I've been stewing over something really lousy that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been saying since June 20: that Iraqis have won a "great victory" over the "foreign presence in Iraq."
That "great victory," as he calls it, is the June 30 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq's cities. That "foreign presence," as he calls it, is the United States -- the thousands of mainly young American men who have fought a vicious enemy under the harshest conditions for more than six long years, with 4,321 Americans killed, many thousands wounded, often grievously so, and some small, tortured number wrongfully ensnared by the U.S. military justice system in apparent deference to Iraqi political considerations.
"Ingrate" doesn't begin to describe this al-Maliki creep -- or, as all too many conservatives and Bush loyalists persist in thinking of him, our Iraqi "ally." But let's skip the labels and stick to the implications of the Iraqi prime minister's rhetoric: He has transformed long-term American sacrifice on Iraq's behalf into a residual "foreign presence" over which he now declares Iraqi victory.
The mind reels -- both at the import of Maliki's words and the tepid U.S. non-reaction to them. Asked whether he found Maliki's "terminology acceptable," Gen. Raymond Odierno went all political, talking-pointing to Iraqis' "progression in their capacities" blah, blah. The post-withdrawal "expert" assessments I've seen haven't even mentioned Iraq's "victory." Typically, John Nagl, president of Center for a New American Security, a Left-wing defense think tank with close ties to the Obama administration, is still mooning over "the strategic imperative of establishing an enduring relationship" with Iraq. Someone should break it to him that Iraq isn't going to enter into an "enduring relationship" with a "foreign presence." Like love, U.S. defense policy is blind.
This could explain why the United States has entered total pushover mode in Iraq, as dictated by the U.S.-Iraq security agreement (Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA) negotiated by the Bush administration, all in support of Maliki's narrative of victory over ... us.
The New York Times describes "a drastically reshaped American military posture has emerged, largely because of Mr. Maliki's insistence," and notes that the rapid dismantlement of bases and outposts often is carried out "during the dark of night." Transport and resupply convoys are taking place at night, too -- all, presumably, in order to bolster Maliki's claims of "victory." As one of Maliki's political cronies put it, "They (U.S. troops) will be invisible for the people. They will turn into genies."
"Genies?" Does that mean Maliki has the USA plugged up in a bottle?
Certainly, we don't talk like free agents. Among the 150-plus bases and outposts the United States has closed in Iraqi cities this year are some U.S. commanders still considered crucial. About one such base, Brig. Gen. John M. Murray told the Times: "This is one we wanted. The Iraqi government said `no,' so now we are leaving."
This doesn't sound exactly Patton-esque, but would that we were leaving the whole sorry country. Meanwhile, the Times reports, "decisions on what Americans remain where -- doing what -- ultimately now rest with the Iraqis, and the Americans have deferred in negotiations."
Me, I feel sick.
But apparently not Lt. Col. Timothy M. Karcher, commander of forces departing Sadr City: "We will be gone in whatever way the Iraqi government tells us to be gone." Now, there's a rousing war quotation for you. Quick -- someone write a new verse to the "The Caissons Go Rolling Along."
The Times report continues: "The Americans have been strikingly sensitive" -- naturally -- "to Mr. Maliki's political position, emphasizing Iraqi primacy in all public remarks." For example, "they have declined to specify how many American troops will remain in cities, seemingly fearful of undercutting Mr. Maliki's public declarations of a full withdrawal."
What, no "Kick Me" stickers? Sorry to interrupt the old Fourth of July weenie roast, but doesn't it bother a single American out there that the United States is just kind of hanging around Iraq, full-metal rent-a-cops, waiting for some word, any word, from the self-anointed victor over the United States?
Of course, the main point here is not what we perceive as Maliki's ingratitude, or his disgraceful disregard of those Americans and allies who have fallen in Iraq. The main point of the prime minister's shocking statement is this: Iraq is not on the same side as the United States.
I'm afraid this will shock most Americans, but just let it sink in; it will explain a lot about the last six years. Meanwhile, the simple fact is, allies don't declare victory over each other. No doubt this presents a problem, at least for those among us who have claimed "victory" in Iraq for (not over) the United States. They and Maliki can't both be right. Someone is being played for a chump.
My suggestion? We should take this Fourth of July weekend to declare U.S. independence all over again -- only this time from Iraq.
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