Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Netroots: Reformers or bit-players in a shabby drama?

Salah Obeidi, a spokesman for the Sadr trend, said the successive name-changes for coming bilateral security agreement are the result of US pressure.
It was downgraded from a "treaty" to an "agreement" because an "agreement" wouldn't be subject to the American Congress, and then when the American negotiator saw a problem with the (Iraqi) parliament, it was changed to a "memorandum of understanding" so that the matter wouldn't require the agreement of the Iraqi parliament.
And another Sadrist spokesman, Nasar al-Rubaie, warned in a press conference following a session of parliament that the proposed agreement will not end the occupation, only change its form:
[Obeidi said] the agreement is the termination of a direct occupation into an occupation of a different form, namely that of a "mandate."
He said there are contradictory descriptions of the agreement from the government, adding that if it is going to be considered as a "protocol" then it won't be presented to Parliament. The report of his remarks, and those of Obeidi (on a Sadrist site and Aswat alIraq) don't include further details.

Awni Qalamji, a regular op-ed contributor to AlQuds alArabi and a resistance supporter, writes this morning in greater detail about the misleading nature of these attempts to dress up the Maliki administration as the savior of Iraq.
In a single blow, without prior warning, Maliki has been converted into his opposite. Having been the prime mover in the continuation of the American forces in Iraq, all of a sudden he is demanding their evacuation or a withdrawal schedule...Not only the White House and the Pentagon have had their part in the shabby drama marketing the new-form Maliki the national hero via warnings and threats of removing him from power. The American media have also gotten into the game with all that they possess of art and propaganda and star-creation.
He refers to the recent WaPo/GreenZone report about a Maliki-Bush agreement via teleconference to the effect that had decided to postpone the long-term security issue until after the elections, meanwhile US forces activities were being cut back, converted to advisory, and so on and so forth. Says Qalamji:
All that was left for the newspaper to say was that the awaited Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) had returned in the form of Maliki to do battle with the devil in the form of Bush and fill the earth with equity and justice, as it had been filled before with tyranny and oppression.
There follows a remark that I would like to recommend particularly to the attention of the netroots people. Qalamji writes:
There is no person who finds it difficult to identify the double aim in all of this play-acting: On the one side, it is to convince the Iraqi people of the nationalism of Maliki in the hope that they will accept the treaty once he signs it in the future; and on the other side, it is to convince the American people of Bush's seriousness respecting withdrawal, in order to prevent Obama from using this [issue of withdrawal against his opponent McCain].
I don't think he has the American politics quite right: the Spiegel incident showed Washington intent on toning down Maliki's position back to the stand-pat or "conditions-based" position of Bush, nothing really to do with Bush. But that isn't the point. The point is that there are two audiences for this shabby drama, and the main audience, the Iraqis, are supposed to take from this that Maliki is potentially a national hero for standing up to Bush (while for the secondary audience, the Americans, they are trying to tone this down for them as much as possible).

So when Kevin Drum that that "this is nuts" [referring to the Spiegel remarks, the "walk-back", now the walk-back of the walk-back], and Juan says yesterday that Dabbagh is probably a plant working against Maliki, but today Dabbagh is rehabilitated and generally cited as proving that in fact Maliki likes the Obama plan--all this shows is that people are missing the point.

Yo netroots: Naturally you want Obama to win the US presidential election, as every sensible person does, and so there is a focus on any point that is in his favor. The Spiegel interview remarks were that, and so were the Dabbagh remarks yesterday (to the effect that yes, in fact, Maliki does like the Obama plan). Which is fine as far as it goes. But here's the problem: In the course of establishing and buttressing a pro-Obama point in the election campaign (a good thing in itself), you have done so in a way that very seriously distorts what is actually happening in Iraq, namely the marketing of Maliki as an Iraqi nationalist, something he is not. It isn't just that this helps give the American people a distorted picture of what is happening in Iraq in theory, more particularly it means that the American people are being softened up to accept the conversion of one form of occupation into another more indirect occupation, on the basis that in any event this is a process that is being controlled by a bona fide Iraqi nationalist leader, a ludicrous idea you are helping to legitimize.

You don't have to accept everything that is said on this score by the Sadrists or the supporters of the resistance (which you don't seem to read anyway, even when I try to help make it accessible). All you have to do is remember the mega-bases under construction in the country, and what is meant by the "withdrawal of combat troops."


Blogger Cugel said...

Why Iraq Is Still Vietnam!

Actually, Badger you're right that the Netroots isn't focusing on the real problem, which is the long-term occupation. This is because of a continuing confusion between "withdrawal" which only applies to U.S. combat forces, and what the Iraqis and American people want: which is pulling the plug on the American occupation of Iraq and bringing EVERYBODY home, leaving it up to the Iraqis to manage their problems without U.S. interference.

The Netroots are obscuring that fatal difference, because what else can they do? Sit on their hands and let McCain be elected?

But, real withdrawal is totally opposed by the ENTIRE elite consensus. It's exactly like the 60's elite consensus that whatever we do, "of course, we can't just abandon Vietnam to Communism" -- impervious to reason or public opinion.

Really, the prime difference between Obama's positions and McCain's is that McCain is stuck calling OPENLY for a long-term occupation, with U.S. combat forces, and Obama is placing the prime emphasis on "Iraqization."

Obama has the advantage because his position sounds closer to what the American people want, and it will reduce U.S. casualties to pull combat forces out and rely on the Iraqi army backed by U.S. airpower -- the same strategy that failed in Vietnam.

I still think of this in terms of Lyndon Johnson's plan versus Nixon's.

McCain is trying to re-fight the war in Vietnam, which he insanely believes was "lost" because the "dirty-hippies" back home "undermined our troops," just as they were on the verge of victory.

This is the FULL blown Hitlerian "Dolchstoßlegende" Stab-in-the-back-legend.

So, obviously the right thing to do in Iraq is not make the same "mistake" of withdrawal. Stay the course until "victory" and then we can peacefully occupy Iraq for the next 100 years.

At least he's consistent. A blatant imperialist war-monger, but if he can get away with keeping 150,000 U.S. combat troops in Iraq for another 4 or 8 years "because we can't just leave" then we can probably hold onto Iraq for that long. Bloody, futile, ruinously expensive, but possible, at least in the short-term.

Obama on the other hand has a not-so-secret "plan to end the war in Iraq" and bring "peace with honor." He just won't use that term. Just like Nixon he'll rely on Vietnamization, Iraq style.

Combat troops withdraw. Hundreds of thousands of American "advisers" of all stripes and CIA agents, private security guards, U.S. corporations and perhaps a total of 500,000 Americans -- will stay. Permanently.

I suppose all U.S. bases in Iraq will be turned over to the Iraqi government in highly publicized ceremonies, and then leased back to the U.S. on long-term leases.

Even this much will "depend on how things go on the ground" i.e. how quietly Iraqis take the domination by America of their country and giving their oil to U.S. oil giants.

Obviously that isn't going to end well.

Extra-territoriality and Iraqi control over what U.S. military operations inside Iraq will be a problem, but some suitable fig-leaf can be arranged.

It's worth reviewing the highlights of Nixon's Vietnamization policy to see how much of it will be repeated in Iraq under Obama (but this time "we'll get it right" of course):

The goal of the American military effort was to buy time, gradually building up the strength of the South Vietnamese armed forces, and re-equipping it with modern weapons so that they could defend their nation on their own.


"Soon after Tet, General Westmoreland was promoted to Army Chief of Staff and he was replaced by his deputy, General Creighton W. Abrams. Because of the change in American strategy posed by Vietnamization, Abrams pursued a very different approach. The U.S. was gradually withdrawing from the conflict, and Abrams favored smaller-scale operations aimed at PAVN/NLF logistics, more openness with the media, less indiscriminate use of American firepower, elimination of the body count as the key indicator of battlefield success, and more meaningful cooperation with South Vietnamese forces.

Check! Obama isn't President yet, and he hasn't yet announced who he would tap to head up Central Command, but it's pretty clear that Petraeus probably isn't going to stay. He'll be "kicked upstairs" like Westy and the job will be given to someone else.

We'll also likely see other aspects of the failed Vietnamization policy as well, including greater emphasis on training and equipping the Iraqi army, closer diplomatic negotiations with Iran and other regional players, an increase in U.S. aid and "advisory teams," etc.

In short, we're likely to see all the same crap that didn't work in Vietnam, because a development package grafted on top of foreign domination just won't work. By cooperating with us under occupation, any Iraqi government will totally lose legitimacy.

And the opposition will build and escalate, which means President Obama will likely have lots of those long meetings with advisers like Johnson where they're telling him things are going to hell on the ground and interfering with his "withdrawal schedule."

10:17 AM  
Blogger rmwarnick said...

I hope most of the netroots folks understand what is meant by withdrawal of American combat forces. The Iraqi (Green Zone) military has essentially no logistical component and not much combat support (e.g. artillery)-- they are relying on the U.S. military.

This could have come about by design, as part of the Bush plan for permanent occupation, or could be just a result of the effort to "stand up" Iraqi combat units without simultaneously taking on the much more complex task of putting together supporting units.

So, yeah, the bases will be there and lots of Americans will be in them after the withdrawal of combat forces is complete.

Iraqis may or may not regard this as a continuation of the occupation. I think it will be good news if our soldiers are not directly involved in kicking down doors, arresting and killing Iraqis.

It would be better if we didn't stay to provide logistical, air and artillery support to Maliki's army, but that's inevitable unless President Obama surprises us with Bush-level audacity never before seen in a Democrat.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Shirin said...

"Iraqis may or may not regard this as a continuation of the occupation."

Of COURSE Iraqis will regard it as a continuation of the occupation because that is precisely what it will be.

One of the core reasons for the invasion was to establish a permanent major military presence in Iraq. Democrats are every bit as driven by a lust for empire and world dominance as are Republicans. Of course Obama will not give that up.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Badger about that trojan horse from below There's 3 in a row on Nahrainnet worth reading as a set the one I was talking about is from the 19th:

الدباغ يدافع عن فكرة رفض جدولة الانسحاب ..!! و"الافق الزمني " حصان طروادة يضمن بقاء غير محدود بزمن للقوات الامريكية في العراق

This one also from the 19th:

بيان غامض ومبهم يصدره البيت الابيض عن الوجود العسكري الامريكي في العراق في اتصال بين بوش والمالكي

and this one from the 18th:

الخبير السياسي ازهر الخفاجي : تزايد الرفض الشعبي والمرجعي للاتفاقية الامنية دفع واشنطن للمناورة

Lot of meat there I thought.

Hope this helps.


12:33 PM  
Blogger badger said...

thank you thank you --Badger

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, again, the same one as recently.
No argument with the post, but just to add...
The Dayton Plan is "back"


1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, yeah, the bases will be there and lots of Americans will be in them after the withdrawal of combat forces is complete.

An impossible situation. If US bases are there, they will have to be defended. Ergo combat troops will be there. As no (non-Kurdish) Iraqi wants US troops in the country, it will be an occupation by force. So they will still be "kicking down doors, arresting and killing Iraqis"

Simply Obama's idea is unrealistic, head in the clouds stuff. The question is, if he is elected, which way will he resolve this unrealism. Continued imperial occupation? (which the US can't afford financially.) Or a Hadrianic withdrawal from Trajan's conquest of Mesopotamia?

3:17 AM  
Blogger Eric Martin said...

Badger: You are right. This is a delicated tight rope to walk, and there is a risk that the current spin on Maliki is done to bolster his nationalist credibility despite his true intentions.

Though I would also say that, ultimately, even Maliki might want us out completely (or be forced to choose that option by popular opinion, Sadrist pressure and the influence of religious figures like Sistani). So even if he is not a nationalist in spirit, he may be forced to act like one in practice. Despite questions of timing.

And by making these statements, he's at least signalling that he prefers Obama and is not completely beholden to Bush.

Democrats are every bit as driven by a lust for empire and world dominance as are Republicans.

This might be true in a general sense, but it is also false in a general sense if you would pardon the apparent contradiction.

There are many Democrats (voters, pundits and politicians) that want out of Iraq altogether, that have no lust for empire, that believe that invading Iraq was an enormous mistake and that continuing the occupation will only compound that tragedy. These Democrats do not seek world dominance.

The problems are: some Democrats are guilty as charged, and when you combine those "bad" Dems with the Republicans (almost entirely espousing these ideas), it's a big powerful bloc that is hard to overcome.

The questions are: Which kind of Democrat is Obama? and Will he have the range of motion to act even if he is the better kind?

As alex accurately put it:

Simply Obama's idea is unrealistic, head in the clouds stuff. The question is, if he is elected, which way will he resolve this unrealism. Continued imperial occupation? (which the US can't afford financially.) Or a Hadrianic withdrawal from Trajan's conquest of Mesopotamia?

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree w/eric's assessment of dems. i agree democratic politicians hand are in blood remeber this is a 2 party system, therefore the dems are made up of many many people choosing from the 'worst of 2 evil'. so i don't think it is true that the majority of people the party represents are 'every bit as driven'.

since one can't believe anything one hears during the election process i think the cards are still out on obama. however, my fear is if he ever stepped off the acceptable path of the US?IS ptb, he would be assassinated.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Jesus Reyes said...

You draw your most fire when you attack the net roots crowd. I think that is a better draw for you than going after Juan Cole or Marc Lynch and in many ways its much more fun

3:59 PM  
Blogger Shirin said...


I agree with you strongly. And by the way, Obama cannot possibly really intend to withdraw all combat troops because the specific "missions" he has described for his "residual forces" clearly include combat missions. So, unless he plans to use cooks and mechanics in combat roles, he will have to keep a significant combat force in Iraq for the foreseeable future for those combat missions he has planned. Therefore, it seems he is playing some kind of game with the voters - just like a typical politician.

I believe he intends to continue the imperial occupation by reconfiguring it with a lower profile, which might be more tolerable to the American people, but not to Iraqis.

We will know the occupation has truly ended only when the Americans abandon the imperial citadel that Bush built in Baghdad and decide to have a real embassy in its stead.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Shirin said...

"i don't think it is true that the majority of people the party represents are 'every bit as driven'."

I was not talking about the people the party supposedly represents, I was talking about the politicians. For what it is worth, I don't think most people the Republican party "represents" are driven by a lust for empire or world domination either. I think what most American people care about is a great deal closer to home than that.

To see clearly that most Democrat politicians are just as driven by a lust for world domination and empire as Republicans are all you need to do is look at their records. Even the saintly Jimmy Carter was not immune from these things, and as for Bill Clinton - my god, he spent eight years preparing Iraq for the coup de grace that Bush delivered. And Clinton left no question that his Iraq policy was about regime change, not Saddam's weapons. Regime change by collective punishment of the population - a crime against humanity if ever there was one.

They are all criminals. The only thing that is truly different about the Bush regime is that they are so brazen about it.

12:09 AM  
Blogger rmwarnick said...

A lot of astute comments here. It could turn out that the U.S. bases will be untenable without major combat units in theater. Certainly, they will be more vulnerable to mortars and rockets without maneuver forces to deal with insurgents.

The British found out after World War II that their Iraq bases were a strategic liability, because troops had to be drawn from more important parts of the Empire to defend them.

I'm guessing that U.S. policy is pegged to a viable Iraqi Army-- we'll support them and they guard us, and prop up Maliki's Green Zone government too. Might work, might not!

2:17 PM  
Blogger Shirin said...

"I'm guessing that U.S. policy is pegged to a viable Iraqi Army-- we'll support them and they guard us, and prop up Maliki's Green Zone government too. Might work, might not!"

Not a chance in hell! Iraqis are not going to be loyal to their country's occupier and its Iraqi face in the Green Zone. Not in a million years.

10:29 PM  
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5:47 AM  

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