In many ways, the American experience in Iraq has been defined more by the fantasy dreamed up in Washington, D.C., than by the reality on the ground. That fantasy has included the “purple finger revolution,” which came to symbolize Iraq’s first national election of the post-Saddam era (Iraq still lacks a viable, cohesive government); the much-hyped military “surge” of 2006-2007, which had all the real impact of punching air; and the farcical economic “success” of major oil companies bidding on Iraqi oil exploration rights (orchestrated by an Iraqi Oil Ministry lacking both a governmental structure and legal basis for issuing such bids, given the Iraqi Parliament’s inability to pass an oil law. American politicians, aided and abetted by a fawning mainstream media, have fabricated a fiction aimed at a largely ignorant American public that fails to address the real problems in Iraq. It is in this topsy-turvy world created by political hype and media spin that a president can, with a straight face, announce the withdrawal of American “combat troops” from Iraq, while leaving behind six combat brigades (renamed, but not reorganized) comprising some 50,000 troops to fight and die in “noncombat.”
Even more incredible is the notion that this slight-of-hand political maneuvering can accomplish anything that would resolve the issues and problems in Iraq today. In opting to draw down American “combat troops” prior to Iraq resolving its considerable political and economic woes, President Obama has completely flipped the logical, yet flawed, plan that the United States had been acting on for the past seven years, a plan built on three central concepts: economic stability (oil), political stability (democracy) and internal stability (security). Left to its own devices, Iraq would have no choice but to proceed in this manner. The experience of Iraqi Kurdistan, through its autonomous exploitation of its energy resources, demonstrates the critical importance of building a solid economic foundation in order to preserve stability, even at a regional level. The decision to attract big oil to Iraq was driven more by corporate greed than the genuine will of the Iraqi people, as witnessed by the Iraqi Parliament’s continued inability to pass a national oil law. The economic benefits that could be accrued through the exploration and exploitation of Iraq’s oil fields by multinational energy companies are as controversial as they are hypothetical. The current production rate of 2.5 million barrels per day continues to fall short of Iraqi production rates prior to the U.S.-led invasion in April 2003, and optimistic estimates that Iraq will be able to reach a production rate of 12 million barrels per day by 2016, which many analysts scoff at as technically implausible, are unrealistic given the unresolved political and security crises which continue to grip Iraq.
The American occupation of Iraq has produced a subculture of social dependency which is almost colonial in nature. The majority of Iraqis involved in either government or security operations remain entirely dependent on American financial, political and military support. These are the voices that speak the loudest in favor of a continued American presence in Iraq, since any American withdrawal would result in their demise. And yet it is these very voices that have become increasingly marginalized in Iraq. The true centers of political influence lie in the very Shiite and Sunni segments of society the United States has been fighting against these past seven years—Sadr’s followers and the Sunni tribal groups once loyal to Saddam Hussein. The inevitable course of history mandates that these indigenous forces will ultimately prevail over the foreign-imposed artificiality that rules Iraq today. The continued presence of American troops prolongs the inevitable political realignment that must take place for Iraq to have any chance of succeeding as a viable nation state. The presence of American troops also ensures that this transformation will be much more violent than the natural course of events dictate. MORE...
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Scott Ritter: Obama and Iraq---‘Through a Glass, Darkly’