Is the Iraq war over?
The truth about the 'end of combat operations'
The author is an Iraq war veteran and co-founder of March Forward! an organization of veterans and active-duty service members against the war.
Early in the month, on Aug. 7, Army Specialist Faith Hinkley
dove for cover from a rocket propelled grenade while on her base in Iraq. She
was hit with shrapnel from the explosion, and bled to death in Baghdad. She was
23 years old.
Photo-op: 'Last combat brigade leaves Iraq
A week later, on Aug. 15, Army Specialist Jamal Rhett was on
patrol in Baquba, Iraq, when resistance fighters attacked his vehicle with
grenades. The blasts tore through his body, killing him. He was only 24.
And on Aug. 19, just one day after the “end” of the Iraq war
was announced, a young Army soldier, Christopher Wright, was killed by
For the family and friends of these three soldiers, August
does not seem like a month to be announcing the “end” of the Iraq war.
But the Pentagon arranged a photo-op convoy of armored
vehicles crossing the Iraqi border into Kuwait—a symbolic convoy of the “last
combat brigade” exiting the country.
With that, we are told by Washington, we have seen the end
of the war in Iraq. Combat operations are over, they say.
This declaration, essentially begging for applause, is
reminiscent of George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” performance aboard the
USS Lincoln in May 2003, where he announced the “end of major combat
operations” in Iraq.
Announcing the end of combat operations in a war still
taking the lives of U.S. service members is the same type of doublespeak we
have been getting since the lies started flowing in the buildup to the
Since the war is supposedly over, and the Obama
administration is demanding a pat on the back for its “promise kept,” let us
see what “postwar” Iraq really looks like.
This past May, a study called The Mercer Quality of Living
survey released its results of “most livable city” in 2010. It ranked Baghdad
dead last—the least livable city on the planet.
This is due to the complete destruction of Iraq’s sewage
treatment plants, factories, schools, hospitals, museums and power plants by
the U.S. military.
For most people in Iraq, access to clean water is extremely
difficult. Access to electricity
is also extremely scarce. In sweltering 130-degree F heat, Baghdad residents
might get a total of three hours of intermittent electricity—much like the rest
of the country.
According to the UNHCR, the Iraq war made more than 4.7
million Iraqis refugees—the worst humanitarian crisis in the Middle East since
the Palestinians were driven from their homes in 1948.
They are the survivors of a slaughter that killed over 1
million innocent people, and maimed millions more, with U.S. bombs designed to
“shock and awe.”
Those who survived the onslaught must live with the
aftermath—the toxic gift left by the most high-tech weapons, professionally
crafted by the defense contractors that made billions from the war. In
Fallujah, which was bombarded by Marines in 2004, the stunning rate of infant
mortality, cancer and birth defects have revealed a health crisis that has been
called “worse than Hiroshima.”
But violence in Iraq is far from being in the past. In fact,
it has spiked in recent months. In July 535 Iraqis were killed, making it the
deadliest month in two years. With the Iraqi government still locked in a
political crisis, there is little hope of the violence subsiding.
This violence was consciously fostered by the U.S. when it
violated international law and forced Iraq’s government to be divided along
sectarian lines and when Gen. Petraeus promoted civil war by arming “local
militias” to fight each other, as he is now doing in Afghanistan. As a U.S.
military study "discovered" in November 2007, "Iraqis of all
sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the
primary root of the violent differences among them.” (Washington Post, Dec. 19,
All this, not to mention grinding poverty, rampant
unemployment, food insecurity and severe lack of medical supplies, has replaced
their once reputable health care system. For the Iraqi people, life prior to
the invasion—even with the decade of crippling sanctions and brutal
bombings—was far better than the conditions today.
In a country of nearly 30 million people, one in three
Iraqis have been killed, wounded or displaced by the United States since the
2003 invasion. Every single day in Iraq continues to produce more killed, more
wounded and more displaced.
What does the “end of combat operations” really mean,
The State Department will more than double the number of
private security personnel, who will guard five heavily fortified compounds
throughout the country. The mercenaries on these bases will pilot drones,
conduct patrols and operate as “quick-reaction forces” to chase down
insurgents. The much-hated and notorious mercenaries, receiving millions from the
Pentagon, will continue to shoot Iraqis in their own country.
While U.S. troops leave Iraq, U.S. military equipment flows
in to beef up the Iraqi puppet forces that follow the orders of the Pentagon. Cruising
Iraq’s streets will be 60 new MRAPs, or “mine resistant ambush protected”
vehicles. Their swarm of armored cars will be multiplied. Their number of
military airplanes will increase four fold. Their helicopter fleet, piloted by
mercenaries, will grow from 17 to 29.
This is the real crux of the U.S. drawdown in Iraq: the US hopes it now has the
ability to push the Iraqi army and police to the front lines, with U.S. troops
standing a few steps back and the same Pentagon generals sitting atop the chain
This was the Bush plan from the beginning, when the invasion
was launched: to topple the Iraqi government and prop up a new government,
friendly to U.S. business and military interests, that will use its state
power—its police, military, courts and prisons —to serve the interests of
Washington and Wall Street.
However, the Pentagon could not
maintain the occupation of Iraq because of the mass armed resistance movement.
In order to begin the withdrawal from Iraq, the Pentagon put nearly 100,000
insurgents on their payroll in order to stop them from shooting at occupation
forces. This allowed the U.S. to avoid the appearance of having suffered a
military defeat with an armed people’s rebellion driving them from the country.
It had little to do with the “surge” of 30,000 additional troops sent by Bush
to Iraq in 2007.
Those Iraqi troops are performing the same mission as the
U.S. troops before them: using brute force to try to protect U.S. interests. They ride in the same Humvees, and even inherited the same
uniforms. Iraqi families still have their doors kicked down in the middle of
the night and are dragged from their beds—only now, they are being screamed at
in Arabic instead of English.
The reality is that the U.S. government “succeeded” in dividing and weakening Iraq, but
they have not established a stable puppet government. At present,
the country really has no government at all. In fact, when occupation
troops finally leave, Iraq will likely revert to its anticolonial status because no
Iraqi government that does the U.S. bidding will ever be considered legitimate
by the people.
So, fifty thousand U.S. troops will remain in the country. But,
as the generals and politicians insist, they are no longer “combat” units.
They’ve been renamed “advise and assist” units.
The remaining U.S. troops will “advise” the Iraqi troops of what combat operations to carry out, and will “assist” them in
carrying out those operations if they need help.
"Every soldier is a combat soldier. It's about the
change of mission. It doesn't change who we are or what we do. You won't see
this big change on 2 September, " said Major General Stephen Lanza,
the U.S. military spokesman in Iraq.
This is far from ending combat operations for U.S. troops.
They will continue to be blown up by IED’s, shot and killed by rockets. Only
this will happen less frequently, for the time being, because it appears there are enough
Iraqis to bear the brunt of the resistance to foreign domination—the U.S. thinks there are
enough Iraqis to be killed in their place.
Those 50,000 troops are promised to leave by the end of
2011. Of course, this is subject to “conditions on the ground.” The Aug. 19 New
York Times reports that top Iraq strategists predict that “thousands of
additional troops will be needed after 2011.”
If Washington gets its way, U.S. troops will continue to
kill and be killed in Iraq despite their redefined role, and will remain in the
country for an indefinite length of time, required to prop up a weak and
increasingly unpopular puppet government and protect U.S. business and
geopolitical interests. The continued deaths of U.S. troops and Iraqi
civilians, with no end in sight, are the components that turned the vast
majority of people in the U.S. against the war. Those components remain.
Out of the frying
pan, into the fire
For U.S. troops, the only thing changing for us is the name
of the country where we will be sent to be killed and maimed. It is no secret
that the troop reduction in Iraq is necessary because more GIs are needed to be
sent to fight the other colonial-type war in Afghanistan, where the size of the
occupation has tripled, and where the U.S. is clearly being defeated at the
hands of a popular resistance.
We will continue to be deployed to both wars when so many of
us have psychological traumas that should exempt us from deployments.
For us, the Iraq drawdown means this: that we are able to be
deployed more frequently on repeated tours to the bloody battlefields of
Afghanistan, with maybe some more relaxing deployments to Iraq in between,
where it is currently less likely that we will die.
Returning Iraq to
From 1920 to 1958, Iraq was a British colony. Iraq’s oil was
100 percent foreign owned, divided up between U.S., British, French, and Dutch
After Iraq won independence, it nationalized its vast oil wealth,
immediately putting it in the crosshairs of the imperialist powers that had
just lost “their” seas of oil.
Iraq’s oil revenue modernized the country, dramatically
improved living conditions and provided free quality health care and a
world-renowned university system—also completely free.
But an independent, developing country controlling its own
resources cut into the bottom line for the oil giants. Iraq’s entire history of
independence is one of fending off attempts by the United States and its imperialist
allies to re-colonize the country.
Constant bombings, genocidal sanctions and CIA-backed
anti-government groups failed to overturn Iraq’s independence. In the flurry of
9/11 hysteria, the U.S. government seized on the opportunity to drum up lies
about weapons of mass destruction and the need to “ liberate” Iraq, and
launched a full-scale invasion to take Iraq by force.
The Iraqi people, who we were told were desperate for
liberation, overwhelmingly turned against the U.S. occupation. So the Pentagon
surged tens of thousands more troops into the country, unleashed the full might
of the most powerful military on the planet and indiscriminately rained
depleted uranium, artillery and Hellfire missiles on all its cities. Large
swaths of the Iraqi resistance that could not be defeated were simply put on
the U.S. payroll, bribed to stop resisting.
The U.S. government never wanted to endlessly have U.S.
combat patrols on Iraq’s streets. It wanted a new compliant government that
would do its bidding, and some offices, including the world’s largest embassy,
to conduct its business.
Now the U.S. thinks it is a step closer to its goal of returning Iraq
to a colonial-type status. That is a dream that will never come true. The announcement that combat operations have ended
is really just the announcement that the Pentagon hopes the Iraqi forces have improved to the
point where they can take over some of the duties of the U.S. military—mainly,
the fighting and dying.
Today, Iraqi sovereignty is a myth. The “democratically elected”
government would crumble if it did not have Washington’s backing. The Iraqi
government does not have the authority to make any military, political or
business decisions without the approval of their masters in Washington. U.S.
officials will continue to pull the strings of its new comprador government from
the largest embassy in the world, and from its military bases and fortified
compounds that will remain in Iraq indefinitely. So much for “Iraqi freedom.”
While we are being prodded to rejoice over the “end” of the
wildly unpopular war—to divert attention from the other unpopular war—the
relative calm in Iraq at this point is teetering on the edge. This is obvious
by the spike in violence over the past couple of months. Iraq is still in a
fragile position with election disputes, power struggles, deep-seated and
widespread opposition to U.S. domination, and armies of resistance fighters who
took a break from fighting the occupiers to collect a paycheck.
Iraq could very quickly be thrust back to its highest levels
of resistance—to which the U.S. would respond by doing everything possible to
prevent losing Iraq as a colony. The reduced number of occupying troops would
again be increased. In as little as a single day, the Iraq war could again
become the bloodbath that so many took to the streets to end. Pres. Obama said
it himself as he announced the end of the war: “The hard truth is we have not
seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq.”
For the Iraqi people, for U.S. troops and our families, our
lives will be absolutely no different than they were before we were shown the
media stunt of armored vehicles “leaving” Iraq.
The change in Iraq means the goal of controlling Iraq’s
natural resources, markets and financial sector are proceeding more smoothly
for Wall Street. Impoverished Iraqi civilians will continue to be killed every day
in the rubble and ruins of their now-devastated country. U.S. troops will
continue to die there endlessly, when not being sent to die endlessly in
Afghanistan, while our families wait at home for our coffins.
This is nothing to celebrate—it is something to fight
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