US Military Mission in Iraq ends not with a Bang but a Whimper

President Obama reaffirmed on Monday that the US would have all combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August. He said that the final 50,000 would all be out of Iraq within 18 months, in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated by the Iraq parliament with the Bush administration in the latter’s last months.

T.S. Eliot wrote in “Hollow Men,” that “This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.” And so too does the US combat mission in Iraq, initiated by George W. Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney in March, 2003 to promises that US troops would be garlanded and greeted as liberators by exultant Iraqis. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told Congress that the US troop strength would be down to about a division, some 25,000 men, by fall of 2003. Even in September of 2010, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, over 3000 dead US troops, over 30,000 seriously wounded ones and over a trillion dollars later, there are still going to be twice that number.

The US did not ‘win’ the Iraq War. It simply outlasted it. It was strong enough to remain, during the Sunni guerrilla war and the Sunni-Shiite Civil War, until the Iraqis exhausted themselves with fighting. But the massive violence provoked by the US occupation so weakened the Bush administration that it was forced to accept a withdrawal timetable dictated by the Iraqi parliament, in part at the insistence of deputies loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr and others connected to Iran.

But the US combat mission in Iraq will likely draw to a close without there being an Iraqi government in place.

Although it is true that Obama is just faithfully following the SOFA (the timetable of which was dictated by the Iraqi parliament, not the Bush administration), it should be remembered that US adherence to the timetable could not be taken for granted. A President McCain would almost certainly have subverted the schedule and tried to keep more troops, and more active combat troops, in Iraq than the Iraqi legislators wanted. And, the outcome would have been a ratcheting up of tensions with Iran, Shiite militias, and Sunni nationalists.

Iraq is no paradise, and the Iraqi government thinks more civilians are being killed each month by guerrilla violence than the US military will admit. In fact, the Iraqi government thinks over 500 civilians and soldiers were killed in July, which would make it the most deadly month in the country since 2008. But the US military insists that only a little over 200 such persons were killed (deaths of insurgents are typically not counted in these statistics).

The Pentagon may be underestimating the number of deaths from political violence, but its spokesman is correct that the fatality rate from political violence is very substantially reduced from what it had been during the Civil War of 2006-07 between Sunnis and Shiites. The Shiites won that war and ethnically cleansed large numbers of Sunnis from the capital and its environs, which is a major reason for the fall in violence.

The main thing to remember is that the US military, all the time it was in Iraq, was never really in control at a neighborhood level and that tens of thousands of US troops could not prevent the Civil War from killing so many Iraqis. So there is no reason to think that keeping a large US combat force in Iraq could eliminate political violence. In fact, since the guerrillas used to lay roadside bombs for US convoys, and often missed and killed civilians, the end of active US patrols in the cities actually contributed to a fall in violence.

Moreover, US combat troops cannot help anyone form a government and are irrelevant to Iraq’s stalled political process. So Obama is right to stick to the timetable. I was watching the Iraqi satellite channel al-Sharqiya, which reported Obama’s speech with great enthusiasm.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that negotiations with the State of Law coalition of caretaker prime minister Nuri al-Maliki have been broken off by the Shiite religious parties, the National Iraqi Alliance (including the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq of Ammar al-Hakim and the Sadr Bloc of Muqtada al-Sadr). The religious parties want al-Maliki to step down and for the State of Law coalition (in which the Da’wa or Islamic Mission Party of al-Maliki is the major component) to choose a different candidate for prime minister.

Al-Maliki angrily criticized his opponents on Monday, saying that they are angling for a weak prime minister who will be hostage to a few political factions, leaving the country open to being weakened by sectarian faction-fighting.

There is no end in sight of the political stalemate, which points to severe problems with Iraq’s largely US-authored constitution. The March 7 elections produced a ‘hung parliament’ in which no one party has enough seats to form a majority, and it has proved impossible for the four major coalitions to come together around a national unity government because they cannot agree on who should be its prime minister. The Shiite religious parties make the most natural partners for al-Maliki, also from a Shiite religious party, the Da’wa. But he sent the army against the Mahdi Army of al-Sadr in 2008 in order to restore order in Basra and East Baghdad, and the Sadrists want al-Maliki to step down in favor of another candidate.

Iyad Allawi of the secular Iraqiya list, which received 80% of the Sunni Arab vote, wants to be prime minister because his list got 91 seats, the single best showing. But 91 seats in a parliament of 325 does not mean much, and in reality whoever can put together a coalition with 163 seats will form the government.

Competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia is also complicating matters. Iran backs a big Shiite coalition, while Saudi Arabia is firmly in Allawi’s corner because of his Sunni Arab constituency. ( Riyadh is said to want a bigger role in Iraq to offset Iranian influence, a goal that can be realized only if Allawi and the Iraqiya come to power. The US is also backing Allawi, because of his anti-Iran credentials.

And so, with a whimper rather than a bang, the US will surrender any primary combat role in Iraq to a caretaker government and a green, inefficient army, leaving a major Persian Gulf power in shambles and at risk of ongoing violence and instability. It isn’t ideal. But attempting to stay in Iraq militarily would only cause more instability.

Now if only the Afghan parliament would negotiate a similar SOFA for that country, and the other war could be wound down as well.

37 Responses

  1. This is all well & good.

    But, Professor Cole, would you please shed some light what the American embassy’s function will be in Baghdad that took a Billion Dollars to build? How far reaching tentacles this embassy has? In addition, what about 13 bases would do those came in the news quite few times.

  2. I check your column daily, & respect your expertise. Today’s was the most **helpful** to me (an average reader, lacking both knowledge & some of your own biases) I’ve ever read. Thanks a lot for what you offer us, your readers!

  3. Isn’t it most likely that after the dust finally settles in Iraq there will be a strongman in power to resume where Saddam left off and Bush’s seeded democracy will be another failed crop?

    • Wingbat, you go on like that and I will killfile you. You know very well that your links don’t reflect the whole story on McCain, who viciously attacked Obama and Clinton over their adherence to the SOFA timetable. In fact, McCain called what Obama committed to yesterday a ‘surrender’ and wanted to push out troop withdrawal to 2013. links below.

      link to cbsnews.com

      “I do not want to keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there,” McCain will say at the Veterans of Foreign Wars headquarters, according to prepared remarks.

      “But I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for President that they cannot keep if elected. To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East, is the height of irresponsibility. It is a failure of leadership,” he continues.

      “The American people deserve the truth from their leaders. They deserve a candid assessment of the progress we have managed to make in the last year in preventing the worst from happening in Iraq, of the very serious difficulties that remain, and of the grave consequences of a hasty, reckless, and irresponsible withdrawal. If we are honest about the opportunities and the risks, I believe they will have the patience to allow us the time necessary to obtain our objectives.

      “That honesty is my responsibility, and it is also the responsibility of Senators Obama and Clinton, as well as Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress. Doing the right thing in the heat of a political campaign is not always the easiest thing. But when 4,000 Americans have given their lives so that America does not suffer the worst consequences of our failure in Iraq, it is a necessary thing. In such a grave matter, we must put the nation’s interests before our own ambitions.”

      and

      link to huffingtonpost.com

      ‘ McCain, who wrapped up the GOP nomination in March, supports continued military presence in Iraq though he recently said he envisions victory with most U.S. troops coming home by January 2013 if he’s elected. Obama, who has all but clinched the Democratic nomination, says he will remove U.S. combat troops within 16 months of taking office, though sometimes he shortens it to 11 months.

      “For him [Obama] to talk about dates for withdrawal, which basically is surrender in Iraq after we’re succeeding so well is, I think, really inexcusable,” said McCain, who has been to Iraq eight times, most recently in March.’

      • I disagree with whichever side of McCain’s mouth that he talks out of when he hasn’t even learned the lessons of vietnam. I would remind the gimpy oil troll that american vital interests are *here.*

      • Mr. Cole, thanks for the reply. Perhaps this is a misunderstanding?

        I apologize for the length of my response, but hopefully my clarification negates the desire to “killfile” me. Although, I really can’t see why that would be necessary in the first place. I am not a troll. I am sincere in my beliefs. I feel we can disagree without the need for censorship.

        I only presented three links. I never intended the links to represent “the whole story on McCain”.
        If anything, my point is that his views on withdrawal lack consistency. He began his campaign with a platform of opposing a time-line and ended up supporting it.

        You said that, “In fact, McCain called what Obama committed to yesterday a ‘surrender’ and wanted to push out troop withdrawal to 2013.”

        McCain gave many rhetorical speeches about “victory/surrender”. But his main argument was that we can’t withdraw on a “fixed time-line” that is not “conditions-based”. His argument ignores that neither Bush nor Obama advocated doing so. The link you provided is actually the beginning of McCain’s effort to reverse his position and to begin endorsing a “timetable” for withdrawal.

        This is because although McCain did oppose a time-line for much of 2008 (and certainly 2007), he was pressured to change his position when Maliki and the Bush administration announced their support for a “time horizon”. This presented McCain with the difficult challenge of flip-flopping in the middle of campaign. Hence we eventually had Obama supporting a “time-line”, Bush supporting a “time horizon”, and McCain begrudgingly following suit by supporting a “timetable”. At the time of the election, Obama and Bush had identical withdrawal plans. The sole difference was McCain’s deadline to have all troops (minus embassy staff and advisers) out by the end of 2012 instead of the end of 2011 like Bush/Obama.

        So how did McCain defend himself against the issue of flip-flopping? He repeatedly distorted Obama’s stance on withdrawal.

        In the first link you provided, McCain states,
        “But I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for President that they cannot keep if elected. To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East”

        Although this is from April 7, 2008 when McCain still opposed the time-line, please note that his disagreement with the other candidates is over their promise to withdraw regardless of the “calamitous consequences” not over withdrawal itself. Yet, no one was actually supporting this position. McCain simply invented a straw-man he could knock down to distract from his own flip-flipping. Obama had clearly stated that he opposed a “fixed” time-line and only supported a “flexible” time-line which would be “conditions based” and that it would proceed only with the blessings of our “commanders on the ground”.

        McCain often lied or distorted Obama’s position:

        “BLITZER: Why do you think [Maliki] said that 16 months is basically a pretty good timetable?
        MCCAIN: He said it’s a pretty good timetable based on conditions on the ground. I think it’s a pretty good timetable, as we should — or horizons for withdrawal. But they have to be based on conditions on the ground. This success is very fragile. It’s incredibly impressive, but very fragile. So we know, those of us who have been involved in it for many years, know that if we reverse this, by setting a date for withdrawal, all of the hard-won victory can be reversed. ”

        (Notice McCain’s contradictory statement that he think the timetable is “pretty good” but doesn’t support setting a date. Yet Obama/Bush aren’t supporting a “fixed” withdrawal, so what does that even mean?)

        “Since announcing his campaign in 2007, the central premise of Barack Obama’s candidacy was his commitment to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq immediately,” said Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman. “Today, Barack Obama reversed that position proving once again that his words do not matter. He has now adopted John McCain’s position that we cannot risk the progress we have made in Iraq by beginning to withdraw our troops immediately without concern for conditions on the ground.” July 03 2008

        “John McCain supports reducing troop levels based on the conditions on the ground and the security of Iraq and if, and only if, that is consistent with a ‘time horizon’ then of course he would support that policy,””
        link to politico.com

        Again, Obama/Bush weren’t actually supporting a non-conditions-based withdrawal. His campaign had invented a straw-man that he could knock down to distract from his own flip flipping. Obama had already clearly stated that he onever supported a “fixed” time-line and only supported a “flexible” withdrawal which would be “conditions based” and that it would proceed only with the blessing of our “commanders on the ground”. Just like McCain wanted!

        My reason for bringing all of this up, is that the record shows that McCain crafted his Iraq policy without consistency based on political expediency and public perception. In my view, all of this is worth mentioning if you are going to predict that “President McCain would almost certainly have subverted the schedule and tried to keep more troops, and more active combat troops, in Iraq than the Iraqi legislators wanted.” I’m not saying that couldn’t have happened. But it’s also quite possible, given his many statements on withdrawal, that he would have adhered to the SOFA just like Obama. After all, Obama’s original plan was to withdraw “all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months” but instead he followed the SOFA.

      • Juan, very respectfully, McCain’s plan to draw down to 4 US advise and assist brigades was very similar to Petraeus’ and Obama’s plan. [peak was 24 US brigades + coalition brigades from UK, South Korea, Georgia, Ukraine, Italy and others.] Their timeline for getting to 4 brigades were very similar.

        The only difference might be what to do once they get to 4th Brigade. The current understanding is that the US draws down to about 10,000 troops who will focus on training the IqAF [Iraqi Air Force], ground based air defense, medivac, and other key combat enablers. These 10,000 would be given diplomatic visas. This is similar to what the US does with many other countries.

        Chances are however, that Iraq requests a larger training mission. Probably 20,000 troops. [To increase ISF capacity.] This request can only come after the formation of the government.

        The biggest question Obama confronts is whether to help Iraq develop a large and capable army and air force. The Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police will apply major pressure on the GoI to request this. Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Gulf States might resist this because they fear what the Iraqi Army will do to them in the future.

        Turkey and maybe Egypt [I hope] see Iraq and the Iraqi Army as an ally, and are likely to encourage a larger US effort to train the ISF.

        The primary question for America is how capable an ISF do we want to help the Iraqis develop. The number and types of troops are secondary affects of that decision.

  4. Bush deserves credit for completing the American quest for failure. The instant he sent American girls and boys into Iraq, he handed Iraq to Iran, which Iraq had invaded in 1980 at American urging. Washington still doesn’t realize that the USA lost Iraq to Iran in a war that took 23 years, ending with Bush’s invasion. The following seven year stretch has seen ups and downs, but Iran’s standing has remained supreme. For instance, in helping Shiites cleanse Baghdad of Sunnis, Petraeus may as well have been on Iran’s payroll. What governments don’t say means far more than what they say. Iran’s silence is deafening: it’s delighted with things as they are in Iraq. Besides, the Iranian leadership is busy stamping out music right now, thus providing the world with comedy that would be unbelievable were it in a novel.

  5. And when are the four million displaced Iraqis going home? No doubt when the shrimps whistle.

    “They make desolation, and call it peace.”

  6. “Now if only the Afghan parliament would negotiate a similar SOFA for that country, and the other war could be wound down as well.”

    Why is the onus on counties invaded by the USA such as Iraq & Afghanistan to negotiate a SOFA to give that same invading force a face saving pass out? ….Doesn’t that just demonstrate the absolute moral bankruptcy of the whole venture, like ” We are really tired of destroying your country now because you are just sooooo ungrateful but before we go you must thank us profusely and ask us very…… very nicely”

    And did the Iraqis gain anything at all from being ‘saved’ from the tyranny of Saddam?

  7. Prof. Cole:

    What about the large number of mercenaries that are supposedly still in Iraq? If they are still there will they be leaving soon as well?

    • .
      This is an estimate/ MSU data. If someone has better numbers, have at it.

      I estimate that there were about 160,000 contractor personnel in Iraq working for the US military & State Department, as of the end of June 2010. Just over half are Iraqis. About 25,000 are Westerners. Many of the rest are from poor countries.

      I estimate that around one third of those contractor personnel will be gone by the end of October, no longer needed because of the departure of American units.

      I estimate that there were about 65,000 contractor personnel at the end of June whose main purpose was to shoot and kill people, Iraqis mostly, if they didn’t follow orders, such as to stay away from key installations or to stop at checkpoints. These contractor personnel operated roadblocks/ checkpoints, guarded key infrastructure and military bases, and patrolled built-up areas.

      I am reluctant to use the vernacular “Mercenaries” because some correspondents will quibble over the definition of the word as used in the Geneva Protocol dealing with Mercenaries. Some would argue that, regardless of circumstance or conduct, if a particular quasi-military armed soldier/ unlawful combatant on the US Army payroll is an Iraqi, or an American or a Brit, then they cannot be a Merc.

      In November, once the US settles into occupation largely by proxy, I assume that there will be about the same number of civilian soldiers, 65,000. There appears to be a rapid transition from third world Mercenaries to Iraqi armed guards. But as long as they work for American companies, carrying loaded rifles and occasionally shooting other Iraqis on the orders of Americans, well, the est of the Iraqi population will continue to think of them as collaborators with the US military occupation.

      Note that I include some of the Sunni Sahwa militias in these numbers. If you had the impression that the US Army was paying the salaries of 80,000 to 100,000 of these militiamen, I am under a different impression. For the most part, the US quit paying those units at the end of 2008, and the Iraqi government promised to take over. I am including businesses hired to guard pipelines in Saladin Governate and those hired to maintain roads free of IED’s in Diyala Governate.
      .

  8. It should not be forgotten that Candidate Obama had promised to get all troops out of Iraq in 16 months, but after he was elected he broke his campaign promise and reverted back to the Bush schedule. We still have about 65,000 troops left. Even if we are down to 50,000 troops at the end of August – that number is a substantial number and once you factor in the private contractors and overhead, we are still spending enormous amounts of money into that money pit – money which we cannot afford to borrow and spend now. That plus the senseless escalation in Afghanistan means that Obama is not much different from what McCain would have been.

  9. […] will be leaving Iraq at the end of August. BHO did not comment on Mr. Kerry’s question. Juan Cole sums things up: “The US did not ‘win’ the Iraq War. It simply outlasted it. It was strong […]

  10. “Now if only the Afghan parliament would negotiate a similar SOFA for that country, and the other war could be wound down as well.”

    Forgive me, but the problem is President Obama. The war in Afghanistan is Obama’s war, same for Pakistan. Obama has simply given us his war for the Bush war, and military spending is way up since Obama became President.

  11. “And so, with a whimper rather than a bang, the US will surrender any primary combat role in Iraq to a caretaker government and a green, inefficient army, leaving a major Persian Gulf power in shambles and at risk of ongoing violence and instability.”

    Well spoken Juan.

    This pretty much sums up our exit from Iraq. It’s haunting how similar this is to our departure from Vietnam. We pulled our combat troops out in 1972, saying that the South Vietnamese military was adequately trained and organized enough to contain the Viet Cong and NVA assault, and that the South Vietnamese government had the full support of the people.

    Three years later, we witnessed the fall of Saigon. Will we see the same thing happen in Iraq?

  12. How to wind down troop levels the US way: Stop calling the soldiers ‘soldiers’.

    50,000+ armed US whatevers will still occupy Iraq.

  13. Jeremy Scahill points out that an increase in Bloackwater-type mercenaries will follow the US pullout:

    link to democracynow.org

    AMY GOODMAN: Respond to President Obama’s announcement.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, first of all, what President Obama is doing is implementing the policy that was on the desk of George W. Bush when he left the White House. This is essentially the Petraeus-Bush Iraq plan. So, the idea that Obama is making good on a campaign pledge to end the war is sort of playing with words, because the reality is he just implemented what was current US policy when he came into the White House.

    What I think is more important for people to understand is, when President Obama talks about how the war is going to be shifted over to the diplomats, that doesn’t just mean that all of a sudden there’s going to be negotiations by pencil pushers. The fact is that Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, last month submitted a request to the Pentagon for an incredible beefing up of the State Department’s own paramilitary force. And what the State Department is saying is, when you take out all these combat troops, we want to have a replacement for that capacity. So Clinton, who as a candidate for president said she would ban Blackwater and other mercenary firms, is now presiding over what is going to be a radical expansion of the use of these companies and private soldiers in Iraq. The US embassy is the size of eighty football fields; you know, it’s the size of Vatican City. The Vatican has embassies around the world. Our embassy is the size of the Vatican, in Iraq.

    AMY GOODMAN: Is it the largest US embassy in the world?

    JEREMY SCAHILL: It’s the largest embassy of any country in the history of civilization. I mean, it’s a city unto itself. And it necessitates, Hillary Clinton believes, between 6,000 and 7,000 private security operatives. Just to put this in perspective, there are 4,000 special forces operators deployed in seventy-five countries around the world. That is the US special forces deployment under Obama. Hillary Clinton wants 7,000 of these guys just in Baghdad alone to protect the US embassy.

    There are also—the State Department also has plans to remake some US bases into what they call “enduring presence posts,” EPPs. And so, you’ll have these outposts around the country that are essentially—what is essentially unfolding here is a downsized and rebranded occupation, Obama-style, that is going to necessitate a surge in private forces. The State Department is asking for MRAP vehicles, armored vehicles, for Black Hawk helicopters and for these paramilitary forces. So, yes, you can say that officially combat has ended, but in reality you’re continuing it through the back door by bringing in these paramilitary forces and classifying them as diplomatic security, which was Bush’s game from the very beginning.

  14. As was pointed out in a FireDogLake diary yesterday, there will still be combat units left in Iraq. They will just have missions not directly related to combat.

  15. Dear Mr. Cole:

    In the interests of fairness, accuracy, and laughing these idiots out of the court of public opinion, please note Dove World Outreach Center has planned No Homo Mayor Day before burn a Qur’ran Day: No Homo Mayor Day.

    Oh, and God hates Jedi:

  16. “President Obama reaffirmed on Monday that the US would have all combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August,”

    Really? “Obama did not say that all the combat troops were leaving (Iraq) this month. He certainly didn’t say this yesterday, and to my knowledge he has never said it.

    ..and FWIW, in Afghanistan, we just lost our main supply route due to the weather: August 03 2010 Travus T. Hipp Morning News & Commentary: Our Military Prospects In Afghanistan Just Went From Bad To Nil – ‘Mother Nature’… The History Maker

  17. What whimper? Or do you prefer a bang?

    Yes, Iraq is a mess, but the President is mostly doing what he promised those who voted for him to do….gradually withdraw from Iraq and shift the “resources” to Afghanistan.

    I don’t get the angst here.

    Iraq still has some oil, right? The Iraqis can sell this stuff on the world market, use the cash to fix up their electricity grid, purify the water, and refit the hospitals.

    Yes, they could. If only their leaders would apply themselves to these tasks, instead of playing political games.

    50,000 American troops mostly confined to bases are not “occupying” Iraq any more than 40,000 American troops stationed along the DMZ were “occupying” South Korea.

    The “occupation ” is effectively over.

    The President deserves some credit.

    • Last I knew… “Mostly confined to bases” is a hoax and a lie as well.

      In a picture.

      Are you old enough to remember what an “Advisor” was in Vietnam?
      If you are, then you MUST be aware that they are ABSOLUTELY ‘combat troops’.

      Like these:

      The six units are thought to be:

      • 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
      • 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division
      • 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment
      • 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
      • 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
      • 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Div

      I’m going to be just a bit repetitive and say this as clearly as possible—just in case any journalist comes slumming through FDL and actually reads this. Here goes:

      Each of these units will be in Iraq after 8/31/10, and each will be as fully combat-capable as any brigade combat team or armored cavalry regiment currently in Iraq. They have all the guns, bombs, rockets, tanks and artillery required to pound the living crap out of anything or anybody they choose. Source

    • .
      I believe that the Iraqi Blocks are trying to negotiate who will be PM, and everything else waits for that.

      So what’s the holdup there ?
      Based on March election results, the Parliament is trying to select someone who meets with the approval of Moqtada al-Sadr, since he is the most respected and popular leader in all of Iraq today.
      But the US occupation force demands that al-Sadr be ostracized and ignored for his pro-Iraqi leanings. IIRC, the US Government still has a standing order to shoot him on sight.

      I think the Iraqis have been biding time until the end of August, when some of them believe that the US will quit bossing them around. After all, there will be a NEW DAWN on 1 September, and the US combat units will transform magically into advisory and training units. Then, these Iraqi politicians hope, then they can appoint/ select whoever they want. We shall see.
      .

  18. This thread seems to have run its course, but for anyone who forgets what a venal and venial piece of excrement McCain was and is, you might do worse than revisit some old news, the bit about his “safe walk through the Baghdad market that proved the progress the US was making toward success and winning and overcoming back n April Fool’s Day, 2007. “Walked freely,” wearing body armor and accompanied by 100 USGIs and three Blackhawks and two Apache Gunships and a partridge in a pear tree. And was able to buy 5 Persian Rugs for a couple of bucks! And the US legislators who accompanied him got THEIR little souvenirs FOR FREE except for the cost of the transport and security and all that.

    link to thinkprogress.org

    Ah, shoot, there’s so many pieces to the jigsaw puzzle that individually, if you look close, fractally all carry images of nothing but death and destruction, and fit together show nothing but giant FUBAR for the foreseeable future…

    What’s the remedy for all that? You’ll find it somewhere between “No Exit” and “Waiting for Godot.”

  19. What a brilliant scheme by our current commander-in-briefs! Escalate and deepen our Afghanistan Vietnam as a political cover for “drawing down” (but not actually leaving) our Iraq Vietnam. Too bad the solopsistic, descending spiral still leaves us with two Vietnams. Somehow I get the impression that President Obama thought of Afghanistan the way President Reagan thought of Grenada: namely, to get a quick and easy political “victory” to cover for hauling ass from a humiliating, bleeding-nose disaster. President Obama really doesn’t know the first damn thing about Vietnams and how they end — badly. He doesn’t even know how to pick a *real* patsy that our fuck-up-and-move up military can actually defeat in, say, something less than twenty years. For someone rumored to possess an intelligence superior to that of Deputy Dubya Bush, carrying on and actually worsening Dubya’s debacles (military and economic) rather puts an end to those innocent suppositions about President Obama.

  20. thanks for the Saudi News —

    I was happy to read of the meet-up between Alwai and Al-Sadr in Syria next week — My memories of the latter extending a hand to the Sunni’s before high-tailing it back to Iran and studies are warm ones … Looking for any Al-Sadr-Saudi stories via Google I found your entry from March

    5. Sadr declines to condemn Saudi Arabia or Saudi money in Iraqi politics as long as that money helps elect nationalists who will work for a US withdrawal; he points out that he has visit Saudi Arabia, and condemns the friction between Shiites and Sunnis;

    There must be re-enfrancisement of the Sunni’s for there to be any hope of peace … sounds likes hands are being extended which is excellent. The devil will be in the details of making restitution for those displaced and “squattered” upon.

    In the article re the confab in Syria, I read that Al-Sadr is still a wanted man in Iraq stemming irrc from 2007 (though it might have been 2008) — an Al-Maliki warrant? — there’s an open warrant for his arrest.

    It will be good when we are more absent.

    • .
      In mid-2003 former President Bush signed a PDM authorizing the assassination of the Sayyid Moqtada al-Sadr. Has that been revoked or overturned ?
      .

  21. The plan all along has been an American occupation in the style of the British occupation of nominally independent Iraq that lasted until the coup of July 14, 1958, which finally brought real independence from Britain. I wonder how long before whatever American asset is left in place goes the way of Nuri as-Said.

    I’m reminded too of Algeria, where where the French army had pretty much prevailed militarily by 1959, but then they had to leave anyway.

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