Calmly, quietly, with little fanfare or outsized media attention, after more than seven years and thousands of soldiers dead, hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in one of the ugliest and most unnecessary military operations in all of American history, the U.S. has officially ended its combat presence in Iraq.
Did you hear? Did you see the blazing headlines, the parades, the TV crews lining up in a rabid media frenzy on the White House lawn? Did you attend a rally, a march, a flag-wavin' gun-tootin' victory party, or perhaps gather 'round the TV at the local saloon, waving a tiny American flag and cheering wildly?
Maybe you saw the president himself hop into a Navy helicopter and land on the deck of that aircraft carrier, dressed up like a little GI Joe action figure, crowing on about the God-sanctioned super-awesomeness of mighty America and its super-awesome, kill-'em-all military greatness, a huge "Mission Accomplished" banner fluttering behind him?
Wait, of course you didn't. Because none of that happened this time. I mean, thank God.
Do you know how I found out about the current status of the long-promised U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq -- which, during the last election, was one of the largest and most implausible assurances made by then-candidate Obama, and one that few military experts or even the Pentagon thought possible, given how deeply and violently BushCo had entrenched us in that intractable and impossible war of ultraviolent nothingness?
I got an email. From President Obama. It was a calmly worded, non-blaring, non-jingoistic, adults-only note to American citizens, declaring how the U.S. has now withdrawn more than 90,000 American troops from Iraq, nearly two-thirds of the entire force, all right on schedule, a truly massive and staggering operation, and that our combat mission there is officially over.
And this time, it's actually true.
It's sort of stunning, in both scope and meaning. It's sort of historic, in sheer accomplishment for a president in office less than two years, considering the scale of the epic war machine he faced down when he took the job. It's also sort of humbling and tragic, considering the needless loss of life, the bleak history now permanently tattooed, the deep scars on our national soul.
The president's note was careful to add that there's still a long way to go, that 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq for at least another year or so in an "advise and assist" role, to continue to train Iraqi security forces and keep things stable because, well, you don't invade a country for nearly eight years, destroy its government, wipe out its feeble infrastructure, spend hundreds of millions setting up massive personnel operations all over the country, and then pull everything out in a month.
Wait, I was wrong; I did, in fact, see some media attention, in the form of one plain, declarative headline, buried among the pop culture effluvia and the shrill inanity surrounding a Muslim community center in New York: "US Withdraws Military From Iraq," said the headline. It was from the Guardian. Thanks, England.
I've since seen a handful of stories trickle in from the New York Times and assorted outlets, all similarly low-key and beneath the fold, mostly about the mixed nature of the withdrawal, the eternal volatility of the region, the fact that there's simply no way to declare victory in a war that wasn't really a war to begin with. Then again, try telling that to the tens of thousands of soldiers on their way home. Their joy and relief are, I imagine, incalculable.
But it all reveals a strange problem for Obama & Co...
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the SF Chronicle and SFGate. Get it at daringspectacle.com or Amazon;. He recently wrote about the dark, magnificent horror of the BP spill, the rise of insufferable women, and the justifiably infamous KFC Double Down. His website is markmorford.com. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...
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