Wednesday, September 01, 2010

It's Not Over Until It's Actually Over

President Obama got on TV last night to announce the fulfillment, more or less, of his campaign promise to bring the war in Iraq to an end. Something more than half of all U.S. troops have been pulled out of Iraq, and those remaining, those 50,000 remaining, are supposedly to refrain from war-like things like actual combat. Of course this war hasn't really looked like a war with battles and combat for a number of years, but I guess these soldiers will just not go out looking to get blown up by IEDs. Most of these remaining occupation forces are supposed to come home next year, leaving some unspecified number of private mercenaries and military forces to protect the massive American embassy and various American interests.

Meanwhile a debatable number running somewhere between a hundred thousand and a couple million Iraqis are dead, including the dictator Saddam Hussein. Americans haven't really come to terms with this fact (many of them don't actually seem to care even slightly), but all these Iraqis are dead because of the terrible terrible lies told by the Bush administration, and acquiesced to by a majority of Republican and Democratic politicians. It's like the unbelievable plot of an "Onion" article: President Bush actually used the attack by one tiny group of people on the U.S. to invade another sovereign nation that had nothing whatsoever to do with that attack, and a majority of the population egged him on. The sole achievements of this war were the creation of an unstable, barely governable, terrorist-filled state in Iraq and the bankruptcy of the U.S. economy. The deaths of a few thousand American volunteer soldiers -- and the mauling of many thousand more -- don't seem to be something Americans are willing to dwell on. It is to Obama's credit, and more importantly the American people's credit, that in the last election the anti-Iraq war candidate won. Given what we have seen since that election domestically, that vote was some kind of miraculous flash in the pan. I wish that all the American soldiers in Iraq had now left, but it does seem that the travesty of the American invasion is on its way to ending, even as the wake of tragedy in its path is unerasable.

Unfortunately, Obama should not have been described as an actual anti-war candidate in that he also promised to escalate the American war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a campaign promise he has sadly also fulfilled. I've written at great length here about how the American war in Afghanistan now also needs to come to an end. Last night Obama continued to project winding down U.S. involvement there next year as well. What the next year of occupation at the side of a corrupt puppet government will actually achieve is anyone's guess. Needless to say there will be plenty of work in the undertaking business.

And there are few grounds for optimism about the near future. There is so much evidence that the unleashed monster of war will not be so easily put back in its cage. War-mongers like former U.N. representative Bolton are literally shrieking for an attack against Iran. The blood-drenched Republicans are set for a comeback in midterm congressional elections in the fall, and these are Republicans lurching to the right to appease the teabagger lynch mob.

Obama and his government itself are engaged in a number of troubling efforts: an upcoming "peace" negotation meant to be the effective surrender of the Palestinians to Israel; an effort to assassinate without trial people around the world it deems criminal terrorists -- including American citizens; and covert efforts to militarily engage in Yemen and Somalia. The U.S. has not shown that it is done with the corrupting use of extralegal murderous mercenaries (the so-called "contractors").

So I wish I could say the "war" was over. But it's not. It's gonna sputter on a little longer, wasting a few more lives, shedding a few more buckets of tears, and solving absolutely nothing at all.

(The photo above showing a grieving mother is from the Soviet War Memorial at Treptow, outside Berlin, in the former East Germany; photographed by me ca. 1995)


  1. many interesting points here, ish. i wonder if we can really blame obama for not 'totally' ending the iraq war. it simply isn't the way to do things to pull completely out all at once. it's bad strategy. similarly, remembering that the afghan government actively harbors and protects those that WERE responsible for 9/11, i think our continued activities in afghanistan are justified, at least to a much greater extent than were our actions in iraq.

    as for the teabag party? everytime the right acts this way, a smaller splinter becomes more conservative. they are fracturing themselves right through the arteries, and i couldn't be happier about it. soon, the right will be so divided within itself that the left will be able to easily win major elections. i'm excited for that.

  2. What do you make of Chris Floyd's lament:

  3. Well Jenny I don't exactly disagree with Floyd's point, the invasion was a crime from day one and the people responsible for it should be punished, but I moderate my outrage in that in the end what was done cannot be undone. Obama's pragmatism re: Iraq is far from inspiring but in the end the U.S. doesn't seem to be killing people in Iraq anymore and that is some kind of small progress. We can and should howl about the lies, the killing, the injustice, the inherent wrongness of U.S. foreign policy, the cold-heartedness of so many Americans, but I think we should also acknowledge that all that outrage is falling on a lot of deaf ears. Obama could also be doing a lot worse. We count small blessings sometimes.

    freebones I disagree about the pulling out altogether at once, but then, I'm not really in command and nobody's taking my orders! I agree that if there are people to blame for all this Obama goes very very far down on the list.

    On the teaparty, I'm not sure what I think about whether they make the right stronger or weaker. They scare the shit out of me frankly. I think how they do in the upcoming midterms will tell a lot, and I have no predictions on that score.