propaganda.

        • I don’t disagree with Mr. Jerrerys and Mr. Bodden about the relative magnanimity shown a defeated Germany after World War II, as opposed to the vindictiveness (particularly the French insistence on unrealistic reparations) after World War I, resulting in the difference in outcomes. My point is that the allies could not have accomplished the re-making of Germany (and it was a complete re-making) without unconditional surrender and occupation. The same can be said for the re-making of Japan from a militaristic aggressor to a responsible member of the global community. Unconditional surrender and occupation enabled the allies in both cases to have complete control over the levers of power in government and social policy, and thus set the course that led to a happy outcome.

        • ” Perhaps the lesson to be drawn when comparing how the two wars ended is that unconditional surrender and allied occupation resulted in the better outcome.”
          “On the other hand, a more likely reason was the relative magnanimity shown by the victors to the defeated after World War II compared with the vindictiveness demanded by the French after WWI.”

          But these are not mutually exclusive options. There are two variables at play here: when the war ends, and how the victors treat the vanquished in the post-war peace deal.

          There is no reason why one cannot think that both points about World War 1 – that Germany didn’t experience enough hardship during the war, and that the peace deal drafter after the war was too harsh – are valid.

      • War is the problem. Nazism was and is war. It would be better to say that sometimes you have no choice because others insist on war. Which is back to the point of your article>

  2. @ coljem

    well stated. re GOP & having “a screw loose” mild when compared 2 my thoughts but they would boot me off of Twitter if printed here

  3. I doubt vets would have thing good to say and with all the depleted uranium there, why anyone would want to go there other than these two war mongers. It’s sad what we did there in the beginning by destroying one the oldest cities in the Middle East.

    • Vets and Fallujah:

      I Am Sorry for the Role I Played in Fallujah: As a US marine who lost close friends in the siege of Fallujah in Iraq seven years ago, I understand that we were the aggressors by Ross Caputi – link to commondreams.org

      Occupy Fallujah: The other Occupy Movement by Victoria Fontan – link to counterpunch.org

      The WHO must release report on Iraqi birth defects now: The indefinite postponement of the World Health Organisation’s report is alarming scientists and activists. By Dr Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a native of Iran, – link to aljazeera.com

  4. Here’s a nice little explication of one ugly phenomenon that is a big part of the reason the Empire gains steam so easily:

    “Patriotism: Signs of Saturation”

    link to truthdig.com

    But all of this is just the lower orders grumbling about the natural way of things… Right? Suck it up, Trooper, and keep marching…

  5. The problem is not only McCain and Graham and their failure to get badly need psychiatric counseling. The people who keep re-electing these warmongers may be worse.

  6. Consortium News has a couple of articles that expand on Professor Cole’s:

    Forgetting why al-Qaeda spread: Exclusive: Al-Qaeda extremism is resurgent across the Middle East with its affiliates seizing territory in western Iraq and in neighboring Syria. But the neocons are whitewashing their role in spreading this extremism via George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, reports Robert Parry. – link to consortiumnews.com

    Bush’s Anti-American Legacy: As Iraq becomes a hotbed for al-Qaeda terrorism, President George W. Bush’s legacy grows even dimmer. But one could argue that he did succeed in stirring democratic impulses in the region, albeit mostly of an anti-American variety, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar describes. – link to consortiumnews.com

  7. The main reason Senators McCain and Graham want President Obama to send troops to Falluja is so they can then impeach him for taking their advice.

  8. Exactly how sure are we that AQ has ‘occupied’ Fallujah and that we’re not really seeing a Sunni rebellion against the chronic oppression of the al-Maliki quasi-dictatorship? Blaming all the problems on AQI/ISI smacks of the same propaganda campaign that al-Sisi’s conducting against the M.D. in Egypt.

    • Nope, it is pretty much the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that has taken over Fallujah. Other Sunnis are dismayed.

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