How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away-Iraq and Washington

I should be used to it by now, but I’m not. When I read statements from US policymakers telling the world that Iraq is still not capable of defending itself without US help, I am still angered and amazed at the bold-faced arrogance. Most recently, several US political leaders and generals have told the Iraqi and American people that only they know when it is time for US troops to leave Iraq. Furthermore, while Iraqis from virtually every segment of that nation’s political sphere demand changes in the US-imposed agreement to keep US forces there, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice vocalizes Washington’s response: we decide what we want to do in Iraq and we decide how long we will stay, so take it or leave it. If you leave it, then we will find another way to stay, and if we do, we will make your lives more miserable than we already have.

What’s different about this communication from Washington is that it is not only directed at the everyday people of Iraq. It is also directed at the client government Washington has installed there. Of course, the demands being made by the Green Zone parliament are only being made because the Iraqi people are pressuring this group of Iraqi politicians to make those demands. Naturally, there are those in Washington and in the US media who see the Green Zone government’s demands as ungrateful and bordering on insubordination. One can almost hear them asking: How could those ungrateful people have the brashness to demand the right to prosecute those who would kill Iraqi civilians without recourse? How dare these Iraqi officials who rule only because we gave them the wherewithal to do so tell us that all US troops must leave their country by a certain date? Even more to the point, how dare the government in Baghdad that Washington created and maintains tell us what Iraqi sovereignty is? After all, it is the occupier who determines what the natives will rule and what the occupier will rule. Haven’t they read their Kipling?

As Michael Schwartz makes very clear in his recently released book War Without End: The Iraq War in Context, Washington went into Iraq with the intention of controlling the resources and destiny of that country and using it as a base for controlling the Middle East and South Asia. As Schwartz also makes very clear, Washington will not leave until it is certain of that control. Of course, there is a part of this equation that is the unpredictable variable. What if the Iraqis refuse to go along with this plan of Washington’s? Or, even more important to those of us whose tax dollars are funding this war, what if we refuse to go along with this plan?

Schwartz’s book, which is, if not the best book written on the US war and occupation of Iraq, certainly one of the best, is more than a litany of the death and destruction undertaken by occupying troops. It is also a sharp analysis of the twists and turns of the war and occupation that is based on the underlying assumption that this war and occupation has always been about dominance of the Middle East and control of its resources and destiny. After reading this book, it becomes clear that this motivation is the only one that makes consistent sense.

As the debate continues to unfold around the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Washington and the Iraqis in the Green Zone, one can expect threats of a US withdrawal to be made. In fact, certain news reports in some US newspapers reported as much on October 22, 2008. According to these reports, Washington has told members of the Green Zone government that Washington will pull its troops if the SOFA is not signed. Apparently, Washington considers this to be a threat and hopes that the green Zone politicians will fall in line out of fear that they will not survive without US troops to protect them. At this juncture in Iraq’s history, one wonders if this threat from Washington might be a miscalculation. As noted above, Ms. Rice is on record saying that she doesn’t believe the Green Zone government can defend itself as it is currently constituted. However, is it possible that Iraqis (even those in the Green Zone government) are not interested in that government as it is currently constituted? If so, then Washington’s threat of withdrawal is not only an empty threat, it is potentially a shrewd move on the part of the Iraqis and a potential victory for the Iraqi people, who have made it clear with IEDs, votes, public opinion polls and a myriad other means that they want the US military and its support mechanisms (including contractors, intelligence services and others) out of their country the sooner, the better.

Unfortunately, a US departure is not likely to come so easily, no matter how much the Iraqis and Americans may want it. The more likely scenario is that the debate over the SOFA will continue and if an agreement is not reached by the deadline of December 31, 2008, some kind of temporary mandate will be established by Washington to keep its troops in place throughout Iraq. If Washington is unable to keep its troops in Iraq legally after that date, then don’t look for a withdrawal. After all, if I recall, the fact that the invasion that brought US troops into Iraq in 2003 was of questionable legality. That certainly didn’t seem to matter very much then. Continuing the occupation of Iraq illegally is unlikely to make much difference in 2009, either.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 31st, 2008 at 9:33am #

    to make it easier to understand: plotters of US invasions of afgh’n and iraq never counted on winning,
    thus, US can’t lose whatever ensues. and since the history will not be written any longer (if it ever had been), ruling class in US has tripple assurance that they’r winners.
    and the uncle has not lost a war yet. and now w. more power than ever how can he lose a war?
    and against enorm weaklings? thnx

  2. cemmcs said on October 31st, 2008 at 1:03pm #

    When I read statements from US policymakers telling the world that Iraq is still not capable of defending itself without US help

    If Iraq had nuclear weapons, it be able to defend itself. I wish Saddam Hussein had realized this. It would have saved US a lot of trouble.

  3. Ricky Davis said on October 31st, 2008 at 3:47pm #

    If the Iraq Gov wishes for the Americans to leave,then the Americans will honor their wishes. The Iraq Gov cannot protect itself adequately.
    Iraq would be a client state of Iran. Outside of The Americans the Iranians view Iraq as a place of huge strategic interest.

  4. DavidG. said on November 1st, 2008 at 12:05am #

    America has been leaving its troops all over the world for decades. It’s still entrenched in Japan and Germany for Christ’s sake!

    It’s imperialism by stealth. At least the Germans made their intentions clear!

  5. tom paine said on November 1st, 2008 at 1:01am #

    To all who oppose the war. To all who really call themselves ‘progressives’, now is the time to act.

    We can see the course of this election. Obama and the Dems win in a landslide. That’s the big course of things and its set and its already in motion. Even if it wasn’t true, which it probably is, the corporate money would insist on it being so.

    We are going to see an Obama administration with the Dems in control of Congress. We know that by default the Dems won’t want to listen to us. That they’ll still want to continue the wars. That they won’t prosecute the Bush criminals. That they’ll give our money to their rich friends on wall street. We know this from the Democrats.

    So ok, how do we make an Obama administration respect us and do what we want? We keep hearing how we have to be the ones to ‘pressure’ an Obama administration. How do we do that?

    The only language they understand is political power. We need to show it. We need to have ever Democratic congress critter l0oking at the combined Nader\McKinney vote in their district or state and saying ‘holy shit!’. The more votes we put on the board right now, the more we get their attention and the more respect we get. By putting votes on the board right now, we show political power.

    Its a safe vote. Obama wins in a landslide. The states ‘in play’ are traditional Republicans ones like Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina. To even think about winning, McCain has to sweep every state where he’s even within shouting distance of Obama.

    Spread the word. Now is the time. If there was ever a moment to vote your conscious and vote for an alternative to the corporate parties. Its a safe vote. Obama wins big regardless. The key point for right now is actaully the closer we make it, the better for us. If the Democrats are holding their breath on election night saying ‘holy shit!’ watchinge the numbers roll in with state after state they thought was solidly there’s instead becoming razor thin with big voters for Nader and McKinney.

    Do you want to really stop these wars Do you want to stop this and end it? Then vote your conscious. Register a political earthquake the Dems can’t help but feel.

    Me, I’m personally in favor of kicking the Democrats as hard as I can where it hurts the most. I think of all the sell out votes on the war and impeachment and the bailout and I just want to kick them in the nuts. But, even when you admit Obama is marginally, just, but marginally better than McCain, then you have to admit the closer it is, the more strength we show right now, the better off we are.

    We want every congressional dem looking ahead to the 2010 elections, seeing a strong Nader\McKinney vote in their districts, and shuddering at what the prospects of an angry progressive antiwar third party campaign in 2010 would do to their congressional careers. You want to stop these wars? That’s how to do it.

  6. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 1st, 2008 at 8:24am #

    as the bible says (cynicly), Those which don’t have, even what they have will be taken away from them.
    pals, afghans, syrians, iraqis have so little but even that was taken from them.
    mind u, this was said before prostitution started some 15K ago and 5-15K before BP, cheating, lying, deceiving was institutionalized.
    prostitution cldn’t have, i think, preceded the oldest profession.
    but, guess, what had clergy condemned most vigorously: innocent women!

  7. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 1st, 2008 at 1:04pm #

    what working people need is dozens of generals, thousands of fbi/cia/police, some politicos/clergy on its side to obtain structural change. thnx

  8. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 2nd, 2008 at 4:02pm #

    a correction,
    bible was written just 1700-1800 yrs ago. thus the saying that “those who have not, will lose even the little they have” was written ca 12k after prostitution (AP) and not millennia BP (b’fore prostitution)
    folks, u should chalenge me on this.
    how do i know that lying came before P? and religion before P and lying/deceiving? and religion must have emerged some mn yrs ago?
    well, i don’t know. but if i am erring, i’d like to err for benefit of P and serfs.
    similarly, if i am erring in my proclamation that we peasants r ok, i am erring in our favor.
    or in short, i am saying the necessary/desirable truth.
    well, i am happy for my readers while i am here; after i go, well, i don’t know.
    my name means gift to human race. and the problem w. that is? that i believe it. thnx