The U.S. now has two problems when it comes to Iraq: one is how to respond to the ISIS invasion. The other is how to face up to American culpability for the mess in Iraq.
Regarding the first, President Obama has announced that American ground troops will not go back into Iraq except to protect the U.S. embassy. As a consequence, it is more likely that Iraq will find substantial assistance from Tehran than Washington. Nonetheless, this is a wise decision. Obama has also urged a political solution. It is hard to know what that means when it comes to the ISIS -- like hard-core ideologues of all stripes, they are not compromising types. Probably Obama is trying to pressure the Iraqi government to make amends with its Sunni citizens. That is a very good idea. Reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq is the key to the defeat of ISIS and the country's future stability.
Then, there is the second matter: how do we face up to American culpability? Pointing fingers at the current president might be politically convenient for repugnant Republicans and neocons, but it is thoroughly ahistorical. The Republican charge is based on the notion that Obama pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq too quickly. The Iraqi army wasn't ready to stand on its own and we abandoned them.
The charge is simply wrong. The Iraqi parliament itself had voted against allowing American troops to stay in the country beyond the end of the so-called Status of Forces Agreement. Obama wanted to leave a contingent of U.S. advisers in Iraq but decided against it when the Iraqi government refused to grant the advisers legal immunity. There was also the fact that the U.S. withdrawal came as a response to the will of the majority of the American people.
The fact that the Iraqi armed forces were not in good shape at the time of withdrawal was not Obama's fault. After all the U.S. military, its trainers and advisers, had been in Iraq for years under the Bush administration. And, it can be argued that even if U.S. advisers had stayed during Obama's time in office it would have made no difference. Take, for instance, the case of Iran under the Shah. From 1954 to 1979 the U.S. supplied and trained the Shah's military forces. In 1979 that military force collapsed almost immediately in the face of popular revolution.
For U.S. forces to stay in control of Iraq until the indigenous military were professionally capable was to commit to decades of occupation -- a scenario unpopular both in Iraq and the U.S. Even then the issue would be in doubt if the political context undermined Iraqi military morale and loyalty to the government. The political situation is key in these matters.
Part IV -- War Criminals
If you want to look for those Americans who have real responsibility for this mess you have to go to those who put American troops in Iraq in the first place. You have to turn to George W. Bush and his neoconservative allies. Those are the less than brilliant minds who concocted the destruction of Iraq and left it in shambles.
Former President George W. Bush invaded Iraq on the basis of what he now claims was faulty intelligence. But this is disingenuous. He himself insisted upon and then arranged for that faulty information -- a fact now conveniently forgotten by himself, his neocon allies, and the media. As usual, the only way the Republicans can blame their opponent -- Obama -- is by maintaining a purposeful ignorance of past events.
The truth is that George W. Bush and his accomplices are war criminals chargeable with the same indictment brought against the German and Japanese leaders after World War II. I am not talking about genocide, as that was not the charge against these leaders. I am talking about the waging of unnecessary and offensive war -- launching an invasion without proper legal cause. Today's mess in Iraq is a direct consequence of that same sort of criminal act.
Parti V -- Conclusion
If you want to blame President Obama and his cohorts for something, blame them for letting his criminal predecessor off the hook. No doubt Obama's advisers told him that all presidents commit acts that may be criminal in nature and to indict Bush and his team was to set a precedent that might eventually turn around and be applied to Obama himself.