Accepting Defeat in Iraq
Everyone is spinning the Iraq mission's so-called end but no one seems willing quite to accept defeat.
Republicans are complaining that the president didn't mention George W. Bush often enough in his speech announcing the end of combat operations. In fact, he did, quite a bit, and in an over-generous way, most sane people agree. As GRITtv commentator Bill Fletcher, Jr. put it Wednesday, "Iraq wasn't a case of a war gone bad with good intentions--it was begun illegally and handled wrong from the start."
The people who got the shortest shrift in the president's speech were the Iraqis. In particular, the Iraqi parliament. Obama made much of the fact that was following through on a promise to bring combat troops out of Iraq (for which he's clearly hoping to score election points) but there was only one oblique reference to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which actually forces US combat troops to leave.
The timeline, terms and the troop draw-down stipulated in SOFA were signed by U.S. and Iraqi officials on Nov. 16, 2008 and have stood as the law of the land ever since. As the U.S. right proclaimed the surge a success; so too, Democrats now claiming credit for a withdrawal they didn't really have much choice about. (Certainly not if they are going to claim credit for Iraqi democracy at the same time.)
And then there's the Left. With over 50,000 troops remaining - and the largest embassy on the planet - some on the left are pushing the claim that the U.S. maintains a grip. Uncle Alexander argues that, to the contrary, in terms of every goal set for the invasion - finding WMD, building democracy, accessing oil, building peace - the U.S. invasion has been a total defeat. (Uncle Alexander found Reuters' account of Iraq's oil auctions interesting reading.)
Alexander, it seems to me, is right: better we come to grips with defeat than concede that a lawless operation in some way won and made the U.S. stronger. It didn't. Iraq's in ruins. Afghanistan's next. America's crooked, killer appetite for conquest does us - and the world - no good.
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Support us by signing up for our podcast, and follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.