Last Friday, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would complete the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq by Christmas, a development that you might have thought the anti-war Left would cheer.
But that's not been the case for some activists, at least based on a sampling of the writings that I've been sent. Instead of celebrating the success of the anti-war movement in bringing this war to an end, I've been reading commentaries either insisting that it's all a trick or giving the credit to President George W. Bush.
It appears that some don't want to accept that the anti-war movement has won a hard-fought victory and that Obama's election was a factor. It's almost as if the fact that something has been achieved through the deeply flawed U.S. political system threatens a preferred political analysis, which holds that nothing good can happen.
So, instead of giving credit to the many Americans who protested the war or who found ways to explain its injustice to the public, some activists are stressing the negative, noting that security contractors will remain to protect the U.S. Embassy or that U.S. corporations will still try to sell weapons systems and exploit Iraq's oil reserves.
Others observe that the Iraqi government negotiated the "status of forces agreement" setting the timetable for a draw-down of U.S. troops with President Bush in late 2008 -- and thus President Obama should get no credit. He should just be denounced for not ending the war sooner.
But these arguments largely miss the point. This final withdrawal of U.S. troops at the insistence of the Iraqi government -- and with Obama's acquiescence -- is a very big deal. Oddly, it is being acknowledged more by the Right than the Left, with prominent Republicans condemning Obama's announcement as an admission of U.S. defeat.
That's because the neocons saw Bush's SOFA as only a holding action and expected that the U.S. government would twist the arms of the Iraqis to get them to accept a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq. The neocons are now condemning Obama for not doing so.
After all, Bush would not have made the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad the largest in the world, along with over-sized consulates in other Iraqi cities, if the neocons did not expect to turn Iraq into something of an American colony, a home for U.S. military bases to threaten other countries in the region, such as Iran and Syria.
Now, with the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, the neocon dream of U.S.-controlled bases in Iraq has been dashed and the diplomatic outposts are already being downsized. The gargantuan embassy complex in Baghdad may well be viewed in the future as more a monument to American hubris than a hub of U.S. intervention.
When the last U.S. convoys rush to the Kuwaiti border in December, the world will see the event for what it is, a stunning reversal for America's imperial overreach, a $1 trillion neocon folly that killed nearly 4,500 U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
Yet, instead of driving home that important lesson, some on the Left seem to prefer insisting that this historic defeat is just an illusion or that the anti-war movement (including Obama's election) had nothing to do with the outcome.
Perhaps that's because it's fashionable these days to say that elections don't matter. Yet, one only has to think about what the U.S. approach toward Iraq would have been under a President John McCain or even a President Hillary Clinton.
Because Obama had built his political career largely on his opposition to the Iraq War -- while McCain and Clinton were eager war supporters -- Obama had a lot to lose if he reneged on his campaign promise and left behind a sizable contingent of U.S. troops. In the end, he didn't push very hard to maintain a U.S. troop footprint in Iraq.
Obama's election, therefore, marked a significant turning point in the difficult struggle to bring this ill-begotten war to a close. It shows how anti-war dissent and electoral politics can combine -- however imperfectly -- to get results. Achieving an outcome may take time and surely is frustrating, but victories can be won.
So, this could be a time to cheer the many people who stood up against the ugly pro-war pressures of 2002-03, the likes of weapons inspector Scott Ritter, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, members of Code Pink, the many bloggers who spoke truth to power, the young people who marched in the streets, and many more.