During the past few months, several high-ranking U.S. officials, from Vice President Biden to Secretary of Defense Panetta and the Chief of Staff of the military forces, visited Iraq. The main objective of such visits was to prolong the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Previous President George W. Bush signed an agreement in 2008 with the Iraqi government to pull all American troops out by the end of 2011. Also, in a speech at a meeting of the American Veterans of Foreign Wars (8/2/2011) President Obama announced that American soldiers’ combat missions in Iraq would come to an end by August 31st, 2011 and that the troops would leave by the end of 2011.
The puzzling question that needs to be asked is why President Obama is trying to reverse his decision by pressuring the Iraqi government to agree to keep a residual force as large as 18,000 (nearly half of the 44,500 troops) in the country? The American rationale is that Iraq is not ready to assume the responsibility of defending its borders. Furthermore, the rationale maintains these troops will be needed to train the Iraqi military forces on the new weapons purchased from the U.S. The Iraqi government has been reluctant to accept that number, which has dropped to 5,000 troops. Also, the Iraqi government stipulated that the American soldiers who will be left in Iraq would also be subjected to Iraqi law. As of 10/18/2011, the U.S. government has rejected the Iraqi proposal since it will not provide immunity to U.S. soldiers from prosecution in Iraq.
The Iraqi government does not want to see another irresponsible group like the Blackwater security forces that opened fire on Iraqi civilians that led to the killing of 17 people in 2007. It was reported that the U.S. government is planning to send 16,000 civilian employees who will be connected to the Secretary of State Department under the supervision of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. Nearly 80% of that number are American contractors and not officially employed by the State Department. The U.S. Embassy staff in Iraq has already been estimated at 1,750 employees. In addition to the military forces that will be kept if the Iraq government agrees, the U.S. is also planning to contract from the American private sector around 5,000 security guards to protect Americans who are connected with the U.S. Embassy.
The U.S. military forces have already closed 484 bases and there are still 20 active military bases. Leaving even a small military force in Iraq after December 20th 2011 would prolong the problem. It seems to be that American politicians have failed to see beyond their noses.
First, the majority of the American public has demanded that all U.S. troops should be pulled out not only from Iraq, but also from Afghanistan.
Second, as Professor J. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner and economist at Columbia University, pointed out, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the first war in U.S. history paid for entirely on credit. The direct government spending on those wars so far amounts to roughly $2 trillion or $17,000 for every U.S. household, with bills yet to be received that will increase this amount by more than 50%.
Fourth, members of the Republican Party in Congress keep talking about the budget deficit and ignoring that the two wars that they have supported are a major contributing factor to the budget deficit.
Fifth, what has their aggressive military adventure has achieved so far? Close to 6,000 American soldiers have been killed in both wars and more than 35,000 have been injured. There is no end in sight, at least for the war in Afghanistan. I would say that at the end, the U.S. will withdraw from both wars and the only winners will be the American Military Industrial Complex and their lobbyists in Washington D.C.