By Ghali Hassan
On February 27, 2009, President Barack Obama announced a plan to withdraw U.S. troops occupying Iraq by September of 2010. However, Obama’s withdrawal is nothing short of a colonial Occupation of Iraq, and a betrayal of Mr. Obama’s promise to end the U.S. war on the Iraqi people.
During the election campaign, Obama promised that if he is elected president of the United States, he would make changes to American foreign policies by “ending the war” on Iraq and “bring U.S. troops home”. Today, many people start to feel disappointed over Obama's failure to match his words with deeds. It seems that Obama will continue the same criminal (religio-fascist) policies that characterised Bush’s administration. In short, violence and murderous occupation will continue in pursuit of U.S. imperialist domination.
Obama’s troop withdrawal is clouded by a plan that would leave more than 50,000 occupying troops in place until the end of 2011, and possibly beyond. That is more than half of the foreign troops occupying Afghanistan. These troops will be classified as “non-combat” troops or a “transitional force”, but they’ll be free to conduct raids, kill Iraqis, and attack Iraqi properties as they see fit. In other words, their old role doesn’t change and is not going to deceive the Iraqi people. Like changing the name of Abu Ghraib prison to ‘Baghdad Central Prison’ doesn’t change what is happening inside the U.S.-controlled “House of Horror”, and doesn’t erase people’s memory. Obama also said that ending the Occupation depends on the “conditions on the ground”, which are controlled by U.S. occupying forces and changing according to U.S. imperialist interest.
It is important to remember that Obama’s opposition to the U.S. aggression against Iraq was very vague, unprincipled and opportunistic. Obama called the invasion as a "strategic blunder”, not a war of aggression. However, while Obama said he “opposed the war”, he never hesitated from supporting the Occupation and never missed a vote to continue funding for it. Obama wanted to get elected and once he got in office, he succumbed and veered to the right. Obama’s real colour starts to appear and he has shown that he is just a creation of the white American ruling class.
According to Obama’s withdrawal plan, the “transitional force” – as Obama re-labelled his occupying troops – will carry out the same criminal functions they have been doing in Iraq since the invasion. In other words, the Occupation will continue, justified by lies and deception. Obama’s aim is simply to deceive the public and justify an ongoing colonial Occupation, by renegotiating “agreement” with an illegitimate weak puppet government.
The so-called U.S. “agreement” with the current puppet government is null and void, because it is an illegitimate government (under foreign military Occupation) that still has to learn the lessons of Iraq’s history. Under Obama, the objectives of U.S. imperialist strategy in Iraq remain the same; (1) the division of Iraq into smaller fiefdoms, dependent on U.S. military presence and serving U.S.-Israel Zionist interests in the Middle East, including control over Iraq’s oil resources; and (2) the permanent destabilisation of the region – openly called “creative chaos” – through ongoing U.S.-Israel political interference and state-sponsored terrorism.
Furthermore, Obama failed to address whether the U.S. will vacate the illegally acquired “Green Zone” and the permanent military bases in Iraq. Are they just reminders that the U.S. wants its Iraqi collaborators to remember who is in control of Iraq? Obama also made no promise to withdraw the 150,000 to 180,000 mercenaries and private military contractors stationed in Iraq. As journalist and author Jeremy Scahill articulated on Democracy Now on March 04, 2008, just changing the name from Blackwater mercenaries to ‘Xe’ mercenaries in an attempt to rebrand a criminal mercenary force doesn’t end the terror in Iraq.
By keeping U.S. troop in Iraq, Obama wants to make sure that the upcoming December elections will favour the American stooges at the expense of the Iraqi people. In his speech at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina, Obama ignored acknowledging the Iraqi Resistance role in his “new strategy” and the Iraqi people’s overwhelming opposition to the Occupation and struggle to be free from U.S. domination. Obama is confusing the Iraqi people with the collection of expatriate criminals, conmen and Iranian extremists brought to Iraq on the back of U.S. tanks, and today forming the U.S.-imposed illegitimate puppet government in the fortified “Green Zone”, the Iraqi façade of a colonial dictatorship. It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Resistance are not negotiating less than a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and total freedom from U.S. domination.
In his speech, Obama said: “We Americans have offered our most precious resource – our young men and women – to work with you to rebuild what was destroyed by despotism; to root out our common enemies; and to seek peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, and yours.” Obama must know that Iraq’s common enemies are America’s closest allies, and that ‘America is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world’, not peace. It was an imperialist speech which ignores the historic war crime of an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation based on fabricated lies.
Obama failed to acknowledge that the Iraqi state was destroyed by U.S.-British forces in a Nazi-like wanton destruction. At least 1.5 million innocent Iraqis civilians, the majority murdered in cold blood by U.S.-British forces, makes the Iraq Genocide the biggest single mass murder of modern time. Almost every Iraqi family has lost at least one close relative. There are an estimated 4.5 million orphans in Iraq, 500,000 of them are homeless.
Hundreds of Iraqis are killed every month in pervasive violence across the country. On 25 January 2009, U.S. occupation forces murdered five brothers in Albu Seif, including two children, one 8-year-old and 14-year-old. This is a small village south-east of the centre of the city of Mosul. The mayhem is continuing in an endless genocide waged by the world’s largest and most offensive military machine, against a virtually defenceless population. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been wounded and maimed. Thousands Iraqi professionals and prominent individuals have simply disappeared in a systematic campaign of terror funded and supervised by the U.S.
In addition to the mass killing of Iraqi civilians and a deliberately wanton destruction, U.S. forces committed cultural genocide against the Iraqi national heritage and Iraqi treasures. "Not even the Nazis would have allowed such crimes", wrote the Indian scholar, Aijaz Ahmad. “Every single Article of the Geneva Convention and the U.N. Charter was violated, and a whole range of war crimes committed, with impunity. Yet, not a single member of the so-called ‘international community’ has come forward to say so”, added Ahmad.
Nearly six years since the invasion, Iraqis continue to flee their occupied country. Some 2.5 million have fled Iraq to neighbouring countries, and another 2.8 million Iraqis are “internally displaced”. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, including thousands of women and children, are languishing in militias and U.S.-run prisons and torture centres throughout Iraq. They are subjected to horrific torture and abuses of human rights. The Occupation not only generates violence against innocent Iraqis, it is also responsible for sowing the seeds of division and sectarianism in Iraq. Baghdad, once the region’s most vibrant capital, is described as a “bewildering maze of concrete walls, check points and sealed-off enclaves” under U.S. Occupation.
After nearly six years of murderous Occupation, the living conditions in Iraq are disastrous. Countless Iraqi lives are threatened every day by poverty, cuts to power and water supplies, food and medical shortages, and rising violence against women and girls. The U.S Occupation continues to imprison women and deny them equal human rights. According to Iraq’s Ministry of Education, more than 70 percent of girls and young women are no longer attending school or college. The literacy rate for women, once the highest in the region, is now among the lowest as families fear risking kidnap and rape by sending girls to school. Meanwhile, more than 1 million women have been displaced from their homes, and 1-2 million have become widows and are unable to work or get government assistance. According to a new report by the British aid agency, Oxfam International, Iraqi women remain “forgotten victims of the recent [U.S.] war”.
In its report on Iraqi children, Oxfam International found a dramatic increase in malnutrition among Iraqi children. The report estimated 28 percent of Iraqi children are malnourished, compared to 19 percent before the 2003 invasion. More than 11 percent of newborn babies were born underweight in 2006, compared with 4 percent in 2003. The combination of malnutrition and lack of water, along with deteriorating sanitary conditions, places Iraq among countries with the highest rates of infant mortality. Cholera, which was non-existent before the invasion, is now ravaging the country. The 13 years of U.S.-Britain sponsored genocidal sanctions have left the country's economy and infrastructure in ruins and devastated the fabric of Iraqi society, effecting mostly women and children.
The education system, once the envy of people in the region, is nearing collapse. Hundreds, if not thousands, of academics, including teachers and professors from universities across Iraq, have been murdered in a systematic campaign targeting Iraqi professionals in order to destroy the Iraqi nation. At least 3000 academics have fled the country. Schools and universities are barely functioning. Some one million children have stopped attending primary school, and only half of those who completed primary school continue with their education. Nearly 80 per cent of children in Baghdad, and more than 50 per cent in the province of Basra, cannot attend school. Some 250,000 refugee children in neighbouring countries are denied their right to education (UNESCO).
UNICEF reported on March 28, 2003 that, “The Education system in Iraq, prior to 1991, was one of the best in the region, with nearly 100% Gross Enrolment Rate for primary schooling and high levels of literacy, both of men and women. Higher Education, especially the scientific and technological institutions, was of an international standard, staffed by high quality personnel”. In the 1980s, a successful government program to eradicate illiteracy among Iraqi men and women was implemented. U.S. wars and Occupation have reversed all past Iraqi achievements in education and health.
The CICR warned that the humanitarian situation in Iraq remains among the most critical in the world today. ‘Iraq’s 27 million people have no functioning drinking water and 80 percent lack basic sanitation’. Electricity supply has become as scarce as drinking water, affecting the operations of hospitals and health care centres. The CICR report says Iraq’s healthcare system is now in its worst shape ever, and on the verge of total collapse. Of 34,000 doctors living in Iraq in 2003, most have fled the country and more than 2,000 have been murdered. According to Midact, Iraq has only around 9,000 doctors, a ratio of six doctors for every 10,000. Is there another way to destroy a country?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO); “Iraq had a modern sanitary infrastructure with an extensive network of water-purification and sewage-treatment systems. Water networks distributed clean, safe water to 95% of the urban population and to 75% of those in rural areas. In 1990, Iraq was ranked 50th out of 130 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index”, which measures national achievements in health, education, and per capita GDP.
Finally, as a result of U.S. wars and the use of Uranium-based munitions by U.S. and British invading forces since 1991, the Iraqi environment has been destroyed and contaminated beyond belief. According to recent research findings, existing uranium contamination of the surrounding environment is a continuous source of low level radiation (LLR) exposure to civilians. The rate of cancer, particularly among children, has increased dramatically reaching 25 per 100,000, more than six times the 1990 rate of 4 per 100,000. About 50 percent of the population in the province of Basra are susceptible to cancer. Birth defects have increased by ten-fold. Thousands of Iraqi children are suffering from LLR-related diseases such as congenital heart diseases, chromosomal aberrations, and multiple malformations.
In a just and civilised world, the same principles that led to the indictment of Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese Arab President for alleged war crimes in Sudan’s region of Darfur, should be used against George Bush, his war cabinet (Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and others) and Tony Blair for orchestrating a campaign of illegal war of aggression, murder, ethnic cleansing, torture, and rape in Iraq. There is ample evidence that the illegal aggression against Iraq constituted a supreme international war crime that has been condemned by the majority of civilised and law-abiding nations and peoples.
Will the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issue arrest warrants for Bush, his criminal gang, and Tony Blair? Or is it just the usual sickening Western hypocrisy and double standards in international law and justice? Why haven’t they been indicted for the slaughter of Iraqi civilians? Or why haven’t Israeli war criminals been indicted for the massacre of Palestinian children? “No nation should ignore its duty to bring war criminals to justice or otherwise shield its own leaders or soldiers from charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes”. The Obama Administration has a duty to bring war criminals to justice.
The idea that the U.S. and its allies are in Iraq (and in Afghanistan) for the sake of introducing “democracy” is a farce. The U.S. is the enemy of democracy. The 2005 Iraqi general elections under U.S. Occupation were deeply flawed and rigged. In February 2009 local elections, only half of Iraq’s 14 million registered voters went to the polls, and tens of thousands of internally displaced Iraqis were unable to vote. What if the Iraqi people decided to elect an anti-Occupation candidate? Are they going to endure the same blockade and terror as the Palestinians in Gaza are enduring? Only the end of the Occupation will guarantee Iraq’s sovereignty and independence.
The U.S. ruling class, as Michael Parenti explained, “Democracy becomes a problem … not when it fails to work but when it works too well; helping the populace move toward a more equitable and liveable social order, narrowing the gap, however modestly, between the superrich and the rest of us. So democracy must be diluted and subverted, smothered with disinformation, media puffery, and mountains of campaign costs; with rigged electoral contests and partially disfranchised publics, bringing faux victories to more or less politically safe major-party candidates”. That is exactly what is happening in Iraq right now. In the 2006 elections, U.S. forces interfered overtly in favour of its “strongman” and loyal stooge, Nuri al-Maliki as Prime Minister.
By backsliding on ending the Occupation of Iraq and other crimes committed by the Bush administration, Obama not only betrayed millions who voted for him, but he also shows that U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East is not determined by the White House. It is determined by a collection of politically and financially powerful anti-Arab/anti-Muslim Zionists, including the pro-Israel Jewish lobby, religious extremists, hardcore Neocon fascists, and corporate conmen. The fact that there is no difference between the Democrat and the Republican and that their policies are mirror images of each other is a case in point. In short, U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East is “institutionalised” and does not change regardless of who is President.
Obama, the President, proved to be an opportunist capable of betraying millions of people who voted against violent imperialism. Obama’s manufactured troop withdrawal is simply a cover-up for ongoing U.S. colonial Occupation of Iraq and crimes against the Iraqi people.
Obama failed to restore the Iraqi people’s hope for peace and prosperity. The only way to guarantee peace and restore Iraq’s sovereignty and national independence is the immediate and full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
Ghali Hassan (Ph.D.) was born in Iraq and was educated in Iraq, Europe and Australia. He is a research scholar, specialising in the areas of science education and educational psychology. His interest in world affairs is the result of careful observation of U.S.-Western policies � naked aggression, double standards, classic hypocrisy � and their detrimental impacts on the lives of ordinary people. His articles have appeared on the Internet, in newspapers and periodicals around the world, including the Arab World, Australia and New Zealand. While considering himself a nomad, Ghali lives in the Blue Mountains (near Sydney), Australia.