Iraq & the Non-Withdrawal Withdrawal By Norman Solomon

Dandelion Salad

By Norman Solomon
July 27, 2007

Editor’s Note: Despite growing public calls for a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, the insider community of Washington is contemplating a long-term occupation, possibly by curtailing ground combat missions to minimize American casualties.

The thinking is that many Americans will accept an imperial U.S. role in the Middle East as long as the costs in U.S. dollars and U.S. dead are reduced. In this guest essay, media analyst Norman Solomon examines the subtle promotion of this goal by the American press:

Last week, a media advisory from “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” announced a new series of interviews on the PBS show that will address “what Iraq might look like when the U.S. military leaves.”

A few days later, Time magazine published a cover story titled “Iraq: What will happen when we leave.”

But it turns out, what will happen when we leave is that we won’t leave.

Urging a course of action that’s now supported by “the best strategic minds in both parties,” the Time story calls for “an orderly withdrawal of about half the 160,000 troops currently in Iraq by the middle of 2008.” And: “A force of 50,000 to 100,000 troops would dig in for a longer stay to protect America’s most vital interests…”

On Iraq policy, in Washington, the differences between Republicans and Democrats — and between the media’s war boosters and opponents — are often significant. Yet they’re apt to mask the emergence of a general formula that could gain wide support from the political and media establishment.

The formula’s details and timelines are up for grabs. But there’s not a single “major” candidate for president willing to call for withdrawal of all U.S. forces — not just “combat” troops — from Iraq, or willing to call for a complete halt to U.S. bombing of that country.

Those candidates know that powerful elites in this country just don’t want to give up the leverage of an ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq, with its enormous reserves of oil and geopolitical value. It’s a good bet that American media and political powerhouses would fix the wagon of any presidential campaign that truly advocated an end to the U.S. war in — and on — Iraq.

The disconnect between public opinion and elite opinion has led to reverse perceptions of a crisis of democracy. As war continues, some are appalled at the absence of democracy while others are frightened by the potential of it. From the grassroots, the scarcity of democracy is transparent and outrageous. For elites, unleashed democracy could jeopardize the priorities of the military-industrial-media complex.

Converging powerful forces in Washington — eager to at least superficially bridge the gap between grassroots and elite priorities — are likely to come up with a game plan for withdrawing from Iraq without withdrawing from Iraq.

Scratch the surface of current media scenarios for a U.S. pullout from Iraq, and you’re left with little more than speculation — fueled by giant dollops of political manipulation. In fact, strategic leaks and un-attributed claims about U.S. plans for withdrawal have emerged periodically to release some steam from domestic antiwar pressures.

Nearly three years ago — with discontent over the war threatening to undermine President Bush’s prospects for a second term — the White House ally Robert Novak floated a rosy scenario in his nationally syndicated column that appeared on Sept. 20, 2004.

“Inside the Bush administration policy-making apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year,” he wrote. “This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go.”

Novak’s column went on to tell readers: “Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush’s decision will be to get out.”

Those well-placed sources were, of course, unnamed. And for good measure, Novak followed up a month before the November 2004 election with a piece
that recycled the gist of his Sept. 20 column and chortled: “Nobody from the administration has officially rejected my column.”

This is all relevant history today as news media are spinning out umpteen scenarios for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. The game involves dangling illusionary references to “withdrawal” in front of the public.

But realities on the ground — and in the air — are quite different. A recent news dispatch from an air base in Iraq, by Charles J. Hanley of the Associated Press, provided a rare look at the high-tech escalation underway.

Continued…

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