This morning, on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, ABC’s Good Morning America aired an interview with Vice President Cheney on the war. During the segment, Cheney flatly told White House correspondent Martha Raddatz that he doesn’t care about the American public’s views on the war:
CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.
RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.
RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?
CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.
And the boy king speaks as well:
"The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around; it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror," Bush said.
"We have learned through hard experience what happens when we pull our forces back too fast — the terrorists and extremists step in, fill the vacuum, establish safe havens and use them to spread chaos and carnage," Bush said.
(Was that an admission that the Iraq invasion was a mistake because it took troops out of Afghanistan?)
And, not to be outdone by Cheney, who again linked Iraq to 9/11 yesterday, Bush added this:
"Our enemies would see an American failure in Iraq as evidence of weakness and a lack of resolve. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of Sept. 11 and make it more likely that America would suffer another attack like the one we experienced that day."
Now you might be thinking something along the lines of "Thank [insert deity here] these two clowns and the other neocon circus performers will be out of office in a just a few months. Then, if Americans can just elect a Democrat, everything will be much better".
Except that it won't.
Anyone paying attention to the positions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the illegal occupation of Iraq (which neither of them will actually call it), has to admit that the fate of the approximately 160,000 private contractors has been avoided by both of them.
Here's part of what Obama had to say in his speech on the 5th anniversary of the occupation:
In order to end this war responsibly, I will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. We can responsibly remove 1 to 2 combat brigades each month. If we start with the number of brigades we have in Iraq today, we can remove all of them 16 months. After this redeployment, we will leave enough troops in Iraq to guard our embassy and diplomats, and a counter-terrorism force to strike al Qaeda if it forms a base that the Iraqis cannot destroy. What I propose is not – and never has been – a precipitous drawdown. It is instead a detailed and prudent plan that will end a war nearly seven years after it started.
Just how Obama plans to "end" Iraq's civil war, as he promises, remains to be seen. Redeploying troops (and it is a redeployment as he plans to send a contingency to Afghanistan) will not "end" the "war".
And note the absence, as I pointed out, of any mention of the paid mercenaries who are there under contract - contracts that were secured through the Pentagon and which could be threatened by endless, tangled litigation if Obama or Clinton plans to pull them out.
So, no, there will not be an end to this "war" for a very long time and Obama's quite committed to boosting force numbers by recruiting more troops to deal with the GWOT as he plans to "finish the fight against al Qaeda". "Finish" it? Good luck with that.
And while Clinton and Obama present their lofty policies for dealing with Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan (while protecting Israel), there is one major force that has and will continue to frame the futures of those countries: government corruption - not only "over there", but in the United States. Spending billions more dollars overseas without dealing with that reality is a zero sum game. The US can try to threaten and bribe those governments to comply, as Obama stated when he said aid to Pakistani aid would come with conditions, but defying the culture of corruption is a massive undertaking in and of itself.
There is one stark reality that all of the remaining commander-in-chief contestants share: a belief in the American empire. You might get the kindler, gentler version from the Democrats, but it's there nonetheless cloaked in terms like "protecting America's interests" around the world which is just code for making sure America gains or retains supremacy over other countries' resources that America needs to survive. Hegemony.
And, with the US economy tanking, that search for power overseas will only broaden as the global economic shift favours Europe, Saudi Arabia, and China. Dealing with that reality will involve balancing on a diplomatic tightrope in a much more urgent fashion while the US has lost its moral authority to demand or expect much of anything from enemies or allies - no matter who leads the country in 2009.
It all makes for nice speeches though, doesn't it?
Three cheers for US power!