Iraq Withdrawal? Don’t Take it to the Bank August 17, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: al-Maliki, charles davis, Iraq, iraq bases, Iraq oil, Iraq war, Iraq withdrawal, lockheed martin, maliki, medea benjamin, Moqtada al-Sadr, Nouri al-Maliki, obama promise, roger hollander, SOFA, troop withdrawal
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// ]]>Roger’s note: If you believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, then feel free to go ahead and believe in Obama’s promise to bring all US troops home from Iraq by the end of the year. After all the investment in the largest embassy in the history of the world, a slew of military bases, and all that OIL, there is no way that the Pentagon will allow their puppet Obama to keep that promise. And for Obama, what is one more broken election promise? And don’t forget that a US pull out from Iraq will cause massive unemployment for all those poor Halliburton and other mercenary contractors.
Since coming to Washington, Barack Obama has won a Nobel Prize for Peace, but he hasn’t been much of a peacemaker. Instead, he has doubled down on his predecessor’s wars while launching blatantly illegal ones of his own. But, as his supporters would be quick to point out, at least he’s standing by his pledge to bring the troops home from Iraq.
That’s certainly what America’s latest war president has been saying. Speaking to supporters this month, he was unequivocal . “If somebody asks about the war [in Iraq] . . . you have a pretty simple answer, which is all our folks are going to be out of there by the end of the year.”
Obama’s statement was a welcome reaffirmation of what he promised on the campaign trail. “If we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the first thing I will do,” he thundered in the fall of 2007. “I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.”
But don’t count on cashing that check. The Washington Post brings the unsurprising news that Iraqi leaders have agreed to begin talks with the U.S. on allowing the foreign military occupation of their country to continue beyond this year — re-branded, naturally, as a mission of “training” and “support.” The move comes after an increasingly public campaign by top White House and military officials to pressure Iraqi leaders into tearing up the Status of Forces Agreement they signed with the Bush administration, which mandates the removal of all foreign troops by the end of 2011.
As with any relationship, saying goodbye is always the hardest part for an empire. The U.S. political establishment has long desired a foothold in the Middle East from which it could exert influence over the trade of the region’s natural resources. Remember, Iraq has lots of oil, as those who launched the invasion of the country in 2003 were all too aware . They aren’t too keen on giving that up.
And as is to be expected when one maintains the most powerful — and expensive — military in world history, there are strong institutional pressures within the Pentagon for maintaining the status quo. Peace may be good for children and other living things, but it’s boring for generals — especially politically ambitious ones — and bad for bomb manufacturers.
The longer U.S. troops stay in Iraq and ensure that country’s fidelity to U.S. policy, the more weapons the Iraqi government will buy from American companies. Indeed, Prime Minister Maliki just announced that Iraq would buy 38 F-16 fighters, taking billions of dollars away from food and shelter for poor Iraqis while boosting Lockheed Martin’s war chest. Add in the fact that Iraq is situated right next to Iran, the one oil-rich country in the region opposed to U.S. hegemony, and you’ve got a good recipe for indefinite occupation.
Of course, if Obama was as committed to withdrawing “all troops from Iraq” as he claims, all he would need to do is stick by the Bush-era agreement for troops to leave by December 31. Doing so would not only provide him cover from claims he is surrendering to the terrorists — hey, a Republican negotiated the deal — but it would fulfill a key campaign pledge and help soothe liberal anger over his escalation of Afghanistan and his illegal war in Libya.
Obama has no plans for a full withdrawal, though, as his hand-picked appointees make clear. You can almost hear him thinking: What are liberals going to do, vote Republican?
Echoing the top military brass, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates first noted earlier this year supposed Iraqi “interest in having a continuing presence” in Iraq. His successor, Leon Panetta, then told senators during his June confirmation hearing that he had “every confidence” the Iraqi government would ask for such a U.S. presence beyond 2011.
Like clockwork, Iraqi leaders are set to ask for just that, with The Washington Post reporting that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his allies have decided any request to extend the U.S. occupation will “not require signing a new accord.” That means no messy parliamentary battles or referendums, where the popular anti-American sentiment would surface.
The Obama administration is prepared to keep about 10,000 troops in Iraq, and their “non-combat” tasks could include training, air defense, intelligence, reconnaissance and joint counter-terrorism missions. These are the same sort of operations that have left at least 56 U.S. soldiers dead since Obama announced the end of U.S. combat operations last August.
One thing is certain: U.S. officials who once claimed to be bringing democracy to Iraq couldn’t be more thrilled at the subversion of it. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, alluded to that in a comment remarking on the Iraqis’ recent decision to open talks with the U.S. on an extended, rebranded occupation. “There are some very difficult political challenges, internal challenges associated with reaching this decision,” he noted, said “challenges” being the fact that the people the occupation is ostensibly being extended to protect don’t actually want the “protection” the U.S. government is offering.
Mullen added that a final agreement must include “guarantees of legal immunity for American forces.” Obviously, we wouldn’t want any ungrateful Iraqis to prosecute U.S. soldiers if they kill civilians while engaging in “non-combat” duties.
Here at home, opinion polls have for years shown that two-thirds of Americans oppose the war in Iraq. Opposition to a continued presence has also been building in Congress, always the most lagging indicator. On July 22, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and 94 other representatives sent a letter to President Obama urging him to bring all U.S. troops and military contractors home by the end of this year and she is introducing a bill that would cut off funding.
As for the Iraqi opinion, anti-U.S. cleric and politician Moqtada al-Sadr put out a statement on August 3 saying that any foreign solider remaining in his country after 2011 would “be treated as an unjust invader and should be opposed with military resistance.” We’ll mark him down as a “no thanks.” According to Al-Iraqiya TV, meanwhile, 2.5 million of al-Sadr’s compatriot s have signed a petition calling for U.S. troops to get out.
“We want them to leave, even before the end of this year,” Youseff Ahmad, a tribal sheik from the Iraqi town of Al Rufait, recently told one reporter . “They’ve destroyed us. They’ve only brought killing and disaster.” Ahmad spoke after having just witnessed U.S. troops’ “training” and “support” mission in action, the consequence of which was “a shootout involving bullets, grenades and American Apache helicopters that left the tribal Sheik and two others dead, and several wounded, including two young girls.”
Even top members of the Iraqi government are saying no thanks, even if their more powerful colleagues are toeing the U.S. line. On Sunday, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi said that a continued American military presence in Iraq would be “a problem, not a solution,” adding that training could be done by other countries at a cheaper price.
American officials acknowledge that al-Hashemi is speaking for the bulk of his fellow countrymen, with U.S. diplomats telling The New York Times that their own polling shows a “majority of Iraqis have a negative view of the American role in Iraq.”
No wonder Nouri al-Maliki and his thuggish cronies, fearful their power to torture and suppress political opponents will evaporate without U.S. support, aren’t willing to let average Iraqis have a say in their country’s future. The question is: will Americans, who support a complete withdrawal and want to bring the war dollars home , ever get a say in the future of their country? Tell President Obama to stick to his promises and bring the troops home.
The Iraq Withdrawal: Obama vs. the Pentagon February 25, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Iraq, Iraq occupation, Iraq war, Iraq withdrawal, Pentagon, president obama, raed jarrer, roger hollander
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This Monday, Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, asked officials in DC to approve contingency plans to delay the withdrawal of US combat forces. The next day, the New York times published an op-ed asking president Obama to delay the US withdrawal and keep some tens of thousands of troops in Iraq indefinitely. Both the Pentagon and NY times article argue that prolonging the occupation is for Iraq’s own good. According to these latest attempts to prolong the occupation, if the US were to leave Iraqis alone the sky would fall, a genocidal civil war will erupt, and Iran will takeover their nation and rip it apart.
Excuses to prolong the military intervention in Iraq have been changing since 1990. Whether is was liberating Kuwait, protecting the region from Iraq, protecting the world from Iraq’s WMDs, punishing Iraq for its role in the 9/11 attacks, finding Saddam Hussien and his sons, fighting the Baathists and Al-Qaeda, or the other dozens of stories the U.S. government never ran out of reasons to justify a continuous intervention in Iraq. Under President Bush, the withdrawal plan was linked to conditions on the ground, and had no fixed deadlines. Bush only promise what that “as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down”. But Iraqis never managed to stand up, and the US never had to stand down.
Obama came with a completely different doctrine that thankfully makes prolonging the occupation harder than just making up a new lame excuse. He has promised on the campaign trail to withdraw all combat troops by August 31st of this year bringing the total number of US troops down to less than 50,000. Obama has also announced repeatedly that he will abide by the binding bi-lateral agreement between the two governments that requires all the US troops and contractors to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 without leaving any military bases behind. Both these promises are time-based, and not linked to the conditions on the ground. In addition, President Obama announced last week his intention to call an end to Operation Iraqi Freedom by August 31st, and to start the new non-combat mission as of September 1st this. The new mission, renamed “Operation New Dawn”, should end by December 31st 2011 with the last US soldier and contractor out of Iraq.
Conditions on the ground in Iraq are horrible. After seven years under the US occupation, Iraqis are still without water, electricity, education, or health care. Iran’s intervention and control of the Iraqi government stays at unprecedented levels. Iraq’s armed forces are still infiltrated by the militias and controlled by political parties. But so far, the Obama administration has not attempted to use any of these facts as a reason to change the combat forces withdrawal plan, or to ask the Iraqi government to renegotiate the bi-lateral security agreement. This week’s calls to prolong the occupation are surprising because they expose a conflict between the Pentagon on the one hand and the White House and Congress on the other hand. In fact, the executive and legislative branches in both the US and Iraq seem to be in agreement about implementing the time-based withdrawal, but the Pentagon is disagreeing with them all.
Obama should not forget that he is the Commander-in-Chief, and should stand up to the Pentagon. Iraq is broken, but the US military occupation is not a part of the solution. We cannot fix what the military occupation has damaged by prolonging it, neither can we help Iraqis build a democratic system by occupying them. We cannot protect Iraqis from other interventions by continuing our own. The first step in helping Iraqis work for a better future is sticking to the time-based withdrawal plan that Obama has promised and the two governments have agreed upon. President Obama should send a clear message to the Iraqi people to confirm that he is going to fulfill his promises and abide by the binding security agreement with Iraq, and this message must also be clear to the American people in this pivotal elections year.
Colonizing Iraq: The Obama Doctrine? July 9, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tags: al-Maliki, colonialism, general odierno, halliburton, imperialism, Iraq, iraq bases, iraq colonialism, iraq combat troops, iraq contractors, iraq economy, iraq embassy, iraq green zone, Iraq mercenaries, iraq military, iraq military bases, Iraq Obama, Iraq occupation, Iraq oil, iraq oil revenues, iraq reconstruction, Iraq sovereignty, Iraq war, Iraq withdrawal, iraqi government, krb, malika, michael schwartz, obama doctrine, roger hollander, saddam hussein, SOFA, U.S. imperialism, U.S. troops in Iraq
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“Much of the complicated work of dismantling and removing millions of dollars of equipment from the combat outposts in the city has been done during the dark of night. Gen. Ray Odierno, the overall American commander in Iraq, has ordered that an increasing number of basic operations — transport and re-supply convoys, for example — take place at night, when fewer Iraqis are likely to see that the American withdrawal is not total.”
Acting in the dark of night, in fact, seems to catch the nature of American plans for Iraq in a particularly striking way. Last week, despite the death of Michael Jackson, Iraq made it back into the TV news as Iraqis celebrated a highly publicized American military withdrawal from their cities. Fireworks went off; some Iraqis gathered to dance and cheer; the first military parade since Saddam Hussein’s day took place (in the fortified Green Zone, the country’s ordinary streets still being too dangerous for such things); the U.S. handed back many small bases and outposts; and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki proclaimed a national holiday — “sovereignty day,” he called it.
All of this fit with a script promisingly laid out by President Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign. More recently, in his much praised speech to the students of Egypt’s Cairo University, he promised that the U.S. would keep no bases in Iraq, and would indeed withdraw its military forces from the country by the end of 2011.
Unfortunately, not just for the Iraqis, but for the American public, it’s what’s happening in “the dark” — beyond the glare of lights and TV cameras — that counts. While many critics of the Iraq War have been willing to cut the Obama administration some slack as its foreign policy team and the U.S. military gear up for that definitive withdrawal, something else — something more unsettling — appears to be going on.
And it wasn’t just the president’s hedging over withdrawing American “combat” troops from Iraq – which, in any case, make up as few as one-third of the 130,000 U.S. forces still in the country — now extended from 16 to 19 months. Nor was it the re-labeling of some of them as “advisors” so they could, in fact, stay in the vacated cities, or the redrawing of the boundary lines of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to exclude a couple of key bases the Americans weren’t about to give up.
After all, there can be no question that the Obama administration’s policy is indeed to reduce what the Pentagon might call the U.S. military “footprint” in Iraq. To put it another way, Obama’s key officials seem to be opting not for blunt-edged, Bush-style militarism, but for what might be thought of as an administrative push in Iraq, what Vice President Joe Biden has called “a much more aggressive program vis-à-vis the Iraqi government to push it to political reconciliation.”
An anonymous senior State Department official described this new “dark of night” policy recently to Christian Science Monitor reporter Jane Arraf this way: “One of the challenges of that new relationship is how the U.S. can continue to wield influence on key decisions without being seen to do so.”
Without being seen to do so. On this General Odierno and the unnamed official are in agreement. And so, it seems, is Washington. As a result, the crucial thing you can say about the Obama administration’s military and civilian planning so far is this: ignore the headlines, the fireworks, and the briefly cheering crowds of Iraqis on your TV screen. Put all that talk of withdrawal aside for a moment and — if you take a closer look, letting your eyes adjust to the darkness — what is vaguely visible is the silhouette of a new American posture in Iraq. Think of it as the Obama Doctrine. And what it doesn’t look like is the posture of an occupying power preparing to close up shop and head for home.
As your eyes grow accustomed to the darkness, you begin to identify a deepening effort to ensure that Iraq remains a U.S. client state, or, as General Odierno described it to the press on June 30th, “a long-term partner with the United States in the Middle East.” Whether Obama’s national security team can succeed in this is certainly an open question, but, on a first hard look, what seems to be coming into focus shouldn’t be too unfamiliar to students of history. Once upon a time, it used to have a name: colonialism.
Colonialism in Iraq
Traditional colonialism was characterized by three features: ultimate decision-making rested with the occupying power instead of the indigenous client government; the personnel of the colonial administration were governed by different laws and institutions than the colonial population; and the local political economy was shaped to serve the interests of the occupying power. All the features of classic colonialism took shape in the Bush years in Iraq and are now, as far as we can tell, being continued, in some cases even strengthened, in the early months of the Obama era.
The U.S. embassy in Iraq, built by the Bush administration to the tune of $740 million, is by far the largest in the world. It is now populated by more than 1,000 administrators, technicians, and professionals — diplomatic, military, intelligence, and otherwise — though all are regularly, if euphemistically, referred to as “diplomats” in official statements and in the media. This level of staffing — 1,000 administrators for a country of perhaps 30 million — is well above the classic norm for imperial control. Back in the early twentieth century, for instance, Great Britain utilized fewer officials to rule a population of 300 million in its Indian Raj.
Such a concentration of foreign officialdom in such a gigantic regional command center — and no downsizing or withdrawals are yet apparent there — certainly signals Washington’s larger imperial design: to have sufficient administrative labor power on hand to ensure that American advisors remain significantly embedded in Iraqi political decision-making, in its military, and in the key ministries of its (oil-dominated) economy.
From the first moments of the occupation of Iraq, U.S. officials have been sitting in the offices of Iraqi politicians and bureaucrats, providing guidelines, training decision-makers, and brokering domestic disputes. As a consequence, Americans have been involved, directly or indirectly, in virtually all significant government decision-making.
In a recent article, for example, the New York Times reported that U.S. officials are “quietly lobbying” to cancel a mandated nationwide referendum on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated between the United States and Iraq — a referendum that, if defeated, would at least theoretically force the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country. In another article, the Times reported that embassy officials have “sometimes stepped in to broker peace between warring blocs” in the Iraqi Parliament. In yet another, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes mentioned in passing that an embassy official “advises Iraqis running the $100 million airport” just completed in Najaf. And so it goes.
Most colonial regimes erect systems in which foreigners involved in occupation duties are served (and disciplined) by an institutional structure separate from the one that governs the indigenous population. In Iraq, the U.S. has been building such a structure since 2003, and the Obama administration shows every sign of extending it.
As in all embassies around the world, U.S. embassy officials are not subject to the laws of the host country. The difference is that, in Iraq, they are not simply stamping visas and the like, but engaged in crucial projects involving them in myriad aspects of daily life and governance, although as an essentially separate caste within Iraqi society. Military personnel are part of this segregated structure: the recently signed SOFA insures that American soldiers will remain virtually untouchable by Iraqi law, even if they kill innocent civilians.
Versions of this immunity extend to everyone associated with the occupation. Private security, construction, and commercial contractors employed by occupation forces are not protected by the SOFA agreement, but are nonetheless shielded from the laws and regulations that apply to normal Iraqi residents. As an Iraq-based FBI official told the New York Times, the obligations of contractors are defined by “new arrangements between Iraq and the United States governing contractors’ legal status.” In a recent case in which five employees of one U.S. contractor were charged with killing another contractor, the case was jointly investigated by Iraqi police and “local representatives of the FBI,” with ultimate jurisdiction negotiated by Iraqi and U.S. embassy officials. The FBI has established a substantial presence in Iraq to carry out these “new arrangements.”
This special handling extends to enterprises servicing the billions of dollars spent every month in Iraq on U.S. contracts. A contractor’s prime responsibility is to follow “guidelines the U.S. military handed down in 2006.” In all this, Iraqi law has a distinctly secondary role. In one apparently typical case, a Kuwaiti contractor hired to feed U.S. soldiers was accused of imprisoning its foreign workers and then, when they protested, sending them home without pay. This case was handled by U.S. officials, not the Iraqi government.
Beyond this legal segregation, the U.S. has also been erecting a segregated infrastructure within Iraq. Most embassies and military bases around the world rely on the host country for food, electricity, water, communications, and daily supplies. Not the U.S. embassy or the five major bases that are at the heart of the American military presence in that country. They all have their own electrical generating and water purification systems, their own dedicated communications, and imported food from outside the country. None, naturally, offer indigenous Iraqi cuisine; the embassy imports ingredients suitable for reasonably upscale American restaurants, and the military bases feature American fast food and chain restaurant fare.
The United States has even created the rudiments of its own transportation system. Iraqis often are delayed when traveling within or between cities, thanks to an occupation-created (and now often Iraqi-manned) maze of checkpoints, cement barriers, and bombed-out streets and roads; on the other hand, U.S. soldiers and officials in certain areas can move around more quickly, thanks to special privileges and segregated facilities.
In the early years of the occupation, large military convoys transporting supplies or soldiers simply took temporary possession of Iraqi highways and streets. Iraqis who didn’t quickly get out of the way were threatened with lethal firepower. To negotiate sometimes hours-long lines at checkpoints, Americans were given special ID cards that “guaranteed swift passage… in a separate lane past waiting Iraqis.” Though the guaranteed “swift passage” was supposed to end with the signing of the SOFA, the system is still operating at many checkpoints, and convoys continue to roar through Iraqi communities with “Iraqi drivers still pulling over en masse.”
Recently, the occupation has also been appropriating various streets and roads for its exclusive use (an idea that may have been borrowed from Israel’s 40-year-old occupation of the West Bank). This innovation has made unconvoyed transportation safer for embassy officials, contractors, and military personnel, while degrading further the Iraqi road system, already in a state of disrepair, by closing useable thoroughfares. Paradoxically, it has also allowed insurgents to plant roadside bombs with the assurance of targeting only foreigners. Such an incident outside Falluja illustrates what have now become Obama-era policies in Iraq:
“The Americans were driving along a road used exclusively by the American military and reconstruction teams when a bomb, which local Iraqi security officials described as an improvised explosive device, went off. No Iraqi vehicles, even those of the army and the police, are allowed to use the road where the attack occurred, according to residents. There is a checkpoint only 200 yards from the site of the attack to prevent unauthorized vehicles, the residents said.”
It is unclear whether this road will be handed back to the Iraqis, if and when the base it services is shuttered. Either way, the larger policy appears to be well established — the designation of segregated roads to accommodate the 1,000 diplomats and tens of thousands of soldiers and contractors who implement their policies. And this is only one aspect of a dedicated infrastructure designed to facilitate ongoing U.S. involvement in developing, implementing, and administering political-economic policies in Iraq.
Whose Military Is It?
One way to “free up” the American military for withdrawal would, of course, be if the Iraqi military could manage the pacification mission alone. But don’t expect that any time soon. According to media reports, if all goes well, this isn’t likely to occur for at least a decade. One telltale sign of this is the pervasive presence of American military advisors still embedded in Iraqi combat units. First Lt. Matthew Liebal, for example, “sits every day beside Lt. Col Mohammed Hadi,” the commander of the Iraqi 43rd Army Brigade that patrols eastern Baghdad.
When it comes to the Iraqi military, this sort of supervision won’t be temporary. After all, the military the U.S. helped create in Iraq still lacks, among other things, significant logistical capability, heavy artillery, and an air force. Consequently, U.S. forces transport and re-supply Iraqi troops, position and fire high-caliber ordnance, and supply air support when needed. Since the U.S. military is unwilling to allow Iraqi officers to command American soldiers, they obviously can’t make decisions about firing artillery, launching and directing U.S. Air Force planes, or sending U.S. logistical personnel into war zones. All major Iraqi missions are, then, fated to be accompanied by U.S. advisors and support personnel for an unknown period to come.
The Iraqi military is not expected to get a wing of modern jet fighters (or have the trained pilots to fly them) until at least 2015. This means that, wherever U.S. air power might be stationed, including the massive air base at Balad north of Baghdad, it will, in effect, be the Iraqi air force for the foreseeable future.
Even the simplest policing functions of the military might prove problematic without the American presence. Typically, when an Iraqi battalion commander was asked by New York Times reporter Steven Lee Myers “whether he needed American backup for a criminal arrest, he replied simply, ‘Of course.’” John Snell, an Australian advisor to the U.S. military, was just as blunt, telling an Agence France Presse reporter that, if the United States withdrew its troops, the Iraqi military “would rapidly disintegrate.”
In a World Policy Journal article last winter, John A. Nagl, a military expert and former advisor to General David Petraeus, expressed a commonly held opinion that an independent Iraqi military is likely to be at least a decade away.
Whose Economy Is It?
Terry Barnich, a victim of the previously discussed Falluja roadside bombing, personified the economic embeddedness of the occupation. As the U.S. State Department’s Deputy Director of the Iraq Transition Assistance Office and the top adviser to Iraq’s Electricity Minister, when he died he was “returning from an inspection of a wastewater treatment plant being built in Falluja.”
His dual role as a high official in the policy-making process and the “top advisor” to one of Iraq’s major infrastructural ministries catches the continuing U.S. posture toward Iraq in the early months of the Obama era. Iraq remains, however reluctantly, a client government; significant aspects of ultimate decision-making power still reside with the occupation forces. Note, by the way, that Barnich was evidently not even traveling with Iraqi officials.
The intrusive presence of the Baghdad embassy extends to the all-important oil industry, which today provides 95% of the government’s funds. When it comes to energy, the occupation has long sought to shape policy and transfer operational responsibility from Iraqi state-owned enterprises of the Saddam Hussein years to major international oil companies. In one of its most successful efforts, in 2004, the U.S. delivered an exclusive $1.2 billion contract to reconstruct Iraq’s decrepit southern oil transport facilities (which handle 80% of its oil flow) to KBR, the notorious former subsidiary of Halliburton. Supervision of that famously mismanaged contract, still uncompleted five years later, was allocated to the U.S. Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
The Iraqi government, in fact, still exerts remarkably little control over “Iraqi” oil revenues. The Development Fund for Iraq (whose revenues are deposited in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York) was established under U.N. auspices just after the invasion and receives 95% of the proceeds from Iraq’s oil sales. All government withdrawals are then overseen by the U.N.-sanctioned International Advisory and Monitoring Board, a U.S.-appointed panel of experts drawn mainly from the global oil and financial industries. The transfer of this oversight function to an Iraqi-appointed body, which was supposed to take place in this January, has been delayed by the Obama administration, which claims that the Iraqi government is not yet ready to take on such a responsibility.
In the meantime, the campaign to transfer administration of core oil operations to the major oil companies continues. Despite the resistance of Iraqi oil workers, the administrators of the two national oil companies, a majority bloc in parliament, and public opinion, the U.S. has continued to pressure the al-Maliki administration to enact an oil law that would mandate licensing devices called production-sharing agreements (PSAs).
If enacted, these PSAs would, without transferring permanent ownership, grant oil companies effective control over Iraq’s oil fields, giving them full discretion to exploit the country’s oil reserves from exploration to sales. U.S. pressure has ranged from ongoing “advice” delivered by American officials stationed in relevant Iraqi ministries to threats to confiscate some or all of the oil monies deposited in the Development Fund.
At the moment, the Iraqi government is attempting to take a more limited step: auctioning management contracts to international oil companies in an effort to increase production at eight existing oil and natural gas fields. While the winning companies would not gain the full discretion to explore, produce, and sell in some of the world’s potentially richest fields, they would at least gain some administrative control over upgrading equipment and extracting oil, possibly for as long as 20 years.
If the auction proves ultimately successful (not at all a certainty, since the first round produced only one as-yet-unsigned agreement), the Iraqi oil industry would become more deeply embedded in the occupation apparatus, no matter what officially happens to American forces in that country. Among other things, the American embassy would almost certainly be responsible for inspecting and guiding the work of the contract-winners, while the U.S. military and private contractors would become guarantors of their on-the-ground security. Fayed al-Nema, the CEO of the South Oil Company, spoke for most of the opponents of such deals when he told Reuters reporter Ahmed Rasheed that the contracts, if approved, would “put the Iraqi economy in chains and shackle its independence for the next 20 years.”
Who Owns Iraq?
In 2007, Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve, told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that “taking Saddam out was essential” — a point he made in his book The Age of Turbulence — because the United States could not afford to be “beholden to potentially unfriendly sources of oil and gas” in Iraq. It’s exactly that sort of thinking that’s still operating in U.S. policy circles: the 2008 National Defense Strategy, for example, calls for the use of American military power to maintain “access to and flow of energy resources vital to the world economy.”
After only five months in office, the Obama administration has already provided significant evidence that, like its predecessor, it remains committed to maintaining that “access to and flow of energy resources” in Iraq, even as it places its major military bet on winning the expanding war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There can be no question that Washington is now engaged in an effort to significantly reduce its military footprint in Iraq, but without, if all goes well for Washington, reducing its influence.
What this looks like is an attempted twenty-first-century version of colonial domination, possibly on the cheap, as resources are transferred to the Eastern wing of the Greater Middle East. There is, of course, no more a guarantee that this new strategy — perhaps best thought of as colonialism lite or the Obama Doctrine — will succeed than there was for the many failed military-first offensives undertaken by the Bush administration. After all, in the unsettled, still violent atmosphere of Iraq, even the major oil companies have hesitated to rush in and the auctioning of oil contracts has begun to look uncertain, even as other “civilian” initiatives remain, at best, incomplete.
As the Obama administration comes face-to-face with the reality of trying fulfill General Odierno’s ambition of making Iraq into “a long-term partner with the United States in the Middle East” while fighting a major counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, it may also encounter a familiar dilemma faced by nineteenth-century colonial powers: that without the application of overwhelming military force, the intended colony may drift away toward sovereign independence. If so, then the dreary prediction of Pulitzer Prize-winning military correspondent Thomas Ricks — that the United States is only “halfway through this war” — may prove all too accurate.
Copyright 2009 Michael Schwartz
A professor of sociology at Stony Brook State University, Michael Schwartz is the author of War Without End: The Iraq War in Context (Haymarket Books), which explains how the militarized geopolitics of oil led the U.S. to dismantle the Iraqi state and economy while fueling a sectarian civil war. Schwartz’s work on Iraq has appeared in numerous academic and popular outlets. He is a regular at TomDispatch.com. (An audio interview with him on the situation in Iraq is available by clicking here.) His email address is email@example.com.
US Army Prepared to Stay in Iraq for a Decade May 27, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: afghanistan occupation, Afghanistan War, alex spillius, george casey, Iraq, Iraq occupation, Iraq war, Iraq withdrawal, military deployment, pentagon iraq, roger hollander
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The Pentagon is prepared to remain in Iraq for as long as a decade despite an agreement between Washington and Baghdad that would bring all American troops home by 2012, according to the US army chief of staff.
by Alex Spillius and agencies in Washington
Gen George Casey said the world remained “dangerous and unpredictable”, and the Pentagon must plan for extended US combat and stability operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan that could deploy 50,000 US military personnel for a decade.
“Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction,” Gen Casey said. “They fundamentally will change how the army works.”
His planning envisioned combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade as part of a sustained American commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East.
Gen Casey’s calculations about force levels are related to his attempt to ease the brutal deployment calendar that he said would “bring the Army to its knees”. His goal was, he explained, to move rotations by 2011 to one year in the battlefield and two years out for regular army troops, and one year in the battlefield and three years out for reserves. He called the current one-year-in-one-year-out cycle “unsustainable”.
Emphasising he was not a policy maker, he was adamant he did not intend to contradict Obama administration policy, which is to bring US combat forces home from Iraq in 2010. The US and Iraq have agreed that all American forces would leave by 2012.
Although several senior US officials have suggested Iraq could request an extension, the legal agreement the two countries signed last year would have to be amended for any significant presence to remain.
The US currently has about 139,000 troops in Iraq and 52,000 in Afghanistan, with a further 16,000 to arrive by the end of this year.
He said his could foresee ten combat brigades plus command and support forces committed to the two wars. Brigades tend to number three to five thousand.
He also said the US had to be careful about what assets get deployed to Afghanistan. “Anything you put in there would be in there for a decade,” he said.
The general’s duties include main responsibility for assembling the manpower and determining assignments. He insisted the army’s size of 1.1 million was sufficient even to handle the extended Mideast conflicts.
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2009
283 Bases, 170,000 Pieces of Equipment, 140,000 Troops, and an Army of Mercenaries: The Logistical Nightmare in Iraq March 30, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Ann Wright, Blackwater, department of defense, dod, eric leaver, Iraq, iraq combat forces, iraq contractors, iraq drinking water, iraq legal system, iraq logistics, Iraq mercenaries, Iraq occupation, iraq prisoners, iraq private contractors, Iraq torture, iraq us bases, iraq us troops, Iraq war, Iraq withdrawal, iraqis, jeremy scahill, military budget, military spending, obama administration, obama military, Pentagon, roger hollander, SOFA, status of forces, us embassy baghdad, war resisters league
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Why you’ll be paying for the occupation for years to come, withdrawal or not.
With last week’s announced escalation of the war in Afghanistan, including an Iraq-like “surge” replete with 4,000 more U.S. troops and a sizable increase in private contractors, President Barack Obama blew the lid off of any lingering perceptions that he somehow represents a significant change in how the U.S. conducts its foreign policy.
In the meantime, more reports have emerged that bolster suspicions that Obama’s Iraq policy is but a downsized version of Bush’s and that a total withdrawal of U.S. forces is not on the horizon.
In the latest episode of Occupation Rebranded, it was revealed that the administration intends to reclassify some combat forces as “advisory and assistance brigades.” While Obama’s administration is officially shunning the use of the term “global war on terror,” the labels du jour, unfortunately, seem to be the biggest changes we will see for some time.
Underscoring this point is a report just released by the War Resisters League, which for decades has closely monitored the military budget, revealing how many tax dollars are actually going to the war machine. The WRL puts out its famous pie chart annually just before tax time as a reminder of what we are doing exactly when we file our returns. Noting that 51 percent of the federal budget goes to military spending, the WRL said it does “not expect the military percentage to change much” under Obama.
While Obama — and public attention — shifted foreign policy focus last week to Afghanistan, lost in the media blitz was another important report that examines how taxpayers will continue to pay for the Iraq occupation for years to come, withdrawal or not. This report, released in March by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, provides a sobering look at Obama’s “massive and expensive” Iraq plan, identifying several crucial questions that have yet to be addressed.
Whether or not the Obama administration actually intends to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq in numbers large enough to claim to be “ending the war” as many believe, this kind of official review of the U.S. reality in Iraq — and the congressional oversight to which Obama will (or will not) be subjected in the coming months — bears intense scrutiny.
First, there’s the money. “Although reducing troops would appear to lower costs, GAO has seen from previous operations … that costs could rise in the near term,” according to the 56-page report, which is titled “Iraq: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight.”
In addition to the massive funds required to move tens of thousands of troops, the GAO points out that the Army estimates “it would cost $12 billion to $13 billion a year for at least two years after the operation ends to repair, replace and rebuild the equipment used in Iraq.”
The cost of closing U.S. bases will also “likely be significant;” even after military units leave Iraq, the Pentagon will need to invest in training and equipment to return these units to levels capable of performing “full spectrum operations.” (The GAO report does not even mention the costs of providing much-needed medical and mental health services to veterans.)
The Obama administration is likely to portray the costs of “withdrawing” from Iraq as a painful necessity made inevitable by the Bush administration. But there are already calls for Obama to not allocate any new funds for such an operation. Retired Army Col. Ann Wright, a veteran diplomat who reopened the U.S. embassy in Kabul after Sept. 11 (and, while in the military, worked on plans for an Iraq invasion), says, “Everyone in the Department of Defense — military and civilian — knows well the expense of going to war and the expense of bringing troops back to the United States.
“DOD has plenty of money to withdraw equipment and personnel and no doubt has had monies specifically for that purpose built into its budgets for years. The Congress should not provide additional funding for withdrawal, but instead require DOD to use existing allocations.”
In fact, the GAO characterizes the Pentagon’s monthly reports on financial obligations under the global war on terrorism as being of “questionable reliability,” adding that it “found numerous problems with DOD’s processes for recording and reporting its war-related costs.”
“Without transparent and accurate cost information,” the GAO warns, “Congress and DOD will not have reliable information on how much the war is costing, sufficient details on how appropriated funds are spent, or the reliable historical data needed to develop and provide oversight of future funding needs.”
Dollars aside, the new GAO report report raises serious questions about how Obama will handle key challenges that will ultimately determine Iraq’s future and the extent of the U.S. presence in the country. Among the questions the Obama administration has yet to answer: How to dismantle or hand over the 283 U.S. installations in Iraq (including more than 50 large military bases); What to do with the 160,000-plus private U.S. contractors in Iraq; Who will provide security for the massive — and likely expanding — army of diplomats deployed in the country at the monstrous U.S. embassy in Baghdad?
Iraqis Could Vote the U.S. Out: Would Obama Listen?
Obama, of course, has always said that his Iraq policy is not set in stone and that he will adjust it according to “conditions on the ground” — a sweeping disclaimer that could mean a 180-degree shift on a dime.
The GAO report acknowledges that under the Status of Forces Agreement, Iraq and the U.S. can “extend the draw-down time frame” if necessary, adding, “Either government can unilaterally terminate the security agreement by providing 12 months advance notice.” In the absence of clearly identified conditions for the stability of the U.S.-backed Iraqi government, one scenario that could result in Obama extending the U.S. occupation is if the Washington-backed Baghdad regime is threatened by an uprising.
Statistics presented by the GAO are worth considering: “[T]he number of Iraqi army and police forces nearly doubled from about 320,000 in January 2007 to just over 600,000 in October 2008. However, according to the Department of Defense, over the same period, the number of Iraqi army units capable of conducting operations independently remained at about 10 percent of total units.”
Iraq is scheduled to have a national referendum on the SOFA this summer, and the GAO report notes that “the Iraqi government has said it would abide by the results.” This means that if Iraqis reject it, “U.S. forces would have to leave Iraq by as early as July 2010.” At this point, it seems impossible to imagine Obama having all U.S. forces out of Iraq a year from now — and certainly not his residual force of up to 50,000 troops. The GAO report suggests that Congress ask the Obama administration, “What are the U.S. contingency plans in the event that Iraqis vote against the security agreement in July 2009?”
More broadly, the GAO asks, “To what extent will the United States attempt to renegotiate provisions of the security agreement if security conditions deteriorate or other conditions are deemed insufficient to draw down responsibly?”
These questions will prove crucial in determining the sincerity of Obama’s campaign pledge to end the war.
Will the U.S. Walk Away From its 283 Bases in Iraq?
In a dramatic understatement, the GAO notes that the U.S. “has an extensive basing footprint in Iraq. … Closing or handing over U.S. installations in Iraq will be time consuming and costly.” With no fewer than 283 such installations throughout Iraq — 51 large bases and 232 smaller bases — the Obama administration has not said how it will approach this formidable task.
This is no minor detail. “According to U.S. Army officials, experience has shown that it takes one to two months to close the smallest platoon — or company – size installations, which contain between 16 and 200 combat soldiers or Marines.”
However, the U.S. “has never closed large, complex installations — such as Balad Air Force Base, which contains about 24,000 inhabitants and has matured over five years. U.S. Army officials estimate it could take longer than 18 months to close a base of that size.” Obama should explain clearly how he intends to dismantle these bases or to what forces he is going to give control over them.
It is very hard to imagine that the U.S. will simply walk away from large bases it spent years building. So, will they be turned over to Iraq? If so, to whom? What guarantee is there that they would not be used as operating bases for death squads? Will some be destroyed? What about the environmental impact?
In addition to the bases, the GAO reveals that, as of of March 2008, “the United States had in place about 170,000 pieces of equipment worth about $16.5 billion that would need to be removed from Iraq.” Erik Leaver, a senior analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies, says,”An example of a tough question: What to do with MRAPs [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles]?”
“The MRAPs are so heavy, transport back to the U.S., plus the rehab charges may make it cost-effective to actually destroy them,” says Leaver. “Plus, if you need to move 120,000 soldiers in a rapid time frame, do you even have the space to bring them back if you take the MRAPs?”
Then there are the facilities in Iraq currently being run by U.S. contractors. According to the GAO, Defense Contract Management Agency officials estimate “there is at least $3.5 billion worth of contractor-managed government-owned property in Iraq.”
Troops Withdrawal, Contractor Surge?
Despite his much-celebrated troop withdrawal announcement, Obama has said nothing publicly about what he intends to do with the 163,000 “security contractors” deployed in Iraq, whose ranks outnumber U.S. troops. This is most likely because, as the GAO reports, there is no plan.
“From late 2007 through July 2008, planning for the redeployment of U.S. forces did not include a theaterwide plan for redeploying contractors,” the GAO report reveals.
In fact, the GAO raises the prospect that Obama will actually increase reliance on private contractors — including armed contractors like those who work for Blackwater — particularly given the Obama administration’s stated intention to increase diplomatic and reconstruction work in Iraq, which will create a greater need for “diplomatic security.”
According to the GAO, the State Department spent about $1.1 billion from 2006 to 2008 on 1,400 private security contractors in Iraq. As of January 2009, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (the main employer of Blackwater and other armed contractors responsible for guarding U.S. diplomats and occupation officials), has already experienced a drastic increase in workload.
“State’s reliance on contractors may increase as the department currently depends on DOD to provide some services,” says the GAO, citing the examples of Bosnia and Kosovo, where “contractors assumed responsibility for certain support functions that had been previously performed by military personnel.”
Of course, executives at private security companies have long suggested that a U.S. military draw down could mean a greater role for private forces in Iraq.
“To what extent does State have contingency plans in place if Embassy Baghdad is unable to decrease its reliance on U.S. civilian government personnel over the next 5 years?” asks the GAO report.
The report also addresses question of accountability for contractors, noting that they are no longer officially immune from prosecution under Iraq’s legal system. Indeed, after the suspension of the Paul Bremer-era Order 17 and the signing of the SOFA, contractors are now ostensibly bound by Iraqi law — but not one has been prosecuted in Iraq for any crime, and it seems doubtful that any U.S. president would allow this to happen.
According to the GAO, “a joint U.S.-Iraqi committee is working to establish procedures and guidelines for exercising Iraqi jurisdiction for private contractors operating in Iraq, including those covered by the security agreement.” In other words, believe it when it happens.
No More Bailouts Until Iraq Has Clean Drinking Water
The GAO report is a pretty dry read, but seasoned observers of the Iraq occupation might find humor in one of the report’s graphs. It maps the drastic decline in the number of nations participating in the Iraq occupation, the so-called coalition of the willing, from 2004 to the present.
“As of March 2009, only three coalition partners remain in Iraq — Australia, Romania and the United Kingdom,” the GAO reports, illustrating the point with a sharp, steep slope. “These coalition partners have an agreement with Iraq to remove their troops by July 2009. At that time, the United States will be the sole remaining nation with troops stationed in Iraq.”
Another important figure included in the report that is anything but humorous — and rarely talked about — is the huge number of people imprisoned or detained by the U.S. in Iraq: 15,000. Many of these prisoners are being held without charge or access to due process. Under existing agreements between Iraq and the U.S., they are slated to either be turned over to Iraq’s legal system or released.
Interestingly, the GAO report does raise concerns about the dismal shape of Iraq’s legal system, citing a December 2008 Human Rights Watch report that “concluded Iraq’s central criminal court ‘seriously’ failed to meet international standards of due process and fair trials.” The GAO cites “concerns that detainees in Iraqi custody may be tortured or mistreated because Iraqi officials often rely on coerced confessions instead of physical evidence, particularly in criminal cases.”
It is telling that the GAO raised this concern in a section about the prospect of U.S. contractors being stripped of immunity and subjected to the Iraqi justice system, not Iraqis handed over to the Baghdad regime by the U.S. Regarding the fate of the Iraqi prisoners, the GAO report dryly notes, “many implementing details for this process must be resolved.”
Perhaps the saddest portion of the GAO report relates to what should be done to address the massive suffering in Iraq and what the U.S. responsibility should be for paying for the tremendous devastation of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure over the past 20 years.
Just take the issue of water. As of now, according to the report, “many Iraqis are without water or have access to water that puts them at risk of diseases such as cholera and dysentery, as evidenced by outbreaks in 2007 and 2008. According to the United Nations, only 40 percent of children have reliable access to safe drinking water; with water-treatment plants operating at only 17 percent capacity, large volumes of untreated waste are discharged into Iraq’s waterways. The health risks associated with a lack of access to potable water and proper sewage treatment are compounded by the shortage of medical professionals in Iraq’s health care system.”
According to the World Bank, it would cost $14.4 billion to rebuild the Iraqi public works and water system. In other words, about five weeks of the overall cost of the U.S. occupation.
Instead of discussing U.S. reparations or restitution, as groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War have demanded, the report asks the Obama administration what more the Iraqi government can do to fund reconstruction projects. “We’ve just spent $700 billion to bail out Wall Street,” says IPS’ Erik Leaver. “While the report notes that the U.S. spent $9.5 billion and Iraq budgeted for $17.2 billion for reconstruction of a war torn society. The scale of what we’ve done on the civilian end is absurd.”
Before one more cent is spent on bailing out corrupt corporations that destroyed the U.S. economy, Iraqis should have clean drinking water. After all, it was the illegal U.S. wars that took it from them in the first place. And that is not logic based on lies.
Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalistwho reports frequently for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now, has spent extensive time reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.
Rick on Withdrawal: Yes We’re Staying March 3, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Uncategorized, War.
Tags: arabic source, camp lejeune speech, Iraq, iraq combat, Iraq war, Iraq withdrawal, Obama, roger hollander, SOFA, special operations, status of forces agreement, tom rick
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Last week I was mildly critical of Tom Rick’s book “The Gamble” because it made no use of Arabic or Iraqi sources and instead was based on interviews with US Army officials. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Not talking to any Arabic sources means that the book will tend to focus on the Surge as the Americans see it. At the same time, however, Ricks has a level of access that no other Western journalist has, so if he’s saying the following, then we can probably assume it reflects a major train of thought inside the US Army, regardless of how the issue is officially being framed:
The more I consider it, the more I think President Obama’s Camp Lejeune speech last Friday was about how to stay in Iraq for a while, not about how to get out. I think he is doing the right thing, or at least the least wrong thing in a misbegotten war.
But I don’t think he has been clear about what he is doing. Let me say this almost as plainly as I can. You can label it a non-combat force. You can call it the Jayash al-Barack or the Mahdi Mouseketeers if you like. But there are going to be two combat brigades at the core of that post-2010 American force in Iraq, plus a substantial Special Operations force executing combat counterterror missions. And those bombs that hit American convoys sure feel like combat, especially when the flash of the explosion is followed by RPG and machine gun fire, even if the soldiers inside the Humvees are told they are on a non-combat mission.
What’s more, the planned troop reductions won’t really happen in a big way until sometime in 2010, so Iraq can get through its national elections. (And a memo to everyone who is counting on the SOFA to bail us out of Iraq: Guys, that was about getting Iraq through 2009, not about what happens in 2011.)
Let me say this even more plainly: Our participation in this war ends not when one president hangs a “Mission Accomplished” banner or when another president declares that combat has ended, but when American troops stop being killed there. I asked a military official at the White House on Friday if American troops will stop dying in Iraq in August 2010, and he said no, that will go on. One reason this war has been such a bitter experience at home is that people feel that the White House has misled them, especially because its previous occupant was so consistently overoptimistic
US Influence in Iraq Far From Over March 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tags: Barack Obama, bin Laden, britain, cia, eric margolis, George Bush, International law, Iraq war, Iraq withdrawal, oil, Pentagon, roger hollander, Tony Blair
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Barack Obama won the votes of many Americans by promising to swiftly end the Iraq War and bring U.S. troops home. He denounced George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq as a “violation of international law.”
So will U.S. troops leave Iraq? Will those responsible for this trumped-up war face justice?
No, on both counts.
President Obama says U.S. combat troops will leave Iraq by August 2010. However, the U.S. military occupation will not end. What we are seeing is a public relations shell game.
The U.S. has 142,000 soldiers and nearly 100,000 mercenaries occupying Iraq. Obama’s plan calls for withdrawing the larger portion of the U.S. garrison but leaving 50,000-60,000 troops in Iraq.
To get around his promise to withdraw all “combat” troops, the president and his advisers are rebranding the stay-behind garrison as “training troops, protection for American interests, and counterterrorism forces.”
At a time when the U.S. is bankrupt and faces a $1.75 trillion deficit, the Pentagon’s gargantuan $664 billion budget (50% of total global military spending) will grow in 2009 and 2010 by another $200 billion to pay for the occupation of Iraq and Obama’s expanded war in Afghanistan. Throw in another $40 billion to $50 billion for the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Obama insists the U.S. will withdraw from Iraq. But his words are belied by the Pentagon, which continues to expand bases in Iraq, including Balad and Al-Asad, with 4,400-metre runways for heavy bombers and transports.
They are key links in the U.S. Air Force’s new air bridge that extends from Germany to Bulgaria and Romania, Iraq and the Gulf, then onward to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Besides Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone and U.S. embassy (the world’s largest), the Pentagon reportedly wants to retain 58 permanent bases in Iraq (by comparison, there are 36 in South Korea), total control of its air space and immunity from Iraqi law for all U.S. troops.
The U.S. also will retain major bases in neighbouring Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Diego Garcia. U.S. oil companies are moving in to exploit Iraq’s vast energy reserves, the Mideast’s second largest after Saudi Arabia.
U.S. troop levels will remain high during Iraq’s December elections to ensure “security,” according to the Pentagon. In other words, ensuring the U.S.-selected regime “wins” the vote. Iraqi parties, notably Baath, opposing the U.S. occupation, are banned from running. Many Iraqis believe the U.S. will never leave their nation.
In short, contrary to all Obama’s high-blown rhetoric about pulling out of Iraq, Washington clearly intends it will remain a U.S. military, political and economic protectorate. Washington is following exactly the same control model the British Empire used to rule Iraq, and exploit its oil: Install a figurehead ruler, keep him in power using a “native” army (read today’s Iraqis army and police). RAF units based in Iraq (read U.S. air bases) bomb any rebellious areas. Smaller British ground units based in non-urban areas are on call to put down attempted coups against the king. The U.S. plan for Iraq is identical.
Obama made clear that officials responsible for the Iraq war, torture, kidnapping or assassination will not be prosecuted. The theft of over $50 billion in U.S. “reconstruction” funds sent to Iraq is being hushed up.
By contrast, Britons are demanding release of cabinet documents leading to war that are likely to expose Tony Blair’s lies and illegalities.
There is no corresponding call for justice in the United States. Obama tells the public, let bygones be bygones. Unless, of course, it’s Osama bin Laden.
Between 600,000 and one million Iraqis died as a result of President George W. Bush’s aggression, which cost nearly $1 trillion and some 4,500 U.S. dead. Four million Iraqis remain refugees. The U.S. holds over 20,000 Iraqi political prisoners.
Mr. President, this is not a bygone. It’s a historic crime that demands justice. Keep your word about withdrawing from Iraq. Enough with the Bush doubletalk.
Obama to Announce Iraq Troop Withdrawal: Occupation Lite? February 28, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, Bechtel, Blackwater, dyncorp, ecuador manta, foreign policy, Iraq, iraq contactors, Iraq mercenaries, iraq military bases, Iraq occupation, Iraq oil, Iraq war, Iraq withdrawal, iraqi casualties, McCaffrey sofa, occupation lite, phillis bennis, president obama, roger hollander, status of forces, us casualties iraq
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Phyllis Bennis | February 27, 2009
Foreign Policy in Focus: http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5910
President Barack Obama said directly that he would be announcing “a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.” As far as it goes, that sounds good. This is an indication that President Obama is largely keeping to his campaign promises, and that’s a hopeful sign, reflecting the power of the anti-war consensus in this country.
If this plan were actually a first step towards the unequivocal goal of a complete end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, it would be better than good, it would be fabulous. But that would mean this withdrawal would be the first step towards a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops, pulling out of all the 150,000+ U.S.-paid foreign mercenaries and contractors, closing all the U.S. military bases, and ending all U.S. efforts to control Iraqi oil.
So far that is not on Obama’s agenda.
The troop withdrawal as planned would leave behind as many as 50,000 U.S. troops. That’s an awful lot. Even Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi thinks that may be too much. She told Rachel Maddow, “I don’t know what the justification is for 50,000, at the present…I would think a third of that, maybe 20,000, a little more than a third, 15,000 or 20,000.”
Those troops won’t include officially designated “combat” troops. But those tens of thousands of troops will still be occupying Iraq. Doing what? Very likely, just what combat troops do — they would walk and talk and bomb and shoot like combat troops, but they’d be called something else. The New York Times spelled it out last December: describing how military planners believe Obama’s goal of pulling out combat troops “could be accomplished at least in part by re-labeling some units, so that those currently counted as combat troops could be ‘re-missioned,’ their efforts redefined as training and support for the Iraqis.” That would mean a retreat to the lies and deception that characterized this war during Bush years — something President Obama promised to leave behind. It would also mean military resistance in Iraq would continue, leading to more Iraqi and U.S. casualties.
Further, the U.S. agreement with Iraq calls for all U.S. forces to be out of Iraq by the end of December 2011. President Obama’s announcement later this week may even reflect something like this goal too. But. The agreement can be changed. Retired General Barry McCaffrey wrote an internal report for the Pentagon after a trip to Iraq last year, saying, “We should assume that the Iraqi government will eventually ask us to stay beyond 2011 with a residual force of trainers, counterterrorist capabilities, logistics, and air power.” My estimate? Perhaps a force of 20,000 to 40,000 troops.
And what if the reduction in ground troops is answered with an escalation of U.S. air power? The U.S. appears to be planning to control the skies over Iraq for years to come. That means even more Iraqi civilians being killed by the U.S. military. We need the withdraw all air and naval forces too — something the SOFA agreement mentions, but we have yet to hear anything from the Obama administration. The U.S. has been conducting continuous overflights and regular bombing of Iraq since January 1991 – isn’t 18 years of air war enough?
The U.S.-Iraq agreement (which was ratified by the Iraqi parliament but never brought to the U.S. Senate for ratification, as mandated by the Constitution) also requires that a national referendum be held in Iraq during the summer of 2009 to approve or reject the timetable. It is certainly possible that — if the referendum is held at all — a vast majority of Iraqis would call for an even earlier timeline, saying that two-and-a-half more years of occupation is too long. And it seems a real long-shot to imagine that the U.S. — despite the Obama administration’s commitment to diplomacy over force — would agree to abide by the popular will of the Iraqi people and pull out the troops immediately.
The military hasn’t been transformed with the election of President Obama. He is the commander in chief, but he has made clear his intention to listen to his military advisers (they pushed for the 19-month rather than 16-month withdrawal timeline). The oil companies and powerful contractors whose CEOs and stockholders have made billion dollar killings on Iraq contracts have not been transformed. Obama is president and has promised transparency in the contracting process, but he hasn’t promised to bring home all the mercenaries and contractors.
Mercenaries and Contractors
Ending the U.S. occupation means ending all U.S. funding for the giant contractors — Dyncorp, Bechtel, Blackwater — that serve as out-sourced private unaccountable components of the U.S. military. The contractor companies — and the mercenaries they hire — were part of what led to Abu Ghraib. (Blackwater’s recent name change to “Xe” should not allow its role in killing Iraqi civilians to be forgotten.) Even as some troops may be withdrawn, we will need to mobilize for congressional hearings, independent investigations, and more on the human rights violations and misuse of taxpayer funds by the war profiteers who run these companies. President Obama’s decision to close the Guantanamo prison shows his awareness of severity of the crimes committed there. Ending the funding of the contractors who carried out so many of those crimes should be a logical next step.
U.S. Military Bases
We’ve heard how long it will likely take to evacuate each of the 50+ U.S. military bases in Iraq (6 weeks for the small ones, 18 months for the biggest) but we haven’t heard any indication, let alone a promise, that they will actually be turned over to the Iraqis. The issue of bases places Iraq at the centerpiece of the broad global movement challenging the network of U.S. military bases all over the world. Opposition to the impact of those bases — environmental, social and women’s rights, economic and more — is rising in countries as diverse as Korea, Italy, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan and more. In fact in some countries governments are joining with civil society to reject Washington’s global crusade. Kyrgyzstan decided to close the U.S. air base there, indicating they prefer Russian bribes to U.S. warplanes. (That decision may present the Obama administration with the unsavory prospect of renewing the U.S. alliance with Uzbekistan, whose government is characterized by some of the most egregious human rights violations in the world.) Ecuador has recently passed a new constitution prohibiting the presence of foreign military bases on their soil, and is in the process of ending its hosting of the U.S. airbase at Manta.
As the Obama administration seeks new ways to cut military spending, closing the 50+ Iraqi bases, particularly the five mega-bases becomes an urgent necessity. And the giant embassy-on-steroids that the Bush administration built to house up to 5,000 U.S. diplomats and officials should be closed down as a relic of an illegal war launched to maintain control of the country, people and resources of Iraq.
Certainly almost three more years of acknowledged occupation is way too long. That’s almost half again as long as the U.S. occupation of Iraq has been going today. But even so, if this 19-month partial withdrawal really was a first step towards a complete end of the Iraq war and occupation, if this really meant that the troops in Iraq would be brought home instead of redeployed to another failing war in Afghanistan, if this really meant that President Obama’s promise that “I will end the war” was about to be made real — then 19 months wouldn’t be so bad.
Then, at last, we could begin making good on our real debt to the people of Iraq. Make good on the U.S. obligations for compensation (money to Iraqis themselves, not to overpaid U.S. contractors), for reparations (including for the years of society-destroying economic sanctions), for support for Iraqi-led international help in peacekeeping and in demilitarizing Iraq after so many years of occupation and war.
So far, though, we’re not seeing any of that. So far, there are too many “buts.” We know there is no military solution in Iraq — and continuing an “occupation lite” to muscle out competitors in oil contracts, or to maintain a power-expansion presence in the region, or to create the illusion of “peace with honor” — none of these things justify continuing an illegal U.S. occupation. Pulling out any troops from Iraq is a good thing. But so far, our job hasn’t ended — to mobilize, to pressure, to continue to educate and advocate and agitate for a real end to the war. We have a lot of work to do.
Phyllis Bennis is director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, a senior analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus, and a fellow at the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam.
Tags: Dennis Kucinich, Iraq, iraq immediate withdrawal, Iraq occupation, iraq peace-keeping, iraq reconstruction, Iraq war, Iraq withdrawal, roger hollander
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|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2009
|CONTACT: Congressman Dennis Kucinich
Nathan White (202)225-5871
WASHINGTON – February 27 – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who led the effort in the House of Representatives against the war in Iraq as far back as 2002, today made the following statement after President Obama announced that the combat mission in Iraq will end by August 31, 2010. The President also indicated that between 35-50,000 troops will remain in Iraq to advise and train Iraqi security forces and protect American civilian and military personal.
“I support President Obama for taking a step in the right direction in Iraq, but I do not think that his plan goes far enough. You cannot leave combat troops in a foreign country to conduct combat operations and call it the end of the war. You can’t be in and out at the same time.
“America must determine at some point to end the occupation, close the bases and bring the troops home. We must bring a conclusion to this sorry chapter in American history where war was waged under false pretense against an innocent people. Taking troops out of Iraq should not mean more troops available for deployment in other operations.
“In February of 2007 I presented H.R. 1234, legislation that would end the war in Iraq, and the process I outlined is still necessary. We should immediately bring home American service members and contractors, convene a regional conference to prepare an international peace-keeping force and accelerate Iraq-driven reconstruction.”
Congressman Kucinich led opposition to the Joint Resolution on Iraq, known as the Iraq war resolution, beginning in 2002, and has consistently opposed funding the ongoing war.
View Kucinich’s 2002 analysis of the Joint Resolution on Iraq here.
View H.R. 1234 here.
Source: Petraeus Leaked Misleading Story on Pullout Plans February 10, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, War.
Tags: Ambassador Ryan Crocker, David Petraeus, gareth porter, Gen. James Jones, ips, Iraq, iraq media, iraq troop withdrawal, Iraq withdrawal, Jack Keane, mcclatchy, media coverage, Nancy Youssef, petraeus leak, president obama, Ray Odierno, roger hollander, security advisor, the gamble, tom ricks, u.s. military
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CENTCOM commander David Petraeus. (Photo: Getty Images) Washington – www.truthout.org, 09 February 2009
The political maneuvering between President Barack Obama and his top field commanders over withdrawal from Iraq has taken a sudden new turn with the leak by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus – and a firm denial by a White House official – of an account of the Jan. 21 White House meeting suggesting that Obama had requested three different combat troop withdrawal plans with their respective associated risks, including one of 23 months.
The Petraeus account, reported by McClatchy newspapers Feb. 5 and then by the Associated Press the following day, appears to indicate that Obama is moving away from the 16-month plan he had vowed during the campaign to implement if elected. But on closer examination, it doesn’t necessarily refer to any action by Obama or to anything that happened at the Jan. 21 meeting.
The real story of the leak by Petraeus is that the most powerful figure in the U.S. military has tried to shape the media coverage of Obama and combat troop withdrawal from Iraq to advance his policy agenda – and, very likely, his personal political interests as well.
This writer became aware of Petraeus’s effort to influence the coverage of Obama’s unfolding policy on troop withdrawal when a military source close to the general, who insisted on anonymity, offered the Petraeus account on Feb. 4. The military officer was responding to the IPS story ‘Generals Seek to Reverse Obama Withdrawal Decision’ published two days earlier [link].
The story reported that Obama had rejected Petraeus’s argument against a 16-month withdrawal option at the meeting and asked for a withdrawal plan within that time frame, and that Petraeus had been unhappy with the outcome of the meeting.
It also reported that Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and retired Army general Jack Keane, a close ally of Petraeus, had both made public statements indicating a determination to get Obama to abandon the 16-month plan.
The officer told IPS that, contrary to the story, Petraeus had been “very pleased” with the direction of the discussions. He said that there had been no decision by Obama at the meeting and no indication that Obama had a preference for one option over another.
The military source provided the following carefully worded statement: “We were specifically asked to provide projections, assumptions and risks for the accomplishment of objectives associated with 16-, 19- and 23-month drawdown options.” That was exactly the sentence published by McClatchy the following day, except that “specifically” was left out.
The source also said Petraeus, Odierno and Ambassador Ryan Crocker had already reached a “unified assessment” on the three drawdown options and had forwarded them to the chain of command.
But a White House official told IPS Monday that the Petraeus account was untrue. “The assessments of the three drawdown dates were not requested by the president,” said the official, who insisted on not being identified because he had not been authorised to comment on the matter. “He never said, ‘Give me three drawdown plans.’”
McClatchy’s Nancy Youssef reported a similar account from aides to Obama. “Obama told his advisors shortly after taking office that he remained committed to the 16-month timeframe,” Youssef wrote, “but asked them to present him with the pros and cons of that and other options, without specifying dates.”
That suggests that the only specific plan for which Obama requested an assessment of risks was the 16-month plan, but that he agreed to look at other plans as well.
The sentence given to this writer as well as to McClatchy bore one obvious clue that the request for the assessments of three drawdown plans did not come from Obama: the sentence used the passive voice. It also failed to explicitly state that the request in question was made during the meeting with Obama.
Petraeus did not respond to a request through the intermediary to say who requested the studies and whether they had been proposed by the military commanders themselves. McClatchy’s Youssef also noted that it is “unclear who came up with the idea…” of the 19- and 23-month withdrawal plans.
By implying that Obama had requested the three plans without saying so explicitly, the sentence leaked by Petraeus seems to have been calculated to create a misleading story.
One of Petraeus’s objectives appears to have been to counter any perception that he is seeking to undermine Obama on Iraq policy. Petraeus wishes to remain out of the spotlight in regard to any conflict regarding withdrawal over the Iraq issue. “He has been very careful to keep a very low profile,” said the military officer close to Petraeus, “because this is a new administration.”
But the Petraeus leak also serves to promote the idea that Obama is moving away from his campaign pledge on a 16-month combat troop withdrawal, which has already been the dominant theme in news media coverage of the issue. That idea would also justify continued sniping by military officers at the Obama 16-month plan as too risky.
In a new book, ‘The Gamble’, to be published Tuesday, Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks confirms an earlier report that in his initial encounter with Petraeus in Baghdad last July, Obama had made no effort to hide his sharp disagreement with the general’s views. Obama interrupted a lecture by Petraeus, according to Ricks, and made it clear that, as president, he would need to take a broader strategic view of the issue than that of the commander in Iraq.
Ricks, who interviewed Petraeus about the meeting, writes that Obama’s remarks “likely insulted Petraeus, who justly prides himself on his ability to do just that…” That strongly implies that Petraeus expressed some irritation at Obama over the incident to Ricks.
On top of the interest of Petraeus and other senior officers in keeping U.S. troops in Iraq for as long as possible, Petraeus has personal political interests at stake in the struggle over Iraq policy. He has been widely regarded as a possible Republican Presidential candidate in 2012.
Petraeus evidently believed the White House was promoting a story that made him look like the loser at the Jan. 21 meeting. “I imagine the White House is not too happy that this information is out there,” said the military source, referring to the Petraeus account he had provided to IPS.
Obama is obviously treading warily in handling Petraeus. His concern about Petraeus’s political ambitions may have been a factor in the decision to bring four-star Marine Corps Gen. James Jones in as his national security adviser.
”I’ve been told by a couple of people that one of the reasons for Jones being chosen was to have him there as a four-star to counter Petraeus,” says one Congressional source.
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.