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Don’t be fooled by “troop withdrawal” agreement; we are still in for the long haul

The Bush/Cheney team on the move(scene from I.O.U.S.A.)

Across the country today corporate media headlines screamed the news that “an agreement has been reached” that would pull troops out of Iraq’s major cities ten months from now, in June, 2009. Read the fine print. Scrutinize between the lines. If you think all our troops are destined to come home, think again.

Yes, the United States and Iraq have “tentatively” reached an agreement that would see American troops vacated Iraq’s major cities, but that leaves a lot of ground out of the pact. That’s when the terms “broader withdrawal” and the words “tentative” and “but” come into play.

Iraqi leaders have yet to put a final stamp of approval on the deal, and as for that 2011 withdrawal date, it’s “contigent” on the implementation of additional security and on the “political progress” achieved in Iraq. So, folks, don’t hold your breath. The door is still ajar and our soldiers will still be rotating in and out of Iraq.

This agreement only touches one stressor on our military forces; we cannot forget that the door is still wide open and growing in Afghanistan, which has increasingly been a bubbling hotbed for insurgencies and terrorism.

Subject to final approval by the top Iraqi leadership, the exit date for U.S. troops would be December 2011, although American negotiators (Bush and company) insist on linking that target to additional security and political progress.

Timing is everything. The possibility of removing our troops from the Middle East is the new American Dream, fueled (1) by the insane billions of dollars we are now, as a country, indebted for, and (2) by the unconscionable number of lives lost for a war built on politically expedient lies. The longer the war drags on, the lower President Bush’s rating dip, with the end result that he’s now being called “the worst president ever.”

Timing is everything. What better way to boost the image of the Republic Party than a pre-presidential election resolution that appears to deliver a much-wanted objective without having to guarantee that the objective is met. The Republicans can “Rah Rah Rah” this issue through their upcoming convention as “mission completed” and make their party look like it has done the job after all.

It’s been done before.

In September, 2007, President Bush in a speech heard ’round the world’, attempted to support a gradual troop withdrawal:

“The principle guiding my decisions on troop levels in Iraq is ‘return on success’ — the more successful we are, the more American troops can return home.” (In other words, there is no, as the NY Sun explained, “no dramatic change in course.” –9.14.07

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, responded to that day’s speech with “The President failed to provide either a plan to successfully end the war or a convincing rationale to continue it.”

The NY Times immediately posted an No Exit, No Strategy editorial that said:

“Mr. Bush’s claims last night about how well the war is going are believable only if you use Pentagon numbers so obviously cooked that they call to mind the way Americans were duped into first supporting this war.”

A post editorial, The Korea Parallel, offers a darker perspective: ,

“In retrospect, Iraq may prove to be another Korea – a seemingly stalemated war in a strategically vital region that dominated a bitterly partisan presidential campaign.”

Newsday offered this editorial comment:

“[In his speech,] Bush will make it clear that, beyond a token troop reduction, he has no intention of deviating from a course of action that has produced minimal results at a heavy cost in lives and treasure – and provides no guarantees of future success.” 9.14.07

Same speech, different year.

Sen. Barack Obama
Sen. John McCain

Democratic Candidate Barack Obama has stated he wants all US forces out of Iraq within 16 months of his taking office (that’s July, 2010). He also says they are more urgently needed in Afghanistan. That means we will still have forces at war, but hopefully not as many.

Republican Candidate John McCain can’t even go that far; he says the timing of any withdrawal from Iraq must be based on “the conditions on the ground” (read: indeterminate) rather than on prearranged timetables. The Webster’s Dictionary defines “indeterminate” as “not able to be determined.” In other words: Who the hell knows?

Bush and company believe that a firm withdrawal date makes US presence more acceptable to the Iraq government and is rooted in the belief that Iraqi forces can stand on their own. It also has the caveat that some US military training forces would still be required even after 2011. Iraq has slated provincial elections in late 2008 and a national election in 2009. The new agreement being bandied about places US contractors under Iraq law while US troops remain subject to US law. Questions of immunity are reportedly the sole sticking point in this agreement.

What makes this deal so urgent?

The United Nations Security Council resolution that is the legal and binding authority for US troops to stay in Iraq ends December 31, 2009. After that, and in the absence of a an agreement for troop withdrawal in place, America’s presence in Iraq becomes illegal. It is why Britain is pulling all of its troops out by the end of the year. It will be interesting to see if Bush and company, if unable to seal the Iraq deal, will defy the UN and keep a highly visible presence in Iraq, in essence thumbing the US nose at the world.

As I read various reports on this “wonderful deal” I try to focus on the subtext, and on the terminology officially used:

  • Aspirational: to aspire to (i.e. we hope that…)
  • Broader withdrawal in 2011: implies that withdrawal will not be “complete”
  • Contigent: it will happen if…
Troops in Iraq

The bottom line is yes, troops will be out of Iraq’s major cities … if conditions are met.

The bottom line is yes, they will out of one place … but moved to another.

The bottom line is yes … but many will be waging war in Afghanistan.

The bottom line is yes, we will remove troops from Iraq by 2011 … but we will still have a military presence there as “advisors.” Yeah, right.

In the meantime, military families can expect still more deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, because the troops there now have to be rotated home for some R&R with families before taking that 2nd, 3rd, 4th or heaven forbid, 5th tour of duty in an unending war zone.

Even with this almost-agreement, US forces will be deployed on the desert sand, waiting to step in “as needed” to assist Iraq military and police.

Some agreement!



  1. I thought Obama had also said as long as the conditions on the ground were stable enough to remove the troops. If you really look at it, Obama is saying the same thing Bush has been saying, he just interjected a timetable which effectively lets the terrorist know when we plan to withdraw. I’ve noticed much from Obama that tends to move towards the middle as the election comes closer.

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