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March 02, 2009

The Sweet, Sweet Sound Of Skepticism

By: John Caruso

I always like it when someone I already respect immensely proves again that the respect is deserved.  The case in point here is Phyllis Bennis, responding to Obama's Iraq reapportionment plan (and I hope she'll excuse me for making a mockery of fair use as I quote a huge chunk of her article):

If this plan were actually a first step towards the unequivocal goal of a complete end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, it would be better than good, it would be fabulous. But that would mean this withdrawal would be the first step towards a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops, pulling out of all the 150,000+ U.S.-paid foreign mercenaries and contractors, closing all the U.S. military bases, and ending all U.S. efforts to control Iraqi oil.

So far that is not on Obama's agenda.

The troop withdrawal as planned would leave behind as many as 50,000 U.S. troops. That's an awful lot. Even Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi thinks that may be too much. She told Rachel Maddow, "I don't know what the justification is for 50,000, at the present...I would think a third of that, maybe 20,000, a little more than a third, 15,000 or 20,000."

Those troops won't include officially designated "combat" troops. But those tens of thousands of troops will still be occupying Iraq. Doing what? Very likely, just what combat troops do — they would walk and talk and bomb and shoot like combat troops, but they’d be called something else. The New York Times spelled it out last December: describing how military planners believe Obama's goal of pulling out combat troops "could be accomplished at least in part by re-labeling some units, so that those currently counted as combat troops could be 're-missioned,' their efforts redefined as training and support for the Iraqis." That would mean a retreat to the lies and deception that characterized this war during Bush years — something President Obama promised to leave behind. It would also mean military resistance in Iraq would continue, leading to more Iraqi and U.S. casualties.

Further, the U.S. agreement with Iraq calls for all U.S. forces to be out of Iraq by the end of December 2011. President Obama's announcement later this week may even reflect something like this goal too. But. The agreement can be changed. Retired General Barry McCaffrey wrote an internal report for the Pentagon after a trip to Iraq last year, saying, "We should assume that the Iraqi government will eventually ask us to stay beyond 2011 with a residual force of trainers, counterterrorist capabilities, logistics, and air power." My estimate? Perhaps a force of 20,000 to 40,000 troops.   

Bennis is one of those serious think tank lefties who keep their voices steady and their words modulated in order to maintain their mainstream credibility, so that last sentence represents a serious jab on her part.  Zing!  And she's right, of course.  The force Obama is leaving behind is probably very close to the size and type of force he'll want to keep in Iraq indefinitely—so he's essentially trying to sell this indefinite occupation, in something very close to its final form, as a withdrawal.  And we all know what it really means for the United States to have "trainers" and "advisors" in a country.

You can read the rest of Bennis's analysis here.

ALSO: Happily, some of the leaders of the anti-war movement are responding in the right way rather than heaping praise on that great new outfit the emperor's wearing:

"The bad news from our perspective is it's going to take [19 months]," [Leslie Cagan] said. "We think the timeline could be a lot shorter. We're also troubled by the plan to leave literally tens of thousands of troops in Iraq."

Cagan said Obama should leave no troops in Iraq.

"We don't think this is a strong enough plan, which leads us to conclude that our work as an anti-war movement is far from over," she said.

Which is absolutely true, but unfortunately the participation of large numbers of mainstream Democrats in the anti-war movement is over now that there's a Democrat in the White House.  So if there are protests against either the continued presence in Iraq or the renewal of the war in Afghanistan, you can count on them being far smaller than anything we saw when Bush was in power.

— John Caruso

Posted at March 2, 2009 02:41 PM

Cagan and her merry bunch of DP operatives will make sure there are no "anti-war" democrats out in the streets. It would be embarrassing to her masters and betters if there were.

Posted by: AlanSmithee at March 2, 2009 03:48 PM

Perhaps. His words didn't "reflect" the agreement to leave by the end of 2011, though, he flat out said we'd do this. And it looks now as if the people of Iraq could stop their government from extending our stay. I mean, Bush didn't start moving towards withdrawal out of the goodness of his heart (nor because of domestic politics).

Posted by: hf at March 2, 2009 04:57 PM

The Iraqis have shown us the door and a day when our WELCOME is worn out. Time to go.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 2, 2009 05:23 PM

hf: I believe Bennis's article was written before Obama's announcement.

Posted by: John Caruso at March 2, 2009 05:40 PM

unfortunately i have lost much respect for people like bennis , cagan and solomon et al . all these people when time comes get in full press mode to corral any potential threat to dem nominee .
any noise ( even fire and brimstone ) for rest of 3 and half year is meaningless .
seriously how did they come to expect a real withdrawal from the titular head ( and firm believer ) of american empire !

Posted by: badri at March 2, 2009 11:43 PM

Bob Herbert says pretty much the same thing in today's Times.

Posted by: Seth at March 3, 2009 09:13 AM

Obama's (well, really Bush/Obama's) Pentagon will re-assign a couple of stryker brigades to Afghanistan (can't stop killing little brown people, can we?), and re-brand the rest as 'force protection" or "training" or 'security" troops.

Don't forget there are those 10-14 'temporary' air-bases all over Iraq, from which the US "extends influence in the region.' They do not do that with speakers attached to the wing, braodcasting pro-USer propaganda. No, no.

It's bomb-sights and gun-sights and armed drones.

Posted by: woody at March 3, 2009 10:59 AM

seriously how did they come to expect a real withdrawal

I think it was the way the Iraqi people seemed to give Obama no choice in the matter. They still don't. What part of "there's no profit in it" is giving you trouble? The President would benefit from cheap oil (and from a good relationship with Iraqis). This does not mean he has to drill the oil himself.

Obama: Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops. Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Posted by: hf at March 3, 2009 01:40 PM

Wall Street? Bwa...hahahahahahaha! Pathetic. Utterly, utterly pathetic.

Posted by: Jim Dandy at March 3, 2009 02:50 PM

hf is right. In the end, it will be the resistance of the Iraqi people that will ensure that there is a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

I found Obama's statement encouraging in one respect: up until Obama's speech, it was commonplace for U.S. Generals to hint that they had a plan to get around the 2011 deadline, that it could be "renegotiated", etc. Last Friday's speech was the first time I've heard anyone in the U.S. gov't say clearly that they intended to honor the agreement's requirement that all U.S. forces be out by Dec. 2011.

Posted by: SteveB at March 3, 2009 07:15 PM

"I intend" is not as clear as "I shall".....

Posted by: Susan O at March 4, 2009 01:01 AM

Lots of us (me included) are wringing hands over the "intention" part, but Obama also said, clearly, that the U.S. is not going to do what we all fear: stay for the oil:

So to the Iraqi people, let me be clear about America’s intentions. The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country. And going forward, we can build a lasting relationship founded upon mutual interests and mutual respect as Iraq takes its rightful place in the community of nations.
Posted by: Joel at March 4, 2009 02:08 AM

Don't sweat it, Obama is the real deal, the war is being concluded and this was especially interesting:

Diplomacy and assistance is also required to help the millions of displaced Iraqis. These men, women and children are a living consequence of this war and a challenge to stability in the region, and they must become a part of Iraq's reconciliation and recovery.

America has a strategic interest - and a moral responsibility - to act.

In the coming months, my administration will provide more assistance and take steps to increase international support for countries already hosting refugees; we'll cooperate with others to resettle Iraqis facing great personal risk; and we will work with the Iraqi government over time to resettle refugees and displaced Iraqis within Iraq – because there are few more powerful indicators of lasting peace than displaced citizens returning home.

I believe in your new president. He's and honest and moral man. After the animalistic reign of the chimp, Obama personifies the return human intelligence and integrity.

Posted by: waldo at March 4, 2009 03:19 AM

Oh by all mean! Go protest the war on Wall Street! You wouldn't want God/Emperor Obama or his generals to have their coral-pink little ears assaulted by noisy peons. Go annoy some brokers instead. Good job, pwoggie!

Posted by: AlanSmithee at March 4, 2009 03:26 PM

That's right Alan, lay down and roll over. Let them take what and DON'T say a word.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 4, 2009 03:53 PM

Just in case you haven't been keeping track, Alan Smithee's critique of Leslie Cagan and United for Peace and Justice has morphed from "they'll make sure there are no 'anti-war' democrats out in the streets," to, "Sure, they'll make sure there are anti-war democrats out in the streets, but they'll be the wrong streets."

Oh, isn't it frustrating when the protests that others have worked so hard to organize don't take place at the time and place of your choosing? But don't worry Alan, we'll strive to do better next time, because here at AntiWarCorp, customer satisfaction is our #1 goal.

Posted by: SteveB at March 4, 2009 07:28 PM

Jon Stewart's reaction on last night's show to the Obama announcemnt on Iraq was heartening and funny, especially to Gates' frank admission that the residual combat troops will simply be renamed as "assistance and advisory brigades".

Obama: "And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011."

Stewart: "You're sure you don't want to call them 'Trees', so they can stay forever?"

Posted by: Nell at March 4, 2009 07:59 PM

I've forwarded your complaint about the time and place of the next UFPJ march with our customer service department. For faster service, please stay on the line, because your call is important to us.

Posted by: SteveB at March 5, 2009 11:49 AM

Wow. So all AlanSmithee has to do is whistle and the Obamabots come a runnin'. Interesting.

Posted by: Salo77 at March 5, 2009 04:14 PM

FYI, "Jim Dandy" was a sock puppet of AlanSmithee's. Not sure if Salo77 is as well, but I'm also not sure if it matters.

Posted by: John Caruso at March 5, 2009 06:05 PM

On occasion I carnival in Pennsylvania. IOZ seems about average for that state.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 6, 2009 02:04 AM

It's not that difficult, Salo77. Thumbsucking demotard Obamabots like StevieBabyWhaaaWhaaa are self-goading.

Posted by: AlanSmithee at March 6, 2009 07:59 AM

Gee Alan, wound a little tight, aren't WE? Sell those penny stocks YOU own and come on by, I'll teach YOU all about living under the bridge behind K mart. As for PEACE breaking out on the world, don't worry, unless YOU plan on living forever.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 6, 2009 01:44 PM

High amusement at reading SteveB, resident troll at IOZ's site, and Mike Meyer, purveyor of all-caps political spam (STOP EVIL NOW BY PHONING YOUR REPRESENTATIVE AT 1-800-ENGAGED OR YOU ARE MORALLY COMPLICIT) smugly denouncing Alan Smithee as a troll. More like this please!

Posted by: haha! at March 7, 2009 05:14 PM

Alan: It took you twenty eight hours to come up with that?

Posted by: SteveB at March 7, 2009 06:40 PM

haha: YES and its run on for years.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 8, 2009 06:31 PM