Obama’s “Legacy” Should Be Defined By The U.S. War Currently Raging In Iraq

Michael Tracey
Jan 4, 2017 · 4 min read

Oddly omitted from the ongoing evaluations of Barack Obama’s “legacy” is the fact that the U.S. is currently waging a ground war in Iraq, the country Obama was elected with a specific mandate to withdraw U.S. troops from. He launched his campaign in 2007 firmly on the premise that the Iraq War was a mistake, not just that it had been managed incorrectly (as his opponent Hillary would claim, much to her detriment) — but that the fundamental philosophy which undergirded George W. Bush’s misadventure was inherently wrongheaded.

Campaigning in such a fashion very obviously didn’t make Obama a “dove” — his (fulfilled) pledge to escalate the war in Afghanistan and his (fulfilled) pledged to attack “terrorists” in Pakistan demonstrated that — but still, he had as conspicuous a mandate as any to dramatically reconfigure the U.S. strategic mission in Iraq.

Fast-forward to January 2017 — Obama has but a few weeks left in office. And what’s going on? Sure enough, yet another Iraq War with the U.S. at the helm. Call it Iraq War 3.0 — since August 2014, the U.S. has been engaged in an active combat mission in the very country Obama was supposed to have extricated us from. The initial impetus behind the war was purportedly to save Yazidis stranded on a mountain — so, it was going to be strictly benign and “humanitarian,” and of a highly “limited” nature. That’s always how these things begin, with the noblest of alleged goals. Only a monster could object to rescuing besieged Yazidis.

Notice the NYT’s bizarrely passive headline from August 7, 2014 — as if Obama was not the Commander-in-Chief with near-absolute power to order the U.S. military to do as he pleases. You’d almost think that this intervention just sort of naturally materialized somewhere out there in the universe, and Obama, as a mere bystander lacking agency, stepped aside and simply “allowed” it to go forward.

The war was presented to the American people under false pretenses. The main aim, it was later shown, was not strictly “humanitarian.” If the aim was strictly humanitarian, then achievement of the limited goal of preventing the allegedly imminent slaughter of the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar would have been sufficient to complete the mission. But yet here we are, 2.5 years later, waging offensive war to root out ISIS “insurgents” in Mosul and elsewhere. The war has expanded beyond the scope initially conveyed to the public — that’s indisputable. And it has expanded in increments, with staggered deployments of additional “advisors” here and there, as if the commanders are consciously trying to evoke echoes of Vietnam.

And it’s not a campaign restricted to “airstrikes” either, as U.S. ground forces are currently engaged in active combat and sustaining casualties. To repeat, the initial way in which the war was sold to the country was unequivocally false. There’s no way around it.

The scope and intensity of the current U.S. ground war in Mosul was never contemplated when Obama issued that August 2014 proclamation.

It also must be emphasized that the war as currently waged is illegal per U.S. domestic law. It is being waged without Congressional authorization. The only legal grounds on which the administration justifies its war-making is the 2002 Congressional resolution authorizing Bush to attack Iraq, which is utterly preposterous for a whole variety of reasons. (The legal basis for the ongoing war in Syria is even more preposterous.) So Obama, whose central 2008 campaign theme was condemning Bush for how horribly he handled the Iraq situation, is now relying on the Bush Administration’s legal rationale for waging war in Iraq, with no end in sight.

Obama’s “war on ISIS” in Iraq and Syria has directly led to the death of thousands of civilians:

And on, and on, and on. Do most Americans even know that the country is once again engaged in active combat in Iraq (and Syria)? Probably not. Do they know what Trump blurted out on Twitter last night? More likely. This ought to be viewed as a profound blemish on the outgoing president’s record, and yet we hear very little about it in the popular media narrative. Instead it’s 24/7 Trump hyperventilation. What a mess.

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Michael Tracey’s Personal Stylings

Michael Tracey

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Michael Tracey’s Personal Stylings

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