FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama’s Non-Plan for Ending the War in Iraq

by ANTHONY DiMAGGIO

Over the last month, Barack Obama’s comments about withdrawal have raised major questions about the U.S. commitment to occupying Iraq.  The statements Obama has made over the past year, when taken in total, leave no doubt that he is a master of ambiguity and deception.

Obama has made wonderful rhetorical statements aimed at placating the majority of Americans, who have viewed the Iraq war as “not worth it” since late 2004, and supported a timetable for withdrawal since mid-to-late 2005.  Obama recently promised: “Let me be as clear as I can be.  I intend to end this war.  My first day in office I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in, and I will give them a new mission, and that is to end this war – responsibly, deliberately, but decisively.”  This statement was made in response to media complaints about Obama’s perceived flip-flopping on the Iraq issue.  It’s not difficult to see why this confusion has arisen.  Obama has claimed that he is open to “refine[ing]” his policies on Iraq after meeting with military commanders, should he win the presidency.  The New York Times described Obama’s posturing as driven by his desire “to retain flexibilitiy as violence declines [in Iraq] without abandoning a central promise of his campaign: that if elected, he would end the war.”

But has Obama really promised to end the Iraq war?  The evidence is not very convincing.  Obama has vaguely stated that “the pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain stability.”  It is true that in the past Obama introduced the “Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007.”  That plan, however, was precisely what its name suggested, a blueprint for de-escalation, not for withdrawal or for ending the war.  The bill promised only to remove all “combat” troops by March of 2008.  It did not promise to remove all troops from Iraq, or prohibit plans for permanent military bases – requirements that Democrats have refused to demand.  Rather, the plan has always been to retain an extended troop presence in Iraq (perhaps permanently), allegedly in order to train Iraq forces and “fight terrorism.”

Opposition on the part of Obama to a full withdrawal was also reflected in the admission (during a primary debate) that he could not guarantee a full withdrawal from Iraq by 2013.  This claim demonstrates the full extent of Obama’s commitment to misrepresenting his views to the American public.  His promise to “end this war now” amounts to little more than propaganda in light of claims that U.S. combat operations will continue for at least the next five years, perhaps indefinitely.  It is difficult to see how substantively different this is from Republican presidential front-runner John McCain, who recently claimed he would remove most troops by 2013 as well.

It is true that Obama recently announced a 16 month timetable for the withdrawal of “combat” troops (presumably, sometime in 2010).  However, this promise has again been tempered by fuzzy claims that withdrawal is contingent upon conditions on the ground in Iraq – as they are perceived by American political elites.  Obama repeated (following the 16 month announcement) that there were “deep concerns” about a timetable “that doesn’t take into account what they [military leaders] anticipate might be some sort of change in conditions.”  Presumably, changing assessments on the part of military leaders would lead to more revisions regarding the prospects for a concrete timetable for withdrawal.

There are consequences that result from Obama’s backpedaling and deception.  His constantly shifting standards for withdrawal have allowed neoconservative papers like the Washington Post to manipulate his statements in favor of their own pro-war agenda (such manipulation hasn’t proven all that hard to accomplish).  This is all too clear in recent editorials in the paper.  One editorial from early July 2008, for example, claims that “Mr. Obama can’t afford not to update his Iraq policy.  Once he has the conversations he’s promising with U.S. commanders, he will have plenty of information that ‘contradicts the notion’ of his rigid plan.  Iraq’s improvement means that American forces probably can be reduced next year [2009], but it would be folly to begin a forced march out of the country without regard to the risks of renewed sectarian warfare and escalating intervention in the country by Iran and other of Iraq’s neighbors.”

The Post’s distortions have become even more extreme in recent weeks, as is evident in a late July editorial entitled: “Mr. Obama in Iraq: Did He Really Find Support for his Withdrawal Plan?”  In full Orwellian style, the article propagandized that “neither U.S. commanders nor Iraq’s principal political leaders actually support Obama’s [16-month] strategy.”  The basis for this claim?: “Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s timetable [for withdrawal] would extend at least seven months beyond Mr. Obama’s.”  Maliki’s support for a timetable, the Post contends, is actually more in line with General Petraeus’ contempt for a timetable, since Maliki has pledged that a withdrawal would be premised upon Iraqi readiness.  Presumably, the Post feels that since American military leaders have repeatedly claimed that Iraqi forces are not ready to take over security operations, this nullifies the Iraqi public’s and political leaders’ longstanding support for a withdrawal timetable.  While the outrageousness of the Post’s logic (or illogic) and the severity of its contempt for the people of Iraq are truly baffling, these conditions are the inevitable result of an Obama campaign that’s constantly shifting its promises and standards on Iraq.

American politics need not be dominated by such spin and propaganda on the part of both Democratic and Republican parties and the media.  However, a substantive change in electoral politics can only be premised upon the public’s demands for more transparency from Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.  Presidential candidates have demonstrated their longstanding commitment to spin, at the expense of sincere, open dialogue.  Only increased activism and public criticism of this spin will produce serious changes to the American propaganda state.

ANTHONY DiMAGGIO is the author of the newly released: Mass Media, Mass Propaganda: Understanding American News in the “War on Terror” (2008). He teaches American Government at North Central College in Illinois, and can be reached at: adimag2@uic.edu References

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Anthony DiMaggio is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University. He holds a PhD in political communication, and is the author of the newly released: Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Paperback: 2015). He can be reached at: anthonydimaggio612@gmail.com

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail