Although assassination has become the leading cause of death among Iraqi males, the Iraqi government has its priorities straight: they’re enacting a ban on public smoking. As the New York Times reports, the law – already passed by the Parliament, and now up for an obligatory second reading – “would ban smoking from schools, universities, government offices and a wide range of private businesses, including restaurants and cafes. Billboards advertising cigarettes, which wallpaper commercial districts of Baghdad, would be outlawed. And cigarette companies would be forced to print harsher warning labels. ‘This is an important issue,’ said Jawad al-Bazouni, a member of Parliament’s Health Committee, which is pushing for the restrictions. ‘The citizen can complain to the smoker. He will get the law on his side, and it will be reflected in the public health.’”
The Westernization of “liberated” Iraq is apparently proceeding on schedule, albeit not fast enough for Washington: hints that the US was lobbying behind the scenes to extend the occupation beyond the “withdrawal date” announced by President Obama have been dropped for months, and now it’s semi-official. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki – who once opined Iraq could defend itself, without US troops – now says he will go along with US demands if 70 percent of Iraqi lawmakers agree.
This fix has been in for quite some time, as you’ve been warned repeatedly in this space: US occupation forces aren’t going anywhere, at least not until the banks (or the Chinese) hang a foreclosure sign on the Pentagon. In light of this, I ask you to review the many statements by this administration that we were definitely and absolutely winding down our military presence in that unfortunate country “as promised and on schedule,” as Obama put it. “The message is,” said a White House spokesman at the time, “when the president makes a commitment, he keeps it.”
So what’s the message now – when the president makes a commitment, he’s lying? Given Obama’s record, you can take that one to the bank.
You’ll recall that the first deadline for US troop withdrawal was supposed to have been September 1, 2010 – but that was quietly dropped. The new deadline – the end of this year – was announced with much fanfare: Rachel Maddow made a big deal about it when she interviewed what was supposed to be the last combat brigade coming out of the country, sometime last year. Naturally, this latest news has gone unmentioned by Rachel, or, indeed, by any of the Obama-friendly media. If a broken promise hits the pavement in Iraq, and goes unreported by the “mainstream” media, did it really happen?
The idea that we were ever going to voluntarily leave Iraq was always a fantasy, one fulsomely encouraged by the Obama-ites and their “progressive” amen corner. In reality, the division of labor in the foreign policy realm works like this: the Republicans invade some country or other, bomb it to smithereens, and send in an occupying army. Then the Democrats win the next election, on account of rising opposition to the war, in which case our new overlords act to consolidate the gains of the previous administration and further extend the frontiers of empire – as in Libya and Pakistan.
The reality is that empires never dissolve themselves: they hang on to the bitter end, living on dreams of past glory and stubbornly refusing to see the signs of decline that are obvious to any objective observer. Nothing stops them: not war-weariness on the part of the populace, not military defeat, not even impending bankruptcy. The reason is once you become an empire, there’s no turning back: you’ve already invested a great deal of the nation’s resources into the empire-building process, and so much of your economic and political capital is tied up in this project that reversing it is just not possible. What’s needed is some outside stimulus, some undeniably chastening event – like, say, utter collapse, as in the case of the former Soviet Union – to provide a much-needed reality check.
While Maliki pays lip service to the idea that US troops must leave eventually, and the sooner the better, in reality he has no desire to see them go, for US soldiers are all that stand between him and a howling mob of his subjects, who are living in conditions that would turn Mother Teresa into a psycho-killer. Anti-smoking fanatics may take some satisfaction in knowing that tobacco is not the leading cause of death in Iraq, but to have assassination take its place is hardly cause for joy among the rest of us.
In Iraq, “Arab Spring” protests continue, as they have across the Middle East, but – unlike the demonstrations in Egypt, the civil war in Libya, and the violently-repressed upsurge in Syria – the Western news media has decided not to cover them. When thousands jammed the streets of Suleimaniya, the supposedly pro-occupation, pro-American capital city of the Kurdish autonomous region – Maliki and his Kurdish equivalents sent the Iraqi army in to crush the incipient rebellion no less violently than Syria’s Assad is now doing in Syria. Yet we hear nothing from the White House, nothing from the media, and nothing from the former leaders of the “antiwar” movement – yes, I’m talking to you, Leslie Kagan, you fraud – after they folded up their tents and went off to work for Obama’s election (and re-election).
That Republican congressman who yelled out “You lie!” to the President – and was excoriated by our enforcers of political etiquette (Rule Number One: never tell the truth) – is vindicated. Yes, yes, I know: this solon wasn’t yelling because of our policy in Iraq, but still – the President is indeed a proven liar, and the way our Iraq non-withdrawal is playing out underscores this irrefutable fact.
Will this be the final straw for the “progressive” left as far as their Hero is concerned? Will the Obama cult implode, will Leslie Kagan’s head explode – will Arianna Huffington add Iraq to her endless round of tiresome complaints about how the Glorious Leader has failed to enact every dot-and-tittle of her political agenda? Don’t bet the farm on it.
Politics is very much like religion: a faith that brooks no doubt and punishes heretics. In authoritarian countries, the party line is enforced at gunpoint: in America, there is no need to point a gun at elite opinion-makers and other Washington sycophants of power – the code of political correctness is self-enforcing. For these people have built their careers on certain assumptions, appealing for their pelf to very specific constituencies: to violate the prejudices and knee-jerk emotionalism behind those assumptions is to court professional disaster.
I am no exception to this rule. I often find myself holding back from challenging some of the smugger assumptions and prejudices of Antiwar.com’s audience: luckily, I’ve never had that much self-control, and so my innate recklessness usually saves me from becoming a party-lining hack. (I can imagine the emails I’ll be getting about that, written in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS: “You’re a hack, alright – you think bin Laden is really dead!”)
I do my best to look at the facts, as best I can discern them, and present an analysis that reflects my anti-interventionist views, and the views of this site’s supporters. Yet I reject the idea that in any conflict between reality and ideology, the latter must inevitably win out. On the other hand, unlike some who claim to have libertarian or anti-interventionist sympathies, I don’t also reject ideology per se and abandon myself to a self-justifying “pragmatism.” That is the road to Utter Hackdom, a route traveled by more than one turncoat in the annals of American political science.