Last US Combat Units withdraw from Iraq

The last US combat convoy left Iraq on Thursday, rather some time after George W. Bush declared an end to combat operations in Iraq in May, 2003.

Of course, this flat statement is not entirely accurate. The remaining 50,000 troops are viewed as trainers and logistics support to the Iraqi government. But they include special operations units, helicopter gunship crews, and other war fighters who are still going to be engaged in combat but will not be categorized as being in Iraq for that purpose. Iraq has no air force to speak of, and the US will be providing the air support until at least 2018.

But it would be wrong to see Thursday’s landmark as meaningless. It is a little bit immature to demand an all or nothing military situation. What Obama has done is stay true to US commitment to get combat units out by September 1. That should reassure Iraqis– and Arabs and Muslims in general — about US intentions.

That consideration is the true significance of Thursday’s last convoy. It is a symbol of a turnaround in US policy, a repudiation of the Bush administration doctrine of preemptive war. “Preemptive war” is a euphemism for the rehabilitation of aggressive war, which the world community attempted to abolish in the United Nations charter. While many blame Obama for escalating the Afghanistan War, that war at least grew out of the al-Qaeda attack on US soil, which was planned out in Khost and Qandahar, and it has the backing of the UN and of NATO, which invoked article 5 of its charter (an attack on one is an attack on all).

In contrast, the Iraq War was virtually without legal foundation. In the United Nations order, there are only two legitimate preconditions for going to war. One is clear self-defense, in response to an aggressive attack. (The Gulf War, responding to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, is a case in point). The other is authorization by the UN Security Council. But W. had neither precondition on his side when he invaded Iraq, and so he acted lawlessly, as Obama saw clearly at the time.

The US Republican Party has increasingly become the party of fear. Shock and awe was designed to scare the international community. At home, the party sought to rule on behalf of the super-wealthy and of White nationalists and the Christian Right by making the public afraid– of terrorism, of Muslims, implicitly of minorities. Fear as a tool of statecraft has no place in an Enlightenment republic.

The US has fought aggressive wars before, but none so starkly illegal as Iraq. Saying it was wrong and illegal is not the same thing as saying that no good was accomplished. Reality is complex. The Saddam Hussein regime was brutal and even at times genocidal. In principle, the regime could have been removed by the UN Security Council under the Genocide Convention. But the Bush administration did not pursue the war as an element of international legality or legitimate institutions. It pursued the war as a means of undermining the UN and international law, and asserting the extra-legal prerogatives of the then world’s sole superpower.

Bush’s Mesopotamian folly contributed, along with his massive deregulation and favoritism, to a profound weakening of the United States. Rather than underscoring the US unilateral hyperpower, the war demonstrated that the US was bogged down in a quagmire and challengers such as Iran and Venezuela could now thumb their noses at the US.

Obama’s faithfulness to the US self-imposed withdrawal timetable is intended as a return to legality and a repudiation of aggressive unilateralism. Iraq will limp along, wounded, with 4 million displaced persons, a missing middle class, and victims of violence or terrorism or US torture centers thick on the ground. Obama’s withdrawal is an act of contrition that can begin the process of repairing relations between the US and the Arab world, a world that increasingly views the Obama administration as a disappointment because of its failure to follow through on pledges such as the two-state solution in Israel/Palestine.

That Obama’s big achievement in the Middle East should be simply keeping to the withdrawal timetable for Iraq suggests the impasses the US faces in the Middle East, and is unexpected. But it is a significant achievement that many doubted he would attain.

Posted in Iraq | 65 Responses | Print |

65 Responses

  1. I disagree.

    Obama is by no means against “preventive war”. His actions vis-a-vis Iran clearly show that he is willing to consider launching a military strike against Iran based on nothing more than lies that he KNOWS to be lies. Anyone who believes he is merely making empty threats to compel Iran to bow down to the US position on Iran’s nuclear program is being completely naive.

    Also, despite the UN authorizing the attack on Afghanistan, that was an illegal decision, since the Taliban in Afghanistan had attacked NO ONE. Al Qaeda, functioning as an arm of the Taliban against the Northern Alliance, had also executed its own agenda in attacking the US. There was no justification for overthrowing the Taliban in order to get at Al Qaeda.

    Afghanistan was NOT a “just war”. It was planned by Bush PRIOR TO 9/11 and was intended to secure the country in order to implement a pipeline for the benefit of the oil companies, and to re-assert control over heroin production for the benefit of the CIA.

    How you can defend this President is beyond me. He repeatedly violates the UN Charter by threatening war with Iran, prosecutes an illegal war in Iraq by allowing the State Department to double down on the number of mercenaries in Iraq, conducts illegal drone attacks within a sovereign state (Pakistan) in furtherance of what is in fact an illegal and unnecessary war in Afghanistan.

    I suggest you reconsider your position.

  2. I couldn’t agree more.

    … And the more US troops leave, the more the remainder will be hostages, if the US attacks Iran.

  3. Prof Cole i do not understand the logic of your post. You admit that combat troops have simply been redesignated as non-combat troops..with the same war fighting capabilities, yet you want to maintain the illusion that all combat troops have been withdrawn. If Bush had tried something similar i wonder what your post would have read like.

    “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” 50,000 soldiers is as large as some European armies, and the US still controls Iraqi airspace, but somehow the occupation is over? Why is it that Western so called intellectuals insist on one standard for themselves, and another for the great unwashed of the world? Why twist the concrete reality of Occupation to justify political manipulation and word games?

    Why Prof Cole are you trying to get us used to the idea of an Iraq occupied by American troops, and getting us to rejoice because their mission has been “redefined”? Howard Dean opposes the building of mosques, and Juan Cole says 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq is a reason to applaud. The world has turned on its head since 9-11.

  4. 50,000 US troops remaining in Iraq is hardly an end to the war and occupation.
    Please tell us who controls the Iraqi oil and its profits, Professor Cole.

    • Apparently the petroleum and its income is controlled by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the pro-Iranian political party headed by Ammar al-Hakim, to which Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani belongs.

      You win some, you lose some.

      • you don’t know your iraq very well!

        shahristani is part of the “Nation of Law” – Nuri Al-Maliki’s list.

        if you don’t know such a basic piece of information about Iraq (something that even a 7 year old in Baghdad knows), I wonder how you feel empowered to make “informed comment” on it….

  5. in my opinion this is forgering I agree with one article of Gareth Porter in asia times online who writes that Obama betray this who vote for him and in Iraq it took place only changing the places

  6. It is entertaining that the videos of the last US troops leaving show them leaving by night. Shades of Paul Bremer’s departure!

  7. Sorry Professor, I gotta disagree with you. I would have preferred all ‘troops’ out. I don’t see this as an overly ambitious, and somewhat naive, desire. I see it as a hard headed message that Obama could have sent to the US nation. Pulling ALL the ‘troops’ out would have been meaningful change. This basically is, same ole, same ole. The Empire sets down new roots in a relatively new place.

  8. Professor, bless your devotion to ground truths. Dare I ask if two pasties and a G-string on a Big Green Monster suddenly turn it into Paris Hilton?

    As you write, and as noted in even the MSM reporting here in the Shining City on the Hill, there’s still 50K “somethings” with weapons and GI uniforms, and a whole bunch of “contractors,” still in the joint with lots more to come.

    But hey, if the “Arab world” chooses to believe, as “proven” by various polls and other metrics, that “the US” is for once holding to a stated “policy,” far be it from me to argue that Reality is anything other than what people are willing to believe it to be. What’s the recent book? “True Enough”?

    One other cavil — as to the two supposed justifications for invasion (one being aggressive military action by Hussein’s army,) I have to ask again whether the history that counts is not the essential Green Light by Bush Senior, communicated through April Glaspie, his ambassador, to Hussein to go ahead and waltz over Kuwait because the neocon vision at that time thought getting the oil through Iraq, as the new overlords of what had been Kuwait, was just as good as dealing with the Kuwaitis. To steal from my last comment:

    Did not a young lady named April Glaspie, speaking ambassadorially on behalf of one George Sr. Bush on April 25, 1990, tell Saddam Hussein for the record that “We [the US government] have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960′s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America. (Saddam smiles).” link to

    Help your younger brother bulk up at the gym, and encourage his picking on other kids and “standing up for himself.” Stick your little sister’s nose in his face and tell him it’s okay to slap her. Then beat the crap out of him when he does, and then “justify” the beating to the other kids and parents on the basis of the slap? Given that Message From Garcia-Glaspie, what UN-Order-quality justification was there for Gulf War I?

    And as to the apparent clout of the US Power Projectors now, there was I think at public-television story on one of the early Marine expeditions into Helmand province. In which an inappropriately casual and aggressive young US Centurion is telling a venerable former resident of a little market village that he and his tribe need to move back in now, because the US forces have now “secured” it, and current policy for “the war” calls for that. Says the villager, “You, with all your weapons and planes and men, cannot even protect yourselves and make yourselves secure against the warriors [whichever set drove the people out of the village and threatened death for any return to “normalcy.”] What reason can you give us to believe that you can secure and protect us?”

    Even elephants and rhinos and Cape buffalo succumb to tick-borne diseases, in the veldt and the jungle…

  9. So after seven years of fighting a war that didn’t have to be fought (Gen. Zinni), we look back and see, 4400 plus Americans dead, over 30,000 wounded and maimed for life, several trillion dollars(by the time the smoke clears) wasted, a couple of hunderd thousand Iraqis dead, wounded or misplaced, ethnic cleansing and torture rampant, and we end up proping up a government that can’t hold and election and calls itself…The Islamic Supreme Council. Great job Bushie!!!

    • Not “couple of hunderd thousand Iraqis dead, wounded or misplaced’, but several millions of them. But, of course, who cares? They are just Iraqis…

      • This shoud have been displaced. But you are correct. Iraqis and Afghanistan citizens killed by drones or botched missions are paid a few hundred dollars for their loss.

    • I hate to sound like a skipping record, but the actual butchers’ bill (for the Iraqis) is more like 1.3 to 1.4 million dead, not to mention 4 million refugees. But who does body counts…

      • why? 100,000 is not bad enough? so you have to start making numbers up…

  10. Now that the ‘last combat troops have left Iraq’ you’ll never see anymore coverage of Iraq on the U.S. corp media. That’s the only point of the exercise. Nothing to see here. Move along. Not even if civil war breaks out again will Iraq ever appear in a U.S. headline.

  11. Sorry Prof. Cole but I have to disagree. This is window dressing. And I really have to object to the word “immature” to describe those who feel this is not enough. This unfortunately buys into the right wing framing of empire and war as something “serious” people and “adults” do. It is not immature or un-serious to want the US to stop trying to use military coercion to enforce its will on other nations. As recent events in the banking industry show, we are not wise enough to properly run our own country for the benefit of all its citizens. What makes us think we are wise enough to tell Iraqis how to run their lives?

  12. I read you religiously, Dr. Cole – and this is the first time I’ve felt your analysis far off base. Far less than being a return to legitimacy, Obama’s policies are simply bowing to reality. He is a pragmatist, but his foreign policy vis-a-vis indefinite detention, rendition, etc, show that he has no special desire to follow the law.
    Re-classifying troops, keeping an army of mercenaries, and building a new army for the State Dept. is simply carrying on business as usual while giving our illegal policies a new polish. Please don’t allow him that cover of legitimacy.

  13. “In the United Nations order, there are only two legitimate preconditions for going to war. One is clear self-defense, in response to an aggressive attack. (The Gulf War, responding to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, is a case in point). The other is authorization by the UN Security Council. But W. had neither precondition on his side when he invaded Iraq, and so he acted lawlessly, as Obama saw clearly at the time.”
    When Bush invaded Afghanistan he didn’t have either one either. Re your legal preconditions: 1) An attack by a terrorist organization is not the same as an attack by a nation state. It was a criminal act not an act of war. 2) If the Security Council itself okayed this invasion it did it after the fact, so the invasion itself was illegal.

    • Andrew, al-Qaeda had 40 terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and was actively attacking the US and being harbored by the Taliban. Self defense applies. Moreover the UNSC demanded that Mullah Omar hand over Bin Laden or else, implying authorization of war. And NATO is a large mult-national institution. 2001 was not an illegal unilateral war.

      • Sorry for the garbage text after “comparison,” which should have ended my posting. Do you suppose we could have a return of the “preview” function? It could really help.

      • IIRC, the representative of Mullah Omar’s government at the UN acceded to the demand for surrendering Usama Bin Laden to a third country operating under Islamic Law. This was totally ignored by Washington as if it did not happen. Suggest a search of archives of the period from European news sources. This information was nearly identical out of Irish Times, The Irish Independent, BBC, The Guardian, The Times (London), RTE 1 and 2, TV3 (Ireland), Euronews (French “CNN”) and reported as similar out of Der Speigel and other news sources. Some of these archives may have been contaminated since, the BBC and The Times (London) in particular as great political (and economic) pressures have been brought to bear. The statement that Mullah Omar refused to turn over Bin Laden is false, making the attack upon the Taliban and the Afghan government one under false pretenses, thereby destroying any legitimacy for the attack. Do not trust the propaganda organs of the US government for facts; Pravda and Izvestia were recognized as propaganda by their readers, unfortunately the NYT and Washington are still not acknowledged as propaganda organs.
        I think this is my first major difference with your narrative.

        • Yeah, this is just dishonest. First of all, no one ever was able to pin down Mullah Omar on anything at all. Second, he didn’t believe any country other than Afghanistan on the Taliban functioned by Islamic law, which means any offer, if it was actually made and not immediately reneged on, was a non-offer. Third, the UN demanded the end of harboring terrorists and the terrorist training camps that the Taliban actively ran and recruited for, to which this reply was non-responsive. I mean, we are talking about among the biggest mass murderers in world history here, running a terrorist-producing factory on a massive scale. They are criminals, and mumbled weasel words. Talk about believing whatever Pravda put out. Have you actually read the Taliban press releases?

        • a_berns,

          Every country on earth except for 3 [Pakistan, KSA, UAE] regarded the Taliban as illegitimate. The world and UN recognized the Northern Alliance as the sole legitimate Afghan Government.

          You must be aware of the large number of terrorist attacks against Shiites, Iranians, Russians, Indians, Pakistanis, Uzbekistanis, Tajikistanis, Afghans that the Taliban supported. Realms and realms of evidence on all of this was provided to Mullah Omar and his backers [Pakistan, KSA, UAE] for many years. No response.

          9/11 was the last straw.

          a_berns, did you support the 1988 genocide of Gilgit Kashmiri Shiites by Osama Bin Laden? How about the 1997/98 massacre of Shiites by Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar in Mazar e Sharif?

        • Since neither reply to my comment has a reply to it, this will have to do.

          Prof Cole, my reply consisted what was in the public domain where I was. I responded with the facts as I witnessed them. I gave my sources of information. Your response was disingenuous and misleading and consisted of little else than opinion: 1, “no one was able to …” is an opinionated assessment; 2, what fact are you stating with “he didn’t believe any country … functioned by islamic law”. Here again is an opinionated surmise, not fact; 3, you really don’t propose this piece of fiction is believable, fitting in with the pro-aggressive propaganda and disinformation for the illegal attack on Afghanistan. Realizing the exceptionalism and the risk facts take in communicating with those not weaned from the koolaid, you of all should have a better grasp of the subject. You correctly identify the crime, do you also not have faith in the ability of the courts to arrive at a just conclusion? To send in military forces to avenge the trauma only creates war crimes and crimes against humanity with the death of the first innocent victim, that was, if you need reminding, what the trials at Nuremberg were about. What in essence I pointed out was that the US government was not accepting yes as an answer and the media there being the lapdogs they are reported nothing other than what their masters willed. And your final comment is specious, it does not matter what some official may have produced, this was not what the issue was, that issue was what was in the public domain, and that was the issue that I addressed my comment. Yours is a shallow attempt to discredit the facts I presented, that is a mark of poor scholarship. As for the Pravda remark of yours, seems after all the mountain of lies you have been fed, you still believe the swill you have been fed. Your choice.
          Of replies, yours ranks as truly dishonest.
          Now, after reading my reply to your response, be a good boy and delete the submission. Again, I have respect for your work, but now with exception. End of conversation.

  14. link to

    August 19, 2010

    US Withdraws Last Combat Brigade from Iraq, But 56,000 Troops Remain
    By Amy Goodman

    The US has officially withdrawn its last designated combat brigade from Iraq, two weeks ahead of a deadline for the withdrawal of some 14,000 troops. In a surprise announcement, the Pentagon said the last combat brigade crossed over into Kuwait earlier today. Although the withdrawal has been hailed as a major milestone in the Iraq war and an end to combat operations, most of the remaining 56,000 US troops are still trained in combat and will continue to carry out armed attacks. The Obama administration also plans to double its private military force in Iraq to an estimated 7,000 contractors. According to the New York Times, the bulk of the private military force will be deployed at five compounds across Iraq, where they’ll perform duties including operating drones, deploying reaction forces and operating radars to detect militant attacks. In an interview on Democracy Now! earlier this month, independent journalist Jeremy Scahill said the Obama administration’s withdrawal plan amounts to a rebranded occupation.

    “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.”

    • US civilian contractors in Iraq are there at the pleasure of the Iraqi parliament, which can ban them at any time. 50,000 non-combat troops is not the same as 170,000 combat and combat-support troops. Anti-imperialism does not require analytical obtuseness.

      • Juan, I think a lot of the people who state this type of stuff regard the Iraqi government and Iraqi Army as illegitimate and forces of oppression/occupation over the Iraqi people.

        The Iraqi Army is likely to keep tens of thousands of contractors for decades to come. What other choice does it have?

  15. For me the Iraq war ends when the war criminals who started it and the accesories after the fact stand trial. All wars are vile civil wars. The battleground is changing. The means are changing. The goal remains the same.

    • Good luck hoping for the war criminals stand trial. That’s not gonna happen as long as “progressives” this Obama is a “prgressive” who has done everything to protect the war criminals and, as ACLU says, has legalized all the things that Bush was doing illegally.

      No sir, I don’t succumb to spin and I can think.

  16. The “withdrawal of all combat troops” appears little more than p.r. optics to me.

    What kind of “withdrawal” leaves behind 50,000 heavily armed American soldiers encamped in massive fortified bases and supplemented by 85,000 private support personnel/mercenaries? That’s an Iraq occupation force of 135,000 by my count.

    Change without a difference.

    • I don’t agree that there is no change. And, I apologize for not posting the other 17 comments saying exactly the same thing. September 2010 is just like April 2004? Please.

      • Sure, 2010 is not 2004. The occupation force is different, but so is the subjugated population – over a million dead if you consider the British epidemiology study, over 4 million homeless, about 50 percent of the population made up of teenagers, high rates of cancer, congenital defects, disease, and malnutrition, and so on. We do not need a large occupation force to continue to rule these totally demoralized subhuman teenagers.

        • The US is not ruling Iraq. And, it is unclear how it has anything to do with the youth bulge in the demography.

        • mat noir, do you consider the Iraqi Army an army of occupation? Do you think it is continuing to “rule these totally demoralized subhuman teenagers”?

          If the Iraqi Security Forces shouldn’t provide them security, then who should?

      • Just to clarify my “Change without a difference” comment, I did not mean to suggest (nor do I think I said) that September 2010 is just like April 2004. What I meant is that the U.S. claims that “combat forces” are out of Iraq, thus we have “changed” to a force of noncombatant status. I don’t believe the forces left behind are noncombatant and thus the claimed change has made no difference.

  17. Professor Cole: Did removal of Saddam Hussein really accomplish “good”?

    As with Marshall Tito in Yugoslavia, Saddam was a strong (and cruel and despotic) ruler who held together an artificially forced-together country whose constituent communities (Shia, Sunni, Kurd) have considerable antagonisms and then-incipient, now-actualized power struggles. (Lebanon had the same and had inter-communal war for many years). The USA attacked, removed the army, removed Saddam, removed the (cruel) “glue” that held the country together. Creating chaos.

    From a USA perspective, “our” chaos may be better than Saddam’s “law and order” (though the USA has supported so many cruel dictators that I wonder why anyone would way that the USA dislikes cruelty or dictators), but perhaps Iraqis would disagree?

    • Pablemont….I don’t think Bush/Cheney, Feith, Perle, Abrams, Greenburg gave a damn about Saddam being cruel and despotic ruler, as Paul Wolfowitz admitted…”Saddam was sitting on a sea of oil.”

      • Of course they didn’t. They supported him, brutal ruler that he was, when it was in their interest.

        • Andrew, Saddam wasn’t a run of the mill cruel dictator. He was one of the most evil homo sapiens ever born. He committed genocide against his own people.

  18. Remember please that those whom whey are calling combat troops are what an observer would call “Bait”. Those gunships and special forces are the combat troops. By changing the bait to Iraqi troops only the quality of the targets will be changed, the deadly force will remain the same. Equally important are the mercenary troops who are a state department army not beholding to our constitutional values. The importance of seeing this murderous perpetration for what it is is only the first step. The trillion dollars spent could also be described as the health and well being of our entire country and our current recession could be described as “having thrown our national treasury down a rat-hole.”

  19. Air Support till 2018? From who Kurdish Air Patrol? Air Al-Qaeda? God forbid we ever have to fight any countries with an AirForce or Navy.

  20. From the beginning Iraq was about the British style of a nominally independent, weak, Iraqi puppet state garrisoned by few troops and dominated from the air, and expected to yield up its petroleum and anything else obediently, like that British imperial flunky Nuri as-Said.

    There are no more US combat troops in Iraq, just as there are no more Israeli combat troops in Gaza. Aren’t imperial democracy and freedom grand?

    The power of language too. Relabel them trainers, and behold, no more occupation! Relabel him an unlawful combatant for throwing a grenade at invaders of his country and he’s not a war prisoner any more. Just somebody you can throw in a cage forever and torture as much as you like, then convicting him of whatever you like on the basis of whatever you squeezed out of him.

  21. ” Anti-imperialism does not require analytical obtuseness.”
    In the original plans for the post invasion environment the Bush admin had planned to withdraw quickly and leave a force in Iraq of 30-50,000 troops. If that had happened would you have hailed that as a positive development Prof Cole?

    Analytical obtuseness in my opinion is shown in not recognizing that 50000 US troops in Iraq still constitutes a continuation of the occupation.

  22. The more I hear the media spin on this the more I get disappointed that you left out an essential fact. You told us that neglecting essential context does a disservice to readers. Oil was one of the main reasons the US went to war. So Isn’t leaving force and bases in Iraq necessary to protect that interest?

    • The oil factor had to do with finding a way to remove sanctions from Iraq so that the oil could be pumped. It wasn’t important that it be pumped by US corporations, and most of it won’t be. The point was to increase the world daily production so as to keep prices from becoming astronomical. Most oil bids have gone to Chinese and other non-US companies.

      • Nicely said Juan. I and other oil observors felt that Chinese companies would win a plurality of contracts back in 2002 and 2003. That has turned out to be correct.

  23. I have to back Juan in this argument. This is a significant development. One thing is that it is a partial withdrawal, but it is irreversible, or at least if it is reversed the President will pay a severe political price. The remaining US troops will be restricted to their fortified bases. As the Iraqi army becomes more independent (and more importantly, armed with ground to surface missiles, which the Iranians have in abundance) those US air bases will become less and less militarily relevant. Should the Iraqis decide to sanction those bases, the costs of resupply will become ruinous. Of course, complete withdrawal today would be preferable, but this is a step in that direction. Patience is required, this could go on for another 20 years.

      • The answer is more complex that this. For some time most “US bases” were Iraqi Security Force bases with US bases co-located on them. This is how bases should be. Combined ISF/US bases. All US forces embedded inside ISF.

        The old FOBs from 2003 were awful.

  24. I think we can all agree that the less troops the better. For that reason alone today is a step in the right direction. Yes, I agree with everyone here saying that 50,000 remain and I think they should also leave.

    But since Feb (6 months ago) US forces have gone from 110,000 down to 56,000, I’ll take that, at least people can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Beats the hell out of the Bush years when it was just constant war and constant surges.

    Where to next?

    Well obviously need to get the oil flowing out much faster. In the future, the one factor which will lower violence in Iraq is if the economy begins improving. The more oil money the Iraqi state is making the more men who will be working instead of running around on the streets with AK’s. Also once money starts flowing to the Kurds at a faster rate it should dampen sectarian tensions (a lot of the Northern Iraqi oil also is piped through Turkey which should encourage co-dependence there).

    Not really shocked that the Iraqi’s don’t have an airforce but going forward they need even a small one. I suggest the US gives away a few F-15’s, F-16’s since the US is already updating their fleet with the F22 Raptors and brand new F35’s. Maybe not for free but at a discounted price since it will save the US in the long run from having to patrol Iraqi airspace until 2018.

    Other than that the US can lean on Saudi Arabia to help wherever it can in making a strong Iraq. Saudi Arabia seems to have an interest in a strong Iraq to counter Iran so the US should be able to diplomatically nudge them towards giving a helping hand. Could also lean on Turkey to lay off bombing the Kurds unless absolutely provoked. In short just chill the whole situation down a few knotches. It is clear to me that Iraq seem like the lynch-pin for a lot of the Middle East. If Iraq becomes progressively more peaceful, regional tensions should also be cooled down.

    • Colm O’ Toole, Iraq has bad to mixed relations with every country in the greater middle east except for 2. Turkey and to a lesser degree Egypt.

      KSA/Iraqi relations are particularly rocky.

  25. Still no mention of the hundreds of thousands dead, injured in Iraq due to our illegal and immoral invasion in our MSM. Not a whisper about those millions of people displaced. Rachel maddow broadcast from there. And all she talked about were one of the tanks. I felt like I was watching a commercial for defense equipment.

    Rachel etc not a mention of how many people have died as a direct consequence of our invasion. Silence.

    • It’s not only the war, it’s the 10+ years of sanctions that preceded the war. We should never have gotten involved there, but now that we have it does seem like there’s a moral obligation to do something other than just leave.

  26. Thanks for writing this: I appreciate the tone and the realism.

    Writing as someone who vehemently the invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan, the notion of a complete pullout from Iraq troubles me. I don’t claim any expertise in the Middle East and Iraq, but it seems to me that with all of the terror and displacement the invasion has wrought, the United States has an unfulfilled obligation to the Iraqi people. I’m just not sure how to meet it.

    I’m not necessarily opposed to a contingency force that helps provide security and stability as needed, but I don’t want to prop up a corrupt and unpopular regime. Perhaps increased foreign is the ideal answer, but that’s a nonstarter politically. What do you think?

  27. So let me get this straight.

    If we leave 50,000 armed troops in Iraq plus assorted mercenaries and are providing combat air support to the Iraqi Army until 2018, we have withdrawn all our combat troops from Iraq because the ones we have left there are officially non combatant troops.

    This is another of the signs of the fatal degeneration of the Republic: manufactured illusions replacing reality. It’s what we say it is, not what it is. Welcome to full membership in the Third World!

  28. I am not the least impressed with President Obama’s war policy which strikes me as more fierce and more expensive and more needless than that of President Bush. We are pulling some formal soldiers from a smashed Iraq, leaving behind other formal soldiers and mercenaries. The basic military budget of President Obama is now running at $812.9 billion yearly as compared to $737.3 billion for President Bush in 2008. * Why should I be the least impressed with President Obama on war policy?

    * link to

  29. How many combat troops left Iraq night of August 18/19? Very hard to get numbers… and is not the headline “Fifteen thousand combat troops re-deployed to Afghanistan”

  30. Thanks for your sense of irony, and appreciation for relative improvements that reach a qualitative phase change. (like ice to water is a phase change, even though made of the same stuff).

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