The reduction of American troops from Iraq this week has been reported as a “withdrawal of the US” from Iraq, but this description of the American-Iraq situation unfortunately highlights the success of Washington’s propaganda and the gullibility of most commentators around the world.
A reduction of combat forces that leaves behind over 50,000 so-called “military trainers” is not a withdrawal, especially given the fact that eight years ago there was no single American troop in Iraq.
In comparative terms and using the latest figures from the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Kenya’s armed forces, that is, the Army, Air Force and Navy, comprise less than half of the US forces that remain in Iraq following the recent reductions.
US President Barack Obama, who was opposed to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, has been left in an awkward position.
This is why he has to pretend that the US has terminated the occupation of Iraq, which goes down well with the American population and Iraq’s politicians.
This is also the reason Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, declared this week that his country is once again independent and sovereign.
Whatever the spin, propaganda or public diplomacy, as it is sometimes called, people of good conscience will always regard the invasion of Iraq seven years ago as an unnecessary war that has left the country ruined, millions of its innocent citizens killed, maimed or displaced, and a large number of American and British families mourning or living with relatives who have been physically, emotionally and mentally destroyed.
The fact that the two architects of the war, former US President George W. Bush, and former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, do not regret their actions might suggest that some key policy makers have not learnt from their mistakes.
Indeed, both former leaders have said repeatedly that they could do it again if faced by the same situation.
The same situation partly refers to the two leaders’ rejection of advice that did not reinforce their prejudices, their willingness to ignore international law and UN Security Council resolutions, their readiness to regard the accounts of dissidents from target countries as Gospel truth, their determination to manipulate the truth and deceive their own citizens, and a foreign leader who ruled with an iron hand.
On 18th February 2003, a few weeks before the invasion, I wrote in the Daily Nation: “If war were to take place, there is no doubt the US and its coalition of the willing would defeat Iraq and some people would see this as success, but that would be premature. There is no easy way of gauging success in a war against Iraq because of the unknowns”.
I added: “Moreover, war would cause so much damage that the West would continue to be a target for retaliation for many years to come. Therefore, victory against Iraq may turn out to create more uncertainty for the rest of the world, which is no success at all”.
The reduction of American forces this week when violence has just increased and politicians have failed to agree on a government many months after the general elections, makes it difficult for an objective person to calculate the US success in Iraq other than the demise of former dictator Saddam Hussein.
The writer teaches at Murdoch University, Australia.