If we look at American foreign policy under Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, what strikes the non-partisan observer is a sense of continuity – and an escalating aggressiveness.
President Clinton moved with force into Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, the latter two in support of a Muslim minority that was fighting for independence against Serbia. The result: a permanent US "mission" (under NATO auspices) in both Bosnia and Kosovo, and the establishment of a de facto protectorate in Haiti. He also moved against Iraq, bombing constantly during his two terms in office and maintaining draconian sanctions that killed as many as a half a million Iraqis, mostly children and the aged.
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush launched two major wars – and a worldwide covert "shadow war" – that represented a Great Leap Forward for the American Empire. We invaded Iraq, and occupied it: we invaded Afghanistan, and set up the conditions for the longest war in our history. The Bush presidency also set the stage for future interventions, ratcheting up tensions with Iran, and extending our reach into the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus, taking on Russia in the bargain.
President Obama took office as the "antiwar" candidate, criticizing the Iraq invasion while advocating an escalation of the "neglected" Afghan front. Iraq, he argued, was a "diversion" away from our central task, which was fighting terrorism (and al-Qaeda) in Afghanistan – and in Pakistan, as well. This last was an important addition to our enemies list, one that went little noticed at the time but has since loomed large in this administration's sights, as the stealthy but steady expansionism of the frontiers of empire pushes forward.
In Iraq, and now in Afghanistan, the US is announcing a "drawdown" – indeed, as far as the former is concerned, we are supposed to be withdrawing entirely. At least that's what the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, signed by President Bush, stipulates. However, the Americans are trying to get around that by claiming – as newly confirmed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in Senate hearings recently – there are still 1,000 al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq. The country "continues to be a fragile situation," he averred, "and I believe that we should take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that we protect whatever progress we have made there." Asked about the Iraqi government's willingness to let the Americans stay, he testified:
"It's clear to me that Iraq is considering the possibility of making a request for some kind of [troop] presence to remain there," he said, adding that he had "every confidence that a request like that will be forthcoming."
Ever since the Obama administration took office, US officials have been pressuring our Iraqi sock-puppets to cave in to US demands for an extended stay, in defiance of the "radical" Shi'ite leader, Muqtada Sadr, and his followers, who have joined the ruling coalition government. The fiercely nationalistic Sadrists are threatening to withdraw from the coalition, and even take up arms, if the deadline for the US withdrawal passes and the Americans are still there. This would serve the administration's purposes rather neatly, providing a rationale for an extension of the deadline and marginalizing a troublesome figure who stands in the way of our long range plans.
And what, exactly, are those plans?
It's clear that what the US envisions in Iraq is an "independent" state entirely dependent on US aid and military assistance: in short, an American protectorate, garrisoned with a "residual force" of several tens of thousands of "non-combat troops."
The same holds true for Afghanistan, although the process is not as far along. That's the purpose of announcing this fake "drawdown." Look at the Afghan pattern: it's virtually the same as in Iraq – a "surge," followed by a "drawdown" to previous levels, with the end result being a garrison of US soldiers left behind to police its newly-integrated province. As Bob Woodward related in Obama's Wars, then defense secretary Robert Gates – at a dinner for Afghan "President" Hamid Karzai – expressed his regret for going along with George H. W. Bush's decision to "abandon" Afghanistan, and went on to declare:
"We're not leaving Afghanistan prematurely," Gates finally said. "In fact, we're not ever leaving at all."
Make no mistake: both Iraq and Afghanistan are provinces in an American empire that has rapidly expanded, since the fall of the Soviet Union, to include much of the Middle East – and, now, parts of North Africa, where the Libyan intervention is the tip of the American spear.
June 28, 2011
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.
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