Score another one for Obama


Listening to U.S. president Barack Obama speaking earlier this week on the drawdown of American soldiers from Iraq in the winding down of the war on that beleaguered country was something like trying to mentally shift all the components of the American-led aggressions on the countries of the oil rich Middle East region into a picture that truly makes sense.

Remember that kid’s plastic brainteaser toy that had eight flat tiles in a square that had nine spaces? The tiles made a picture or had some kind of order to it, and the challenge was to move the tiles around so that you could have the picture all ordered. Think of it as an earlier two-dimensional version of the Rubik’s Cube.

Obama explained that American troops, which at their peak numbered close to 170,000 in Iraq and now number around 50,000, were no longer in combat mode there.

Why were American soldiers fighting in Iraq? Was it because after the devastating attacks on American landmarks on September 11, 2001, Washington strongly believed that Iraq was harbouring or helping Osama bin Laden, the purported head of the militant Islamists of al-Qaeda, said to have been responsible for the attacks? We know now that the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was no friend of al-Qaeda.

Hussein, who was hanged after a trial in an Iraqi court for crimes against humanity, used to be a friend of America’s, but somehow, in the mash-up of reasons why America was in Iraq, was said to have been building or storing ‘weapons of mass destruction’ aimed at America. This also was false.

No American official ever said that U.S. soldiers were in Iraq because Hussein had dared to nationalize the country’s oil and take control away from the giant oil companies.

Obama stated during his speech that he was against the war in Iraq, still he offered brave words about the nobility and sacrifice of American soldiers, but never broached the subject of American control of foreign oil.

In the 20th and on into the 21st Century, oil has been and continues to be in the world economy what sugar was for about 400 years. The past decimation of humanity in Africa and the reason the present day Caribbean and Brazilian populations are largely of African descent is inextricably linked to the wealth generated for European colonial powers from the 16th to the 19th Century from sugar production and all the industries attached. So much human ingenuity went into all aspects of sugar production; not the least was how to keep production plentiful and cheap so that it could reach the largest market. Sound familiar?

But, back to the Middle East. Washington’s withdrawal of all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 coincides neatly with the end of Canada’s commitment in Afghanistan. Given that the Canadian government is holding firmly to its commitment to leave Afghanistan by that time, American troops will shift there in their numbers.

Canadian soldiers have been fighting in Afghanistan – or, to quote the official line, fighting to rebuild Afghanistan – because it was believed to be a stronghold for al-Qaeda fighters and the elusive bin Laden. Since the Afghan mission began in 2002, 152 Canadian soldiers have died there as part of that effort, as well as four Canadian civilians, including one diplomat. The hard truth is that given the simplicity and effectiveness of those so-called improvised explosive devices being used against them by Afghanistan’s hard-line Taliban fighters, more will likely lose their lives before Canada’s mission ends there in 2011.

Another hard truth is that if wars were not profitable for those who have the power to conduct them then we likely would stick only to sports as a way of expending aggressiveness. But over a seven-year period the military-industrial complex has received a good part of some US$750 billion from the war on Iraq. Washington’s spending on the Afghanistan aggression, which began in 2002, is somewhere in the order of US$300 billion. Together, that’s more than one trillion dollars (US).

Perhaps that will make it clearer why finding bin Laden may have been the primary directive, but not the primary objective. By the way, Obama did not once mention bin Laden in his speech.

A note on the changing weather…

It’s one thing for people to express their opinion about the summer being over, because there’s still some life left yet in the scorcher of 2010, but it really is hard to argue with the trees that have already begun displaying their fall colours.

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