For the second time in 10 years, an American president has decided to withdraw American forces from a country after having invaded and occupied it. The first time, President Barack Obama announced withdrawing from Iraq in 2011. The second instance came when Joe Biden announced a timeline for withdrawing all American forces from Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaida attack and the subsequent American invasion. In both cases, it was George W. Bush who decided to invade the two countries in a “war on terror,” which has become, in practice, an American strategy applied worldwide over the last 20 years. Among the consequences have been massive loss of human life, destruction of infrastructure, government corruption and suppression of peaceful uprisings. The most notable consequence was the crackdown on the Arab Spring social movement by infiltration and recruitment of influences from abroad, which have accused the movement of creating homegrown terrorism and exploiting Islamophobia. All of this was an attempt to placate the civil elite and distance them from the marginalized masses.
Biden’s decision excited some so much that it was considered radical to question his plan. Is this a credible perspective? It’s impossible to see through Biden’s rhetoric without considering Obama’s. The side-by-side comparison is crucial in knowing what has been achieved and what will be achieved by withdrawal, the proposal of alternatives, and the future political and military vision of the United States. Both presidents announced their decision to withdraw after having won a presidential election. As Obama asserted, “As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by end of the year … America’s war in Iraq will be over.” Just the same, both presidents were proud of the American forces’ achievements and felt they deserved to return home. Obama said, “The last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq with honor and with their heads held high.” Similarly, Biden said, “It’s time for American troops to come home … [I]t’s time to end the forever war.”
But Obama seemed to ignore the reasons for the presence of American forces in Iraq and the mission that made them so proud, perhaps because he knew that most of the leaders of the invasion admitted that they had been lied to. Still, Biden reiterated the reason for the invasion and the triumph numerous times, saying, “We went to Afghanistan in 2001 to root out al-Qaida, to prevent future terrorist attacks against the United States planned from Afghanistan. Our objective was clear. The cause was just. … We did that. We accomplished that objective.”
What does the future look like after military withdrawals from occupied countries? Obama told us about Iraq, “This will be a strong and enduring partnership. With our diplomats and civilian advisers in the lead, we’ll help Iraqis strengthen institutions that are just, representative and accountable. We’ll build new ties of trade and of commerce, culture and education, that unleash the potential of the Iraqi people. We’ll partner with an Iraq that contributes to regional security and peace, just as we insist that other nations respect Iraq’s sovereignty.” We can now say that this was optimistic, because none of this materialized. Instead, withdrawal left Iraq as fertile ground for all types of terrorism, including the American kind. Biden wears the same rose-tinted glasses regarding the future relationship with Afghanistan, confirming, “We’ll continue to support the government of Afghanistan. We will keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defenses and Security Forces.”
If Biden’s decision was given a warm welcome as a step toward shaking off Donald Trump’s far-right racism, we should recall that Obama’s decision received the same welcome. His decision resulted in increased reliance on military protocol in the form of security companies, mercenaries, and special operations, in addition to the tenfold increase in the use of drones. The use of drones multiplied during Trump’s presidency. This granted the U.S. Army and CIA free rein to kill and assassinate. It is frequently recalled that the withdrawal from Iraq was engineered by Bush before Obama as a result of the Baker-Hamilton Commission, which was created to restore consensus on foreign policy between the neoconservatives, and the Project for the New American Century, which foiled the Iraqi resistance. In this way, Biden’s decision is also a continuation of Trump-era policy. Besides this, the use of military force is a tremendous drain on the American economy. It’s not in America’s interest to sacrifice troops freely in order to fix other countries. Thus, it is absolutely necessary to restructure the American military.
Biden mentioned all of this in a recent speech, but sugar-coating his words, said that soldiers must return after carrying out their humanitarian mission far from their families. With a tinge of racism befitting an invader, he said, “For the past 12 years … I’ve carried with me a card that reminds me of the exact number of American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. That exact number, not an approximation or rounded-off number — because every one of those dead are sacred human beings who left behind entire families.” He ignores the fact that American forces in Iraq refused to record the number of Iraqi casualties, and that the reason for the invasion of Afghanistan was the killing of 2,977 Americans in a terrorist attack executed by 19 men, all killed during the operation. Yet, a 2019 Brown University study estimated the number of casualties among the U.S. Army and the police in Afghanistan to be more than 64,100 since October 2001, and, according to the United States Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 111,000 civilians have been injured or killed since it began recording casualties in 2009.
These frightening figures raise questions charged with anger: Why are American lives the only ones deemed sacred? When has an entire country ever been collectively punished through murder and utter devastation because of a terrorist attack committed by only nineteen people? By this logic, is the continuing American invasion not a terrorist act? Should those responsible be prosecuted in accordance with international law?
What does the future hold for the relationship between America and Afghanistan? Biden stated that his military forces are “refining [the] national strategy to monitor and disrupt significant terrorist threats not only in Afghanistan, but anywhere they may arise — and they’re in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere.”
This means that the “war on terror” will remain a long-lasting strategy for suppressing people if they merely think of raising their heads to breathe under American forces. This also implies that America will not enjoy the security it seeks for itself unless it apologizes for what it has done to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, gives them restitution, works toward building an equal relationship, and puts a stop to the support of corrupt authoritarian regimes that leave the countries overrun with guns.
Written from Iraq
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