Before he was elected president, Barack Obama called the invasion of Iraq a “dumb war,” a position he took consistent to his opposition to the Iraq war even before being elected as a member of the U.S. Senate. During the presidential campaign, Obama said he would withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months of his presidency. Not only did he fail to fulfill his pledge, but Obama also used his Oval Office address last August 31st as an occasion, according to one writer, to boost America’s official policy of perpetual war.
In declaring an end to combat war in Iraq after seven years of American military occupation, Obama was simply rebranding the war, calling the more than 50,000 combat troops still deployed in Iraq as “transitional” forces dedicated to “training” and “advising” Iraq security forces. Because of the drawdown in Iraq, the U.S., according to Obama, could now redeploy its forces to Afghanistan in order to defeat Al Qaeda, which clearly supports America’s military policy of waging an endless war.
Obama did not declare victory in the Iraq war during his speech. Rightly so, for he opposed the war in the first place because it was launched based on a tissue of lies. Unlike George W. Bush who ridiculously declared victory two months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, despite not finding “weapons of mass destruction,” his casus belli for the invasion. Or failing to establish Iraqi links to Al Qaeda, which the Bush administration propaganda led people to believe Saddam Hussein was preparing to place his alleged WMD in the hands of Al Qaeda to set off “mushroom clouds” over American cities.
The truth is Al Qaeda was never present in Iraq when the U.S. invaded. According to Obama’s own national security, there are fewer than a hundred members of the group left in Afghanistan and unable to coordinate any actions. While Obama did the right thing in disengaging the United States from the war in Iraq, it is mind-boggling that he is repeating in Afghanistan the same mistakes that were made in Iraq.
One lesson many Americans would have finally learned from the U.S. occupation of Iraq is that imperialism does not pay. As the United States under Bush and Obama fiddled with the nonexistent terrorist threat from Iraq, the U.S. economy burned, suffering from a financial meltdown resulting in enormous job losses and foreclosures of thousands of homes. President Obama now realizes that the more urgent task facing him during the midterm elections and his forthcoming re-election in two years is to restore the U.S. economy and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work. Otherwise, he continues to be an easy target for the GOP. A sagging economy and endless war abroad are not likely to revive America’s or his fortunes.
But calling the American occupation of Iraq a “remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq" befuddles everyone’s imagination. Almost bankrupting the U.S. economy, the United States has to endure a long and painful recession through nearly a decade of war. Call that remarkable.
On March 10, 2003, ten days before the invasion, George W. Bush promised that “the life of the Iraqi citizen is going to dramatically improve.” Was this achieved after the invasion and during the American occupation?
A New York Times journalist describes it this way: “The year 2003, when the Americans invaded, often echoes in 2010, as they prepare to leave. Little feels linear here these days; the sense of the recurrent is more familiar.”
With long lines at fuel stations, it is one of the greatest of Iraq’s ironies. People must endure long waits for gas in a country with the world’s third largest reserve of oil. Call that remarkable.
Writing for The Guardian, Simon Jenkins concluded that “Iraqis are marginally freer than in 2003, and considerably less secure. Two million remain abroad as refugees from seven years of anarchy, with another 2 million internally displaced. Ironically, almost all Iraqi Christians have had to flee. Under western rule, production of oil – Iraq's staple product – is still below its pre-invasion level, and homes enjoy fewer hours of electricity. This is dreadful.” Call that remarkable, too.
Perhaps, Barack Obama’s Oval Office speech would be remembered most, not for ending the war in Iraq, but for his statement that the military constitutes the “steel” in the “ship of state.” Not the Constitution, not the democratic institutions and neither the democratic rights of the people, but the U.S. armed forces. This is highly disturbing coming from a former professor of constitutional law and a sworn defender of civil rights. Or, perhaps not. Obama presumably must be referring to the power and might of the U.S. military compared to the rest of the world.
The continuing deployment of more than 50,000 American troops in Iraq after its occupation by the United States is not unheard of. This practice of leaving troops or military bases after gaining a foothold in a foreign country they have conquered is integral to American military strategy.
When the United States granted nominal independence to the Philippines in 1946, the Philippine and U.S. governments entered into a military bases agreement that would allow the U.S. to establish and keep military bases in the country. While the primary purpose of the agreement was to provide military assistance to the Philippine government, the bases, particularly Subic Naval Air Base and Clark Air Base supported U.S. global military strategy and were at the centre of Washington’s forward deployment strategy in the Pacific. The bases’ agreement was terminated in 1991 but only to be replaced by another brand of U.S. military intervention through the RP-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows American troops to join with the Philippine armed forces in the war against Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Southern Philippines.
Despite President Obama’s declaration that the United States is finally ending its combat role in Iraq, it does not intend to end its military presence in Iraq. Together with its almost 50,ooo troops still deployed in strategic locations in Iraq, the United States continues to build permanent bases and is fully determined to pursue the original agenda of the Bush administration in March 2003—to impose U.S. hegemony in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. So, all this talk about ending the war is nothing but duplicitous.
History is witness to America’s military folly everywhere. Whenever American troops pull out of every country they have invaded in the name of freedom or chosen by the American military-industrial complex as an arena for displaying their powerful war arsenal, they leave the country in ruins and their people much less freer than they were before. Thus the U.S. war cry goes on: it’s Afghanistan next and more on the line.
As Simon Jenkins aptly wrote in The Guardian, “The west is leaving Iraq in a pool of blood, dust and dollars. It remains wedded to Iraq's twin sister in folly, Afghanistan.”