Let’s get this clear. The United States will be in Iraq as long as it wants to be unless the American people make it politically untenable for it to be there. Despite the media reports suggesting that US forces will remain only at the request of the new Iraqi “government,” the fact of the matter is that it is Washington telling its minions in Baghdad when and where US forces will be deployed, not the other way around. Sure Americans are told that the Iraqi government has asked for a continued US military presence, but wouldn’t you want some protection if you were a regime trying to impose yourself on a country at war where less than half the population wanted you? Furthermore, if you were a regime that depended on another country’s military for your existence, wouldn’t you want them to remain until all your enemies were either eradicated, bought off, or otherwise neutralized?
I don’t know if the analogy I’m looking for is that of the Iraqi government as a child who depends on her abusive parents for protection because she has no one else to turn to or if a more appropriate analogy would be that of the prisoner who depends on the prison administration to protect him from his enemies among his fellow prisoners. Either analogy, while not entirely accurate, seems to work. Furthermore, either analogy spells further death and dislocation for most of the Iraqi people while their US-picked regime gets fat.
If one recalls a couple examples from recent history, it’s easy to find other instance where the US graciously agreed to let its soldiers kill and die in a foreign country at the request of that country’s “government.” Let’s see, in the 1950s, Washington set up a government in what was then Saigon and then offered its services to that government. This led to a twenty year war against that country’s people that resulted in over 50,000 US deaths and more than 2,000,000 Vietnamese deaths. This was after the US refused to allow elections in Vietnam because it knew that the victor would be Ho Chi Minh and his party. Washington did not want Ho Chi Minh to win. It did not want democracy. It wanted control. So it set up a puppet government and then told that government to ask for US troops to protect it. Eventually 500,000 US troops were in the country wreaking their havoc. In this instance, the US was defeated and left the country in tatters. However, they did leave and the country continues to rebuild.
In the 1980s, after the defeat of the US-maintained Somoza regime in Nicaragua by the Sandinistas, and the eruption of a popular armed insurgency against the US-supported government in neighboring El Salvador, the US military and its spy agencies entered both countries, albeit in very small numbers. In El Salvador, it was at the so-called request of Washington’s client regime. In Nicaragua, it was at the “request” of Nicaragua’s neighbors. The latter request was followed by an increase to the “requesting” government, much of that aid military in nature. Today, the populations of both countries suffer from high unemployment and homelessness. Meanwhile the US client regimes depend heavily on their US-trained police and military forces to stay in power.
Another over-debated non-issue in the mainstream media concerns the question of whether or not the Iraqi government will have any say over US military operations in Iraq. This question is a perfect example of how the media and government conspire (wittingly or unwittingly) to create a controversy where there is none. There is no way that the Pentagon would ever allow any other government to tell US troops when and where they can go. Hell, not even the United Nations is allowed to do that, so why would any Iraqi government, even one created and paid for in Washington, DC? If one returns to the history books and looks up Vietnam War, they will find that there was never any moment during that war that US troops were under any command besides their own. In fact, it was usually the case that all the troops fighting the US’s battle looked to US commanders for instructions. It didn’t matter if those troops were southern Vietnamese, Australian, or American, they took their orders from the Pentagon. The scenario in Iraq is the same. There is no Iraqi security force. There is no multinational army under UN control. There is only an imperial military that takes all of its orders from the Pentagon. A Pentagon that has never been anything other than a contract killing force for corporate America.
So, forget the nonsense about a new government. Forget the nonsense about sovereignty. And. most of all, forget the notion that the folks in Washington, the United Nations, and Baghdad have got it under control and the American GIs will be home for the winter holidays. I just don’t think it’s gonna’ happen. There’s a reason why the Pentagon just extended the tours of duty for thousands of soldiers and it’s not because Rumsfeld wants them to get their full retirement benefits. It’s because, as far as the Pentagon is concerned, this war is far from over. Indeed, the only way those men and women in uniform are going to get back to the States before Washington gets exactly what it wants in Iraq and Afghanistan is if the American people get off their butts and make it clear that we want them back here now.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is being republished by Verso.
He can be reached at: email@example.com