We can’t rely on politicians to be honest with us about anything. We rely even less upon the media to get any story right, especially stories laden with political and spin baggage. Like homeowners asking for a little help we are all on our own as far as getting the facts and reasons and other details about news stories in proper order and perspective. Indeed, we’re lucky not to be completely misled. Recently we heard some astonishing news, not that the US will pull out of Iraq completely by the end of the year. No, that’s not the astonishing story. The astonishing story was that Obama grew a pair of balls and decided to go ahead and keep a campaign promise. Alas, even that turns out to be an exaggeration.
Who really knows why we invaded Iraq? The fact is they had absolutely nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. That was a complete bald-faced lie told to the American people with vigor. It was packaged and sold and sprayed with perfume. Of course there was no apology to the dead or wounded or to the American taxpayer for this debacle. Just a sort of shrug and a “woops, we HAD to be sure he didn’t have them.” Then there was the PNAC script that we were not even allowed to review before the United States government enacted it as policy. With US troops on either side of Iran, to the west in Iraq and to the East in Afghanistan we were supposed to sandwich in Ahmadinejad and vitiate the Iranian influence on Mid East politics. Then there was the oil reserves meme that might be right, except we don’t seem to have extracted much oil or oil revenues from Iraq.
So here what I have put together after reading foreign newspapers, and foreign policy essays and documents and listening to speeches for a decade. We put most of our army on either side of Iran and invaded Iraq and Afghanistan to assert US hegemony in the Mideast. We were looking for oil reserves we could tap into. God knows that when people are slaughtered in Darfur there was no concern for stopping unadulterated brutality against innocents. Had the Darfurians been on crude oil reserves that had some infrastructure we would be in Sudan now. The United States is always anxious to build and test and sell weapons systems. In many ways, Iraq and Afghanistan provided upgrades in our military force projection. We have developed remote IED jamming devices and improved on precision munitions and trained a whole generation of combat pilots in real live combat. And we have expanded and improved on remote aerial warfare.
So now what? Now we are suddenly leaving. Last year Obama said we couldn’t just pull out. He said that would be disastrous. Now we are pulling out in toto with the exception of a contingency force to protect the US Embassy in Iraq, which is one of the largest buildings in the world and which Americans are largely ignorant about, despite the bill it took to build it and the fact that it is largely a sore on the Mesopotamian landscape. The Iraqis didn’t want it and the Americans don’t know about it.
We are leaving because the Iraqis refused to negotiate a Status of Forces that satisfied us. A Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA is a protocol agreed upon by an invading force and the host country to the terms of the occupation. One of the terms typically agreed upon is immunity from prosecution. So troops who commit crimes against civilians would be liable under Iraqi law. The US understands that the endless midnight raids, the innocent children and bystanders killed in our bombing strikes, the general destruction laid upon he country and the checkpoints have all spoliated any good will that may have remained. While I am sure many Iraqis are glad Saddam is out of the picture, many, many more wish we had stayed home.
Notice that South Korea became closely allied with the United States economically once we built permanent bases there. It helped that the North Koreans are truly frightening. And notice that the US has had permanent bases in Germany for decades after World War II and that we are economically tied to them and to Europe in general, especially because of the policies we enacted in the Marshall Plan. That said, other than the Embassy, the Iraqis would not allow permanent large US military bases on their own soil.
How about the new regime? We wanted regime change. A euphemism for we want a different, pro-American leader in Iraq. Well, after all the bloodshed and all the money spent, some of it quite literally duffel bags of American cash, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has aligned with Ahmadinejad our Iranian leader. So we just replaced one dictator who hated Iran and warred on them for eight years and replaced him with a friend of Iran. At some point Americans are going to have to wake up and see the facts on the ground. Invading Iraq did not achieve the goals we set out to finish. We did not get the oil. We didn’t exactly free the people for something better. We caused a lot of damage, started a deadly civil war, and we spent about a trillion and half dollars doing this. Let’s not forget 4000 American dead, 30,000 wounded and the orphans we created in America for invading Iraq.
Iraq is still war torn. It is still reeling from the invasion, from the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and from mismanagement and malfeasance at the hands of the incorrigibly corrupt Iraqi government. The US is still torn, and worn out, and frustrated. With the money we spent in Iraq we could provide A+ healthcare for every American, rich and poor and then some.
The question is this: will Americans ever get a say so in how their money is spent? Will we ever get a fair hearing and real news and a Congress that pays as much or attention to their voters as they do to their campaign contributors? The troops did their jobs. Not always perfectly but better than can be expected from invading troops. They have suffered multiple deployments and brain trauma and emotional trauma and enough is enough. At this point it doesn’t matter really why we are leaving Iraq. Lessons go unlearned in America as a matter of course. But Iraq may haunt us for decades.