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Soothing Falsities

The End of Combat My Eye

by JOHN LaFORGE

The press made a big deal of it. The president even starred in an Oval Office TV show about the “end to U.S. combat” in Iraq, which was announced on August 31. Mr. Obama said he’d fulfilled a promise to end the war.

Obama’s bit of theater cost less than George Bush’s May 1, 2003 shameless declaration of “mission accomplished,” his circus-act-in-military-flight-suit-to-the-flight-deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Yet the president’s speech was just as dishonest.

Just listen to Army Brig. Gen. Jeffery Buchanan, who told National Public Radio for Sept. 19, “Our rules of engagement have not changed.” Indeed, since the “end of combat,” U.S. soldiers have been in at least two fierce shoot outs involving the use of U.S. warplanes. A Sept. 15 battle included “at least” four U.S. helicopter gunships. Another, in Diyala province, saw U.S. planes dropping two 500-pound bombs.

Gen. Buchanan told NPR he “… understands why most people would call this combat.” Most people, general?

Two days after the President’s “combat’s over” routine, Col. Malcolm Frost, the commander of the “advisory” brigade in Diyala, wrote in a note to soldiers’ families, “We will move around Iraq fully protected in armored Strykers and other armored vehicles, wearing full body armor, and fully loaded with ammunition to deal with the enemy …” the New York Times reported.

Col. Frost currently has the same combat soldiers as a combat brigade — but supplied with 51 “advisers.” Since his unit arrived in Iraq in July, in an “advisory” capacity, two of his soldiers have been killed and 13 wounded. Tell the families of the dead that the war is over.

Another soldier was killed Sept. 16 while detonating seized explosives. If these aren’t combat fatalities, I’m the Queen of Moravia.

Today—among the 50,000 U.S. soldiers still occupying Iraq—there are 4,500 “Special Forces” commandos. These Green Berets, Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and “unconventional” or secret assassination (known for PR purposes as “targeted killing”) squads still storm Iraqi houses and villages at night trying to kill “insurgents” and “suspected members of other armed groups,” according to Baghdad reporters for the Times.

As the GoArmy website says, “missions are … sometimes classified.” You might say that the war in Iraq is now entirely classified, since fighting has been declared over by the Commander-in-Chief himself.

Bombings, firefights, nighttime raids and covert operations might be viewed by most people as combat. But with the feel-good peacewash of presidential speech writers, our military occupation of Iraq can be transformed for the deluded into foreign aid.

Mark Twain described our situation well: “Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those concise, soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”

JOHN LaFORGE is on the staff of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, and edits its quarterly newsletter.