We Wanna Stay in Iraq!
Really? Could someone explain this to me? Here’s the puzzle: as we saw last week, Gen. Odierno is making statements about breaking the SOFA by keeping troops in Iraqi cities past June and also suggesting that the date for full withdrawal is really not so final (as in his “three years is a long time” hint) – and Gates, who met with him right after that statement, did not slap him down.
In fact, rather than backing away from his earlier statements, today Odierno announced that "US troops will move into southern Iraq early next year to replace departing British forces." He’s also hinting at an awfully big role for the US in Iraq’s upcoming provincial elections:
"So we have to make sure in the election those who didn’t win understand that, and we will be able to seat the new government properly," Odierno, the overall commander of U.S. and allied forces in Iraq, told AP late Saturday. "And once we get to that point, it’s now time for us to take a look at what is right for the future."
There’s more but I’ll get to that in a minute – here’s what puzzles me: While I oppose the SOFA since it gives legal cover for the occupation, the US and the Green Zone did sign it (that’s what Bush was doing on his little shoe target trip) and the SOFA says we have to get out. Bush and crew would clearly like the US to manage to turn Iraq into a permanent, oil revenue rich American colony but why – really why –does the military want to stay so bad?
Here’s the more complete story thanks to Gareth Porter’s important analysis at IPS: He begins by discussing how Gates, Mullen, Petraeus and Odierno are taking this further: (emph. added)
U.S. military leaders and Pentagon officials have made it clear through public statements and deliberately leaked stories in recent weeks that they plan to violate a central provision of the U.S.-Iraq withdrawal agreement requiring the complete withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities by mid-2009 by reclassifying combat troops as support troops.
The scheme to engage in chicanery in labeling U.S. troops represents both open defiance of an agreement which the U.S. military has never accepted and a way of blocking President-elect Barack Obama’s proposed plan for withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of his taking office.
He goes on to note:
The New York Times first revealed that "Pentagon planners" were proposing the "relabeling" of U.S. combat units as "training and support" units in a Dec. 4 story. The Times story also revealed that Pentagon planners were projecting that as many as 70,000 U.S. troops would be maintained in Iraq "for a substantial time even beyond 2011", despite the agreement’s explicit requirement that all U.S. troops would have to be withdrawn by then.
And he points out that Gates is apparently right in the thick of this plot:
Further evidence emerged last week that Gates is a central figure in that effort. In a Washington Post column Dec. 11, George Will quoted Gates as saying that there is bipartisan congressional support for "a long-term residual presence" of as many as 40,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and such a presence for "decades" has been the standard practice fol lowing "major U.S. military operations" since the beginning of the Cold War.
So what’s the story? We know the Iraqis want us out – and they have just refused to approve any extension for troops from the UK and other countries. Any fair referendum in Iraq is most likely to do the same – and any extension of the occupation will draw intensified attacks from Iraqi nationalist forces. It’s not like Gates and crew won’t have a war to fight – in fact, the latest reports are that they are speeding up the deployment of US forces to Afghanistan. So why would US generals be so insistent on a longer occupation?
And more importantly, what is Obama going to do about it – and what are we going to do to make certain Obama knows we expect a full withdrawal – preferably starting yesterday.