According to the New York Times, this summer the U.S. may be facing its "most dangerous remaining mission" in Iraq - getting our troops out.
Reading between the lines of Michael S. Schmidt's report from Baghdad reveals that the U.S. is about to leave a country that will be glad to see us go and where we have failed to accomplish anything of value for its people - despite killing and displacing millions of them.
We didn't even get the control of Iraq's oil as we had hoped.
Witness Vincent Fernando's comments in Business Insider: "Thus the U.S. invasion indeed unlocked Iraq's oil production potential as many critics said had been the plan all along, but in the end the U.S. won't have much control over it."
Meanwhile, there was an armed attack against a U.S. base on Monday with deadly force unseen since 2009. It is difficult to estimate the popularity of these assaults, as they are in constant flux. What is clear is that most people do not like being invaded and occupied.
According to the Times, a three-pronged attack against the American occupation forces - even as they prepare a partial retreat to Kuwait beginning, they hope, in July - claimed three goals: get the invaders to leave as planned, break their will to leave parts of the occupation army behind; and impress upon the Iraqi people that the invaders were forced to withdraw. Others, however, suggest these attacks could serve to justify keeping American forces in Iraq longer. The situation is murky.
There are about 46,000 to 47,000 troops left in the country and they have to leave along a desert road 168 miles long that leads to Kuwait. They could be sitting ducks. The Iraqis certainly remember how, after the ceasefire in the 1991 Gulf War, their retreating troops were attacked in cold blood and thousands were butchered as they fled along the roads after leaving Kuwait.
Col. D. Crossman told the Times June 6: "Our forces were attacked today, and we were just sitting still. What is going to happen to the threat when we line up our trucks to leave and start moving out of the country?"
Well, Schmidt reports that the U.S. has learned the hard lesson that it needs the support of the local population in order to succeed. But after having destroyed their country how, can we count on their support? In that most American of ways, we will pay for it.
The U.S. will pay $100,000 a month in tribute to 10 local tribal elders if they will protect the passage of the troops.
At least this is cheaper than asking Blackwater to do it.
Of course, the mighty U.S. military doesn't pay protection money, so "officially the money is paid to have Iraqis clean the crucial roadway of debris," no doubt inspired by Lady Bird Johnson's program to spruce up the highways and byways of America while LBJ gassed and napalmed the Vietnamese peasantry.
Col. Crossman explained, "I can't possibly be all places at one time. There are real incentives for them to keep the highway safe. Those sheiks we have the best relationships with and have kept their highways clear and safe will be the most likely ones to get renewed for the rest of the year."
So far so good? The Times says roadside bomb attacks are "down," and so are attacks from the areas under control of the sheiks. At least that is the claim - remember the worst attack in two years was just June 6.
At any rate, the sheiks "are happy to get the money." They have their own uses for it and it will soon run out after the withdrawal. Maybe the U.S. can pull off a safe retreat. Who wants to kill the goose that lays the golden the egg? But what if the goose is leaving town?
Money is money, and those waging attacks also can pay off the sheiks, and the sheiks have to live with them after the U.S. military has left the country (if indeed they are all really getting out).
So, Col. Crossman admits, "There are some sheiks who are working for the other team and are being paid well by the militants so they can operate in their land." He should consider the fact that they are probably the same sheiks he thinks are on his payroll.
Photo: First Lt. Joshua R. Rosales, Navy Seaman Royce R. Ross and Cpl. Jared S. Nelson, came to the aid of a seven-year-old Iraqi girl who fell from a three-story building in Gharmah, Iraq. Young people like them face a difficult mission in leaving the country. slagheap // CC 2.0