Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Jeremy Scahill on DN: Despite Celebrated Speech, Has Obama Really Ordered an End to US Occupation of Iraq?


JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, see, one of the issues I have here is, going back to this issue of what if the wrong people win an election, the Iraqi people have a right to choose leaders that are hostile to the United States, that are hostile to US corporate aims in the Middle East, more broadly, and in Iraq, specifically. And I think that US history has shown that when the wrong people win elections, the US will intervene militarily, overtly, covertly, behind-the-scenes, in front of the world public. And I think that the fact that Thomas Ricks, one of the most well-informed journalists covering this war, has indicated that it’s very likely that a leader will emerge in Iraq that is hostile to US interests, that is close to Tehran and is not going to be someone that’s perceived by the United States to be a friend—so the fact is that the Maliki government could be substantially weakened by indigenous forces within Iraq, and the Obama administration could step in and say, “We’re going to defend this flailing regime.”

What I found very disturbing about Obama’s speech, among other things, was the fact that he officially co-signed Bush’s major lies on Iraq. When he talked about the mission of US troops in Iraq, he said, “I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime, and you got the job done.” I’m sorry, Mr. Obama, the troops were sent to Iraq on the lie of weapons of mass destruction. And he co-signed that Bush administration lie.

He also said, “We will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life. That is your achievement,” he said to the US troops. “That is the prospect that you have made possible.” Again, no, not a better life. We’re talking about upwards of a million Iraqis that have been killed, their lives decimated, 20 percent of the country either in need of desperate medical attention, internally displaced, another 20 percent living outside of the country. And this has been an utter mess. And he talks about a better future. Iraq has never been in more shambles than it has been over the course of the US military occupation. *

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, I wanted to ask about the response of the Democratic leaders to President Obama’s speech, like Nancy Pelosi, like Harry Reid.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. Well, first of all, yeah, you look at Obama’s top allies, it’s people like John McCain, it’s people like Mitch McConnell, who praised Obama for implementing the Bush administration’s Iraq strategy at the end. And, I mean, some of this is partisan politics. And, please, the Republicans have no credibility on this. I mean, if we can be critical of Barack Obama, I mean, the Republicans are just merciless criminals when it comes to, you know, US policy in Iraq and toward the world, more broadly.

But the fact that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer all acted like astonished that there’s going to be 35,000 to 50,000 troops in a residual capacity in Iraq and were criticizing this, I mean, this is a classic example of what’s wrong with the Democratic Party when it comes to foreign policy and what’s been wrong with this party for a long time. And that is that when it actually mattered, when Pelosi or Reid could have said to candidate Obama, “Back off that residual force,” as many activists were calling for, they were deafeningly silent. We were at the Democratic convention, Amy, walking around, trying to find anyone to criticize that aspect of the Obama policy, and not even antiwar Democrats, who were firmly against the war from the beginning, would dissent from the policy positions of the dear leader. This is cult activity, when you refuse to go after someone to try to criticize their policies when it matters and then later act like you’ve been hoodwinked. They knew exactly what was going on.

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