The War in Iraq is Pronounced Dead

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Niccolo and Donkey
The War in Pronounced Dead

Asia Times Online

Pepe Escobar

December 16, 2011

BAGHDAD - The Pentagon officially pronounced its US$3 trillion-and-counting, "war on terror"-related invasion, occupation and decimation of the Iraqi nation dead on Thursday even as the country prepared for a low-intensity Sunni-Shi'ite civil war and the Muslim world wondered whatever happened to the George W Bush administration's Greater Middle East.

In an open-air cement bunker at the former Baghdad airport turned military base, Pentagon chief Leon Panetta praised more than one million Americans in uniform or in mercenary gear for "the remarkable progress" in death and destruction accomplished over the past nine years, but acknowledged the severe challenges that faced the virtually devastated country.

"Let me be clear: Iraq will be tested in the days ahead - by al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers, by al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, by al-Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula, by the Taliban, by Iran, by Hezbollah, by the Assad dictatorship in Syria, by China, by Russia, by Occupy Wall Street.

"Challenges remain, but the US will be there to stand by the Iraqi people with the necessary amount of Hellfire missiles as they navigate those challenges to build a prosperous haven for neo-liberalism and US corporations."

The muted ceremony stood in contrast to the spectacular "shock and awe" in 2003 when an America fully emboldened by lies after lies printed on the cover of the New York Times sent columns of tanks north from Kuwait and lit up the sky "like Christmas", according to CNN, to conduct regime change against evil dictator Saddam Hussein.

As of last Friday, the war in Iraq had claimed 4,487 American lives, with another 32,226 Americans wounded in action, according to Pentagon statistics. As for Iraqi victims, the Pentagon doesn't do body counts.

The tenor of the moving, hour-long farewell ceremony, officially called "So long, towelheads", was likely to sound an uncertain trumpet for a war that was invented to get rid of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. It now ends without the Iraqi chapter of the Empire of Bases the Pentagon badly wanted in the first place - essentially because the American military were shown the door by ungrateful Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Although Thursday's poignant ceremony marked the official end of the war, the Pentagon, just in case, still has two bases in Iraq and roughly 4,000 troops, including several hundred who attended the ceremony. At the height of the war in 2007, during the surge of General David Petraeus, the occupation maintained a sprawling 505 bases and more than 170,000 troops.

According to military officials, the remaining diehards are still being shown Iraqi love on a daily basis, mainly by strategically placed improvised explosive devices set against convoys heading south through Iraq to bases in Kuwait.

Even after the last two bases are closed and the final American soldiers go home to certified unemployment by December 31, under rules of a shady agreement with the government in Baghdad, a few hundred military personnel and a sprinkle of spooks and mercenaries will remain, working within the larger-than-the-Vatican American Embassy as part of an Office of Security Cooperation to assist in extremely profitable weapons deals.

But negotiations could resume next year on whether additional American soldiers, spooks and mercenaries can return to further profit from the action.

Senior Pentagon officers have made no secret that they will indeed miss the action as well as the oil that the US in the end did not secure. Plus there's the matter of all those F-16s Baghdad is being forced to buy; they must be put to good use, and not just lay there frying in the al-Anbar desert.

"From a standpoint of being able to defend against a treacherous al-Qaeda underwear bomber they have very limited to little capability, quite frankly," General Lloyd J Austin III, the outgoing American commander in Iraq, said in an interview over a Big Mac.

The tenuous security atmosphere in Iraq was underscored by a fleet of gunships that hovered over the ceremony, scanning the ground for sneaking al-Qaeda operatives. Although there is far less violence across Iraq than at the height of the US-engineered sectarian war in 2006 and 2007, lots of people still get killed on a daily basis and Americans remain a preferential target of followers of firebrand Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Panetta acknowledged that "the cost was high - in blood and treasure of the United States, and also for the Iraqi people. But those lives have not been lost in vain - they gave birth to a fully devastated, fully segregated, fully traumatized client regime. We just don't know yet whether it will be America's or Iran's."

There was euphoria among many Iraqis for a day or two in April 2003 at such a successful American invasion. But the support soon soured after marines started shooting unarmed civilians amid a growing sense of a hardcore occupation that unleashed bloody sectarian and religious rivalries.

After the Abu Ghraib prison scandal demonstrated how the US was having its (fun) cake and eating it too, and in the fog of civil war, Sunnis and Shi'ites alike decided to fight the occupiers, the Kurds didn't give a damn, while an al Qaeda-affiliated group exploited the opening to root itself among the Sunni minority population.

While the terrorist group has been rendered ineffective by a punishing series of Special Operations raids that incinerated several al-Qaeda leaders, plus bags of cash distributed among Sunni tribals, intelligence specialists fear that it is in resurgence.

The American occupation of Iraq also hampered Washington's ability to fabricate a narrative from the United States in support of the Arab Spring uprisings this year - which caught Washington totally asleep at the wheel.

In the end, the Pentagon had to be dragged kicking and screaming to handing bases over to the Iraqi government. Across the country, the closing of precious outposts in the sprawling US Empire of Bases has been marked by a quiet closed-door meeting where American and Iraqi military officials signed documents that legally gave the Iraqis control of the bases, exchanged handshakes and barely disguised their mutual contempt.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E Dempsey of the army, has served two command tours in Iraq since the invasion in 2003, and he noted during the ceremony that the next time he comes to Iraq he will have to be invited.

Contacted for this article, Iraqis burning American flags in Fallujah - destroyed by the US in order to "save it" in late 2004 - volunteered that Dempsey should resign himself to wait forever.
Niccolo and Donkey

I don't think the US retreat is the great defeat many claim it is.

They still have that giant Vatican sized embassy in Baghdad which is packed full of fuck knows what. They are currently conducting a high intensity but low visibility war of sabotage against Iran. Al Qaeda in the form it was September 10 2011 is defeated as a force that can project internationally. They still have 4000 troops in Iraq and the Kurds onside.

I'm not saying it went all to plan from March 2003 but it certainly isn't an unquestioned strategic defeat on the scale of Vietnam. I think enoygh of their goals have been achieved and are being achieved to call it a scoring draw.

The Qaeda in Iraq thing is particularly instructive. The invasion gave Qaeda exactky what it had always wanted - the chance to fight on home sand against aggressive Crusaders in a totemic Muslim country.

And they fucked it up. Support in Iraq and beyond for Qaeda collapsed during the war. Qaeda were revealed to be bloodthirsty psychopatghs more concerned with fighting sectarian war against Shia than actually fighting jihad. Also, their complete lack of regard for casualties inflicted on Iraqis in their operations lost them huge support. Didn't learn the lesson the IRA did - don't kill your own. In the end even the stout Sunnis of Anbar were willing to, holding their noses, accept American cash and turn on the jihadis than see any more nightmare bombings on markets etc and the imposirtion of a foreign form of Islam.

Before the end of the Iraq War the Qaeda nightmare had come to pass - the likes of Gaddafi and Mubarak ovethrown largely be people power.

And guys who should be their natural allies like whatisface from the LIFG have now concluded it is better to work with the Yanks in the hope of setting up Saudi/Kuwait type states - where you can be as pure in Islam as you like internally as long as you play ball externally - than join the unremitting Teatowel Headdress Trotsky jihadist movement.

Iraq ruined Qaeda more than a billion drone attacks.

To open an embassy in a country is not a victory.
It is gigantic for two reasons; they thought they would control the Iraqi government from it (they don't), and contractors with their agents in the US government wanted to squeeze as much money out of it as possible (construction, security).

And I'm eating a jelly sandwich. How does this figure into assessing what the US gained out of the invasion and occupation of Iraq?

They have functioning wings in Algeria, Libya, Mali, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
All one has to do to "project internationally", in the way I think you mean, is grab one Salafi in Europe or North America and send him on a V-Tech style shooting spree. That they don't doesn't mean they can't.
I get my assessments on AQ from Michael Scheuer, mainly. He doesn't agree with any of the White House claims to be decimating Al Qaeda. In Iraq they are still killing Shia and Sahwa to make way for a Sharia statelet in the Sunni provinces, and they are well on course.

The US has soldiers in Cuba, but it lost the struggle for the country. Having soldiers in this or that place doesn't mean anything if they can't provide anything. In South Korea there is a benefit to having soldiers stationed... but what is gained by 4,000 in Iraq?
The Kurds were on the US side since long before the invasion.

The entire point was to install an American proxy state (Iyad Allawi) to replace the last (Saddam Hussein), so as to remove Israeli and GCC lobbying in favor of sanctions and thereby allow Anglo-American energy, defense, and construction companies to once again receive contracts from Baghdad and re-enter the country. Instead it went to Iranian proxies Ayatollah Sistani & Muqtada Al Sadr, with their Maliki and Jafari types. While many such companies have re-entered, the inability of the coalition military to secure a government loyal to DC and London has meant that these companies do not receive the favoritism and lopsided deals they wanted, and in the meantime Israel and the GCC have an augmented Tehran-led Shia axis that they didn't have before.
President Camacho
Well, this analysis is assuming that Muslim terrorist groups like al Qaeda pose a grave threat to the United States. But they don't and never really have...

And those little client states in Egypt and Libya are far less stable and predictable partners than guys like Mubarak and Gadhafi, which is again bad for the United States...
Al Qaeda has never relied on popular support. It is not democratically elected. It needs only recruits, which skyrocketed as a result of their operations in Iraq.

The Shia had initiated the war on the Sunni, Al Qaeda responded. If Al Qaeda did not support Iraq's Sunni Arabs under attack by the Shia, they would have been unpopular.

They wanted to inflict high casualties on Shia in return for what the Shia inflicted on the Sunni, and that did not cost them support.

They didn't. They killed Shia.

Al Qaeda opened Sharia courts, which began closing down the vice industries of the Sunni Arab mafia. Abu Risha was the Al Capone of Al Anbar, he gathered his fellow mobsters and begged the US to pay and arm them to close the courts. As a result, AQ was forced to close its courts, and since then most of its efforts have been on infiltrating and assassinating the Sahwa, which they've done rather well.

Two governments AQ had always wanted overthrown were overthrown by Islamists and Jihadis, many of them veterans of AQ in Iraq.

The new Libyan government is split between Salafis and secularists. It is the secularists working for NATO. The Salafis hope to take over in elections.

There is no such thing as Islamic internally, playing ball externally. The purpose of these client states is that they play ball internally, which means anti-Islamist domestic policies. it is domestic policy that matters to BP, Exxon, Halliburton, Conoco, the defense firms, and so on. The governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are not Islamist internally, either.

By swelling them with recruits and experience. Real intelligence experts believe Al Qaeda has benefitted from the US war in Iraq, and that they are not finished there.
President Camacho

I had read in Time or Newsweek or one of those mags back when the Shia-Sunni war was raging in Iraq that one of the last straws for the Iraqi Sunni with al Qaeda was when the Qaeda guys demanded Iraqi wives from the Sunni leaders in return for their services as "Iraq's protectors".

The Sunni tribal chiefs basically turned on al Qaeda at that point; they withdrew their lodging, withdrew intel and support, and starting snitching al Qaeda out to US Special Forces for cash.