Against my better judgment, I decided to watch a segment of “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News to hear his points on the latest developments in Iraq. In O’Reilly’s defense, he has been a brilliant talk show host and highly successful writer and businessman. However, at the end of the day, O’Reilly is still a journalist with limited real world expertise on many of the topics he provides commentary on. Specifically, O’Reilly poses as an expert, but is totally lacking in experience when it comes to matters of military application and foreign affairs. O’Reilly has never served in combat, is not an intelligence analyst, and so far has not demonstrated himself as a policy maker. So to no surprise, when I tuned in, O’Reilly was expounding his usual pompous, ill informed, bomb them all rhetoric with respect to the Islamic extremist army dubbed ISIL or ISIS. Within thirty seconds of listening to O’Reilly’s poorly informed diatribe, I remembered why I had stopped watching Fox. As such, I feel as though Fox News and Bill O’Reilly needed some better informed input to ensure Fox lives up to its “fair and balanced” moniker and openly challenge O’Reilly to a debate on Iraq policy.
First of all, I want to make it clear we lost in Iraq. Bill O’Reilly is still grasping to a false reality and believes we actually accomplished strategic objectives (won) in Iraq before our retreat. The fact the US was defeated is tough to deal with, but nonetheless fact. It in no way diminishes the honor of our veterans. Suggesting otherwise to those that cannot dissect honor from the success or failure of an army in battle is ridiculous. The notion that loss in battle or war dishonors our troops is no more logical than suggesting soldiers of losing armies across thousands of years of recorded history had no honor. For example, the many British army units fought with the utmost honor in the American Revolution, soldiers fighting for the Confederate Army during the American Civil War fought with great honor, and Rommel’s Afrika Corps has been distinguished again and again for its honor by historians, but all of the above armies ultimately lost their respective wars. In fact, honor is not hinged upon whether one wins or loses, but in how one conducts himself in combat. Iraq was never pacified and never made safe for Americans, but we maintained our honor. The US certainly isn’t calling the shots across the nation now. The end state achieved was a strategic setback for US interests across the region by strengthening our foes. No matter how much the Obama Administration whitewashes our retreat from Iraq, the enemy was still fighting and still holding ground when we left.
For those of you who did not fight in Iraq and have not visited Iraq since our retreat, you should know that Mosul was never pacified and maintained its status as a hotbed of Al Qaeda (AQ) activity. Neither President Bush nor President Obama finished the war. To the present day, Mosul has been a part of the ratline of jihadists making their way to fight in Syria. In fact, US intelligence has been well aware that Mosul has been a key staging point for AQ training and equipping jihadists en route to joining ISIL for years. Mosul has also been effectively “no-go” territory for westerners and has been controlled since before the US retreat by Sunni extremists. As such, the fear and panic that ISIL has “captured” Mosul is overstated. It is true they kicked out the token government forces, but the Iraqi military never controlled anything beyond the ground below their feet hiding behind the walls of abandoned US military bases. Beyond kicking out the token Iraqi forces, the only difference appears to be ISIL formally cemented their previous control of that city and surrounding regions with the execution of anyone supporting the Iraq government. So, if O’Reilly was consistent and well informed, he would have recognized that Mosul and neighboring cities like Tikrit with a large presence of Sunni extremists “falling” to ISIL was not in and of itself a game changer.
Second, O’Reilly fails to remember that it was the Sunnis, during the “Awakening,” that allied with US forces to fight the Shia militias attacking and killing Americans daily. In fact, I distinctly remember Sadr’s brigades of Shia militia backed by Iran attacking US military personnel with zeal throughout the war. I also remember the Shia going from house to house in what was originally mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad and ethnically cleansing the population. The Shia death squads brutally murdered any Sunni they found and turned Baghdad into a Shia city. However, it is now the Sunni extremists that O’Reilly has repeatedly called “savages” that deserve to be bombed. I would argue to O’Reilly that both factions have lived up to the pejorative term savage and have demonstrated their eagerness to kill Americans before their fellow Iraqi time and again and as such, we should be happy to leave them to their demise. In short, they are getting what they deserve and I see no reason Americans need to be again placed in the line of fire and paying to “save” savages that want us dead while they are busy killing one another.
Third, O’Reilly has totally forgotten that it was Maliki and the Iraqi government that refused to grant the US a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that would have protected our troops and allowed them to remain in Iraq beyond their set date of retreat. True, President Obama used the SOFA as a means to justify the US retreat out of Iraq, but nonetheless, the Iraqis wanted American forces out of their country. O’Reilly should perhaps volunteer himself for military service in a country that he is not invited and where killing, even in self-defense, will be deemed murder. Perhaps he does not realize the very real legal dangers our troops will be faced with as they return to Iraq. O’Reilly’s insistence on the deployment of military forces creates a conundrum for the troops because they are being deployed outside of war, to a sovereign nation, and violating its laws. Does O’Reilly actually believe Maliki’s word that our troops will now receive immunity and that President Obama will do whatever is necessary to ensure Maliki is held to his word? I think not.
Third, O’Reilly just doesn’t seem to get the fact that the war as fought under Bush was a disaster and later under Obama was also a disaster. I guess O’Reilly missed the fact that when the war began, Saddam Hussein was killing extremists for free and had nothing to do with 9/11 beyond being the fall guy for Saudi Arabia. It was Saudi Arabia, not Iraq, which was responsible for carrying out a state sponsored act of war against the US on 9/11. This fact is why Representative Walter Jones from North Carolina wants the classified 9/11 Report released so that the public will know the truth and the lies perpetrated by the US government. If US strategy was effective, there would be LESS, not more extremists. Of course it is overwhelmingly clear our strategy failed judged by this bar. O’Reilly also seems to forget that by toppling Saddam’s regime, we created the vacuum that allowed these extremists to flourish to the point they now occupy their own autonomous Islamic state. When this point is made, O’Reilly flies into defense mode and charges the person as an “apologist.” O’Reilly solely blames the Islamists, but fails to recognize the very clear order of events of cause and effect leading to this situation. O’Reilly can believe what he wants, but is not allowed to create his own facts and cherry pick from his arbitrary timeline of events. For example, O’Reilly makes the point that we invaded Iraq to rid the country of Saddam and for humanitarian purposes. On this point alone, O’Reilly must have deleted his memory files much as the IRS seems to have deleted emails. We did not invade Iraq for the purposes O’Reilly states. We invaded Iraq because we were made to believe that Iraq was an existential threat that possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that it would not turnover to U.N. inspectors, was going to use the WMD against the US, and was supporting AQ. Nothing short of creating this existential threat would have brought American into the war. As the invasion kicked off and the contrived lies became clear, the Bush Administration had to save face. The Administration then made a deliberate policy decision to change the motive for the war effort to regime change and humanitarian issues. As such, O’Reilly’s stated purpose for the war is completely fictitious. Further, O’Reilly has chided every democratic administration for humanitarian military operations, but somehow thinks he can hang on to that rationale to defend the disaster Bush created in Iraq.
O’Reilly claims we did Iraq a great favor by ridding the country of Saddam, but again, suspends logic by implying that a full invasion was the only way to “rid” Iraq of Saddam. O’Reilly has to know that there were numerous opportunities and plenty of other options to eliminate and or contain Saddam and any threat he could have possibly posed to the US. In stating this, O’Reilly totally undermines the deaths of near 1,000,000 Iraqis throughout both wars with Iraq. More importantly to me, he also dishonors the American veterans that fought in Iraq by incorrectly believing that perpetuating political lies and propaganda he somehow brings honor to their unnecessary injuries and deaths. Only by telling the truth and prosecuting the political liars within our own government that sent them out to fight a senseless war would he actually do these honorable men and women justice. However, O’Reilly continues to pander to his establishment masters to the disgrace of all who served. Although the likes of Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney may applaud O’Reilly, Bill becomes vile in the eyes of veterans those traitors sent to an illegal war. I am positive that very few of the million dead Iraqis posed even the slightest threat to America and would be much happier if they were alive for starters. I am also confident that the thousands of Americans who lost loved ones or that were horribly wounded would also be better off alive and well today, even if Saddam was still in power. No matter what O’Reilly believes from his ivory tower about how we improved the lives of the average Iraqi, the millions of wounded, displaced, starved, and dead would find comfort in knowing the US would never come to “help” Iraq again.
Fourth, our bombing didn’t work, yet, O’Reilly is adamant about the positive effects “heavy bombing” would have for the US against ISIL. O’Reilly seems to think that if we just carpet bomb one more convoy we will win. He seems to “know” that our pilots can positively identify targets flying at nearly the speed of sound or faster and often from above 35,000 feet as long as the “bad guys” are in the open desert. I would laugh, but he is actually serious…and using his own words, a buffoon. I guess he fails to understand how the fact ISIL is operating with the same US provided military vehicles that the Iraqi military is using can complicate targeting. If perhaps, O’Reilly had actually served in combat as a Joint Tactical Air Controller, he would know that his line of logic is ridiculous, but since he did not, let me enlighten him. Just because there is a convoy of trucks with guns in the Middle East does not positively identify the convoy as “bad guys.” In fact, the factions fighting often look indistinguishable even from the ground and much less so from the air. Without good intelligence and legitimate boots on the ground observing, identifying, and marking targets for air, O’Reilly’s airstrikes will not only be futile, but 100% counterproductive. I also think that O’Reilly must have somehow shelved the knowledge that ISIL possesses “Stinger” missiles. Even though I would argue that the likelihood is the bulk of these man portable, surface-to-air missiles are advanced Soviet designs smuggled into Syria by our very own CIA from Libya (hello Benghazi), the missiles nonetheless exist and pose a significant threat to our aircraft operating at low altitudes. I wonder if the loss of an American pilot and an F-16 is worth it to O’Reilly?
Finally, O’Reilly went on to say that ISIL does not recognize the Iraq-Syrian border and that we must pursue ISIL into Syria. I do not disagree that the border has long since ceased to exist and that to prosecute an effective campaign, you must not allow the insurgent sanctuary. Too bad we didn’t use this same logic in Afghanistan where even the dullest of officers recognized that to decisively defeat the Taliban, one must either secure the border or cross into Pakistan, but I digress. Moving back to bombing ISIL in Syria, O’Reilly completely demonstrates his hypocrisy and wins the award for pinhead. Time and again, O’Reilly has been on air demanding President Obama support the rebels in Syria and has attacked the Administration repeatedly for not doing enough, yet, he fails to realize that he is simultaneously demanding we bomb ISIL and support ISIL. O’Reilly is naïve and or ignorant if he fails to make the connection that we have been covertly organizing, arming, training, and equipping the rebel forces in Syria to fight President Assad and it is these same forces, which are now rampaging throughout Iraq. The savages that O’Reilly demands we bomb are the savages we created just like in Afghanistan and Libya. In fact, if we bomb ISIL at their points of origin as O’Reilly suggests… in their training camps in Syria (Jordan and Turkey too O’Reilly), I wonder if he realizes we will be killing American special forces and CIA ground branch officers currently training these terrorists. So I ask O’Reilly, who are the good guys and who are the bad guys because I am very confused.
By Guiles Hendrik
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