by Eric Margolis
Barack Obama won the votes of many Americans by promising to swiftly end the Iraq War and bring U.S. troops home. He denounced George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq as a "violation of international law."
So will U.S. troops leave Iraq? Will those responsible for this trumped-up war face justice?
No, on both counts.
President Obama says U.S. combat troops will leave Iraq by August 2010. However, the U.S. military occupation will not end. What we are seeing is a public relations shell game.
The U.S. has 142,000 soldiers and nearly 100,000 mercenaries occupying Iraq. Obama's plan calls for withdrawing the larger portion of the U.S. garrison but leaving 50,000-60,000 troops in Iraq.
To get around his promise to withdraw all "combat" troops, the president and his advisers are rebranding the stay-behind garrison as "training troops, protection for American interests, and counterterrorism forces."
At a time when the U.S. is bankrupt and faces a $1.75 trillion deficit, the Pentagon's gargantuan $664 billion budget (50% of total global military spending) will grow in 2009 and 2010 by another $200 billion to pay for the occupation of Iraq and Obama's expanded war in Afghanistan. Throw in another $40 billion to $50 billion for the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Obama insists the U.S. will withdraw from Iraq. But his words are belied by the Pentagon, which continues to expand bases in Iraq, including Balad and Al-Asad, with 4,400-metre runways for heavy bombers and transports.
They are key links in the U.S. Air Force's new air bridge that extends from Germany to Bulgaria and Romania, Iraq and the Gulf, then onward to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Besides Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone and U.S. embassy (the world's largest), the Pentagon reportedly wants to retain 58 permanent bases in Iraq (by comparison, there are 36 in South Korea), total control of its air space and immunity from Iraqi law for all U.S. troops.
The U.S. also will retain major bases in neighbouring Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Diego Garcia. U.S. oil companies are moving in to exploit Iraq's vast energy reserves, the Mideast's second largest after Saudi Arabia.
U.S. troop levels will remain high during Iraq's December elections to ensure "security," according to the Pentagon. In other words, ensuring the U.S.-selected regime "wins" the vote. Iraqi parties, notably Baath, opposing the U.S. occupation, are banned from running. Many Iraqis believe the U.S. will never leave their nation.
In short, contrary to all Obama's high-blown rhetoric about pulling out of Iraq, Washington clearly intends it will remain a U.S. military, political and economic protectorate. Washington is following exactly the same control model the British Empire used to rule Iraq, and exploit its oil: Install a figurehead ruler, keep him in power using a "native" army (read today's Iraqis army and police). RAF units based in Iraq (read U.S. air bases) bomb any rebellious areas. Smaller British ground units based in non-urban areas are on call to put down attempted coups against the king. The U.S. plan for Iraq is identical.
Obama made clear that officials responsible for the Iraq war, torture, kidnapping or assassination will not be prosecuted. The theft of over $50 billion in U.S. "reconstruction" funds sent to Iraq is being hushed up.
By contrast, Britons are demanding release of cabinet documents leading to war that are likely to expose Tony Blair's lies and illegalities.
There is no corresponding call for justice in the United States. Obama tells the public, let bygones be bygones. Unless, of course, it's Osama bin Laden.
Between 600,000 and one million Iraqis died as a result of President George W. Bush's aggression, which cost nearly $1 trillion and some 4,500 U.S. dead. Four million Iraqis remain refugees. The U.S. holds over 20,000 Iraqi political prisoners.
Mr. President, this is not a bygone. It's a historic crime that demands justice. Keep your word about withdrawing from Iraq. Enough with the Bush doubletalk.
© 2009 Toronto Sun
Eric Margolis is a columnist for The Toronto Sun. A veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World