Two interesting and closely related news items concerning U.S. involvement in Iraq were announced this week. Individually they cause one to shake one’s head in wonder, but together they show that Congress and President Bush have far more closely related ideas on the future of that country than one might otherwise think.
The first is the news that the Congressional Democrats’ ‘flagship proposal’ on ending U.S. involvement in Iraq’s bloody, U.S.-spawned civil war would actually allow up to 70,000 soldiers to remain in that country for years to come. They would, ostensibly, be limited to the threefold mission of counterterrorism, training Iraqi security forces and protecting U.S. assets.
One wonders how that is different from what they are supposed to be doing now. Was not one of Mr. Bush’s many and varied reasons for invading the sovereign nation of Iraq to stop terrorism? Of course, time proved what many people believed before the invasion: Iraq was not the source and hotbed of terrorism that Mr. Bush and his minions claimed. That it may be so now is a result of the U.S. invasion, an immoral military action that has accomplished the exact opposite of one of its stated goals.
Once Mr. Bush successfully deposed Saddam Hussein, a dictator who posed no threat whatsoever to the U.S., he claimed that U.S. involvement in Iraq would end once Iraqi security forces were sufficiently trained to maintain order without U.S. assistance. The flawed thinking demonstrated here is almost too obvious to state, but for the sake of Mr. Bush who may have some difficulty with the entire thinking process, it will be stated: Iraqi security forces are not interested in repressing their own people. Rather, they want to expel the foreign occupiers (U.S. soldiers) from their soil. No end of training will enable them to accomplish a goal that is antithetical to their nationalist desires.
Mr. Bush’s initial reasons for the war were to protect U.S. assets in the U.S.; at the time of his cruel, murderous ‘Shock and Awe’ invasion, there were few U.S. assets in Iraq. Apparently that will change now that that nation is becoming the U.S.’s latest colony. One can imagine the need for U.S. soldiers to put their lives on the line to protect U.S. oil rigs, refineries and the associated businesses necessary for American oil companies to steal Iraq’s coveted natural resource.
The second news item of note concerned a so-called ‘strategic partnership’ being proposed by Iraq. This partnership will offer the U.S. a long-term presence in Iraq in exchange for U.S. security guarantees. Iraq’s leadership is apparently concerned about both internal resistance and what it calls ‘foreign threats.’ Considering the fact that it was the realization of a foreign threat that plunged Iraq into its current chaotic civil war, and that caused the deaths of over 1,000,000 of its citizens and the displacement of at least 3,000,000 more, its leaders have cause to be concerned. That they are now asking the wolf to guard the henhouse should give a good indication of whether or not the wolves or the hens are in control of the country.
Not surprisingly, the U.S. appears to be favorable to pursuing this new partnership, but one of the conditions must include preferential treatment for U.S. investors.
Perhaps one can now see the bottom line to this ‘strategic partnership;’ it seems to be summed up nicely in the following statement from the Associate Press: ‘Preferential treatment for U.S. investors could provide a huge windfall if Iraq can achieve enough stability to exploit its vast oil resources.” So dedicated U.S. soldiers will ensure the necessary stability to provide U.S. investors with a ‘huge windfall.’
Finally, after five years of war, involving the deaths of nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers and the injury of tens of thousands more, even the Bush administration is no longer trying to camouflage the Iraqi oil grab behind such grand-sounding pronouncements as ‘freedom,’ ‘fighting terror’ or other jingoistic jargon. U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians have suffered and died, and continue to do so, to enable U.S. investors to funnel Iraqi oil into American SUVs. This was not possible when Mr. Hussein was in power; he was not willing to run a spigot from Baghdad to the U.S., all the while providing cheap labor so U.S. oil executives could expand their riches. But he is out of the way now: overthrown, imprisoned, tried and executed. The only thing continuing to stand in the way of U.S. access to Iraqi oil is the Iraqi people, and Mr. Bush, with this ‘strategic partnership’ proposed by the U.S. puppet government of Iraq, is now trying to ensure sufficient U.S. military might to defeat that last obstacle.
Mr. Bush might succeed; he may be able to crush Iraq with force. But such ‘success’ is not assured. The Iraqi people have proven their resilience over five years of war and occupation, and any ‘strategic partnership’ must deal with their continued resistance. Influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr opposes the plan, and it is expected that Iraq’s neighbors will also be less than amenable to a strong U.S. presence in the area.
None of this may matter; in 2002 Mr. Bush embarked on the most blatant imperial quest the U.S. has launched in a generation, and with Congress his willing co-conqueror his plan may stand. With few exceptions, the numerous candidates seeking to replace him in January 2009 have not shown any statesmanship or leadership when it comes to Iraq (or anything else, for that matter). Regardless of whether Inauguration Day brings the world President Clinton, Thompson, Edwards or Giuliani, Iraq will remain a troublesome but lucrative colony. U.S. soldiers will continue to kill and die as they protect U.S. assets and whenever anyone questions the legitimacy of continued U.S. involvement in Iraq, that new president can summon Mr. Bush’s worn out clichés about ‘freedom’ and ‘fighting terrorism,’ and silence all Congressional critics. And Americans will shake their heads as they read of the latest casualties, hope that it’s never their sons or daughters, and watch their factories belch out smoke produced by Iraqi oil.
As long as nothing in Iraq impacts the good life enjoyed by America’s power brokers who so successfully convince the rest of the country that it’s all for their benefit, the Iraqi people will remain oppressed. U.S. citizens will smile at how much better off the people of Iraq are to be oppressed by an American president than by an Iraqi dictator. After all, U.S. oppression, both at home and abroad, is done in the revered name of freedom; Iraqi oppression was simply oppression unadorned. One hopes that Americans will someday realize they are the same thing, but one is not optimistic that such an insight will take hold anytime soon.
ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.‘