At every JRC Shabbat evening service since December 2006, we’ve introduced our Prayer for Peace by reading the names of three American soldiers, three Iraqi civilians and three Afghan civilians who have been killed since these wars began in 2001.
It’s our way of very simply reminding ourselves that we are citizens of nation at war, that war comes with a real human cost, and that war is a terrible and daily reality for real life individuals. And we do it to acknowledge that as American citizens, we are complicit in all actions made by our country.
Exactly one year ago, when Obama announced a reduction of American combat forces in Iraq from 144,000 to 50,000 troops, I was tempted to stop reading the names of the Iraqi war dead during our services – but I was prevailed upon to continue by many JRC members. After all, Obama himself said that our active combat presence would be maintained until the end of 2011. And as long as this is the case, we’d be hard pressed to deny that we were still a nation at war.
And now – surprise of surprises – we’re hearing indications that Secretary of Defense Panetta and others in the Obama administration believe that “some American forces should stay beyond 2011.”
Oh yes, make no mistake: we are still very much at war in Iraq….
Obama campaigned on the promise to end this war. Americans oppose the war in Iraq by an overwhelming margin. Our economy is in crisis and Congress has committed to find $1.2 trillion in savings for the coming year. It’s time to wake up from our slumber and let our leaders know its time to end this misbegotten adventure as promised.
Rep. Barbara Lee of California is currently sponsoring a bill known as the “Iraq Withdrawal Accountability Act” – legislation that would prohibit funding of troops and military contractors in Iraq past 2011. Please click here and join me in urging your Congressperson to co-sponsor Rep. Lee’s bill.
PS: At the risk of ending this post on an abjectly depressing note, I recently read that regardless of when the American military pulls out of Iraq, our presence there would still not be over by a long shot. Read, if you dare, this piece by ex-foreign service staffer Peter Van Buren, in which he explains what will actually happen when the American presence in Iraq is transferred from the military to the Dept. of State:
(The) State Department hasn’t exactly been thinking small when it comes to its future “footprint” on Iraqi soil. The U.S. mission in Baghdad remains the world’s largest embassy, built on a tract of land about the size of the Vatican and visible from space. It cost just $736 million to build — or was it $1 billion, depending on how you count the post-construction upgrades and fixes?
In its post-“withdrawal” plans, the State Department expects to have 17,000 personnel in Iraq at some 15 sites. If those plans go as expected, 5,500 of them will be mercenaries, hired to shoot-to-kill Iraqis as needed, to maintain security. Of the remaining 11,500, most will be in support roles of one sort or another, with only a couple of hundred in traditional diplomatic jobs. This is not unusual in wartime situations. The military, for example, typically fields about seven support soldiers for every “shooter.” In other words, the occupation run by a heavily militarized State Department will simply continue in a new, truncated form — unless Congress refuses to pay for it.
Our soldiers are also in battle in Pakistan and Libya now. With the use of drones, the meaning of being at war is being transformed in some frightening ways.
“And now – surprise of surprises – ”
Your irony is dripping from the screen all over my keyboard, and covering the desk surface.
“The U.S. mission in Baghdad remains the world’s largest embassy…” which most closely resembles an American imperial citadel; self-contained, fully fortified, and completely isolated from the rest of the Baghdad , with its own water, electric, communication, and sewage systems, plus full shopping, dining, and enterainment facilites. No need to leave the compound, it’s big enough, and everything you need is here.
Once upon a time in the Waziriah district of Baghdad new neighbors rented the house to the right of us . They had a baby son, and a new baby on the way. Their house was on the same electrical, telephone, water, and sewage system ours was. The water was very good, the sewage system reliable, the electrical system was mostly OK, and the telephone system was iffy, and subject to being tapped from time to time. No mobile phones in those days.
Their cook shopped at the same local markets we and our cook did, their driver bought gasoline for their car in the same stations our driver bought gas for our car. Their gardener created quite a showpiece behind the wall around their house from plants grown and obtained at local nurseries.
We visited each other regularly, and when she gave birth to her daughter in the same private Iraqi maternity hospital everyone in our family used, I went to visit her. Once we borrowed their cook to help with a particularly big dinner party.
The neighbors were an American couple. He was with the embassy. They told us they were not encouraged to live in Iraqi neighborhoods, but were not forbidden either, so they chose to livei n an Iraqi neighborhood instead of an American one. They felt if they were going to live in Iraq, and be part of a diplomatic mission to Iraq it only man sense to live in – you know – Iraq, not in some American enclave.
The occupation of Iraq is not going to end, it is just going to evolve into what itwas intended to be in the first place – an imperial controlling presence – and it is doing so with the full complicity of the so-called Iraqi government. That will change only if and when the Iraqi people have had enough.
We must embrace peace and not war. Many US soldiers have risked their lives in Iraq. I hope the Obama administration will find ways to protect our peace corps.
“Peace corps”?! What we are talking about is not “peace corps”, Danielle, but an imperial presence complete with its own very significant armed force to keep the subject population under control when it becomes necessary. It has nothing at all to do with peace. It is a presence put in place by means of massive military violence, and economic and sociological compulsion and manipulation, , and kept in place by means of an ongoing military presence, and the constant threat of military violence.