AUS DEM SPIEGEL
Ausgabe 34/2010

The Withdrawal A Great Deal for Obama -- Nothing for Iraq

On May 1, 2003, US President George W. Bush announced the end of combat operations in Iraq. This month, President Barack Obama will end the fight for a second time. But who won? Certainly not the Iraqis.

US troops in Kuwait at a ceremony marking the withdrawal of the last combat troops from Iraq.
AP

US troops in Kuwait at a ceremony marking the withdrawal of the last combat troops from Iraq.

A Commentary by


It started with an ultimatum, with the arrogance of a man who not only commanded the world's largest military force, but also appeared to hold sway over time. "Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours," George W. Bush ordered on the evening of March 17, 2003. "Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing." This was in total disregard of the United Nations, whose Security Council has the sole legitimate authority to declare such a war. And for those allies who refused to take part, the US president had nothing but disdain.

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America chose the time of the attack, and also of the presumptuous victory speech which Bush gave six weeks later on board the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln: mission accomplished.

What came afterwards -- the terror, the civil war, the 100,000 dead, the widows and the amputees and the tiny sliver of optimism that followed -- was no longer America's choice. It was the consequence of Bush's hubris and his disastrous blunders made right at the beginning of the occupation. Today these mistakes continue to plague Iraq. Today there is no end in sight to the war -- it is merely gradually slipping from our attention.

Now comes another "time of our choosing," the penultimate one that Bush negotiated before he left office. Barack Obama is gratefully adhering to the inherited timetable because it benefits him in the mid-term election campaign: On Aug. 31 the combat mission will officially be terminated for the second time. Last Thursday, the last combat brigade left the country. A total of 50,000 US soldiers, now called "trainers," will remain until the end of 2011. "Iraq! We've won! America!" yelled a soldier as his Humvee rolled across the border.

Who Won?

Is the Iraq War over? Was it worth it? Who won? Saddam and his sons are gone, that is to America's credit. A parliament was elected three times -- the only relatively free elections in the Arab world. That is an accomplishment.

But there is no security, unless we declare as "secure" a country in which hundreds of people continue to be murdered every month. There were 222 murders in July, according to the statistics compiled by the Americans. The Iraqis, who have now assumed responsibility themselves and therefore don't tend toward exaggeration, have counted 535 dead.

The freedom that they enjoy today is an abstract achievement for most Iraqis. Last Friday, the temperature in Baghdad soared to 47 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit). The electric fans ran twice -- shortly in the morning and shortly at night -- for a total of two hours.

Iraq, the energy giant whose enormous potential America set out to unleash, is now producing less oil than under Saddam. Only 1 percent of the workforce is employed by the oil industry, which produces 95 percent of government revenue.

And, nearly six months after the last election, they are still squabbling over the oil -- the same party and militia leaders whose hatred drove the country into civil war four years ago. There is no new government.

A Great Deal for Obama

America has failed to create a buttress that would hold this state together. It too quickly dissolved an army that it is now painstakingly trying to put back together again. Yet today the Iraqi army's officers openly talk about which bridges over the Tigris they would block in the event of a putsch. Their chief of staff said in mid-August: "The US Army has to stay until the Iraqi army is fully operational in 2020."

The Iraq War has stirred things up in the Middle East, but it has made no headway. It has a winner that nobody wanted: Iran, whose arch enemy Saddam has been eliminated. It has a loser: America's reputation as a power capable of restoring order. And it has left behind a country that is just as divided today as the day it was founded.

King Faisal, who was placed in power by the British, complained that in Iraq "there is still no nation, but rather an unmanageable mass of people who are adverse to every patriotic idea, steeped in religious absurdities, bound by no commonalities, susceptible to anarchy and prepared to revolt against every type of government." His dynasty lasted 37 years, survived two attempted coups, and is recognized as the most stable period in the history of modern Iraq.

What does it mean in this country, in this part of the world, if America declares that its war is over for the second time? A great deal for Obama -- and nothing for Iraq.

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Norberto_Tyr 08/24/2010
1. A virtual withdrawal to say the least
A virtual withdrawal, Aljazeera reported that combat troops will stay put and at the ready protecting 'western' companies' oil extraction infrastructure. Recent statistics (Aug 2010) prove that Iraq civilian casualties are sharply on the rise. Summarizing, every stakeholder is happy: the Commander in Chief Obama, General David Petraeus (the virtual victor), current Iraqi government and establishment, foreign resources companies, stockbrokers, et cetera, everyone but the Iraqi people and, of course, justice. A rather odd democracy to say the least. Norberto
kevin kirchman 08/25/2010
2. Saddam's official crime
After all that, we will all remember that Saddam was deposed because he prosecuted through due process of law a group of attempted assassins, found them guilty, and sentenced them according to law to capital punishment. For this a fine Prince was murdered, his country's infrastructure destroyed, his people left in a violent anarchy, and the world having to take off their shoes to make international flights. Why must the world be so hostage to American governing incompetence? From a former American
BTraven 08/30/2010
3.
Zitat von Norberto_TyrA virtual withdrawal, Aljazeera reported that combat troops will stay put and at the ready protecting 'western' companies' oil extraction infrastructure. Recent statistics (Aug 2010) prove that Iraq civilian casualties are sharply on the rise. Summarizing, every stakeholder is happy: the Commander in Chief Obama, General David Petraeus (the virtual victor), current Iraqi government and establishment, foreign resources companies, stockbrokers, et cetera, everyone but the Iraqi people and, of course, justice. A rather odd democracy to say the least. Norberto
I have read that soldiers will be replaced by mercenaries of private security companies like Blackwater. Blackwater? Was it not the firm whose staff was involved in some severe wrongdoing? Did it security personal not cause the siege of Falluja?
harryfox 08/30/2010
4. Disagreement with Mr. Zand . . .
I disagree with some of the text in the commentary of Bernhard Zand. His commentary appears to over-simplify the decision making that set and maintains the timetable for termination of "... the combat mission ... ." in Iraq. His statements incorrectly assign responsibility for adherence "... to the inherited timetable ..." by President Obama as though he alone can make such decisions; and presumes that his action of "... adhering to the inherited timetable ..." dates is made to gain some political advantage in November 2010. These are only Mr. Zand's opinions, and they appear as prejudice in the article. The slightly veiled allusion by Mr. Zand that President Barack Obama is a political opportunist does not agree with my knowledge. Obama's years of public-service work in the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Chicago speaks more of a dedicated humanist and not a political opportunist. He did much of this work with Michelle after graduating from the Harvard law school.
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