As the court martial of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning continues, and President Obama disingenuously capitalizes on the withdrawal from Iraq as the timely fulfillment of a long-forgotten campaign promise, I cannot help but draw attention to the fact that the United States would not have withdrawn from Iraq if not for WikiLeaks and cablegate. If Manning is truly behind the cablegate leaks, history will remember him as a hero, for ending a brutal occupation that has led to over a hundred thousand civilian deaths.
Busily taking credit for an outcome he didn’t intend, President Obama skillfully neglects to mention the inconvenient truth behind the U.S. troop withdrawal: the administration negotiated desperately to keep troops in Iraq, and failed.
Negotiations with the Iraq government failed due to documented human rights abuses perpetrated by American soldiers against Iraqi civilians, which were confirmed by the diplomatic cables that Manning is implicated in providing to WikiLeaks.
Glenn Greenwald does a fine job of putting the pieces together.
In 2006, American soldiers conducted a violent raid that resulted in at least ten civilian deaths, including a septuagenarian and at least one infant shot at close range. The soldiers then called in an airstrike to destroy any evidence of the shameful massacre.
These events were confirmed in WikiLeaks’ May 2011 cablegate release, and this apparently precipitated a decision by the Iraqi government to withdraw legal immunity for American soldiers operating in Iraq. If American soldiers were to remain, they would be liable under Iraqi law for civilian casualties.
As reported in National Journal, it was only after months of talks finally broke down in October that the Obama administration conceded that the only viable option was to withdraw. Up until this defeat, the administration favored keeping at least 3,000 - 5,000 troops on the ground, while military commanders were pushing for an ongoing residual force of 10,000 - 15,000.
Do not believe President Obama when he implies that the withdrawal from Iraq was on his terms, the carefully-planned fulfillment of his promise to the American people. This is a cynical manipulation, spinning a decisive defeat of Obama’s actual policy, as the fulfillment of a contrary, yet politically expedient, promise that he didn’t intend to keep.
The withdrawal from Iraq was mandated by Iraq, motivated by American war crimes, confirmed by the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, purportedly via Bradley Manning. It’s not an easy truth to swallow, but most truths aren’t these days.