Not fast enough, but I'll give President Obama credit where it's due for the drawdown in Iraq. Still, it's a tragedy when even Obama, during a major speech on US policy in Iraq, won't apologize for the criminal destruction of that country by the United States. Instead, as the White House transcript of Obama's remarks reveals, he spoke only of the US troops that "have borne the burdens of war"—not once mentioning the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died because of President Bush's wanton and misguided war of aggression.
Obama also spoke of "terrorists [who] try to derail Iraq's progress," but he failed to mention that the vast majority of dead and wounded Iraqis suffered not because of terrorists but because of the unbridled violence by the United States that collapsed Iraq's entire political, social and economic infrastructure, destroyed its state, and unleashed sectarian and ethnic tensions in a Hobbesian struggle for power since 2003.
The closest Obama came to a critique of war in Iraq was pure pablum: "Our nation has had vigorous debates about the Iraq War," he said. "There are patriots who supported going to war, and patriots who opposed it."
Patriots who supported going to war? Does he mean the deluded fools, the nonproliferation freaks and human rights extremists who joined Bush's crusade? Does he mean the Zionist lobby tools who believed that eliminating Saddam Hussein was a useful step in protecting Israel? Does he mean the oil companies who couldn't wait to get their clutches on Iraq's vast pools of oil? Does he mean the defense contractors who relished the idea of making vast profits supporting the war? Or the right-wing ideologues who felt it necessary to slam Americas's fist down in the Middle East to show the world who's boss? Maybe these are "patriots" in Obama's book, but not in mine.
Those who supported the war in Iraq, whether they were bloodthirsty neocons in Dick Cheney's camp, useful idiots such as Peter Beinart of The New Republic, or iconoclastic weirdos such as Christopher Hitchens, weren't patriots. They were regime change addicts, imperialists, and worse.
"When invasion gave way to insurgency, our troops persevered, block by block, city by city, from Baghdad to Fallujah," said Obama. Yes, slaughtering Iraqis by the thousands, in a war launched on false pretenses, built on a search for WMD that didn't exist, in a country that had never attacked the United States, and whose authoritarian leader had nothing to do with either 9/11 or terrorism.
The White House points out that when Obama took office, there were 140,000 troops in Iraq, and that by the end of August there will be 50,000. And it adds: "Consistent with our agreements with the Iraqi government, all US troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011." Maybe—or maybe not. But in their wake, they're leaving behind a shattered nation, filled with hundreds of thousands of fresh graves, and millions of psychologically destroyed families and children who will grow up disturbed, depressed, and traumatized. Not one word of this made it into Obama's sanctimonious speech! Instead, Obama focused on the wounds, physical and mental, of American soldiers: "We're directing unprecedented resources to treating the signature wounds of today's wars—traumatic brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.… And as so many of you know, PTSD is a pain like no other," he said. Any for the Iraqis, a population of 25 million far more likely to suffer brain injuries and PTSD? It's their problem now.
The reality of Iraq today is that its broken economy and bitterly divided politics isn't going to heal soon. Since Iraq's March 7 election, nearly five months ago, the polarized political parties haven't budged an inch toward creating a government. Iraq's neighbors, especially Iran, are lining up to bolster their influence at the expense of the others. There are no services: no health care, no electricity, no trash collection. According to the CIA, Iraq is ranked 160th on the world scale for poverty and underdevelopment, even though Iraq in the 1970s—under Saddam—was a surging regional power nearing economic takeoff, in which women had vast opportunities, young Iraqis were flocking to universities, and more.
But Obama says: "This summer, tens of thousands of our troops in Iraq are coming home. Last week, Vice President Biden was at Fort Drum to help welcome back members of the legendary 10th Mountain Division. Families are being reunited at bases across the country, from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to Fort Riley in Kansas to Fort Lewis in Washington. And in this season of homecomings, every American can show their gratitude to our patriots who served in Iraq."
Legendary, yes. That would be the 10th Mountain Division that unleashed hell in Iraq, for no good reason.