Skip to comments.A ‘catastrophe of epic proportions’
Posted on 03/16/2016 7:27:19 PM PDT by Elderberry
There is a powerful symbolism in the impending collapse of Iraqs Mosul dam. Built on the cheap by Saddam Hussein in the early 1980s, it holds back up to 2.9 trillion gallons, roughly twice as much as Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. We all know what happened when Hurricane Katrina breached the levees around Pontchartrains south shore in 2005.
No hurricane is needed to breach the Mosul dam. Built on a weak foundation of soluble gypsum, its stability has always depended on continuous grouting. In 2007 the US Army Corps of Engineers, alarmed by what they had found after the invasion of Iraq, carried out repairs. But since the withdrawal of American forces, the dam has deteriorated. For several weeks in 2014 it came under the control of the Islamic State. Fighting between ISIS and Kurdish Peshmerga forces is just one of the reasons the dam has fallen into disrepair. A contract with an Italian engineering company to overhaul the dam has only just been signed by the Iraqi government.
Not for nothing did US Army engineers call Mosul the most dangerous dam in the world. According to Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, a breach could send a 45-foot high wave down the River Tigris, killing between 500,000 and 1.5 million people. It would, Power said, be a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.
The irony is of course that a humanitarian catatrophe of epic proportions is already happening in neighboring Syria. According to the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the death toll in the countrys civil war now stands at 470,000. The war has driven 4.8 million refugees to flee Syria, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. And Syrians form only a part of the flood of displaced persons and migrants currently arriving in Europe by sea at a rate of roughly 100,000 a month. Last month around a third of asylum applicants in Germany were from Syria. 15 percent were from Iraq. 11 percent were from Afghanistan.
As secretary of state at the time of the invasion of Iraq, General Colin Powell famously warned If you broke it, you own it the Pottery Barn rule. Future historians will struggle to decide which was more disastrous: President George W. Bushs decision to break Iraq by sending the US military to overthrow Saddam Hussein, or his successors decision to call for the overthrow of the Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad, without willing the means, while at the same time withdrawing US forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Either way, this is where we are: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria are all broken. But President Obama doesnt want to own them.
The crucial point, symbolized by the Mosul dam, is that this could all get much, much worse.
This disaster cannot be blamed solely on Obama, of course. Yet there is something appalling about the way he now seeks to pass the buck to deny that he is any way to blame. In a fascinating article in this months Atlantic magazine, Jeffrey Goldberg reveals a president in denial about the consequences of his own sins of omission and commission. Everyone is to blame everyone but him.
At the top of the list of scapegoats are Americas traditional allies: not only Britain and France (Libyas descent in chaos was all their fault), but also Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Then comes the Washington foreign policy establishment and the US military, who are always trying to jam him into going to war. Next in line are the members of his own cabinet among them former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who urged him to intervene in Syria in 2012.
The president says he is very proud of his decision in 2013 not to follow through on his earlier threat to take military action if the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria. He seems not to understand that by asking President Putin to force Assad to get rid of the chemical weapons, he opened the door to Russian intervention in the Middle East, a region the Kremlin was effectively shut out of by Henry Kissinger in the early 1970s. Wondering why the death toll in Syria has leapt upwards in recent months? Step forward President Putin, whose air campaign against every anti-Assad force except ISIS has been a horror show.
The Mosul dam symbolizes the critical state of an entire region. Like a huge wall of water, barely held in check by a crumbling dam, the combined forces of Islamic extremism, vicious sectarianism, networked terrorism, and Arab-Iranian rivalry have yet to wreak all the havoc of which they are capable. But why worry? The president has stuck to his foreign policy doctrine: Dont do stupid sh--. As for ISIS, according to Goldberg, the president likens them to the Joker in the Batman movies.
Last weeks good news? Googles AlphaGo computer is ahead in its five-game tournament against Lee Se-Dol, the world champion of the ancient Chinese strategy game of Go.
Can someone please persuade AlphaGo to run for president?
Niall Ferguson is Laurence A Tisch professor of history at Harvard and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
Reading it twice, the author’s proposal is not clear. Does the author want the US to come in and kill everyone and then take over the maintenance of the dam?
Does the author say that Assad used chem weapons or needs to use them?
Does the author want the US and allies to take over the Middle East? How does one propose to fund that?
It is now too late anyway. Mr Obama is nearly out the door. Advancing further chaos is his only recourse.
They have been talking about this dam collapsing since 2004 when I first got to Iraq.
Not my circus.
Not my monkeys.
I have a hard time drumming up much sympathy for Muslims in the Middle East. I have tried, can’t do it.
I noticed the Muslim power structure in the Mid East gets no blame.
Maybe the British still have a Dambuster or two.
Let them deal with the Mosul dam. We have spilled enough blood and borrowed enough money - it’s only a matter of time before someone drives a VBIED onto it anyways.
The Corps of Engineers has a dam upstream from Dallas, TX where they have to patch up collapses and sandbag around water spouts on a regular basis. Perhaps they should be more concerned about Dallas than about Baghdad. http://interactives.dallasnews.com/2015/lewisville-dam/
The Corps isn’t particularly concerned. A 160 foot by 24 hole in the dam is just a routine maintenance issue.
Those dam busters were pretty clever. How long before ISIS brings it down?
Seems he’s merely observing that the Middle East is, short of extreme intervention & co-operation which won’t happen, ****ed.
I’m hoping someone has at least set up cameras reciting the dam 24/7.
Katrina wasn’t the cause of the levee breaches.
I am not lending any credibility to a report that uses Samantha Power as a source.
It’ll turn the desert into an oasis!
Another problem is that they can’t even slowly drain it because none of the sluice gates work.
Yes, I believe the Islamic live in the 5th century.
I value human life, even the life that hates mine, or my ideology, or even that I exist.
This doesn’t mean I’m willing to sacrifice my life for theirs, but I do not wish them vile things.
My God, yearns for their salvation every bit as much as he does mine.
I wish there was something that could be done about the absolute hatred they have for us, but I don’t see it forthcoming on a regular basis.
Perhaps that’s unfair. I’m sure there are many Islamic people who are willing to leave in peace with us. I also believe that they want sharia law, and other things that are not consistent with them blending into our society. It is consistent with our society blending into theirs.
It’s a fools game hoping things were different. They aren’t. They won’t be.
Leave the followers of Islam in their nations. Wish them well. Don’t wish evil upon them. They are evil enough to each other.
I am amazed that ISIS didn’t simply blow the dam.
Reportedly, the gates to release water are mechanically linked to synchronously move. One is hopelessly jammed and as all are linked, all are prevented from moving.
Low bid project???
Underwater demolition to remove the jammed gates might work, or take it all down.
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