Obama Keeps His Campaign Pledge …Because a Better Option Wasn’t Available
by Tom Engelhardt
What if, last Friday, President Obama had stepped to the podium at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room and begun his remarks this way: “Good afternoon, everybody. As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end -- for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership around the world. After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011. Today, I’m here to tell you that I’m breaking that pledge. It will not happen. Instead, I’m leaving 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops in that country indefinitely.”
Of course, the president made no such claim (nor, if things had turned out differently in Iraq, would he have done so). Nonetheless, according to news reports, such an outcome -- thousands of American troops in Iraq, possibly for years -- was the administration’s first choice, while military commanders were evidently eager to leave tens of thousands of troops behind. It was the outcome that Washington had been negotiating for and lobbying Iraqi politicians about all year.
Because the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to give U.S. troops legal immunity, full withdrawal (with the possibility of reinsertion later) became the administration's default position, and President Obama was left to take unreserved credit for fulfilling an election campaign pledge to bring all U.S. troops home by the end of 2011, the outcome he hadn’t wanted. (“Today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year...”) Keep this in mind as well: given the State Department’s militarization there -- it plans to run a mercenary “army” of perhaps 5,000 hired guns from its monster Baghdad embassy in 2012 -- and a recent, little-noted statement by Iraqi cleric and American opponent Muqtada al-Sadr, the American war will not necessarily end next year either.
Mainstream papers reported all this, including the preferred plans for staying in Iraq, even while hailing the president’s decision to leave and keep his pledge, with no hint of the striking hypocrisy involved. (The New York Times front-page headline read: “Last U.S. Soldiers to Exit From Iraq in 2011, Obama Says, Fulfilling Vow to End Eight-Year War -- Dispute With Baghdad Is Cited.”) Whether anyone outside the mainstream media is impressed with this sort of presidential maneuver anymore is an open question. Certainly, Glenn Greenwald wasn’t and that shouldn't surprise anyone. With his scathingly on-target regular columns at Salon.com, it would be no exaggeration to say that Greenwald has had a hand in making many of us immune to American political and financial hypocrisy of every sort.
Now, he’s written a new book, just out today, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful, that -- again, who could be surprised? -- is surely the book for the Occupy Wall Street moment in this country. Riveting to read, it’s a must for understanding how the Washington and Wall Street elite put themselves above the law, any law -- a subject he takes up in a new essay “Immunity and Impunity in Elite America
Copyright 2011 Tom Engelhardt
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book is the The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books). Previous books include The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is (Haymarket Books.) To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.