SYNDICATED COLUMN: Obama’s “Mission Accomplished”

Wars and Prisons Move, Wars and Torture Never Ends

Most Americans—68 percent—oppose the war against Iraq, according to a November 2011 CNN poll. So it’s smart politics for President Obama to take credit for withdrawing U.S. troops.

As it often is, the Associated Press’ coverage was slyly subversive: “This, in essence, is Obama’s mission accomplished: Getting out of Iraq as promised under solid enough circumstances and making sure to remind voters that he did what he said.”

Obama’s 2008 campaign began by speaking out against the war in Iraq. (Aggression in Afghanistan, on the other hand, was not only desirable but ought to be expanded.) However, actions never matched his words. On vote after vote in the U.S. Senate Obama supported the war. Every time.

As president, Obama has claimed credit for a December 2011 withdrawal deadline negotiated by his predecessor George W. Bush—a timeline he wanted to protract. If the Iraqi government hadn’t refused to extend immunity from prosecution to U.S. forces, this month’s withdrawal would not have happened.

“Today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” Obama bragged reporters on October 24th.

The UK Guardian noted: “But he had already announced this earlier this year, and the real significance today was in the failure of Obama, in spite of the cost to the U.S. in dollars and deaths, to persuade the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to allow one or more American bases to be kept in the country.”

Obama’s talk-no-walk approach to foreign policy is also on display on Guantánamo, the torture camp set up by the Bush Administration where thousands of Afghans and other Muslim men, including children, were imprisoned and tormented without evidence of wrongdoing. Only 171 prisoners remain there today, held under appalling conditions.

Yet the “war on terror” mentality remains in full force.

Obama ordered the construction and expansion of a new concentration camp at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan to house thousands of new and current inmates in the U.S. torture system. Now The New York Times has discovered that the Obama Administration has developed “the other Guantánamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads” inside the United States. Hundreds of Muslim men have been imprisoned by means of the thinnest veneer of legality.

“An aggressive prosecution strategy, aimed at prevention as much as punishment, has sent away scores of people. They serve long sentences, often in restrictive, Muslim-majority units, under intensive monitoring by prison officers. Their world is spare,” announced the paper.

Aware that “his” war against Afghanistan isn’t much more popular among voters than the occupation of Iraq, Obama set a 2014 for withdrawal from the Central Asian state several years ago.

Dexter Filkins called it “the forever war”: a post-9/11 syndrome that drives the United States to shoot and bomb the citizens of Muslim nations without end. You can’t end a forever war. What if you had to sit down and get serious about taking care of the problems faced by regular, boring, American people?

And so Obama is having his ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, release trial balloons about staying past 2014…forever, in so many words.

Talking to reporters, Crocker said that the U.S. would stay longer if the Karzai regime—its handpicked puppet—asked them to. “They [the Afghans] would have to ask for it,” he said. “I could certainly see us saying, ‘Yeah, makes sense.'”

Vampires can’t come inside unless they’re invited.

The Iraq War, at least, seems to be coming to an end. According to the Pentagon, there will only be 150 U.S. troops in Iraq next year—those who guard the embassy in Baghdad.

Sort of.

Just shy of 10,000 “contractors”—the heavily-armed mercenaries who became known for randomly shooting civilians from attack helicopters—will remain in Iraq as “support personnel” for the State Department.

As they say, war is an addiction. If we wanted to, we could quit any time.

Any time. Really.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is



  • 15 Dec 11 was strange. Obama praised our troops for their bravery in keeping the world safe and for liberating Saddam’s captive nation.

    Meanwhile, the New York Times reported finding records that a company of Marines was attacked and two were killed in a village, so they killed everyone they could find in that village, man, woman and child.

    It is easy to see why many think Bush, Jr. planned and perpetrated 9/11: when it happened, he won the lottery. Before 9/11, Bush, Jr. was destined to be a one-term president who read books like My Pet Goat to school children if the teachers would help him with the more difficult words. After 9/11, the American People gave Bush, Jr. 7 years of carte blanch to take as much money as he wanted for keeping Americans safe.

    But few lottery winners in the US won because they had the ability to manipulate the lottery, so I think Bush, Jr. got 9/11 fairly, the work of 19 deranged Gulf Arabs who were NOT on Bush, Jr’s payroll. And then, having won the lottery, Bush, Jr. helped himself to every penny he could possibly take, saying it was all ‘to keep America safe.’

    And most Americans agreed with Bush, Jr. and re-elected him in ’04. Now, most Americans agree Bush, Jr. was a great hero, and should be lauded, not prosecuted.

  • innocent victim
    December 16, 2011 11:16 PM

    Sad that Ted Rall is not much quoted by other blogs!

  • Specialty chefs have been brought in to prepare the terrorists 3 culturally sensitive meals per day, clean clothes provided, medical treatment given, korans distributed, arrows pointing towards mecca in all of their rooms…

    Appalling conditions my ass. What they deserve is a blindfold, a cigarette and a bullet.

  • jtg,

    A bullet, and a blindfold? So they’re guilty? You’d think if the guilt was that easy (I mean, you were able to figure it out without even a trial), the gummint would give these men their day in court.

    They’re called principles not because they’re easy to apply, but because they’re hard. So yes, even your worst enemies get their day in court. And it has to be a fair day in court, not them strapped naked to a bodyboard with a gag in their mouths and no legal representation.

    So just climb down off your indignant high horse.

  • @jtg24: Site me a (legitimate) source for that or I am calling BS.

    If you are right then at least 10% of Americans should work to be branded as terrorists so that they will get better treatment in America then they do now.

  • @jtg24

    So you want to shoot a bunch of Muslims that you don’t know, right? Well, you can join the military for that. Or you can get a higher pay as a mercenary and do the same thing. But then you’ll have to risk death and dismemberment yourself in return.

    And how do you know if these prisoners are “treated well”? Your comment about “specialty chefs” seems a bit farfetched. Do you work as a prison guard in one of these places that you know this for certain? And since when did clean clothes and the right to practice one’s religion become a luxury? Every ordinary prisoner has the right to both.

    Frankly, you should direct your rage against the banksters who got trillions of dollars worth of tax-payer funded bailouts, and not against Muslims who are being held without a trial and virtually no access to their families.

    So do yourself a favor and turn off the Limbaugh and the Hannity or whatever right-wing slob you listen to and read this instead:

  • So what is your vote for what we call the American troops we leave in Iraq? Should we call them Advisers like in Vietnam, or do you think updating the term to contractors would allow us to pretend they aren’t sanctioned soldiers of the American Army?

  • The special considerations given to the terrorists at Gitmo is common knowledge to people concerned about such things. Do a search for “Guantanamo Bay Culturally Sensitive Meals” and see how many articles come up. They get Korans, calls to prayer, mecca signs all over the damn place, they get to pick their meals from a menu each day, doctors, dentists, a gym. Yes, quite appalling indeed. Oh the humanity!

    No, it’s not luxurious… it’s not the Four Seasons, IT’S A PRISON for Islamo-terrorists captured on the battlefield.
    I don’t understand how can you rail against something you know so little about?

    Describing the care of these suspected terrorists, he [Cully Stimson, the Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary] said, “They get three square meals a day, culturally sensitive meals, blessed by an Imam. They have a menu, Norah, that they get to order from every couple weeks. They have freedom of religion. They practice called to prayer five times a day. There are arrows pointing towards Mecca with the distance to Mecca listed everywhere. They get first class medical care, dental care.”

    He said they even get food from McDonald’s. “I’ve watched some interrogations where they’re chowing down on a Big Mac,” he said.

    • @jtg: We do not know who the inmates are. They could be anyone. None has ever faced a trial because there is obviously no evidence that any of them has committed a crime.

  • I pulled the bottom line & preceding paragragh from an article in which a DoD official was cited, in case you couldn’t discern that for yourself.

  • We’re not talking about people accused of shoplifting… or even murder. We’re talking about unlawful enemy combatants & a few non-combatants (acting in support roles) picked up on the battlefield. They have no rights. Not under Geneva, nor our Constitution. As recently as 60-some years ago (See FDR during WWII and the 8 German spies) they would’ve been shot, end of story.

    Look up what George Washington did to the British unlawful combatant who was carrying Benedict Arnold’s letter back to the British during the Revolutionary War…. he was short on bullets, so he made good use of a rope & a tree. Now-a-days we fix them ‘culturally sensitive’ meals of their choosing and give them better healthcare than quite a few Americans are currently receiving.

    • @jtg: You obviously trust the government. I don’t. They’ve been caught lying too often.
      When the government says someone had done this or that, I say, prove it. In court. That’s the American way. The examples you cite are murder plain and simple.

  • Well, throughout human history up until quite recently, the universal method of dealing with unlawful (non-uniformed) combatants was a very expeditious military execution. Now, we send them to a tropical resort free of charge. How’s that for progress…. I guess I’m ‘old-fashioned’.

    The most damning bit of evidence from the detainees at club Gitmo is the ridiculously high recividisim rate from those detainees who have been released. If keeping them penned up on our little corner of the Communist paradise that is Cuba, keeps these jackasses out of AQAP & jihadi caves in Waziristan, so be it. I’ll not be losing any sleep, and you shouldn’t either.

    I can’t believe none of you guys knew about the korans, Moslem-approved meals, and all the other niceties. Research!

  • The term “recidivism” implies repeating an unlawful act.

    IF any of the Gitmo detainees HAD committed unlawful acts, under the draconian, Geneva-less,
    international, legal depravity inaugurated by the Bush administration, THEN they would have been convicted thereof and NEVER released in the first place.

    Those released had done nothing but get picked up by Afghan war lords paid by vicious Bush idiots paid to produce some bodies so as to give the appearance of doing some “anti-terrorism.”

    The first few hits I see on a search of “Gitmo detainee recidivism” are from the “Weekly Standard” quoting a US intelligence big wig.

    The “Weekly Standard” is a neocon rag and therefore without credibility except those who see mass murder for profit as a legitimate capitalist business plan. To believe anything uttered publicly by a US intelligence big wig is to admit extreme naivete or aggressive, willful ignorance.

    ANY provable terrorist activity by Gitmo detainee(s) would be a tribute, ONLY, to the ability of your government, using literally trillions of your tax dollars, to radicalize others against us, across the wrld, wether by baseless incarceration or recidivist genocide (e.g. Iraq 1991 to present.)

    Here’s some research material on our global imperialist “adventures”:

  • JTG, you are mistaken about Geneva.

    A “combatant” out of uniform who is NOT a citizen of the occupied country has no rights under Geneva.

    However, under Geneva, ANY citizen of the occupied country who is captured by the occupying forces must be placed in one of two classes:

    1) prisoner of war (I’ll assume you understand the rights of POWs)
    2) criminal, with rights of due and timely process very similar to those in the US. Geneva explicitly states that this category includes those whose crimes consist of acts of aggression against the occupying forces.

    So any Saudis or Pakistanis we caught in Afghanistan, yes, we can do whatever we want to them. But any Afghans in Gitmo, even those we actually have good and lawful evidence against, have long run out the clock on due process. They should have had their trials long ago and at this point should be released immediately.