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Egged on by the Hawks of Doom, Obama sinks America into a misguided war with the Islamic State

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Reprinted from www.hightowerlowdown.org

Call me a starry-eyed idealist, but it seems to me that if you're going to send Americans to war, you ought to be clear on certain basics--such as the location of the battlefield.[tag]

From flickr.com/photos/25822015@N05/2442311637/: Geometria e Islam
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However, in a Sept. 10 media briefing on President Obama's plan for a new war in Iraq, Syria, and who-knows-where-else, a "senior administration official" failed this elemental lesson of WAR 101. The expert was briefing reporters about the coalition of nations that Obama was assembling to "degrade and destroy" the barbaric band of terrorists that exploded out of Syria this summer (who've grandiosely labeled themselves the "Islamic State"). Especially important, noted the official, was Saudi Arabia's decision to join the coalition--after all, he explained, the Saudi monarchy views the bloodthirsty sect as an imminent threat to it, for "Saudi Arabia has an extensive border with Syria."

Uh... no. Far from "extensive," the two share no border. In fact they are miles from each other, separated by Iraq, Jordan, and Israel. Perhaps that's one senior advisor who could be replaced by a good Rand McNally.

Nevertheless--Hi-ho, Hi-ho/It's off to war we go! Obama, egged on by the usual flock of squawking hawks, is committing us to another Middle-East misadventure--and figuring out the map will be the least of America's problems. The warmongers are pushing our nation into the sticky web of a centuries-old religious conflagration that (1) we don't understand, (2) we cannot resolve, (3) presents no clear threat to our national security, (4) involves us with a motley crew of "allies," (5) offers no moral high ground, (6) positions us as destroyers (or worse, crusaders), (7) is creating a whole new generation of young Muslim enemies for us, (8) has no timetable or definition of "victory," (9) has not been explained, publicly debated, or congressionally authorized, and (10) will further drain our treasury, strain our military, and divert our people and resources from achieving America's own, long-delayed, democratic potential.

Other than that, the launching of what officials tell us will be a "long war" against the fanatical Islamic State (IS) makes perfectly good sense.

If the decision to fling our weary soldiers, depleted coffers, and tarnished international reputation into the Mideast's religious inferno had been made by Bush-Cheney (or, let's say, a Trump-Cruz administration), progressives and other voices of sanity would howl with rage. Well, we should not be any less enraged merely because a Democrat is at the front of such a fool's errand. Nor can we suspend rational thought just because we are rightly repulsed by the raw, utterly incomprehensible evil being committed by the IS, a theocratic horde that revels in the gore of beheadings, crucifixions, and massacres.

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What are we getting into?

FIRST, it is a war--not a "conflict" or a "military action," but a real war that will require enormous commitments of American money, time, weaponry, and lives. "Rooting out a cancer like this won't be easy, and it won't be quick," Obama conceded in August as he committed us to this vague, open-ended, half-baked escapade. Again the stated goal is not merely to contain the mobile, internet-savvy, highly capable pack of some 31,000 murderous ideologues, but to "destroy" it. That includes, as Obama has indicated, not just military assaults, but also addressing the entrenched poverty, lack of education, kleptocratic governments, and sense of hopelessness that created the furious rise of this terrorist army and constantly feeds angry young recruits into it.

Is all this our job?

If so, be prepared to pay. Gordon Adams, a military spending expert at American University, says that his "back-of-the-envelope" calculation of dollars that will be spent to sustain our military in just Year One of this Islamic State war is about $15 billion. That does not count such subsequent multipliers of military expenditures as long-term veterans' health care and interest payments on the debt (yes, debt--once again, as in Afghanistan and Bush's previous Iraq war, this one will be charged on the nation's credit card and billed to our grandchildren).

SECOND, this is a Mideastern religious war, not one of national aggression, nor one that poses any imminent threat to the USA. It is a "jihad," (a holy war that calls Muslims to join as a sacred duty), and it stems from a puritanical revivalist movement of Sunni Muslim extremists who believe they are in a death struggle "over the soul of Islam."

The so-called Islamic State is not a state, but more of a state of mind, with the IS laying claim to all Muslims of the ancient "Levant," sweeping from Israel into Southern Turkey. And it is "Islamic" in name only, dishonoring most of the positive religious and civic ideals set forth by Muhammad, the seventh-century Arab prophet who founded Islam. Also known by the acronyms ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and ISIL (Islamic State in Levant), the group claims to be a holy movement of the pure Islam, but it functions as a cult of pure sadism, using brutal wholesale violence not as a means to some spiritual end, but as an end in itself.

The IS is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a megalomaniac Iraqi Sunni who surprised everyone in June by anointing himself ruler of all Muslims everywhere. For us Westerners, he and the IS seem to have come out of nowhere, but, both have evolved from previous Sunni terrorist groups that arose after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, and both trace their ruthless creed directly to Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, an 18th century radical proselytizer of a severe form of Sunni Islam. Today's IS is taking Wahhab's extreme fundamentalism to an ultra-extremist, belligerent ideology that one Islamic scholar calls "untamed Wahhabism."

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While they despise Western culture as the spawn of Satan and fulminate against the long, sorrowful history of Western subjugation of Islamic peoples, the West is not the primary target of their vengeful fury. That honor goes to two particular groups of Muslims: (1) the Shia (or Shiites), who differ with Sunnis on whose original leader is the legitimate successor to Muhammad and, therefore, are considered by the IS as abominable heretics who must be exterminated for the sake of "purifying the community of the faithful"; and (2) moderate Sunnis, who are viewed as apostates for having rejected unadulterated Wahhabism to accept such modern Islamic norms as the education of girls, tolerance of other religions, and acceptance of non-theocratic Islamic governments.

THIRD, it is not our war. Yes, we are nauseated, maddened, and frightened to see YouTube videos of fanatics beheading US journalists and others. But what we have here is a regional Islamic war, pitting a vicious IS minority against mainstream Islamic people, governments, and armies.

Those mainstream forces are the ones to unite, stand up, and lead the battle. Western nations certainly must support such a concerted military, economic, and cultural campaign to de-fang IS, but it is ridiculous (and self-defeating) for the US strut into the chaotic center of a Muslim war and lead the charge.

Saudi Wahhabia

Where the hell is the richest, most powerful force in the region, Saudi Arabia? Shhhh... King Abdullah and assorted princes of the royal Saud family are hunkered down in their opulent palaces, quietly praying that we American dupes don't learn that the duty of leadership in this war (and on the larger need to address the region's massive social/economic/political inequities fueling the IS upsurge) belongs to them--not us.

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Jim Hightower is an American populist, spreading his message of democratic hope via national radio commentaries, columns, books, his award-winning monthly newsletter (The Hightower Lowdown) and barnstorming tours all across America.


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