US Military: The Uninvited Guest Who Just Never Leaves

Today, President Obama will address the nation from the oval office, and will praise the sacrifice made by the US military in Iraq. The President will also claim that the “US combat operations in Iraq are over”. However, this upcoming statement is part truth part political spin for US domestic consumption.

The reality of Iraq and the US presence there is quite different. 50,000 US troops will still be stationed in Iraq for so called training purposes, as well as more than 100,000 “contractors” which are hired guns for either the State Department or private US or international corporations. The 50,000 remaining troops are supposed to leave next year, but the Obama administration has already indicated that they could stay longer at the request of the Iraqi government.

The American people would be extremely naive to believe that US troops and “contractors” (mercenaries) will completely leave Iraq and Afghanistan any time soon. It is actually more murky than just wars over resources such as oil in Iraq and lithium in Afghanistan, it is also about the US strategy of having substantial military assets on both sides of Iran’s borders.

The very same imperialist logic was used, and still is, to keep US troops in Germany and Japan after World War II. In Germany, it was obviously in the context of the Cold War with the USSR. In Japan today, it has to do with counter-balancing the growing military power of China.

Despite all the claims of progress made in Iraq, the country is still broken.  Almost half year after the elections, Iraq still does not have a new government. Today, Vice President Biden was in Baghdad to officially mark the occasion. But a few hours before his arrival, mortars landed on the fortified and American controlled Green Zone.

The Obama administration can spin the reality of Iraq however they want, but it does not mean that the war is over for Iraqis. Bomb attacks are still a constant threat, more than 3 million Iraqis are refugees in either Jordan, Syria or Europe, and the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites has not being resolved. The US invasion has not made Iraq into a functioning democracy at all, and for the moment the country is not even stable. A full blown sectarian civil war between the three communities could restart at any moment.

It is hard to reduce the tragic mistake that was the Iraq war to numbers, but this is where we stand so far according to a very conservative and somewhat rosy estimate from the military newspaper Stars & Stripes:  4,414 US troops killed; 31,897 US troops wounded in action; 1,135 US troops amputees; 113, 166 Iraqi civilian deaths; $747.6 Billion for war’s operating cost or $2,435 per US citizen; the estimate of the total cost of the Iraq war stands at $3 Trillion, plus an additional 500 million for the cost of medical care and disability compensation for veterans.

Let’s not kid ourselves, if the US military is still in Germany and Japan 65 years after the end of World War II they are more than likely to be in Iraq and Afghanistan for decades to come, unless we have some real change of policies in Washington.


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