11/09/08 "Democracy Now!" --
Amy Goodman: President Bush announced Tuesday he would withdraw 8,000 troops from Iraq by February. He also called for a, quote, "quiet surge" in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The President outlined his plan in a speech at the Naval War College.
President George W. Bush: [General Petraeus has] just completed a review of the situation in Iraq, and he and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended that we move forward with additional force reductions. And I agree. Over the next several months, we will bring home about 3,400 combat support forces, including aviation personnel, explosive ordinance teams, combat and construction engineers, military police and logistical support forces. By November, we'll bring home a Marine battalion that is now serving in Anbar province. And in February of 2009, another Army combat brigade will come home. This amounts to about 8,000 additional American troops returning home without replacement.
AG: Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama, criticized President Bush for keeping troop levels in Iraq largely unchanged. Speaking in Ohio on Tuesday, Obama said, "In the absence of the timetable to remove our combat brigades we will continue to give Iraq's leaders a blank check instead of pressing them to reconcile their differences."
But neither Senator Obama nor President Bush made reference to a recently leaked draft of an Iraqi-U.S. agreement that outlines the long-term status of U.S. forces in Iraq. Iraqi blogger and political analyst Raed Jarrar has read and translated the leaked document. He says the agreement doesn't set a deadline for the withdrawal of non-combat U.S. troops in Iraq. He joins us also from Washington, D.C.
Welcome, Raed. Talk about what you have found, what this leaked document says that you've translated.
Raed Jarrar: Well, it's a long document. It has twenty-seven articles. And most of them are outrageous. They give the U.S. unprecedented authorities and rights and immunities. Maybe a major point that is related to this discussion is the fact that the agreement legitimizes or legalizes these long-term bases, that indefinite number of U.S. troops will stay there.
Now, this is a huge issue that is not being discussed in the U.S. enough. We usually get stuck in discussing troops level, how many troops are the U.S. going to keep in Iraq, or what's the mission of these troops. But from an Iraqi point of view, the majority of Iraqis and the majority of Iraqi parliamentarians and other representatives of the Iraqi community are demanding a complete withdrawal that leaves no permanent bases, no troops and no private contractors. And unfortunately, from this side, from the U.S. side, both of the ruling parties and both of the mainstream candidates are planning to leave permanent bases with troops indefinitely.
AG: And what about the Iraqi leadership right now? What are they saying?
RJ: Now, the Iraqi leadership in the executive branch, which is a non-elected branch of the Iraqi government, are allied with the Bush administration. They are using the same terminology of the Bush administration. They're asking for a withdrawal, a partial withdrawal or withdrawal of what they call "combat troops," without really defining that. And they are OK with leaving permanent bases and U.S. troops in the long run that have immunity inside and outside the bases.
Now, the Iraqi leadership in the other branch of the government, the only elected branch, the parliament, actually is asking for a complete withdrawal. And these calls do reflect -- the calls for a complete withdrawal do reflect what the majority of Iraqis want. More than three-fourths of the Iraqi population are asking the U.S. to leave completely, not leave, you know, half and keep some tens of thousands of troops behind to do some extra missions.
AG: And Barack Obama, does he represent something different, Raed?
RJ: Maybe from a U.S. point of view, there is a difference in rhetoric. But from an Iraqi point of view, I think both the candidates, Obama and McCain, are planning to leave troops in the long run. So from an Iraqi point of view, I don't think there is a major difference in the U.S. foreign policy in Iraq between the two candidates, because both of them are not for ending the intervention in Iraq. Both of them are for keeping troops in Iraq. They call it residual force; they call it whatever they want to call it. But they want to continue interfering in Iraq militarily and politically in the long run.
And this is something that is completely rejected by Iraqis. Iraqis see the complete U.S. withdrawal as the first step towards their national reconciliation and reconstruction, not the same way that some of the candidates now are trying to use withdrawal as a tool to punish Iraqis or, you know, make sure that Iraqis are not being lazy or sleeping. I mean, it's not that way. Iraqis are fighting politically and in other ways to end this illegal occupation of their country. And it's not a gift that -- or not something that we should be bargaining with them. It's their right to ask to get their country back. And unless they get their country back completely, I don't think Iraq will become a stable place.
AG: Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, has said all U.S. troops should be out by the end of 2011. How does that fit into this picture? And what about the latest deal that has been made between, I think the report was, Shell, the oil company, and the Iraqi government?
RJ: Again, what Nouri al-Maliki is saying is that all U.S. combat troops will leave, but there will be exceptions that will stay in Iraq indefinitely. Now, this view that Mr. al-Maliki is representing in Iraq is completely rejected. Iraqis do not support the idea of half-withdrawal and leaving U.S. troops on the long run. In fact, the full agreement, that can be viewed on my organization's website now, on afsc.org, can show you in details how the U.S. will stay on the long run and who gets to decide the troops level and the troop tasks. It's neither the Iraqi nor the U.S. elected officials.
Now, a good thing that you bring up the issue of the oil deals, because we went through a very similar discussion to what we're discussing now last year about the oil law. The Bush administration and al-Maliki's administration tried to pass an oil law, and then the Iraqi legislative branch blocked it, the same way that now they are trying to pass this long-term agreement and the Iraqi parliament is blocking it. And they ended up losing that battle, because the majority of Iraqis and the majority of Iraqi parliamentarians rejected the law … Many people are expecting that the Iraqi parliament will reject this U.S. long-term agreement, and maybe they will end up finding other loopholes to pass it.
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