It's Obama's War, Now

This is the text of a talk by Chris
Hedges that will be read at anti-war gatherings to be held by The World
Can't Wait in New York's Union Square, Los Angeles, San Francisco,
Seattle, Nashville, Louisville, Chicago and Berkeley on March 19 to
protest the sixth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.

Barack Obama has shown that he is as
capable of doublespeak as any other politician when he announced an end
to the war in Iraq. Combat troops are to be pulled out of Iraq by
August 2010, he said, but some 50,000 occupation troops will remain
behind. Someone should let the Iraqis know the distinction. I doubt any
soldier or Marine in Iraq will notice much difference in 19 months.
Many combat units will simply be relabeled as noncombat units. And what
about our small army of well-paid contractors and mercenaries? Will
Dyncorp, Bechtel, Blackwater (which recently changed its name to Xe),
all of whom have made fortunes off the war, pack up and go home? What
about the three large super-bases, dozens of smaller military outposts
and our imperial city, the Green Zone? Will American corporations give
up their lucrative control of Iraqi oil?

The occupation of Iraq will not be
disrupted. Lies and deception, which launched the war in the first
place, are being employed by Democrats to maintain it. This is not a
withdrawal. It is occupation lite. And as long as American troops are
on Iraqi soil the war will grind on, the death toll on each side will
continue to mount and we will remain a lightning rod for hatred and
rage in the Middle East. Add to this Obama's decision to increase troop
levels in Afghanistan and even his most purblind supporters will have
to admit the new president is as intent on maintaining American empire
as the old.

The occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan
has not promoted U.S. security or stability in the Middle East. These
occupations have furthered the spread of failed states, increased
authoritarianism and unleashed savage violence. They have opened up
voids of lawlessness, including in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where
our real enemies can operate and plot against us. These occupations
have scuttled the art of diplomacy and mocked the rule of law. We have
become an outlaw state intent on creating more outlaw states. The
occupations have, finally, empowered Iran, as well as Russia and China,
which gleefully watch our self-immolation. And, in the end, we cannot
win these wars. We will withdraw all our troops in an orderly manner or
see these occupations collapse in an orgy of bloodshed.

Iraq, because of our invasion and
occupation, no longer exists as a unified country. The experiment that
was Iraq, the cobbling together of disparate and antagonistic patches
of the Ottoman Empire by the victorious powers in the wake of World War
I, will never come back. The Kurds have set up a de facto state in the
north. The Shiites control most of the south. The center of the country
is a battleground. There are at least 2 million Iraqis who have fled
their homes and are internally displaced. Another 2 million have left
the country, most to Syria and Jordan, which now has the largest number
of refugees per capita of any country on Earth. And perhaps as many as
1.2 million Iraqis are dead because of what we have done.

The eight-year war in Afghanistan has
seen the Taliban re-emerge from the ashes. An additional 30,000 troops
will do little to prop up the detested and corrupt regime of Hamid
Karzai. Our attempt to buy off Afghan tribal groups with money and even
weapons has collapsed, with most slipping back into the arms of the
Taliban insurgents. The U.N. estimates that the Taliban is now raking
in $300 million a year from the expanded poppy trade to fund the
resistance. The Taliban controlled about 75 percent of Afghan territory
when we invaded eight years ago. It has recaptured about half of the
country since its initial defeat, and its reach has expanded to the
outskirts of major cities such as Kabul and Kandahar. Twenty-nine
American troops died in Afghanistan the first two months of 2009, a
threefold increase compared with the eight who died during the same
period last year. And more Afghan civilians are dying in allied
operations than at the hands of the Taliban, according to a count by
the Associated Press. In the first two months of the year, American,
NATO or Afghan forces have killed 100 civilians, while militants have
killed 60.

Do the cheerleaders for an expanded war
in Afghanistan know any history? Have they studied what happened to the
Soviets, who lost 15,000 Red Army soldiers between 1979 and 1988, or
even the British in the 19th century? Do they remember why we went into
Afghanistan? It was, we were told, to hunt down Osama bin Laden, who is
now apparently in Pakistan. Has anyone asked what our end goal is in
Afghanistan? Is it nation-building? Have we declared war on the
Taliban? Or is this simply the forever war on terror?

Al-Qaida, which we have also
inadvertently resurrected, still finds plenty of recruits. It still
runs training facilities. It still carries out attacks in London,
Madrid, Iraq and now Afghanistan, which did not experience suicide
bombings until December 2005. Al-Qaida has moved on. But we remain
stuck, confused and lashing about wildly like a wounded and lumbering

Obama, during the campaign, promised that
he would pull out one combat brigade per month over a 16-month period
from Iraq. But this promise has been scrapped. Instead, troop levels
will remain steady for most of this year and into the first few months
of 2010. Troops will only start leaving, we are told, in large numbers
in the spring and summer of next year, but even the pace of this
downsizing will be left to the discretion of commanders. The troops
left in Iraq after the "withdrawal" will, the Obama administration
says, train Iraqi soldiers, protect U.S. assets and conduct
"anti-terror operations."

The U.S. agreement with Iraq, known as
SOFA, or status of forces agreement, calls for all U.S. forces to be
out of Iraq by the end of December 2011. But this seems very unlikely.
The Pentagon has, despite the SOFA agreement, built its long-range
planning around the assumption that anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000
troops will be based in Iraq long after 2011. The U.S.-Iraq agreement
(which was ratified by the Iraqi parliament but never brought to the
U.S. Senate for ratification, as mandated by the Constitution) calls
for a national referendum to be held in Iraq during the summer of 2009.
Iraqis will supposedly be able to approve or reject the agreement. The
some 50 U.S. bases in Iraq are, under the agreement, to be turned over
to the Iraqis.

Will Obama defy the results of a
referendum and ram the continued occupation down the throats of Iraqi
voters? It certainly looks like it. Of course, all this will be
handled, I suspect, by having our client government in Baghdad
"request" that we remain, making an even greater farce of our public
commitment to democracy.

There are huge corporations who are
making a lot of money off this war. Obama seems intent on not impeding
the profits. So much for our anti-war candidate. We should have known
better than to trust the Democrats after they rode to power in Congress
in 2006 on an anti-war platform and then continued to fund our wars and
approve increased troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If the delicate cease-fire we have
negotiated with the former Sunni insurgents in Iraq breaks down, how
will we respond? Suppose the some 100,000 Sunnis, who have been allowed
to ethnically cleanse the areas they control and build militias, turn
on the central Shiite-led government. Suppose we can no longer buy off
these Sunni "Awakening" militias with the $300-a-month salaries we
dispense to these fighters. Suppose the war heats up again. This is
what happened in Afghanistan when we tried to bribe tribal groups with
money and support. A deterioration of the security situation in Iraq
could instantly scuttle even a reduction of forces.

And the military, if some troops do leave
Iraq, will have to rely more heavily on airstrikes to control territory
and keep insurgents at bay. The airstrikes in Afghanistan have, along
with the expanded fighting, driven tens of thousands of Afghan refugees
into Iran and Pakistan. Even the Karzai government has vigorously
protested these airstrikes, which feed scores of recruits to the
Taliban. Expect the same ugly backlash in Iraq.

I could live with the prolonged injustice
of the occupation in Iraq if I thought there would really be peace,
that we could then help rebuild the country we destroyed and that we
had restored the rule of law by rejecting the Bush doctrine of
pre-emptive war, something that under post-Nuremberg laws is defined as
a criminal "war of aggression." I could live with 19 months more of the
war if I knew it would really be the end. But the war in Iraq, like
Afghanistan, will go on. Our imperial projects and killing will
continue under the Obama presidency. Many more, including some of our
own, will die.

The only hope now lies in renewed
protests against the war and a reinvigorated anti-war movement. This
time the movement should hold fast, as stalwarts like Cindy Sheehan,
Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader have, to the moral imperative of peace
and not the false hopes offered by the Democrats. They cannot be
trusted. Politics is a game of pressure. Abandon that pressure and you

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