President Obama appeared before the American people to formally declare the combat mission was officially over in Iraq. Obama discussed what Iraqis must do now that the U.S. has ended combat operations, re-affirmed America’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan, and ended with a focus on the economy and restoring the middle class in America.
In a much more reverential and eloquent manner (with no bombastic stunt like landing on a military aircraft carrier to lead us into the speech), Obama delivered a “Mission Accomplished” speech. It was an address to the troops to assert and assure them, their families, and those who had little stake in this war that this war was a war worth fighting.
Left out was how President Bush sent troops into a war based on the lies that Iraq posed an imminent threat to this country, how his administration falsely claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and how the administration successfully propagandized and convinced a large portion of the population that Saddam Hussein and others in Iraq played a role in the attacks of 9/11. Instead, Obama discussed the beginning of war by stating: “Seven-and-a-half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq. Much has changed since that night. A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency. Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart. Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested.”
Why should it be any surprise that “unity” was tested as a result of an administration that failed to convincingly lie an entire nation into war sell this nation a war because some people used logic, reasoning and asked questions to decide whether to support this military adventure or not and when they discovered the Bush Administration was fabricating a case for war they began to seriously doubt the motives for invading Iraq?
At one point, President Obama appeared to suggest that Americans with grievances toward former President George W. Bush should suspend those grievances. He said he was “mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home.” He admitted he disagreed with Bush on the Iraq War but asserted that “Bush’s support for our troops or his love of country and commitment” to American security was unflinching, which essentially meant liberals or progressives should forgive and possibly forget any sort of criminal or negligent activity Bush participated in that took place as a result of the Iraq War (like the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA agent when her husband, Joseph Wilson, failed to come back with “evidence” to promote the idea that Iraq had WMDs).
Obama explained “there were patriots who supported this war and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women and our hopes for Iraqis` future.” What about the patriots who did not support the wars and found that they could not support the troops because if they did they would essentially be supporting the mission and reinforcing the idea that the war should continue? Those people are probably not to be considered; it’s likely they aren’t to be regarded as Real Americans.
And, Obama said, “The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead. And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda.”
Americans were reminded that President Obama is just as committed to “taking the fight to the extremists” as President Bush was to “fighting the terrorists over there so we didn’t have to fight them here.” How real is this al-Qaeda “threat” really? Why does it seem like President Obama has continued former Vice President Dick Cheney’s “one-percent doctrine”—the idea that if there is a one-percent chance of something happening, that something has to be treated as it will happen? How many of us still fear the al-Qaeda boogeyman and feel that the Homeland Security-complex in this country isn’t good enough to keep us safe? How many believe continued wars are helping to keep al-Qaeda from striking at this country again?
President Obama said now a “transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security” in Iraq will take place. Americans should be weary about this transition; it is likely to not be as welcoming to the Iraqi people as President Obama would like Americans to believe.
If you ask Iraqis like Yanar Mohammed, President of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Iraqis will likely tell you they view the Iraqi security forces to be more oppressive than benevolent. The U.S. trained the Iraqi army to detain Iraqis and carry out many of the tactics U.S. troops used, which consequentially made it difficult to win hearts and minds.
If you ask Iraqis like Mohammed, freedom of organizing doesn’t exist. Collective bargaining or the privilege to organize and form unions, the freedom to participate in civil society organizations that promote democracy in Iraq—that doesn’t really exist. People who participate in unions or civil society organizations are being harassed, targeted, and, in some cases, banned. And, there is fear of continued repression because, as Human Rights Watch has reported, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki runs a prison in Baghdad where prisoners have been tortured “Abu Ghraib-style.”
In order for America to legitimate the belief that Iraqis “can resolve their differences and police their streets” and “only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders,” there are a number of policies and permissions that the U.S. government granted to corporations and non-governmental organizations that need to be reversed and suspended. There are a number of policies and laws that the U.S. encouraged the Iraqi government to pass that must be repealed and entirely done away with so all Iraqi people can truly enjoy the so-called freedom troops fought to institute in Iraq.
President Obama said in his speech, “We`ve persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people, a belief that, out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibilities. Now it`s time to turn the page.”
The stunning aspect of this was, as Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, said on CNN after the speech, “this was President Obama speaking, not candidate Obama and not Senator Obama’ praising the idea of nation-building in Iraq.” He was praising “the idea of spreading democracy in Iraq” and “conditions-based withdrawal,” which were terms “more associated with the more hawkish elements of the Democratic Party and indeed with President George W. Bush.”
Now, America continues to act under the notion that it is capable of building nations even though it’s success in rebuilding countries like Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, etc has been dismal at best. The U.S. military and its leaders continue to fight a war that we are led to believe will end in the next couple of years, but it will likely have an ending similar to the end we have seen here with Iraq. Unless neoconservatives along with a band of rogue generals in the U.S. military win influence over Obama, the war will lack a decisive endpoint like this war did.
The exit of combat brigades from Iraq was, as professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the U.S. Army has suggested, an indication that officers came to the conclusion this outcome was likely to be as good as it would get. That’s because, according to Bacevich, the military establishment and foreign policymakers no longer believe in "military solutions." The "officer corps" have resigned themselves to the fact that true victory, in the sense that Americans understand it, is impossible; they accept the fact wars from this point on will be protracted, dirty, costly, and will from now on end in an ambiguous way if they end at all.
Such is the expectation Americans will be asked to have for the Afghanistan War. Americans will be conditioned, as they have been, to accept a permanent presence will remain in Afghanistan after the “combat mission” is over. And why should all troops come home anyway? The military is one of the best jobs programs in the nation. America cannot cut back their use of military forces now or else unemployment in this country would be much worse.
So, the question now is, where to next? How long before another theater of war is opened? The corporations and leaders who run the country will not be content if all of these wars in the “war on terror” have wound down by 2016. They will be tremendously bored. And, if the economy continues to worsen, they will increasingly propose war as a way of rejuvenating the economy.
Iraq should be a lesson not to engage in nation-building. But, it doesn’t appear America will learn it should not attempt to build nations. So, what country will America try to "liberate" and "rebuild" next?