On Memorial Day, US Troops at War with ISIL near Mosul

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

On Memorial Day, it is as well to remember that US troops are still at war. Afghanistan is our nation’s longest such military engagement.

But although there are only about 3,000 troops in Iraq and just a couple hundred in Syria, they are at the front lines in confronting the most dangerous terrorist groups.

After having caught sight of US special operations forces fighting alongside the leftist Kurdish YPG militia in Syria near the Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) HQ of al-Raqqa, Agence France Presse got another coup on Saturday by discovering similar US forces embedded with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters of the Kurdistan Regional Authority in their assault on Daesh position at Khazir to the east of Mosul. The Peshmerga are attempting to liberate from Daesh control several villages near Khazir, which were historically populated by Kurds but had been taken over by the terrorist organization in 2014. AFP reporters were instructed to delete any photographs they took of the US troops.

A former US military officer has said that US troops are actively engaged in fighting at both major remaining fronts against Daesh, al-Raqqa an Mosul. Some 5,000 Peshmerga are involved in the taking of Khazir, which the Pentagon described as one of several “shaping operations” being engaged in in the Mosul area to soften up Daesh in preparation for the ultimate assault on that city.

The line of the Obama administration had been that US troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria were only trainers and advisors. But in a Sky News interview yesterday, former assistant secretary of state and former brigadier general Mark Kimmitt admitted that here and there the US forces had exceeded that role. He also admitted that it had become difficult for the US to keep it secret. He said it had been found ineffective for US advisers to proffer their counsel from 50 miles away, and that it had been determined that it was better for them to advise while on the battlefield at the front.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

AFP: “Iraq Kurds launch offensive east of Mosul”

10 Responses

  1. These reduced forces may have a valid mission or they may be just extending US errors. But their presence is not what we need to understand on Memorial day. We need to remember the wrongful causes of US military action since WWII, because those predominate today.

    The causes are muddied in the Middle east, but not elsewhere. We must always look to the causes of rebellions. Remember the Vietnam War: the cause was colonial exploitation and denial of self-government, far worse than the causes of the US revolution. The US was the first nation to rebel against colonialism and the last to defend it, and its defense had no rational basis whatsoever. The propaganda changes but the cause is the same. The fault was entirely in the demagogic US leadership, the corrupt military industry, and the control of US elections and mass media by economic concentrations. They simply have no good intentions at all, and would act quite oppositely if they had. If the US had spent its bloated military budget on humanitarian projects since WWI, it would have lfted half the world from poverty, and would have no enemies. Instead we have made the world our enemy and have killed over six million innocents for nothing at all.

    Every US war since WWII has attacked socialist governments on behalf of rich oligarchies, and the US has denounced all anti-colonial, nationalist, and egalitarian insurgencies as “terrorist” to prevent public awareness of the real causes of insurgency and the real causes of US “foreign policy.” In fact these are not wars of foreign policy, they are wars of domestic policy. These foreign wars are intended to prevent socialism in the US and to subvert constitutional rights in the US.

    The people of the US need to learn that ideas like “terrorism” and “communism” are nothing but the standard rationales for right wing power grabs that have destroyed democracies since long before Aristotle warned of this millennia ago. The right wing Must create foreign enemies to pose falsely as protectors and accuse their moral superiors of disloyalty. That is why the US right wing must have continual war or cold war. That is the only reason for the mass media propaganda about “GWOT” and “terrorism.” The destruction of constitutional rights is not an unfortunate accident, it is the motive.

    • The Korean War was initiated by North Korea, under Kim Il Sung, after Stalin gave the green light for the North’s attempt to invade and conquer the South. The demarcation line separating North and South Korea was a legitimate frontier, and the United States had every right to defend the South against the North’s aggression.

      The Vietnam War was a mistake for sure, but it was not about “colonial exploitation.” The U.S. involvement in Vietnam had everything to do with the policy of “containment” of communism. The doctrine of “containment,” first enunciated by the diplomat George F. Kennan, was meant to counter Soviet moves at various points that would endanger U.S. interests. Kennan later acknowledged that the U.S. policy exceeded what he intended. Vietnam was a perfect example of a mistaken application of “containment.”

      • Indeed the Korean War began with the NK invasion, although you would have to argue that the US presence there was beneficial to argue a right to repel the invasion. Most likely it was outright confrontationalism against socialism by the US right wing, like our other wars since WWII. After that, the US ignoring of China’s warnings about placing large forces at its border was ignored by MacArthur. China had its primary industrial region near that border then, so MacArthur’s move was comparable to China massing forces in Canada next to Chicago. So the inevitable result that the US was pushed back with heavy losses. That was a foolish and imperialist move, and every US war since then has been similarly aggressive and supported only by lies and secrecy.

        The US in Vietnam had no conceivable interest in “containment of communism.” (1) It is not possible to contain an idea militarily. (2) The rest of SE Asia was not concerned. (3) China was not about to take on Indonesia’s 300 million Moslems so as invade Australia to get those northern deserts. (4) No dominoes fell after we pulled out, except our Pol Pot forces put down by Vaetnam.

        So “containment” was propaganda (repudiated by Kennan before the war). It reflects only the utterly selfish and foolish US right wing strategy of attacking socialism.

        You seem to have made no contrary point here.

        • I should add that China apparently did not want militarized states next door, and refused to support NK or NV (after France left): they were supported by the USSR as you note. So “containment” was in fact attack upon anticolonial nationalist rebellions, ignoring the causes of rebellion. When JFK sent LBJ to SE Asia to determine their leaders’ views of the problems, he was told (approx.) that “The problem in SE Asia is not communism, it is poverty, ignorance, malnutrition, and disease,” but we did nothing at all about those real problems, and when the JCS met with LBJ during the 1964 election season, he told them “You can have your war if I can have the election.” So they weren’t containing anything, they were knowingly engaged in classic right wing fearmongering to demand power in the US as false protectors.

          And this continues today in the South China sea, and for the same reason. The “honor” of this militarism will become apparent in the future, when other powers are encroaching upon US waters and pointing to our constant harassment of them for the last half century.

        • “…….[n]o dominoes fell after we pulled out, except our Pol Pot forces put down by Vaetnam (sic)….”

          This is absurd. The U.S. backed anti-communist Cambodian Gen. Lon Nol against the Khmer Rouge forces of Pol Pot until the collapse of the Cambodian government in April of 1975. The Khmer Rouge was allied with Red China – not the U.S.

        • The Korean War was not just a “confrontation against socialism.” U.S. involvement was to repel an attack on the South by a Soviet sponsored aggressor, the North. To suggest that the U.S. defense of South Korea was equivalent to the North’s Soviet-sponsored attack is to set up a false equivalency.

          MacArthur indeed wanted to cross the Yalu River and take the war to China. That, however, was not U.S. policy. You may recall that MacArthur was recalled and fired by Truman for his insubordination. the upshot is MacArthur’s move was the work of a rogue commander. It was not U.S. “imperialist” policy.

          Regarding Vietnam, I stated that it was a misapplication of “containment” and a mistake to get involved. It is wrong, however, to claim the rest of Southeast Asia was not concerned. At the time, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia were very concerned about communism spreading to their countries.

          Moreover, “containment” as a policy was not propaganda in the larger sense. It is in large part what finally led to the demise of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Applied correctly, it worked.

          And Kennan never repudiated his policy of containment. He held to it. If you read Kennan carefully you will note that what he repudiated was the U.S. Government’s over-militarization of the policy. He never repudiated the concept itself.

        • Mark, yes, the sentence was misstated and much too short. No dominoes fell other than the dictator Lon Nol. The Khmer Rouge were not backed by China, where Prince Sihanouk had refuge, but by NV. But while NV forces followed the KR into Cambodia, there was mutual distrust. The KR actually invaded Vietnam after its forces remained in eastern Cambodia to protect persons there. Then Vietnam invaded Cambodia and forced Pol Pot into Thailand, where the US indeed secretly supported him in attacking the Vietnam forces that had restored order. See Chandler’s Brother Number One, a study by the govt of Australia.

        • William, I do not equate the U.S. defense of South Korea with the NV attack. But the argument is weak that the US was not setting up a containment state without regard for the justice of the matter, which is geopolitics arrayed against a local egalitarian revolution. The NV attack was not “Soviet-sponsored” as you suggest; apparently they went to China for military aid and were denied, so they went to Stalin who offered arms but said that he would not help at all if they got into trouble. So it was indeed a local rebellion, not a geopolitical scheme of the USSR.

          As to the US intention, recall that the US cut off diplomatic ties with China after the revolution there. When the India ambassador Panekar offered to serve as intermediary and stated the China position that the US must not position an army at the Yalu, he was ridiculed in the Truman administration as “Panicker.” I find it unclear that MacArthur acted alone, as opposed to being willingly scapegoated for the disaster, although it may be so.

          Finally, I contest the right wing’s claim that “containment” actions caused the collapse of the USSR: I doubt that it had much effect. They spent little on NK and NV, and would have militarized eastern Europe anyway. The only “containment” action that weakened them as the US sponsorship of AlQaeda in AfPak to destabilize the USSR regime in Afghanistan. This was a truly destructive and foolish act of the US, both because it resulted in 9/11 when the US backed out, and because the USSR was probably the best thing that could have been done for Afghanistan: they needed a secular ideology opposing a neutral enemy (poverty) to bind together their people against sectarian warlords, so the US should have left that burden to the USSR. It probably would have failed there anyway.

          But that illustrates the real weakness that collapsed the USSR: it was a federation of almost ungovernable central Asian states with Islamic insurgencies, the graveyard of empires. The US, mad with “containment” and angry about Vietnam, caused untold suffering there instead of staying clear in the interest of humanity, and then foolishly walked into its own trap in 2001.

          Really the US had no victory over the USSR, whose fortunes in no way depended upon any expansion, so the US had little effect on its collapse. The warmongers brag about something they had no part of, as is their ancient custom.

          I would say that “containment” was an illusion and a propaganda flag, that led the US from disaster to disaster, and the murder of six million innocents, and had nothing to do with the collapse of the USSR.

    • We need to remember the wrongful causes of US military action since WWII, because those predominate today.

      Why just consider US wars since WW2? The US has been at war ever since the War of Revolution. The Revolutionary War may have begun as a war against colonialism, but it didn’t take long for the new government to become a colonial power with its pursuit of empire that continues to this day.

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