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Weissman writes: "When U.S. president Barack Obama began unilaterally bombing Islamist militants in northern Iraq, some Americans and Europeans may have thought he was doing the right thing to protect endangered Christians, Kurds, and ancient Yazidis."

A Yazidi man. (photo: AP)
A Yazidi man. (photo: AP)

From Iraq to Ukraine, Where Are the Adults?

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

10 August 14


hen U.S. president Barack Obama began unilaterally bombing Islamist militants in northern Iraq, some Americans and Europeans may have thought he was doing the right thing to protect endangered Christians, Kurds, and ancient Yazidis.

What will those folks think in the coming days or weeks when Russian president Vladimir Putin unilaterally sends Russian troops into eastern Ukraine on a “peacekeeping” mission to protect pro-Russian dissidents from being wiped out by the oligarchs in Kiev and their neo-Nazi henchmen?

Russian and American spin-masters will have no difficulty differentiating their own “humanitarian” venture from the imperialistic militarism of the other. But the similarities are striking.

Obama chose to protect certain endangered Iraqis at the very moment he was sending arms and intelligence to help the Israelis decimate the Palestinians in Gaza, while Putin will be defending his own kind – Russians and pro-Russians – from some other kind who happen to be Ukrainians. Humanitarian? Hardly.

Obama is also acting without clear legal authorization by the United Nations, much as George W. Bush did earlier in Iraq, as Clinton did in the former Yugoslavia, as George H.W. Bush did in Kuwait, and as Putin did in his “peacekeeping” defense of Abkhazia and Ossetia against the Georgians in 2008. An international rule of law? Horse feathers!

Far worse, we see the same old question that usually goes unasked at the beginning of any military action, no matter how humanitarian its proponents try to make their war sound. How are we going to get out of what we have now gotten into?

In the Ukraine, the answer will likely depend on whether German chancellor Angela Merkel can impose the deal her advisors have already leaked. Pushing the deal through will not be easy, given Ukraine’s long simmering nationalism, the new nationalism in Russia, and the continuing eagerness of the United States, Britain, Poland, Sweden, and others to expand the EU and newly rejuvenated NATO as far into Eurasia as they can.

In Iraq, the problem could prove even more intractable. Against a militant and militarily skilled movement like the Islamic State, or ISIS, how does Washington continue to protect the Kurds, Christians, and Yazidis? The U.S. has already increased its arming of the Kurdish peshmerga and enlarged the role of American Special Forces on the ground. Whatever Obama’s most heartfelt motivations, what is he going to do when all this proves too little and the government in Baghdad proves no less corrupt and no more able to unite the country than it has been since the Americans and their allies marched into Baghdad in 2003? What choice will he see as worse – a humiliating defeat or a renewed ground war in Iraq?

The best answer, of course, is never to have gone into the country in the first place. But that only works for winning an argument. It does nothing to solve the problem. In fact, if Obama insists on continuing the bombing, he should be forced to call Congress back into session for a full-scale public debate. Do we want to limit ourselves to humanitarian aid and lose small now with all the death and destruction that would entail? Or, do we want to risk losing big later with far greater death and destruction?

Better yet, let us consider a modest proposal. Now is precisely the moment to make peace with Iraq’s Iranian neighbor and with the Russians, and work with them and the other nations of the world to rebuild an international system that can deal with humanitarian crises without making them an adjunct to imperial adventure. I’m not the least bit optimistic, but isn’t it well past time for global leaders to begin acting like grown-ups?

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold."

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+43 # WBoardman 2014-08-10 18:15
People who act like grown-ups don't get elected....

Too late NOT to lie ourselves into a war in Iraq,
as noted,
but it's not quite too late [maybe] not to lie ourselves
into a war in or over Ukraine.

Never the wrong moment to make peace with Iran,
who have been "less than a year from having the bomb"
for two or three decades now.

But the permanent government in Washington will
have none of that, or peace with Russia, or even peace
with Central America, or Cuba, or any number of other
total non-threats.

And there's no coherent rationale for American
global aggression, certainly not hope and change.

On the other hand, protecting the Kurds till they
get up to speed (which they likely will, it seems)
makes some sense, if not necessarily to Iran or Turkey
or whatever authority controls Syria.

Yazidi and Christians, on the other hand,
are George Bush's collateral damage,
brought to the world by U.S. bipartisanship.
-29 # peacetrain 2014-08-10 22:38
Wrong Analogy

Ukrainians are not on a feverish jihad to cut off the heads and bury alive their opponents. They are acting in their own borders and only to keep them, and will not harm or kill unnecessarily.

Russians are the outsiders, as are the jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
+14 # hereandnow 2014-08-11 00:32
You're the one who has the wrong analogy. The action in the Donbass is being spearheaded by people (you know who I mean, and if you don't you are not qulified to comment on this issue)who have as much repect for the population there as the ISIS has for the population in Irak.
What is the Ukraine? У край or if you prefer у краина --- and as it is у край we need to specify от чего? and the answer to that is and always has been От России.
And here I need to really stress that Russia is not the problem, but rather the only solution to this problem, not the US or EU.
The real problem here is from those parts in the West of that artificial country which have been at one time or another under Hungarian, Romanian, Polish and Lithuanian mini empires.
Especially the present day Poles, the subservient servants of the State Department, want to help weaken the RF and try to become again a mini Empire (in influence) between the West and the East.
This article from Mr. Weissman is a bit disengenious in the lumping together of Irak and "the Ukraine". They are so different in scope that he, perhaps through no fault of his own, does both of them injustice by lumping them together in this article
And further more, those are not only so called Ukranians attacking the DPR and LPR but the most aggressive are a hodge podge of neo nazis from all over Europe fighting what they consider still a battle of the 2nd World War where the horrible communists defeated there beloved fascist ideals.
-3 # 2014-08-11 06:14
You are listening to too much RT. Yes, the Ukrainian speaking population has often been conquered by neighbors (my grandfather participated in one such subjugation when he was stationed in Kiev while in the Tsar's Guards). At his knee I learned how he beheaded Ukrainians who were seeking independence. The experience convinced him to immigrate to the US in 1916.

Here, speaking Ukrainian fluently, he became friends with local Ukrainian immigrants who were (by that time I was a bit older) again seeking independence for their country from Russian domination and the eradication of the Ukrainian language.

Ethnic Ukrainians do not agree with your characterizatio n of the Ukraine as being "От России." The nationalists, crony capitalists though they may be, with fascist elements and all, only want independence and that is something that the central planners in Moscow are trying to sabotage to subsume them in their new Russian Empire.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
0 # hereandnow 2014-08-11 09:31
Я совсем не слушаю RT, я живу в Москве и у меня родвственики в Харкове, в Одессе и на Крыме. Я знаю о чём я говорию. Ты уже побыл на Украине? Конечно нет. Независимость от кого? Ты знаешь что сейчас идёт гражданская война ... до сих пор Россия не сделала ничего. Понял? Это между Украйнсками и Украйнсками.
+14 # AuntieTom 2014-08-10 23:07
Why am I reminded of Michael Parenti's comment about things years ago now that the rulers in Washington are "in need of adult supervision" ?
+7 # aljoschu 2014-08-11 05:44
Many of the currently existing crisis situations in the world - most of which have been induced or aggravated due to US military meddling - could be contained if the western world and the USA would only be willing to cooperate with Putin and Lawrow.

However, instead of accepting Russia as a partner on eye-level, the USA is stubbornly - and out of economic expansionist reasons - continuing its desastrous cold war strategy of military and economic encirclement against Russia.

And its European vassal leaders follow suit - even though good friendly relationships exist naturally today between former arch-enemy countries, e.g. Germany and France. It is only the US who are blocking similar relationships to Russia - with desastrous and destructive consequences as can be watched in the Ukraine.
+4 # MidwestTom 2014-08-11 07:10
Unfortunately, the US is in a box economically. Our war industry is by far then largest is the world employing millions of Americans making everything from bullets , bombs, ships, planes and rockets. Real international peaces would be devastating for the US economy. If that were the only issue we could have stopped before Vietnam and been OK because we still make a lot of civilian things then. Today we cannot stop without great pain.

The second reason we must be at war is financial. The US Dollar has been the currency of international settlement ever since the agreements after WWII. This has allow ed us to print money and operate with gigantic deficits (40% of what we spend we in effect print or borrow). Right now the BRICS countries are busy signing trade deals to by-pass the US Dollar, at some point these deals will force us into a near depression as we will be forced to operate with a nearly balanced budget. This would mean making big cuts in Federal spending somewhere.

I am opposed to continual war, but as Professor Quigley remind us in "Tragedy and Hope"; the US must be a war at all times; or at least until the New World Order takes over.
-13 # 2014-08-11 05:51
The differences between our bombing IS positions and Putin "rescuing" ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine are obvious and huge.

IS is already beheading and crucifying anyone who does not subscribe to their religious beliefs. Children's heads are mounted on pikes and young women are handed to unmarried troops to serve as sex slaves. And IS representatives brag openly on social media about their deeds. Ukrainian nationalists are not even threatening to the ethnic Russians except in the minds of Russian authorities.

IS is ousting local populations which have ancestral roots going back millennia -- Erbil (Arbela) has been continuously occupied since the rise of the Babylonians thousands of years before Christ or Mohammed. Ethnic Russians are a minority in Eastern Ukraine and were settled there by Stalin after he had starved the Ukrainian farmers to death.

The US has no territorial ambitions in Kurdistan. We will not make Kurdistan a 51st state or American territory. Russia intends to gobble up Eastern Ukraine the way they gobbled up the Crimea.

None of this implies that one must approve or disapprove of US actions against IS. But the premises of this article are profoundly false.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+4 # hereandnow 2014-08-11 12:53
Every time you post, you post more lies and made up truths. Actually, you have never been to the Ukraine or to Russia, speak neither modern Russian nor Ukrainian but just like to propogate misinformation, I will only give a small example of your lies .... you say that ethnic Russians were settled in Novorossiya from Xarkov to Odessa were built up, industrialized and settled by Katerina, Long before your boogey man Georgian ever came on the scene. I wonder why the haters of Russia love to use the example of that Georgian when talking about the RF.
0 # hereandnow 2014-08-11 12:56
you say that ethnic Russians were settled by that Georgian when in fact NOvorossiya from Xarkov to ....

The software in this RSN cut out some of my words ... sorry.
+1 # tgemberl 2014-08-11 15:45
What if Ukrainians would like to be independent now? It is a customary thing in history for countries trying to maintain their independence to make alliances with distant nations. For example, Poland was often an ally of France because both countries felt threatened by Germany. That may also explain why Vietnam was a closer ally of the Soviet Union than of China during the Vietnam War. If you take help from a big neighbor, that big neighbor also tends to want to control you.
+2 # Urbancurmudgeon 2014-08-11 07:47
Sorrry Steve,

Your analogy just doesn't fly. Te US bombing of the ISIS troops isn't an attempt to keep one Iraq group from killing another Iraqi group. ISIS is an invading foreign army. Granted that the borders are all but non-existent but ISIS is killing Sunni's, Shiites, Christians, Kurds and Yazidis, everyone, it seems but their own fanatics.

The case in Ukraine is munch different and the difference is real. Russia is crossing an international border and attacking the government that already exists here. Their claim to be defending Russian ethnics living in Ukraine may be true but all those Russian ethnics need do to survive is go along with the existing law where they now reside or leave. This is not true in Iraq.

No one is threatening genocide in Ukraine whereas the ISIS leaders have already stated their intent to kill anyone who doesn't change their religion to suit them. The situations are not even close in content.
+3 # walt 2014-08-11 07:49
The USA acts clearly on whatever the lobby tells the administration to do. It's not complicated. Steve Weissman is totally accurate here. We arm Israel to to the hilt and they then kill Palestinians. Then suddenly we are told that Christians are bing slaughtered in Iraq and the crusade is on and justified.

One question could be asked here. Might the Iraq matter be a diversionary tactic to take the focus off the tragedies in Gaza??

And Steve Weissman's best suggestion: How about some team work by the "adults" of the big powers to bring peace in the Middle East rather than more weapons and war? Makes perfectly good sense!
0 # Edwina 2014-08-11 10:09
It is understandable that "Ukrainians" would be distrustful of Russia (USSR). The problem, it seems to me, is that there are political and ethnic divisions within the territory called "Ukraine". The conflict has escalated beyond a civil war, because the US/Europe and Russia decided to defend their interests, primarily energy resources. It has to be said that Russia has more legitimate concerns -- territorial, military, and investment in energy development. And Russia has followed US moves to escalate the conflict (with Europe reluctantly following), rather than trying to provoke a wider conflict. As to "adults", there are none: the citizens and businesses of the Ukraine, Europe, Russia, and the US will all lose as sanctions are ratcheted up. Only the weapons-makers will profit.
-1 # makinghay 2014-08-11 12:33
Many good points given by previous commentators. But they fail to get to the root problem creating these conflicts (as with any other conflict) which is centuries of underlying stress. Without addressing that basic underlying problem there will be no surface solution. Like the proverbial jelly: squeeze it here it pops out there.

The only viable solution is one that will remove the stress giving rise to the chaos. And that solution has been proven and scientifically verified over past decades. But as I have mentioned previously, it involves a new paradigm. New paradigms are by their nature unbelievable otherwise they wouldn't be new paradigms. The old paradigm of "matter is primary and consciousness/i ntelligence is secondary" is coming to a close. The new paradigm as supported by the latest discoveries in physics is " consciousness/i ntelligence is primary and matter is secondary".

Everything, including human action, is an expression of these underlying fields of intelligence, energy, light, whatever you want to call it. Physics calls it the "Unified Field". And through physics we have come full circle with the revival of ancient Vedic techniques able to enliven the coherence and harmony inherent in the human foundation. And aren't these situations today an expression of the serious need for coherence and harmony? For the cost of a few days war we can have peace. If we want it.

Check it out if you are able to explore a new paradigm:
+1 # tgemberl 2014-08-11 15:05
I think Obama is showing the proper balance on Iraq. He has stated very clearly that American military might cannot solve Iraq's problems. I think the bombing of ISIS comes from a genuine humanitarian impulse.

Weissman writes: "Now is precisely the moment to make peace with Iraq’s Iranian neighbor and with the Russians, and work with them and the other nations of the world to rebuild an international system that can deal with humanitarian crises without making them an adjunct to imperial adventure."

That may be a good sentiment, but it's not going to save the lives of Yazidis or Iraqi Christians right now. What's wrong with saving those lives and also moving towards a less imperial foreign policy?
+3 # dascher 2014-08-11 18:48
" Russia is crossing an international border and attacking the government that already exists here."

Where do people get this from?? IF Russia were crossing an international border, the U.S. would be showing us the satellite photos. The U.S. has not shown the world any evidence of any Russian anything - except, perhaps, Russian weaponry - which Ukraine got from Russia over the past who knows how many years.

But John Kerry says that 'we have evidence', so Russia must have done something.

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