THE OCCUPIED EYE The war is pronounced dead
By Pepe Escobar
(Spoiler alert: this is the alternate remix of a New York Times original.)
BAGHDAD - The Pentagon officially pronounced its US$3 trillion-and-counting,
"war on terror"-related invasion, occupation and decimation of the Iraqi nation
dead on Thursday even as the country prepared for a low-intensity Sunni-Shi'ite
civil war and the Muslim world wondered whatever happened to the George W Bush
administration's Greater Middle East.
In an open-air cement bunker at the former Baghdad airport turned military
base, Pentagon chief Leon Panetta praised more than one million Americans in
uniform or in mercenary gear for "the remarkable progress" in death and
destruction accomplished over
the past nine years, but acknowledged the severe challenges that faced the
virtually devastated country.
"Let me be clear: Iraq will be tested in the days ahead - by al-Qaeda in the
Land of the Two Rivers, by al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, by al-Qaeda in the Arabic
Peninsula, by the Taliban, by Iran, by Hezbollah, by the Assad dictatorship in
Syria, by China, by Russia, by Occupy Wall Street.
"Challenges remain, but the US will be there to stand by the Iraqi people with
the necessary amount of Hellfire missiles as they navigate those challenges to
build a prosperous haven for neo-liberalism and US corporations."
The muted ceremony stood in contrast to the spectacular "shock and awe" in 2003
when an America fully emboldened by lies after lies printed on the cover of the
New York Times sent columns of tanks north from Kuwait and lit up the sky "like
Christmas", according to CNN, to conduct regime change against evil dictator
As of last Friday, the war in Iraq had claimed 4,487 American lives, with
another 32,226 Americans wounded in action, according to Pentagon statistics.
As for Iraqi victims, the Pentagon doesn't do body counts.
The tenor of the moving, hour-long farewell ceremony, officially called "So
long, towelheads", was likely to sound an uncertain trumpet for a war that was
invented to get rid of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. It now ends
without the Iraqi chapter of the Empire of Bases the Pentagon badly wanted in
the first place - essentially because the American military were shown the door
by ungrateful Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Although Thursday's poignant ceremony marked the official end of the war, the
Pentagon, just in case, still has two bases in Iraq and roughly 4,000 troops,
including several hundred who attended the ceremony. At the height of the war
in 2007, during the surge of General David Petraeus, the occupation maintained
a sprawling 505 bases and more than 170,000 troops.
According to military officials, the remaining diehards are still being shown
Iraqi love on a daily basis, mainly by strategically placed improvised
explosive devices set against convoys heading south through Iraq to bases in
Even after the last two bases are closed and the final American soldiers go
home to certified unemployment by December 31, under rules of a shady agreement
with the government in Baghdad, a few hundred military personnel and a sprinkle
of spooks and mercenaries will remain, working within the
larger-than-the-Vatican American Embassy as part of an Office of Security
Cooperation to assist in extremely profitable weapons deals.
But negotiations could resume next year on whether additional American
soldiers, spooks and mercenaries can return to further profit from the action.
Senior Pentagon officers have made no secret that they will indeed miss the
action as well as the oil that the US in the end did not secure. Plus there's
the matter of all those F-16s Baghdad is being forced to buy; they must be put
to good use, and not just lay there frying in the al-Anbar desert.
"From a standpoint of being able to defend against a treacherous al-Qaeda
underwear bomber they have very limited to little capability, quite frankly,"
General Lloyd J Austin III, the outgoing American commander in Iraq, said in an
interview over a Big Mac.
The tenuous security atmosphere in Iraq was underscored by a fleet of gunships
that hovered over the ceremony, scanning the ground for sneaking al-Qaeda
operatives. Although there is far less violence across Iraq than at the height
of the US-engineered sectarian war in 2006 and 2007, lots of people still get
killed on a daily basis and Americans remain a preferential target of followers
of firebrand Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Panetta acknowledged that "the cost was high - in blood and treasure of the
United States, and also for the Iraqi people. But those lives have not been
lost in vain - they gave birth to a fully devastated, fully segregated, fully
traumatized client regime. We just don't know yet whether it will be America's
There was euphoria among many Iraqis for a day or two in April 2003 at such a
successful American invasion. But the support soon soured after marines started
shooting unarmed civilians amid a growing sense of a hardcore occupation that
unleashed bloody sectarian and religious rivalries.
After the Abu Ghraib prison scandal demonstrated how the US was having its
(fun) cake and eating it too, and in the fog of civil war, Sunnis and Shi'ites
alike decided to fight the occupiers, the Kurds didn't give a damn, while an al
Qaeda-affiliated group exploited the opening to root itself among the Sunni
While the terrorist group has been rendered ineffective by a punishing series
of Special Operations raids that incinerated several al-Qaeda leaders, plus
bags of cash distributed among Sunni tribals, intelligence specialists fear
that it is in resurgence.
The American occupation of Iraq also hampered Washington's ability to fabricate
a narrative from the United States in support of the Arab Spring uprisings this
year - which caught Washington totally asleep at the wheel.
In the end, the Pentagon had to be dragged kicking and screaming to handing
bases over to the Iraqi government. Across the country, the closing of precious
outposts in the sprawling US Empire of Bases has been marked by a quiet
closed-door meeting where American and Iraqi military officials signed
documents that legally gave the Iraqis control of the bases, exchanged
handshakes and barely disguised their mutual contempt.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E Dempsey of the
army, has served two command tours in Iraq since the invasion in 2003, and he
noted during the ceremony that the next time he comes to Iraq he will have to
Contacted for this article, Iraqis burning American flags in Fallujah -
destroyed by the US in order to "save it" in late 2004 - volunteered that
Dempsey should resign himself to wait forever.