More debate, not more bombs, needed 13 years after 9/11


Thirteen years later, we all have learned at least this key lesson: Al-Qaeda is not Iraq.

But after President Bush’s faulty logic used the terror attacks of 9/11 to justify war in Iraq, it seems President Obama is willing to make a similar mistake again.

By announcing to the nation on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary his intention to use airstrikes against ISIS–the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria–President Obama has combined the emotional power of history with the more recent memory of the beheading of American journalists.


And it’s all intended to power his way to the brink of war.

As Joan Rivers might have said, “Can we talk?”

The president said he’s looking forward to working with Congress.

But shouldn’t he seek Congressional approval?

Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, tweeted:

Constitution requires Congress to vote on use of military force. This is not about this President. This is about any President & any… — Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) September 11, 2014

There is good reason to have more debate now rather than later. Talking now may lead us to the possibility of a better solution. Later, we may be left with only the option of “endless war.”

From all accounts, ISIS is a far worse enemy than Al-Qaeda ever was. It’s more organized, better financed, and sees itself almost as an imperial force.

ISIS wasn’t responsible for 9/11, but it’s very capable of a sequel.

The beheading of two journalists is just a horrific preamble.

Should we get behind the president wholeheartedly? Even those of us with pacifist tendencies?

My fear is that once the president’s air strikes begin, the public will hope that we are in a video game war and expect to see the words “game over” quickly flash on the screen.

But this may well be just the start of a much longer engagement. We almost certainly will have to consider “boots on the ground.” Our young men and women will have to enter. As “advisors” only?

The U.S. has had a terrible history in the region. We’ve seen boots on the ground, then removed. Our leaders have cried out, “Mission accomplished,” and then sent troops back in for clean-up. They’re re-deployed, then yanked again too soon.

The yo-yo may be a great Filipino weapon. But it makes for a lousy military strategy.

After the speech, Raed Jarrar, policy impact coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, told the Institute for Public Accuracy why he wasn’t buying into the president’s plan.

He said that bombing Iraq and Syria into moderation and stability is one of the main underlying assumptions of the president’s strategy. While this seemed like an easy way to get rid of extremism, it wouldn’t work.

Jarrar said the U.S. tried it before and failed when the U.S. had over 100,000 boots on the ground in Iraq. U.S. troops were able to weaken but never defeated ISIS.

This is also a time when it’s not so easy to tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys.” Jarrar called our Iraqi partners “brutal, corrupt, sectarian and dysfunctional.”

The fear there and in Syria is that there are relationships among all the players.

“Rather than attempting to draw a wedge between them and ISIS, the President’s plan will end up uniting them,” Farrar said.

Indeed, preemptive strikes may not deter the possibility of war, but create a far more dangerous situation in which a full-fledged war is inevitable.

There is only one way we should proceed at this point.

The president must make sure that Congress is involved every step of the way.

This seems to trouble a few members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. They tend to feel that any military vote could upset the results of the upcoming midterm elections.

But money will be needed to fund whatever happens next. Airstrikes plus? $500 million?

We already know that Iraq has cost us more than $3.5 trillion, according to Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz. Anything new won’t be cheap.

Maybe Obama actually believes airstrikes will limit involvement–like a few well-timed smacks on the head. But this is a region that considers airstrikes child’s play. The Middle East is a region where they don’t have the NFL. They play war for real. For hundreds of years at a time.

It may just be Obama running out the clock until his lame duckness is over. Then a new president will have to consider a more serious plan.

The debate really needs to start now. Midterm politics may not allow it, but the people should demand it.

If history is our guide, we know what happens.

After the airstrikes come our sons and daughters. For their sake, our voices need to be heard.

Congresswoman Lee’s tweet wasn’t some knee-jerk reaction. It was the proper response to the president’s proposed “strategy.”

There are many things that would make sense for the president to do on his own. Immigration reforms come to mind.

But to authorize what amounts to airstrikes without Congress only shows we haven’t learned from the past how to navigate a post-9/11 world.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
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