Thursday, January 15, 2009

No end to the Iraq War (NYT's Bumiller and Shanker)

So Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker's "Military Planners, in Nod to Obama, Are Preparing for a Faster Iraq Withdrawal" (New York Times) is published and what does it tell us? Very little*. And a great deal.

First, let's show how real reporters cover the treaty:

The current military plan for Iraq was drawn up to meet the recent status-of-forces agreement between the United States and the Iraqi government that calls for both shorter and longer timetables than Mr. Obama's campaign promise. Under that agreement, all United States combat troops are to be out of Iraqi cities by June and all American forces are to be out of Iraq entirely by the end of 2011. That agreement, however, can be renegotiated.

Note the last sentence. Well done. Bumiller, Shanker and Peter Baker (see end credit for story) speak with various military planners (and Joe Biden for Baker) about Iraq. Though Barack did not shoot down plans for a slower withdrawal of "combat" troops from Iraq -- only "combat" troops and Bumiller previously noted how that term can be fudged, alternate plans are being prepared in case he does complain.

Using the high figure, 48,000 US service members could be out of Iraq (with at least 30,000 of that number redeployed to Afghanistan) in six months. That would still leave close to 100,000 US troops in Iraq. And there is no full withdrawal planned by Barack. That is why he refused to promise that, if elected, all US troops would be out of Iraq by the end of his first term (2012). Of course, Barack also rushed to assure the Times (2007) that he would easily halt any drawdown and rush more troops back into Iraq (and no words to declare this a temporary measure) when he sat down with Michael Gordon and Jeff Zeleny (see this Iraq snapshot and Third's article and the actual transcript of the interview -- a transcript Tom Hayden should have read before humiliating himself in public, then again Tom-Tom seems to enjoy public humiliation). So the article tells you that the military's preparing for all possibilities . . . except the possibility the American people want (and some foolishly believe Barack ever promised) full withdrawal of Iraq.
That is not an option the military even considers.

So the article tells you the illegal war is not ending. The most to hope for is a small number of US service members will leave Iraq and many to remain in the country for years to come -- under a classification other than "combat". In fact, let's go back to Bumiller's report on how the term "combat troops" can be fudged because it's Bumiller doing the reporting these days. It's not Naomi Klein, it's not Christian Parenti, it's not anyone who was a loud voice in 2004 or any time in the last years. Here's Bumiller explaining the fudging last month:

Even though the agreement with the Iraqi government calls for all American combat troops to be out of the cities by the end of June, military planners are now quietly acknowledging that many will stay behind as renamed "trainers" and "advisers" in what are effectively combat roles. In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else.
"Trainers sometimes do get shot at, and they do sometimes have to shoot back," said John A. Nagl, a retired lieutenant colonel who is one of the authors of the Army's new counterinsurgency field manual.
The issue is a difficult one for Mr. Obama, whose campaign pledge to "end the war" ignited his supporters and helped catapult him into the White House. But as Mr. Obama has begun meeting with his new military advisers -- the top two, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are holdovers from the Bush administration -- it has become clear that his definition of ending the war means leaving behind many thousands of American troops.

So there's no withdrawal. There's a drawdown. And that's for Afghanistan to get more US troops. The reporters conclude with a paragraph that needs to be noted because, in 2012, many will pretend the issue was never raised, that no one could have forseen what lay in store. From Bumiller and Shanker's report:

Even as Mr. Obama prepares for the drawdown in Iraq, some influential Democrats and national security experts have begun voicing concern about his willingness to send up to 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan, where the United States has been at war for more than seven years. They say that Mr. Obama has yet to make clear his overall goals beyond calling for more forces, money and diplomacy in an increasingly violent, ungovernable country that the military says presents even more problems than Iraq.

[*This is the article noted in yesterday's snapshot.]

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thom shanker