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Posted by on Oct 21, 2011 in International, Media, Politics, War | 12 comments

President Obama Declares: ‘Mission Not Accomplished’ & It Never Would Have Been


After eight and a half deeply tragic years highlighted by the deaths of nearly 4,800 U.S. and coalition forces, at least 100,000 Iraqis and millions of people displaced, the Iraq war finally is over.

President Obama, on a military and foreign policy roll, announced yesterday a complete drawn-down of U.S. troops at year’s end after he failed to reach agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that would have left a force of 3,000 to 5,000 training troops and some special operations forces in the country.

“After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” the president declared in the White House briefing room shortly before 1 p.m. “Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq, tens of thousands of them, will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home.”

“The last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in their support for our troops,” the president added. “That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.”

Obama’s lofty words aside, Iraq will inevitably slide into chaos if not another civil war, although the president appeared to leave the door ajar to possible future negotiations over military trainers.

The majority Shiites, minority Sunnis and independence-minded Kurds have been unable — I would say unwilling in the case of Al-Maliki and the Shiites — to reach anything even vaguely resembling political and social rapprochement, while the long and malevolent shadow of Iran will insinuate itself ever deeper into Iraq.

Long story short, the president might as well have declared “Mission Not Accomplished” in bringing to an end the fool’s mission fueled by neocon hubris that began with a March 2003 invasion on the dubious grounds that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and a fledgling nuclear weapons program, and when those turned out to be bogus, the inane assertion that he was directly involved in the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks.

By my rough estimate, I have written about 500 posts on Iraq here and at my home blog, and it was the war itself that compelled me to begin blogging in November 2005. For the following two years a detailed map of Baghdad and its crazy quilt of neighborhoods hung over my desk so I could quickly identify the location of the latest suicide bombing or attack on American troops. And there were plenty.

I frankly didn’t think that I would be writing this post anytime soon, but Obama is determined to reduce the U.S.’s global military commitment and his announcement today was made in that broader context.

The war resulted in exactly the opposite of what the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld axis had predicted.

American troops were not greeted as liberators. The war was not over by Christmas 2003. Not only did democracy not take root, but the American occupation triggered a civil war and the emergence of an Al Qaeda insurgency in a land where Saddam never would have allowed the terrorist group to become established. And an already unstable region was further destabilized, giving the upper hand to Iraq.

Every military strategy was driven not by realities on the ground but by political expedience as dictated by the White House. This resulted in a war that would be fought on the cheap with not nearly enough troops. Generals who disagreed with that shortsighted decision were transferred or sacked.

By 2006, deeply despairing of the manifold failures of his war, President Bush reluctantly agreed to the so-called Surge Strategy engineered by General David Petraeus.

Taking a page from the insurgents themselves, Petraeus engineered a stunning series of military victories based on counterinsurgency tactics that in theory would give the Iraqis enough time to sort out their differences and be able to go it alone. That never happened, the window of opportunity soon slammed shut, and while the bloodshed has abated it has not ended.

By the most conservative estimates, the war cost in excess of $1 trillion, drained precious troops and resources from the right war — the war in Afghanistan — for the wrong war, and combined with tax cuts for the rich, ran up the federal budget deficit to dizzying heights and left the U.S. ill prepared to deal with the recession that began in 2008. Today a staggering one-quarter of the record national debt is directly attributable to the war.

Meanwhile, Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics have been flooded with thousands of returning GIs suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, many of them no doubt because their mission in Iraq was never clearly defined.

On the home front, Iraq will not be remember as were Vietnam, Korea and the world wars as the war that shaped a generation.

In fact, to use a phrase I believe I originated and that later turned up as graffiti on the wall of at least one Marine outpost in Iraq, “Americans would rather be shopping at the mall.”

Bush’s efforts to sanitize the war by never asking for sacrifices on the homefront were helped considerably by a compliant news media. The New York Times‘ abrogation of its responsibility to find out what really was going on in Iraq ranks, in my view, as its darkest hour along with reporter Judith Miller, who was played like a cheap violin by Vice President Cheney, insisting that WMDs did exist long when it had become obvious that they did no

It wasn’t until five years into the war that the Gray Lady stirred and began to dig into what was going on despite the physical and sexual abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison revealed in April 2004 not by a major newspaper but by 60 Minutes and Seymour Hirsch in The New Yorker, as well as other atrocities reported on by reporters for smaller newspaper embedded with American troops.

Thanks to our commander in chief for another promise kept as a long national nightmare is finally over.

The few reporters and mainstream pundits, as well as bloggers like myself who kept nipping at Bush’s heels, can go to bed tonight with a sense of relief. As can the loved ones of the relatively few remaining troops on the ground in Iraq.

I myself plan to first get drunk with my Vietnam War buddies.

Photographs (top to bottom) by Chris Hondros/Getty Images, STR/Agence France-Presse/
Getty Images, Michael Macor/The Chronicle

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Copyright 2011 The Moderate Voice
  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Shaun,

    On another post, I said “Mission Accomplished, without the aircraft carrier, without the pomp and circumstances!!” and I stick with that, referring to Obama getting us honorably out of an entanglement we should have never have let ourselves get into.

    You say, “Mission not accomplished,” and you are correct, too, from the perspective that we did not “install” a democracy—and probably never will—in Iraq or, as you say, find the alleged WMD (because they had none), or remove an imminent threat to our country (because there never was one) and all the other falsehoods ,BS and scare tactics we were fed by Bush and his neocon pals.

  • ShannonLeee

    How about…

    Mission reasonably accomplished

  • Allen

    Mission Unemployment!

    Now our unemployment rate will jump considerably as military service ends for tens of thousands. I expect the military services will be offering “early out” deals soon.

    Lucrative government contracts will be ending and layoffs will occur.

    What about Afghanistan? The Afghan government is far weaker than Iraq’s. It’ll take fifty years to get Afghanistan even close to what Iraq is now. We can ill afford to string out our military presence there like we did in Iraq. We need to leave Afghanistan too. More unemployment.

    We have an intransigent Republican majority in the House of Representatives that will not allow funding for infrastructure construction upgrades and maintenance. Put this together with reduced veterans benefits for education or vocational retraining and we have nothing to offer our veterans returning but life under a bridge. An old disintegrating bridge.

    Thanks to the Republican party, that traditionally prefer Wall Street moguls and their profits over the everyday American, their will be no post war boom and no peace dividend. Just the bitter taste of unemployment for those returning from war.

  • dduck

    Mission accomplished, if we get those folks that helped us out in Iraq. They are in grave danger because they helped in our “effort”, right or wrong. If we don’t shame on us and we should not expect help in our next “adventure”.
    Do the right thing O, and stop the BS.

  • Allen

    Duck-

    Sorry but NO.

    The Republican’s in Congress will not provide the funding for bringing those that helped THEM when THEY were in charge of Iraq and the chips were down. Which is typical Republican behavior. Let them eat cake, as it were. When McCain starts complaining, buy him a house on the Euphrates where he can retire. (finally)

  • cjjack

    I was still in elementary school when the last American soldiers left Vietnam. I didn’t quite understand what I was seeing on the television, and I don’t think any honest explanation as to why we were there in the first place would have helped to clear up the confusion.

    Later on, I sort of got where they were coming from. I mean, if we didn’t stop the “commies” in Vietnam, next thing you know they’d be invading Australia, and from there it’s just an ocean before they’re at our doorstep. A poor excuse, but at least it had the virtue of being somewhat plausible. After we left, the “commies” really did take over ‘Nam, and then Cambodia.

    Yet with regards to Iraq, there wasn’t any danger of the ideology behind that nation ever spreading anywhere near here. Iraq was not a domino who’s fall would lead to other nations around her falling in the same direction. There was no superpower behind Iraq that we were struggling with by proxy.

    And the WMD thing? I wonder how that will play out in the history books today’s elementary school kids will wind up reading. Some kid will (hopefully) ask “so, we went to war to stop Iraq from using WMDs that it turned out they didn’t actually have?”

  • I can’t shake this feeling that the next wave of truly destructive terrorists will come from Iraq.

    We did not make many friends in that engagement. And they will become educated and will have financial resources, and then they’ll be dangerous. And it’ll be our own fault.

  • dduck

    Barky, how about the friends we are leaving behind to swing in the wind. Obama, will be a disgrace in my mind if he doesn’t do more to help them. The world remembers disloyalty and we won’t have as many “friends” helping our troops in the next affair.

  • dduck, we can’t solve everyone’s problems for them. We just can’t.

  • dduck

    BS, Barky. These people put their lives on the line to help our troops.

  • Antonio_Weaver

    “The last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in their support for our troops,” the president added. “That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.”

    COMPLETE B U L L S H I T!!!!!!!!!!

    After all of the death, destruction, and assassinations the US has caused do you honestley think “They”, the middle East, are going to let them just “walk” away, go home to their loved ones and “eat, drink and be merry”, especially when they could’nt even win whatever they (corporate owned government) were trying to win: wealth and economic expansion?????

    I will say this, and I hope that I am completely wrong……but This is Not Over.
    No not by a long shot…This Is Not Over!

  • sentry

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Obama and the like were perfectly willing to abandon our helpers in Iraq, more chilling if one examines it than the reputed practice of Hillary Clinton in abandoning those no longer of use to her.

    Of course, that would be likely be ignored given the likelihood of much greater blunders or misdeeds, affecting us much more (as with what Obama and the Congress did in 2009 and 2010. At least we still remain able to show our distasted for it, as in the elections recently.)

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