Does The U.S. Have A Moral Obligation To Aid Iraq And Defeat ISIS?

By Sal Bommarito

The United States bears a great deal of responsibility for the emergence of ISIS and affiliated terrorist groups. George Bush authorized the invasion of Iraq, which in retrospect was a terrible choice that fueled insurgency and terrorism. Similarly, Barack Obama’s decision to withdrawn troops from Iraq proved to be disastrous and beneficial to ISIS.

In the past, when America defeated an adversary, it assisted them in their reconstruction. Granted, Muslims throughout the Middle East have not been enthusiastic about American nation building, and often, Arab leaders have indicted that the U.S. should not occupy any states in the region. But shouldn’t the U.S. lead a restoration of the region? If not, who else will assume this dangerous and costly enterprise?

A perfect storm has overwhelmed the Middle East. ISIS has been able to prosper and feed upon discontent because the U.S. and Arab nations have not aggressively confronted it. Some how, some way ISIS has absconded huge tracts of land that straddle Iraq and Syria. Additionally, it has stolen oil and antiquities and sold them to finance its military operations. And, ISIS has successfully recruited disenfranchised individuals from around the world that are now fighting against the U.S. coalition. All this has been accomplished in spite of despicable ISIS tactics that include genocide perpetrated against Shiites, Christians and other groups.

The question that hangs over many Americans is whether the U.S. has a moral obligation to deal with ISIS more directly and put our brave soldiers harm’s way. This burden is based upon two considerations. One, should the U.S. take a major role in rebuilding Iraq because it contributed to its demise? Two, has ISIS become a significant threat to world peace to warrant an escalation of U.S. involvement? In other words, has ISIS risen to the status of Nazi Germany or imperialistic Japan? Keep in mind that hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and Syrians have been slaughtered and five or six million people are now in mortal danger.

The U.S currently is engaged in a feeble effort to apply airpower to stem the tide of ISIS. This strategy, which dramatically decreases the risk of American casualties, has not been productive. For the most part, the enemy has embedded itself in populated places, so the chances of collateral damage are great.

Ground troops are needed to root out the insurgents and direct bombing attacks. Reliance on Iraqi forces to serve in these roles has not worked out favorably. According to Ashton Carter, the Defense Secretary, the Iraqis don’t have the will to fight. Further, the involvement of Shiite militia affiliated with Iran has been vetoed by the Obama administration. And finally, Shiite fighters attacking ISIS in Sunni territory have fueled sectarian resentment. Peace between these two sects is a prerequisite to peace in the region, but it is light years from becoming a reality.

The U.S. is the only party that can turn the tide of the ISIS war.

Is The Obama Administration Being Truthful About The Porgress Of The ISIS Conflict?

By Sal Bommarito

Recent developments in Ramadi, Palmyra, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan lead me to believe that the U.S. government is not being totally honest or realistic with the American public. After each new incident, the administration says the  ISIS threat is not that serious, or that setbacks are to be expected in a “long-term” conflict. Frankly, many Americans and the press are becoming increasingly skeptical about the rhetoric from Washington. Do our leaders have a moral obligation to be truthful in such situations, or do they have the latitude to spoon-feed us with information in an effort to minimize political upheaval at home?

What was the original battle plan of the U.S. relating to ISIS? The Obama administration has steadfastly said it would not commit ground troops to fight the insurgents. The U.S. would exclusively provide air support to the Iraqi government and train Syrian moderates that opposed both Syrian leadership and ISIS.

Unfortunately, our leader, his generals and his aides miscalculated the determination, resourcefulness and popularity of the enemy. And so, air strikes have not been effective as most bombing missions return with unused armaments (reaffirmed yesterday in a comment by Sen. John McCain, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). The enemy has imbedded itself among innocent civilians so the risk of collateral damage from bombs is great. Did the administration respond to this development? No.

The president said he wanted the Iraqis to fight their own war. This comment was made before ISIS routed Iraqi soldiers at the outset of the war. After ten plus years of providing arms and training, the soldiers ran from the enemy. Since then, government forces have had limited successes, but only with the aid of Shiite militia groups, with whom the U.S. refuses to fight with because of their strong affiliations with Iran.

This issue is further complicated by the fact that Shiite fighters, be they Iraqi or Iranian, are fighting ISIS predominantly in Sunni territory. The president believes that the Iraqi government could engage Sunni tribes to help fight ISIS. Promised weapons to Sunni tribesmen have not been forthcoming and Shiite soldiers have acted aggressively towards Sunni citizens.

A late breaking comment by Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense, was “What apparently happened [in Ramadi] was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.” This occurred in spite of the fact that Iraqi forces outnumbered ISIS fighters.

In Syria, the situation is equally unstable. The U.S., with help from Arab nations, was supposed to train and arm moderate Syrians to fight ISIS. The problem is that it is difficult to determine the ultimate goal of this group. Do they want to fight the insurgents (in conjunction with the Syrian army), or do they want to oust the Syrian regime? Moreover, will the group use armaments provided to them by the U.S. and its allies against the U.S. at a later date?

Is the ISIS conflict moving along satisfactorily? You decide, but do so understanding that the Obama administration may be stretching the truth.

Why Do Americans Contimue To Elect Candidates Who Lie And Distort The Truth?

By Sal Bommarito

ISIS has won a major victory in Ramadi, the largest city in the Anbar Province. This should be a rude awakening for President Obama pertaining to his failed strategy in Iraq. For Americans, the action is thousands of miles away and none of our soldiers were killed or injured, so too few are challenging the administration about its misrepresentation of the war.

The U.S. government has continuously fed bad information to the public about the progress of the hostilities. The New York Times reported that Josh Ernest, Obama’s press secretary said, “We have seen a lot of success, but we’ve also seen significant periods of setback” (an understatement). He then asked, “Are we going to light our hair on fire every time that there is a setback in the campaign against ISIL?” The hair of the entire administration should be ablaze based upon the direction of the ISIS war. The only success in recent days was the alleged killing of a top leader of ISIS, who very few people even have heard of.

I began to consider whether all presidents lie and distort exploits for political purposes. Shouldn’t our leaders be honest all the time? Non-transparency is bad enough, but sometimes necessary in diplomacy. But, outright misrepresentation is another thing. Even Congress seems to be in the dark based upon criticisms by its members about the direction of the conflicts in both Iraq and Syria.

If the current U.S. plan in the region is faulty (and many believe it is), why doesn’t the administration change course. The American strategy of minimal intervention and training Iraqi troops to defend their own country are flops. Eschewing ground force employment will make progress difficult as ISIS embeds itself deeper into populated areas. Moreover, Iraqi government forces, once again, ran from the fight. This has resulted in yet another change in direction for Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi who is likely to “re-invite” Shiite militias that are loyal to Iran back into the fray. The U.S. response to this could be cessation of bombing sorties.

In the meantime, ISIS is recruiting more soldiers and culling the favor of Sunni tribesmen who feel disenfranchised by the Iraqi government. The sectarian schism is growing every day to the dismay of Sunnis, who are the principal recipient of ISIS cruelty even though the latter has sworn to kill Shiites and other ethnic minorities. The Times also indicated “ISIS Finances Are Strong.” Extortion, taxation, oil theft, investment in soldiers and cost control serve the insurgents well.

The ISIS imbroglio is only one situation where the flow of information is too often faulty. Although progressives may disagree, many Americans believe that the president’s strategy to solve income inequality is naïve. Even worse, it has stirred class warfare in America.

Obamacare is another example of the administration misleading the public about every aspect of the program (I do think universal health care is a noble objective). Everything from implementation to ultimate costs to the true beneficiaries has been twisted so ordinary Americans throw up their hands. Some benefit, but many have not to the extent advertised.

There are many examples of politicians spewing lies; the practice goes back to the beginning of the Republic. In recent years, Lyndon Johnson secretly bombed Cambodia and Laos. Ronald Reagan covertly provided arms to Nicaraguan “contras.” Politicians live high on the hog with donor support, don’t pay taxes and violate the law while criticizing hard working Americans for being too successful and too wealthy, neither one of which is a crime.

The biggest lies are told during political campaigns. Candidates exaggerate their credentials and make up false stories about their opponents. They make secret deals with wealthy supporters for cash and other favors. Our leaders have actually distorted our Constitution so that political donations are defined as a form of free speech. This effectively makes campaign finance reform impossible. Big money will influence elections for the foreseeable future.

In 2016, Americans need to find a man or a woman to be president who will be honest all the time and transparent. No more lies and distortions. I recommend voters not support those who lie about their opponents, their resumes or their campaign objectives.

Is The Death Penalty Justifiable For The Boston Marathon Bombings?

By Sal Bommarito

The trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has rekindled the debate about capital punishment. The question is: Should an advanced society such as America put to death criminals who commit monstrous offenses such as murder and kidnapping?

Like many others, I have mixed emotions about this issue and have changed my mind a number of times over the years. At one point, I believed that no one could logically support capital punishment if they could not personally pull the switch in an execution. The hideous crime that took place during the Boston Marathon has once again caused me to rethink my position. I admit that I am relieved that the younger Tsarnaev brother was convicted of murder and sentenced to die for his crimes, but still am troubled by his impending execution.

Before delving into the philosophy of capital punishment, let’s consider all of the pertinent facts. On January 1, 2015, 3,019 individuals were on death row; the largest number of prisoners were in CA (743), FL (403) and TX (276). In 1968, 517 people were awaiting their execution. By 2015, the number increased six fold. Over 1,400 individuals have been put to death since 1968. During the calendar years 2015 (partial year), 2014 and 2013, 14, 35 and 39 were killed, respectively.

The Boston Marathon tragedy occurred on April 15, 2013 in Cambridge, MA. The detonation of two pressure cooker bombs resulted in the deaths of three spectators at the race and one police officer. Over 260 others plus 16 policemen were injured. Tamerian And Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed the crimes. The former died during his flight from the police. Dzhokhar was convicted and sentenced to death last week. Federal officials will carry out the penalty, although he will not die for many years and only after an appeals process that will likely involve the Supreme Court. Islamic beliefs relating to the U.S. involvement in Muslim countries are believed to be the motives or the crime.

Many people in the U.S. and in other developed countries believe taking of a life, even for a capital crime, is barbaric and sinful. “The European Union holds a strong and principled position against the death penalty; its abolition is a key objective for the Union’s human rights policy.” Countries who apply for membership to the Union must agree to abolish capital punishment.

Often, proponents of the death penalty say the survivors of victims of capital crimes deserve closure. And, the death of perpetrators is an important element in the healing process. Further, proponents believe criminals of capital crimes are a menace to society and should be put down like rabid animals to ensure they do not commit other serious offenses.

Those who oppose capital punishment sometimes refer to religious sources of one form or another that indicate that taking a life for any reason is forbidden by God. Additionally, a vast number of perpetrators are not of sound mind. After all, only insane individuals could possibly kill other humans indiscriminately. And finally, the death penalty takes away the possibility that the accused and convicted could someday be exonerated by new evidence or more advanced science. There are no “mulligans” when it comes to capital punishment.

Other issues are also in play, although most are secondary to the items above. Paying for a person’s life sentence falls upon the state and the taxpayers. It could amount to a huge amount of money depending upon how long the prisoner lives. Some citizens resent the use of their taxes for this purpose. And then, there is the choice between death and life imprisonment. Should our society intentionally inflict the maximum suffering on a capital offender? If so, what is worse- death by injection or incarceration for life?

When all the dust settles, it makes sense for America to decide on one or the other, death or no death for capital crimes. Currently, the federal government endorses the death penalty and individual states can opt to ban it. So, depending on where a crime is committed will determine whether an offender qualifies for a death sentence.

I will not express my preference in this essay because I am still on the fence. In any case, society must be sensitive to both sides of this issue. Given the despicable nature of the Boston Marathon bombings, it will be an appropriate situation to test the death penalty process on a national basis.

Jeb Bush’s Commets About His Brother’s Decision To Invade Iraq

By Sal Bommarito

Jeb Bush created campaign drama with comments he made about his brother’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. This is part of an effort by his detractors to use Jeb’s family against him. For sure, Jeb is loyal to George Bush and is concerned about his brother’s legacy. Nevertheless, hypothetical questions in every election about previous events are like quicksand that can mire a candidate. Jeb needs to tread carefully.

One such question posed to Jeb was: Would Jeb make the same decisions about Iraq as George knowing what he knows now? The query is an obvious booby trap. The public will likely judge any comment supportive of George’s Iraq policy as unfavorable. The decision to invade led the U.S. into an extended conflict in Iraq that is still in progress, and may be a reason for the proliferation of terrorism in the region.

Most importantly, Jeb does not have all the facts about the decision-making process in 2003; he was not affiliated with the George W. Bush administration.

Given that the public is almost universally negative towards the second Iraq war, Jeb should have dodged the hypothetical game played by his critics and the liberal press. His answer should have been the war was a mistake considering that weapons of mass destruction were not discovered. They were the principal justification of the war and could not ultimately be verified. In a sense, he would not be indicting his brother, but rather those who assured George that WMDs were in play, and Saddam would likely use them against his enemies.

I’m sure Jeb really feels this way. But, putting himself in George’s shoes and considering his affection for his brother, he has attempted to justify the “go to war” decision. Since it was based upon a misreading of Saddam’s WMD capabilities and inclination to use such weapons, the decision is indefensible.

For a moment, let’s consider George’s dilemma. It was not crazy at the time for George to think that Saddam had WMDs based upon the intelligence offered to him. This being the case, it made perfect sense to eliminate Saddam and take the threat of WMDs off the table in the Middle East. Use of such weapons could have easily mushroomed into a much broader conflict and possibly World War III. If a nuke were to be used against Israel, it certainly would have retaliated and obliterated Iraq. Moreover, Saddam possessed WMDs in the past and used them against Iran in an earlier war. The man appeared ready, willing and able to employ WMDs and gave his enemies every assurance that he would do so. Given this, some think it would have been irresponsible to not take out Saddam.

Maybe the voters and all the talking heads should focus on more pressing issues that are plaguing the region such as ISIS, Russian aggression in Crimea, Israel’s plight, Iran’s nuclear program and the proliferation of terrorist organizations in America and across the globe. Rehashing the past is not informative or productive because everyone knows, in hindsight, that America and the world would have been better off if the Iraq invasion did not take place.