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Lake writes: "The president, perhaps with one eye on his reelection bid, did not mention the fine print as he declared an end to the conflict he had opposed even before winning election to the Senate, and which helped him win the presidency in 2008."

President Obama at Arlington, 11/11/09. (photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI)
President Obama at Arlington, 11/11/09. (photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI)

Are We Really Done With Iraq?

By Eli Lake, The Daily Beast

22 October 11


But military trainers and contractors will be left behind. Eli Lake on why the president announced a withdrawal that had been set for years.

resident Obama went before the television cameras on Friday to announce what had largely been pre-ordained before he took office, that all US troops would be leaving Iraq before the end of the calendar year.

It was in the final months of George W. Bush's presidency that the United States negotiated an agreement to withdraw its troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

In his first year as commander in chief, Obama promised to adhere to the timeline, even though many US and Iraqi military leaders said some American forces should remain in the country. The US position on the 2011 date changed this year, however. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his predecessor, Robert Gates, said publicly that some US troops should remain in the country after the withdrawal. The conflict has claimed 4,200 American lives.

Proponents of remaining in Iraq argued that the smaller US footprint would be needed to train the Iraqi military on new American equipment - and as a trip wire if sectarian tensions flared up again and threatened to plunge the country into another civil war.

The negotiations over the 2011 deadline continued into this month, but eventually the talks broke down after the Iraqi side would not extend legal immunity to US soldiers and contractors in Iraq.

On Friday, Obama presented the loss at the negotiating table as a political victory. "As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year," the president said. "After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over."

But the end of the war does not mean the end of the US presence in Iraq. Indeed, speaking after the president's brief announcement, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough acknowledged that the United States would continue to train Iraq's military in the new weaponry that Obama has agreed to sell the government that emerged after US troops toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Just this year, the Pentagon approved a sale of F-16s to Iraq's air force.

Also remaining in Iraq will be military contractors who currently protect American diplomatic missions in Iraq, such as the US Embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Irbil.

"As part of a new agreement there will be Americans in Iraq training and assisting the Iraqi armed forces," Qubad Talabani, the Kurdistan regional government representative in Washington and the son of Iraq's president, told The Daily Beast. "These Americans will not be combat troops but they will be US soldiers."

The president, perhaps with one eye on his reelection bid, did not mention the fine print as he declared an end to the conflict he had opposed even before winning election to the Senate, and which helped him win the presidency in 2008.

Republican reaction was swift. "I remain concerned that this full withdrawal of US forces will make that road tougher than it needs to be," Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. "Multiple experts have testified before my committee that the Iraqis still lack important capacities in their ability to maintain their internal stability and territorial integrity. These shortcomings could reverse the decade of hard work and sacrifice both countries have endured to build a free Iraq."

As the United States draws down, the massive amounts of military equipment, such as predator drones and other intelligence sensors used in the war, will be positioned in nearby Turkey, according to senior administration officials.

At the press conference, McDonough answered some critics who said the withdrawal could jeopardize the progress the United States has made since 2007 by saying there was a 15-fold decrease in violent attacks in the last three years. He added that "every study and assessment we've sought" showed the Iraqi military was up to the task of defending the country. your social media marketing partner


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+15 # Brian Flaherty 2011-10-22 11:08
Another lie from the Chief Liar! Harry Truman said about Richard Nixon that "he's the only man I ever met who could lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time!" When Mad King George went one better. . He could lie out of EVERY orifice in his body at the same time!

And, Barack has "improved" on BOTH Nixon and Bush. . .He can lie "with style and panache!" A better orator than most, he's able to dress up the lie and the truth in such a way that the lie and the truth are interchangeable ! In the same speech!

The Man has neglected to tell We, the People, that there will remain more than 100,000 "private contractors!" And, these privateers will be paid by the US Treasury by "Supplemental Appropriations" that do NOT have their own "line" in the Federal Budget! Neither does he tell us that "secret" projections indicate these activities will continue for at least another decade. . .Or, more!

And, the Democrats want us to believe this SOB is "better" than the alternative of a Republican president!

And, sadly, he just might be "better!"
+25 # in deo veritas 2011-10-22 12:39
Anyone is better than any damned Republican being considered a candidate for even cleaning up toxic waste (though they are well aware of what their masters have created. As far as "contractors" are concerned, they should be paid either by the Iraqi government or by the scum like Halliburton instead of the taxpayers whop are victims of the illegal war. My attitude is that there isn not another country on this planet that is worth sacrifing the life of a single American in uniform. My country is this one-not any other including anything in the Middle East. Let them devour one another.
+15 # in deo veritas 2011-10-22 12:43
Saddest of all is that so much of the population has continued to blindly accept every foul lie emanating from the "media" including of course Faux News, as well as liars from both parties. Trust in no one except God.
+13 # Timaloha 2011-10-22 14:35
Yeah, God will make it all better. You keep telling yourself that.
+2 # ER444 2011-10-22 15:15
Mission accomplished... . give me a break !!!!!
+32 # Barbara K 2011-10-22 11:11
I certainly hope so. We have already sacrificed enough for that country thru the lies that the Bush gang used to get us there. We've lost lives, too many, (one was my son-in-law); limbs, too many, (including 2 nephews) and our treasure. Please, Mr. President be sure we are out of there for good, we cannot afford these wars.

+40 # NanFan 2011-10-22 11:39
I just wish President Obama had had the guts to NOT give Bush and Cheney immunity from prosecution when he first got into office.

But...I wish he had done (would still do) many of the things he promised during his campaign.

Whether it was pre-ordained or not, at least we won't be sending soldiers to fight for this illegal war anymore.

Sad we ever did; it killed our democracy as well as innocent lives.

0 # Ryguy913 2011-10-26 13:49
Quoting NanFan:
I just wish President Obama had had the guts to NOT give Bush and Cheney immunity from prosecution when he first got into office.

But...I wish he had done (would still do) many of the things he promised during his campaign.

Well, Nan, I agree with your sentiments, but it doesn't seem even remotely possible that Obama could have ordered the Justice Department to go after the Bush Administration AND also accomplished his campaign promises. Frustrating as it may be, politics is about being circumspect and prudent and cautious in many cases. Like it or not, it does involve surrendering battles in order to win the war.
+15 # Ralph Averill 2011-10-22 14:19
I burn with anger that the lives of so many are so easily torn apart by our leaders. Thank you for the heartbreaking sacrifices made by your family.
+24 # Erdajean 2011-10-22 12:18
Out of Iraq? Of course not. As long as there is oil under any inch of the Middle East, we'll be there, milking that cow for our ever-starving Fat Cats. And war profiteers. Same for Afghanistan. And for all the other countries where our military incursions are the order of the day, but go conveniently unnoticed.
Brothers and sisters. I am too aware that some of you will blast any hint that our current president -- whom I ALSO stumped for, donated to and wept for joy at his victory, can carry on an elegant dialogue with both sides of his mouth. There is this bizarre loyalty that says he and he alone can win against anything the GOPukes throw at us. When we see what he already did with that confidence, well, he who has an ear to hear, let him hear. It's like the battered wife saying, "Oh, I loved him when I married him -- so black eyes and broken bones are just the price I have to pay till he kills me!"
Sorry -- not so. We desperately need a LEADER with a brain, a heart.guts AND A CONSCIENCE. Obama does not match.
"NO?" Click away. Sticks may break my bones, but furious clicks, never.
What we need is for a true democratic statesperson to step forward, and give us ALL another chance. This posturing on Iraq is just another example.
+28 # in deo veritas 2011-10-22 12:29
Let's hope this is not like the smirking chimp's "mission accomplished" lie. We still have two wars to fight-one in Afghanistan and the other here against corruption and greed by the unholy alliance between Washington and Wall Street. Only when the latter is won and the predators put away for good can we truly feel that a mission has been accomplished.
+21 # Texas Aggie 2011-10-22 12:59
Why do we need contractors to protect US diplomatic personnel in other countries? In the past the US Marines have done a good job at that and have not damaged our image nearly as much as the creeps from Blackwater and other mercenaries who have taken the place of the Marine Security Guards.
+4 # Kev C 2011-10-23 08:45
Quoting Texas Aggie:
Why do we need contractors to protect US diplomatic personnel in other countries? In the past the US Marines have done a good job at that and have not damaged our image nearly as much as the creeps from Blackwater and other mercenaries who have taken the place of the Marine Security Guards.

Its simple. The US government has to oblige their sponsors investment with a number of profitable contracts. So Haliburton has its hit squad fully hired to keep the peace like a private army. After all like you said Blackwater (now called 'Xi') has besmirched its name with overseas nations after a few too many innocent people and a bunch of trigger happy Blackwater employees went head to head. Result was a huge cover-up and a loss of contracts because Joe public got to hear about it and there was a lot of embarassment all round.
However the new wording implies they are only ordinary maintenance workers but assigned to the military on personal close protection contracts. Truth is they are simply a private army for hire like all the other hot heads.
+6 # Susan W 2011-10-22 13:02
The only people who could be surprised or shocked by this news are the ever-loyal Obots who believed any of the BS from his pretty little speech yesterday.

I used to be puzzled by the total loyalty to all things Bush when he was in office but now I realize blind party allegiance knows no bounds--the so-called Ds are just as easily duped as the other side.
+20 # futhark 2011-10-22 13:03
Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox website faults Mr. Obama at leaving in Iraq a fortress-like embassy in Baghdad and two fortress-like consulates in Basra and Erbil, staffed by a cumulative 9000 people. I don't know if this includes hired mercenaries to as guards. This has got to cost the American taxpayers something.

Likewise, she points out that the Obama plan has nothing to redress the problems of infrastructure damage done to Iraq or the problem of the pollution caused by depleted uranium projectiles.

I'd personally be delighted to see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and all other cosigners of the Project for a New American Century sent to Iraq to do hard pick and shovel labor to help restore some of the facilities they so viciously and unnecessarily destroyed.
+14 # geraldom 2011-10-22 17:09
Likewise, she points out that the Obama plan has nothing to redress the problems of infrastructure damage done to Iraq or the problem of the pollution caused by depleted uranium projectiles.

I'd personally be delighted to see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and all other cosigners of the Project for a New American Century sent to Iraq to do hard pick and shovel labor to help restore some of the facilities they so viciously and unnecessarily destroyed.

What about being tried and prosecuted for the deaths of (most likely) well over 2 million innocent Iraqis, men, women, and children? What about the well over 4 million homeless and countryless Iraqis? What about the destruction of a once ancient culture?

I find it completely ironic that both Obama and Hilary are talking as if they were the saviors of Iraq, freeing the Iraqi people to create a true Democracy when we no longer have one in this country, our own country?

I'm going to send Hillary a message telling her to stick it where the sun doesn't shine. I'm going to tell her to cease and desist in threatening Iran or any other country that she claims is interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq until we do the same. Allow the Iraqi people to truly have free, fair, and honest elections rather than electing only people that we approve of to lead the country.
0 # boudreaux 2011-10-25 12:44
That would knock Cheney out quickly with his bad heart but what a way to go.
+23 # geraldom 2011-10-22 13:27
If one believes that Obama & Hillary are going to give Iraq back its sovereignty, then I have a bridge that I would love to sell you. When we close down the illegal embassy we built in Baghdad & remove all 3000 of its personnel, many of them armed & dangerous, out of Iraq, including the two U.S. Consulates we have in Basra & Erbil & the personnel working there out of Iraq, and let's not forget the 100000+ private contractors that will be left in Iraq, most of them armed & dangerous, & when we allow the Iraqi people free, fair and accurate elections to remove Nouri a-Maliki, a U.S. puppet, then and only then would I agree with you that we are leaving Iraq. Until then, as far as I am concerned, we, the U.S., will continue to illegally occupy a sovereign nation that we had no legal or moral right to invade in the 1st place, let alone illegally occupy for 8 years.

Bush should be charged with a war crime, the highest war crime that one can possibly commit, the illegal invasion of a sovereign nation that was no real threat to us in order to establish control over their natural energy resources. Even Obama should be charged with war crimes.

As the illegal invader of a sovereign nation & its occupier, we had no legal right to build any structures in the country let alone hold nefarious elections & setting up an U.S. puppet as its leader, Nouri al-Maliki.
+14 # in deo veritas 2011-10-22 15:13
Any personnel other than true diplomats-i.e.a nyone working for Blackwater, Halliburton, etc. should be immediate;ly disarmed, arrested, and turned over to the Baghdad government to be tried for the crimes they have committed. Regardless they should NOT be allowed to set foot on US soil again. If they do, they will simply be hired by the NYPD or some other agency in the pay of the corporate fascists who are the real terrorists.
+2 # Merschrod 2011-10-23 06:31
Beware, Harold has been selling bridges for a long time! Good point Harold.
-9 # abeitling 2011-10-22 14:23
Bush made an agreement with Iraq. That agreement is to be fulfilled by the end of 2011. The agreement was to remove combat military. That will be done. It only makes sense that non-combat military will remain to assist with efforts to rebuild and restructure all that is needed - Republicans and Democrats alike understand that a total pull out would be like throwing the last nine years of warring investments down the drain. Sometimes I think we started that war with $ and oil in mind, and ended it fighting against the oppression of citizens there as well as combatting extremists and World Terrorists. The media will move out of Iraq, while American Enterprise attempts to move in as it will do with Lybia as well. You can bet America isn't the only country with their desires for enterprising in those oil rich countries. Food for thought.
+6 # in deo veritas 2011-10-22 15:21
If our corporate fasacists, especially Big Oil want to move in let them do so but WITHOUT any protection other than what they pay for-no military personnel-perio d. Then whatever happens to them should be of no concern to us. With ANY war regardless of which side wins lives and money are down the drain. Read Kipling's "The White Man's Burden". He knew from his experiences in India what a waste of lives and effort it is to try to change societies that have internal strife as an integral part of their cultural value system and replace it with something totally alien -like ours. Does anybody believe there are no more violent deaths in Bosnia and the rest of the Balkans just because it isn't in the news? It isn't "news worthy" any more-not as long as we have deranged celebs and wacko politicians to rave about. Again trust no one but God.
+5 # geraldom 2011-10-22 17:34
It's easy to forget that SOFA, the Status of Forces Agreement, when it was negotiated, had a stipulation set in concrete that the Iraqi people would have the final word on the future of Iraq, whether or not foreign soldiers & private contractors could stay until the end of 2011. It was called the Iraqi referendum vote which was supposed to take place in July of 2009 where the Iraqi people had the right to approve or disapprove of the agreement. Obama and Nouri al-Maliki violated that agreement when they canceled the referendum vote.

If that vote had taken place when it should've, & if the Iraqi people had voted SOFA down, then the U.S. would have been, by international law, required to remove all foreign forces from Iraq by the end of 2010, not 2011.

The U.S. illegally invaded a sovereign nation that was no threat to us for control of their natural energy resources. This is the worst possible war crime that any nation could perpetrate against another nation. Both Bush & Obama are guilty of this war crime. When Obama took office in Jan of 2009, he should've removed all U.S. forces from Iraq to immediately end the slaughter of the Iraqi people, but he didn't. He is therefore complicit in this war crime, & I wish that Hillary Clinton once & for all would shut her face.

I supported Obama over Hillary in 2008 because of her militant dumb mouth.
-1 # Merschrod 2011-10-23 06:41
Oh, Harold, then you originally bought the bridge. So you do have one to sell - so sorry to hear that.
+3 # geraldom 2011-10-23 09:42
Quoting Merschrod:
Oh, Harold, then you originally bought the bridge. So you do have one to sell - so sorry to hear that.

A lot of Americans bought a bridge when they voted Obama into office. As much as I dislike Hillary Clinton, at least she was more honest than Obama was when she ran her campaign.
+10 # maddave 2011-10-22 14:42
We went into Iraq for oil - then (secretly) estimated at 200 to 400 BILLION barrels. We destroyed their social and civil infrastructure. Indirectly or directly we killed over 1,000,000 people and displaced another 3 - 5 million. In short we alienated an entire nation - which we will soon sorely need on our side - but we're now being ordered out with no clear assurance that we will get a share of that oil.

Serious internal war is sure to follow, and an invasion of Kurdistan by a Turkish-led alliance is likely. Without a strong central leader (think Saddam Hussein) chaos in post-Amrican Iraq is a good bet.

So, with all of this in mind, you guys head home, but don't unpack your bags, OK? And don't buy any green bananas - you may not be around to eat them.
+7 # joanne 2011-10-22 14:49
We're going to need a new, Reality-based language to even begin to discuss this overwhelming century of mercenary imperialism, institutionaliz ed predation, cyber-war, technological and pathological barbarism...soc ial and ecological self-destructio n. I don't know about everyone else, but it's obvious to me that "geo-politics" is a global war-game for supremacy and profit, "played" by the most sophisticated, savage predators among us. We do not deserve the classification "Homo sapiens".
+4 # Billy Bob 2011-10-22 15:43
Orwell suggested the kind of language you're refering to. Of course his language was developed by the government itself in 1984. Our government/corp orate entity has been doing the same thing. We could co-opt their language for a change. Occupy Wall Street has been doing just that, with phrases like "We're too big to fail", and "Occupy Wall Street" itself. It's promising.
+6 # usedtobesupermom 2011-10-22 15:15
There are at least 4 permanent bases in Iraq each totaling 15-20 square miles at a cost of billions of dollars. Now do you really think they will just give them away?

Bring them ALL home & if private contractors (security) stay, don't pay them any more than what our troops would get paid. Stop the $1000 a day pay.
+6 # Billy Bob 2011-10-22 16:53
Or better yet, don't pay them at all. Let Exxon pay them.
+8 # Billy Bob 2011-10-22 16:54
While we're at it, why are we still in Afghanistan?
+5 # charsjcca 2011-10-22 15:53
It's not over until the last American/NATO member leaves and goes home. Leaving soldiers of fortune encamped in various places is not enough. Any foreign person without a visa issued by the legitimate government is required, not some puppet regime masquerading as standing for the people. That will take some time, maybe a generation. There should be no UN status for these misanthrops.
+4 # Bob-Investigates 2011-10-22 18:35
Let's never forget what REPUBLICAN Alan Greenspan said about these Middle-East wars----They are about O-I-L! So, it is perfectly correct to call it "Blood for Oil." Unfortunately, it appears that most, if not all, of the leaders in DC, whether (R) or (D), have been bought and paid for by the MIC-Plutocrats. It appears to me that our democracy has been devoured by the RATS-Plutocrats and we, the 99.9%, are SOL! Accountability? It went out the window a long time ago! You knew it was dead when Nancy said, "Impeachment is off the table."
+4 # walt 2011-10-22 19:02
President Obamabush!
All too cowardly to face Republican accusations of being "soft on defense."
The time for change was in 2006 when the country gave the Dems a majority mainly due to war. They blew it. Yet, 2008 gave even more opportunity and Obama blew it big time. He has had more war on his watch than Bush! And add in the drone attacks and killing Bin Laden when he could have been captured.
Are the people being taken for complete idiots???
+2 # Susan W 2011-10-22 20:54
I think the evidence is in--they are complete idiots.
+2 # cypress72 2011-10-22 20:16
I'm really tempted to invest in the Iraqi dinar. But knowing my luck, the Iraqi government will issue a new currency and stick it to all the neocons who stole billions of dinar and have them stashed in vaults in their rosewood lined offices. Maybe Cheney will have another heartattack !!!
+2 # Susan W 2011-10-22 22:49
He would have to have a heart. As it is he doesn't even have a pulse.
+3 # pernsey 2011-10-22 20:50
Never Vote Republican!!!!!!

Whatever you think of Obama, most of it, George Bush put us there. He is conveniently forgot in all of this. The Bushwhacker, Darthvader, Rummy, and the Turd Blossom put us where we are today. Obama is not my favorite president, but he is a heck of a lot better then any republican would be. I mean really, we cant survive another republican 4 or 8 year reign of giving to the rich and screwing the rest of us!!
+4 # Gunnar McPeace 2011-10-22 20:57
"Done with Iraq"... "The Iraq War is Over"... Please. When the President was a Senator he rightfully opposed the war. As President he is obliged to serve the empire and to manage the situation he inherited from Bush. So he fulfilled a campaign promise in time for campaign season. That's great. There's no down side to that. But let us not forget, the 'war' was about OIL. It wasn't EVER about 'terrorism', 'democracy', 'WMD's' or anything of the kind. It was simply about about serving US interests. 4200 Americans and several HUNDRED THOUSAND Iraqis died to secure American / Multinational OIL interests in Iraq. It's now 'stable' enough for 'business as usual'. There's no victory here folks, no moral high ground. It was, and is, business as usual. It's a sad, sad state of affairs.
+3 # heraldmage 2011-10-22 21:59
The State Departments private contractors are going to cost the USA taxpayers more than the yearly war budget. It is the job of the military to protect USA soil including embassies. We the people need to demand that they not mercenaries are used to protect all embassies including in Iraq.
The Iraqis government need to assert its soveeignity and instruct the USA that while its private contractors can be armed within the embassey they may not carry arms or fly helicopters in Iraq. That if the USA requires security between airport & embassey they are to contact the appropriate Iraqis agency to take care of it. They are not allowed under any circumstances to be armed outside the embassey. Also only the immediate ambassadorial staff has immunity not the 100,000 private contractors.
The USA is trying to maintain occupation but hiding the details & costs. This is only to benefit the 1% not Iraq or the USA 99%. Iraq doesn't pose a threat to USA homeland. Are there people who hate the USA in Iraq? Absolutely, the USA killed or was responsible for the deaths of over 1 million Iraqis & destroyed the infrastructure. Iraq is left with a mess created based on a lie to clean up.
Give them their country back, leave them alone if they want to be friends let it be on their terms not forced to protect the 1%'s profits & make Israel feel safe.
+1 # fredboy 2011-10-23 09:24
Of course we are done with Iraq--didn't you read the "Mission Accomplished" sign and hear the Bush speech on the carrier deck? And see his swagger? And Cheney promised us that Iraq oil would pay the entire cost of the invasion, so we'll get all that money back! Unless it's given to Wall Street by Geitner before US taxpayers get a whiff of it.
+2 # futhark 2011-10-23 11:34
Let's attach Dick Cheney's government retirement income for the difference between the actual cost of the Iraq invasion and occupation and the amount that Iraqi oil income has provided by way subsidizing them. Otherwise, we're letting the liar get off the hook easily for all the needless burden of pain, death, destruction, and expense he foisted onto innocent people.
+3 # reiverpacific 2011-10-23 10:50
So if we are done with Iraq, the burning question nobody seems to talk about is WHY THE HELL THEN, DID THE U.S. BUILD THE BIGGEST EMBASSY IN THE WORLD IN THE BAGHDAD "GREEN ZONE" (it can be seen from space apparently) with all the pre-planning, land acquisition, permitting, bribery, negotiations and design which is required before construction begins?
Keep y'r eyes on the prize (oil, middle-east domination- other?) and follow the money including the "Missing billions" and where does that lead?
Done with Iraq my jolly kilted keester!
0 # Ryguy913 2011-10-26 14:08
I'm sorry, but all these cries of "Never vote Republican!" are simply inane.

I'd vote for Dick Lugar over Mary Landrieu or Ben Nelson any day. And I'd vote for Susan Collins or Olympia Snow over Max Baucus or Kent Conrad any day.

Especially at a time when Republicans like Dylan Ratigan are leading the charge for campaign finance reform, I say it's time to throw away that party-allegianc e nonsense and just get to work.

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