A milestone in America’s disengagement from Iraq was passed recently:
Obama: No Iraq victory lap as combat mission ends
President Barack Obama declared the U.S. combat mission in Iraq officially over on Tuesday but said he would not take a “victory lap” because a lot more work remained to be done inside the country. Obama, thanking troops in Texas before delivering an evening address to the nation, said Iraq now had the opportunity to create a better future for itself, and the United States, as a result, was more secure. …
“I’m going to make a speech to the nation tonight,” Obama said. “It’s not going to be a victory lap. It’s not going to be self-congratulatory. There’s still a lot of work that we’ve got to do to make sure that Iraq is an effective partner with us.”
The White House says the removal of all but 50,000 U.S. troops and the declaration of the end to the combat phase shows Obama is fulfilling a campaign promise he made in 2008 to pull out of Iraq.
This milestone, however, is much more symbolic than substantive:
Obama, who opposed the Iraq war, rode a wave of anti-war sentiment that boosted his support within his Democratic Party during the 2008 campaign. When he took office in January 2009, the U.S. military presence in Iraq was 140,000 troops and it reached a high of around 170,000 under the surge ordered by Bush. The roughly 50,000 U.S. soldiers still in Iraq are moving into an advisory role in which they will train and support Iraq’s army and police. The effective change on the ground will not be huge because the U.S. military has already been switching the focus toward training and support over the past year. Obama has promised to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
Obama wants to “turn the page” on Iraq. And no wonder. It was a war started by America on the basis of lies and false pretences. There are serious accusations of war crimes. America disgraced itself with the use of torture and the abomination of Abu Ghraib. Large areas of Iraq are now poisoned with radiation from depleted uranium munitions. The infrastructure destroyed by war has not been rebuilt, and billions in reconstruction funding have “disappeared”. Iraq is shattered, politically unstable, riven by violence, with up to a million dead. And for what? “Victory” was always impossible. What a waste.