Journalists in Name Only: Just(?) 50,000 Non-Combat(?) Troops in Iraq

I was listening to NPR’s “Morning Edition” broadcast this morning in the car, and I heard a reporter say that President Obama was “redefining” the American role in Iraq, now that he had brought the number of US forces in that country down to “only” 50,000 troops, and that “combat operations” would be ending effective this month. The remaining forces, the reporter announced, with no hint of irony and no explanation, would “only” be engaged in helping to train Iraqi troops and police, and in “counter-insurgency” operations.

Excuse me, but aren’t we at war in Afghanistan, and isn’t that operation, involving about 200,000 US, Australian and NATO troops (excluding the Dutch, who are pulling out after the country’s participation in it brought down the conservative government), called a “counter-insurgency” campaign? Isn’t counter-insurgency by definition a kind of “combat”?

WTF? This crap is being called journalism?

By the way, about that 50,000 number. For the record, that is a lot of soldiers. It is for one thing two times the number of US troops stationed in South Korea. It is twice the number of troops that were employed in the invasion of Panama in 1989. It is about the number of troops the US had in Vietnam in early 1964 after the first round of escalation by then President Lyndon Johnson.

This is not a small number. It’s a huge commitment of men, women and money, and trying to pretend it is winding down that war is the height of deceit.

The New York Times, in its report today on Obama’s claim to be formally ending US combat operations in Iraq as of the end of this month, at least noted that the remaining 50,000 troops “constitute a powerful force in their own right, capable of handling various contingencies.” But even that is only hinting at the level of official deception going on here.

The Obama administration and the Pentagon are trying to trick a war-weary American public into believing that the 50,000 US troops that will be more or less permanently garrisoned in the rather permanent-looking bases that the US has constructed around Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq will be just like the US troops lodged more or less permanently in Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea and in other countries around the world. But those troops aren’t doing any fighting, except in bars, and are mostly just hanging around playing at soldiering and wasting taxpayer money on prostitutes, gambling, drinking and cars.

That will not be the case for the soldiers based in Iraq, however, which is a country still torn by internecine conflicts created or unleashed by the US invasion, and which also has many armed fighters who are committed to ousting the US entirely from their occupied country. And indeed, that 50,000-troop army is actually an army of occupation. Its role in training an Iraqi army and police force, as in Afghanistan, is to create a puppet military that will do its bidding. This is fundamentally different from the role of garrisons in South Korea, Japan, Italy or Germany.

The failure of journalists, even at the supposedly less corporate NPR, to call attention to this propaganda scheme, is yet another betrayal of the profession.