Friday, August 22, 2008

Iraq: first they tied the U.S. down, now they throw U.S. out

BAGHDAD — The Bush administration and Iraqi government are close to completing a security agreement that Iraqi officials said tentatively calls for U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn from Baghdad and other cities by next summer.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who made an unannounced visit Thursday to Baghdad to push the deal forward, said an agreement was near although some details need to be worked out. ...
Iraq initially wanted all combat troops out by the end of 2009, but agreed to push the date to 2011 after the U.S. agreed to protect Iraqi funds in U.S. banks from being seized by creditors, Adeeb said.

USA Today,
August 22. 2008

This is not how it was supposed to be, back in the days of "mission accomplished."

They came as all-conquering imperial overlords, sweeping away an enemy dictator and trashing all before them. They will leave after painstakingly negotiating how they get out, buying as much acquiescence as they can, leaving a destroyed country, more than a million more people dead than if they hadn't come, and some five million people displaced from their homes.

At least in part, they will leave because they can't afford, forever, to ignore the international law they tried to sweep aside with their pre-emptive invasion (usually called "aggressive war" by those on the other side of the guns.)

Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government demanded a withdrawal timetable as the price of legalizing the American military presence in the country after the expiration of the United Nations mandate at the end of this year

New York Times,
August 22, 2008

They will leave because they can't afford to stamp out the natives' resistance. They will leave because the Lilliputians have out waited them and tied them down.

And there is no sign they'll even get the oil.

They probably won't keep their word according the "timetable," but everyone knows that. They will weasel and "reinterpret." But they will leave Iraq.
The U.S. peace movement has had a minimal role in all this. On the one hand, that means we the people and our democracy are very weak in this season of empire. On the other hand, that means we're right in there with the rest of the global Lilliputians, doing our little best to constrain the most arrogant of powers.


amazon grace said...

This is a beautifully written piece. Despite the destruction caused to Iraq and Iraqis, you seem to be optimistic about the ultimate outcome of this mess. I share that optimism.

But, gosh darn it, I think the US peace movement has played a bigger role than you think in getting the US out of Iraq.

The resistance of Iraqis certainly played the biggest part. But if the US government finds itself unable to ignore international law in this situation, I think it's because the peace movement changed the terms of the debate.

Do mainstream US elites recognize that this failed occupation is harmful to their interests? Maybe, but if that is so, why does the Democratic Congress keep voting funds for the war?

In your excellent series on the peace movement since 2001, you say that the Obama campaign is powered by a "new counterculture" rather than by the peace movement. But it seems to me that the peace movement has informed this new counterculture as well.

I might be wrong. I haven't been much of an activist since about 2002.

But here is Oklahoma City, there is a group called the Peace House that holds twice weekly demonstrations against the war. Apparently they've been here for many years. It's probably naive of me as a recent import to be astonished by this fact. But I think it means something.

It seems to me that part of what is going on with this situation is thatthe current administration is trying to take some of the wind out of Barack Obama's sails by taking the issue of the Iraq War away from him.

Sorry to go on for so long. I was too tired tonight to be more concise. Thanks again for this post.

janinsanfran said...

Amazon Grace -- thanks for your kind words about this post. Like many small time bloggers, I do have to wonder sometimes whether anyone bothers to read the things I write.

And you are right to remind me of the depth and breadth of commitment so many of us in the United States have given to ending this war. For some years I did distribution for WarTimes/Tiempo de Guerras which meant shipping 1000s of peace newspapers to 100s of vigils and peace houses around the country. The sheer scale of the movement, the nooks and crannies it reached into, awed me as I put together the request list for each issue. I should never belittle the energy and devotion that has gone into changing hearts and minds in this country from the mood of anger and revenge which dominated us in 2002-3.

And yet, and yet, the recent Georgia/Russia episode shows how ready so many of us are to slip back into war fever -- and how little influence our desire for other ways of being in the world has on our elites, including Democrats.

Lots of work done -- lots of work to do.

amazon grace said...

Years ago, I used to read, and sometimes contribute to, LesCon, and I've always appreciated your writing, even when I've disagreed with it.

You're right that people can be whipped up into a war frenzy all too easily. But I'm thinking of all the people I know and see, the women I hang out with, the coffee shops I hang out in, the copy shop where I work...and I've heard exactly one person of any political persuasion make any comment at all about the situation in Georgia.

I'm tempted to think that the biggest problem isn't a popular tendency to militarism, but disempowerment.

People are so busy with the daily struggle for survival, and so overwhelmed by so much information coming at them from so many sources, that they tune out.

The mainstream media tends to frame debate over issues in ways that are both polarized and simplistic. Operating in this environment, progressive movements can also tend to be simplistic. "US out of Iraq" is easier to convey than a complicated analysis of the role the US has played in the world for at least the past 110 years.

For myself, I'm maybe investing the same kind of hope in "small time bloggers" that I used to invest in small feminist newspapers.

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