Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 19, 2009


Sam Smith

Barack Obama has repeatedly talked about removing all combat troops from Iraq but neither the media nor his supporters have paid much attention to the critical adjective: combat.

Left in Iraq will be an uncertain number of "non-combat" troops. Among these will be 100,000 mercenaries that Minnesota Public Radio politely calls "the parallel army. . . filling in the gaps." Given that we have about regular 150,000 troops there now - both combat and non-combat - that's quite a few gaps being filled.

The other group being left in Iraq are "non-combat troops" estimated at somewhere around 30,000 to 70,000 - or about the same number of troops we had in Vietnam in early 1965. According to war secretary Robert Gates, the number will be "several tens of thousands."

What's the difference between combat and non-combat troops? The former are assigned to offensive operations while, as Amy Zalman puts it, non-combat troops "may provide training and mentoring, assist Iraqi troops, conduct intelligence and communications functions, among other tasks."

It is worth noting, however, that the troops left behind are good enough at combat to "provide training and mentoring," not to mention their ability to "assist Iraqi troops" that presumably will want, from time to time, to engage in combat. Writes Zalman, "The New York Times notes that the plan may seek to meet Obama's plan by 'remissioning' combat troops as non-combat forces and, moreover, that some may continue to conduct patrols with Iraqi forces, which is essentially a combat function.

Admittedly the Status of Forces Agreement provide for a total departure by the end of 2011, but that's a long way off. In any case, what is clear is that Obama's verbal sleight of hand is more than a little misleading.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, this will go unnoticed in the mainstream media.

January 19, 2009 8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a military wife- all his talk about "bringing troops home" is bullcrap.

he's simply diverting them to Afghanistan. my husband has also been asked to "volunteer" for another tour to Iraq next year and if not, he will go to Afghanistan instead.

but of course THAT won't ever make the media.

January 19, 2009 11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, when the peace loving liberal democrats were rallying to bring our troops home, You, my dear "military wife" was probably out bashing on us and supporting the war. But now, when we are actually trying to bring our troops home, you think it's all "bullcrap" as you like to put it.

January 20, 2009 12:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The interpretations used by the Bush administration to undermine the SOFA with the relabeling of troops as "support", the pentagon and Adam Mullen insistence on a conditions based withdrawal, and the justifications that will be used to ignore the SOFA agreement are being pushed by the US military & Co to undermine Obama. Obama, realizing his binds, appointed Gates(R) as a scapegoat, because he knows the US military will not be withdrawing by the Obama deadline. It's not all Obama, look deeper.

January 20, 2009 3:03 AM  

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