Today is our 4,762nd day in Afghanistan, and our 124th day in Iraq.
We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing wars, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,349
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1.127
There has been one casualty in our return to Iraq.
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through: $ 1, 574, 280, 925, 000 .00
We'll head right to Iraq this morning. War is an interesting thing; it's the bombing and shooting of so-called "hard targets" that always makes the headlines; it usually makes for some great TV. But that's not really how wars are won - it's all about supply. Cut off an army from things like food, fuel, ammunition, medical supplies, and things of this nature...and they can be defeated much easier. So it's truly mystifying to learn that some of the supplies and aid meant for others are directly shuffling into the hands of ISIS
GAZIANTEP, Turkey—While U.S. warplanes strike at the militants of the so-called Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq, truckloads of U.S. and Western aid has been flowing into territory controlled by the jihadists, assisting them to build their terror-inspiring “caliphate.”
The aid—mainly food and medical equipment—is meant for Syrians displaced from their hometowns, and for hungry civilians. It is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, European donors, and the United Nations. Whether it continues is now the subject of anguished debate among officials in Washington and European. The fear is that stopping aid would hurt innocent civilians and would be used for propaganda purposes by the militants, who would likely blame the West for added hardship.
The Bible says if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him something to drink—doing so will “heap burning coals” of shame on his head. But there is no evidence that the militants of the Islamic State, widely known as ISIS or ISIL, feel any sense of disgrace or indignity (and certainly not gratitude) receiving charity from their foes.
Quite the reverse, the aid convoys have to pay off ISIS emirs (leaders) for the convoys to enter the eastern Syrian extremist strongholds of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, providing yet another income stream for ISIS militants, who are funding themselves from oil smuggling, extortion, and the sale of whatever they can loot, including rare antiquities from museums and archaeological sites.
“The convoys have to be approved by ISIS and you have to pay them: The bribes are disguised and itemized as transportation costs,” says an aid coordinator who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition he not be identified in this article. The kickbacks are either paid by foreign or local nongovernmental organizations tasked with distributing the aid, or by the Turkish or Syrian transportation companies contracted to deliver it.
“What are we doing here helping their fighters, who we are bombing, to be treated so they can fight again?”
And there are fears the aid itself isn’t carefully monitored enough, with some sold off on the black market or used by ISIS to win hearts and minds by feeding its fighters and its subjects. At a minimum, the aid means ISIS doesn’t have to divert cash from its war budget to help feed the local population or the displaced persons, allowing it to focus its resources exclusively on fighters and war-making, say critics of the aid.
Of course, if we're back in Iraq, that means another opportunity for profit from the mercenary industry. Old friend Erik Prince has demanded the opportunity to fight ISIS with his contractors
....because of course, they did such a fine job in Iraq the first time around.
As the fight against the Islamic State unfolds, the take of Erik Prince, the founder of the former private security firm Blackwater, is straightforward: If the United States is unwilling to send in ground troops, “let the private sector finish the job.”
Prince addressed the subject this week in a little-noticed blog post on the site of his newest security and logistics firm, Frontier Services Group. Prince left Blackwater, with its checkered history in Iraq, including the killing by contractors of 17 civilians in a 2007 shooting, in 2010. The trial of four Blackwater guards involved in the shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square, has been underway for months.
Prince is currently courting private business in Africa for his new company. He also is preparing to drum up readers for the paperback version of his bestselling book, “Civilian Warriors: The Inside story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror,” out later this month.
The former Navy SEAL declined interview requests for this piece through a spokesperson with his book publisher, the Penguin Group. In his blog post, published Monday, Prince said President Obama’s strategy to counter the Islamic State is “half-hearted at best” and will not be able to dig the militants out of any urban centers where they seek shelter among civilians.
Prince said military clearing operations fall to foot soldiers, and the Iraqi military is “demonstrably inept after billions spent on training and equipping.” He points out that when the Islamic State attacked Iraqi units earlier this year, they folded and the militants were able to seize tanks, Howitzers, armored vehicles and ammunition, among other supplies and equipment.
“The Kurds, once a lean and strong fighting force that routinely rebuffed Saddam’s forces, now find themselves outgunned, under-equipped, and overwhelmed,” Prince wrote. “But they do fight, and they fight bravely. The Kurds’ biggest problem is the U.S. State Department blocking them from selling their oil and from buying serious weaponry to protect their stronghold and act as a stabilizing force in the region.”
Prince, long a proponent of using private military contractors to backstop U.S. policy abroad, added that the private sector has “long provided nations around the world with innovative solutions to national defense problems,” and he seems to look back fondly on the work Blackwater did.
Finally today, as if we don't have enough reasons already to work to maintain Democratic control of the Senate. If the GOP gets control, you can almost certainly expect us back on the ground in Iraq - thanks to the warmonger-in-chief
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- If Republicans gain the Senate majority in November, President Barack Obama could face pressure from Congress to send ground troops into Iraq and Syria.
"Frankly, I know of no military expert who believes we are going to defeat ISIS with this present strategy," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said at a Pacific Council on International Policy conference on Saturday.
"We may be able to 'contain,' but to actually defeat ISIS is going to require more boots on the ground, more vigorous strikes, more special forces, further arming the Kurdish peshmerga forces and creating a no-fly zone and buffer zone in Syria," said McCain, who will, due to seniority, become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in January if the GOP takes the Senate next month.
McCain also said the U.S. needs to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in order to defeat the Islamic State, the militant group also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The Arizona senator has been campaigning in support of GOP candidates for the upper chamber, and has indicated that he is eager to lead the Senate Armed Services Committee, which oversees the country's military and is considered one of the most powerful committees.
McCain and Republican candidates on the campaign trail are framing Democratic candidates and President Obama as weak on foreign policy and national security. Meanwhile, super PACs like Concerned Veterans for America, which is backed by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, are spending millions on new national security-related ads for GOP candidates.
Republicans will need a net gain of only six seats to win a majority in the Senate. Polls suggest they're on track to do this, while also holding on to the House of Representatives.
It's no surprise that Republicans are emphasizing foreign policy as a campaign issue. The GOP has an 18-point advantage on which party best deals with foreign policy, according to a recent poll by NBC and The Wall Street Journal. However, a majority of Americans disagree with McCain's call for ground troops in Iraq and Syria. More than 54 percent of Americans oppose such a move, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Again I have to wonder - is this what it felt like watching the Roman Empire crumble, or how it felt to ordinary Germans after after 1933? There's no telling what direction we'll be headed after November 4. Can any of us really have any influence at this point?