President Obama’s campaign promise to get us out of Iraq in sixteen months gave him the electoral heft to oust "frontrunner" Hillary and catapulted him into the White House. Yet, now that the public’s attention is fixed on our swiftly deteriorating economic plight, that promise is being quietly but definitely broken. I’ve been predicting that for god-knows-how-many weeks, but now we have substantial evidence that my hunch presaged an emerging reality. Eli Lake reports in the Washington Times:
"As President Obama weighs options for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq, the country’s military is purchasing American helicopters, cargo planes and tanks equipment that typically requires a prolonged U.S. presence for maintenance and training.
"Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, who is in charge of training Iraq’s security services and military, told The Washington Times that some of the ordered equipment would not be delivered until 2012, even though a new status of forces agreement (SOFA) requires all U.S. troops to exit the country by [the end of] 2011."
To Gen. Helmick, this looks like the Iraqis are seeking "a long-term strategic relationship with the United States."
Translation: We ain’t leaving!
Remember that "residual force" Obama mumbled about under his breath, right after pledging to Get US Out? Yeah, well they’ll be there well beyond 2011, maintaining, guarding, and otherwise souping-up all the neat gear we’re going to be selling them. Hey, it’s all part of the economic "stimulus" plan, don’tcha know after all, the military-industrial complex needs a bailout, too, along with the banks, the auto industry, and the makers of bridges-to-nowhere. As Lake reports:
"The deals also will begin to redress the economic costs borne by United States to wage the Iraq war. Among the U.S. companies that will benefit from contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars are General Dynamics, which makes the M1 Abrams tank, Bell Boeing, which produces the assault helicopters, and Lockheed Martin, which makes the C130-J Super Hercules tactical airlifter. Lockheed Martin also makes the F-16 fighter jet, which also is generating some Iraqi interest, Gen. Helmick said."
Yes, folks, the General predicts that we’re in for a "long-term strategic relationship" with the Iraqis kind of like a sugar-daddy/ho arrangement, with US aid flowing into Iraqi coffers and into the pockets of politically-favored US companies. It’s the new crony capitalism in action with a distinctly military beat.
The status of forces agreement stipulates that all US forces must be out by the end of 2011, but nothing must be allowed to get in the way of the war industry’s profits: according to Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, the US will ask for an "adjustment" in the agreement which can no doubt be made after some more cash exchanges hands.
The Iraqis are already slated to go shopping for arms in the US: defense minister Abdul Qader al-Obeidi will be in Washington next week for consultations with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Senor al-Obeidi fresh from a trip to South Korea, where he extolled the 50-year master-slave US-Korean relationship as exemplary will also meet with "defense contractors and weapons makers," reports Lake.
The Korean model, you’ll recall, came up in the summer of ’07, when the presidential campaign was underway and the Democrats were driving home the point that John McCain anticipated a fifty to one-hundred year occupation of Iraq. Tony Snow, confronted with the Korean analogy, played agnostic, answering "I don’t know" to a reporter’s question about whether we’d be in Iraq for the next half century or so:
“So you’re not suggesting that U.S. troops would be there for over 50 years in a
“MR. SNOW: No, no, I’m not. I don’t know. It is an unanswerable question, but I’m not making that suggestion.”
Well, now that Bush is gone, and an ostensibly "antiwar" President is in the White House, we know the answer to that question, which is: yes, not only will we be in Iraq well after the mythical sixteen-month cut-off point, but the Korean model is on the agenda. This isn’t a strategic hook-up, after all: it’s a long-term strategic relationship. If not quite a marriage, then a long-standing affair one that, however stormy and dysfunctional, is held together by the offspring, i.e. a motley crew of war profiteers and ambitious politicians, both American and Iraqi.
Another major factor practically precluding a real US withdrawal is the Kurds, our troublesome "friends" in the region who might be expected to act up if and when we packed our bags and left. Lake cites Thomas Donnelly, defense guru over at the "center-right" (i.e. neocon) American Enterprise Institute, as saying: “The Kurds will feel more secure and behave better if there is a long-term deployment of American troops in Iraqi Kurdistan.”
They’ll be better behaved if we stay on you know, like rambunctious children who, left to their own devices, will jump on the bed, break the china, and disturb the neighbors. We’ll be babysitting them for a long time to come. Such are the wages of "liberation."
U.S. out of Iraq? Not in my lifetime. President Obama has already stated his own "regional" perspective, in which our relations with Iraq are inextricably linked with our ambitious plans in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Sixteen months from now, that "residual force" will be battling suicide bombers, restraining the Kurds, and keeping the Shi’ites and Sunnis from each others’ throats.
Campaign promises? Don’t be a fool. By the time Obama is up for reelection, this country will be so mired in the global economic downturn that we won’t even remember his out-of-Iraq pledge or, at least, the average voter won’t. The pundits will compliment Obama on his "maturity," and the Washington establishment and their corporate allies will breathe a sigh of relief, as war profits continue to flow and the Afghan front opens up all sorts of new investment opportunities for them.
The US empire is like the Borg, or the old Warsaw Pact once you’re absorbed, that’s it. Only a complete collapse, economic and/or military, would succeed in cutting the Iraqis loose. That’s not out of the question, by any means, but it’s a subject best left for another column. In the meantime, don’t hold your breath waiting for Obama to make good on his pledge to end the war unless blue is your favorite color.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
Be sure to check out my essay, “The Old California,” over at Taki’s Magazine. I had great fun writing it.