This week in American foreign policy: Iraq wants the U.S \”out\”


Take a moment to laugh at the United States\’ foreign policy.

War, terrorism, diplomacy, totalitarianism, suffering, colonialism, genocide, geopolitics, militarism, empire building, peace and stability certainly can\’t be laughing matters, can they?


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke with The Wall Street Journal in a two-hour interview, his first since Iraq ended nine months of stalemate and seated a new government after an inconclusive election, allowing Mr. Maliki to begin a second term as premier.

A majority of Iraqis—and some Iraqi and U.S. officials—have assumed the U.S. troop presence would eventually be extended, especially after the long government limbo. But Maliki was eager to draw a line in his most definitive remarks on the subject. \”The last American soldier will leave Iraq\” as agreed, he said, speaking at his office in a leafy section of Baghdad\’s protected Green Zone. \”This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed.\”

Well that\’s wonderful, embarrassing, and not terribly surprising. The U.S invasion of Iraq had hardly begun in 2003 when President George W. Bush announced on May 1 that it was over: the \”American mission had been accomplished.\” Months passed before Washington realized that the conflict had not finished. In fact, the war was only just beginning. Three years after Bush had spoken the US military had suffered 20,000 dead and injured in Iraq, 95% of the casualties inflicted after the fall of Baghdad.

The US, acting almost alone, would seize control of a country with vast oil reserves. It would assume quasi-colonial control over a nation which fifteen years previously had been the greatest Arab power. Senior American officials openly threatened to change the governments of states neighboring Iraq. Empire-building in the modern world was about to begin, and the Pentagon, the high-tech industry and oil companies were leading the way.

General William Odom, the former head of the National Security Agency, the largest US intelligence agency, called the Iraq war \”the greatest strategic disaster in American history.\” Back in the US it took time for this to sink in. Right-wing commentators claimed that the good news about Iraq was being suppressed. US network news programs were hesitant about reporting the bad news because they feared being accused of lack of patriotic zeal. The same inhibition hamstrung the Democrats during the presidential election in 2004.

What makes al-Maliki\’s recent remarks so not surprising is a leaked British Ministry of Defense poll from 2006 (just a few years after Bush\’s Mission Accomplished speech) showing that 80% of Iraqis opposed the presence of foreign troops in Iraq .

The less evident (and less talked about) side of the U.S-Iraq story is the failure of the US to give most Iraqis a better life at the most basic level. For example, before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, 50 percent of Iraqis had access to drinkable water, but this figure had dropped to 32% by the end of 2005. Some $4 billion was spent by the US and Iraqi governments on increasing the electricity supply, but in April 2006 this fell to 4,100 megawatts, below pre-invasion levels, which represents half the 8,000 megawatts needed by the country. Oil production touched a low of 1.4 million barrels a day. These figures meant that most Iraqis lived on the edge of destitution, surviving only because of cheap government rations.

None of those numbers sound like a laughing matter. What\’s really not laughable is the stunning fact that the Iraq war has cost the U.S $750B. The best part is that now, after spending the equivalent of a desperately needed jobs program in the middle of a growth recession on Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq officially wants us \’out\’.

Nearly 10 years ago, we were expecting the Iraqis to throw flowers at our feet and greet us as liberators. Perhaps they were so happy we declared war, they just forgot. Apparently, we\’ve overstayed our \’welcome\’. That is truly hilarious.