US commander warned against bigger cuts
Surge lies revealed
When Parrots Speak and Puppets Squawk
TRANSCRIPT from Cable News Network, 9-9-08
``CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Important news today about one of the biggest issues in this campaign, the war in Iraq. And we are showing you the numbers right now. The U.S. now has 146,000 troops in Iraq. Today, though, President Bush announced that, by early next year, some 8,000 troops will leave without being replaced ...
So, even before today's announcement, it was clear that either President McCain or President Obama will have to decide the future of U.S. forces in Iraq ...
Who better to [discuss this] than CNN correspondent Michael Ware. He's been stationed in Baghdad for years, and just happens to be stateside and here in the Election Center tonight.
Welcome to you.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Glad to be here.
BROWN: We're going to do this. We're going to hear from both candidates. So, let's first listen to what John McCain said today.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We have succeeded in Iraq. And we are winning. And our troops will come home with victory and honor. They will come home with victory and honor ...
BROWN: OK. So, reality check on McCain. Are we really winning in Iraq, and is the surge the reason?
WARE: Well, first, let me say, the troops will come home with honor regardless. I mean, the way they have comported themselves in this war, they have earned that honor.
Winning, however, is a matter of definition. Now, if by winning, you mean strengthening a member of what President Bush called the axis of evil, Iran, the very thing Senator McCain says that they prevented, IRAN IS STRONGER BECAUSE OF THIS WAR.
If you mean by dividing a community with blast barriers, if you mean by having to build an American militia, if you mean by destabilizing the entire region, then, sure, that's winning, that's victory. But I'm not sure that's why people went in there.
BROWN: It doesn't sound like you think that's winning.
WARE: Well, at this point, a win may just be getting out while minimizing the damage.
Now, to what degree has the surge played into this? Again, that's a matter of definition. What exactly is the surge? I would love to hear Senator McCain explain that ...
BROWN: The increase in troops, the 30,000 troops. That's what he means, though, when he says it, right?
WARE: Yes. Well, if that's what he means, THEN HE HAS NO IDEA WHAT IS GOING ON IN IRAQ, because what has delivered the successes we're seeing now ... began two years ago or more, when the U.S. began engaging with its enemy, the Sunni insurgency, when it started bringing in al Qaeda, and putting them on the U.S. government payroll, setting them loose on hard-core al Qaeda elements, and setting them loose on Shia militias.
BROWN: So, strategy, rather than the 30,000 troops?
WARE: Yes, the 30,000 troops was sort of like the icing on the cake.
WARE: But the success that you're seeing right now has been building for two years. And it also includes accommodating someone who was one of your number-one enemies, which was Muqtada al-Sadr, and turning him into a legitimate political figure.
BROWN: Hold on, because we want to hear from Barack Obama. He's also talking about Iraq today. But, instead of hitting back at John McCain, he called in reporters. He went after President Bush. And here's part of what he said.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Today President Bush announced a very modest troop redeployment from Iraq. Meanwhile, we will continue to keep nearly 140,000 troops in Iraq while our military is overstretched, which is still at or even above pre-surge levels. We will continue to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq, while the Iraqi government sits on a $79 billion surplus. In the absence of a timetable to remove our combat brigades, we will continue to give Iraq's leaders a blank check, instead of pressing them to reconcile their differences.
BROWN: All right, so timetable is what he keeps hammering away at.
BROWN: Is it -- would that really help? And if we don't set a timetable, are we in fact giving them a blank check?
WARE: Well, who doesn't want to see the men and women in uniform coming home? That's a domestic issue, though.
But it's so disheartening to think that people honestly believe that a timetable of American withdrawal in any way terrifies or pressures the Iraqi government. I mean, while the U.S. troops are there, sure, they are fine. They are happy to have the troops there for a certain period. It allows them to consolidate their power. It allows them to build upon the militias that they have already developed, TO ENHANCE THE IRANIAN INFLUENCE that they had when they went in there, and to get ready for what comes.
But, if the U.S. troops left tomorrow, they would be just as happy to set the dogs loose. So, the real test for America is not timetables. It's, how are you going to manage the dynamics of horror and tension that you're going to leave behind. That's the real issue.
BROWN: Well beyond the timetable. Michael Ware for us tonight. Michael, as always, thanks.
WARE: Great pleasure, Campbell ...''
NEWS ARTICLE from The Guardian, 9-10-08,
by Ewen MacAskill in Washington
``Obama says president's move 'comes up short'
US commander warned against bigger cuts
President George Bush punctured hopes of a big reduction in US troops in Iraq yesterday when he announced the withdrawal of 8,000 troops by February , and only a small troop increase for Afghanistan ...
Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, described Bush's moves as "modest" and "coming up short". He said that Bush had failed to recognise the urgency of the situation in Afghanistan because the new brigade was not due to arrive until February.
Bush's speech to the National Defence University, in Washington, dashed speculation over the last few months that he planned a huge reduction of US forces in Iraq before he left office so he could go out on a high note ...
Bush and the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, would have liked to have seen tens of thousands of troops brought home. [McCain had wanted significant reductions in order to blunt Obama's pledge to pull all US combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months of becoming president]
But Bush was forced to rethink his plans after a briefing from the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, that such a huge reduction would be premature and would endanger the improved security. Petraeus advocated keeping troops at the same level until June  ...
There are 157,000 US troops in Iraq and Kuwait, of whom 146,000 are in Iraq. The withdrawal announced yesterday will reduce the total in Iraq to 138,000 [in 2-09], more than when Bush ordered an extra 31,000 troops to Iraq in January last year , which he said would be a year-long deployment ...
The Democratic senate leader, Harry Reid, who has been pressing for an early withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraq, said he was "stunned" so few troops were being brought home and over the failure to address the danger posed in Afghanistan. "As Democrats have been saying for years and as I saw with my own eyes last month, violence in Afghanistan has surged because Bush-McCain Republicans have all but ignored the true central front of the war on terror while keeping the bulk of our troops tied down in Iraq."''
BLOG POST in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9-10-08,
by Elizabeth Sullivan
``Bush digging a foreign policy hole for his successor
Seven years after terrorist assaults profoundly altered how Americans view their security, the rudder for the nation's response has come unstuck. The ship is drifting aimlessly.
Sept. 11  mastermind Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants can rebuild from the safety of Pakistan's tribal areas.
And forget a prospective Iranian bomb: The possible meltdown in Pakistani stability if al-Qaida widens its regional influence threatens the stewardship of an ACTIVE ARSENAL OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS ...
Simply put, the Bush administration strategy for how to keep the nation safe from attack is failing miserably. The factors that allow terrorists to recruit and train are flourishing, amid circumstances that could soon make shopping for weapons of mass destruction possible ...
Barack Obama has one clear idea: He wants to close up the Iraq enterprise completely and move U.S. troops to Afghanistan and Pakistan instead. The Democrat chided President Bush this week for "kicking the can down the road" to the next president ...
Equally clearly, John McCain has his own pronounced notion that "American troops are returning home in success and with honor because of the improvements in security that followed implementation of the surge strategy." In the Republican's universe, the U.S. strategy in Iraq is working fine.
Yet neither says how he'd keep Iraq from slipping further into the trap of a SHIITE DICTATORSHIP [veiled women, stonings, honor killings -- far worse than anything imposed by Saddam Hussein] at war with its own people and with Sunni mercenaries, including Sunni-dominated neighbors and an opportunistic al-Qaida.
Those who think that's not likely haven't been paying attention to what's happening inside Iraq lately. Shiite leader Nouri al-Maliki, increasingly assertive in exercising his personal military power, has been thumbing his nose at U.S. pressure for a new election law that would bring Sunnis back into governance, and an oil-sharing law that could help resolve Kurdish disputes and improve treatment of Sunnis.
And Washington may think its threat to withdraw funding for Sunni militias that chased al-Qaida from some provinces and neighborhoods is a cost-saving move.
Yet some reports suggest al-Maliki already is using it as an excuse to try to arrest Sunni military leaders -- a move that could drive the rest back underground and into the insurgency.
Nor is either candidate specific about how he'd turn around the anti-Taliban fight in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where some NATO allies are balking, anti-Americanism is growing and Pakistan's willingness to work with U.S. troops is melting away.
Alaskan bridges to nowhere and lipsticked pigs may be important as campaign rhetorical devices. But what really counts is that U.S. policy-making in wartime remains broken even as intelligence improves ...
Fewer U.S. troops [are] available either for Iraq or for Afghanistan, thanks to burn-out and the way the Iraqi "surge" disrupted planned deployments, even though it amounted to only about 30,000 troops.
When Bush stepped to the podium this week for what may have been his last major pronouncement on troop numbers, the figures were so reduced as to be virtually meaningless -- 8,000 coming home from Iraq [in 2009]; and 3,500 going to Afghanistan as a "quiet surge."
Soon there will be no troops available for any kind of reinforcements. But that will be the next president's problem.''
EDITORIAL from The New York Times, 9-9-08
``Still No Exit
President Bush is nothing if not consistent. In a speech on Tuesday, he made it clear that he has no plan at all for ending the war in Iraq and no serious plan for winning the war in Afghanistan ...
Speaking at the National Defense University, he said he would withdraw only 8,000 more troops from Iraq ... [in February 2009]. That would leave 138,000 troops behind, more than were deployed in Iraq before his January 2007 'surge.'
All of this seems to be driven more by what is happening in American battleground states than any battleground in Iraq.
While Mr. Bush and his party's nominee, John McCain, both want to stay the course until some undefined 'victory' is achieved, American voters have run out of patience. Mr. Bush and his advisers are clearly hoping that this token withdrawal will be enough to keep Iraq out of the news and out of the election debate. (Ironically, Mr. McCain who doesn?t want to withdraw any troops at all, had no choice but to declare his support for the president?s plan.)
Iraq's leaders have also run out of patience, and they are pushing to have American troops out by 2011. That means the next president, whether it is Mr. McCain or Barack Obama, will have to quickly come up with a plan for a safe and responsible exit ...
All of these months later, and Iraq's Parliament has still not adopted an oil revenue-sharing law or a law establishing the rules for provincial elections.
So long as an American president refuses to start seriously planning for a withdrawal, Iraq's leader will continue on this way.
Mr. Bush was right on one point Tuesday when he said that "Afghanistan's success is critical to the security of America."
What he didn't say is that Washington is in real danger of losing the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the war Mr. Bush shortchanged again and again for his misadventure in Iraq.
American commanders in Afghanistan need a lot more help than the 4,500 additional troops Mr. Bush has now pledged to send there.
Mr. Obama has offered a sensible blueprint for quickly drawing down American troops in Iraq and bolstering the fight in Afghanistan. After a befuddling silence, Mr. McCain on Tuesday finally agreed that more troops are needed in Afghanistan. What Mr. McCain has yet to explain is where those troops will come from.
Mr. Bush's disastrous war in Iraq has so overtaxed American forces that the math is painfully simple: Until there is a real drawdown from Iraq, there will not be enough troops to win in Afghanistan.''
EDITORIAL from The Palm Beach Post, 9-11-08
``Bush still blind on Iraq
John McCain and Sarah Palin keep saying that "victory is in sight" in Iraq because of the "surge" President Bush ordered in January 2007. But Mr. Bush's decision this week on troop levels means that there is no clear end in sight.
More to the point, the president hopes that by keeping a large number of U.S. troops in Iraq through the end of his term, no one will see the "surge" turn into a failure.
According to the Brookings Institution, there were about 132,000 U.S. troops in Iraq at the end of January 2007. The number peaked at about 171,000 by the end of October 2007 and declined to 140,000 last month. Mr. Bush announced Tuesday that 8,000 additional combat and support troops will leave Iraq by the end of next February  and not be replaced. That would reduce the total to roughly 132,000 - exactly where levels were before the surge.
The surge helped to reduce violence. BUT THAT WASN'T SUPPOSED TO BE ITS MEASURE OF SUCCESS. Iraqi leaders were supposed to take advantage of the relative calm by reconciling political factions whose disputes pushed the country to the brink of civil war ...
Iraqi leaders have not made the promised progress. Facing deadlines for scheduling crucial local elections and reaching agreements with the U.S. for continued deployment of troops, the Iraqi Parliament took August off ...
Mr. Bush has ensured that the ultimate success of the surge will not be tested while he is in office, or while Sen. McCain campaigns on his claim that invading Iraq made sense.
Meanwhile, the deteriorating military situation in Afghanistan, where violence and U.S. deaths are at record levels, is evidence that, as Barack Obama has emphasized, the decision to invade Iraq was a mistake. Even if Sen. McCain could define "victory in Iraq," you probably wouldn't be able to see it from here.''
TRANSCRIPT from Democracy Now, 9-10-08
AMY GOODMAN interview of Raed Jarrar, Iraqi blogger, political analyst and architect. he is a consultant to the American Friends Service Committee's Iraq program in Washington, D.C.
``As US Announces Withdrawal of 8,000 Troops from Iraq, Leaked US-Iraqi Draft Agreement Envisions Indefinite Occupation
On the heels of President Bush's announcement of the withdrawal of 8,000 US troops from Iraq by February of next year, we speak to Iraqi blogger and political analyst Raed Jarrar. He has translated a recently leaked draft of an Iraqi-US agreement that outlines the long-term status of US forces in Iraq. Jarrar says the agreement does not set a deadline for the withdrawal of non-combat US troops in Iraq ...
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the bombing of or the occupation of Iraq. President Bush announced Tuesday he would withdraw 8,000 troops from Iraq by February  ...
AMY GOODMAN: Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama, criticized President Bush for keeping troop levels in Iraq largely unchanged. Speaking in Ohio on Tuesday, Obama said, "In the absence of the timetable to remove our combat brigades we will continue to give Iraq's leaders a blank check instead of pressing them to reconcile their differences."
But neither Senator Obama nor President Bush made reference to a recently leaked draft of an Iraqi-US agreement that outlines the long-term status of US forces in Iraq. Iraqi blogger and political analyst Raed Jarrar has read and translated the leaked document. He says the agreement doesn't set a deadline for the withdrawal of non-combat US troops in Iraq. He joins us also from Washington, D.C.
Welcome, Raed. Talk about what you have found, what this leaked document says that you've translated.
RAED JARRAR: Well, it's a long document. It has twenty-seven articles. And most of them are outrageous. They give the US unprecedented authorities and rights and immunities. Maybe a major point that is related to this discussion is the fact that the agreement legitimizes or legalizes these long-term bases ...
Now, this is a huge issue that is not being discussed in the US enough. We usually get stuck in discussing troops level, how many troops are the US going to keep in Iraq, or what's the mission of these troops. But from an Iraqi point of view, the majority of Iraqis and the majority of Iraqi parliamentarians and other representatives of the Iraqi community are demanding a complete withdrawal that leaves no permanent bases, no troops and no private contractors ...
AMY GOODMAN: And what about the Iraqi leadership right now? What are they saying?
RAED JARRAR: Now, the Iraqi leadership in the executive branch, which is a non-elected branch of the Iraqi government, are allied with the Bush administration. They are using the same terminology of the Bush administration. They're asking for a withdrawal, a partial withdrawal or withdrawal of what they call 'combat troops', without really defining that. And they are OK with leaving permanent bases and US troops in the long run that have immunity inside and outside the bases.
Now, the Iraqi leadership in the other branch of the government, the only elected branch, the parliament, actually is asking for a complete withdrawal. And these calls do reflect'the calls for a complete withdrawal do reflect what the majority of Iraqis want. More than three-fourths of the Iraqi population are asking the US to leave completely, not leave, you know, half and keep some tens of thousands of troops behind to do some extra missions ...
AMY GOODMAN: Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, has said all US troops should be out by the end of 2011. How does that fit into this picture' And what about the latest deal that has been made between, I think the report was, Shell, the oil company, and the Iraqi government'
RAED JARRAR: Again, what Nouri al-Maliki is saying is that all US combat troops will leave, but there will be exceptions that will stay in Iraq indefinitely. Now, this view that Mr. al-Maliki is representing in Iraq is completely rejected.
Iraqis do not support the idea of half-withdrawal and leaving US troops on the long run. In fact, the full agreement, that can be viewed on my organization's website now, on afsc.org can show you in detail how the US will stay on the long run and who gets to decide the troops level and the troop tasks. It's neither the Iraqi nor the US elected officials.
Now, a good thing that you bring up the issue of the oil deals, because we went through a very similar discussion to what we're discussing now last year about the oil law.
The Bush administration and al-Maliki's administration tried to pass an oil law, and then the Iraqi legislative branch blocked it, the same way that now they are trying to pass this long-term agreement and the Iraqi parliament is blocking it. And they ended up losing that battle, because the majority of Iraqis and the majority of Iraqi parliamentarians rejected the law ...
AMY GOODMAN: We have ten seconds.
RAED JARRAR: Many people are expecting that the Iraqi parliament will reject this US long-term agreement, and maybe they will end up finding other loopholes to pass it.
AMY GOODMAN: Raed Jarrar, Iraqi blogger, political analyst and architect, he works with the American Friends Service Committee.''
NEWS ARTICLE from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9-5-08, by Steve Luxenberg, Washington Post
[Surge lies revealed]
``U.S. spied on al-Maliki, book on war strategy says
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration has conducted an extensive spying operation on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, his staff and others in the Iraqi government, according to a new book by Washington Post editor and author Bob Woodward.
"We know everything he says," according to one of multiple sources Woodward cites about the practice in "The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008," scheduled for publication by Simon & Schuster on Monday [9-8-08].
The book also says the U.S. troop "surge" of 2007, in which President Bush sent nearly 30,000 additional U.S. combat forces and support troops to Iraq, was not the primary factor behind the steep drop in violence there during the past 16 months.
Rather, Woodward reports, "groundbreaking" new covert techniques, beginning in 2007, enabled U.S. military and intelligence officials to locate, target and kill insurgent leaders and key individuals in extremist groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq ...
Overall, Woodward writes, four factors combined to reduce the violence: the covert operations; the influx of troops; the agreement by militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to rein in his powerful Mahdi Army; and the so-called Anbar Awakening, in which tens of thousands of Sunnis turned against al-Qaida in Iraq [in return for weapons and money from the U. S.] ...
The book portrays a Bush administration riven by dissension, either unwilling or slow to confront the deterioration of its strategy in Iraq during the summer and early fall of 2006. Publicly, Bush maintained U.S. forces were "winning"; privately, he came to believe that the military's long-term strategy of training Iraq security forces and handing over responsibility to the new Iraqi government was failing ...''
www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/05/usforeignpolicy.usa?gusrc=rss&feed=worldnews NEWS ARTICLE from The London Guardian, 9-5-08, by Haroon Siddique
``White House spied on Iraq leaders, says Bob Woodward book
The Bush administration has spied on the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and other senior figures in his government, the Washington Post reported today.
The revelation is one of many contained in a new book written by the paper's associate editor Bob Woodward, who with Carl Bernstein uncovered the Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon's resignation.
The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 is based on more than 150 interviews with key players in the Iraq war as well two interviews with the president himself. The books paints a picture of Bush often at loggerheads with his military advisers and other officials.
Woodward says "groundbreaking" surveillance techniques and NOT the much-trumpeted "surge" by 30,000 additional troops, were the main reason for the reduction in violence in Iraq during the past 16 months.
In 2006, Bush maintained publicly that US forces were "winning" while privately believing the strategy of training Iraq security forces and transferring responsibility to the new government was failing, according to the Post.
Woodward says the president lost confidence in General George Casey, then the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, and General John Abizaid, then the head of US central command.
In October 2006, Bush asked his national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, to carry out a review of the Iraq war. But the report ignored the military and was kept secret for fear of jeopardising the Republican party's popularity in the mid-term congressional elections, the book says.
The Pentagon reluctantly agreed to a troop surge of two brigades, but the White House decided that five was the optimum number. Asked how this decision was reached, Bush told Woodward: "Okay, I don't know this. I'm not in these meetings, you'll be happy to hear, because I got other things to do."
Woodward says Casey described the 2007 surge as a "troop sump" and Abizaid and the then defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, also opposed the scale of the operation. The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, also had reservations. Casey told a colleague that Bush reflected the "radical wing of the Republican Party that kept saying, 'Kill the bastards! Kill the bastards! And you'll succeed'," writes Woodward.
The book says joint chiefs of staff were in "near revolt" in late 2006, with Admiral Michael Mullen, then serving as chief of naval operations, fearing the military would "take the fall" for failure in Iraq.
Woodward does credit the influx of troops with contributing to the fall in violence. But he also cites
NEWS ARTICLE from The Associated Press, 9-5-08
``Woodward: Bush 'too often failed to lead' on Iraq
WASHINGTON (AP) President Bush "rarely was the voice of realism" on the Iraq war and "too often failed to lead," according to a new book by Bob Woodward examining how the president handled the war effort during some of the conflict's most difficult years.
Woodward's book, "The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008," told of a president detached, tentative and slow to react to the escalating violence in Iraq ...
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the commander of forces in Iraq from 2004 to 2007, thought that Bush did not understand the very nature of the war in Iraq and that he focused too much on body counts as a measure of how the conflict was going.
Woodward's book tells of a growing rift between civilian and military leaders, who thought they would be blamed for failure in Iraq ...
Bush turned many of the details of decisions about the war over to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, the book says. "Let's cut to the chase," Bush told Woodward. "Hadley drove a lot of this."
The book says the so-called surge of nearly 30,000 additional U.S. combat forces and support troops to Iraq was not the primary factor behind the steep drop in violence there during the past 16 months. Rather, new covert techniques helped locate and kill insurgent leaders and key members of extremist groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq.
The Bush administration spied extensively on Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, [and] others at the top of the Iraqi government, according to the book.''
ARTICLE from The Nation, 9-8-08, by Tom Engelhardt
``When Parrots Speak and Puppets Squawk
Recently, Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has shown striking signs of wanting to be his own man in Baghdad, not Washington's (as has Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul). What happens when parrots suddenly speak and puppets squawk on their own?
The answer, it seems, is simple enough: You listen in; so, at least, the lastest revelations of journalist Bob Woodward seem to indicate. "The Bush administration," reports the Washington Post, "has conducted an extensive spying operation on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, his staff and others in the Iraqi government, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward. 'We know everything [Maliki] says,' according to one of multiple sources Woodward cites about the practice." This is perhaps what is meant when it's claimed that President Bush and Maliki have a "close working relationship."
An Iraqi government spokesman responded to the revelation with shock: "If it is a fact, it reflects that there is no trust and it reflects also that the institutions in the United States are used to spying on their friends and their enemies in the same way. If it is true, it casts a shadow on the future relations with such institutions."
"Trust"? Please... Wasn't that always just a synonym for electronic eavesdropping?
As for "success" in Iraq, which we've been hearing quite a lot about lately in the U.S., here's one way to measure the administration's trust in its own "success": The Pentagon, we now learn, has just "recommended" to President Bush that there should be no further troop drawdowns in Iraq until a new president enters office in January 2009 -- and even then, possibly in February, that no more than 7,500 Americans should be withdrawn, and only if "conditions" permit.
So the administration's "success" in Iraq could, in terms of troop levels, be measured this way: The U.S. invaded and occupied that country in the spring of 2003 with approximately 130,000 troops. According to Thomas Ricks in his bestselling book Fiasco, by that fall, its top officials fully expected to have only about 30,000 troops still in the country, stationed at newly built American bases largely outside major urban areas.
In January 2007, when the President's desperate "surge" strategy was launched, there were still approximately 130,000 U.S. troops in the country, and, of course, tens of thousands of hired guns from firms like Blackwater Worldwide.
Today, there are approximately 146,000 troops in Iraq (and the U.S. is spending more money on armed "private security contractors" than ever before). By next February , according to Pentagon plans, there would still be about 139,000 troops in Iraq, 9,000 more than in April 2003, as well as more than early in Bush's second term, as Juan Cole pointed out recently -- and that's if everything goes reasonably well, which, under the circumstances, is a big "if" indeed.
As Michael Schwartz, sociologist and author of the forthcoming book War Without End: The Iraq War in Context, indicates (in a new piece, "Who Lost Iraq?"), for all the talk over the years about "tipping points" reached and "corners" turned, it's just possible that -- while the Bush administration and the McCain campaign are pounding the drums of "success" -- the U.S. might be heading for an unexpected and resounding tipping-point-style DEFEAT.
Moreover, it [the defeat] might well be administered by the very Iraqi government Washington has supported all these years, whose true allies may turn out to be living not in Camp Victory, the huge U.S. base on the outskirts of Baghdad, but in Tehran.
"The question remains," [Michael Schwartz] concludes, "Can anything reverse the centripetal forces pulling Iraq from Washington's orbit? Will the President's 'surge' strategy prove to have been the nail in the coffin of its hopes for U.S. dominance in the Middle East?" Or, put another way, the question is: just how will the Bush administration wrest actual defeat from the jaws of self-proclaimed victory.''
ARTICLE from pacificfreepress, 9-8-08, by Michael Schwartz
``Who Lost Iraq? Is the Maliki Government Jumping Off the American Ship of State?
As the Bush administration was entering office in 2000, Donald Rumsfeld exuberantly expressed its grandiose ambitions for Middle East domination, telling a National Security Council meeting:
"Imagine what the region would look like without Saddam and with a regime that's aligned with U.S. interests. It would change everything in the region and beyond."
A few weeks later, Bush speechwriter David Frum offered an even more exuberant version of the same vision to the New York Times Magazine: "An American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the replacement of the radical Baathist dictatorship with a new government more closely aligned with the United States, would put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans."
From the moment on May 1, 2003, when the President declared "major combat operations ended" on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, such exuberant administration statements have repeatedly been deflated by events on the ground ...
In the past few weeks, the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has made it all too clear that, in the long run, it has little inclination to remain "aligned with U.S. interests" in the region. In fact, we may be witnessing a classic "tipping point," a moment when Washington's efforts to dominate the Middle East are definitively deep-sixed.
The client state that the Bush administration has spent so many years and hundreds of billions of dollars creating, nurturing, and defending has shown increasing disloyalty and lack of gratitude, as well as an ever stronger urge to go its own way.
Under the pressure of Iraqi politics, Maliki has moved strongly in the direction of a nationalist position on two key issues: the continuing American occupation of the country and the future of Iraqi oil. In the process, he has sought to distance his government from the Bush administration and to establish congenial relationships, if not an outright alliance, with Washington's international adversaries, including the Bush administration's mortal enemy, Iran.
Withdrawal Becomes an Official Issue
Perhaps the most dramatic symbol of this new independence is the Iraqi government's resistance to a Washington proposal for a "status of forces agreement" (SOFA) that would allow for a permanent and uninhibited U.S. military presence in Iraq.
With the impending expiration of the UN resolutions that gave legal cover to the U.S. military presence in Iraq, the SOFA negotiations are crucial. They began with a proposal that expressed the full extent of Washington's ambitions to utilize Iraq as the base for making the U.S. "more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans."
The proposal first leaked to the press in June 2008 was essentially a major land grab, including provisions like the following that would not have seemed out of place in a nineteenth century colonial treaty:
* An indefinite number of U.S. troops would remain in Iraq indefinitely, stationed on up to 58 bases in locations determined by the United States.
* These troops would be allowed to mount attacks on any target inside Iraq without the permission of, or even notification to, Iraqi authorities.
* U.S. military and civilian authorities would be free to use Iraqi territory to mount attacks against any of Iraq's neighbors without permission from the Iraqi government.
* The U.S. would control Iraqi airspace up to 30,000 feet, freeing the U.S. Air Force to strike as it wishes inside Iraq and creating the basis for the use of, or passage through, Iraq's air space for planes bent on attacking other countries.
* The U.S. military and its private contractors would be immune from Iraqi law, even for actions unrelated to their military duties.
* Iraq's defense, interior, and national security ministries (and all of Iraq's arms purchases) would be under U.S. supervision for 10 years.
When leaked (clearly by Iraqis involved in the negotiations), this proposal generated opposition across the political spectrum from parliament to the streets. It was even denounced by the usually silent Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shia Ayatollah.
Soon, Prime Minister Maliki made clear his own rejection of the proposal, setting in motion a chaotic negotiating process in which the Iraqis seem to have argued vehemently for a more modest, briefer U.S. presence, as well as a definite deadline for full withdrawal -- a proposal that was anathema to the Bush administration.
By early August,  when the details of a new proposal endorsed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice began to leak out, it was clear that U.S. negotiators had given way, granting significant concessions to the Iraqi side. According to Iraqi insiders, the new draft agreement called for U.S. troops to be completely withdrawn from Iraqi cities, where most of the fighting usually takes place, by the summer of 2009.
All U.S. troops -- not just the "combat" troops usually mentioned when Democrats talk about withdrawal timelines in Iraq -- would have to be gone by the end of 2011.
... the U.S. would leave behind those 58 bases, including the five massive "enduring" bases into which the Bush administration has poured billions of dollars ...
Symptomatic of the loosening U.S. grip on its Iraqi client government were the reactions of the two sides to the leaked provisions of the new version of the agreement. Secretary of State Rice declared it "acceptable" and explained uneasily that the timeline proposed was not the sort of fixed withdrawal date that the Bush administration had long adamantly rejected, but an "aspirational" "time horizon" that would depend on "conditions" in Iraq.
Maliki, in all likelihood responding to the fervor of public protests to Rice's comments, immediately declared the agreement unacceptable unless the deadline for withdrawal was time-based and unconditional.
In a well publicized speech to a gathering of tribal sheiks, Maliki] said that any agreement must be based on the principle that "no foreign soldier remains in Iraq after a specific deadline, not an open time frame." In further clarifying his remarks, a key aide told the Associated Press that "the last American soldiers must leave Iraq by the end of 2011, regardless of conditions at the time."
The latest reports suggest that a further round of secret negotiations had restored some U.S. demands, including full immunity for American soldiers (but not mercenary fighters), and application of the withdrawal deadline to combat troops only. Such concessions by Maliki, however, appeared certain to trigger another round of protest and resistance in the streets and in the Iraqi Parliament.
Whatever their outcome, the still-unfinished negotiations point to something quite new in the relationship between the two governments. Until recently, the Iraqi leadership faithfully sought to enact whatever policies the Bush administration favored (though its capacity to implement them was always in question). With the proposed SOFA, this posture disappeared, replaced by a clear antagonism to Washington's desires ...
The Re-emergence of Oil Nationalism
Nothing better highlights this transformation than oil policy. From the beginning of its occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration sought to quadruple Iraqi oil production by delivering control of the industry to the major international oil companies.
Once given free rein to act on their own discretion, Washington policymakers believed that the oil majors would invest vast sums in modernizing existing fields, activate undeveloped reserves using the most advanced technology available, and discover major new fields utilizing state-of-the-art exploration and extraction methods.
Up until 2007, the Iraqi government was an active ally in this enterprise, even though the vast majority of Iraqis -- including the powerful oil workers union, the religious leadership, and a majority of Parliament -- vehemently opposed these plans, demanding instead that control of the industry remain in government hands ...
In 2007, when the oil law was finally delivered to the Iraqi Parliament, it met with unremitting opposition. The always strong oil unions immediately began a ferocious resistance campaign that stalled the law.
None of these developments altered the Bush administration's determination to push the law through. They did not, however, anticipate that the Maliki administration itself would become a further source of opposition ...
Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahrastani told the Wall Street Journal that a key reason for the faltering negotiations was the desire of the oil companies for "preferential treatment for future oil-exploration deals." This comment, like the faltering negotiations, hinted at the abandonment of the Bush administration's long-desired version of Iraqi oil policy.
The new attitude was underscored when the Oil Ministry revived a Saddam-era agreement with the China National Petroleum Corporation, which was now granted a $3 billion contract to develop the Ahdab oil field.
Given the growing U.S.-China rivalry over the control of foreign oil sources, the symbolism of this act couldn't have been clearer -- especially since the earlier contract had been unceremoniously canceled by the United States at the beginning of the occupation in 2003. No less important, this was a "service contract" whose terms did not follow U.S. guidelines calling for the reduction or elimination of Iraqi government control of the oil industry.
Soon after announcing this new agreement, Oil Minister Shahrastani offered what might be seen as a declaration of oil policy independence. "[Global] oil supplies," he declared, "meet and may slightly exceed current world demand." The world, that is, had plenty of oil, and so there was, he insisted, no global need to rush pell-mell into oil development agreements that might not, in the long run, be of use to Iraq.
This represented an attack on the fundamental premise of U.S. oil policy -- that, as Vice President Cheney told an oil industry gathering back in 1999, "By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from? While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies."
Significantly, back in 2001 -- and before 9/11 -- the Cheney Energy Task Force, working with the National Security Council, would make this commitment the centerpiece of administration Middle Eastern policy, defining the world situation as one in which the supply of oil must be drastically increased to meet the demand for an "additional fifty million barrels a day."
Oil-producing countries of the Middle East never embraced Cheney's analysis and consistently resisted U.S. efforts to encourage, induce, or coerce dramatic increases in oil production. Instead, they viewed the "shortage" of oil as a natural result of market forces, beneficial to their own economies.
With the success of the U.S. invasion, the Iraqi government threatened to become a maverick among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), endorsing U.S. supported plans that, theoretically, would have quadrupled Iraqi production within 10 years. So Shahrastani's comments were a signal that Iraq was rejoining OPEC's ranks and potentially opening a new era in post-invasion Iraqi politics in which the government he represented would no longer be a reliable ally of the United States.
A Nail in the Coffin of American Defeat?
Implicit in these actions is a new attitude toward, and assessment of, the U.S. presence in Iraq. Prime Minister Maliki and his cohorts appear to have adopted the viewpoint of journalist Nir Rosen that "the Americans are just one more militia," just the most powerful of the rogue forces that they have to manage and eventually eliminate.
As the Iraqi government accumulates an expanding lake of petrodollars and finds ways to shake them loose from the clutches of U.S. banks and U.S. government administrators, its leaders will have the resources to pursue policies that reflect their own goals. The decline in violence, taken in the U.S. as a sign of American "success," has actually accelerated this process. It has made the Maliki regime feel ever less dependent for its survival on the American presence, while strengthening internal and regional forces resistant or antagonistic to Washington's Middle East ambitions.
The respected Iraqi newspaper Azzaman pointed to one of these forces in a recent editorial: "Iran has emerged as the country's top trading partner. Its firms are present in the Kurdish north and southern Iraq carrying out projects worth billions of dollars. Iranian goods are the most conspicuous merchandise in Iraqi shops. Iraq, though occupied and administered by America, has grown to be so dependent on Iran that some analysts see it as a satellite state of Tehran." ...
As all this occurs, U.S. leverage over the Iraqi government, though still formidable, is in decline. The Bush administration -- or its soon-to-be elected successor --- may face a difficult dilemma: whether to accept some version of the withdrawal demands of the Iraqi government or re-escalate the war in yet one more attempt to create a government that is "aligned with U.S. interests."
The recent declaration by the Pentagon that only the most modest of troop reductions is militarily feasible in the foreseeable future may be a symptom of this dilemma. Without a full complement of U.S. troops, after all, it will be increasingly difficult to convince the Maliki regime to re-embrace policies favored by Washington.
The question remains: Can anything reverse the centripetal forces pulling Iraq from Washington's orbit? Will the President's "surge" strategy prove to have been the nail in the coffin of its hopes for U.S. dominance in the Middle East?
If this turns out to be the case, then watch out domestically. The inevitable controversy over "who lost Iraq" -- an echo of those earlier controversies over "who lost China" and "who lost Vietnam" -- is bound to be on the way ...''
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