FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

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: The Politics of Persuasion: Economic Policy and Media Bias in the Modern Era (Paperback, 2018), and Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Paperback: 2016). He can be reached at: anthonydimaggio612@gmail.com

September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
Jeff Ballinger
Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Fronting the Bigots’ Team
David Rosen
Why Stop at Roe? How “Settled Law” Can be Overturned
Gary Olson
Pope Francis and the Battle Over Cultural Terrain
Nick Pemberton
Donald The Victim: A Product of Post-9/11 America
Ramzy Baroud
The Veiled Danger of the ‘Dead’ Oslo Accords
Kevin Martin
U.S. Support for the Bombing of Yemen to Continue
Robert Fisk
A Murder in Aleppo
Robert Hunziker
The Elite World Order in Jitters
Ben Dangl
After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror
Charles Pierson
Invade The Hague! Bolton vs. the ICC
Robert Fantina
Trump and Palestine
Daniel Warner
Hubris on and Off the Court
John Kendall Hawkins
Boning Up on Eternal Recurrence, Kubrick-style: “2001,” Revisited
Haydar Khan
Set Theory of the Left
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail