Most Americans -- 68 percent -- oppose the war against Iraq, according to a November 2011 CNN poll. So it's smart politics for President Obama to take credit for withdrawing U.S. troops.
As it often is, the Associated Press' coverage was slyly subversive: "This, in essence, is Obama's mission accomplished: Getting out of Iraq as promised under solid enough circumstances and making sure to remind voters that he did what he said."
Obama's 2008 campaign began by speaking out against the war in Iraq. (Aggression in Afghanistan, on the other hand, was not only desirable but ought to be expanded.) However, actions never matched his words. On vote after vote in the U.S. Senate Obama supported the war. Every time.
As president, Obama has claimed credit for a December 2011 withdrawal deadline negotiated by his predecessor George W. Bush -- a timeline he wanted to protract. If the Iraqi government hadn't refused to extend immunity from prosecution to U.S. forces, this month's withdrawal would not have happened.
"Today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," Obama bragged reporters on Oct. 24.
The UK Guardian noted: "But he had already announced this earlier this year, and the real significance today was in the failure of Obama, in spite of the cost to the U.S. in dollars and deaths, to persuade the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to allow one or more American bases to be kept in the country."
Obama's talk-no-walk approach to foreign policy is also on display on Guantánamo, the torture camp set up by the Bush Administration where thousands of Afghans and other Muslim men, including children, were imprisoned and tormented without evidence of wrongdoing. Only 171 prisoners remain there today, held under appalling conditions.
Yet the "war on terror" mentality remains in full force.
Obama ordered the construction and expansion of a new concentration camp at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan to house thousands of new and current inmates in the U.S. torture system. Now The New York Times has discovered that the Obama Administration has developed "the other Guantánamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads" inside the United States. Hundreds of Muslim men have been imprisoned by means of the thinnest veneer of legality.
"An aggressive prosecution strategy, aimed at prevention as much as punishment, has sent away scores of people. They serve long sentences, often in restrictive, Muslim-majority units, under intensive monitoring by prison officers. Their world is spare," announced the paper.
Aware that "his" war against Afghanistan isn't much more popular among voters than the occupation of Iraq, Obama set a 2014 for withdrawal from the Central Asian state several years ago.
Dexter Filkins called it "the forever war": a post-9/11 syndrome that drives the United States to shoot and bomb the citizens of Muslim nations without end. You can't end a forever war. What if you had to sit down and get serious about taking care of the problems faced by regular, boring, American people?
And so Obama is having his ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, release trial balloons about staying past 2014...forever, in so many words.
Talking to reporters, Crocker said that the U.S. would stay longer if the Karzai regime -- its handpicked puppet -- asked them to. "They [the Afghans] would have to ask for it," he said. "I could certainly see us saying, 'Yeah, makes sense.'"
Vampires can't come inside unless they're invited.
The Iraq War, at least, seems to be coming to an end. According to the Pentagon, there will only be 150 U.S. troops in Iraq next year -- those who guard the embassy in Baghdad.
Just shy of 10,000 "contractors" -- the heavily-armed mercenaries who became known for randomly shooting civilians from attack helicopters -- will remain in Iraq as "support personnel" for the State Department.
As they say, war is an addiction. If we wanted to, we could quit any time.
Any time. Really.
--Ted Rall is the author of "The Anti-American Manifesto." His website is tedrall.com.
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