Iraq: The ‘Humanitarian Catastrophe’ That Petered Out

I’m dating myself, but the recent hysteria over the alleged "humanitarian catastrophe" which absolutely required quick US military intervention in Iraq – accompanied by familiar cries of "Genocide!" and numbers as high as 100,000 potential victims – brings to mind Emily Litella. Played by Gilda Radner on "Saturday Night Live" in the 1970s – I told you I was dating myself – the hearing-challenged Emily would appear on SNL’s "newscasts" giving her usually strong opinions on matters large and small, to be invariably corrected by the news anchor who would say something like: "No Emily, he didn’t say genocide – he said insecticide!" To which she would invariably turn her face to the audience and say "Never mind …"

Even as the professional sob sisters of the War Party were demanding US military action to "save" the Yazidis – an obscure Iraqi religious sect whose historic home on Mount Sinjar, in Kurdistan, was ringed with ISIS jihadis – the Pentagon was saying: "Never mind …":

"Several thousand Yazidis remain on the mountain, a senior United States official said, but not the tens of thousands who originally were believed to be there. Some of the people who remain on Mount Sinjar indicated to American forces that they considered the mountain to be a place of refuge and a home, and did not want to leave, a second United States official said."

According to the Times, while national security advisor Benjamin Rhodes was telling reporters ground troops may be on the way, and the neocons and their "progressive" enablers were working themselves into a fit of frothy-mouthed self-righteousness, eagerly anticipating another world-saving crusade, a "secret team of Marines and Special Operations forces were already on the ground" assessing the scope of the alleged crisis. And what did the Yazidis tell them? "We want to stay put!"

The lovable Yazidis, it seems, aren’t as bad off as Kurdistan’s public relations propagandists over at Patton Boggs – and their media megaphones – were telling us. According to CNN:

"Once believed to be in the tens of thousands, the number of Yazidis in the mountains is "now in the low thousands," Brett McGurk, a deputy assistant secretary of state, told CNN on Wednesday."

Never mind

The yelps of disappointment could be heard all the way from Erbil. As the Times put it, "The speed with which the Obama administration announced that the siege had been broken may cause some consternation overseas."

You bet. Within hours the Kurds were complaining of abandonment, a theme we’re likely to hear more of in the near future: the Kurdish governor of Dahuk province sounded disappointed as he averred he’d been told to expect at least 15,000 Yazidis to be airlifted from Mount Singar.

So where’s my humanitarian catastrophe, dude? Apparently nowhere to be seen.

Oh, but there are "thousands" still up on Mount Bullshit, the "sick and elderly," we’re told – they must’ve been playing hide-and-seek when our Special Forces dropped in to check up on them. And just to cover all possible bases, now the Kurds and their neocon allies have come up with a new story: there’s another mountain, this time in Lebanon, which "jihadists" have surrounded and where thousands of victims of a potential "genocide" are sadly awaiting a horrible fate. Send in the Marines!

The truth or falsehood of these stories no longer seems to matter, however. As Rachel Maddow pointed out in her Wednesday night broadcast, this is turning into one of the fastest escalations of a military conflict in recent memory: from "no intervention" to "no troops on the ground" to "the Yanks are coming," the escalator didn’t take long to get very close to the top floor.

The same tiresome scenario has been playing out for years all over the world: in the 1990s it was the Kosovars, whose condition was hardly enviable, but who – as it turned out – were just as guilty as their Serbian overlords in murdering, raping, and looting once they’d gotten the upper hand. (And no one has ever accused the Serbs of organ-trafficking, an accusation leveled against the top leadership of Kosovo that has much grisly evidence to back it up.)

Then it was the Libyans’ turn, who told us the evil Gaddafi was about to commit "genocide" in Benghazi, where 100,000-plus victims were about to be massacred – unless we joined the battle on the rebels’ side.

Soon after that fiasco, it was the Syrian rebels’ turn: we were told Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, on the brink of winning his war against local jihadis affiliated with al-Qaeda, had inexplicably decided to use "poison gas." This narrative was supposed to conjure images of Saddam Hussein gassing the Kurds in the 1990s (with gas supplied by his US allies). There was just one problem with this allegation: it wasn’t true. Indeed, from the discernible evidence – as cited by UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte and US journalist Seymour Hersh – it was likely the rebels were themselves the culprits.

Now the Kurdish Yazidis, who gained world fame on account of the War Party’s cock-and-bull story, have had their turn as the stars in yet another "humanitarian catastrophe" drama – one which turned out, like all the others, to be as phony as the altruistic motives of Bill Kristol and his fellow neocons.

It’s a game with a long pedigree, one that stretches all the way back to World War I when British propagandists spread the story that German soldiers were bayoneting Belgian babies. Indeed, images of children suffering at the hands of the Hated Enemy play a central role in this genre: it’s a form of child pornography modified to suit the purposes of the war propagandist. You’ll recall that a major impetus for the first Gulf war was a congressional hearing presided over by the late Rep. Tom Lantos featuring testimony by a tearful Kuwaiti woman who claimed she had personally witnessed Iraqi soldiers overturning incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital, as tots were trampled underfoot by rampaging invaders. The woman turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador, her story a total fabrication.

But it was too late to stop the momentum of the War Party, which had already mobilized the political class behind their ersatz crusade for moral righteousness. The truth didn’t come out until later – and by that time US soldiers were already in Iraq, writing the first chapter in the story of the biggest blunder in American military history.

The same method is being used today to drag us back into Iraq: less than 24 hours after the "no boots on the ground" pledge by the administration was uttered US officials were already telling us "Well, maybe we’ll have boots on the ground." And this morning [Thursday], we hear that US troops are on their way back to Anbar province:

"Governor Dulaimi said in a telephone interview: ‘Our first goal is the air support. Their technology capability will offer a lot of intelligence information and monitoring of the desert and many things which we are in need of. No date was decided but it will be very soon and there will be a presence for the Americans in the western area.’"

As I said when this latest faux "crisis" broke out, this was never about the Yazidis. The United States is trying to salvage what it can from the ruins of Iraq, and it is doing so in order to 1) establish an independent Kurdish state, 2) appease the Israelis, who have a longstanding alliance with Erbil, and 3) satisfy the demands of the War Party here at home, which is ideologically committed to justifying a war that should never have been fought in the first place.

So we’re on our way back to Fallujah, of all places, scene of our greatest atrocities against the civilian population of Iraq and also of the vaunted "surge," which the War Party considers its finest hour. And all brought to you by a President who campaigned on his promise to get us out of that hellhole – and who has ceaselessly touted his alleged success in bringing that shameful chapter in our history to a close.

It’s been over 60 days since the Obama administration first notified Congress of the President’s intent to send troops back into Iraq – past the deadline set by the War Powers Act that is supposed to trigger either a vote in Congress or withdrawal. Where is Congress? On vacation – not only from their jobs, but from reality.

How about giving them a call to remind them of their constitutional duty?

And while I’m making requests of my readers: if you’ve visited the front page of, you’ll know we’re in the midst of our summer fundraising campaign – and do I really have to hector you to send in a little moolah? Do I actually have to spend a couple hundred words detailing why it is absolutely necessary for to continue to exist? Or is the foregoing sufficient to convince you?

If it isn’t sufficient, then I don’t know what would convince you. Perhaps the beginning of World War III – although I think the start of Iraq War III should be quite enough.

Please: make your tax-deductible contribution to today – because tomorrow may be too late.


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I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].