Obama, Iraq, and Right-Wing Fantasies

I am not among those who believe Barack Obama’s announcement that all U.S. troops will be coming home by the end of the year means that he “kept his campaign promise” to end the war. For one thing, the return of remaining American combat troops from Iraq will not end the war, as Spencer Ackerman reports in one of the few honest pieces I’ve read so far on this matter. For another, and much as I’m glad to know that these troops will be leaving Iraq, Pres. Obama did not make this decision because he wanted to keep his campaign promise. He made it because Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki refused to continue the policy of immunity for U.S. troops who kill or injure Iraqi civilians — despite U.S. efforts to change his mind.

But as usual, right-wing bloggers’ response to Obama’s announcement perverts both logic and morality. As they would have it:

  1. The previous administration liberated oppressed and suffering Iraqis, won the war, secured the peace, and gave Iraqis democracy, and now Obama is abandoning them; AND
  2. Iraq is still a morass of violence, corruption,  incompetence, and authoritarianism; and is likely to erupt in chaos and fall prey to Iran if U.S. troops leave.

The fact that they can hold these two completely contradictory ideas in their collective heads — that U.S. troops liberated Iraqis, and won the war, yet cannot leave Iraq because the only thing keeping civil war from erupting again is the indefinite presence of U.S. troops — that Iraq is now a free and sovereign nation building its own democracy, AND that it’s a house of cards that will fall as soon as Americans leave —  just floors me, although I know it shouldn’t.

And then there’s the immunity issue. The righties are all highly critical of Obama for failing to secure immunity for U.S. troops, at the same time that they talk about “abandoning” Iraqis and squandering all the “good” the United States has done for Iraq by being there for the last nine years. The claimed concern for the welfare of ordinary Iraqis and worry about how they will suffer if we leave coexists with a wholly unexamined support for a policy grounded in the idea that it’s not just acceptable but desirable for U.S. troops to be able to maim, kill, and sometimes murder Iraqis with legal impunity. And not just support for the policy, but support for demanding it regardless of how Iraqi civilians feel about it. I cannot wrap my brain around this amazing disconnect no matter how hard I try.

Click on the links to get a representative sampling of what so-called “conservatives” (on the operating assumption that it’s not “conservative” to advocate pouring billions more dollars down the drain to keep U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely in order to sustain military victories that we supposedly already achieved in a war we supposedly already won) are saying about the end-that-isn’t-really-the-end of the war in Iraq.

Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy provides the pull quote. In fact, you could frame these two paragraphs and hang them on your wall as the prizewinner for imperious callousness (emphasis is mine):

Administration sources and Hill staffers also tell The Cable that the demand that the troop immunity go through the Council of Representatives was a decision made by the State Department lawyers and there were other options available to the administration, such as putting the remaining troops on the embassy’s diplomatic rolls, which would automatically give them immunity.

An obvious fix for troop immunity is to put them all on the diplomatic list; that’s done by notification to the Iraqi foreign ministry,” said one former senior Hill staffer. “If State says that this requires a treaty or a specific agreement by the Iraqi parliament as opposed to a statement by the Iraqi foreign ministry, it has its head up its ass.”

For a rational analysis from a surprising source, see Reid Smith in The American Spectator. This snip in particular is a tonic after experiencing Rogin’s contempt for Iraqi sensibilities (emphasis is mine):

… I suggest that the move is absolutely political, but it’s also compulsory. We have run out of options in Iraq, but make no mistake, American troops are leaving because the Iraqis don’t want us there.

The thrust of Smith’s piece, in its entirety, is that we should take the fact that Iraqis don’t want us there seriously, if for no other reason than that it dooms any continued U.S. troop presence to failure. Rogin clearly understands that Iraqis don’t want us there, but he doesn’t give a damn.


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