Tuesday 25 October 2011

Rant Regarding the Spurious Idea That America is "Withdrawing" from Iraq -- is this a "Teachable Moment?"

Should we really be celebrating the President Obama's declaration of an end of the “war” in Iraq? So yes, a decision, long overdue, was finally made that all the troops are supposed to leave by the end of the year. BUT the troops remain in Afghanistan. And we are in essence simply contracting out an ongoing military presence to mercenaries - the continuation of our current policy to "ensure security" in Iraq - and we are going to pay for it out the wazooo for who knows how long.

Is this anything worth celebrating? I think this is one of those teachable moments when peace groups and peace churches could be issuing a statement or comment - but what could/should it be?

Well, at the least, an informed one!

As you might guess by now, I was quite unhappy with this quote from President Obama which beamed to the rest of the world: “The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops."

It's not a good statement at all - and here's why: It is likely that most Americans - and it is among other nationalities as well - think a war becomes "justified" when enough killing and destruction has been wrought to eliminate any effective opposition to "our cause" - or - if an especially despicable leader or two "over there" is assassinated. That is the subtext of many movies, video games, songs, and other aspects of popular culture now - the theme of "redemptive violence." Indeed, it's ubiquitous.

 That is not a good definition of a just war - nor a cause for celebration. It's actually a very dangerous and repugnant value which often issues in decisions and actions completely counter to international law, not to speak of the principles of peace and conflict transformation. This deserves a lot more discussion and re-evaluation at the common people level as well as at the highest decision-making levels of our governments and civil society.

 And let's discuss in open forums the bald facts about this so-called "withdrawal" from Iraq.

 Withdrawal of troops yes, but replacing them with 5,500 "contracted" mercenaries!? (And look how well that has gone in the past!) The source of my information?
Just Foreign Policy:  http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/blog/dailynews

One can subscribe near the top of JFP's home page for ongoing updates.  For the reader's convenience here, I have posted (at the end of this column) the important set of facts they expose in their current "US/Top News Summary."

Obviously, matters related to this so-called withdrawal are not going to be "settled" at all without directly addressing a very disturbing reality - the heavy presence of private mercenaries - i.e. the contractors who will take over from the troops to protect the extensive network of American diplomatic corp members and other American interests in that land. Iraq has by far the largest American diplomatic presence compared to any other nation in the world! At the end of those bulletin points (below) the extent of ongoing financial entanglement is revealed. When one digs into all the details - and here is a good list it doesn't sound much like "withdrawal" to my way of thinking!

So, an important question becomes "What will be the attitude of the Iraqi people if nothing different is felt or experienced on the ground compared to the last few years when the troops were there, except for changes in the color of the uniform as the mercs replace the troops? (Remember, it’s still a war zone there!)  And...what will be the attitude of Americans in the long run when they begin to realize the billions of dollars that America continues to spend in Iraq to uphold our special "interests" there?

I carry a dim hope that some noisy debate about this will stir soon, but it doesn't bode well that this information got uncovered already, back during Congressional Hearings in the first two months of 2011 --did you hear or know about these details before now? So, I won't hold my breath, because sure as anything the American mainstream media will continue to suppress these realities. This sort of information usually gets discovered and diseminated after investigations by independent media sources and their reporters who aren't "embedded" and dig out the truth. However, vast swaths of the American public are drinking the tainted coolaid of Faux News, Sanitized News, and conglomerate-owned media outlets of similar persuasion.

So, imagine the impact of sensitively-worded public statements by peace groups and congregations or denominations in contrast to the mainstream media news reports about the war being over as the troops come home.

THAT is our challenge. How to support individual war-weary soldiers, many with symptoms of PTSD, while appealing for a real withdrawal. How about this for a start?

We would have preferred the President to say: “The American people stand united in our acknowledgement of the difficulty involved in the Iraq service by our troops and in our desire that they will never be called upon again for such a war. We believe..."

How would you complete that phrase if someone interviewed you on the street regarding your reaction to the President's announcement? I encourage some creative discussion about this amongst our circle of friends and in our congregations between now and the end of the year when the media organizations repeat those deceptive announcements about how America is finally "withdrawing" from Iraq.


The Facts:

Source: http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/blog/dailynews

1) The Obama administration has decided to withdraw [almost] all [uniformed] U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year, the Washington Post reports. The only [Department of Defense] U.S. military presence that will remain in Iraq after the end of the year will be the roughly 150 troops needed to protect the large U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad and its thousands of U.S. diplomats and other personnel, as well as provide training related to new military sales and other tasks.

2) President Obama said: "That is how America's military efforts in Iraq will end," notes Spencer Ackerman in Wired. But it isn't so, Ackerman says. On January 1, 2012, the State Department will command a hired army of about 5,500 security contractors, all to protect the largest U.S. diplomatic presence anywhere overseas.

The State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security does not have a promising record when it comes to managing its mercenaries, Ackerman notes. In July, the State Department blocked the Congressionally-appointed watchdog for Iraq from acquiring basic information about contractor security operations, such as the contractors' rules of engagement. You can also expect that there will be a shadow presence by the CIA, and possibly the Joint Special Operations Command, Ackerman says.

3) Sens. Jon Tester and Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced legislation to create a new commission to "scrutinize the necessity of the United States' current overseas basing structure" and do a cost-benefit analysis of closing multiple overseas bases, Starts and Stripes reports. This week the pair sent a letter to the congressional supercommittee urging them to make significant cuts in future overseas military construction projects. The letter called into question U.S. military projects in Europe and on Guam, saying the Defense Department has not justified the need for billions more in base spending there.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform earlier this year estimated that "responsible" overseas base closings could save taxpayers $8.5 billion in the next four years. The president's own Commission on Debt Reduction put that figure closer to $9 billion.

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