October 24, 2011

The Ungrateful Nouri shows us the door

A comment thread on Facebook recently explored, in a revealing way, the various attitudes that a certain cross-section of liberals display when it comes to President Barack Obama. His die-hard partisans wanted credit for Obama's "decision" to finish the Iraq War by bringing home all combat troops by December 31, 2011. The usual cynics (who, me?) pointed out that the Exit Sign was flashing red because time was up: the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) expires on December 31, 2011 and under the express terms of the agreement negotiated years ago by the Bush Administration, we have to be out.

The O Man did not actually want to leave; in order to stay, however, the USA needed continuing immunity (as currently enjoyed by U.S. forces) from the criminal justice system of the Iraqi courts. A lot of stuff has happened over the last eight-plus years, involving U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians, and it is highly probable that the continued presence of American soldiers in 2012 and after would engender more such unfortunate incidents. Glenn Greenwald has written extensively about a 2006 incident in the central Iraq town of Isahqi, where a group of at least ten Iraqi men, women (including the elderly) and children were massacred in a raid by American troops, and a U.S. airstrike was called in after the fact to obliterate the evidence. A coverup of the true nature of the event was then engineered by the military. The damning details were revealed by some of the Wikileaks cables voluminously released in May, 2011, to the great consternation of Message Control Central at the White House.

The Iraqi citizenry, on the other hand, are not subjected to the same level of Pravda-like propaganda as their American counterparts receive courtesy of the New York Times and Washington Post. The 2006 incident has become common knowledge in Baghdad, and if Maliki had any lingering misgivings about the SOFA and the 12/31/11 exit date, he lost most of his negotiating latitude when the Wikileaks cables hit the wires. Although I don't think that the Ungrateful Nouri actually had any such hesitations. It seems that even Mr. Greenwald has forgotten that the "immunity issue" has been around for years, and Maliki (and I confess here that I have long marveled at how this clever politician, involved as he is in completely "asymmetrical" negotiations given the disparity in power between Iraq and the U.S., finds ways to level the playing field) has used this issue precisely because he knows there is no way the Americans are ever going to turn over their own GI's to the tender mercies of the Iraqi mullahs.

Thus, Obama's "announcement" of a troop pullout was simply presidential campaigning, an extremely cynical exploitation of the profound ignorance of the American voting public concerning the historical record in Iraq. The Big Media went along with the gag, of course, except for some of the usual complainers.

We'll still have lots of "contractors" and mercenaries in Iraq, of course, but they will be taking their chances with the local legal system. It remains to be seen what happens with Iraq's oil, which was, after all, the main reason we invaded in the first place. The removal of all combat troops would seem to place our ability to direct the outcome of this vital resource in serious doubt. It also opens the door to much greater Iranian influence, and it should never be forgotten that Maliki spent a great deal of time in exile in Iran when he worked with the Dawa Party to undermine Saddam Hussein.

4,500 American soldiers dead; multiples of ten thousand grievously wounded, maimed, crippled; maybe a million Iraqis killed, millions more displaced; a trillion dollars spent; a huge burden added to an already unsustainable national debt.

This is the way the war ends: not with a bang but a whimper.

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