American Elephants

President Obama, Iraq, ISIS, and An Interview With President Bush by The Elephant's Child
June 12, 2015, 8:43 pm
Filed under: Iraq, National Security, The United States | Tags: , ,

Two days after admitting that he did not yet have “a complete strategy” for dealing with the ISIS terrorists estimated as an army of 30,000, President Obama has dispatched another 450 U.S. advisers to train Iraqis troops to do the fighting. It appears that trainers will outnumber trainees. There will be a total of 3,500 American trainers, about 950 more than Iraqi troops.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, said the modest troop increase came as a result of “a very regular process of evaluation” not from any perceived public pressure to do something, after a long string of ISIS advances.

We are told by military sources that what is needed are Special Forces to provide intelligence and spotters to direct American aircraft. The lack of on-the-ground information and a restrained target approval process related to White House rules of engagement, 75% of all allied air attacks now return without dropping their ordnance.

Seventeen months ago Obama described ISIS as a JV team. Ten months ago he said he had no strategy. After the hideous beheading of an American, Obama announced the current ‘strategy’ of no combat forces, bombings or troop training. You have to remember that he told military academy graduates that global warming, not terrorism, was the most serious threat to America. Here’s the history, do watch till the end (Funniest mashup ever!)

Israel Hayom caught up with former President George W. Bush for an exclusive interview — on Friday. He said “There is only one thing that I really miss about being president, and that’s being the commander-in-chief. I admire our military a lot,” he told Israel Hayom, his eyes twinkling. “When you are the commander-in-chief at a time when I was, when you put them into a lot of combat situations, you develop a special bond, not only with the military but with their families.”

The war snuck up on then-President Bush with the al-Qaida attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In his book he says that the week of the attacks was the key to understanding his entire presidency. He writes that he poured his heart and soul into defending the country, “by any means necessary.”

To us he says that no one prepared him for becoming a “two-war president” but reality supplied him with a lot of challenges in the White House. He says he had to make very difficult decisions — sending boys to defend the homeland with the knowledge that not all of them would return.

President Bush was asked “Is the war on terror currently being waged in the proper way? He responded:

“I made a decision, as you know, not to criticize my successors, with an s. I am going to be around a little bit longer — there is going to be more than one successor. The temptation is to try to rewrite history or to make yourself look good by criticizing someone else. I think that is a mistake. I don’t think that is what leadership is all about. I know how hard the job is. I didn’t like it when former leaders criticized me when I was president. Some did, so I decided not to do the same.”

Q: You mentioned ISIS, you spoke about defeating terror. Is it possible to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq without boots on the ground?

“The president will have to make that determination. My position was that you need to have boots on the ground. As you know, I made a very difficult decision. A fair number of people in our country were saying that it was impossible to defeat al-Qaida — which is ISIS as far as I am concerned. They said I must get out of Iraq. But I chose the opposite — I sent 30,000 more troops as opposed to 30,000 fewer. I think history will show that al-Qaida in Iraq was defeated. And so I chose the path of boots on the ground. We will see whether or not our government adjusts to the realities on the ground.”

This has already translated into the idea that Mr. Bush said we needed boots on the ground. He said that was up to the president. When it was his job to decide his position was that you needed boots on the ground.

It is a long and very interesting interview, do read the whole thing. He steadfastly resisted any comments or criticism of his successor, but talked about what he himself did and why. He said:

In my post-presidency I have written a book, and that has helped a lot. I wrote another book. It is brand new. It is about an extraordinary man — my father. It will be a very historical document because never has a son of a president written about the president. So the paintings are along these lines.

“I read Winston Churchill’s essay ‘Painting as a Pastime,’ and it is a really interesting essay. I started looking at Churchill’s paintings and I said ‘wow, I can do this.’

There is so much in the interview that is charmingly Bush, that I wanted to include it all. You will have to read it for yourself.

Micromanaging the Middle East Isn’t Working. Neither is Appeasement! by The Elephant's Child
May 31, 2015, 5:05 pm
Filed under: Middle East | Tags: , ,

The United States knew that ISIS was planning an offensive strike on Ramadi, the strategic city in Iraq’s Anbar Province. Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reported that the U.S. had significant intelligence about the offensive, even as it was happening. The U.S. watched ISIS fighters, vehicles and heavy equipment gather on the outskirts of Ramadi before the group retook the city in mid May.

Bloomberg quoted Ari Force Lt. General David Deptula (ret,) who planned and executed major operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that restrictive rules of engagement for American pilots was part of the problem.

Pilots flying sorties in Iraq “have to call back and ask, ‘mother may I’ before they can engage,” said the retired general, who was the first deputy chief of staff for the Air Force for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

“The current rules of engagement are intentionally designed to restrict the effectiveness of air power to prevent potential collateral damage,” he later added. “That results in ISIS getting the freedom of action so they can commit genocide against civilians. Does this make any sense?”

Genieve David, a spokeswoman for U.S. Central Command, acknowledged that the U.S. employs a “dynamic targeting process” in Iraq and Syria, with a focus on limiting civilian casualties and collateral damage.

According to Lt. Gen. Deptula, the restrictive rules of engagement are benefiting the enemy.

Another major setback in the battle for Ramadi was the Iraqi military abandoning their positions, and not having enough weapons and ammunition. As well, U.S Special Operation forces were not authorized to accompany Iraqi troops in battle.

Toby Harnden, Washington Bureau Chief of the Sunday Times, writes of the Mad Max, post Apocalyptic scenes as a “hulking bulldozer emerged through a swirling sandstorm, with a suicide bomber at the wheel and armored plates welded to its chassis, the vehicle crashed through concrete blast barriers surrounding the Iraqi police headquarters.” Then its explosive load was detonated. Waves of fortified dump trucks and souped-up Humvees followed as ISIS fighters fanned out across Ramadi.

There were estimated to be about 30 vehicle-borne suicide bombs that ripped through Ramadi. About 10 of them were estimated to be the size of the Oklahoma City Bomb which killed 168 Americans twenty years ago.

“Senior US military officers and intelligence officials agree that Obama’s counter-ISIS strategy of limited airstrikes, a handful of special forces raids and the small-scale training of Iraqi forces needs to be overhauled.”

President Obama has apparently given up on the Iraqi military because they ran away. If they won’t stand up and fight, Obama won’t support them. It takes a lot of training and good equipment to stand up to 30 suicide bombers driving dump trucks loaded with explosives and ISIS fighters swarming through the city killing everyone on sight. Obama has had major problems before with restrictive rules of engagement that get American troops killed.

It is believed that Obama’s overriding goal in the Middle East is to secure a nuclear deal with Iran so that he can reopen diplomatic relations with Tehran as a major achievement for his legacy. It is such a denial of basic facts that I can barely grasp his aims, and keep referring to Daniel Pipes’ explanation:

As a man of the Left, Obama sees the United States historically as having exerted a malign influence on the outside world. Greedy corporations, an overly powerful military-industrial complex, a yahoo nationalism, engrained racism, and cultural imperialism combined to render America, on balance, a force for evil.

The Obama Doctrine is simple and universal: Warm relations with adversaries and cool them with friends.

Several assumptions underlie this approach: The U.S. government morally must compensate for its prior errors. Smiling at hostile states will inspire them to reciprocate. Using force creates more problems than it solves.

Sorry, I don’t believe that  smiling at Iran will change its aims in any way. When they chant “Death to America,” I believe they not only mean it, but expect to carry it out.

ISIS has captured the ancient city of Palmyra, and has put the 2,000 year old Roman Amphitheater back into use as a site for executions as entertainment .Barbarians.

General David Petraeus Speaks to Us From Northern Iraq: by The Elephant's Child
May 23, 2015, 8:10 pm
Filed under: History | Tags: , , ,

The Washington Post on Wednesday carried answers to written questions from reporter Liz Sly while he was attending the annual Sulaimani Forum, a get- together of Iraqi leaders, thinkers and academics, at the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

He spoke of mistakes the Americans have made and mistakes the Iraqis themselves have made, the squandering of so much of what we had achieved, and the exploitation of those failures by extremists on both sides.

Having said that, my sense is that the situation in Iraq today is, to repeat a phrase I used on the eve of the surge, hard but not hopeless. I believe that a reasonable outcome here is still achievable, although it will be up to all of us — Iraqis, Americans, leaders in the region and leaders of the coalition countries — to work together to achieve it.

What has happened in Iraq is a tragedy — for the Iraqi people, for the region and for the entire world. It is tragic foremost because it didn’t have to turn out this way. The hard-earned progress of the Surge was sustained for over three years.  What transpired after that, starting in late 2011, came about as a result of mistakes and misjudgments whose consequences were predictable. And there is plenty of blame to go around for that.

Yet despite that history and the legacy it has left, I think Iraq and the coalition forces are making considerable progress against the Islamic State. In fact, I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran.

The whole piece is to be found here. Do read the whole thing, it’s not long.

ISIS Has Occupied Palmayra, And Draws Closer to Damascus. by The Elephant's Child
May 20, 2015, 6:15 pm
Filed under: Middle East | Tags: , , ,


The saga of Palmyra has not ended. ISIS militants have reportedly captured the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra on Wednesday as Syrian officials evacuated civilians and scrambled to keep priceless antiquities from falling into barbarian hands. Syrian activists said that Syrian soldiers were seen fleeing the area.

Authorities have rushed to remove hundreds of statues to safe locations, Syria’s antiquities chief said. But Palmyra has a museum and large monuments that cannot be moved. The city dates back to the Neolithic, it was first noticed as a caravan stop for travelers crossing the Syrian Desert. It is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and in the annals of the Assyrian kings, and eventually the Roman Empire. Given ISIS path of mindless destruction authorities are fearful for the Temple of Ba’al, an ancient theater and its famous colonnade. ISIS counts complete destruction of sites of of historic and religious importance. But there have been 50,000 people there who are being evacuated.

Experts have also warned that militants have smuggled priceless artifacts out of the country for sale on the black market to fund the terrorists’ army. ISIS blew up and bulldozed Nimrud.

Interesting that they revel in the destruction, yet recognize the value of the artifacts on the black market. It’s all right if others possess the evidence of past civilizations, they just don’t want any in their territory.

Once You’ve Reduced it to Rubble, You Can’t Put It Back Together Again by The Elephant's Child
May 17, 2015, 8:09 pm
Filed under: Iran, Iraq | Tags: , , ,

051615KhorsabadThe Assyrians rose around 2,500 B.C. and at one time their realm stretched from the Mediterranean coast to present day Iran. They left behind palaces and temples decorated with huge reliefs depicting their king’s military campaigns and conquests and his great hunting prowess, killing lions and other dangerous animals. The city of Nimrud was founded in the 13th century B.C.during the reign of King Ashurnasirpal II, and served as the second capital of the Assyrian empire. Another capital was Ninevah. These colossal winged man-headed lions or bulls were protective deities put at the entrances of palaces and temples weighing about 10–30 tons each.

ISIS is raging throughout Iraq and Syria, attempting to obliterate history..The ancient city of Nimrud is across the Euphrates from Mosul —or was. After looting anything movable for sale, they attacked the city with sledgehammers, drills, saws, barrel bombs and bulldozers to destroy the 4,000 year-old treasures. Now it is just rubble.2778684F00000578-3035534-image-a-8_1428835740011K.T. MacFarland, national security adviser for Fox said “it’s like brainwashing. They want to eliminate the past, remove all signs of idolatry and spread monotheism.” “There is no past, there is only us.” “God has honored us in the Islamic State to remove all of these idols and statutes worshiped instead of Allah in the past days.”

They destroy museums, and break up priceless artifacts. They destroyed the Mosul Library and burned thousands of its rare books and manuscripts. UNESCO called the burning of books and manuscripts “one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history.”

the Washington Examiner lists the destruction, with an ISIS video bragging of their destruction and listing the other historical sites lost to the world because of ISIS wanton destruction, which seems remarkably pointless. The Crac des Chevaliers, an 11th Century Crusader castle, the Saint Simeon Church in Aleppo and the Aleppo Citadel. Jonah’s tomb, 173 priceless artifacts with statues from Hasra in the Mosul Museum. The Mosul Library, The ancient city of Nimrud, the Khorsabad Palace built between 717 and 706 B.C. and Hasra, a circular fortified city with double walls that became the capital of an early Arab kingdom.


It was reported that ISIS had taken Palmyra, in Syria (above) but a later post says they have been forced out and Palmyra is safe.

Some of the finest artifacts reside in Western museums. Everybody has criticized the British archeologists who snapped up so many treasures for depriving other nations of their heritage. Nobody really expected barbarians.


Ramadi Has Fallen to ISIS, And ISIS Has Taken Palmyra. by The Elephant's Child
May 17, 2015, 6:39 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , ,

Ramadi has fallen to ISIS. Ramadi was really where the Anbar Awakening began,”the movement,” Max Boot said, “started by Colonel Sean MacFarland in Ramadi in 200, to mobilize Sunni tries against AQI.” (al Qaeda in Iraq)

After having lost hundreds of American soldiers in Ramadi and its environs since 2003, US efforts finally appeared to have paid off. AQI had been routed of the capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate, and would soon be routed out of the rest of the Sunni Triangle. Victory was in sight.

It is all the more heartbreaking, therefore, to read now that the Islamic State—AQI’s successor organization—has seized the government center in Ramadi. Islamic State extremists detonated a series of suicide car bombs on Thursday to punch their way through fortifications protecting the government headquarters. Reports were that, after the headquarters fell, black-clad fanatics were going to door-to-door, executing tribal fighters who opposed their onslaught. Government security forces and many civilians were fleeing in panic. As Michael Auslin of the American Enterprise Institute points out, it’s as if the Marines, having taken Iwo Jima, had abandoned it and the Japanese had lowered the stars and stripes on Mount Suribachi.

“Leading from behind” is a bad enough strategy when America’s allies take the lead. It is an utterly ruinous strategy when America’s enemies take the lead. But that s what is now happening in Iraq.”

Obama has authorized fewer than 3,000 trainers who are confined to base and not allowed to recruit, train or arm Sunni tribesmen. Nor are they allowed to personally call in airstrikes. They have to depend on Iraqi security forces who are dominated by Iranian security forces to tell them what to bomb. In the guise of fighting ISIS, Iran is taking over most of Iraq.

Obama has illusions of becoming partners with Iran, the world’s greatest terrorist-sponsoring state, and assigning Iran the task of managing the Middle East.  AQs yet, he is utterly unable to explain to the American people just where the war effort stands and what he plans to do differently. The Arab states are begging for American leadership, but that seems not to be what Obama does.

The West’s war against ISIS puts the U.S. and Europe tacitly on the side of Assad, the Iranians, and their joint Lebanese proxy Hezbollah for the simple reason that we’re all fighting ISIS at the same time while leaving one another alone. Tehran can hardly contain itself. “One of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism,” Weiss and Hassan write, “now presents itself as the last line of defense against terrorism.” The idea that a state sponsor of terrorism could ever be a reliable partner against international terrorism is ludicrous.


Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton on events in Iraq, Negotiations with Iran, and Life in the U.S. Senate. by The Elephant's Child
April 13, 2015, 6:47 am
Filed under: Middle East | Tags: , , , , , , ,

This young Senator is going to be President of the United States one day. This episode of Uncommon Knowledge was published on April 8, 2015.

ADDENDUM: President Obama was mightily annoyed by the letter Tom Cotton and 46 other Senate colleagues sent to the Ayatollah Khamenei simply explaining that any agreement reached by the president could be revoked by the next president or modified by Congress. Obama attempted to say such interference was uncalled for, and detrimental to the national good. Today, the Center for Security Policy sent a thank you letter to Senator Cotton and the other 46 senators containing the signatures of more than 150 security experts, including a former United States ambassador, multiple high-ranking military officials and other security experts. The letter read in part:

“Given the chimerical nature of the so-called framework agreement—which is, at the moment, being characterized in wildly different ways by the various parties, raising profound uncertainty about the nature and extent of the commitments Iran is making, their actual value in preventing an Iranian nuclear weapons program, the timing and extent of sanctions relief, etc.—the need for congressional oversight, advice and consent concerning any accord that flows from that agreement can no longer responsibly be denied.“

“It would be a serious affront to the Constitution and to the American people were an agreement of this potentially enormous strategic consequence not to be submitted for such action by the Congress.  Grievous insult would be added to injury should the United Nations Security Council instead be asked to approve it.”


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