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It’s Obama’s War Now
Posted on Mar 2, 2009
By Chris Hedges
Al-Qaida, which we have also inadvertently resurrected, still finds plenty of recruits. It still runs training facilities. It still carries out attacks in London, Madrid, Iraq and now Afghanistan, which did not experience suicide bombings until December 2005. Al-Qaida has moved on. But we remain stuck, confused and lashing about wildly like a wounded and lumbering beast.
Obama, during the campaign, promised that he would pull out one combat brigade per month over a 16-month period from Iraq. But this promise has been scrapped. Instead, troop levels will remain steady for most of this year and into the first few months of 2010. Troops will only start leaving, we are told, in large numbers in the spring and summer of next year, but even the pace of this downsizing will be left to the discretion of commanders. The troops left in Iraq after the “withdrawal” will, the Obama administration says, train Iraqi soldiers, protect U.S. assets and conduct “anti-terror operations.”
The U.S. agreement with Iraq, known as SOFA, or status of forces agreement, calls for all U.S. forces to be out of Iraq by the end of December 2011. But this seems very unlikely. The Pentagon has, despite the SOFA agreement, built its long-range planning around the assumption that anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 troops will be based in Iraq long after 2011. 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) calls for a national referendum to be held in Iraq during the summer of 2009. Iraqis will supposedly be able to approve or reject the agreement. The some 50 U.S. bases in Iraq are, under the agreement, to be turned over to the Iraqis.
Will Obama defy the results of a referendum and ram the continued occupation down the throats of Iraqi voters? It certainly looks like it. Of course, all this will be handled, I suspect, by having our client government in Baghdad “request” that we remain, making an even greater farce of our public commitment to democracy.
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If the delicate cease-fire we have negotiated with the former Sunni insurgents in Iraq breaks down, how will we respond? Suppose the some 100,000 Sunnis, who have been allowed to ethnically cleanse the areas they control and build militias, turn on the central Shiite-led government. Suppose we can no longer buy off these Sunni “Awakening” militias with the $300-a-month salaries we dispense to these fighters. Suppose the war heats up again. This is what happened in Afghanistan when we tried to bribe tribal groups with money and support. A deterioration of the security situation in Iraq could instantly scuttle even a reduction of forces.
And the military, if some troops do leave Iraq, will have to rely more heavily on airstrikes to control territory and keep insurgents at bay. The airstrikes in Afghanistan have, along with the expanded fighting, driven tens of thousands of Afghan refugees into Iran and Pakistan. Even the Karzai government has vigorously protested these airstrikes, which feed scores of recruits to the Taliban. Expect the same ugly backlash in Iraq.
I could live with the prolonged injustice of the occupation in Iraq if I thought there would really be peace, that we could then help rebuild the country we destroyed and that we had restored the rule of law by rejecting the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, something that under post-Nuremberg laws is defined as a criminal “war of aggression.” I could live with 19 months more of the war if I knew it would really be the end. But the war in Iraq, like Afghanistan, will go on. Our imperial projects and killing will continue under the Obama presidency. Many more, including some of our own, will die.
The only hope now lies in renewed protests against the war and a reinvigorated anti-war movement. This time the movement should hold fast, as stalwarts like Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader have, to the moral imperative of peace and not the false hopes offered by the Democrats. They cannot be trusted. Politics is a game of pressure. Abandon that pressure and you lose.
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