All Troops Out By 2011? Not So Fast; Why Obama's Iraq Speech Deserves a Second Look
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"When they talk about 50,000, that's a little higher number than I anticipated," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was "particularly upset" according to the New York Times and did not understand "the justification." Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., exclaimed, "Fifty thousand is more than I would have thought."
The response from the Democratic power brokers was embarrassingly disingenuous. Obama said early on in his presidential campaign that he intended to keep behind a "residual force" of the scope he laid out. Those who have long protested this aspect of his plan were marginalized and ignored in both the corporate media and the Obama campaign.
The same Democratic leaders expressing their disappointment ignored the credible voices of dissent for years while supporting the occupation through votes and funding. That they would wait to express their dissent until long after it would actually have had an impact is one of the best examples of what has been so wrong with the Democrats' role from the beginning of President George W. Bush's declaration of war against the world and his 2003 invasion of Iraq.
If Pelosi, Reid, et al., really had a problem with a 50,000 troop residual force, they certainly had ample time to say so when Obama was running for president.
On Friday, however, these same Democrats welcomed the announcement that combat missions would be out by 2011. Reid praised Obama's plan, while cautioning that we "must keep in Iraq only those forces necessary for the security of our remaining troops and the Iraqi people." Following Obama's speech at Camp Lejeune, key Senate Republicans praised Obama's plan as well, while reminding everyone that it was an outgrowth of the Bush administration.
"It is encouraging to see the Obama administration embrace the plan of Gen. David Petraeus that began with the successful surge in 2007, and continues shifting combat responsibilities to our Iraqi allies," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Adopting the Bush Narrative
Beyond the headline-generating news, Obama's speech at Camp Lejeune delivered a number of lines -- wrapped in laudatory rhetoric -- that could have been delivered by Bush himself.
"I want to be very clear," Obama told the military audience. "We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein's regime -- and you got the job done." Perhaps it bears remembering that "removing Saddam" was justification two or three offered by the Bush administration after the WMD fraud was exposed.
"We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government," Obama went on, "and you got the job done." (The idea that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki regime is either sovereign or a government is hotly debated in Iraq.) "And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life -- that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible."
As much as could be said about this, perhaps the best response was delivered on Friday by Washington Post correspondent Thomas Ricks, who knows the situation in Iraq about as well as any journalist.
"We won't know for 10 or 15 years whether we actually did something right, even in removing Saddam Hussein," he said on MSNBC. "We may very well end up with a strongman, stronger than Saddam, closer to Tehran and certainly will be anti-American. That's in some ways the best-case scenario if that country holds together."
Regardless of what happens down the line, the world knows the truth about the lies that both Democrats and Republicans promoted in support of Bush's war against Iraq. Rather than inspire hope among Iraqis, the U.S. occupation has devastated their country and opened Iraq's gates for unprecedented violence and instability in their country and the region.