"...we have a phased redeployment, where we're as careful getting out as we were careless getting in..." - Sen. Barack Obama, during the 2008 presidential campaign, referring to his plan for withdrawal from Iraq, in an interview with Politico before the Potomac Primaries, Feb. 11, 2008.
"As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end, for the sake of our national security, and to strengthen American leadership around the world." - President Obama, announcing the end to the Iraq War, with all troops coming home by the end of the year, Friday, October 21, 2011.
No aircraft carrier. No glorious banner. Just a man announcing the resolution of a campaign promise, standing at the podium in the White House briefing room. What a refreshing change. Less than three years after taking his oath of office, President Obama announced today that not only he, but the nation he leads, our nation, "keeps its commitments."
By doing so, he said, "the United States is moving forward from a position of strength." That goes not only for the Iraqi theater, but also on the wide and brightly lit stage of global politics.
For his political opponents, though, all the president's victories are framed as failures. It doesn't matter how measured the delivery, or how much these foreign policy resolutions raise America's stock in the eyes of our global partners, the GOP is ready to throw mud on it.
Getting bin Laden was a failure for Obama because he rejected "harsh interrogation techniques;" helping a NATO mission to get rid of Gaddafi was, according to former UN Ambassador John Bolton, a "massive strategic failure;" and today's announcement has been greeted by Republican presidential primary candidate Mitt Romney as an "astonishing failure" of negotiation with the Iraqis, who cou ld not get their parliament to agree on taking out the trash, much less protecting US troops from war crimes charges that would obviously be against our national interest. Romney actually called the president's efforts at securing an agreement "sheer ineptitude."
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) at least attempted to point out that it's the Iraqis who failed, here, while he also blamed his former opponent. "It is a consequential failure of both the Obama Administration," he said, "as well as the Iraqi government."
We are no longer welcome in Iraq, and no amount of blood-lust pride is worth the arm twisting it would take to make their government work the way we would like. It was their deadline to meet, under the agreement negotiated by the Bush Administration, and they could not meet it. But the GOP and other right wing war machine have adopted the anachronistic, imperial view, that as long as we're in charge, and we have guns, things will go our way. Might makes right is a basic tenet of their thinking, whether they're talking about foreign policy or domestic issues. As conservative über-blogger Andrew Breitbart ranted in September, "We outnumber [liberals] in this country, and we have the guns."
Breitbart, of course, is wrong. Guns don't rule. People do. He is influenced by the same Second Amendment radicalism as the politicians, who operate under the influence of the diesel fumes and gunpowder smoke their perpetual campaigns must inhale to live. They are like ostriches on a pipe dream, still unwilling to accept that in our shrunken world, we can no longer be lulled by 1950s style, commie-behind-every-tree, mom and apple pie, Madison Avenue icons, nor can we be bullied into believing what is best for captains of industry is best for us.
President Obama talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq during a secure video teleconference in the Situation Room of the White House, in which he informed the Iraqi president of the decision to withdraw all forces by the end of the year. Oct. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Iraq was Bush and Cheney's war of revenge. It was a war to put money in the pockets of big government contractors, like Haliburton, Kellogg, Brown & Root, and Blackwater. The failure to reach terms with the Iraqi parliament affects them as much as the troops. Should they continue to work for the State Department, they would no longer have any kind of diplomatic protection. Ironic, perhaps, because it is precisely because of Blackwater's alleged overreaction in a Baghdad firefight, in 2007, which killed 17 Iraqi civilians, that blew away any chance of criminal immunity for America's military, or the contractors who wor k for them.
"The tide of war is receding," in our major foreign involvements, Obama reiterated, today. But as long as our Congress remains as dysfunctional as the Iraqi parliament, the ship of state will remain painfully aground, here, for there will be no reciprocal rising tide to lift us. Welcome to the economy, a new kind quagmire.
"Yesterday, I brought to your attention how offended we are at the Tea Party Express that the media would dare to continually insist that the Occupy Wall Street protests are motivated by the same issues that the Tea Party coalesced around and that they are the Tea Party of the left!" - E-mail from Tea Party Express to supporters, sent Monday September 11, 2011
"[W]hen you compare these people with tea partiers—now you've got a problem with We the People." - Web posting from Tea Party Patriots to its local groups, Tuesday, October 11, 2011
They're offended. They've got a problem. They're using exclamation points. The longer Occupy Wall Street, and its nationwide inspired clones, continue their protests, the more vociferous the right's opposition is getting. The Tea Party just does not get the Occupy movement. They don't get that it is an actual grassroots movement, in the dirt, at the root level, and not the grass of a manicured, suburban lawn, cared for by gardeners who have been hired by big banks and John Birchers like the Koch brothers.
It only makes sense that in trying to voice opposition to Occupy, the radical right has resorted to categorizing the participants in anarchistic memes. "[W]atch us keep owning Teamsters and Hippies," invites one right wing video website.
"Whenever I hear somebody call me a hippy, I just write it off as ignorance, because that's a term that's no longer relevant," said Kate, an Atlanta teacher and community organizer, who spent Thursday evening helping feed those camping at Occupy Atlanta, in Woodruff Park, in the heart of the city's downtown business district.
"I have very little respect for people who try to take down someone else whose trying to do some good work," she insists. Still, she says there is commonality among the Occupy and Tea Party movements. "The people I've spoken to from the Tea Party are interested in community work, and we may not agree on all of our political points, but I have respect for people who are trying to go out into the community and engage with their neighbors."
A young web designer at the Occupy Atlanta site, named Ginsen, seemed to agree. "Overall, I support any sort of passion for people to change something they don't believe is right," she said, after setting aside the Hula Hoop she had been swaying around in.
Tea Party groups, however, see it much differently, feeling their organized, political message trumps any semblance of credibility Occupy participants think they have. "Tea partiers usually have informed opinions and clear articulation of their principles and goals," claims the Tea Party Express. "The socialist mobs sitting around in NYC rely on mind-numbing chants, bongo drums and bullhorns, because there is no substance to their message."
But Kate, the teacher, sees that as a plus. "Politics is not relevant on the grassroots," she said. "What's relevant here, is that people are coming together, on a very personal level. You can ask people here. You don't see big non-profits, with a big presence; you don't see labor organizations; you don't see the Tea Party. You see people, and that, to me, is what grassroots organizing is. When you get politics involved, that is when it loses that people power."
Harrison Schultz, an activist participating in Occupy Wall Street, told Politico much the same thing. "This is not a political movement, this is a social movement," he said.
But the Tea Party groups see the politics as proof of their power, particularly after the 2010 Congressional elections. "Occupy Wall Street may someday become a significant force in American politics, but they're certainly not today," said Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, according to the Politico article.
Ned Ryun, president of American Majority, a group that trains tea party activists, told Politico that he's not too worried about Occupy protesters becoming a force. "The more you read about [them] and their behavior," he insisted, "the more it looks like they'll implode on their own."
"C'mon. Do we look like union organizers?"
In Atlanta, Ginsen seemed unfazed by the actions and threats of Tea Party and other right wing activists. "We can handle a little bit of push back. It's okay," she said, matter of factly. "In the end, if they push back, we'll push harder."
And while Ryun doesn't seem to take the Occupy protesters seriously, the more strident Tea Party Express had a different characterization of the Americans participating in the Occupy movement. "They are a disorganized unruly mob of shiftless protestors that has been reinforced by union and organized labor thugs," said Amy Kremer, in her letter to supporters, asking for donations.
Ginsen indicated that she believed that was nothing but partisan hype. "When you see girls with Hula Hoops, it's kind of hard to think we're a bunch of union organizers here," she said. "I mean, c'mon. Do we look like we're part of a union?"