Headlines or Not, the Iraq War is Not Over September 7, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: civilian casualties, Iraq, Iraq mercenaries, Iraq war, iraq war cost, iraw withdrawal, phyllis bennis, roger hollander, troop withdrawal
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Published on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 by Institute for Policy Studies
It might seem like cause for celebration after reading the New York Times headline, “Iraq War Marks First Month with No U.S. Military Deaths.” But the smaller print on the page reminds us why celebrating is not really in order: “Many Iraqis are killed…” The cost of this war is still way too high — in Iraqi lives and in our money.
With so much attention and so many billions of our tax dollars shifting from Iraq to the devastating and ever more costly war in Afghanistan, it is too easy to forget that there are still almost 50,000 U.S. troops occupying Iraq. We are still paying almost $50 billion just this year for the war in Iraq. And while we don’t hear about it very often, many Iraqis are still being killed.
There’s an awful lot of discussion underway about the massive cuts in the Pentagon’s budget that may be looming as part of the deficit deal. But somehow few are mentioning that those potential cuts from the defense department’s main budget don’t even touch the actual war funding — this year alone it’s $48 billion for Iraq and $122 billion for the war in Afghanistan.
Just imagine what we could do with those funds — we could provide health care for 43 million children for two years, or hire 2.4 million police officers to help keep our communities safe for a year. Or we could create and fund new green middle-class jobs for 3.4 million workers — maybe including those thousands of soldiers we could bring home from those useless wars.
Barack Obama, back when he was a presidential candidate, promised he would end the war in Iraq. In 2002, he called it a “dumb” war. The U.S. role in the war has gotten smaller but it sure isn’t over. And it hasn’t gotten any smarter. A year ago Obama told us that all combat operations in Iraq were about to end, that “our commitment in Iraq is changing from a military effort” to — what exactly? The 50,000 or so troops still in Iraq are there, we are told, to train Iraqi security forces, provide security for civilians, and, oh yes, to conduct counterterrorism operations. Apparently “counterterrorism operations” don’t count as part of a military effort?
Even worse, the Obama administration, following its predecessor’s footsteps, is clearly committed to keeping U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the December 31, 2011 deadline agreed to by the Bush administration and Iraq back in 2008. That agreement was supposed to be absolute — it called for all U.S. troops to be pulled out by the end of this year. (There were loopholes, of course — the agreement said all Pentagon-paid military contractors had to leave too, but didn’t mention those paid by the State Department, so guess which agency is taking over the check-writing to pay the thousands of mercenaries preparing to stay in Iraq for the long haul?)
But now the Obama administration is ratcheting up the pressure on Iraq’s weak and corrupt government, pushing Baghdad’s U.S.-dependent leadership to “invite” U.S. troops to stay just a little bit longer. Iraq’s elected parliament, like the vast majority of the population, wants all the troops out. But democratic accountability to the people doesn’t operate any better in Iraq than it does here in the U.S. So the Iraqi cabinet made its own decision, without any messy consultations with their parliament, to “open negotiations” with Washington over how many and how long U.S. troops would continue occupying their country.
Of course it’s good news that no U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq in August. The bad news is that scores of Iraqi civilians were killed. We don’t know exactly how many – the Pentagon says it doesn’t do body counts. But we know some of them. According to IraqBodyCount.org, 36 Iraqi civilians were killed in the first five days of the month. Just on one day, August 15, the New York Times reported 89 Iraqis killed, another 315 injured in apparently coordinated attacks. And on the last day of the month, August 31st, at least seven Iraqis were killed, another 25 wounded. And those are just the ones we know about.
The Iraq War isn’t over. It still costs too much in the lives of Iraqi civilians and in U.S. taxpayer dollars. We still can’t afford dumb wars. We need to bring those 50,000 troops and those fifty billion dollars home. And the way to do that is to follow the money: keep the pressure up on the links between our economic crisis and the costs of these illegal, useless wars. It’s really dumb if we don’t.
Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Her books include Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer, Understanding the U.S.-Iran Crisis: A Primer, and most recently Ending the Iraq War: A Primer. If you want to receive her talking points and articles on a regular basis, click here and choose “New Internationalism.”
Operation Enduring Occupation March 18, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: balad base, bhaswati sengupta, dahr jamail, foreign policy, green zone, imperialism, Iraq, Iraq oil, Iraq war, iraw occupation, maliki, military bases, national security, peace, Pentagon, Petraeus, phyllis bennis, Robert Gates, roger hollander, SOFA, us bases, us embassy, war
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(Roger’s note: you read it here first: the US government, regardless of what the golden tongued mendacious president tells us, HAS NO INTENTION OF LEAVING IRAQ for the foreseeable future. In the Orwellian world we inhabit today, where war is peace, where failure is too big to fail, where we don’t escalate but “surge,” and where torture doesn’t hurt that much; we can add that WITHDRAWAL MEANS STAYING.)
[‘On March 4, 2010, as a guest on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show,” Thomas Ricks, who was the military correspondent for the Washington Post, referring to President Obama’s promises to withdraw from Iraq, said, “I would say you shouldn’t believe [it] because I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think we’re going to have several thousand, several tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq on the day President Obama leaves office.”‘]
Thursday 18 March 2010
The 2008 National Defense Strategy reads:
US interests include protecting the nation and our allies from attack or coercion, promoting international security to reduce conflict and foster economic growth, and securing the global commons and with them access to world markets and resources. To pursue these interests, the US has developed military capabilities and alliances and coalitions, participated in and supported international security and economic institutions, used diplomacy and soft power to shape the behavior of individual states and the international system, and using force when necessary. These tools help inform the strategic framework with which the United States plans for the future, and help us achieve our ends.
… Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing or equaling the power of the US. To accomplish this, the US will require bases and stations within and beyond western Europe and Northeast Asia.
In light of such clear objectives, it is highly unlikely that the US government will allow a truly sovereign Iraq, unfettered by US troops either within its borders or monitoring it from abroad, anytime soon.
The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the Iraqi and US governments indicate an ongoing US presence past both the August 2010 deadline to remove all combat troops, and the 2011 deadline to remove the remaining troops.
According to all variations of the SOFA the US uses to provide a legal mandate for it’s nearly 1,000 bases across the planet, technically, no US base in any foreign country is “permanent.” Thus, the US bases in Japan, South Korea and Germany that have existed for decades are not “permanent.” Technically.
Most analysts agree that the US plans to maintain at least five “enduring” bases in Iraq.
Noted US writer, linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky, said, “Bases [abroad] are the empire. They are the point of projection of power and expansion of power.”
Chalmers Johnson, author and professor emeritus of UC San Diego commented, “In a symbolic sense [bases] are a way of showing that America stands there watching.”
Longtime defense analyst from George Washington University, Gordon Adams, told The Associated Press that in the broader context of reinforcing US presence in the oil-rich Middle East, bases in Iraq are preferable to aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. “Carriers don’t have the punch. There’s a huge advantage to land-based infrastructure. At the level of strategy it makes total sense to have Iraq bases.”
According to Professor Zoltan Grossman of The Evergreen State College, who has been researching military bases and participating in the global network against foreign bases for several years, the US has no intention of releasing control of its bases in Iraq. The Pentagon, he believes, has many old tricks to mask a military presence and armed pressure.
In an interview with Truthout he observed:
Since the Gulf War, the US has not just been building the bases to wage wars, but has been waging wars to leave behind the bases. The effect has been to create a new US military sphere of influence wedged in the strategic region between the E.U., Russia and China. The Pentagon has not been building these sprawling, permanent bases just to hand them over to client governments.
Grossman’s prediction for Iraq:
Look for a Visiting Forces Agreement – of the kind negotiated with the Philippines – that allows supposedly ‘visiting’ US forces unrestricted access to its former bases. Similarly, constant joint military exercises can keep US troops continually visible and intimidating to Iraqis. Even after 2011, nothing in the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement prevents US bombers (stationed in Kuwait and elsewhere) from attacking Iraqi targets whenever they want, just as they did between 1991 and 2003. Nothing prevents the type of missile or Special Forces attacks like we’re seeing in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Nothing prevents CIA or contractors from participating in Iraqi missions or intelligence operations.
Adding credence to this, we have Article 6 of the US/Iraqi SOFA discussing “agreed facilities,” Article 27 mentions “mutually agreed … military measures” after 2011 and Article 28 talks of a scenario where Iraq is able to “request” US security in the International Zone (Green Zone.)
Chapter six of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report stated:
In February 2009, President Obama outlined the planned drawdown of US forces in Iraq to 50,000 troops and the change in mission by August 31, 2010. By this time, US forces will have completed the transition from combat and counterinsurgency to a more limited mission set focused on training and assisting the Iraqi Security Forces ($2 billion has already been set aside for this for FY2011); providing force protection for US military and civilian personnel and facilities; and conducting targeted counterterrorism operations and supporting US civilian agencies and international organizations in their capacity-building efforts.
The report further clarifies that US troop drawdowns “will occur in accordance” with the SOFA, but that “the pace of the drawdown takes into consideration Iraq’s improved, yet fragile, security gains” and “provides US commanders sufficient flexibility to assist the Iraqis with emerging challenges.”
On May 15, 2006, Gen. John Abizaid, overseeing US military operations in Iraq at the time, said, “The United States may want to keep a long-term military presence in Iraq to bolster moderates against extremists in the region and protect the flow of oil.”
On March 12, 2010, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, the commander of US troops in Northern Iraq, told reporters during a conference call that it might be necessary to keep combat troops involved in the security mechanism that maintains peace between Iraqi national and Kurdish regional forces beyond the August deadline.
The National Security Strategy for US Missions abroad proposes to “Ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade and pressing for open markets, financial stability, and deeper integration of the world economy.” This fits perfectly with the policy outlined by the Quadrennial Defense Review Report, which says there is a stated ability for the US military to fight “multiple overlapping wars” and to “ensure that all major and emerging powers are integrated as constructive actors and stakeholders into the international system.”
Such gray language and loopholes in policy documents have been common since the US invaded Iraq seven years ago. This has not changed with the SOFA.
“The likelihood of the US planning to keep troops in Iraq after December 31, 2011 has to be measured in the context of the history of US violations of other countries’ sovereign territory, airspace, etc.,” Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project with the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC, explained to Truthout. “At the moment, this is perhaps most obvious in Pakistan – where the US has been routinely attacking alleged Taliban or al Qaeda supporters with both air and [limited] ground troops in Pakistani territory despite the stated opposition of the Pakistani government which is nominally allied to the US.”
“The early public discussions of ‘re-missioning’ combat troops, changing their official assignment from combat to ‘training’ or ‘assistance,’ thus allowing them to remain in Iraq after the August 2010 deadline for all combat troops to be removed from the country, provides the model for how such sleight of language will occur,” Bennis said, adding, “It may or may not be linked to a future ‘need’ for US troops to remain to protect the increasing numbers of US government civilians assigned to Iraq as the official number of troops decreases.”
Bennis explained that the language of the SOFA is grounded in the claim that Iraq is a sovereign nation and that the government of Iraq is choosing freely to partner with the US government. But the reality, according to Bennis, is that the SOFA was negotiated and signed while Iraq was (and continues to be today) a country occupied and controlled by the United States. Its government is and was at the time of the SOFA’s signing dependent on the US for support.
In Article 27 of the SOFA, the text stated, “in the event of any external or internal threat or aggression against Iraq that would violate its sovereignty, political independence, or territorial integrity, waters, airspace, its democratic system or its elected institutions, and upon request by the Government of Iraq, the Parties shall immediately initiate strategic deliberations and, as may be mutually agreed, the United States shall take appropriate measures, including diplomatic, economic, or military measures, or any other measure, to deter such a threat.”
While the agreement is ostensibly binding only for three years, Article 30 permits amendments to the SOFA, which could, of course, include extending its timeframe – and with the Iraqi government still qualitatively dependent on US support, this appears likely. The same is true for Article 28, which states, “The Government of Iraq may request from the United States Forces limited and temporary support for the Iraqi authorities in the mission of security for the Green Zone.”
There is no question that the US has wanted for many years to establish and maintain military bases in Iraq, whether or not they are officially designated as “permanent.” I do not believe the Pentagon is prepared to hand them all over to Iraq, despite the language in the agreement mandating exactly that. Instead, I think the formal arrangement following expiration of the current SOFA may be through some sort of officially “bilateral” agreement between Washington and Baghdad, allowing for the US to “rent” or “lease” or “borrow” the bases from an allegedly “sovereign” government in Iraq on a long-term basis. The likelihood of this increases with the growing number of statements from US military and political officials hinting broadly at the possibility of a long-term presence of US troops in Iraq after December 31, 2011, “if the sovereign government of Iraq should request such an idea …
Faculty Director of the Undergraduate College of Global Studies at Stony Brook University in New York, Professor Michael Schwartz, has written extensively on insurgency and the US Empire.
He pointed out to Truthout that President Obama’s “… actions have made it very clear that he is unwilling to sacrifice the 50,000-strong strike force, even while he has also said he would abide by the SOFA and remove all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. In the meantime, Gates and various generals have released hedging statements or trial balloons saying that the 2011 deadline might be impractical and that various types of forces might stay longer, either to provide air power, to continue training the Iraq military, or to protect Iraq from invasion. Any or all of these could translate into the maintenance of the 50k strike force as well as the five ‘enduring bases.'”
That the Obama administration intends to maintain a significant military presence in Iraq after 2011 is obvious from its continued insistence that in Iraq “democracy” must be guaranteed.
In Washington speak this means that the government of Iraq must be an ally of the United States, a condition that has been iterated and reiterated by all factions (GOP and Democrat) in Washington, since the original invasion. Given the increasing unwillingness of the Maliki administration to follow US dictates (for example, on oil contracts, on relations with Iran, and on relations with Anbar and other Sunni provinces), the removal of troops would allow Maliki even more leeway to pursue policies unacceptable to Washington. Thus, even if Maliki succeeds himself in the Premiership, the US may need troops to keep the pressure on him. If he does not succeed himself, then the likely alternate choices are far more explicit in their antagonism to integration of Iraq into the US sphere of interest … the Obama administration would then be left with the unacceptable prospect that withdrawal would result in Iraq adopting a posture not unlike Iran’s with regard to US presence and influence in the Middle East.
His grim conclusion:
All in all, there are myriad signs that withdrawal of US troops might result in Iraq breaking free from US influence and/or deprive the United States of the strong military presence in that part of the Middle East that both Bush and Obama advocated and have struggled to establish. Until I see some sign that the five bases are going to be dismantled, I will continue to believe that the US will find some reason – with or without the consent of the Iraqi government – to maintain a very large (on the order of 50k) military force there.
Expanding the Base
The US embassy in Iraq, already the largest diplomatic compound on the planet and the size of the Vatican City, is now likely to be doubled in size. Robert Ford, the deputy chief of mission in Baghdad, told reporters in January, “If Congress gives us the money we are asking for, this embassy is going to be twice the size it is now. It’s not going down, it’s getting bigger.”
In 2005, The Washington Post reported:
An even more expensive airfield renovation is underway in Iraq at the Balad air base, a hub for US military logistics, where for $124 million the Air Force is building additional ramp space for cargo planes and helicopters. And farther south, in Qatar, a state-of-the-art, 104,000-square-foot air operations center for monitoring US aircraft in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa is taking shape in the form of a giant concrete bunker … the US military has more than $1.2 billion in projects either underway or planned in the Central Command region – an expansion plan that US commanders say is necessary both to sustain operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and to provide for a long-term presence in the area.
Lt. Gen. Walter E. Buchanan III, who oversees Central Command’s air operations pointed out, “As the ground force shrinks, we’ll need the air to be able to put a presence in parts of the country where we don’t have soldiers, to keep eyes out where we don’t have soldiers on the ground.”
In 2007 in a piece titled “US Builds Air base in Iraq for the Long Haul” NPR reported, “The US military base in Balad, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, is rapidly becoming one of the largest American military installations on foreign soil … The base is one giant construction project, with new roads, sidewalks, and structures going up across this 16-square-mile fortress in the center of Iraq, all with an eye toward the next few decades.”
It is so big that, “There is a regular bus service within its perimeter to ferry around the tens of thousands of troops and contractors who live here. And the services are commensurate with the size of the population. The Subway sandwich chain is one of several US chains with a foothold here. There are two base exchanges that are about as large as a Target or K-Mart. Consumer items from laptop computers to flat-screen TV’s to Harley Davidson motorcycles are available for purchase.”
The report added, “Several senior military officials have privately described Balad Air Base, and a few other large installations in Iraq, as future bases of operation for the US military.” The term used is “lily pad,” a description of the military jumping from base to base without ever touching the ground in between.
In September 2009 The New York Times reported about Balad:
It takes the masseuse, Mila from Kyrgyzstan, an hour to commute to work by bus on this sprawling American base. Her massage parlor is one of three on the base’s 6,300 acres and sits next to a Subway sandwich shop in a trailer, surrounded by blast walls, sand and rock. At the Subway, workers from India and Bangladesh make sandwiches for American soldiers looking for a taste of home. When the sandwich makers’ shifts end, the journey home takes them past a power plant, an ice-making plant, a sewage treatment center, a hospital and dozens of other facilities one would expect to find in a small city. And in more than six years, that is what Americans have created here: cities in the sand…. Some bases have populations of more than 20,000, with thousands of contractors and third-country citizens to keep them running.
Camp Anaconda, as the Balad base is named, also has an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The bottling company there provides seven million bottles of water a month for those on base. This base also contains two fire stations and the single busiest landing strip in the entire Defense Department.
A 2006 Associated Press story, “Elaborate US Bases raise long-term questions,” gave the following account:
[At Balad] the concrete goes on forever, vanishing into the noonday glare, 2 million cubic feet of it, a mile-long slab that’s now the home of up to 120 US helicopters, a “heli-park” as good as any back in the States. At another giant base, al-Asad in Iraq’s western desert, the 17,000 troops and workers come and go in a kind of bustling American town, with a Burger King, Pizza Hut and a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads. The latest budget also allots $39 million for new airfield lighting, air traffic control systems and upgrades allowing al-Asad to plug into the Iraqi electricity grid – a typical sign of a long-term base. At Tallil, besides the new $14 million dining facility, Ali Air Base is to get, for $22 million, a double perimeter security fence with high-tech gate controls, guard towers and a moat – in military parlance, a “vehicle entrapment ditch with berm.”
Truthout contacted renowned journalist and filmmaker John Pilger for his views:
Like Afghanistan, the occupation of Iraq is more a war of perception than military reality. I don’t believe the US has the slightest intention of leaving Iraq. Yes, there will be the “drawdown” of regular troops with the kind of fanfare and ritual designed to convince the American public that a genuine withdrawal is happening. But the sum of off-the-record remarks by senior generals, who are ever conscious of the war of perception, is that at least 70,000 troops will remain in various guises. Add to this up to 200,000 mercenaries. This is an old ruse. The British used to “withdraw” from colonies and leave behind fortress-bases and their Special Forces, the SAS.
Bush invaded Iraq as part of a long-term US design to restore one of the pillars of US policy and empire in the region: in effect, to make all of Iraq a base. The invasion went badly wrong and the “country as base” concept was modified to that of Iraq indirectly controlled or intimidated by a series of fortress-bases. These are permanent. This is also the US plan for Afghanistan. One has to keep in mind that US foreign policy is now controlled by the Pentagon, whose man is Robert Gates. It is as if Bush never left office. Under Bush there was an effective military coup in much of Washington; the State Department was stripped of its power; and Obama did as no president has ever done: he brought across from a previous, discredited administration the entire war making bureaucracy and gave it virtually unlimited power. The only way the US will leave is for the resistance to rise again, and for Shiites and Sunni to unite; I think that will happen.
Captain, My Captain
On March 4, 2010, as a guest on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show,” Thomas Ricks, who was the military correspondent for the Washington Post, referring to President Obama’s promises to withdraw from Iraq, said, “I would say you shouldn’t believe [it] because I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think we’re going to have several thousand, several tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq on the day President Obama leaves office.”
Gen. George Casey, the chief of staff of the US Army, stated last May that his planning for the Army envisions combat troops in Iraq for a decade as part of a sustained US commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East. “Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction,” he said, “They fundamentally will change how the Army works.”
Senior CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who served under seven presidents – from John Kennedy to George H. W. Bush – explained to Truthout, “Since 2003 I’ve been suggesting that the Iraq war was motivated by the acronym OIL: oil, Israel, and Logistics (military bases to further the interests of the first two).”
In January 2008, McGovern wrote of statements signed by George W. Bush when he was in the White House:
Contrary to how President George W. Bush has tried to justify the Iraq war in the past, he has now clumsily – if inadvertently – admitted that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was aimed primarily at seizing predominant influence over its oil by establishing permanent (the administration favors “enduring”) military bases. He made this transparently clear by adding a signing statement to the defense appropriation bill, indicating that he would not be bound by the law’s prohibition against expending funds:
“(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq,” or
“(2) To exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.”
At the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on November 20, 2006, in a speech titled “A Way Forward in Iraq,” Sen. Barack Obama, who had not yet become the commander in chief of the US military, declared:
Drawing down our troops in Iraq will allow us to redeploy additional troops to Northern Iraq and elsewhere in the region as an over-the-horizon force. This force could help prevent the conflict in Iraq from becoming a wider war, consolidate gains in Northern Iraq, reassure allies in the Gulf, allow our troops to strike directly at al Qaeda wherever it may exist, and demonstrate to international terrorist organizations that they have not driven us from the region.
On March 16, 2010, Gen. David Petraeus, head of US Central Command, told lawmakers that the US military may set up an additional headquarters in northern Iraq even after the September 2010 deadline. Petraeus said that putting a headquarters in northern Iraq was “something we are looking at.”
What reason is there to doubt our commander in chief ‘s assertion that there is need to maintain an (approximately 50,000 strong) US “strike force” in or near Iraq to guarantee US interests in the Middle East, to allow Washington to move quickly against jihadists in the region and to make clear to “our enemies” that the US will not be “driven from the region”?
Bhaswati Sengupta contributed to this report.
Barack Obama, Iraq and the Big Lie March 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, About War, Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Barack Obama, Bechtel, big lie, Blackwater, cheney, corporate america, counter terrorism, democracy, dynacorp, erc alterman, first gulf war, George Bush, gulf war, gulf war 1991, haliburton, Iraq, iraq combat troops, iraq military occupation, iraq redeployment, iraq transition, Iraq war, Iraqi people, jeremy scahill, joel hirschhorn, judge judy, kuwait, McCain, Middle East, military industrial complex, Nancy Pelosi, oil, phyllis bennis, republican right, roger hollander, saddam hussein, SOFA, south korea, status of forces agreement, tyranny, us embassy baghdad, xe
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By Roger Hollander, March 1, 2009, www.rogerhollander.wordpress.com
“Don’t piss on me and try to tell me it’s raining”
Does it matter whether it is a moral and intellectual imbecile like George W. Bush or a brilliant and charismatic intellectual like Barack Obama who employ the Big Lie as a tactic to explain and justify the unjustifiable?
In a posting that appeared in towardfreedom.com on February 18, Joel S. Hirschhorn writes, “Compared to rioting Europeans, Americans seem like docile, drugged out sheep … mesmerized by melodic rhetoric of political messiah Barack Obama.”
(http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1529/1/) (italics added)
In an ironic and tragic twist of fate, it now appears that Barack Obama’s mesmerizing and melodic rhetoric has turned out to be a two-edged sword. The same magic timbre that inspired and motivated millions of America to work day and night for his election in order to end America’s disastrous military adventures in the Middle East is now being put to use to give credibility to the Bush/Cheney worldview of the Iraq War and to thwart the desires, interests and welfare of those very same millions. The delivery hasn’t changed, but God help us, look at the content (which is what this article is all about).
In an article entitled “War Is Over (IF You Want It)” that appears in the current edition of The Nation magazine (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090316/alterman), Eric Alterman calls attention to the radical Republican right strategy of defining the fiasco in Iraq as a “victory.” He cites, for example, an editorial that appeared in the Wall Street Journal that quotes Bush speech writer Marc Thiessen, “As Mr. Bush leaves office, Iraq is a unified and free country, and our enemies there have suffered a devastating defeat. If his successor does not squander that victory, a free Iraq will one day be to the Middle East what a free South Korea has been to Asia.” (this parallels the same kind of Big Lie that the radical right has propagated about the Vietnam War, that it could have been won if only the politicians had given the military a free hand – to nuke Hanoi presumably).
Alterman goes on to cite other neocons in a similar vein and suggests that this is a conscious and concentrated strategy the purpose of which is to set up President Obama up for failure. If that is indeed the case, then Obama seems to be willingly and blithely walking into the trap.
In his speech given on Friday, February 27 at marine Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, Obama both affirms the neocon revisionist history of the Iraq invasion and occupation and lies blatantly to the American public about the proposed withdrawal.
First the latter. Obama: “Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end …. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.”
A bald faced lie.
Writing in the journal Foreign Policy in Focus on Friday, February 27, (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5910), Phyllis Bennis exposes Obama’s dissimulation about the up to 50,000 allegedly non-combatant troops “left behind.” Leaving aside the question of why that huge number would be required to “train,equip and advise” (one is reminded of the “advisors” in Vietnam), which even Nancy Pelosi has questioned, Bennis refers to a December New York Times article “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.’” She adds, “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.”
Along with AlterNet’s Jeremy Scahill (“All Troops Out By 2011? Not So Fast; Why Obama’s Iraq Speech Deserves a Second Look,” (http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/129362/all_troops_out_by_2011_not_so_fast%3B_why_obama%27s_iraq_speech_deserves_a_second_look/), Bettis shows how the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which was adopted by the Iraqi government but never ratified by the United States, and which calls for all U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, is full of loopholes that the Pentagon and presumably the President are ready, willing and able, to employ when the time comes for the helicopters to be evacuating the remaining troops a la Vietnam (in other words, it ain’t gonna happen).
Obama himself (inadvertently, I presume) lets it slip into the speech where he states that he will “retain a transitional force … conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions.” Such missions can hardly be characterized as anything other than combat missions. He also telegraphs to both the American people via his warning to the Iraq resistance what his ace-in-the-loophole will be: “But our enemies should be left with no doubt: this plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed.” It’s that flexibility that we knee-jerk peace-mongers worry about.
Sins of omission can be as deceptive, disingenuous and morally corrupt as sins of commission. As Bettis points out, Obama neglected to mention the future use of air and naval force in Iraq, the disposition of the more than fifty military bases in Iraq, or the future status of the enormous numbers of mercenaries and contractors (e.g. Dyncorp, Bechtel, and Blackwater, now Xe). Nor did refer to the city within a city that is the United States Embassy in Baghdad, the largest embassy in the history of humankind of which you can bet that it wasn’t built to become redundant in a period of a couple of years. Come December 31, 2111, all logic and experience tell us that United States military presence in Iraq will continue to be substantial. Obama does himself and the nation a disservice by suggesting otherwise.
As for the Bush, Cheney, neocon, and now apparently Obama fairytale version of the United States involvement in Iraq, it is probably true that it is the only one that would have been palatable for obvious reasons to the marines at Camp Lejeune, not to mention the neo-Fascist right that has ruled the country for the past eight years. But to speak before the country and the entire world and characterize the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq, which has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, untold misery for millions and the virtual destruction of the Iraq infrastructure, as some kind of a noble venture is to contort reality into nothing less than a Big Lie which can only serve to justify past atrocity and foreshadow future ongoing bloodshed and destruction.
Obama: “We Americans have offered our most precious resource – our young men and women – to work with you to rebuild what was destroyed by despotism; to root out our common enemies; and to seek peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, and for yours.” Bush could not have said it any better (which is probably why McCain is salivating as we speak).
The Biggest Lie of all comes toward the end of Obama’s speech: “And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime …We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government …And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life …”
Alleging that “we sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime” contains the truth within a lie. In making the statement, Obama incredibly admits that the United States government violated the most fundamental precept of the United Nations Charter and international law, to wit, an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation. But does the President expect the American people and the world to forget about the intentionally false information about nuclear materials and weapons of mass destruction that was fed to the American people and world community as the justification for the invasion in the first place? In this instance Obama’s Big lie serves to reinforce the Original Big Lie of the Bush administration. The growing demand for prosecutorial accountability with respect to Bush and Company include, we should remember, not only torture, rendition, illegal wiretapping, etc. but also the crime of lying to the American public and Congress about the grounds for the invasion.
(To put matters into an even broader historical context, I refer readers to Nora Eisenberg’s excellent piece in AlterNet.com where she documents the Big Lie technique that was used to justify the first Gulf War in 1991 where according to a United Nations report the United States Air Force bombed Iraq “back into the Dark Ages.” “Obama to Announce Iraq Troop Withdrawal,”
As for establishing a sovereign government and leaving the Iraqi people the opportunity to have a better life, while the jury may still be out on those counts, the evidence we have to date flies in the face of such empty rhetorical wishful thinking.
Some time ago Bush and the neocons began, ominously, comparing Iraq with South Korea, where the U.S. has had a “successful” military presence for over 50 years. They neglect, of course, to note the difference, to wit, that South Korea was a military ally of the United States against the North Korean invasion, whereas the U.S. has been bombing the life out of Iraq since 1991 and through its unlawful invasion provoked a near civil war within the country that has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis? Will this South Korea paradigm fiction be the next straw that Obama will need to grasp in order to justify occupation in perpetuity?
There are two other critical concepts, which are central to the forces that were behind the original invasion and which impulse the continued military occupation, that Obama neglected to mention. One of them is “war profiteering.” Wipe out the infrastructure, and then as a pretext for reconstructing it, give billions in untendered contracts to the likes of Dick Cheney’s Haliburton. And that is not to mention the corporate ghouls who manufacture our weapons of mass destruction.
The other concept, however, is one that virtually every American, not to mention the rest of the world, knows in her or his heart to have been, is, and will continue to be the single most – if not the only – motivating force behind the U.S. military adventure in Iraq. It can be found in the original but quickly discarded acronym for the mission: Operation Iraqi Liberation.
Further Deconstruction of President Obama’s February 27 “Withdrawal from Iraq” Speech
Obama: (to the military) “You have fought against tyranny …”
Deconstruction: Those soldiers who have fought tyranny are living in Canada.
Obama: (to the military) “You have fought against … disorder.”
Deconstruction: Disorder created not only by the current invasion and occupation but also by 19 years of U.S. bombing and economic blockade. Eisenberg: “We never learned that the government’s goals had changed from expelling Saddam’s forces from Kuwait to destroying Iraq’s infrastructure. Or what a country with a destroyed infrastructure looks like — with most of its electricity, telecommunications, sewage system, dams, railroads and bridges blown away.”
Obama: “Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007.”
Deconstruction: Sectarian killing and violence that the U.S. invasion and occupation provoked and by which Saddam Hussein’s atrocities pale in comparison. U.S. inspired violence and killing 2003-2006 conveniently ignored.
Obama: “Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces …”
Deconstruction: And has been handed a recruiting opportunity that will dramatically inflate the ranks of revenge-motivated terrorists who will plague us for decades or more.
Obama: “… a transition to full Iraqi responsibility … an Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant … The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources.”
Deconstruction: An Iraq that is occupied by the U.S. military in perpetuity, in order to ensure the protection of U.S. interests in the region’s natural resources and to ensure the “election” of government’s that maintain Iraq as a client state of the U.S.
Obama: “There are those … who will insist that Iraq’s differences cannot be reconciled without more killing.”
Deconstruction: We don’t insist on more killing we just do it. Bennis: “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?”
Obama: “And as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I promise you that I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary …”
Deconstruction: Necessary to what and to whose ends?
Obama: “What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals.”
Deconstruction: Forget such wishy-washy idealist notions such as actual peace and justice.
Obama: (with respect to) “millions of displaced Iraqis … America has … a moral responsibility – to act.”
Deconstruction: This is another Obama slip up: America has no “moral responsibility” to help those refugees. It was Saddam who made us create all those refugees. Right? We do it out of the goodness of our gas-guzzling hearts.
Obama: “… the United States of America – a nation that exists only because free men and women have bled for it from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Anbar; from the mountains of Korea to the streets of Kandahar.”
Deconstruction: Obama gives us jingoistic triumphalistic patriotism, when the American people hunger for a truthful acknowledgement of the past crimes.
One has to ask the question why the entire sub-text, not to mention the practical implications, of Obama’s speech was addressed directly to the radical Republican right, corporate America, and the military-industrial complex.