Perhaps no one is really surprised. It might be that this country has finally lost its capacity for outrage, has long since surrendered the idea of reproach or redress when lied to. We have become the Orwellian farm animals who find it too troubling to remember the promises once posted on the stable wall.
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Monday morning, November the 26th, at a closed door teleconference, our president signed an agreement, a "declaration of principles" with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. There are details to be worked out, but the basics are clear. Iraq’s al-Maliki led government will abide by one more year of coalition forces on Iraqi soil per the U.N. authorization that provides for their presence. They will support one more one year renewal of the resolution, which would have the mandate finally coming to a close sometime in late 2008. But this won’t see American soldiers coming home. The “U.S.-Iraq Declaration of Principles for Friendship and Cooperation” that our president signed sees to that.
The document affirms a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq long after the rest of the “Coalition of the Willing” has gone home. There may be welcome home parades in Mongolia and Estonian, but for American troops it will be business as usual for a long time to come... OK, actually the word is 'permanently.'
In a rather quiet press release on the president’s teleconference and agreement signing, the White House points out that U.S. troops will remain “to train and equip Iraqi Security Forces” (more than four years in and another year out we will apparently still be “training and equipping”). We will remain “to provide security assurances to the Iraqi Government” (presumably this is just in case those security forces won’t be all that effectively trained or equipped after all).
According to a statement by Prime Minister Maliki, Americans will remain “to deter any external aggression” and “defend against internal coup” (I guess that just about covers everything). Our troops will remain so as to “codify” our lasting “bilateral relationship” with a “democratic Iraq.”
(Roughly translated: we will remain as a permanent military presence in Iraq, Yes, that’s right: Permanent).
According to the Associated Press, a detachment of about 50,000 U.S. troops would remain, perhaps in a series of bases well outside the major Iraqi cities (there are still details to work out). The Iraqi government would assume "greater control" of how these forces would be used.
Rest assured that the long term “strategic partnership” between Maliki’s embattled government and the U.S. is not without its rewards for American loyalty. Officials of the Iraqi government remind us that they are offering preferential treatment for American investment (All you boys and girls serving over seas, be sure to call your broker.)
What scant attention the "declaration of principles" has received has been answered with the appropriate double-speak. Prime Minister Maliki has announced to his people that this new agreement signals an end to the occupation of Iraq. (Same troops, same mission, but we won't call it an 'occupation' anymore.)
Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, President Bush's adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan explains it to us this way: “Iraq is increasingly able to stand on its own; that's very good news, but it won't have to stand alone.”
(There, don’t you feel better?)
To quote one National Security Council staffer in a briefing on the "declaration of principles," soon, we will no longer occupy Iraq, but rather we will be engaged in a "normalized, bilateral relationship."
As I started to write this piece I was thinking of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ —of the pledges the animals all made to each other as they started on their idealistic adventure, how they posted them proudly at first up there on the stable wall. I thought of how the words could be forgotten, such that they could be so easily ultimately changed.
Come on into this particular barn with me. There are still a couple of scraps pinned to the weathered plank. You can still just make out what they said:
"As a proud and independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation and neither does America."
~President George W. Bush, April 13, 2004
"We do not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. Our goal is to help Iraq stand on its own feet, to be able to look after its own security, and to do what we can to help achieve that goal."
~then-U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, August 14, 2005
“We're not seeking permanent bases really pretty much anywhere in the world these days. We are, in fact, in the process of removing base structure from a lot of places.”
~Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, April 4, 2006.
Ah, well. The promises are faded now, forgotten. I suppose it’s best we move on.
It’s starting to smell in here anyway.