While the Republican presidential candidates use every bit of ideological gymnastics to somehow pin the rise of Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) on President Obama, the former commander of U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, Lt. General Michael Flynn dropped an incredible bombshell in an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel: that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, was in a United States military prison in 2004 – and released because he was deemed “harmless.”
Nothing more perfectly illustrates what a colossal failure the George W. Bush Administration was. While Bush was busy torturing Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards in a desperate and barbaric attempt to rectify his intelligence failures, the mastermind who would found the Islamic State was in their clutches the entire time. Flynn went on to describe how the Bush Administration’s knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 and their catastrophic invasion of Iraq went on to create the colossal quagmire that is the Islamic State.
“We were too dumb. We didn’t understand who we had there at that moment. When 9/11 occurred, all the emotions took over, and our response was, ‘Where did those bastards come from? Let’s go kill them. Let’s go get them.’ Instead of asking why they attacked us, we asked where they came from. Then we strategically marched in the wrong direction.”
He then ripped the Republican war hawks for their relentless calls to invade Syria and provoke war with the Islamic Republic of Iran, rightly recognizing that this kind of foolish arrogance only serves to breed more terrorism and more violence, and got us here in the first place:
“First we went to Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda was based, then we went to Iraq. Instead of asking ourselves why the phenomenon of terror occurred, we were looking for locations. This is a major lesson we must learn in order not to make the same mistakes again. It was huge error. As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, it was a mistake to just eliminate him. The same is true for Moammar Gadhafi and for Libya, which is now a failed state. The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq. History will not be and should not be kind with that decision.”
States like Libya, Iraq, and Syria are patchwork nations, forged by colonial powers with little consideration for preexisting informal divisions or the ethnonational demographics of the areas involved. Their viability as nation-states was questionable to begin with; foreign intervention and forced regime change only compound the problems facing the people living within those artificial borders. Simply deposing regimes and hoping for “free and fair elections” is doomed to fail, as Bush and Cheney’s wars have proved to all of us. Constantly obsessed with “showing strength,” the festering morass of overcompensating hyper-masculinity and jingoistic delusions of neocolonial conquest that passes for “foreign policy” among the insecure brutes of the Republican Party is the reason we have a problem with terrorism in the first place.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.