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The Picture of Dorian Gray

Obama’s Iraq

by JEREMY SCAHILL

Remember when Barack Obama made that big announcement at Camp Lejeune about how all US combat troops were going to be withdrawn from Iraqi cities by June 30? Liberals jumped around with joy, praising Obama for ending the war so that they could focus on their “good war” in Afghanistan.

Of course, the celebrations were and remain unwarranted. Obama’s Iraq plan is virtually identical to the one on Bush’s table on January 19, 2009. Obama has just rebranded the occupation, sold it to liberals and dropped the term “Global War on Terror” while, for all practical purposes, continuing the Bush era policy (that’s why leading Republicans praised Obama’s plan). In the real world, US military commanders have said they are preparing for an Iraq presence for another 15-20 years, the US embassy is the size of Vatican City, there is no official plan for the withdrawal of contractors and new corporate mercenary contracts are being awarded. The SoFA Agreement between the US and Iraq gives the US the right to extend the occupation indefinitely and to continue intervening militarily in Iraq ad infinitum. All it takes is for the puppets in Baghdad to ask nicely…

In the latest episode of the “Occupation Rebranded” mini-series, President Obama is preparing to scrap the June 30 withdrawal timeline.

As The New York Times reports: “The United States and Iraq will begin negotiating possible exceptions to the June 30 deadline for withdrawing American combat troops from Iraqi cities, focusing on the troubled northern city of Mosul, according to military officials. Some parts of Baghdad also will still have combat troops.”

According to the Times, the US is playing with the definition of the word “city” when speaking of withdrawing combat troops from all cities:

[T]here are no plans to close the Camp Victory base complex, consisting of five bases housing more than 20,000 soldiers, many of them combat troops. Although Victory is only a 15 minute drive from the center of Baghdad and sprawls over both sides of the city’s boundary, Iraqi officials say they have agreed to consider it outside the city.

In addition, Forward Operating Base Falcon, which can hold 5,000 combat troops, will also remain after June 30. It is just within Baghdad’s southern city limits. Again, Iraqi officials have classified it as effectively outside Baghdad, so no exception to the agreement needs to be granted, in their view.

Combat troops with the Seventh Field Artillery Regiment will remain in the heart of Baghdad at Camp Prosperity, located near the new American Embassy compound in the Green Zone. In addition to providing a quick reaction force, guarding the embassy and noncombat troops from attack, those soldiers will also continue to support Iraqi troops who are now in nominal charge of maintaining security in the Green Zone.

Camp Victory is of tremendous strategic importance to the US occupation. In addition to the military’s share of Baghdad International Airport, it includes four bases—Victory, Liberty, Striker and Slayer—as well as the US-run prison “Camp Cropper.” That’s where the US keeps its “high value” prisoners. While the US officially handed control of Forward Operating Base Freedom to “Iraqi control,” the US military is keeping the swimming pool.

Meanwhile, future plans are being laid for other US bases. Camp Prosperity is going to house US contractors and other personnel, while at Camp Union III housing is being built for several thousand soldiers, trainers and advisers.

What is abundantly clear is that there are enough cosmetic changes going on in Baghdad intended to make it look like the occupation is ending, while continuing it. Again, from the Times:

The Green Zone was handed over to Iraqi control Jan. 1, when the agreement went into effect. In addition to the United States-Iraqi patrols, most of the security for the Green Zone’s many checkpoints and heavily guarded entry points is still done by the same private contractors who did it prior to Jan. 1.

“What you’re seeing is not a change in the numbers, it’s a doctrine change,” said First Sgt. David Moore, a New Jersey National Guardsman with the Joint Area Support Group, which runs the Green Zone. “You’re still going to have fighters. Every U.S. soldier is trained to fight.”

The Iraq occupation is like The Picture of Dorian Gray. No matter what public face the Obama administration attempts to present, it only grows more heinous with each passing day.

JEREMY SCAHILL, an independent journalist who reports frequently for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now, has spent extensive time reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.His new website is RebelReports.com