By Arab News
By Linda Heard
Clearly one of the prerequisites to becoming president of the United States is to be a consummate actor. Prior to becoming “leader of the free world,” President Obama was a vociferous critic of the Iraq War. During his campaign for his 2008 presidential bid, he told audiences that he knew the US-led invasion would have “dangerous consequences” and “would not work out well” while promising to bring US troops home within 16 months of his presidency. It took more than three years for his pledge to manifest which, in the end, wasn’t a decision entirely of his own making.
Obama wanted to maintain one or two military bases in country, home to around 20,000 US troops. But his ambition was thwarted by sentiment on Iraq’s streets and the clamor of armed sectarian organizations that propelled Iraq’s government to stand strong in its refusal to extend the occupation — and, more particularly, to allow members of the US military immunity from prosecution.
Today, he is attempting to bolster his re-election chances by covering himself with glory for bringing America’s finest home when, in fact, he has been forced to adhere to a US-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement mandating the exit of US military personnel from Iraq before the end of 2011, signed by President Bush before he left office. Obama’s recent speech to 3,000 soldiers at Fort Bragg evidenced just how disingenuous and self-serving the president has become; either that or he’s suffering from amnesia. He forgot his abhorrence of the war when he told the “men and woman in uniform” that “because of you we are ending these wars in a way that will make America stronger and the world more secure.” He characterized their sacrifices as the price for “the progress of human freedom and dignity.” He referred to his fresh-faced audience as “part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries – from the colonists who overthrew an empire, to your grandparents and parents who faced down fascism and communism, to you –men and women who fought for the same principles in Fallujah and Kandahar and delivered justice to those who attacked us on 9/11.” And in Obama’s alternative universe, the US is “leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq with a representative government that was elected by its people.”
It’s just as well that Obama wasn’t attacked by a truth virus like Jim Carrey’s character was in the movie “Liar, Liar” else his message would have sounded more like this: “You who have sacrificed almost 4,500 in your ranks have been victims of a cruel and senseless war of choice designed by neoconservatives in the Bush administration to illustrate America’s power, consolidate US influence in the Middle East, secure dwindling oil resources and ensure Israel’s longevity.
“This was a war dreamt up long before 9/11. Iraq was one of nine countries on the Bush administration’s wish list destined for invasion. It was sold to the US public and the world on a series of false pretences. Intelligence services shaped intelligence around Bush’s political will. It was well known that Iraq had destroyed its WMD in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War as Saddam’s sons-in-law had spilled the beans to the CIA when they defected to Jordan. Moreover, during the following years, weapons inspectors found nothing of consequence and prior to the invasion, the IAEA was on the point of giving Iraq a clean bill of health.
“Convincing America’s allies and the public of the invasion’s necessity was no easy task which is why there were so many concocted stories, such as Saddam’s attempt to purchase uranium in Niger and his links (nonexistent) with members of Al-Qaeda. Our good friend former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s task was greater than ours when millions of anti-war Britons took to the streets. But he succeeded to pull the wool over his fellow citizens’ eyes with a lurid ‘sexed-up dossier’ falsely claiming that Saddam could target British interests within 45 minutes and another, ‘dodgy dossier’ filched from a student’s thesis on the Internet, typos “n’ all. “My friends, you’ve been fooled.
We didn’t go into Iraq to save the long-suffering Iraqi people from a brutal dictator. Since when as our country been that altruistic; after all, the war has cost over a trillion dollars and rendered the US almost bankrupt. We’ve failed in our true aims on every level. We are hated by most Iraqis with the exception of the Kurds and the war has increased anti-Americanism throughout the Arab world. Moreover, we were the ones who opened the door to terrorists and extremists. Our reputation has been scarred by the inhuman abuses at Abu Ghraib broadcast around the world which for all the Pentagon’s propaganda could not be excused as the work of a few bad apples. “The eight-year-long invasion has sadly achieved nothing except death and destruction on a mass scale. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed or maimed – although we never bothered to do a count. Untold numbers have been displaced while many of the brightest and best have fled abroad. Worst of all, our misadventure has resulted in sectarian divisions that did not exist under Saddam when Shiites and Sunnis often inter-married and socialized together.
“The truth is that we are living Iraq in the hands of a pro-Iranian government. Political problems are already fomenting with the Sunni-backed bloc boycotting Parliament. We may call Iraq a democracy of our making but as long as there is a Shiite majority population the Sunnis will lose out. We are leaving behind a nation still traumatized by violence and under the cloud of a major dispute between Arabs and Kurds as to the ownership of the oil-rich city Kirkuk.
“In the end, we got nothing. No bases, no oil, no consolidation of influence and no respect. All we really leave behind in Iraq is an embassy the size of a small town staffed by up to 17,000 diplomats, military advisers, service personnel and those mercenaries we prefer to call ‘contractors.’” It’s just as well the truth is an alien concept for most US politicians because I doubt that those uniformed men and women going home to their loved ones after years of thanklessly battling heat, dust and insurgents for a spurious cause or those remembering the fallen are in any mood to hear it.