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Obama Doesn't Plan to End the Occupation in Iraq

The president-elect's thinking 'evolves' -- we can expect tens of thousands of American troops to stay.
 
 
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The New York Times is reporting an "apparent evolution" in president-elect Barack Obama's thinking on Iraq, citing recent statements about his plan to keep a "residual force" in the country and his pledge to "listen to the recommendations of my commanders" as Obama prepares to assume actual command of U.S. forces. "At the Pentagon and the military headquarters in Iraq, the response to the statements this week from Mr. Obama and his national security team has been akin to the senior officer corps' letting out its collective breath," the Times reported. "[T]the words sounded to them like the new president would take a measured approach on the question of troop levels."

The reality is there is no "evolution."

Anyone who took the time to cut past Barack Obama's campaign rhetoric of "change" and bringing an "end" to the Iraq war realized early on that his Iraq plan boiled down to a down-sizing and rebranding of the occupation. While he emphasized his pledge to withdraw U.S. "combat forces" from Iraq in 16 months (which may or may not happen), he has always said that he intends to keep "residual forces" in place for the foreseeable future.

It's an interesting choice of terms. "Residual" is defined as "the quantity left over at the end of a process." This means that the forces Obama plans to leave in Iraq will remain after he has completed his "withdrawal" plan. No matter how Obama chooses to label the forces he keeps in Iraq, the fact is, they will be occupation forces.

Jeremy Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army and is a frequent contributor to The Nation and Democracy Now! He is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.