Friday, July 27, 2007

Opinion (Tom Engelhardt): The non-withdrawal withdrawal

Above: U.S. and Iraqi soldiers conduct a cordon and search operation in the Rashid neighborhood of Baghdad in June.

Withdrawal is now so mainstream. Last week, debate about it led to a sleep-in protest in the US Senate and, this week, it has hit the cover of Time magazine, of which there's no more mainstream publication around. The Time cover couldn't be more graphic. The word "Iraq" is in all-capitals giant type, the "I", "R" and "Q" all black, and a helicopter is carting off a Stars and Stripes "A" to reveal the phrase, "What will happen when we leave." (Some military weblogs now claim that the helicopter in silhouette is actually an old Soviet Mi-24 Hind; if so, maybe the designer had the embattled Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan in mind.)

Still, is there anyplace in the news where you can't find the word "withdrawal", or its pals "exit", "pull out", and "leaving", right now? Here are just a few recent headlines featuring the word that has come in from the cold: "Most Americans want Congress to make withdrawal decision, according to poll"; "The logistics of exiting Iraq"; "US withdrawal from Iraq would be a massive undertaking"; "Americans want withdrawal, deadline in Iraq"; "Washington's House Democrats join in calling for Iraq troop withdrawal"; "Withdrawal fallout could lead to chaos"; "Exit strategies"; "Iraq warns against early US withdrawal"; and so on ad infinitum.

Think of that as "progress" - as in Baghdad commander General David Petraeus' upcoming mid-September "Progress Report" to Congress. After all, it wasn't so long ago that no one (except obscure sites on the Internet) was talking about withdrawing US forces from Iraq.

Here's the odd thing, though: "withdrawal", as an idea, has been undergoing a transformation in full public view. In the world of the Washington consensus and in the mainstream press, it has been edging ever closer to what normally might be thought of as "non-withdrawal" (just as happened in the Vietnam era). In fact, you can search far and wide for reports on "withdrawal" plans that suggest a full-scale US withdrawal from Iraq and, most of the time, find nothing amid the pelting rain of withdrawal words.

Read the rest at Asia Times