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Out of Iraq? Don't Hold Your Breath

By       Message William Rivers Pitt       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   6 comments

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Reprinted from Truthout


(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted:
Staff Sgt. JoAnn S. Makinano / U.S. Air Force, designshard)

President Obama will not get the United States out of Iraq in his first term. If he wins a second term, it is highly unlikely he will get us out of Iraq before he finally leaves office.

Print that out and tack it to your wall. Six years from now, it will still be hanging there, yellow and curled, but entirely correct. We're not going anywhere.

Yeah, yeah, I know, the word from the White House ever since Obama first began to campaign has been that we'll be out of Iraq by 2011. That was the promise, oft-repeated, and I'm here to tell you that it's a load of bull. Iraq is the 51st state, now and forever, so praise the Lord and pass the taxpayer-funded ammunition, amen.

The reasons for this grim truth are myriad, and most recently have to do with another frenzy of violence and bloodshed in that ravaged, raped nation. A parliamentary election on March 7 failed to deliver majority control to either of the two major factions - one controlled by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the other by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - and the resulting power struggle has spilled into the streets. Again.

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On Monday, more than 100 people were killed and 300 injured after a series of bombings and assassinations rippled across Iraq. In total, it appears there were more than 60 attacks; Baghdad, Mosul, Hilla, and other cities were rent by explosions and gunfire which, according to the power players, had a decidedly political edge. Matters have gotten so dangerous there that Allawi was compelled to lash out at his own government (such as it is) for sitting on their hands while people are getting killed:

Allawi says he is under constant threat and that the government is doing little to help protect him. "We live every single day under a threat that we are going to be assassinated," he says. "I ask for support from the government, as an ex-Prime Minister ... Nobody cares a damn." Asked to specify what kind of support he has asked for, Allawi says, "Cars, communication gear, these bomb-detection, anti-detonator things ... These cost a lot of money. It's not free of charge. We need the government to protect us as they protect others. But this is not happening. I have to go to personal friends to donate a car, an armored car. It's ridiculous."

Allawi is particularly furious that the impasse has allowed other rivals to whittle away at contested seats with a campaign of "de-Baathification" - that is, purging politicians with ties to Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath Party. "This smearing campaign was something unbelievable: the Baath Party is coming back to power, Saddam Hussein is coming out of his grave and things of this nonsense," he says. (Allawi's party crosses sectarian lines, while al-Maliki's is predominantly Shi'ite.)

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The violence didn't end on Monday. On Tuesday, two bombs went off in Mosul, one targeting the Iraqi police force and the other targeting an Iraqi military patrol. A suicide car bomb went off at a police checkpoint in Falluja, and hundreds of students tried to storm a local Parliament building in the Kurdish region of Iraq after the abduction and killing of a Kurdish journalist.

This would all be disgusting by itself, but is made more so by the fact that these events have become so morbidly predictable. Advocates of the war, along with a herd of "professional" pundits, would argue that things are far better in Iraq than they used to be. Those unfortunate souls who have spent the first half of this week sweeping guts and eyeballs off the sidewalks, however, would probably beg to differ.

Which brings us to why we're not leaving. According to The Associated Press:

U.S. commanders, worried about increased violence in the wake of Iraq's inconclusive elections, are now reconsidering the pace of a major troop pullout this summer, U.S. officials said Tuesday. The withdrawal of the first major wave of troops is expected to be delayed by about a month, the officials said. Waiting much longer could endanger President Barack Obama's goal of reducing the force level from 92,000 to 50,000 troops by Aug. 31.

More than two months after parliamentary elections, the Iraqis have still not formed a new government, and militants aiming to exploit the void have carried out attacks like Monday's bombings and shootings that killed at least 119 people - the country's bloodiest day of 2010.

The threat has prompted military officials to look at keeping as many troops on the ground for as long as possible without missing the Aug. 31 deadline. A security agreement between the two nations requires American troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

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In Baghdad and Washington, U.S. officials say they remain committed to the deadline, which Mr. Obama has said he would extend only if Iraq's security deteriorates. Getting out of Iraq quickly and responsibly was among Mr. Obama's top campaign promises in 2008. Extending the deadline could be politically risky back home - but so could anarchy and a bloodbath following a hasty retreat.

Two senior administration officials said the White House is closely watching to see if the Aug. 31 date needs to be pushed back - if only to ensure that enough security forces are in place to prevent or respond to militant attacks. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the administration's internal discussions.

Already, the violence, fueled by Iraq's political instability, will likely postpone the start of what the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. Ray Odierno, has called the withdrawal "waterfall" - sending home large numbers of troops in a very swift period.

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William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

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