[Marxism] Obama has implemented the Bush-Petraeus plan in Iraq

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 4 10:14:42 MDT 2010


AMY GOODMAN: President Obama said Monday the US military is on 
target to withdraw all its combat troops from Iraq by the end of 
this month. Speaking before the Disabled American Veterans 
national convention in Atlanta, the President pledged the American 
presence in Iraq would soon transform from a primarily military to 
a diplomatic one.

       PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I made it clear that by August 
31st, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that 
is exactly what we are doing, as promised and on schedule. 
Already, we have closed or turned over to Iraq hundreds of bases. 
We’re moving out millions of pieces of equipment in one of the 
largest logistics operations that we’ve seen in decades. By the 
end of this month, we’ll have brought more than 90,000 of our 
troops home from Iraq since I took office. More than 90,000 have 
come home. Today, even as terrorists try to derail Iraq’s 
progress, because of the sacrifices of our troops and their Iraqi 
partners, violence in Iraq continues to be near the lowest it’s 
been in years.

       And next month we will change our military mission from 
combat to supporting and training Iraqi security forces. These are 
dangerous tasks. There are still those with bombs and bullets who 
will try to stop Iraq’s progress. And the hard truth is, we have 
not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq. But make no 
mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing from a military effort 
led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama, promising major changes to the 
US-led war in Iraq.

But Iraqi government figures refute Obama’s statement that 
violence in Iraq is near the lowest it’s been in years. The latest 
numbers from Iraq show that July was the deadliest month in Iraq 
in well over a year, with over 500 people killed last month. The 
US military has rejected those figures, saying some 200 people 
were killed in July.

Well, for more on what the promised drawdown of forces and the 
official end of the US combat mission in Iraq looks like, I’m 
joined here in New York by investigative journalist Jeremy 
Scahill, Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute 
and author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful 
Mercenary Army. He blogs at thenation.com.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jeremy.


AMY GOODMAN: Respond to President Obama’s announcement.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, first of all, what President Obama is doing 
is implementing the policy that was on the desk of George W. Bush 
when he left the White House. This is essentially the 
Petraeus-Bush Iraq plan. So, the idea that Obama is making good on 
a campaign pledge to end the war is sort of playing with words, 
because the reality is he just implemented what was current US 
policy when he came into the White House.

What I think is more important for people to understand is, when 
President Obama talks about how the war is going to be shifted 
over to the diplomats, that doesn’t just mean that all of a sudden 
there’s going to be negotiations by pencil pushers. The fact is 
that Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, last month submitted 
a request to the Pentagon for an incredible beefing up of the 
State Department’s own paramilitary force. And what the State 
Department is saying is, when you take out all these combat 
troops, we want to have a replacement for that capacity. So 
Clinton, who as a candidate for president said she would ban 
Blackwater and other mercenary firms, is now presiding over what 
is going to be a radical expansion of the use of these companies 
and private soldiers in Iraq. The US embassy is the size of eighty 
football fields; you know, it’s the size of Vatican City. The 
Vatican has embassies around the world. Our embassy is the size of 
the Vatican, in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Is it the largest US embassy in the world?

JEREMY SCAHILL: It’s the largest embassy of any country in the 
history of civilization. I mean, it’s a city unto itself. And it 
necessitates, Hillary Clinton believes, between 6,000 and 7,000 
private security operatives. Just to put this in perspective, 
there are 4,000 special forces operators deployed in seventy-five 
countries around the world. That is the US special forces 
deployment under Obama. Hillary Clinton wants 7,000 of these guys 
just in Baghdad alone to protect the US embassy.

There are also—the State Department also has plans to remake some 
US bases into what they call "enduring presence posts," EPPs. And 
so, you’ll have these outposts around the country that are 
essentially—what is essentially unfolding here is a downsized and 
rebranded occupation, Obama-style, that is going to necessitate a 
surge in private forces. The State Department is asking for MRAP 
vehicles, armored vehicles, for Black Hawk helicopters and for 
these paramilitary forces. So, yes, you can say that officially 
combat has ended, but in reality you’re continuing it through the 
back door by bringing in these paramilitary forces and classifying 
them as diplomatic security, which was Bush’s game from the very 

AMY GOODMAN: What about the level of violence currently in Iraq?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, you know, as you said in the intro 
to this segment, we heard President Obama say that violence is at 
an all-time low. The Iraqi government says it’s at an all-time 
high, since 2008 'til now, July, 500 people being killed. The fact 
is that the situation in Iraq right now is as unstable as it's 
ever been. They can’t form a government. You have Ayad Allawi, who 
is a CIA asset, who’s accused of murdering unarmed prisoners, who 
was a Baathist and one of Saddam’s top people early on in his 
political career. And then you have Nouri al-Maliki, who has been 
a pliant sort of US puppet. Those two, it’s the CIA guy versus the 
White House’s guy kind of fighting for control of Iraq right now.

The vast majority of people don’t have consistent access to 
potable water, to electricity, to gasoline, in one of the richest, 
oil-richest countries in the world. Oil production levels are 
below the Saddam-era level right now. And under Saddam’s Iraq, 
there were crippling sanctions led by the United States that were 
classified as UN sanctions. I mean, Iraq is a disaster right now. 
It’s an utter disaster and a humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of 
people are internally displaced or have fled to Syria or Jordan. 
Most Iraqis think it was better under Saddam Hussein. You know—

AMY GOODMAN: Although they didn’t like him.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, no, of course no. I mean, but that’s the 
point, is for Iraqi—anyone who was in Iraq under Saddam and saw 
people who had their tongues cut out for saying something, you 
know, negative, mildly negative, about Saddam Hussein, for Iraqis 
to say it was better under Saddam is a devastating commentary on 
the failure of the United States to do anything except make it 
worse in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Level of even electricity in the city?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, I mean, it was—well, I spent a lot of time 
in Saddam’s Iraq, and, you know, there were electrical outages, 
but electricity was pretty consistent. Now in Iraq, I mean, people 
fear for their lives at times, having to go out to try to seek 
clean drinking water, to get gasoline. You know, you had an ethnic 
cleansing that took place in Baghdad, where Sunnis and other 
minorities were expelled from the city. I mean, it’s been an utter 
shameful operation, utterly shameful operation.

AMY GOODMAN: The nine—what, more than $9 billion of money—

JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, in satchels of a million dollars.


JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, I mean—but remember, this is—in a way, this 
is an old story. Iraq was a money pit from the very beginning. 
Tons of people made off as millionaires out of this thing. They 
were giving all this cash to pay bribes. We’re seeing it happen in 
Afghanistan, too. US taxpayers are funding massive amounts of 
money that have no accountability trail whatsoever. I think it’s 
much greater than the figures that we’re seeing right now in Iraq. 
And in Afghanistan, we’re funding both sides of the war. We’re 
funding, you know, US forces—and "we" meaning taxpayers in the 
United States—and we’re also funding the Taliban, because they’re 
paying bribes in Pakistan and in Afghanistan to get US military 
supplies to fight the Taliban. I mean, it’s incredible. And Iraq 
and Afghanistan, it’s very similar in that way. We can have a 
crisis in this country—you know, education, healthcare, all of the 
problems that we’re facing right now in the United States—and $9 
billion goes missing in Iraq. And who knows how many millions go 
missing every month in Afghanistan? You saw the stories about all 
this money leaving on crates going out of the airport in Kabul. 
What is going on? How can the Democrats not raise this issue, not 
make this, you know, one of the key points? A hundred of them 
say—you know, they vote against the war funding. Why are the other 
Democrats even voting for this anymore? Who’s representing the 
people here?

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, we’re going to be speaking with Julian 
Assange in a minute, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. US 
government is really amping up going after WikiLeaks, him 
personally, Bradley Manning. Some remarkable statements have been 
made. One of the exposés in the tens of thousands of documents was 
Task Force 373, something you’ve been talking about before.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, we actually discussed this on 
Democracy Now! earlier this year, these task forces that are 
operating in Afghanistan, Pakistan. They operated in the Horn of 
Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia. Task Force 373 was a task 
force that was hunting, essentially, people that were determined 
to be high-value targets. They had a list of some 2,000 people 
that were going to be targeted for either assassination or some 
kind of an abduction, you know, or incarceration. And this task 
force has since been—it then was transferred into a different 
designation where it was Task Force 714, and now it’s under 
another designation that’s classified right now. And these task 
forces are being portrayed by the New York Times and other media 
outlets as sort of a permanent standing thing. They talk about 
Task Force 373. There are scores of these task forces that are 
formed around the world that are made up of different elements of 
US special forces. They’ll take 160th Aviation people from the 
Night Stalkers, the specialized paramilitary pilots of the US 
military. They’ll take people from Navy SEAL Team 6 or from Delta 
Force. And they form these task forces, and then they go out with 
a specific set of missions.

This is not about Task Force 373. What we learned from the 
documents about Task Force 373 is what some of us have been 
observing for quite some time, that in Afghanistan there are two 
wars that the US is fighting. One is the publicly available or 
accessible war. Journalists go and they embed with Marines or 
other sort of conventional forces. And then you have the special 
forces war, which is the real war—night raids, kicking down doors, 
a lot of civilians being killed, very little regard for the value 
of civilian life if they’re near someone that these task forces 
consider to be a high-value target. And there are reports that are 
emerging now that are coming out, studies showing that for every 
civilian the US kills in Afghanistan, that there is a—there are 
six attacks that take place then over the ensuing months after 
that attack. So what we’re seeing is a public rhetoric about 
reducing civilian casualties and then these task forces literally 
hunting human beings, killing them, and not caring about the 
civilians that are killed, and, in fact, actively covering it up 
and issuing false press releases and blaming other forces, when in 
reality it’s been US special forces.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, I want to thank you for being with 
us. Jeremy Scahill, Puffin Foundation writing fellow at The 
Nation, he’s a correspondent for Democracy Now! and author of the 
bestselling book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful 
Mercenary Army. Check out his blog at thenation.com.

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