"[They] were not fighting this perpetual war for victory, they were
fighting to keep a state of emergency always present as the surest guarantee
- George Orwell, 1984
It looks like the fat lady will become a Victoria's
Secret model before she sings the finale of our woebegone war in Iraq. On Friday
Feb. 27, at Camp Lejeune, N.C., young
Mr. Obama announced that, "by August 31, 2010, our combat mission
in Iraq will end." We can speculate till the troops come home why Obama
chose to make this announcement on a Marine Corps base as opposed to, say,
on an aircraft carrier, but it's a dead cert that the mission will be no more
accomplished by August 2010 than it was in May
Obama also said in his speech that 35,000 to 50,000 troops will remain in
Iraq after August 2010. Re-label them trainers, force protectors, or whatever
you like, the troops that stay behind will be combat troops. They won't be
training Iraqi security forces to peel potatoes, nor will they be protecting
the daycare facility for children of single Iraqi soldiers.
What's more, the enabling trainers are likely to be in Iraq past the December
2011 deadline called for by the status of forces agreement (SOFA). Key figures
who have voiced opposition to any sort of withdrawal timeline include Defense
Secretary Robert Gates; Joint
Chiefs chairman Adm.
Mike Mullen, who has said a deadline for withdrawal would be "dangerous";
and National Security Adviser James
Jones, a retired Marine general, who cautioned that a timeline to leave
Iraq would be "against our national interest." Gen. David Petraeus, as always,
has avoided saying much on the subject that might stick to his body armor.
Petraeus' sidekick Ray Odierno, though, says he wants to keep at least 35,000
troops in Iraq through 2015, and the once credible Tom Ricks has echoed this
metric over every major information outlet in America.
kick started the "a lot can happen in three years" chant as soon
as the SOFA was signed. It's evident that no one in the Pentagon considers
the SOFA and its 2011 benchmark a done deal, and why should they? They're used
to discarding treaties – the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Geneva Conventions,
and the UN Convention on Torture – like day-old candy wrappers. The SOFA isn't
even a treaty. The Senate never ratified it, so how hard could it be to abrogate?
The main vector of the warmongery's timeline
argument is that successful military operations can't be conducted with time
constraints. This flies in the face of reality, of course; if military operations
didn't have D-Days and H-Hours, the Normandy invasion would still be on hold.
Gates is probably unaware of this; he is quite possibly the only civilian
officer holder in Washington who knows less about warfare than Joe Lieberman.
Mullen, Odierno, and Jones either (a) know that timelines are essential to
military operations and are lying, or (b) they're as ignorant of the basic
tenets of their profession as Gates and Lieberman are. It's entirely possible
that both (a) and (b) are true.
Ricks himself admits
that Petraeus' task was never to produce a victory in Iraq. He simply needed
time "to show enough genuine progress that the American people would be
willing to stick with it even longer." In other words, Petraeus needed
time to fake us out of demanding a timeline.
Mullen and Gates were both circumspect message-managers on last Sunday's political
gab-show circuit. On CNN,
Mullen said he is "comfortable" with Obama's withdrawal schedule,
but he also said he is confident the president will be "flexible"
with the timetable if conditions on the ground change. On NBC,
Gates admitted that the troops remaining in Iraq will still be in harm's way,
"but at a very different level than in the past," which is Newspeak
for "the troops remaining in Iraq will still be in harm's way." Sounding
eerily like Mullen, Gates noted that Obama has said he "retains the flexibility
and the authority to change a plan or adjust it if he thinks it's in the national
security [interest] of the United States." Gates and Mullen both gave
the impression that renegotiating the SOFA would be along the same order of
difficulty as getting a pizza delivered from Domino's.
Both men also stressed the importance of following the advice of the military
commander on the scene, who is now Ray Odierno. Thanks to a two-inch-thick
makeover by Ricks, Odierno has transformed from the raging ox who did nothing
right in post-invasion Iraq to the military genius singularly responsible for
the surge, so when he says he needs 35,000 troops in Iraq until at least 2015,
gee, who's to say he's wrong? And oh, Gates made a point of confiding to David
Gregory (with the rest of the world listening in) that "if the commanders
had had complete say in this matter that, that they would have preferred that,
that the combat mission not end until the end of 2010." So anything that
goes wrong after August happened because Obama didn't listen to Ray of Arabia.
For the moment, Ricks is the chief propagandist of the Iraq Forever movement,
but he has capable help from the likes of neocon luminaries Michael O'Hanlon
and Kenneth Pollack. In a Feb. 25 New
piece, O'Hanlon and Pollack baldly assert that "the mission ceased
to be a 'war of choice' the moment American forces crossed the border in March
2003. Now we have no choice but to see Iraq through to stability." This
is akin to saying that once we board an airplane, we have no choice but to
ride it until it runs out of gas and crashes into the sea. Wahoos like O'Hanlon
and Pollack never admit that there is a broad menu of sane alternatives to
what they propose, the best of which amount to taking control of the airplane,
returning to the airport, and landing safely.
One hopes that Obama can resist the pressure from the lunatic Right to perpetuate
the counterproductive occupation of Iraq, but it's important to note that in
his Camp Lejeune speech, he said, "I intend to remove all U.S.
troops from Iraq by the end of 2011."
Even in the Newspeak Dictionary,
you could drive the entire Army and Marine Corps through the distance between
intend and shall.