Monday, November 26, 2007

The Odor of Old Promises

Perhaps no one is really surprised. It might be that this country has finally lost its capacity for outrage, has long since surrendered the idea of reproach or redress when lied to. We have become the Orwellian farm animals who find it too troubling to remember the promises once posted on the stable wall.

Monday morning, November the 26th, at a closed door teleconference, our president signed an agreement, a "declaration of principles" with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. There are details to be worked out, but the basics are clear. Iraq’s al-Maliki led government will abide by one more year of coalition forces on Iraqi soil per the U.N. authorization that provides for their presence. They will support one more one year renewal of the resolution, which would have the mandate finally coming to a close sometime in late 2008. But this won’t see American soldiers coming home. The “U.S.-Iraq Declaration of Principles for Friendship and Cooperation” that our president signed sees to that.

The document affirms a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq long after the rest of the “Coalition of the Willing” has gone home. There may be welcome home parades in Mongolia and Estonia, but for American troops it will be business as usual for a long time to come... OK, actually the word is 'permanently.'

In a rather quiet press release on the president’s teleconference and agreement signing, the White House points out that U.S. troops will remain “to train and equip Iraqi Security Forces” (more than four years in and another year out we will apparently still be “training and equipping”). We will remain “to provide security assurances to the Iraqi Government” (presumably this is just in case those security forces won’t be all that effectively trained or equipped after all).

According to a statement by Prime Minister Maliki, Americans will remain “to deter any external aggression” and “defend against internal coup” (I guess that just about covers everything). Our troops will remain so as to “codify” our lasting “bilateral relationship” with a “democratic Iraq.”

(Roughly translated: we will remain as a permanent military presence in Iraq, Yes, that’s right: Permanent).

According to the Associated Press, Iraqi officials assume a detachment of about 50,000 U.S. troops would remain, perhaps in a series of bases well outside the major Iraqi cities (there are still details to work out). The Iraqi government would assume "greater control" of how these forces would be used.

Rest assured that the long term “strategic partnership” between Maliki’s embattled government and the U.S. is not without its rewards for American loyalty. Officials of the Iraqi government remind us that they are offering preferential treatment for American investment (All you boys and girls serving over seas, be sure to call your broker.)

What scant media attention the "declaration of principles" has received has been colored with the appropriate double-speak. Prime Minister Maliki has announced to his people that this new agreement signals an end to the occupation of Iraq. (Same troops, same mission, but we won't call it an 'occupation' anymore.)

Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, President Bush's adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan explains it to us this way: “Iraq is increasingly able to stand on its own; that's very good news, but it won't have to stand alone.”

(There, don’t you feel better?)

To quote one National Security Council staffer in a briefing on the "declaration of principles," soon, we will no longer occupy Iraq, but rather we will be engaged in a "normalized, bilateral relationship."

As I started to write this piece I was thinking of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ —of the pledges the animals all made to each other as they started on their idealistic adventure, how they posted them proudly at first up there on the stable wall. I thought of how the words could be forgotten, such that they could be so easily ultimately changed. Then the language itself faded, along with curiosity and concern.

Ignorance becomes a reward in itself, for those who choose to ignore.

Come on into this particular barn with me. There are still a couple of scraps pinned to the weathered plank. You can still just make out what they said:

"As a proud and independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation and neither does America."
~President George W. Bush, April 13, 2004

"We do not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. Our goal is to help Iraq stand on its own feet, to be able to look after its own security, and to do what we can to help achieve that goal."
~then-U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, August 14, 2005

“We're not seeking permanent bases really pretty much anywhere in the world these days. We are, in fact, in the process of removing base structure from a lot of places.”
~Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, April 4, 2006.

Ah, well. The promises are faded now, forgotten. I suppose it’s best we move on.

It’s starting to smell in here anyway.


Tom Smith said...

Here here! Good post, Tom. There are many examples from the Bush administration of selective memory, or spinning the present. For example, check out this video of Dick Cheney in 1994, speaking rather lucidly about why NOT invading Baghdad in the first gulf war was the correct decision by the senior president Bush. In it, he describes quite accurately the "quagmire" (his word) we find ourselves in.

I am amazed at the lack of outrage.


imsmall said...


Heavenly Lord, there is far more
To life that this surviving,
Struggle to flee from being poor
While men are busy wiving;

So even too, the need to feel
Involved so to become
Enraged about injustice--peal
The bells or keep they mum.

It rather is about some kind
Of curious work of mind,
Wherein the meaning so we find
In life, with truth entwined.

It is a grand adventure more
Than striving to possess
The purchased Wal-mart goods; by war
Competitors to press.

The bases have been built, so we
Have not much further need
For war, if oil most gingerly
Flow forward to our greed.

The oil beneath the ground is worth
So much (of our demand no death),
While cost of war, as it occur´th
A fraction: broad remains that berth.