Tuesday, May 13, 2008

CANDIDATES'S IRAQ POSITIONS NOT CLEAR, AND MEDIA DOESN'T CARE

DAHR JAMAIL, LE MONDE DIPLOMATHIQUE The three US presidential contenders, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, have been mostly silent on the Iraq issue, with tacit support from the media. . .

In April the New York Sun reported that Colin Kahl, an adviser to Barack Obama's campaign and its day-to-day coordinator of the working group on Iraq, recommended that the US maintain between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq to serve in an "over-watch role" until 2010. Post publication, Kahl clarified that "this has absolutely zero to do with the campaign"

Obama, who, on his past record, is believed to have the best policy on military withdrawal from Iraq, does not seem to intend to end the occupation. Susan Rice, a senior foreign affairs adviser to the Obama campaign, reiterated what we have heard from Bush administration officials over the past five years: that the number of US troops Obama would keep in Iraq "depends on the circumstances on the ground". . .

Today he not only refrains from calling for total withdrawal - he does not address the removal of the "enduring" US military bases in Iraq and the embassy scheduled to open there this month. This is the size of the Vatican, has super thick walls, electrical and water plants, gymnasium and the largest swimming pool in the country. It cost $740m, has room for at least 1,000 "government employees", a school for their children, bunkers, two helipads, yoga studios, fast-food outlets and shopping malls.

Other "enduring bases" remain, four of them along the lines of Camp Victory near Baghdad airport, which is twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, already one of the largest US overseas bases built since Vietnam. Camp Anaconda near Balad houses more than 20,000 troops, over 250 aircraft, thousands of civilian contractors, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut and Starbucks outlets. . .

A study carried out by the Project for Excellence in Journalism showed that by autumn 2007 media attention had shifted from the occupation of Iraq to the presidential campaign, de-linking the two. Reportage of the occupation fell sharply around the time that the 2008 presidential campaign emerged as the top story.

This works to the advantage of Arizona senator John McCain, the most unambiguous about his pro-occupation stand. Aboard his campaign plane McCain told reporters in April: "We fought a war with Japan and Germany. Afterwards we maintained a military presence there, which we are doing today. We fought a war in Korea, we maintained a military presence in Korea, which we are doing to this day." Jumbling time, space and reality, he concluded: "The first Gulf war, we threw Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, and we have a military presence there to this day" . . .

The US doesn't want to be in Iraq -- that is, 65% of actual people in the US oppose the occupation -- yet Obama, Clinton and McCain march towards the election with the media not challenging their ambivalent positions on Iraq. As for the Iraqis -- if any one of those three is listening -- a recent BBC/IPSOS poll in Iraq showed more than 70% of Iraqis oppose the continuation of the occupation, while local polls found 92% of Iraqis oppose it.

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