One of the main selling points of his consumer-friendly jog at the presidency was Barack Obama’s blood oath, sworn by torchlight while wading in the Ganges, to “bring home the troops.” Most Americans were sure he intended to bring home the soldiers, from Iraq at least. Our numbers in Afghanistan were increased, while military presence in the Babylon area was drawn down from the 180,000 who were stationed there in 2009. It seemed like a continuation of the status quo, and the delay began to puzzle democratic supporters. Cynics anticipated that the withdrawal would come at an opportune time, closer to 2012, elections, and the end of the world.
The announcement to bring the troops back from the war we were hoodwinked into fighting came as a letdown, in part, because it was already announced earlier in the year that this would happen. But it disappointed the guns and butter segment of Washington leadership because it was seen as a loss of face for the military and the nation, which still owns the military, at least nominally. In response, some Republicans, John McCain most reliably, have shook the finger and said, “beware Iran.”
“Today marks a harmful and sad setback for the United States in the world,” said McCain. “I respectfully disagree with the president: this decision will be viewed as a strategic victory for our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime, which has worked relentlessly to ensure a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.”
Elsewhere, while pausing to adjust an unsustainable cinch in the folds of his magical underwear created by the strain of beating Rick Perry into submission, Mitt Romney innocently wondered aloud about the “….unavoidable question ….whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government.”
So nobody doubts that the recent collapse in the final negotiations with Nouri al-Maliki’s government was a main reason for the decision to re-announce the troop withdrawal. Iraqi leaders have finally resolved to see the sun set on the provisions for legal immunity that have been granted American occupiers, and they have also formally rejected proposals for the continued maintenance of certain bases, which contradicts the will of US military brass. And with the evaporation of much of the troop presence in Iraq, the diplomatic presence will also dry up, to an extent. Then there are a number of fast food restaurants, Starbucks, and bowling alleys that will need to be dismantled.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in the US for the General Assembly of the United Nations last month. In interviews he has repeatedly observed that the name of the United States is becoming less and less respected in the Middle East, and that we are perceived as meddlesome, and over-enthusiastic about the diplomatic efficacy and reform power of bombing countries in the region. He suggested that we have become “weaker and weaker” in that area of the world, as far as public opinion and support for America is concerned, and that this may be related to the military budget of our country, “a thousand billion each year,” more than all other countries combined. He also said other things about the “era of colonialism and nuclear bombs” being over, and the “mysteriousness” of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Then he addressed drastic economic inequality in America, and the idea that Zionism makes indiscreet use of the Holocaust for political leverage in a way that Africans have been unable to, with respect to reparations for the Atlantic Slave Trade. Those imaginative Persians, with their long sentences, and their first human civilizations and languages.
The White House feels that Iran can’t be calling us weak because it’s even weaker and so has no room to be calling us weak, shit. After Obama’s artful press conference repackaging the Iraq withdrawal as an eleventh hour victory for the people, security officials fielded the inevitable questions from impertinent journalists about Iranian-Shiite influence over Iraq’s politics, and the Iraq government’s rebuffing of extended US military presence and legal immunities. Denis McDonough, the White House deputy national security adviser, mentioned international outrage over the hilariously flimsy entrapment-based “assassination plot” alleged against Iranian agents, when he said to reporters,
“You see an Iran that is weaker and more isolated.” Nobody in the room disputed that Iran was certainly being surrounded, because maps were clearly visible on large poster boards, to the side.
Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, one million service men and women have been deployed. At least 4,482 have been killed, with 32,200 wounded. As it turns out, Iraqi casualties are considerably higher.
For a recent and far-ranging CNN interview with the Iranian President, conducted by the network’s resident Arab authority, Fareed Zakaria, click away.