EPA Victory or Defeat? History and Policy in Iraq

View 830 Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Christians to Beirut. Alawites to the grave.

Syrian Freedom Fighters


“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


“Today, I can announce that our review is complete, and that the United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility.

This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant.

[W]e will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe haven to terrorists.”

“We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq.

Barrack Obama
December 14, 2011
Fort Bragg, North Carolina




I subscribe to several newspapers, and I read most of them at the breakfast table. Today I was amused to see the difference in headlines on the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. The Times proclaimed:

Justices give EPA a win on emissions

Supreme Court upholds rules curbing greenhouse gases from power plants

David G. Savage

The Obama administration’s drive to regulate global-warming gases won a surprising victory in the Supreme Court on Monday with the support of two conservative justices.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Antonin Scalia joined the court’s moderates and liberals in a 7-2 vote to uphold most of an Environmental Protection Agency rule that requires new or rebuilt factories and power plants to use the “best available technology” to limit their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Because these “major polluters” are already required to obtain clean-air permits from the government, the EPA is justified in adding greenhouse gases to the list of restricted pollutants, Scalia wrote for the court.


All of which is fairly depressing. Then I turned to the Wall Street Journal. There was nothing about the decision on the front page. Nothing. That was a bit startling. Then I turned to the editorial page:

A Constitutional Tutorial for Obama

The President doesn’t possess ‘an unheralded power’ to rewrite laws.

The Obama Administration’s abuse of executive power is emerging as this Supreme Court term’s defining theme, and on Monday the Justices applied some basic constitutional law to the White House’s anticarbon agenda.

In Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the Justices feed several major climate regulations into the wood chipper. "When an agency claims to discover in a long-extant statute an unheralded power to regulate a significant portion of the American economy," the majority observes, "we typically greet its announcement with a measure of skepticism."

The ruling amounts to an overdue correction to Massachusetts v. EPA, the 5-4 ruling in 2007 that held greenhouse gases can be "pollutants" under clean air laws that were written decades before the carbon panic. That decision wrongly rewrote the Clean Air Act, but it was also always narrower than liberals made it out to be and never the license for policy rewrites that became the EPA’s interpretation.


Which should give you a clear idea of the quality of American main stream journalism.

The fact that Scalia wrote the opinion ought to be a clue that it would not be quite so pleasing to President Obama as the Times seems to think.

The Court, as is its usual practice, decided rather narrowly, and some of the key laws implementing Cap and Trade were not involved in this case; narrowly the EPA has been given a power, but as the Journal concludes:

The Court did still preserve 7-2 the Mass. v. EPA prerogative to regulate carbon in other contexts, such as requiring new or substantially modified power sources to install "best available control technology." But the ruling says this authority is not "unbounded," which suggests the Court is warning EPA to tread carefully when exercising "extravagant statutory power over the national economy."

That could include the rules for existing power sources that the EPA rolled out earlier this month. They are grounded in an obscure catch-all clause of the Clean Air Act that wasn’t before the Court in Monday’s case. Section 111(d) runs only a few hundred words, yet the EPA is claiming unprecedented authority to command the states to create cap-and-tax programs or otherwise ration energy use. A less willful Administration would heed this warning and restrain its ambitions, but this one refuses, so the High Court will have to keep issuing Constitution 101 tutorials.

In any other Administration, such a Supreme Court smackdown on so important a regulation would also invite more media scrutiny of executive overreach. When the 2008 Boumediene decision gave terrorists the right to make habeas corpus challenges to their detention, the story was that the High Court was reining in a power-mad President.

Mr. Obama’s regulatory abuses are far more corrosive to the Constitution than anything George W. Bush did on war powers, but the press corps has barely noticed. Maybe it will start now that the Supreme Court is calling out President Obama’s lawbreaking.

I would be inclined to accept the WSJ interpretation. Of course the Attorney General and the Democrats in general will have the Times view.




As clear and concise timeline and evaluation of the ISIS and Iraq as I have seen; and as accurate as known.

David Couvillon

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work

For those interested in this situation this is just what Colonel Couvillon says it is: but do understand that ‘concise’ is a relative word. This would not have been considered lengthy when I was in graduate school, but in these days of the Internet and half page summaries of centuries and millennia, it is long enough indeed.

An example is this summary of the present dilemma facing the corrupt and semi-competent Iraqi regime:

There have been growing calls in Iraq for the government to build the kind of oil-fueled welfare state that exists next door in Saudi Arabia. But Iraq has more people and pumps less oil than Saudi Arabia, so there is more incentive for Iraqis to take any job and hustle in a way that Saudis have not had to for generations. But that’s not enough. Iraq has a more effective education system than Saudi Arabia but Iraqis with skills tend to flee the country because of the corruption and high crime rate. Not enough educated Iraqis, who occupy most of the management jobs, are willing or able to address the damage done by rampant corruption. Too many people are willing to gut an essential logistical or maintenance task in order to steal some money meant to get important things (like national defense) done. This is especially true in the government bureaucracies, and that includes the military. Some Iraqis understand how this works and want it changed but the officials in power are more interested in stealing. There’s a popular realization that the corruption is a key problem but so far there have not been enough senior government leaders willing to risk assassination and personal financial loss to move decisively against the problem. This corruption has a direct impact on the growing of Islamic terrorist violence because the stealing cripples the security forces by leaving the soldiers and police unpaid and unsupplied.  If the Shia do not get organized they will see the better organized (even when it comes to corruption) Sunni minority once again be in control and the Shia will again be poor and living in fear of Sunni retribution for real or imagined misbehavior.

The report continues:

The U.S. has told the Iraqi leaders that if they do not take effective action to deal with the Sunni Islamic terrorists the U.S. will do so and that will be at the expense of the Iraqi politicians who created the current mess. One unpleasant side effect of all this is that the U.S. is now under pressure to attack ISIL in Syria as well. While this could be construed as aiding the Assad government it isn’t because ISIL has been openly fighting other rebel groups in Syria since January. Everyone hates ISIL.

This places more belief in the determination of the current President than I have: in my judgment President Obama wants out of Iraq, and since whatever he does will leave behind a mess that can be blamed on President Bush, there is no need for the US to carry out any real attempt to reform Iraq. Any actual reform is unlikely to succeed, there is a good chance that replacing Maliki will bring up someone worse, and that can be blamed on President Obama, not President Bush.

ISIL has taken Mosul, but so far has not strictly enforced Sharia in this key city, but there will be considerable pressure from the ISIS leadership to do so. Mosul is of crucial importance to the viability of any Sunni state in Mesopotamia. ISIS control of Mosul is not certain: the Kurds want the city and its oil refineries, and have a reasonable claim to it; but then there are Arab non-ISIS Sunni who have an even older claim to the city and its oil. It is possible that the non-Arab Kurds, nominally Sunni (“Compared to infidels, Kurds are Moslem”), can come to some compromise division of the oil revenues of the city, but that would require agreements entered from reason and not passion: something not very common in the area.

One must never forget that Jordan has a high stake in the outcome of these civil wars. In 1958 when Faisal II (Hashemite cousin of Hussein of Jordan) was still King of Iraq, there was a short lived attempt to federate the two monarchies as the United Arab Kingdom; this in answer to Nasser’s short lived federation of Egypt and Syria as the United Arab Republic. The Hashemites were the legitimate Protectors of Mecca from classical times down to the British conquest of the area in World War I. The British eventually were influential in giving the Arabian peninsula as a partly united area to Ibn Saud, displacing the Hashemites from their position of Sharif of Mecca that stemmed from the times of the Prophet. The Hashemites were compensated with the Kingdoms of Jordan and Iraq. There are clan and family ties between members of the Sunni ruling class in Jordan and their counterparts in Iraq.

In the time of Richard Lionheart the Moslem world was divided into factions and engaged in civil wars to the benefit of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Crusader Kingdom with its outlying fortresses looked to be stable. Then Saladin the Kurd united the Kurds, and with the aid of his (Aryan, no Arab) Kurds united the warring Arab factions against the invaders. Jerusalem was retaken by the Arabs. Of course European intervention in the Middle East, and particularly into Mesopotamia, was much more difficult in those times; but it remains expensive. Our intervention into Iraq might have turned a profit had the goal been conquest and levying tribute in the form of oil on Baghdad; but we had more noble ambitions.

I quoted this before the Bush I invasion, as well as after 9/11 :

John Quincy Adams on American Policy:

Whenever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

Fourth of July, 1821

If we intend to abandon this principle it is important that we understand the consequences, and also the requirements. It will not be cheap – and it will require that we learn the principles of rule without the consent of the governed. That has historically been a skill that Republics have regretted allowing their Legions to learn.







Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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