By Kenneth J. Theisen
On Tuesday, April 7th President Barack Obama made an unannounced four-hour trip to Baghdad to promote the continuing war there, while pretending to end it. (This is reminiscent of the surprise trips taken there by his predecessor, George W. Bush.) Obama’s Iraq trip was actually confined to Camp Victory, the largest U.S. military base in Iraq. It was more of a photo-op than a trip that involved any real substance. During his short stay, Obama met with top U.S. Iraq commander, General Ray Odierno; and a few Iraqi puppet leaders, such as Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Maliki told reporters, "We assured the president that all the progress that has been made in the security area will continue."
Of course security was not good enough to allow Obama to travel through Baghdad streets or beyond the confines of the military base. An AFP report indicated that Obama’s touch down in Baghdad occurred when “a spate of recent attacks have killed dozens and wounded hundreds more.” The report continued that “A string of car bombings in mainly Shiite districts of Baghdad on Monday killed at least 34 people in what the US military said appeared to be coordinated attacks by Al-Qaeda. A further eight died in another attack in the capital before Obama’s arrival on Tuesday.”
Obama made a short propaganda speech to the assembled U.S. troops and stated, "It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis. They need to take responsibility for their country." Obama told the troops, “You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement.” I wonder if Obama sensed the irony of declaring a country “democractic” in making this announcement at just one of the many U.S. bases used to occupy it. But in a deeper sense, the invasion and continuing military occupation of Iraq concentrate exactly what the U.S. delivers when it claims to bring democracy to any country.
The so-called democratic government there was installed after a massive U.S. invasion that has resulted in the deaths of a million Iraqis. Millions more are external or internal refugees. Hundreds of thousands of medical personnel and other educated Iraqis have fled the country. The U.S. still occupies the country with more than 100,000 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of U.S. contractors. The U.S. is currently training tens of thousands of Iraqi puppet troops to help the U.S. to control the country, even after the so-called withdrawal of “combat troops.” The U.S. has the largest U.S. embassy in the world located not too far from where Obama made his speech and that embassy will be the real hub of control in Iraq for years to come if the Obama administration is able to carry out its goals in Iraq. This is the reality of “democracy” that the U.S. has brought to Iraq.
During his speech about making Iraqis responsible for their country, Obama did not mention that his “withdrawal plan” would leave a U.S. force of 50,000 in Iraq to provide “counterterrorism duties.” I guess these 50,000 troops, the tens of thousands of U.S. contractors, and the huge embassy to be left behind will just be assisting the Iraqis in taking responsibility to follow U.S. dictates.
Obama’s quick stop had nothing to do with promoting an independent Iraq and everything to do with fooling the American people. His stopover led network newscasts and generated overwhelmingly positive U.S. mainstream media coverage. Obama was framed in front of cheering U.S. troops. His remarks were not critically examined by the media and millions of Americans actually think Obama is “withdrawing” from Iraq and handling over responsibility of their country to the Iraqis.
But all the PR stunts do not diminish the harsh reality for the Iraqi masses. And they in no way change the challenges to people in this country to see beyond the hype and understand our responsibility to build massive political opposition to the monstrous crime of war, occupation and torture in service of empire.
Iraq is still occupied and will continue to remain under U.S. domination for decades to come unless the U.S. is really forced to withdraw all its troops and other means of control. This will not be accomplished by relying on the U.S. government, even when it is dominated by Democrats in the White House and congress. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are an imperialist party dedicated to carrying out imperialist goals in the Middle East and elsewhere. While the tactics may change under an Obama-led administration, the goal is the same – to assure U.S. domination of the region. In pursuit of that strategy, Obama will use diplomacy and military means. He will use propaganda to mislead the masses of people if he is allowed to do so by progressive supporters who view his actions uncritically.
Millions supported Obama because they believed his campaign lies that he was an agent of change. They actually still believe he will end the war in Iraq. But actions speak louder than words. And even his words, if analyzed, show that the war will continue for years if he implements what he has said. This can not be accepted and only mass mobilization in opposition to Obama’s imperialist policies will actually create any real change in Iraq or the rest of the world. If we fail to generate this opposition, we can look forward to many more Obama speeches where we will be told how the Iraqi people are now responsible for their own country while seeing that the U.S. is still in actual control.