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It’s Obama’s War Now
Posted on Mar 2, 2009
By Chris Hedges
This is the text of a talk by Chris Hedges that will be read at anti-war gatherings to be held by The World Can’t Wait in New York’s Union Square, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Nashville, Louisville, Chicago and Berkeley on March 19 to protest the sixth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.
Barack Obama has shown that he is as capable of doublespeak as any other politician when he announced an end to the war in Iraq. Combat troops are to be pulled out of Iraq by August 2010, he said, but some 50,000 occupation troops will remain behind. Someone should let the Iraqis know the distinction. I doubt any soldier or Marine in Iraq will notice much difference in 19 months. Many combat units will simply be relabeled as noncombat units. And what about our small army of well-paid contractors and mercenaries? Will Dyncorp, Bechtel, Blackwater (which recently changed its name to Xe), all of whom have made fortunes off the war, pack up and go home? What about the three large super-bases, dozens of smaller military outposts and our imperial city, the Green Zone? Will American corporations give up their lucrative control of Iraqi oil?
The occupation of Iraq will not be disrupted. Lies and deception, which launched the war in the first place, are being employed by Democrats to maintain it. This is not a withdrawal. It is occupation lite. And as long as American troops are on Iraqi soil the war will grind on, the death toll on each side will continue to mount and we will remain a lightning rod for hatred and rage in the Middle East. Add to this Obama’s decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and even his most purblind supporters will have to admit the new president is as intent on maintaining American empire as the old.
The occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan has not promoted U.S. security or stability in the Middle East. These occupations have furthered the spread of failed states, increased authoritarianism and unleashed savage violence. They have opened up voids of lawlessness, including in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where our real enemies can operate and plot against us. These occupations have scuttled the art of diplomacy and mocked the rule of law. We have become an outlaw state intent on creating more outlaw states. The occupations have, finally, empowered Iran, as well as Russia and China, which gleefully watch our self-immolation. And, in the end, we cannot win these wars. We will withdraw all our troops in an orderly manner or see these occupations collapse in an orgy of bloodshed.
Iraq, because of our invasion and occupation, no longer exists as a unified country. The experiment that was Iraq, the cobbling together of disparate and antagonistic patches of the Ottoman Empire by the victorious powers in the wake of World War I, will never come back. The Kurds have set up a de facto state in the north. The Shiites control most of the south. The center of the country is a battleground. There are at least 2 million Iraqis who have fled their homes and are internally displaced. Another 2 million have left the country, most to Syria and Jordan, which now has the largest number of refugees per capita of any country on Earth. And perhaps as many as 1.2 million Iraqis are dead because of what we have done.
The eight-year war in Afghanistan has seen the Taliban re-emerge from the ashes. An additional 30,000 troops will do little to prop up the detested and corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai. Our attempt to buy off Afghan tribal groups with money and even weapons has collapsed, with most slipping back into the arms of the Taliban insurgents. The U.N. estimates that the Taliban is now raking in $300 million a year from the expanded poppy trade to fund the resistance. The Taliban controlled about 75 percent of Afghan territory when we invaded eight years ago. It has recaptured about half of the country since its initial defeat, and its reach has expanded to the outskirts of major cities such as Kabul and Kandahar. Twenty-nine American troops died in Afghanistan the first two months of 2009, a threefold increase compared with the eight who died during the same period last year. And more Afghan civilians are dying in allied operations than at the hands of the Taliban, according to a count by the Associated Press. In the first two months of the year, American, NATO or Afghan forces have killed 100 civilians, while militants have killed 60.
Do the cheerleaders for an expanded war in Afghanistan know any history? Have they studied what happened to the Soviets, who lost 15,000 Red Army soldiers between 1979 and 1988, or even the British in the 19th century? Do they remember why we went into Afghanistan? It was, we were told, to hunt down Osama bin Laden, who is now apparently in Pakistan. Has anyone asked what our end goal is in Afghanistan? Is it nation-building? Have we declared war on the Taliban? Or is this simply the forever war on terror?
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