100 Days of Solidarity to End the U.S. Occupation of Iraq
This week marks the beginning of what is supposed to be the final 100 days of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. But if U.S. troops are to leave Iraq at the end of this year as promised - repeatedly - it will take grassroots pressure to counter the growing "occupy-Iraq-forever" chorus in Washington.
Despite the fact that there is a Bush-era agreement with the Iraqi government to leave, despite the fact that the majority of Iraqis and Americans don't support a continued U.S. presence, and despite the fact that Congress is supposedly in an all-out austerity mode, strong forces - including generals, war profiteers and hawks in both parties - are pushing President Obama to violate the agreement negotiated by his predecessor and keep a significant number of troops in Iraq past the December 31, 2011 deadline.
It's true there has already been a major withdrawal of U.S. troops, from a high of 170,000 in 2007 to about 45,000 troops today (with most of the troops being sent over to occupy Afghanistan instead). That number, however, doesn't tell the whole picture. As the New York Times notes, "Even as the military reduces its troop strength in Iraq, the C.I.A. will continue to have a major presence in the country, as will security contractors working for the State Department," the latter to defend a U.S. embassy that's bigger than the Vatican.
Back in 2007, candidate Obama pledged that the first thing he'd do as president would be to withdraw our troops from Iraq. "I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank," the future president declared . So far, the only thing many Americans can take to the bank, however, is evidence their home was fraudulently foreclosed upon.
In spite of President Obama's oft-repeated promises, his administration appears unwilling to withdrawal all U.S. troops, much less private contractors. Obama's hand-picked Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, has already endorsed a plan that would see 3,000 to 4,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq indefinitely, ostensibly to "continue training security forces there." The senior commander in Iraq, meanwhile, is pushing to keep as many as 18,000 troops there. And U.S. lawmakers, both Republican and Democratic, are echoing the call to stay.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham recently predicted leaving only 3,000 troops behind would be a "formula for disaster." Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, meanwhile, warned it would be a mistake because Iraq was not yet fully secure. And in a FOX interview, Republican Sen. John McCain said, "I have talked to many military leaders who have specifically said around 13,000 troops would be a minimum. . . .I have never talked to a military leader that said that leaving only 3,000 is a good idea. I don't know who came up with this idea."
Somebody ought to tell McCain who came up with the idea - not of leaving 3,000 troops, but leaving none: the Iraqis. Removing all U.S. troops by the end of this year was agreed to by the very government that the U.S. helped install. And it came as the result of popular pressure - the way democracy is supposed to work. The agreement was codified in a 2008 Security Agreement signed between Washington and Baghdad. And any change in that agreed-upon deadline is supposed to come only at the request of the Iraqi government. So far, with less than 100 days left, no such request has been made.
Iraqi leaders, even those who owe their positions to the U.S. occupiers, know it would be political suicide to come out publicly in favor of keeping U.S. troops. Most Iraqis hate the American invaders who launched an illegal war of aggression that has killed well over 100,000 Iraqis. They blame the U.S. for setting off a civil war that forced more than 4.7 million Iraqis to flee their homes, the majority to never return, and which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad. A proud people, they feel humiliated by the presence of foreign troops and they will not forget the treatment that many of their fellow citizens received in American-run prisons. Indeed, tens of thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets of Baghdad to demand that the foreign invaders leave.