No, Obama did not found ISIL, Mr. Trump: That was the GOP

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Trump in his daily free association exercise accused President Obama of creating Daesh (ISIL, ISIS) in Iraq by withdrawing troops from that country in 2011. It is an accusation he has in past made against Sec. Clinton, but now he is shifting blame to Obama.

Obama did not withdraw troops from Iraq in 2011 all on his own. The timetable for withdrawal was set by the Bush administration.

The US government determined that they could not put US troops in Iraq in the position of possibly being prosecuted by Iraqi courts for war crimes if they fought in the country without a Status of Forces Agreement.

The Iraqi parliament declined to pass a SOFA that would let war-fighting Us troops stay in the country and would hold them harmless from legal action. I mean, you were asking representatives from Amara, from the Ahrar party of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr vote to keep US troops in the country.

The Sadrists, e.g., were all about anti-imperialism, and they really minded the civilian casualties caused by the US invasion and occupation. They weren’t going to vote to keep the US in the country.

So Obama was not asked to stay in Iraq by the sovereign Iraqi government, and international law made it impossible for him to keep troops there in a war-fighting capacity without an extra territoriality provision.
He simply abided by the agreement worked out by the Bush administration.

In 2011 when the civil war broke out in Syria, the elements of the ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ that had evolved out of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia went to fight in Syria. Obama had nothing to do with that development.

There had been no al-Qaeda in Iraq before Bush invaded. Operatives flocked there to fight the US troops, and gathered under the rubric first of al-Tawhid of the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But al-Zarqawi initially had bad relations with Usama Bin Laden. In order to fight the US presence, he made up and joined al-Qaeda and formed al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. AFter he was killed by the US in 2006, the new, Iraqi leadership declared itself the Islamic State of Iraq and deepened their al-Qaeda affiliation.

So, the Republican, George W. Bush created Daesh / ISIL.

It wasn’t the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 that allowed it ultimately to take over western and northern Iraq. It was its success in Syria, where it preyed on other radical Muslim factions.

And it was the marginalization of the Iraqi Sunnis by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose Shiite majority came to power under Bush, that promoted Daesh.

It is rich for Trump to now come and blame Obama for the actions and reactions of the Republicans who invaded and occupied Iraq.

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Related video:

USA Today from earlier in the week: ”
President Obama: None of ISIL’s leaders are safe”

33 Responses

  1. Fragmenting responsibility doesn’t change the fact that US actions created the conditions that fostered ISIS. The buck stops at the White House. Obama may not personally have initiated those conditions but he might have acted to arrest them, and the argument that he was inhibited by international law doesn’t alter that because a superpower only respects international law when it suits. After all, US engagement in Syria is not consistent with international law.

    • I am a retired U.S. Army officer, and if the U.S. government were to tell me to go to Iraq and fight against Isil without a status of forces agreement that held me harmless for violations of Iraqi law while fighting Iraq’s enemies, I would refuse to go.

      This is an international law that protects the troops from other nations invited to fight Iraq’s enemies in Iraq from offending Iraqi law. I fight in another nation (in this case Iraq) on the ground of that nation only with the protection of a status of forces agreement. No SOFA. and the U.S. military will not fight there as an ally to the Iraqi government. And we are not stupid enough to invade Iraq again as we did under the idiotic and ignorant George W. Bush.

      Wibberly, remove your head from it’s current lower rear posterior position and find out the facts you are opining on.

      • No offence intended, I assure you. I perfectly understand how you might be reluctant to deploy without local juridical immunity for things like murder, manslaughter, theft, drunken behavior, sex crimes and so on, but the article is about Obama’s actions.

        • How do you propose Obama could have acted to arrest the conditions that fostered the growth of ISIS? Are you suggesting that he should have deployed U.S. forces in Iraq without a SOFA? The Iraqi parliament refused to approve a SOFA in spite of Obama’s attempts to get one approved.

          When the U.S. establishes military bases in and deploys troops on behalf of a sovereign ally, we always do it under the auspices of a SOFA. If the U.S. cannot protect its forces from local legal jurisdiction of a country we are there to assist, then the country is not worth our assistance.

  2. What about the argument that Obama allowed Iraqi government policies to exist that fired droves of soldiers who then, without jobs, left to join the Islamic state.

    • What a re-write of history. It was G.W. Bush’s representative, Bremer, who abolished the Iraqi army soon after the invasion. That, plus the on-going sectarianism of Iraq PMs, set ripe conditions for ISIL>

    • What’s worse is that under Bush’s de-Baathification policy Bremer fired thousands of Sunnis WITHOUT CONFISCATING THEIR ARMY WEAPONS.

  3. In 2003 Ashleigh Banfield gave a speech at Kansas State University in which she complained of networks love of videos showing rockets being fired and the explosions but didn’t take the time to cover the carnage we inflicted on the population of Iraq….For this she was fired and spent the next few years at Court TV…Here is part of that speech that in retrospect sounds prophetic, in light of the weekly terrorist attacks the world endures……..

    “War is ugly and it’s dangerous, and in this world the way we are discussed on the Arab street, it feeds and fuels their hatred and their desire to kill themselves to take out Americans. It’s a dangerous thing to propagate.”

  4. Yes the the GOP. However Obama and Clinton’s foreign policy decisions sure as hell created more ungoverned territory for IS to operate from.

    All created death, destruction beyond what Rachel Maddow and the rest of MSNBC etc are willing to tell the American public.

    The MSM has to make sure every thing Trump says is covered….Trump has that right “ratings” Although I can’t watch of listen anymore. Will not talk about Clinton’s proven war record and repeat every dangerous and stupid thing Trump says. Enough.

    I miss Bernie

  5. This is yet another example of historic myopia by both Trump and Cole. Attempts to unify a large region of the Levant albeit under much more modern laws predate ISIL by many years. Example: Nasser’s attempt of the Unified Arab republic. All of these attempts had Arab nationalism in common. Although Arab nationalism is overwhelmed by religion in ISIL it is there. The potential for ISIL existed long before the Bush invasion of Iraq. Our wars triggered but did not “found” ISIL. Enough of the nonsense of diminishing the role of the Arabic people themselves. Of course WE, the omnipotent WE, had to create ISIL. It could not have been these people in funny dresses. No Sir!

    • I agree. All evil does not originate in the US or the global north. It is true that both the right and the left in the US systematically minimize the agency of actors in the global south. Still, Prof. Cole is less guilty of this than many others.

  6. So are you really saying that Ambassador Ford had nothing to do with fomenting a civil war in Syria and that the Obama administrations decision (Clinton pushed hard) to arm unknown rebels in Syria did not fuel that disaster?

    Are you really willing to let Obama and Clinton off the accountability hook?

    link to bbc.com

  7. mr t. is correct in that potus has done little/nothing to END occupation, oppression and murder – even con-gress can’t/ doesn’t call them wars.
    And yes, shrub initiated and continued actions that generated blowback gangs such as aq & is

  8. Our oil based economy created ISIS. It wasn’t just Bush/Chaney and the Neocons that got us into The Iraq oil wars debauches: It was the entire U S ruling establishment, including Warrior Queen Hillary, that got us into this mess.
    Yes, Trump is dangerously insane, but Hillary Clinton can look at the mess we made in Afghanistan and Iraq and do exactly the same thing in Libya and really be surprised when the same thing happens. That shows she is pretty crazy too.
    The U S Government is committed to controlling Middle Eastern oil, so whoever is President, we will be involved in Imperialistic oil wars in the Middle East until there is a real change in American policy, and with both major political parties owned by Wall Street and the 1%, I just don’t see that happening.

    • Absolutely correct – while Mr. Cole is correct that Bush was most directly responsible for creating the conditions under which ISIS would be born (along with a vote from Hillary Clinton) in Iraq, he omits the fact that Obama (again, along with Clinton as his then Secretary of State) is responsible for its spread to at least Libya by destroying that government and replacing it with a vacuum.

      In fact Mr. Cole, whose insights i generally value and who certainly knows more about the Mideast/North Africa than I do, made an extremely bad call by arguing for the Libya intervention, a fact that he omits here.

      After two such major failures in judgment, and with “restoring ties” to Israel seemingly her top foreign policy priority, there is no evidence to suggest a Clinton White House would have a more intelligent Mid East policy than existed under Bush.

  9. “, the Republican, George W. Bush created Daesh / ISIL.”

    Thank you. You might also wish to thank Republicans like McCain and Issa for supplying arms to rebels in Syria, rebels that actually comprise a part of Daesh. As I recall, there were pictures of those two and IDs that their “friends” in the pictures were parts of Daesh.

  10. Thank you Juan for clarifying this, buttressed with a quick summary of the actual historical facts.
    Trump supporters have no use for anything except his non-facts, i.e. his latest fantasy, but those of us who still have heads are grateful to be reminded of what actually happened.

  11. Difficult to separate the rise of Daesh, an offshoot of the ISI (organized during the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq) from the rise of al-Qaeda (ISI’s ‘parent’) organized by Democrat Jimmy Carter & Saudi Arabia during the Afghan mujahedin’s war on the Soviet presence in Afghanistan – perhaps a product of U.S. geopolitical machinations in southern Europe & central Asia after the demise of Operation Gladio… so-called ‘Galdio B’. So, it’s futile to make an argument that condemns either U.S. political party; the culprit is U.S. exceptionalism, imperialism, hubris, and neoliberal Capitalism augmented by both the “Carter Doctrine” & the “Wolfowitz Doctrine”.

  12. I was already aware of the details set forth in this article. But I read it anyway because there was no way I was going to miss the comments.

  13. Neither Trump nor his supporters have any use for historical facts, no matter how recent. Ignorance reigns supreme amongst this group.

  14. Is our country deteriorating? How can we allowing this crown “Trump” making all these crazy statements and be the presidential candidate?

  15. The President’s hyper-ation console has two big buttons. The red one, marked DESTROY, is directly connected to to the vast Military Industrial Complex to insure that no weapon is left behind.

    The other button, white, marked REBUILD, is not actually connected to anything.

  16. I am sorry Professor Cole, this is one of those times that you and I disagree. The policies that led to the creation of ISIS were clearly bipartisan in cause. Democratic party sponsored genocidal level mayhem was happening in Iraq before George W. Bush became president. These had their roots in the sanctions regime as well as the Iraqi Freedom act that made regime change official US policy. The Iraq war was bi-partisan, as well as the overthrow of Libya, the war in Yemen, and the destabilization of Syria. There is an ideological cause of ISIS in the United States. That is neo-conservativism and that is bi-partisan.

  17. In 2011 it was the leadership of the armed forces which said an emphatic no to the demand by the Government of Iraq that the renegotiated SOFA should allow the arrest and trial by Iraqi law enforcement of US soldiers which committed crimes off base and not on duty. For the Government of Iraq that was non-negotiable. President Obama was therefore between a wall and a hard rock. Either ignore the Pentagon and restart a war with Iraq or accept the Pentagon and take all forces except the Marines at the embassy out of Iraq. He chose the Pentagon. That’s all folks. No ISIL founding.

  18. Your right of course. Neither President Obama or Sec. Hillary Clinton are directly responsible for the creation of ISIL. Though Sec. Clinton like many Democrats and most Republicans are indirectly responsible due to their support of the Bush Administration’s push for war in Iraq. But whether it’s ISIL or it’s slightly less brutal but no less abhorrent cousin Al Qaeda or Al Nusra, both Democrats and Republicans share the blame for supporting short sighted foreign military expeditions that create the futile environments in which these groups thrive. The sad thing is that even astute scholars like yourself seem to give a pass to our leadership when they make bone headed foreign policy decisions like say helping destroy Libya.

  19. “Obama did not found ISIS….”

    Boy are you delusional. Obama has and is at this very moment funding ISIS/ISIL or whatever they call themselves because regime change in Syria.

    Obama and Hillary have not only helped create, but in fact at this very moment are arming training and supporting world wide terrorism including ISIS/ISIL/Desch/Al-qeada.

    Truly you are either ignorant or willfully dishonest in your headline.

    Russia is the ONLY major nation fighting Obama & Hillary’s world wide terrorists.

  20. So the USA left Irak because, A: it was going to be held accountable for it’s crimes and B: after an illegal Invasion the USA decided it did not have a legal basis to be in the country?!

  21. Wrong too. It was Arabs who founded Al Qaeda and ISIL. Why is it that you must always insist that “we” are so omnipotent that we cause every fart in Asia to happen and its people have nothing to do with it?
    In that context I will blame the cause for the existence of ISIL only on the invasion on Egypt by GB and France which President Eisenhower condemned and stopped. Bingo. Bush and Obama off the hook.
    You are writing puerile history if you do not mention that invasion among the major contributing causes for the existence of ISIL.

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