As President Bush and members of his administration described the “South Korea Model” as an approach for Iraq, deaths in Iraq mounted. In the same week General Patraeus said he saw a ten year stay in Iraq as likely and Ted Koppel reported that Sen. Clinton will not remove the troops. The message not only reverberated in Washington, DC but also in Baghdad.
Last week 30 U.S. troops were killed – an average of more than four deaths per day, not long ago the average was two per day. Bush administration comments on a long-term stay come at a time when U.S. soldiers are at greater risk due to the surge in Iraq. Not only are U.S. soldiers dying at an increasingly rapid rate but attacks on the Green Zone are also escalating with mortars hitting inside every day, often multiple times per day.
If it were not clear that the U.S. is staying from the massive U.S. embassy that dominates the Baghdad skyline, or then billion dollar, long-term military bases the U.S. is building or the multi-decade long oil contracts that U.S. oil companies are negotiating, now they can take it right out of the comments of administration officials – the U.S. has tens of thousands of troops and long-term bases in Korea and that is the model that the Bush administration says it is considering for Iraq.
This is not the first time that the words of the commander in chief have resulted in the deaths of U.S. soldiers. His famous “Bring em on” comment to the resistance to the occupation had the same impact as the current comments on applying the “Korea Model” to Iraq.
Comments of a long-term stay come after 144 members of the 275 member Iraqi Parliament signed a petition urging withdrawal and after a majority passed a bill requiring the Prime Minister to get the Parliament’s approval before telling the UN to extend the occupation. Thus, as the Iraqi Parliament is taking steps to end the occupation, the Bush administration is talking about a multi-decade stay.
And, if Iraqis are watching U.S. politics closely they may have heard Ted Koppel report on NPR that Hillary Clinton’s top foreign policy adviser told him that Sen. Clinton will not remove the troops in her first term or her second term. Further, he reported that no leading Democratic candidate is likely to remove the troops. Thus, there a widening disconnect between Iraqi government officials and the U.S. political leadership.
This open talk of the “Korea Model” also comes at a time when more and more troops are going AWOL, speaking out against the war and refusing to return to Iraq or follow orders in Iraq. More than a year ago 72% of the troops said the U.S. should withdraw in a year, now more and more troops are becoming vocal in their opposition to the war and their lack faith in their commander in chief.
The military recognizes that troops who speak out against the war are a serious problem for them because they are among the most powerful spokespersons against the war. Vets strike at the heart of the fund the ‘we must support the troops’ arguments of Washington politicians.
At a meeting last week to plan escalating actions against the war by vets, the Chairman of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Garret Reppenhagen made the point “Funding the war is killing the troops.” The Marines have already taken action against one Marine, Adam Kokesh. The Marines were criticized by Veterans of Foreign Wars, a vet group with 2.5 million members, for threatening the free speech rights of vets. The Marines did discipline Kokesh, giving him a general discharge under honorable conditions, but backed away from taking away any of his veterans benefits.
Two other vets who are leaders in the anti-war movement are also being threatened with discipline. Marine Vet Liam Madden, who while in the service was a co-founder of Appeal for Redress – a group organizing active duty troops who oppose the war, is being threatened with discipline for saying that the Iraq War was a “war of aggression under Nuremberg principles” and that “war crimes are being committed in Iraq.” And, former Air Force Chaplain, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, who has been participating in demonstrations in Washington, DC and around the country, is being threatened with discipline for “conduct unbecoming of an officer” for his anti-war activity – even though he has been out of the service for four years. Both officers welcome the attention of the military and plan to escalate their anti-war activities.
The public in the U.S. is getting more strongly opposed to the war, the Iraqi political leadership is demonstrating its’ opposition to the occupation and more and more U.S. troops are speaking out. The disconnect between the U.S. political leadership and these key stakeholders is becoming more and more evident. This occupation is becoming more difficult to justify.