I always like it when someone I already respect immensely proves again that the respect is deserved. The case in point here is Phyllis Bennis, responding to Obama's Iraq reapportionment plan (and I hope she'll excuse me for making a mockery of fair use as I quote a huge chunk of her article):
If this plan were actually a first step towards the unequivocal goal of a complete end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, it would be better than good, it would be fabulous. But that would mean this withdrawal would be the first step towards a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops, pulling out of all the 150,000+ U.S.-paid foreign mercenaries and contractors, closing all the U.S. military bases, and ending all U.S. efforts to control Iraqi oil.
So far that is not on Obama's agenda.
The troop withdrawal as planned would leave behind as many as 50,000 U.S. troops. That's an awful lot. Even Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi thinks that may be too much. She told Rachel Maddow, "I don't know what the justification is for 50,000, at the present...I would think a third of that, maybe 20,000, a little more than a third, 15,000 or 20,000."
Those troops won't include officially designated "combat" troops. But those tens of thousands of troops will still be occupying Iraq. Doing what? Very likely, just what combat troops do — they would walk and talk and bomb and shoot like combat troops, but they’d be called something else. The New York Times spelled it out last December: describing how military planners believe Obama's goal of pulling out combat troops "could be accomplished at least in part by re-labeling some units, so that those currently counted as combat troops could be 're-missioned,' their efforts redefined as training and support for the Iraqis." That would mean a retreat to the lies and deception that characterized this war during Bush years — something President Obama promised to leave behind. It would also mean military resistance in Iraq would continue, leading to more Iraqi and U.S. casualties.
Further, the U.S. agreement with Iraq calls for all U.S. forces to be out of Iraq by the end of December 2011. President Obama's announcement later this week may even reflect something like this goal too. But. The agreement can be changed. Retired General Barry McCaffrey wrote an internal report for the Pentagon after a trip to Iraq last year, saying, "We should assume that the Iraqi government will eventually ask us to stay beyond 2011 with a residual force of trainers, counterterrorist capabilities, logistics, and air power." My estimate? Perhaps a force of 20,000 to 40,000 troops.
Bennis is one of those serious think tank lefties who keep their voices steady and their words modulated in order to maintain their mainstream credibility, so that last sentence represents a serious jab on her part. Zing! And she's right, of course. The force Obama is leaving behind is probably very close to the size and type of force he'll want to keep in Iraq indefinitely—so he's essentially trying to sell this indefinite occupation, in something very close to its final form, as a withdrawal. And we all know what it really means for the United States to have "trainers" and "advisors" in a country.
You can read the rest of Bennis's analysis here.
ALSO: Happily, some of the leaders of the anti-war movement are responding in the right way rather than heaping praise on that great new outfit the emperor's wearing:
"The bad news from our perspective is it's going to take [19 months]," [Leslie Cagan] said. "We think the timeline could be a lot shorter. We're also troubled by the plan to leave literally tens of thousands of troops in Iraq."
Cagan said Obama should leave no troops in Iraq.
"We don't think this is a strong enough plan, which leads us to conclude that our work as an anti-war movement is far from over," she said.
Which is absolutely true, but unfortunately the participation of large numbers of mainstream Democrats in the anti-war movement is over now that there's a Democrat in the White House. So if there are protests against either the continued presence in Iraq or the renewal of the war in Afghanistan, you can count on them being far smaller than anything we saw when Bush was in power.