Most Americans--68 percent--oppose the war against Iraq, according to a November 2011 CNN poll. So it's smart politics for President Barack Obama to take credit for withdrawing U.S. troops.
As it often is, the Associated Press' coverage was slyly subversive: "This, in essence, is Obama's mission accomplished: Getting out of Iraq as promised under solid enough circumstances and making sure to remind voters that he did what he said."
Obama's 2008 campaign began by speaking out against the war in Iraq. But his actions never matched his words. On vote after vote in the U.S. Senate, Obama supported the war.
As president, Obama has claimed credit for a December 2011 withdrawal deadline negotiated by his predecessor George W. Bush--a timeline he wanted to protract. If the Iraqi government hadn't refused to extend immunity from prosecution to U.S. forces, this month's withdrawal would not have happened.
"Today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," Obama bragged to reporters on Oct. 24.
Obama's talk-no-walk approach to foreign policy is also on display on Guantanamo, the torture camp set up by the Bush administration, where thousands of Afghans and other Muslim men, including children, were imprisoned and tormented without evidence of wrongdoing. Only 171 prisoners remain there today, held under appalling conditions.
Yet the "war on terror" mentality remains in full force.
Obama ordered the construction and expansion of a new concentration camp at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan to house thousands of inmates. Now The New York Times has discovered that the Obama administration has developed "the other Guantanamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads" inside the United States. Hundreds of Muslim men have been imprisoned by means of the thinnest veneer of legality.
"An aggressive prosecution strategy, aimed at prevention as much as punishment, has sent away scores of people. They serve long sentences, often in restrictive, Muslim-majority units, under intensive monitoring by prison officers," announced the paper.
Aware that "his" war against Afghanistan isn't much more popular among voters than the occupation of Iraq, Obama set a 2014 goal for withdrawal from the Central Asian state several years ago.
Dexter Filkins called it "the forever war": a post-9/11 syndrome that drives the United States to shoot and bomb the citizens of Muslim nations without end. You can't end a forever war and so Obama is having his ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, release trial balloons about staying past 2014.
The Iraq War, at least, seems to be coming to an end. According to the Pentagon, there will only be 150 U.S. troops in Iraq next year--those who guard the embassy in Baghdad. Sort of. Just shy of 10,000 "contractors"--the heavily armed mercenaries who became known for shooting civilians from attack helicopters--will remain in Iraq as "support personnel" for the State Department.