On February 27, President Barack Obama delivered his
much-anticipated policy speech on Iraq. The important point in his announcement
was the withdrawal of some U.S. troops from Iraq by August 31, 2010. However,
it did not mean an end to the American occupation of Iraq, or an end to an
illegal genocidal war that the Bush-Cheney administration had started.
Despite his high-blown rhetoric about withdrawing from Iraq,
Obama did not deal with many important questions. Thus, what was not said
cannot be regarded as an oversight but rather as an indication of how the new
administration intends to pursue its policy objectives. Those who had wished to
see a break by the new administration with the Bush-Cheney administration�s wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan are concerned because they detect the continuation of
the goal of the U.S. domination, which the American rulers usually refer to as
the �U.S. interests� in the region.
At present, the U.S. has 142,000 combat troops in Iraq. But
what is often glossed over is the fact that there is almost a parallel army of
American mercenaries and private military contractors whose numbers range from
100,000 to 150,000. Thus, both the regular fighting force and these mercenaries
are virtual foreign occupiers. However, the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops
will not amount to ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Obama wants to keep more
than 50,000 occupying troops in Iraq. His innovation, if we can call it so,
lies in classifying them as �non-combat� troops or a �transitional force.� And
what will they be doing? It is worth noticing how Obama formulates the policy
objective that shows the real intentions of the occupiers: �we will retain a
transitional force to carry out the three distinct functions: training,
equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain
nonsectarian; conducting targeted counterterrorism missions; and protecting our
ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq.�
So, instead of �combat brigades,� the relabelled
�transitional force� will carry on the �targeted counterterrorism missions�! This
cannot fool anyone. What this in effect means is that that the 50,000 soldiers
will continue to accomplish the �mission� that the former U.S. president,
George W. Bush, had laid out for them.
President Obama has plans to remove all such remaining U.S.
troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. But things are far from certain. What will
happens if the resistance against the occupier and its puppet regime in Baghdad
continues and the U.S. policy makers and military planners conclude that the
challenge to American hegemony and its geopolitical interests in Iraq persists?
In that case, this plan can be replaced with a new one neatly drafted by the
Pentagon. Such concern was aired by the NBC�s Pentagon�s correspondent, Jim
Miklaszeswki, on February 27, that �military commanders, despite their Status
of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government that all U.S. forces would be out
by the end of 2011, are already making plans for a significant number of troops
to remain in Iraq beyond that 2011 deadline, assuming that the Status of Forces
Agreement would be renegotiated. And one senior military commander told us that
he expects large number of American troops to be in Iraq for the next 15 to 20
years.� In case of such need to keep the American forces in Iraq, the puppet
regime in Baghdad will hardly be in a position to resist the American diktat
and pressure. That means the colonial occupation of Iraq according to U.S.
designs and interests will continue.
There are a number of important issues that President Obama
did not touch in his speech. What will happen to more than 100,000 mercenaries
and private military contractors operating in Iraq? Dyncorp, Bechtel,
Blackwater have been used by American military and they have been immune to any
accountability for killing Iraqis. The recent change of name from Blackwater to
�Xe� does not change the mission of the mercenaries and their crimes in Iraq. Again,
the ultimate responsibility for the actions of such people lies with the American
government. The peace movement should demand the Obama administration to
redress the issue.
In Baghdad�s heavily fortified Green Zone, the Bush
administration built the largest embassy of any nation anywhere on Earth, a
sprawling complex of buildings to accommodate up to 5,000 American diplomats
and officials. That shows what long-term objectives the Bush administration had
for Iraq and the Middle East. Besides, it was again the illegal action of the
occupying military power in which the people of Iraq had no say. An embassy is
meant for diplomatic relations between two states. But the gigantic buildings
to accommodate thousands of officials in the capital of an occupied oil-rich
country shows the true intentions of the American rulers. These buildings
should be closed down or handed over to the Iraqis.
The United States has 58 permanent military bases in Iraq,
as a part of the larger network of American military bases around the world. President
Obama should give a clear indication that when the American troops are
withdrawn, the illegal use of Iraqi military bases will also come to an end.
Let us hope that President Obama�s words match his
actions; actions that will signify a change in the direction of American
imperial policy. It was encouraging to see that when he turned to the Iraqi
people and said: �The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your
resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made
for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the
security of your country.�
The American rulers have inflicted immeasurable death and
destruction on the Iraqi people and the infrastructure of their country. They
have caused untold humanitarian disaster and suffering in Iraq. The people of
Iraq have seen only death, destruction and barbarity at the hands of the
occupiers since the U.S. invasion of their country.
The Belgian philosopher, Lieven De Cauter, the initiator of
the BRussells Tribunal, writes: �During six years of occupation, 1.2 million
citizens were killed, 2,000 doctors killed, and 5,500 academics and
intellectuals assassinated or imprisoned. There are 4.7 million refugees: 207
million inside the country and two million have fled to neighbouring countries,
among which are 20,000 doctors. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is a country
of widows and orphans: 2 million widows as a consequence of war, embargo, and
war again and occupation, and 5 million orphans, many of whom are homeless
(estimated at 500,000).�
For us the ordinary human beings, such a degree of
inhumanity shown by the rulers of the United States towards the people of a
great country and callous imperviousness to the suffering of so many people is
hard to understand. In addition, Iraq, the cradle of human civilisation
eventually fell in the hands of the American occupiers and they vandalized the
ancient treasures and artifacts, which were the common heritage of all
In sum, the peace movement should demand the complete
withdrawal of all U.S. troops, the withdrawal of all mercenaries and military
contractors hired by the Pentagon. All American military bases in Iraq should
be closed and the full sovereignty of Iraq over its land and air be respected.
All lucrative oil contracts the occupiers made with the puppet regime in
Baghdad should be held null and void. Above all, the United States should be
held accountable to pay reparations for the damage it caused and pay
compensation to the victims of aggression. We should demand that the
International Criminal Court takes steps to indict the alleged war criminals.
The governments of the United States and Britain have a special responsibility
to hand over the principal war criminals to The Hague and to facilitate the
task of such trials.
Nasir Khan is a historian and a peace activist. He is the author of �Development
of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx�s Writings 1843-44� (1995) and �Perceptions
of Islam in the Christendoms: A Historical Survey� (2006). He has his own blogs
through which he can be contacted.