Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Never Can Say Goodbye

There's an interesting article at the BBC site today, headed "US Troops 'might stay in N Iraq'". That's hardly news, of course, the US is not eager to let go of all that lovely oil or to lose a major military base in the region.
Col Gary Volesky said his soldiers would stay in Mosul and other nearby cities where al-Qaeda remained a threat if the Iraqi government asked them to. ...

The US currently has more than 140,000 troops in Iraq, and combat troops are due to pull out of Iraq's cities by the end of June.

Under a recent agreement, they are expected to remain elsewhere in the country until the end of August 2010.

The US is so obliging, aren't we? We want to withdraw our combat troops (which will leave plenty of troops still there to protect the US Embassy, train Iraqi troops and police, and do various other non-combatant things), but if the Iraqi government asks us to stay, what can we do? We're just too nice, that's our problem.

The thing is, as far as I can tell, the Iraqi government wants us out. So do most Iraqis, though it's true there are many who want us to stay, because they not only know that their government can't or won't protect them, it could be behind the danger to them (if they're Sunni, for example). But notice that casual reference to "a recent agreement." I suppose it refers to the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated at the end of Bush's second term, which provides a deadline for US troop withdrawals. From the BBC report you'd get the impression that the SOFA provides a time after which we can leave if we want to, rather than a deadline by which we're supposed to be gone.

Volesky "said the US military was conducting an assessment of the situation in Mosul after five US soldiers were killed in a suicide lorry bombing there on Friday." "If the Iraqi government wants us to stay we will stay," he told journalists in a teleconference. But there's nothing in the story which indicates that the Iraqi government wants them to stay; the attack on US troops indicates that the "assessment of the situation" has more to do with what the US government wants.

A sidebar to this piece took me to another article from a week ago, "Shia crowds decry US role in Iraq."

Tens of thousands of supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr have rallied against the US presence in Iraq, six years after Saddam Hussein's fall.

Protesters in Baghdad's Firdos Square carried pictures of the cleric and chanted slogans denouncing what they called the occupation of Iraq.

Six years ago, US troops reached the square and helped Iraqis pull down a statue of their former leader there.

You can tell these people were just a bunch of deranged radicals: calling the US "presence" an "occupation," how could they! Seriously, I hadn't realized there was any doubt that the US is occupying Iraq. I could see the BBC being queasy about words like "invasion" or "aggression," but I thought "occupation" was only controversial when applied to Israel's relation to Palestine.

The claim that "US troops ... helped Iraqis pull down a statue of" Saddam Hussein almost made my jaw drop. That story was exposed almost immediately after it first ran. In reality it was a carefully staged photo op, "the brainchild of of a U.S. Marine colonel, with help from a psychological operations unit" according to a US Army report quoted by the LA Times. Even NPR admits that it "was not the spontaneous event it appeared to be", so surely the BBC could do as much. That's the thing with propaganda, though: it never goes away, and the official media are always ready to use it again.

The BBC story goes on:
The protest comes two days after Barack Obama said the time had come for Iraqis to "take responsibility for their country", during his first visit to the country after becoming US president.
It wasn't the first time Obama had blamed the Iraqis for their problems -- it had been a leitmotif of his campaign speeches -- but it was no less insulting given the US refusal to take responsibility for its aggression, invasion, and occupation of Iraq, aided and abetted by Britain and its other accessories. But it's more than insulting; as Chris Floyd says, it's obscene:
The moral depravity of this stance is breathtaking. Invade a country for no reason, kill a million of its people, drive four million into exile, destroy its infrastructure, plunge it into civil war, abet its "ethnic cleansing," loot its wealth, put it in the hands of religious extremists, unleash disease, poverty and social breakdown: this is an "extraordinary achievement," says the progressive paladin. And now the Iraqis must "take responsibility" for the hell on earth created by their invaders.
But the good propagandists at the BBC don't let such thoughts enter their heads.