Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Playing with Numbers and Human Lives
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August 30, 2010
The soldiers of the US 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division
hollered as they made their way into Kuwait. "We won," they claimed. "Itís
But what exactly did they win?
And is the war
It seems we are once again walking into the same trap,
the same nonsensical assumptions of wars won, missions accomplished, troops
withdrawn, and jolly soldiers carrying cardboard signs of heart-warming
messages like "Lindsay & Austin ... Dadís coming home."
of the media is focused on the logistics of the misleading withdrawal of the
"last combat brigade" from Iraq on August 19 - some accentuating the fact
that the withdrawal is happening two weeks ahead of the August 31 deadline -
most of us are guilty of forgetting Iraq and its people. When the economy
began to take center stage, we completely dropped the war off our list of
But this is not about memory, or a way of honoring the
dead and feeling compassion for the living. Forgetting wars leads to a
complete polarization of discourses, thus allowing the crafters of war to
sell the public whatever suits their interests and stratagems.
an August 22 Washington Post article entitled "Five myths about the Iraq
troop withdrawal", Kenneth M Pollack unravels the first "myth": "As of this
month, the United States no longer has combat troops in Iran." Pollack
claims this idea is "not even close" because "roughly 50,000 American
military personnel remain in Iraq, and the majority are still combat troops
- they're just named something else. The major units still in Iraq will no
longer be called "brigade combat teams" and instead will be called "advisory
and assistance brigades". But a rose by any other name is still a rose, and
the differences in brigade structure and personnel are minimal.
what if the US army downgrades its military presence in Iraq and re-labels
over 50,000 remaining soldiers? Will the US military now stop chasing after
perceived terrorist threats? Will it concede an inch of its unchallenged
control over Iraqi skies? Will it relinquish power over the countryís
self-serving political elite? Will it give up its influence over every
relevant aspect of life in the country, from the now autonomous Kurdish
region in the north all the way to the border with Kuwait in the south,
which the jubilant soldiers crossed while hollering the shrieks of victory?
The Iraq war has been one of the most well-controlled wars the US
has ever fought, in terms of its language and discourse. Even those opposed
to the war tend to be misguided as to their reasons: "Iraqis need to take
charge of their own country"; "Iraq is a sectarian society and America
cannot rectify that"; "It is not possible to create a Western-style
democracy in Iraq"; "Itís a good thing Saddam Hussein was taken down, but
the US should have left straight after". These ideas might be described as
"anti-war", but they are all based on fallacious assumptions that were fed
to us by the same recycled official and media rhetoric.
wonder that the so-called anti-war movement waned significantly after the
election of President Barack Obama. The new president merely shifted
military priorities from Iraq to Afghanistan. His government is now
re-branding the Iraq war, although maintaining the interventionist spirit
behind it. It makes perfect sense that the US State Department is now the
one in charge of the future mission in Iraq. The occupation of Iraq, while
it promises much violence and blood, is now a political scheme. It requires
good public relations.
The State Department will now supervise
future violence in Iraq, which is likely to increase in coming months due to
the ongoing political standoff and heightened sectarian divisions. An attack
blamed on al-Qaeda in an Iraqi army recruitment center on August 17 claimed
61 lives and wounded many. "Iraqi officials say July saw the deaths of more
than 500 people, including 396 civilians, making it the deadliest month for
more than two years," reported Robert Tait in Radio Free Europe.
Since the March elections, Iraq has had no government. The political rift in
the country, even among the ruling Shi'ite groups, is large and widening.
The disaffected Sunnis have been humiliated and collectively abused because
of the misguided claim that they were favored by Saddam. Hate is brewing and
the countryís internal affairs are being handled jointly by some of the most
corrupt politicians the world has ever known.
understands that it needs to deliver on some of Obamaís many campaign
promises before the November elections. Thus the re-branding campaign, which
could hide the fact that the US has no real intention of removing itself
from the Iraqís military or political milieus. But since the current number
of military personnel might not be enough to handle the deepening security
chaos in the country, the new caretakers at the State Department are playing
"State Department spokesman P J Crowley said [a] plan
would bring to some 7,000 the total security contractors employed by the
government in Iraq, where since the 2003 US invasion private security firms
have often been accused of acting above the law," according to Reuters.
Itís important that we understand the number game is just a game. Many
colonial powers in the past controlled their colonies through the use of
local forces and minimal direct involvement. Those of us oppose the Iraq war
should do so based on the guiding principle that foreign invasions,
occupations and interventions in sovereign countriesí affairs are a direct
violation of international law. It is precisely the interventionist mindset
that must be confronted, challenged, and rejected.
While it is a
good thing that that thousands of American dads are now coming home, we must
also remember that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi moms and dads never did.
Millions of refugees from the US-led invasion are still circling the country
and the Middle East.
War is not about numbers and dates. Itís about
people, their rights, their freedom and their future. Re-branding the army
and the war will provide none of this for grief-stricken and vulnerable
The fact is, no one has won this war. And the occupation is
anything but over.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net)
is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on Amazon.com.