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31 Aug, 2010 15:33

'It is the right time to be withdrawing from Iraq'

Pulling US forces out of Iraq today is timely, but equal to admitting that America never intended to restore stability in the region, says the British American Security Information Council’s Paul Ingram.

Considering the dramatically high level of corruption and the recent surge of violence in Iraq, leaving the country right now could only mean one thing, says Ingram, the council’s executive director: the US never actually planned to bring stability to the country.

It’s not the right time to be withdrawing if one believes that American troops on the ground can bring stability,” he said. “I think that if the Americans did care about stability in Iraq and if they thought they could influence it, it’s the wrong time. It’s an admission, in a way, that they never had the capacity to bring stability to Iraq.”

“They unseated Saddam Hussein relatively quickly and easily, but of course bringing security and stability to the country was a much, much bigger deal,” he added.

Chronicler of the Iraq war Nir Rosen pointed out the cost the Iraqis have paid for getting rid of Saddam Hussein: “hundreds of thousands of lives.”

“Yes, there are some freedoms now that did not exist before, but Iraqis say it is a ‘democracy of death,’” said Rosen.

He also said that the power in the hands of Iraqis is limited.

“Prime Minister Maliki declared independence today – it’s like the fifth Iraqi declaration of independence since 2004. As you remember, in June 2004 the Americans officially handed over sovereignty to the Iraqis,” Rosen noted. “And then there’s been one handover of sovereignty after another. But there are 50,000 troops remaining in the country – obviously it’s not fully sovereign. Americans are still very much involved in the political process, advising every ministry, helping to create a new government.”

Anti-war campaigner Kelley Vlahos also says Iraq is only a sovereign country on paper.

It is in [Iraqi’ Prime Minister’s] and President Obama’s best interest to make this a seemingly successful moment in history,” Vlahos said. “But as many have pointed out, there are a lot of loose ends here, there is a lack of clarity in terms of what the US combat operation is actually leaving behind and how much work there is yet to do there.”

On Tuesday US President Barack Obama is expected to talk from the Oval Office about the official end of the seven-year military mission in Iraq. During his campaign for president in 2008 he promised to withdraw the troops from the war-struck region.

Anti-war activist Brian Becker, the national coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition argued that the initial invasion of Iraq was illegal and so is the current and continuing occupation of the country.

I believe that what we are seeing here today is the rebranding of an occupation. I believe that the United States government, the Obama administration, which has continued with all of the Bush administration’s primary military and civilian advisors, they intend to keep the occupation of Iraq going. They’re flooding the country now with more, thousands more of private contractors, what I would call mercenaries, who are above the law,” said Becker.

Becker argued that the US invaded Iraq in order to secure the oil rich region. It was not done to address a threat from Iraq. The US initiated the invasion to conquer and dominate the region. Becker referred to the war as one of ‘choice and aggression’.

Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to then Secretary of State Colin Powell recalled receiving scripts prepared scripts from the then Vice President Dick Cheney’s office laying out the existence of weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorism in Iraq; essentially justifying a war. The scripts were to be used for a presentation to be given in a few days by Powell.

Wilkerson said the vice president’s office itself chose Colin Powell to deliver the case because he was seen as the most widely respected figure to make the case.

Dick Cheney was using him, using him as a tool to present a case that ultimately, as you said, not completely, there were some facts and figures that were right, but on its three main pillars, biological, chemical weapons stockpiles and a nuclear program that was active, was essentially wrong,” said Wilkerson.

Wilkerson said he no longer thinks as highly of Powell or himself.

I wanted to resign and I typed out my resignation letter and virtually every week thereafter pulled it out and looked at it. My greatest regret today, in that respect, is that I did not resign,” Wilkerson said.

The administration made mistakes, Powell made mistakes, he said. “I helped him.”

We could have done better.” He added.

Wilkerson argued that the Neocons and those like them were a prominent influence in the push for war with Iraq, “Right there at the top of the list”.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA and military intelligence officer explained that the Neocon group is a tight-night political group. Their foreign policy agenda is aimed at the “remaking of the middle east.”

The group’s primary concern in the Middle East is the security of Israel, he said. In fact, they suggested a war with Iraq in 1998 under the argument that Saddam Hussein was a threat to Israel.
Giraldi argued that everything changed after 9/11.

Their idea of attacking Iraq never would have happened except for the fact 9/11. 9/11 was the type of event that changed everyone’s thinking,” said Giraldi.

He explained that after the 9/11 attacks, it was easier to press the Neocon agenda because more people were seeking enemies and targets to blame.

It was clear that Iraq was no serious threat to the US, nor where they involved in 9/11, said Giraldi. However, the Neocons argued that converting the Middle East into democracies would be good for the world, good for Israel.

Iraq vet and radio host Adam Kokesh said the operation in Iraq continues, the troops are still there and are occupying the state. He further argued that Obama’s statements on the end of the war in Iraq are nothing but propaganda.

This is the second time we have been told the war in Iraq is over after lots and lots of promises,” said Kokesh.

Mina Al-Oraibi, the Washington bureau chief of Asharq Al-Awsat disagreed, saying Obama’s announcement is more than propaganda.

If we look at the history of where America has had its troops, whether we look at Germany, whether we look at South Korea, whether we look at Italy today, they still have residual forces. So, in the long term I think most Iraqis figured there were going to be some sorts of troops there,” said Al-Oraibi.

She also explained that a change in status and a name in the operation are meaningless. The name change means nothing to Iraqis, she said. Iraqis are worried more about the rise in violence and the fragility of their government.

Looking to the future, Al-Oraibi argued that the political powers in Iraq need to focus breaking down racial and ethnic lines in order for positive growth to be visible.