Saturday, April 5, 2008

OBAMA & CLINTON MISLEADING VOTERS ON IRAQ PLANS

JOSHUA HOLLAND, ALTERNET - On the stump, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are crystal clear in their rhetoric about Iraq. In a statement released on the occasion of the 4,000th U.S. combat death in Iraq, Clinton said, "I have made [a] promise. And I intend to honor it by bringing a responsible end to this war, and bringing our troops home safely." Not to be outdone, the Obama campaign piped in with an even more definitive statement: "It is past time to end this war that should never have been waged by bringing our troops home." On the campaign trail, the two candidates often speak of bringing the troops home and ending the war, and Democratic primary voters, 80 percent of whom want U.S. troops out of Iraq within 12 months, reward them with boisterous applause.

It's a big lie, and everyone who follows the debates over U.S. policy towards Iraq knows it, but refuses to call the candidates on it. Both Clinton and Obama have been very clear -- in the fine print -- about the fact that they will leave a significant number of "residual forces" in Iraq, albeit with a more limited mission than the Bush administration has pursued. They would protect U.S. infrastructure and personnel -- Obama says "the U.S. embassy" -- train Iraqi forces and retain a rapid-response force to conduct "limited counter-terrorism" missions.

Although the candidates refuse to specify the exact scope and length of that mission, independent analysts say that it would require at least 40,000 and as many as 75,000 soldiers and marines. When one looks at the big picture, the end game appears to be a significant draw-down of troops -- with as many as 100,000 sent home or redeployed to Afghanistan, where thin NATO troops are struggling to contain a re-emergent Taliban -- calling a halt to most combat operations and patrols, and dismantling most or all U.S. bases outside of Baghdad.

They would, however, maintain the infrastructure of the U.S. occupation and provide the forces necessary to do so. As the Nation's Jeremy Scahill told Amy Goodman, "Both [candidates] intend to keep the Green Zone intact. Both of them intend to keep the current U.S. embassy project, which is slated to be the largest embassy in the history of the world ... And they're also going to keep open the Baghdad airport indefinitely."

Calling the massive campus the United States is building in Baghdad an "embassy" is somewhat misleading. The Associated Press described it as a "fortresslike compound rising beside the Tigris River ... the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future."

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