For most of our lives, the United States was at war with the nation of Iraq, for reasons that I still to this day find unjustified. Growing up, we heard of cities like Baghdad and the corrupt leader named Saddam Hussein. Our war hawk president hid the flag-covered caskets from our view, but we knew of the 4,486 Americans who died, and we saw the thousands of men and women who came home with brain damage, missing limbs, and lives forever scarred by war. Why? If there was anything to fear in Iraq it wasn’t Saddam Hussein, it’s the radical Islamist group that has already taken over parts of the country.
A jihadist group founded in a period between 2003 and 2004 and now led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has already gained control of large swaths of territory in Iraq and its neighbor Syria and proclaimed a theocratic monarchy, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. Started as the representative group of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group went through a schism with Al Qaeda over the terror cell’s goals. The group’s intent is to reincarnate the Islamic caliphate, or empire, and spread its influence through the Middle East and the Mediterranean coasts of Europe and North Africa.
We’ve known about ISIL for years, but instead of eliminating the group from the beginning, we focused our attention on establishing a democratic government that did not have the support of the people, and instead had ties to the enemy next door, Iran. The group was involved in a 2003 bombing of the headquarters of the UN’s Special Representative in Iraq, a move that led to the evacuation of all UN employees, as well as in the kidnapping of three Americans in 2004 and the beheading of one of the hostages, Nick Berg, on video. We’ve known their tactics. If we went to Iraq to secure the region and promote peace in 2003, why didn’t we destroy ISIL from its very beginning?
Once more, the United States is being led into a death trap. We haven’t declared war on Iraq per se, but the situation is becoming “trickier” for the United States to get out. With the United States making air strikes in ISIL-held territory in Iraq and considering the idea of arming the Kurdish separatists in the nation’s northern provinces, it would seem we are somewhat back in Iraq — this time I hope, the last time.
I never supported the invasion of Iraq and the occupation that followed. The inhumane crimes committed by the military overseers of the Abu Ghraib prison were enough to make me question if we really live in “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” As the current situation worsens, I’m left with endless questions. Should the United States once more get involved in Iraq, and if so, should it be by land, or by air as in Libya?
It seems ever more evident that the United States will have to be the victor in this conflict, especially when they’ve brought two of our innocent civilians, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, to their cruel, medieval death by decapitation. In the safest way possible, we need to rid the Middle East of this parasite. We will have to be the ones to remove this vile group, which even Al-Qaeda disowned for being too “cruel,” because one, their rise is our fault, and two, we’re the only ones with the power to do so. We will have to keep our promise of creating peace in the Middle East. ISIL is not a part of that peace. This is perhaps one of the few situations in which I would support US military intervention in the Middle East; however I am hoping it will be by air and not by boots on the ground, with exception to possible Special Forces operations.
We also need to place sanctions on the gulf nations like Qatar, who are standing and watching groups in their nation send funding to ISIL. Despite their governments’ insistence that their nations are not funding terror groups, ISIS is receiving a purported two million dollars a day. One surprising element that I’ve witnessed from this conflict is the level of agreement between common enemies in the region, as the Saudis and the Iranians are both coming out in favor of destroying ISIL. With the United States also on the side against ISIL, could this spell another opportunity for détente between the US and Iran? The geopolitics of this issue will prove to be game-changing in the coming months.
“Nation building?” Give me a break. If anything, US involvement has been a game of Jenga and now it is time to pick up the pieces as we face this question: how?