International Herald Tribune Says U.S. Peace Movement Happy to Keep Iraq War Going

Take a look at this article:

Obama’s Thoughts Evolve on US Troops in Iraq
By Thom Shanker, International Herald Tribune

Washington – On the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama offered a pledge that electrified and motivated his liberal base, vowing to “end the war” in Iraq.

True, and important, but he also made the details clear to anyone trying to find out. These details:

But as he moves closer to the White House, President-elect Obama is making it clearer than ever that tens of thousands of American troops will be left behind in Iraq, even if he can make good on his campaign promise to pull all combat forces out within 16 months.

“I said that I would remove our combat troops from Iraq in 16 months, with the understanding that it might be necessary – likely to be necessary – to maintain a residual force to provide potential training, logistical support, to protect our civilians in Iraq,” the Illinois Democrat said this week as he introduced his national security team.

His website also includes as a mission for the non-combat troops: “conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel.” All without any combat of course.

Publicly at least, Obama has not set a firm number for that “residual force,” a phrase certain to become central to the debate on the way ahead in Iraq, though one of his national security advisers, Richard Danzig, said during the campaign that it could amount to 30,000 to 55,000 troops. Nor has Obama laid out a timetable beyond 16 months for troop drawdowns or suggested when he believes a time might come for a declaration that the war is over.

In the meantime, military planners are drawing up tentative schedules aimed at meeting both Obama’s goal for withdrawing combat troops, with a target of May 2010, and the Dec. 31, 2011, date for sending the rest of American troops home that is spelled out in the new agreement between the United States and the Iraqi government.

That status-of-forces agreement remains subject to change, by mutual agreement, and U.S. Army planners acknowledge privately that they are examining projections that could see the number of Americans hovering between 30,000 and 50,000 – and some say as high as 70,000 – for a substantial time even beyond 2011.

Has anybody told the Iraqis that? Or the Americans? Are you aware that the Iraqis were also told that they can vote the treaty out of existence in June and that by the end of June the treaty requires all troops to get out of cities, towns, and localities?

As U.S. combat forces decline in numbers and more provinces are turned over to Iraqi control, these military planners say, those security forces will remain reliant on significant numbers of Americans for training, supplies, logistics, intelligence and transportation for a long time to come.

There always was a tension, if not a bit of a contradiction, in the two parts of Obama’s campaign platform to “end the war” by withdrawing all combat troops by May 2010. To be sure, Obama was careful to say that the drawdowns he was promising included only combat troops. But supporters who keyed on the language of ending the war might be forgiven if they thought that would mean bringing home all of the troops.

Particularly as nobody has ever explained what a non-combat troop is or spotted one in Iraq. That is, until now…

Planners at the Pentagon say that it is possible that Obama’s goal could be accomplished at least in part by relabeling some units, so that those currently counted as combat troops could be “re-missioned,” their efforts redefined as training and support for the Iraqis.

Well we DID vote for change, didn’t we. I’m sure that relabelign combat troops as non-cmbat troops will satisfy that demand just fine. We’ll be so please, in fact, that if the non-combat troops end up basically engaging in combat we’ll understand.

In Iraq today, there are 15 brigades defined as combat forces in this debate, with one on its way home. But the overall number of troops on the ground is more than 50 brigade equivalents, for a total of 146,000 troops, including service and support personnel.

Even now, after the departure of the five “surge” brigades that President George W. Bush sent to Iraq in January 2006, the overall number of troops in Iraq remains higher than when Bush ordered the troop increase, owing to the number of support and service personnel remaining.

So we can pul out all the combat troops and still leave most of the troops behind? And yet we need to relabel combat troops as noncombat troops in order to leave some of them too? This seems like a lot of bother. Why not just call off the withdrawal and make things easier for everyone. (Except the people of Iraq, I mean). (Oh, and the troops.) (Um, and the American people.)

At his news conference in Chicago on Monday, Obama emphasized his willingness to listen to the advice from senior officers and that of his new national security team, which includes Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the first Pentagon chief in history asked to continue serving under a newly elected president; Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and, as national security adviser, General James Jones, the retired four-star Marine officer who served as NATO’s supreme commander.

Well that should move us away from more war for sure!

Since the election, Obama has held unannounced consultations with both Gates and Mullen, described by Obama aides and Pentagon officials as having focused less on tactics and operations and more on broad, strategic views for U.S. national security. Obama telephoned Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, according to the Obama transition office.

To date, there has been no significant criticism from the anti-war left of the Democratic Party of the prospect that Obama will keep tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for at least several years.


At the Pentagon and the military headquarters in Iraq, the response to the statements this week from Obama and his national security team has been one of relief; the words sounded to them like he would take a measured approach on the question of troop levels.

“I believe that 16 months is the right time frame, but, as I’ve said consistently, I will listen to the recommendations of my commanders,” Obama said at the news conference Monday. “And my No.1 priority is making sure that our troops remain safe in this transition phase, and that the Iraqi people are well served by a government that is taking on increased responsibility for its own security.”

An apparent evolution of Obama’s thinking can be heard in contrast to comments he made in July, when he called a news conference to lay out his Iraq policy in unambiguous terms.

“I intend to end this war,” he said then. “My first day in office I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in, and I will give them a new mission, and that is to end this war – responsibly, deliberately, but decisively.” And in a news conference that month in Amman, Obama acknowledged that the American troop increase had bolstered Iraqi security but declared that he would not hesitate to overrule American commanders and redirect troops to Afghanistan.

In fact, the American people have voted in two subsequent elections to bring the troops HOME.

Gates, speaking at the Pentagon on Tuesday, one day after he appeared with Obama for the announcement of the new national security team, made clear that the direction of troop levels now had been decided, with the only decisions remaining on how fast and how low.

“And so the question is, how do we do this in a responsible way?” Gates said. “And nobody wants to put at risk the gains that have been achieved, with so much sacrifice, on the part of our soldiers and the Iraqis, at this point.”

The problem with leaving a war criminal in charge of the Department of War becomes clearer.

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