By Amitabh Pal on August 12, 2014

The Obama Administration’s military action against the extremist ISIS group has sparked a debate among progressives.

University of Denver Professor Nader Hashemi, the co-editor of The Syria Dilemma, supports the U.S. move.

“If U.S. intervention can save minority populations who are facing mass atrocities then, yes, I support the intervention, just like I did in Bosnia and Kosovo,” Hashemi says. “My reasons are simple: What is the alternative? Watch the Yazidis die en masse at the hands of ISIS? Ideally, I would prefer a U.N. mandate and someone other than the United States to help the Yazidis, but in the absence of these things I will not oppose policies that save minorities who have been targeted for extermination.”

Trinity College Professor Vijay Prashad opposes U.S. military strikes, and the notion that the United States should play the role of a global savior.

“Obviously, the situation with the Yazidis was grave,” he tells The Progressive. “The U.N. secretary general asked all countries to use all their resources to help them: The various Kurdish fighters have been engaging with ISIS, including helping to take about ten thousand Yazidis across to Western Kurdistan in Syria. So it is not only the United States that has been operating here, although if you watch the news you would think that it is only the U.S. that can do anything—‘America is coming to help,” said Obama.”

Prashad also worries about the possibility of an open-ended intervention.

“The United States decided to bomb ISIS artillery,” he says. “This is not part of the humanitarian mission. It is something else.”

Iraqi-American Raed Jarrar shares Prashad’s concerns.

“Humanitarian assistance is much needed and welcomed, but it should go through legitimate U.N. and other international venues,” he writes in an op-ed for the Progressive Media Project. “As it stands, it is being used as a pretext to sneak in military strikes and more arms to some of Iraq’s fighting factions. Humanitarian interventionism might be an easy sell, but it’s a slippery slope as well. Now that the United States is back in Iraq, where do we draw the line?”

But Hashemi has little problem with the perhaps self-interested and expansive nature of the U.S. involvement.

“Interventions are always motivated by national interests,” he says. “For example, the United States did not intervene in WWII for humanitarian reasons, but one consequence of this intervention was that the Holocaust was brought to an end. The same applies for all the major interventions in the late twentieth century that stopped mass atrocities, such as India in East Pakistan, Tanzania in Uganda, Vietnam in Cambodia, and the Bosnia genocide.”

Stephen Zunes has followed these debates for a long time as a professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco, and he acknowledges that the Iraq intervention is “a tough one” for progressives. He says a case can be made for intervention in Iraq.

“The empirical data indicates that on average military intervention increases the violence in the short run,” he says. “This is primarily because the oppressors feel they have nothing to lose and take the gloves off completely, and the armed opposition feels no need to negotiate because they have foreign powers backing them. The data is less clear when there is genocidal kind of situation, where innocent noncombatants are being targeted when there are no major combat operations in the area.”

So, Zunes says, intervention could be justified in northern Iraq, but not in Syria. Similarly, Zunes says, intervention would have been defensible in Rwanda, but not in Libya.

Hashemi, who advocated for intervention also in Syria, lays out a list of criteria to decide on whether it is valid in a specific situation.

“What do organically connected and democratically minded grassroots leaders on the ground want from us?” he posits. “This should be the first question to ask when it comes to intervening to help oppressed peoples. Secondly, are there any nonviolent alternatives? Thirdly, what does international law allow?”

Zunes points out that ISIS’s rise owes much to the Bush Administration’s disastrous invasion of Iraq.

“If Washington had listened to those of us who said a U.S. invasion of Iraq would likely lead to the rise of extremist Salafi movements, we would not be in this situation,” Zunes says. “I have a hard time with those who supported illegal and unnecessary wars that create new tragic situations turning to pacifists and other war opponents and demand, ‘What do we do now?’ ”

Some traditional critics of U.S. policy are calling for even stronger American action.

“Barack Obama’s decision to order limited air strikes against Islamic State terrorists in Iraq must be the first salvo in a coordinated, long-term and broad campaign by a large, even if undeclared, coalition to attack and ultimately break this monstrous evil,” Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine writes in the U.A.E.-based National newspaper.

And The Guardian warily supports the United States.

“After all that has passed in recent years, hesitation about any kind of intervention in the Middle East is entirely understandable,” the paper editorializes. “But the desperate plight of the Iraqi minorities and the potentially very serious threat to the Kurds surely warrants a fundamental reconsideration.”

Former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald differs sharply from his ex-colleagues.

“The suffering in Iraq is real, as is the brutality of ISIS, and the desire to fix it is understandable,” he writes for The Intercept, where he is currently employed. “There may be some ideal world in which a superpower is both able and eager to bomb for humanitarian purposes. But that is not this world.”

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Comments

By definition, a PROGRESSIVE is ANTI-WAR. A LIBERAL is ANTI-WAR. A PROGRESSIVE or a LIBERAL in FAVOR OF ANY ACT OF WAR -- BOMBING IRAQ, ECONOMIC BLOCKADES ON IRAN OR RUSSIA, WHATEVER IS *** BY DEFINITION*** NOT A PROGRESSIVE OR A LIBERAL Such persons are Vichy Progressives. Quisling Progressives. Imperial Progressives. Vichy Liberals. Quisling Liberals. Imperial Liberals. ANTI WAR is ANTI WAR. PERIOD. You are either FER WAR or AGIN WAR. If you are FER WAR, THEN YOU ARE A GOLDMAN-SACHS/WALL STREET REPUBLICAN sometimes disguised as Vichy Democrats. Quisling Democrats. Or Imperial Democrats. Where are the George McGoverns, Frank Churches, Ralph Yarboroughs, Hubert Humphreys, Robert Kennedys, Alan Cranstons, Eugene McCarthys, Mark Hatfields, Father Drinans, Joseph Tydingses, Albert Gore Srs, Mike Mansfields, J. William Fulbrights, Allard Lowensteins, Abraham Ribicoffs, Ernest Gruenings, Burton K. Wheelers, Martin Luther Kings, Tom Haydens, Dr. Benjamin Spocks, Wayne Morses, George F. Kennans, Gaylord Nelsons, Walter Mondales, Charles Goodells, Lowell Weickers, Joe Clarks, Howard Metzenbaums..................Anybody? Anybody? Anybody? And the phony anti-war types like Gary Hart and John Kerry just lusted for power, office, wealth and fame and rode the anti-war movement and gullibles like me only to further their power tie agendas. Kerry is especially egregious. Summary: Anti-war is ANTI-WAR. Time for some so-called "progressives" and "liberals" and "Democrats" to get a conscience. I hear Wal-Mart has them on sale this weekend, freshly made by slave labor in Asia.
The preemptive war promoted by all those who that were part of The Project For The New American Century on their discontinued website are responsible for the present internecine disaster in the Middle East. I opposed war then for oil and Israel and despite my detestation for this everlasting killing, I oppose any further intervention in a culture our " leaders then and now" know nothing about.
When citizens of Tupelo, Mississippi asked for people to come and stand up against the KKK, I went, I guess I am not a "progressive. I have acted to stop terrorism, including that practiced by the United States of America and its allies. So, it would appear that I am not a liberal. I have done my best to stop the genocides carried out against the Hazara (at least two million dead), other minority groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as in the Congo ( about seven million dead in the Congo.) I believe that the United Nations should be stopping these acts, but, I am not naive. It will take the major powers. It will not take a village, it will take a planet. The US is still killing people although it is disguised so that people can deny it. China is killing ethic Uhgiars, and the infamous 'others',, the Russians are continuing to kill the real Caucasians (most of them Muslim, some of them Chechens...). We, the Americans, are directly responsible for more than 600,000 deaths and indirectly responsible for several million in Central Eurasia in the past decade and a half. What we have allowed our government to do, has been to commit crimes against humanity. We the people, are responsible for the deaths caused by our government, for the rise of the Salafi movement, for the cellphone related slayings of seven million people in the Congo River Basin since the late 1980s, and it has been our actions, coupled with those of our allies, that has allowed these terrible situations to be what they are now. We destroyed the nation that gave more non-military aid than any other to Africa[Libya]. I am sorry. I cannot say how ashamed I am that my fellow citizens do not seem to care, and refuse to take responsibility for the deeds of their nation. I do not have the spaced needed to go into detail. If the United States has finally come to see (even a tiny bit) that it has been used, both by its own rogue intelligence agencies, as well as by extremists from states such as Saudi Arabia, the other Gulf Sultanates, Pakistan and Israel, to name a few, I think we are obligated to help those who because of our actions, face further ethnic cleansing or genocide.I do not care what their motives are as long as they stop what they have unleashed. What kind of monsters are we? Yes, I am very,very tired. The world is such a dark ugly place. I do not see any nations that I feel I could praise. I was almost ready to stop writing. No more poems, no more essays, I have to admit, suicide has crossed my mind. Then two days ago, I got a letter from Fatima, a Hazara girl, who spent her youth hiding in a cave with her sister Kobra.(When I first me Kobra, she was still in primary school. She told me stories about her childhood. Of course I was affected. So when her sister writes me and tells me SHE understands how drained I feel, and then said, you don't know what affect you have. Please don't stop. I am both honored and humiliated. (AGAIN two million of her people are dead with another two and a half million at least, having become refugees.)Her family was very lucky. Many of her relatives died, but, her nuclear family got out. I wish you could know them. Both are now at university, the first girls in their family to do so, and Kobra also works for a n international refugee program. I guess that I am by your definition, neither a progressive and certainly(by yours and mine) not a liberal. My own people have both face genocide and fought it, both for ourselves and for others. This is what I expect of a nation to which my people fled. We did not come here for economic reasons. I have always had a conscience. I am a human being.
Okay let me get this right, we were against Bush's war, but we're for our guy's war because Obama is one of us. I'm reminded how we blasted Bush's endless trips to Crawford, and fund raising antics. But when our guy flies endlessly to Hollywood, and plays as much golf as Eisenhower, it's cool. When we blasted Bush about are his secret dealings under the Patriot Act, we find no fault with our guy's NSA spying. You know what, is it just possible that both these guys are the flip side of the same coin? I refuse to allow myself the luxury of Progressive hypocrisy over right-wing Fascism.

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He doesn't believe in it. But Mary Burke does, and she wants to raise it. So do most Badgers.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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