Saturday, August 21, 2010

No end to war, no cheer (unless you're NYT)

The official end of America’s combat mission in Iraq next week will fulfill the campaign promise that helped vault President Obama to the White House, but it also presents profound risks as he seeks to claim credit without issuing a premature declaration of victory.

There's Peter Baker (New York Times) embarrassing himself in a way he never would have been allowed to at the Washington Post. In a piece billed as an "analysis," you shouldn't really be allowed to pimp like that. If you missed it, you know that Thursday and Friday was the spin cycle of the last combat brigade leaves Iraq. And then that blew up in everyone's faces. Now along comes Peter Baker, in alleged analysis meaning he's supposedly using the entirety of his critical faculties, he comes along to give us more spin. As Ira and George Gershwin once wrote, "Nice work if you can get it." It's a bit strange to, as Peter does, call out the media for getting it wrong after you've paddled into troubled waters of your own in your very first paragraph.

Let's instead turn to Bill Van Auken's piece for WSWS:

The White House and the Pentagon, assisted by a servile media, have hyped Thursday’s exit of a single Stryker brigade from Iraq as the end of the “combat mission” in that country, echoing the ill-fated claim made by George W. Bush seven years ago.
Obama is more skillful in packaging false propaganda than Bush, and no doubt has learned something from the glaring mistakes of his predecessor. Bush landed on the deck of the US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003 to proclaim—under a banner reading “Mission Accomplished”—that “major combat operations” in Iraq were over. A captive audience of naval enlisted personnel was assembled on deck as cheering extras.
Obama wisely did not fly to Kuwait to deliver a similar address from atop an armored vehicle. He merely issued a statement from the White House, while leaving the heavy lifting to the television networks and their “embedded” reporters, who accompanied the brigade across the border into Kuwait and repeated the propaganda line fashioned by the administration and the military brass.

Peter Baker does quote two sentences from a column by Anthony Cordesman noting the Iraq War is not over, he tends to miss the point Cordesman was establishing from the start of his piece ("Iraq: 'Mission Accomplished' Mark II"):

Well, he did not wear a flight suit, stand on a carrier deck, or have a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him. The fact remains, however, that President Obama did issue a second “mission accomplished statement on Iraq on August 18th, and one just as wrong and irresponsible as the one given by President Bush:

Today, I'm pleased to report that -- thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians in Iraq -- our combat mission will end this month, and we will complete a substantial drawdown of our troops...By the end of this month, 50,000 troops will be serving in Iraq. As Iraqi Security Forces take responsibility for securing their country, our troops will move to an advise-and-assist role. And, consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all of our troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next year. Meanwhile, we will continue to build a strong partnership with the Iraqi people with an increased civilian commitment and diplomatic effort.

Political posturing is the norm in Washington, and claiming victory and an end to a war is far more popular than bearing the burden of leadership and dealing with reality. The Iraq War is not over and it is not “won.” In fact, it is at as critical a stage as at any time since 2003. Regardless of the reasons for going to war, everything now depends on a successful transition to an effective and unified Iraqi government, and Iraqi security forces that can bring both security and stability to the average Iraqi. The creation of such an “end state” will take a minimum of another five years, and probably ten.

Iraq still faces a serious insurgency, and deep ethnic and sectarian tensions. In spite of its potential oil wealth, its economy is one of the poorest in the world in terms of real per capita income, and it is the second year of a budget crisis that has force it to devote most state funds to paying salaries and maintaining employment at the cost of both development and creating effective security forces.

While the US mainstream media worked overtime this week to ignore the Iraqi people, Xu Yanyan and Jamal Hashem (Xinhua) make a point to present the voices of those directly effected:

Adnan works at a shop in Baghdad western neighborhood of Jamia. In an interview with Xinhua just days before the full withdrawal of U.S. combat troops out of Iraq, he complained that the Americans' seven-year invasion was a disaster to the Iraqi society.
The U.S. military plans to end its combat mission on Aug. 31 and decrease the number of American soldiers to 50,000 for " civilian purpose."
Adnan said he used to enjoy a stable life with his seven-member family. His father was a college teacher and his mother was a secondary school teacher and he was doing pretty good in his high school study before the war which "totally changed my life into a hell."
"During Saddam Hussein's regime, life was almost impossible by the 13 years of UN sanctions. I can't deny that I had hoped that changing the regime would give us a chance for a better life," he said.
"But I was wrong, the Americans only brought for us misery by bringing division to the Iraqi society. Early after the occupation I couldn't imagine that many people I knew could turn into killers thinking they are defending their sect," said the young men.

In reported violence, Reuters notes a Kirkuk clash in which two people were injured, a Kirkuk sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Mosul attack in which 1 police officer was killed (another wounded) and, dropping back to Friday for the following, 1 Sahwa member shot dead in Baghdad and 1 police officer shot dead in Baghdad.

File it under "love, ageless and evergreen," there will always be Bush and Blair. The News of the World reports early talk on Tony Blair's memoir reads like "a love letter" to Bully Boy Bush and, through the eyes of love, Blair hails Bush as "highly intelligent" and a "visionary" and "sensitive." A friend of Tony Blair's tells the paper that Blair was turned on "by Bush's strength, courage and conviction".

Meanwhile World Can't Wait is getting the word out on an Sunday action:

We received this notice from people planning protests with the 3rd Battalion is sent to Iraq next week. Some of you may have heard about this upcoming action during the webcast we did a couple weeks ago.
This is a nation-wide call to action! Come to Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 22 to participate in peaceful actions with veterans and anti-war leaders opposing the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's 5,000 Soldiers to Iraq. This is your invite. Can you attend?
Despite President Obama's fallacious claims that the war in Iraq is winding down, the 3rd ACR is gearing up for yet another deployment! Furthermore, many Soldiers facing deployment are known to be unfit for combat due to injuries sustained in prior tours. The Peace Movement must not let this stand!
The Soldiers of the 3rd ACR and the people of Iraq need you to be here Aug. 22. This will be a RADICAL demonstration, with optional direct action elements and possible legal implications. While all are welcome to participate at whatever level they are comfortable, we value greatly those willing to put their bodies on the line.

And for more, you can see:

March Forward!'s Michael Prysner has a lengthy essay entitled "Is the Iraq War over?" (PSL) and we'll note this from it:

Early in the month, on Aug. 7, Army Specialist Faith Hinkley dove for cover from a rocket propelled grenade while on her base in Iraq. She was hit with shrapnel from the explosion, and bled to death in Baghdad. She was 23 years old.
And on Aug. 19, just one day after the “end” of the Iraq war was announced, a young Army soldier, Christopher Wright, was killed by shrapnel.
For the family and friends of these three soldiers, August does not seem like a month to be announcing the “end” of the Iraq war.
But the Pentagon arranged a photo-op convoy of armored vehicles crossing the Iraqi border into Kuwait—a symbolic convoy of the “last combat brigade” exiting the country.
With that, we are told by Washington, we have seen the end of the war in Iraq. Combat operations are over, they say.
This declaration, essentially begging for applause, is reminiscent of George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” performance aboard the USS Lincoln in May 2003, where he announced the “end of major combat operations” in Iraq.
Announcing the end of combat operations in a war still taking the lives of U.S. service members is the same type of doublespeak we have been getting since the lies started flowing in the buildup to the invasion.
Since the war is supposedly over, and the Obama administration is demanding a pat on the back for its “promise kept,” let us see what “postwar” Iraq really looks like.
Iraq today
This past May, a study called The Mercer Quality of Living survey released its results of “most livable city” in 2010. It ranked Baghdad dead last—the least livable city on the planet.
This is due to the complete destruction of Iraq’s sewage treatment plants, factories, schools, hospitals, museums and power plants by the U.S. military.
For most people in Iraq, access to clean water is extremely difficult. Access to electricity is also extremely scarce. In sweltering 130-degree F heat, Baghdad residents might get a total of three hours of intermittent electricity—much like the rest of the country.
According to the UNHCR, the Iraq war made more than 4.7 million Iraqis refugees—the worst humanitarian crisis in the Middle East since the Palestinians were driven from their homes in 1948.
They are the survivors of a slaughter that killed over 1 million innocent people, and maimed millions more, with U.S. bombs designed to “shock and awe.”
Those who survived the onslaught must live with the aftermath—the toxic gift left by the most high-tech weapons, professionally crafted by the defense contractors that made billions from the war. In Fallujah, which was bombarded by Marines in 2004, the stunning rate of infant mortality, cancer and birth defects have revealed a health crisis that has been called “worse than Hiroshima.”
But violence in Iraq is far from being in the past. In fact, it has spiked in recent months. In July 535 Iraqis were killed, making it the deadliest month in two years. With the Iraqi government still locked in a political crisis, there is little hope of the violence subsiding.
This violence was consciously fostered by the U.S. when it violated international law and forced Iraq’s government to be divided along sectarian lines and when Gen. Petraeus promoted civil war by arming “local militias” to fight each other, as he is now doing in Afghanistan. As a U.S. military study "discovered" in November 2007, "Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them.” (Washington Post, Dec. 19, 2007)
All this, not to mention grinding poverty, rampant unemployment, food insecurity and severe lack of medical supplies, has replaced their once reputable health care system. For the Iraqi people, life prior to the invasion—even with the decade of crippling sanctions and brutal bombings—was far better than the conditions today.
In a country of nearly 30 million people, one in three Iraqis have been killed, wounded or displaced by the United States since the 2003 invasion. Every single day in Iraq continues to produce more killed, more wounded and more displaced.

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