The American Bear


How Barack Obama kept George W. Bush’s Promise to Pull Out of Iraq (and Almost Didn’t)

Think back to the end of George W. Bush’s 2nd term. Remember the shoe thrower? That was at a press conference in Baghdad to announce the signature of a new Status of Forces Agreement with Nuri al-Maliki. The SOFA was an agreement to have “combat troops” out of Iraq by Dec. 31st, 2011.

Barack Obama upheld that agreement (not his “promise kept”) but not without a fight to keep the troops past the Bush-Maliki agreed withdrawal date. The final sticking point was Iraq’s refusal to grant immunity for any crimes perpetrated by a force remaining past the SOFA withdrawal date.

As the withdrawal date approached, stories like the following started to appear:

U.S. forces to stay in Iraq into 2012, says Leon Panetta and In Shadow of Death, US and Iraq Tiptoe Around a Deadline | The New York Times

We actually have wikileaks to thank for the final coffin nail. One year ago, I posted the following:

WikiLeaks Revelation Damages U.S.-Iraq Talks On Keeping American Troops Past 2011

McClatchy reported earlier this week that a recently released U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks shows evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians in 2006, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, and “then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence.” The Iraqi government said today that it will revive the stalled investigation into the allegations. The AP also reports that “some officials said that the document was reason enough for Iraq to force the American military to leave instead of signing a deal allowing troops to stay beyond a year-end departure deadline.” “The new report about this crime will have its impact on signing any new agreement,” said Sunni lawmaker Aliya Nusayif.

I’ve never disparaged WikiLeaks, and this is why. If this is what it takes to finally stop stalling and get our asses (kicked, apparently) out of Iraq, the value of these leaks is immeasurable.

And two months later, I posted this:


The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep its troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline.

Should read: the United States is abandoning plans to alter the SOFA finalized on December 4th, 2008.

The decision to pull out fully by January will effectively bring to a close the invasion that the U.S. launched eight years ago, despite ongoing concerns about Iraq’s security forces and the potential for instability.

The decision ends months of hand-wringing by U.S. officials over whether to stick to a Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline that was set in 2008 or negotiate a new security agreement.

[…] Throughout the discussions, the United States has demanded that its troops be granted immunity from Iraqi courts, which Iraq’s leaders say they do not have the parliamentary support to push through. The U.S. has refused to stay without it.

If we can’t fuck up your country without consequences then we have no choice but to stop fucking it up.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said the U.S. remains “committed to keeping our agreement with the Iraqi government to remove all of our troops by the end of this year.”

So, good news for all. Here’s the rub:

Regardless of whether U.S. troops are in Iraq or not, there will be a massive U.S. diplomatic and paramilitary presence.

The American Embassy in Baghdad is the largest in the world, and the U.S. State Department will have offices in Basra, Irbil and Kirkuk as well as other locations around the country where contractors will train Iraqi forces on U.S. military equipment they’re purchasing.

About 5,000 private security contractors and personnel will be tasked with helping protect U.S. diplomats and facilities around the country, the State Department has said.

Those “security” contractors (mercenaries), because of their State Department relation will, most likely (as agreed in that pesky SOFA), have immunity. On to the weapon sales part:

The U.S. Embassy will still have a handful of U.S. Marines for protection and 157 U.S. military personnel in charge of facilitating weapons sales to Iraq. Those are standard functions at most American embassies around the world and would be considered part of the regular embassy staff.

The U.S. said repeatedly this year it would entertain an offer from the Iraqis to have a small force stay behind, and the Iraqis said they would like American military help. But as the year wore on and the number of U.S. troops that Washington was suggesting could stay behind dropped, it became increasingly clear that a U.S. troop presence was not a sure thing.

And again:

The issue of legal protection for the Americans was the deal-breaker.

Iraqis are still angry over incidents such as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal or Haditha, when U.S. troops killed Iraqi civilians in Anbar province, and want American soldiers subject to Iraqi law.

The United States invaded Iraq on March 17, 2003, claiming that Iraq’s then-ruler Saddam Hussein had an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. None were ever found, and subsequent revelations have pointed out how parts of the U.S. intelligence community deceived State Department officials in persuading the government to launch an attack.

The invasion resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 civilians.

Please stop pretending that Barack Obama ended the War in Iraq. The U.S. finally, inevitably, got kicked out. Obama’s preferred choice, as well as the Pentagon’s, was to try to keep U.S. combat troops in Iraq past the deadline agreed to by the George W. Bush administration.

Not only that, but the U.S. still has a significant presence of military personnel in Iraq, scores of state department employees, mercenaries to guard those employees, and the most massive embassy on the planet.