Below are views of people whose voices are not often heard in the corporate media but who have worked on issues of militarism and war for many years. We sought out the views of those who recognize that war is not the answer to complex foreign policy issues for their views on President Obama’s recent speech declaring war on ISIS. Obama did not use the word “war” as he prefers to avoid explicitly stating what is really happening by talking about “air strikes” and “counter terrorism.”
In reality his speech was a declaration of war. And, he says it will last three years, which we suspect underestimates the war-quagmire he is beginning. As we have said in previous columns, President Obama needs to get (1) authorization for the use of military force from Congress, and (2) authorization from the United Nations before the attack he has announced. He is not pursuing either but instead has taken on the power to send the United States into a new war on his own. In fact, this July the House passed a resolution requiring authorization from Congress for a sustained presence of combat troops in Iraq. The resolution passed with bipartisan support in a 370-40 vote. The House has warned Obama to seek authorization, he has ignored them. President Obama is violating both domestic and international law. When unilateral military action is taken then every action taken in support of this illegal war is a war crime.
The US public has generally shown opposition to more war in consistent polling — leading to Americans being described as ‘war weary.’ With the recent focus on the extremism of ISIS, especially the beheading of two journalists, there has been a brief spike of support for military action. But as the quicksand of conflict with ISIS takes hold and this war drags on, public opinion will shift back to its opposition to war. People will see that US military intervention is not destroying anti-Americanism but increasing it and thereby strengthening ISIS and similar groups. It is important for those who oppose war to build a campaign now against the war on ISIS in order to move public opinion and end this military conflict as quickly as possible.
This is not about legalisms and US public opinion polls, it is going to be about the killing of tens of thousands of people with air strikes that primarily kill civilians. US military action will add to the chaos in the region, chaos made worse, if not caused, by US intervention in Iraq, Libya, Syria as well as the many countries President Obama has unilaterally bombed. The US has conducted 94,000 air strikes in the Middle East since 9/11 why does anyone think that continuing this strategy will being peace and security to the region or the United States. When has more of the same ever worked? If the goal is more chaos, division and destruction, Obama has chosen the right path; if the goal is peace and security, he is going in the wrong direction, when there are many other more sensible and effective paths to follow.
Perspectives of those who Oppose War in Iraq and Syria Against ISIS
David Swanson, Director, World Beyond War
Operation Unchanging Hopelessness is going to leave a lot of people feeling degraded and destroyed. ISIS on the other hand is getting what it wanted when it published the videos that have scared so many people into ignorant and soon-to-be-regretted support for mass murder. Just after the speech, Rachel Maddow was glorying in the fact that ISIS wouldn’t get U.S. troops on the ground which, she said, is what they really, really want. But if you’re aware of being manipulated into an act of mass-murder should you be happy that you’re picking a second-choice method that will actually mean MORE dying, only dying of non-Americans? And since when is 1500 troops on the ground with a promise to Chuck Todd to keep it under 100,000 a decision not to have troops on the ground? Remember, 1,000 Russian troops (albeit fictional) constitutes an invasion of Ukraine. Now that I mention it, I’m feeling a bit degraded already.
Veterans for Peace
President Obama outlined a strategy no different from what the U.S. has done for the past thirteen years. It is not a plan for success, it is a gamble that war will work this time when it has spectacularly failed thus far. We at Veterans For Peace challenge the American people to ask whose interests does endless war serve? Who is paying for these wars, whose children are dying in these wars and who is getting paid to finance and provide weapons for these wars? We the people are being driven by manipulated fear to support polices that are not in our interest. Peace is harder than war, but it is cheaper in blood and treasure. After thirteen years it is time to take another path, the path of peace.
Cindy Sheehan, peace activist
I believe the reason that the presidents of the US can continue to make such belligerent and jingoistic speeches and follow through with the continuation of endless wars is because the American people keep falling for the propaganda and the lie that either one of the two major political parties is better than the other when it comes to war for profit. I think last night’s speech by Obama was just a regurgitation of any speech by GWB and shame on anybody who is falling for this same tired, yet hostile, rhetoric. It would be funny if so many lives weren’t unnecessarily compromised because of US aggression.
As we commemorate the 13th anniversary of 9/11, we recall the invasion of Afghanistan the US launched one month after the attacks, and the war on Iraq launched on lies in 2002 – and look in horror at conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan today. The lesson? War and violence are the problem, NOT the solution to terrorism. Based on the speech President Obama gave yesterday, it seems like he –– and the entire US government –– still haven’t learned that lesson. The situation in Iraq and Syria is complicated, with no easy or perfect solutions. While we are concerned for the safety of the Iraqi and Syrian people threatened by ISIS, we know that American military force and contractors will only make the crisis worse and cause more suffering.
Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel
Did I miss where Obama recognized that elements of the “Free Syrian Army” that the US has been arming and assisting to topple Assad, presumably after being vetted as the “good guys” were actually the ones who sold, at least one if not both, American journalists to the “bad guys” who then beheaded them? Did I miss where he admitted that drone bombing Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, ETC –which resulted in deaths of wedding parties and other innocent civilians as well as mostly low level “foot soldiers”—and putting hundreds of men who had nothing to do with 9-11 in Guantanamo prison camps without any due process, torturing and killing some of them, has ratcheted up a certain amount of hatred of the US world wide but especially in the Mid-east thus making it fertile ground for radicalization and recruitment by Islamic State and other extremists? Did Obama even admit what most of his military commanders have concluded, that “there is no military solution”? Did he close with God bless our exceptional country that luckily is so exceptional that it’s above the law in its pursuit of “full spectrum dominance” yet has the neocon chutzpah to expect other (non-dominant, non-exceptional) countries to follow? Maybe I just missed the parts where Obama told the truth.
Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
Here’s how you know you live in an empire devoted to endless militarism: when a new 3-year war is announced and very few people seem to think the president needs anyone’s permission to start it (including Congress) and, more so, when the announcement – of a new multiple-year war – seems quite run-of-the-mill and normal.
Sheldon Richman, Vice President, Future of Freedom Foundation
The US government went to war against al Qaeda and got ISIS. Now it’s going to war against ISIS. What will come next? The only thing we know for sure is that, as Randolph Bourne said, “War is the health of the state.
President Obama’s new war plans in Iraq and Syria will not liberate the people of either country but will lead to more destruction. The U.S. military defeat of the secular Iraqi and Libyan governments (in 2003 and 2011) and its policy of fueling armed civil war against the secular, nationalist government in Syria are the fundamental reasons the so-called Islamic State has grown and become strong. Perpetuating a now 23-year-long U.S. political tradition, President Obama is announcing tonight that he, like the three preceding U.S. presidents, will go forward with another bombing campaign in Iraq. This is a war that will lead only to more catastrophe and destruction.
Nathan Goodman, Lysander Spooner Research Scholar in Abolitionist Studies at the Center for a Stateless Society
Obama’s speech embodies a cycle of violence that remains inevitable as long as the US remains an empire. As UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk and others have noted, ISIL’s power is blowback from prior US intervention. Much of that intervention stems from a “War on Terror” that began in response to the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11 attacks themselves were retaliation for US aggression in the Middle East, including the disastrous sanctions against Iraq. The attacks were orchestrated by Osama bin Laden, who was previously backed by the CIA in order to fight the Soviet Union. Who knows what blowback Obama’s new campaign of bombing will unleash? Rather than responding to every problem with more intervention, violence, and bloodshed, the US needs to dismantle its empire. Until this happens, intervention followed by blowback will leave us with a vicious cycle of violence, bloodshed, and imperial murders euphemistically termed “collateral damage.”
Matthew Hoh, Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy and former Director of the Afghanistan Study Group
The United States’ official policy in the Middle East is now perpetual war. What has been known for some time, including by those of us who have served overseas, by the millions who have suffered through our bombs and our bullets, and, of course, by the hundreds of thousands whose lives have been ripped from their families and from any promised futures, President Obama solidified last night. The United States, by agreeing to airstrikes without end in support of a corrupt and sectarian government in Baghdad; by championing a Shia and Kurdish invasion of Sunni lands; and by promising arms, munitions and money to rebel groups in the middle of the Syrian Civil War, the same groups that sold Steven Sotloff to his beheading, has adopted a policy that will exacerbate the civil wars in both Iraq and Syria and deepen the nightmare existence of their people. President Obama’s speech will be remembered as a mark of moral shame on the United States.
Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of “Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.”
Since 9/11 the United States has launched more than 94,000 air strikes, mostly on Afghanistan and Iraq, but also on Libya, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Rumsfeld’s plan has undoubtedly achieved his goal of changing the way people live in those countries, killing a million of them and reducing tens of millions more to lives of disability, disfigurement, dislocation, grief and poverty. A sophisticated propaganda campaign has politically justified 13 years of systematic U.S. war crimes. The chaos that Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy war has wreaked in Libya, Syria and Iraq should be a reminder of one of the obvious but unlearned lessons of September 11, that creating and arming groups of religious fanatics as proxies to fight secular enemies has huge potential for blowback and unintended consequences as they gain power and escape external control. Now that ISIS is once again fighting in Iraq as well as Syria, we have come full circle and Western propaganda and ISIS itself have again found common cause in exaggerating its strength and highlighting its brutality. The dirty little secret that our propaganda system cannot mention is that the current crises are all deeply rooted in U.S. policy.
Michael D. Ostrolenk, conservative activist
“No American President has the authority to unilaterally declare war on either a state actor or non-state actor. According to our Founding Fathers , the President, unless responding to an attack or imminent threat, must seek approval from Congress for acts of war. President Obama should go to Congress, lay out his case, and allow for a real debate to take place amongst the People’s representatives.”
Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)
The president yesterday announced his “strategy” for dealing with the threat posed by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. He has given terror networks and the international arms industry cause for great celebration. The former because he is giving them just what they want – a direct confrontation with the “Great Satan” and powerful recruiting inducement, both in the region and around the world. The latter because at a moment when actual cuts are possible in the obscene level of funding for the Pentagon and war, he has opened the door to yet another bountiful feast at the public trough for the armaments industry. In the process, he is turning his back on the millions of Americans who continue to suffer unemployment, under-employment, substandard (or no) housing, education beyond reach for many and a source of lifetime indentured servitude to the banks for those who must borrow to obtain a higher education, and the multitude of other urgent unmet needs we have here.
He also disregards the consequences for the environment and global climate of war and militarism, which are not only crimes against humanity but also crimes against the planet the consequences of which will be born by generations to come, since the Pentagon is the single largest polluter on the planet and wars escalate the severity of that pollution. And he, a constitutional lawyer who was elected on a platform of ending war, demonstrates utter contempt for the separation of powers and congressional authority alone to declare war and commit U.S. forces to battle. And as has been the case with so many presidents before him, he is telling the rest of the international community that national sovereignty can be violated at will without regard for international law, the U.N. Charter and other treaties whenever it suits the U.S. but that our borders are inviolate, including by those escaping the ravages and horror of wars (both military and economic) which our country has engaged in and supported in our own hemisphere. Shame on him and a supine Congress that has abdicated its constitutional duty, and shame on us if we allow this to happen without a determined struggle to stop it.
Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies
Military actions will not set the stage for political solutions; they will prevent those solutions from taking hold. Escalating military actions against this violent extremist organization is not going to work.
The bottom line is there is no immediate action that will make ISIS disappear, even if U.S. airstrikes manage to get the right target somewhere and take out an APC or a truckload of guys with RPGs or whatever.
You can’t destroy an ideology – or even an organization -through bombing (look at the efforts to do so with Al Qaeda . . . lots of members killed in Afghanistan, but the organization took root in a bunch of other countries). A military strike might bring some immediate satisfaction, but we all know revenge is a bad basis for foreign policy, especially when it has such dangerous consequences.
Susan Kerin, Fund Our Communities
We need to support a global diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic effort, not U.S. military escalation. U.S. military action only adds fuel to the sectarian fire. And what will be the costs for this misadventure? Perhaps you recall what happened in Iraq—a war that was supposed to pay for itself (via Iraqi oil) and be over in a couple of months actually cost us over $3 trillion and lasted 8 years. And guess what: in this new air campaign, we will be compounding the costs of that war, as we will be paying to blow up the weapons we previously sent to the region. Meanwhile, food insecurity is at an all-time high in the U.S., our infrastructure continues to deteriorate, and we don’t seem to have the funds to adequately care for children who are crossing our southern border in fear of their lives. Our priorities are way out of whack.
Debra Sweet, The World Can’t Wait
On this 9/11 anniversary, I’m hearing — including from Obama last night — that what happened 13 years ago means the U.S. must create even more 9/11’s in the Middle East. But all the US bombs and occupation have done is generate and strengthen the very forces they tell us they will destroy with more of the same. Even the examples Obama put forward of “success” — Yemen and Somalia — show that yes, the US can conduct secret drone assassination campaigns, but no, that does not bring liberation for the people living in those countries.
People, even those who have been anti-war during the Bush years, are getting drawn into supporting this unjust, illegitimate, immoral plan for unending U.S. war for empire. This time, with no visible opposition in Congress, the supporters of this war can’t be dismissed as Bush regime Republican thugs. There’s unity at the top that US interests require aggressive “going on the offense” for “‘America” as Obama puts it. We can’t let that stand unchallenged. In the streets, the newspapers, in the schools and religious institutions, protest and dissent must be heard.
Alice Slater, Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War
It is heartbreaking to see our country embarking on another futile effort to bomb our way out of a situation that calls out for diplomacy, foreign aid, UN supervision, refugee assistance, almost anything you can think of in place of the devastating US assaults that inevitably murder innocent civilians. How is the evil beheading of innocent journalists any worse than the impersonal murder of innocents on the ground by a thoroughly detached computer nerd, sitting at his lap top someplace in Colorado, pulling on his joystick and destroying, by drone, unseen victims on the ground tens of thousands of miles away. We haven’t even had a body count for all the people who died in Iraq at the point of a US weapon. Meanwhile we repeatedly honor and memorialize our dead soldiers, sent on a wild goose chase after “terrorists” whose destruction of the twin towers was a criminal act that deserved arrest and trial, not perpetual war on two countries, and now three countries. Echoes of 911 are constantly flung in our face like metaphysical war paint, to stir the loins for battle and death. At this time, sensible people should be calling for a global moratorium on all arms sales. We need to stop the only ones who benefit from all this—the arms manufacturers and their co-conspirators in endless war and grasping Empire. Those who truly yearn for peace on earth should also be calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, emulating the great success enjoyed by South Africa when it ended a potential bloodbath and years of slaughter by inviting people from all sides of the conflict to come forth, admit their wrong doing, apologize, and be granted amnesty to go free. As long as we hold out for bringing murderers to justice, they will fight us to the last bullet, knife, and bomb. That goes not only for the irregulars in the knife slashing brigades but for our own soldiers and our leaders who ordered them into this cruel conflict as well.
Vijay Prishad, professor of international studies at Trinity College
A rational observer of United States intervention in the swath of land that runs from Libya to Afghanistan would come to a simple conclusion: U.S. military action leads to chaos. Examples are legion, but the two most dramatic are Iraq and Libya. In both cases, the U.S. bombed the state institutions to smithereens. It takes a hundred years to build state institutions. They can be destroyed in an afternoon. The chaos that followed in both countries was the ideal condition for the flotsam of al-Qaida. In Iraq, al-Qaida in Mesopotamia (2004) morphed into the Islamic State of Iraq, and eventually ISIS.
United for Peace and Justice
President Obama may prefer the term “counter-terrorism,” but it is clear from last night’s speech that he is taking the United States into another war.
His long-term plan for bombing Iraq and Syria, for placing U.S. troops on the ground as “trainers,” and for assistance to allied fighters, is opening another tragic chapter in the failed “war on terrorism,” initiated by President Bush and rejected by the voters in 2008.
We deplore the brutality and violence of ISIS, but we do not believe that U.S. air strikes will solve the problem, even if there are short-term military gains. Despite the President’s many references to “a coalition,”in reality the United States will be intervening unilaterally in two civil wars, each of which has multiple factions and complex roots.
U.S. air-strikes –whether in Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan or Afghanistan- have never had the precision that is claimed. Thousands of civilians have been killed, with the result that America’s enemies multiplied. The “new strategy” the President just unveiled isn’t new. It was tried by President George W. Bush in Afghanistan, where it failed, creating a Washington demand for tens of thousands of U.S. combat troops.
Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action
We agree with the president that there is no military solution to the problems posed by ISIS. And yet his proposed strategy relies far too heavily on the use of military force. It’s time to stop the bombing and escalation and use the other tools of U.S. foreign policy — working with allies in cutting off weapons, oil and funding streams for starters — which will be much more active in dealing with ISIS.
John Fullinwider, President, Dallas Peace Center
To effectively oppose the President on this one, we need to spell out what should be done instead of bombing ISIS. I want a response that is credible to the everyday, non-political person to this question: “ISIS cut off the heads of two American journalists – are you saying just let them get away with it?” The case to be made involves diplomacy at the U.N. and directly with the regional powers, particularly Iran and Turkey; humanitarian assistance to the dispossessed; a cut off of the weapons supply and funding to all militias and non-state actors, specifically pressuring Qatar and Saudi Arabia on this point; and – you name it. But let’s make the case clearly and concisely. The U.S. opened the “gates of hell” in the Middle East with the invasion of Iraq more than a decade ago; we can’t close them with a new bombing campaign. To effectively oppose this campaign, we will need all the tools of organizing and activism, from letters and calls to social media to lawful street protest to civil disobedience.
Jim Albertini, Malu ‘Aina, Center for non-violent education and action
Here We go again! War profiteers want endless War. Obama’s bamboozle strategy is create fear and panic –scare the hell out of people. Don’t buy into the manufactured fear. Bombs are not tools for justice and peace. Stop the wars. Save the planet.
Roger Kotila, Earth Federation News & Views
Unfortunately, anything President Obama has to say is something like the “pot calling the kettle black.” ISIS (or ISIL, or Islamic State) allegedly cuts off heads, while US/NATO blows them off. It’s time to put the Earth Federation Movement’s Earth Constitution into place, upgrading the UN so that there is enforceable world law. The UN and the International Criminal Court remain helpless to deal with VIP world criminals who go about their murderous (war) business with impunity. No individual should be above the law.