From The Empire and Inequality Report: “Nobody’s Leaving Right Now”

Here (pasted in below) are the last three (and relatively quotation-saturated) sections of the fourth number (titled "Nobody's Leaving") of my recently launched Empire and Inequality Report.  Here are links for no. 1 ("Victory Without Vision"), no. 2 ("Neanderthal Continuities of a Bipartisan Nature") and no.3 ("You Just Don't Like George"). Readers can write me at the e-mail address listed at the bottom of this post to receive the report in question on a regular basis. It is currently free of charge, directly violating the notion that there is no such thing as a fee lunch. Please note the section below on Recommendation/Catch-22.



The recently issued bipartisan (not nonpartisan) Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group (ISG) report ought to be understood as a richly deserved slap in the face for anyone naïve enough to think that a noble cadre of seasoned white Washington “wise men” – along with one white woman (former supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor) and one black male (former National Urban League chief and Clinton golfing buddy Vernon Jordan) – would grease the skids for the rapid and unqualified U.S. military withdrawal. It acknowledges that the occupation of Iraq is not working as (poorly and barely) planned and that “victory” is impossible under the present "course.” But it naturally acknowledges neither the criminally imperial nature of the operation nor the moral imperative for the U.S. to stop perpetrating the crime. 

As the left U.S. foreign policy critic Phyllis Bennis predicted on the basis of leaked portions of the report, the ISG recommendations “tinker around the edges” of Bush’s “stay-the-course” policy and “do not propose a wholesale alteration, let alone an actual policy reversal.”  They “add a more diplomatic component to the current military primacy (something already underway), but [do] not call for ending the occupation and bringing all the troops home, not immediately and not in a phased withdrawal. Given the clear reluctance of James Baker, and the Iraq Study Group (ISG) as a whole, to challenge George Bush's stated and re-stated (again on Nov 29) commitment that he would not pull the troops out of Iraq until the ‘mission is accomplished,’” Bennis notes, “it should not be surprising that the ISG's recommendations will be rather modest…nothing the Baker-Hamilton teams calls for will seriously challenge the existing stalemate facing the Bush administration in Iraq” (Bennis, “The Baker-Hamilton Recommendations,” ZNet Magazine, December 03, 2006). The recommendations’ “diplomatic component,” Bennis ads, is heavily compromised by the report’s failure to substantively and seriously acknowledge numerous Iranian and Syrian concerns. 

According to Tom Englehardt’s always informative Tomgram:

“The Iraq Study Group plan – should it ever be put into effect – would in no way affect our essential network of monumental permanent bases in Iraq (where, many billions of dollars later, concrete is still being poured); it would leave many less ‘combat’ troops but many more ‘advisors’ in-country to ‘stand up’ the Iraqi Army (tactics already tried, at the cost of many billions of dollars, and just about sure to fail); many more American troops will find themselves either imprisoned on those vast bases of ours in Iraq or on similar installations in the ‘neighborhood’ where they are likely to bring so many of our problems with them…All of this should ensure that, well into 2008, at least 70,000 American military personnel will still be in Iraq, after which, in the midst of a presidential election season, will actual withdrawal finally appear on some horizon? In other words, the Baker Commission plan guarantees us at least another 3-5 years in Iraq. And, oh yes, here's something else no one is likely mention. Those Americans left behind after the phased withdrawers head for the horizon will surely be more vulnerable, which means, as in Vietnam during the Vietnamization years, the ratcheting up of American air power… And, oh yes, during this ‘short’ period of perhaps 12-14 months when we are supposed to be phasing away, based on present casualty rates, perhaps another 40,000 to 60,000 Iraqi civilians will die horrific deaths as will at least modest numbers of young Americans, reminding us that the definitions of ‘short,’ ‘remarkable consensus,’ and ‘horizon’ – after all, your horizon may be someone else's home – are in the eye of the beholder. And just one more thing: all this will be directed out of the largest embassy in the world, a vast, nearly complete, nearly billion dollar complex set in the heart of Baghdad's Green Zone and armed with its own anti-missile system, which no ‘exit’ strategy on any table in any foreseeable future is likely to mention….. You'll know something's in the air when some serious panel gets together to sort out our future strategy in Iraq, and you start regularly seeing ‘withdrawal’ surface in the media without an adjective attached, or when you see any sober discussion of permanent bases, American air power, or oil.” (see http://www.zmag.org/ content/ print_article. cfm?itemID=11550§ionID=1).


It is true that the Baker-Hamilton Recommendation 22 says that “the President should state that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Iraq.”  This statement comes, however, with an important qualification or Catch 22. “If the Iraqi government were to request a temporary base or bases,” Recommendation 22 continues, “then the U.S government could consider that request as it would in the case of any other government.” 

This is very different from calling for the actual dismantlement of numerous permanent military bases that ALREADY EXIST in Iraq (Associated Press, “Extended U.S. Presence in Iraq? $1 billion for Construction of American Military Bases and No Public Plans,” March 21, 2006, available online at www.msnbc.msn.com/id/ 110723 77/).  The way is open for the Bush and future administrations to claim that their in-fact permanent military installations – including a sprawling complex that is home to 17,000 troops and workers in Iraq’s western dessert – exist because the Iraqi occupation government asked for them. This is how the White House and Pentagon already talk about the bases.  Any such "requests" will strike most Iraqis as thoroughly illegitimate – made under the duress and self-fulfilling logic of our illegal and racist oil invasion.



According to a November 30th “news analysis” by veteran New York Times foreign policy reporter David Sanger, “the idea of a major and rapid withdrawal” from Iraq “seems to be fading as a viable option." This terrible moral and political evaporation is occurring, Sanger said, “despite a Democratic election victory this month that was strongly based on antiwar sentiments.” The title of Sanger’s essay was chilling: “The Only Consensus on Iraq: Nobody’s Leaving Right Now” (New York Times, 30 November 2006). 

Never mind the antiwar mandate of the 2006 election. Never mind abundant polling data showing that the homeland majority supports what the bipartisan corporate-imperial elite considers to be precipitous withdrawal. 

Never mind that (as a recent survey conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes show)  the preponderant majority of Iraqis see U.S. troops as a destabilizing and enemy force, want the U.S. military to leave (as a British Ministry of Defense poll also found in 2005), and support attacks on American troops.  Or that most Americans (as revealed by a 2004 Chicago Council of Foreign Relations poll) think the U.S. should leave Iraq “if that’s what most Iraqis want.”

Never mind that Iraqis’ support for attacks on U.S. occupiers is fed significantly by the accurate belief that the U.S. seeks permanent bases in Iraq.  Or that the occupation inflames Iraqi violence that is feeding a disastrous, instability-enhancing  exodus of educated and professional Iraqis.  Or that ending the invasion would allow the Iraqis to take new responsibility for dealing with their internal divisions. 

Never mind that the criminal occupation continues to send a rising toll of dead and (not sufficiently covered or discussed) badly damaged (physically and/or emotionally) GIs back to the U.S. Or that the war has sucked up $400 billion that might have been spent on tackling some of the growing and seemingly endless number of items on the list of unmet social needs in the Empire’s savagely unequal homeland. Much of that lost "treasure" has gone into the well-stocked coffers of such benevolent and humanitarian institutions as Haliburton, Boeing, and Raytheon. 

Never mind that the Occupier state could bring in Arab and Muslim states and the international community to de-escalate the Middle Eastern tinderbox for a small fraction of the cost of the  incredibly expensive and provocative occupation. And never mind that the preponderant majority of the politically and morally cognizant human race wants the U.S. to rapidly end its illegal occupation.  

All of this is irrelevant from the perspective of the corporate-imperial “power elite,” whose fanatical attachment to global dominance trumps “naïve” and “impractical” notions flowing from the notion of serious (“one person, one vote” and equal policymaking influence for all) democracy.  American Men of Empire know that the maximal objectives have been blown away, but they are more than willing to sacrifice thousands more non-“elite” lives to the pursuit of persistent imperial ambitions. In this and many other related ways, the “elite” is making the argument for a new American Revolution. 


The Empire and Inequality Report is a semi-weekly news and commentary letter produced by veteran radical historian, journalist, and activist Paul Street ([email protected]), a noted anti-centrist political commentator located in the Midwestern center of the U.S. Street is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004), Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005), and Still Separate, Unequal: Race, Place, and Policy in Chicago (Chicago, 2005) Street’s next book is Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (New York, 2007).

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