The press made a big deal of it. The president even starred in an Oval Office TV show about the â€œend to U.S. combatâ€ in Iraq, which was announced on August 31. Mr. Obama said heâ€™d fulfilled a promise to end the war. Obamaâ€™s bit of theater cost less than George Bushâ€™s May 1, 2003 shameless declaration of â€œmission accomplished,â€ his circus-act-in-military-flight-suit-to-the-flight-deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Yet the presidentâ€™s speech was just as dishonest.
Just listen to Army Brig. Gen. Jeffery Buchanan, who told National Public Radio for Sept. 19, â€œOur rules of engagement have not changed.â€ Indeed, since the â€œend of combat,â€ U.S. soldiers have been in at least two fierce shoot outs involving the use of U.S. warplanes. A Sept. 15 battle included â€œat leastâ€ four U.S. helicopter gunships. Another, in Diyala province, saw U.S. planes dropping two 500-pound bombs.
Gen. Buchanan told NPR he â€œâ€¦ understands why most people would call this combat.â€ Most people, general?
Two days after the Presidentâ€™s â€œcombatâ€™s overâ€ routine, Col. Malcolm Frost, the commander of the â€œadvisoryâ€ brigade in Diyala, wrote in a note to soldiersâ€™ families, â€œWe will move around Iraq fully protected in armored Strykers and other armored vehicles, wearing full body armor, and fully loaded with ammunition to deal with the enemy â€¦â€ the New York Times reported.
Col. Frost currently has the same combat soldiers as a combat brigade — but supplied with 51 â€œadvisers.â€ Since his unit arrived in Iraq in July, in an â€œadvisoryâ€ capacity, two of his soldiers have been killed and 13 wounded. Tell the families of the dead that the war is over.
Another soldier was killed Sept. 16 while detonating seized explosives. If these arenâ€™t combat fatalities, Iâ€™m the Queen of Moravia.
Today â€” among the 50,000 U.S. soldiers still occupying Iraq â€” there are 4,500 â€œSpecial Forcesâ€ commandos. These Green Berets, Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and â€œunconventionalâ€ or secret assassination (known for PR purposes as â€œtargeted killingâ€) squads still storm Iraqi houses and villages at night trying to kill â€œinsurgentsâ€ and â€œsuspected members of other armed groups,â€ according to Baghdad reporters for the Times.
As the GoArmy website says, â€œmissions are â€¦ sometimes classified.â€ You might say that the war in Iraq is now entirely classified, since fighting has been declared over by the Commander-in-Chief himself.
Bombings, firefights, nighttime raids and covert operations might be viewed by most people as combat. But with the feel-good peacewash of presidential speech writers, our military occupation of Iraq can be transformed for the deluded into foreign aid.
Mark Twain described our situation well: â€œStatesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those concise, soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.â€Â Î¦
John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, and edits its quarterly newsletter.