By Tom Engelhardt
July 22, 2007
Start with the simplest, most basic fudge. Newspapers and the TV news constantly report on various plans for the “withdrawal of American troops” from Iraq, when what’s being proposed is the withdrawal of American “combat troops” or “combat brigades.” This isn’t a matter of splitting hairs; it’s the difference between a plan for full-scale withdrawal and a plan to remain in Iraq in a different military form for the long term. American combat brigades only add up to perhaps half of the troops we presently have in that country.
There is, in fact, quite a gap between withdrawal from that embattled land and the withdrawal of some American troops, while many of the rest hunker down on the enormous, all-but-permanent military bases the Pentagon has built there over the last four years — while defending the largest embassy on the planet, now nearing completion (amid the normal woes that seem to go with American construction and “reconstruction”) in Baghdad’s heavily fortified but distinctly insecure Green Zone. And yet, thanks to the carefully worded statements of leading Democratic (and Republican) politicians now criticizing the Bush administration, as well as generally terrible reporting in the mainstream media, most Americans who don’t make it to the fine print or who don’t wander widely on the political Internet, would have no way of knowing that withdrawal isn’t withdrawal at all.
Ira Chernus, Tomdispatch regular and author of Monsters To Destroy, takes a careful look at the leading Democratic candidates for president and raises a few crucial, if largely unasked, questions about the nature of the positions they are taking on the Iraq War. Tom
The Democrats’ Iraqi Dilemma
Questions Unasked, Answers Never Volunteered
By Ira Chernus
Pity the poor Democratic candidates for president, caught between Iraq and a hard place. Every day, more and more voters decide that we must end the war and set a date to start withdrawing our troops from Iraq. Most who will vote in the Democratic primaries concluded long ago that we must leave Iraq, and they are unlikely to let anyone who disagrees with them have the party’s nomination in 2008.
But what does it mean to “leave Iraq”? Here’s where most of the Democratic candidates come smack up against that hard place. There is a longstanding bipartisan consensus in the foreign-policy establishment that the U.S. must control every strategically valuable region of the world — and none more so than the oil heartlands of the planet. That’s been a hard-and-fast rule of the elite for some six decades now. No matter how hard the task may be, they demand that presidents be rock-hard enough to get the job done.
So whatever “leave Iraq” might mean, no candidate of either party likely to enter the White House on January 20, 2009 can think it means letting Iraqis determine their own national policies or fate. The powers that be just wouldn’t stand for that. They see themselves as the guardians of world “order.” They feel a sacred obligation to maintain “stability” throughout the imperial domains, which now means most of planet Earth — regardless of what voters may think. The Democratic front-runners know that “order” and “stability” are code words for American hegemony. They also know that voters, especially Democratic ones, see the price of hegemony in Iraq and just don’t want to pay it anymore.
So the Democratic front-runners must promise voters that they will end the war — with not too many ideologically laden ifs, ands, or buts — while they assure the foreign-policy establishment that they will never abandon the drive for hegemony in the Middle East (or anywhere else). In other words, the candidates have to be able to talk out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.
No worries, it turns out. Fluency in doublespeak is a prime qualification for high political office. On Iraq, candidates Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson don’t meet that test. They tell anyone and everyone that they want “all” U.S. troops out of Iraq, but they register only 1-4% in the polls and are generally ignored in the media. The Democrats currently topping the polls, on the other hand, are proving themselves eminently qualified in doublespeak.
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