Recent reports of Iranian “interference” in Iraq again note a central tendency in imperial culture: we own the world. The talk about Iraqi Shiites using Iranian weapons to fight their American occupiers (which is by no means an established fact) was first, but then the other day there were all these warnings about how Iranian forces trespassed across the Iraqi border. It was treated in the American press as if a foreign army had marched onto the American homeland. But then, that is precisely how the imperial mindset perceives it: Iraq qualifies as our land because, after all, it’s here on planet Earth. Since we own the world, our jurisdiction extends throughout the globe and anywhere we see unwelcome feet it’s the equivalent of unwelcome feet on the Texas borderland or traversing Cape Cod. Of course, nobody sees the 50,000 U.S. military troops, down from 170,000 at one point, (not to mention contractors) as foreign troops. Our army is always indigenous, because we own the world.
And this “waiting game” about an Iraqi decision on U.S. troop withdrawal seems rather superficial to me. To speculate, I think it is likely that the U.S. is pressuring the Iraqi leadership to “decide” on a continued U.S. military presence there. Rather absent from the propaganda in the American media about the withdrawal is what everyday Iraqis think about the ongoing U.S. occupation. To everyone directly involved in the decision making on this issue, public opinion is irrelevant. Good polls asking them directly can be found (last hyperlink), but nothing very recent to my knowledge. This latest Iraqi public opinion poll, however, shows that large majorities believe the country is going in the wrong direction and that only 2 percent think increased U.S. military patrols are a good option to improve security.
Much of the short term mission in Iraq has been achieved, and the longterm mission – to keep a contingent force there forever, as we have in many other countries around the world – seems to me to be in the works. After all, you don’t build the world’s largest and most expensive U.S. Embassy (which fully opened only in 2009) if you plan to leave. If only we could get the Iraqis to realize that our troops are never foreign.