Jim Houle: Iraqi Freedom is Over

Redwood Valley

“Operation Iraqi Freedom is over” President Obama announced from behind his desk on Tuesday night, August 31st. A strange choice of words to announce our “victory” in defeating Sada-am Hussein and Al Qaeda. “The future we are trying to build for our nation may seem beyond our reach”, he inserted at the start, as if unsure whether his speech was about Iraq finally being relieved of our help or about Obama’s heavy burdens here at home. “Our troops are the steel in our ship of state . . . they give us confidence that our course is true”. This also seemed most strange, for it would seem more fitting that support for our constitution or our unity as a nation would be the source of our resolve. It sounds like some tin pot dictator bragging that military ‘might makes me right’. He then called ex-President Bush a patriot: “no one can doubt his support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security”. Is this the same Bush who loved his country so much that he lied to get support for a war he claimed would remove weapons of mass destruction before Sadaam could give them to Al Qaeda? “There were patriots who supported the war and patriots who opposed it” Obama explained: So are we all, all honorable men.

“A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency and terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart”. But if the talk of WMDs was a lie, then how did we disarm them? We have been busy ever since trying to rebuild and re-arm their conventional army. Also, the word insurgency suggests something unconnected to the US mission – yet in this case the insurgency was the effort of Iraqi patriots of many stripes to drive the foreign occupiers from their land. All very puzzling. “Thousands of American gave their lives” was as close a Obama cared to go as far as actually tolling up the costs of our dreadful seven year debacle. However, Defense Secretary Gates was braver than his boss when he spoke to the American Legion in Milwaukee: “This is not a time for premature victory parades or self-congratulation”. Gates’ voiced quivered as he gave the numbers of killed and wounded in Iraq — 4,427 and 34,268. Never mentioned were the one million Iraqis killed in the war, nor the 2 million Iraqi refugees driven from their country, nor the 500,00 to 700,000 children under five years of age who died for lack of clean drinking water during the 1990s after we blew up their purification plants and blocked the import of water treating chemicals. We have left behind a nation bombed back to a pre-industrial state with dependable electric power available only a few hours a day, no sewerage treatment plants still in operation, and over 60% unemployment. Combat operations are over, let abject poverty reign supreme!

The President once again said “all U.S. Troops will leave by the end of next year” even as his General in Iraq, Ray Odierno, openly voiced his desire to see 30,000 to 35,000 troops remain until 2014 or 2015. (Jeff Huber, Antiwar.com 8/30/10). Ryan Crocker, our former ambassador in Baghdad told the NYTimes (Tim Arango 8/10/10) that plans are in place to renegotiate the SOFA (status of forces agreement): “For a very long period of time we’re going to be on the ground. Even if its solely in support of US weapons systems”. Having now sold the Iraqi air force 18 F-16 fighter jets, Brig. General Scott Hanson stated that “we’re five years into a 10 to 15 year program”. Have we come to a point when the top brass feel so comfortably in control of our foreign policy that they can openly contradict the President? “The war on Iraq was never about “blood for oil,” or at least not just that. It’s always been about blood for armored humvees, blood for bombs, blood for no-bid contracts to build and operate bases, blood for jobs (and votes) in your congress critter’s district, blood for campaign contributions, blood for ever-expanding political power and for never-ending access to your wallet”.(Thomas L. Knapp, Antiwar.com 9/1/10). On to victory in Afghanistan!