If his job was to reassure a population impoverished and outraged by war, brand-new Defense Secretary and just-resigned CIA Director Leon Panetta didn’t have such a great Sunday.
First, he repeated the long-discredited Bush lie that Iraq had something to do with September 11, telling U.S. soldiers in Baghdad that “the reason you guys are here is because on 9/11, America got attacked.”
Then he joined others in the administration in escalating the anti-Iran rhetoric, claiming that weapons from Iran were being used to kill U.S. soldiers occupying Iraq. He actually said “the key right now is (…) to stop the Shia from using (those weapons),” apparently forgetting that the U.S.-installed and U.S.-backed Iraqi government just happens to be dominated by “the Shia,” who are the largest religious community in Iraq. Blaming Iran for Iraqi opposition to the U.S. occupation is an oldie but goodie for U.S. military spin-doctors.
This time it was part of a specific campaign aimed at pressuring the Iraqi government to “request” that the U.S. keep ten or twenty or thirty thousand of its current 48,000 occupying troops in Iraq after the end of the year – when the U.S.-Iraq agreement requires that they all be removed.
But now, with the new Pentagon chief coming straight from the CIA, and the new head of the CIA the same General Petraeus responsible for the Iraq and Afghan escalations, any distinction between military and civilian control of U.S. wars is hopelessly blurred. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that agreements to withdraw U.S. troops are being undermined, and that Bush-era claims about Iraq ties to 9/11 and about Iranian responsibility for “destabilizing Iraq” are making the rounds again.