Following George W. Bush’s example of keeping war funding off the books, President Barack Obama is seeking $83.4 billion in additional “emergency” funding for the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which, if approved, would bring the 2009 funding to around $150 billion and the overall costs of the two wars to nearly $1 trillion.
Obama was a harsh critic of the Bush administration tactic of avoiding placing the costs of both occupations in the overall military budget, yet now he is doing the same. This latest request is in addition to a $534 billion military budget the administration unveiled earlier in the week. That budget was for fiscal 2010, and was an increase over the last Bush administration military budget from 2009.
The move comes on the heels of Obama’s surprise visit to Baghdad’s airport on April 7, where he met with soldiers whom he praised for their “extraordinary achievement” in Iraq. If he is referencing something good, I must have missed it. But we can certainly point to other examples, each qualifying as an “extraordinary achievement” by the US military in Iraq. That the US invasion and occupation of Iraq has killed over 1.3 million Iraqis is certainly extraordinary. That the occupation has displaced one in six Iraqis from their homes also qualifies as extraordinary. That an entire country could be destroyed and made a worse place to live when compared to when it was ruled by a brutal dictator and suffered 12 years of genocidal sanctions is also extraordinary.
While the US military maintains 138,000 soldiers in Iraq, and there are over 200,000 private contractors enabling the occupation, and the president intends on keeping at least 50,000 US troops in Iraq indefinitely, Obama managed to keep a straight face whilst pressuring the Iraqi government to “take responsibility for their country” and adding that the United States has “no claim on Iraqi territory and resources.”
All of this nice talk from President Obama, which he articulated just hours after a spate of bombings across Baghdad killed 15 Iraqis and wounded 27, was complimented by his and Bush’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who claimed that al-Qaeda in Iraq appeared to be making a “last gasp” attempt to foment sectarian violence in Baghdad. Those who have been following the news about the US occupation of Iraq closely over the last six years know all too well how many “last gasps” and “turning the corners” there have been - of which there are too many to count. This one is no different, and the fallacy of the statement was punctuated on April 10 in Mosul, when a suicide car bomb attack killed five US soldiers, along with two Iraqi troops.
Taking another page out of the Bush playbook for the occupation of Iraq, while speaking at Baghdad’s airport, Obama also said the next 18 months are “going to be a critical period.” Again, there have been more “critical periods” in Iraq throughout the occupation than I care to remember.
Two days after Obama’s visit to Baghdad’s airport, Gen. Ray Odierno told The Times that US combat troops may remain in Iraq’s cities beyond the June 30 deadline mandated by the Status of Forces Agreement.
Of course, throughout all of this rhetoric, the glaring omission is any discussion about the massive “enduring” US military bases in Iraq and the US “embassy” that is the size of the Vatican City.
Meanwhile, the bloodletting and destruction of Iraq continues.
*April 10: ten Iraqis killed, 84 more wounded in attacks across the country. Five US soldiers (the single deadliest attack on US soldiers in over a year), two Iraqi soldiers killed in car bomb attack.
*April 9: six Iraqis killed, 19 wounded in attacks across the country. Tens of thousands demonstrate against the occupation in Baghdad on this 6th anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.
*April 8: ten Iraqis killed, 27 wounded. This was the third day in a row of significant bomb attacks in Baghdad. Another sign of the ongoing targeting of Awakening Group members by the Iraqi Government, three Awakening Council members were wounded during a bombing near Garma in Halibaja. (The Awakening Groups are a US-constructed Sunni militia. Each member was paid $300 per month of US taxpayer money until control of them was turned over to the Iraqi government last October. They had grown in strength to 100,000 men and were supposed to be absorbed into the government security apparatus, but are now being targeted by government forces on a regular basis. To date, less than a third have been given government jobs.)
*April 7: 15 Iraqis killed, 27 wounded in attacks across the country. In Fallujah, a suicide bomber rammed his car into a police checkpoint that killed one policeman and wounded nine Iraqis. An Awakening Council member was found dead in the Iskandariya district. The city is put on lockdown for two days following the attack.
*April 6: 45 Iraqis killed, 176 wounded and one US soldier killed. Baghdad suffers a devastating series of car bombings.
*April 5: 13 Iraqis killed, 34 wounded. In Baghdad, a senior Interior Ministry official was killed by gunmen while he was riding in his car with his family. Basra’s governor barely survived a bomb attack. An Awakening Council member is killed in Kanaan, and another Awakening Council member is wounded by a bomb in Kirkuk.
When I began reporting on the US occupation of Iraq over five years ago, I quickly realized there were no coincidences in how events played out on the ground there.
On April 7, President Obama also urged the Iraqi government to do more to integrate Awakening Council members into government security forces. The Iraqi government has claimed (as does the US military) that Awakening forces have been infiltrated by al-Qaeda, Iraqi resistance members and remnants of the Ba’ath party. The Iraqi government has been carrying out ongoing targeted killings and abductions of Awakening Council members throughout Iraq for many months now.
Recently, there has been a large upswing of killings and detentions of Awakening Council members by the Iraqi government. If you think this has nothing to do with the recent upsurge of bombings and attacks across Iraq, think again.