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Would a Democratic president pull out of Iraq?

Tom Hayden: Media has failed to ask what will happen with the thousands of contractors in Iraq (1 of 3)

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MISHUK MUNIER, PRESENTER: As Super Tuesday approaches, many political analysts are wondering why the Iraq war is not playing a larger role in the primary debates. The Real News spoke with Tom Hayden, a prominent antiwar activist, a former California state Senator, and the author of Ending the War in Iraq.

TOM HAYDEN, ACTIVIST AND AUTHOR: I think it’s to the credit of the antiwar movement that it seeded public opinion, like a cloud is seeded, so that the candidates, on the Democratic side at least, have to be antiwar in the way they position themselves. Whether they are or not is a deeper question. So because the antiwar movement doesn’t have much capacity for electoral politics or for understanding warfare, it’s done its job. And it means at least that the candidates, if one of them wins, becomes president, will have a mandate to carry out their words, which are words like “bring the troops home.” In reality, there are differences. Obama wants to bring troops home faster than Hillary Clinton, although she’s proven that she’s adjustable. But here’s the thing where the media has utterly failed, perhaps because they’ve turned over national security issues to a small elite of correspondents who are embedded with the Pentagon intellectually, if not in reality. There’s an absolute and total difference between combat troops and troops, and they’re only talking about combat troops. Combat troops are American soldiers who get killed going into straight-up battles with Iraqis. They’re all talking about withdrawing combat troops, but there’s 162,000 troops there, there’s 100,000 American contractors there, many of whom are security forces, and only a certain percentage, maybe half, are combat troops. So what about the rest? The implication of all the candidates is that they want to continue a counterinsurgency campaign on behalf of the so-called Iraqi army. They want to keep contractors, advisors, trainers, counterterrorist units, intelligence operations going in Iraq to turn it into—and they’re not saying this, but to turn it into Central America in the 1970s. It’s become The New York Times gospel, military doctrine, bipartisan doctrine. I hope that they’re only doing this for public relations purposes. But let’s unpack that. Number one, I never heard any such thing in the debates, and I taped them—I listened very, very carefully. I have no problem if American security guards need to take somebody to the embassy. This is a question of implementing the following: embedding American advisors with Iraqi combat troops. That’s the wording. Meaning, the war won’t go on; it’ll be more of a civil war, more of an El Salvador or Afghanistan type war. Number two, trainers: 20,000 trainers embedded in the Iraqi security forces, police, interior ministry, so on. Number three, security contractors: there are at least 17,000 Blackwater-type Americans who are security contractors. And you can go on. Special forces, intelligence units, etcetera. Hillary Clinton has said we need to keep a certain percentage of troops there to deter Iran. Barack has been, as usual, the most sophisticated and nuanced, but there’s absolutely no question that he will be leaving behind thousands of American special forces to engage in something. So I think what we have to expect is that the antiwar movement has gone as far as it can. The media has completely failed to make this distinction. The candidates either don’t get it, or more likely they get it, but they’re in such a blur [that] they’re not going to elaborate on this. I talked to their advisors. I read everything they say. They are very sophisticated. They are leaving behind trainers by the thousands. The Phoenix Program was a program of torture and political incarceration in South Vietnam. It is being extolled by a colonel who’s a close advisor to Petraeus, who wants to bring back the Phoenix Program in Baghdad. Number two, James Steel, straight out of the counterinsurgency efforts, some would say death squad efforts, in El Salvador and Honduras, he is a close advisor to General Petraeus. He’s in Baghdad now. Number three, the head of American intelligence, former Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte, was overseer of the 301 Squads, which were death squads in Honduras. These people know what they’re doing. It’s the failure or inability of the media and the antiwar movement to grasp military doctrine. I’m not saying they’re all Quakers, but none of them went to school to study war. They went to school to study war-no-more. So they don’t know what’s going on here. And unless you break the monopoly on the discussion by getting these questions to the candidates, you’ll never find out. Look, I’m going to vote for any Democrat. I think it’s movement to start bringing the combat troops home. But it’s designed to reduce American casualties, to get the war off TV. They have a multiple plan. They have Afghanistan troops there—not coming home. They are desperate to get troops into South Waziristan and Pakistan—blocked by Musharraf. They want to reduce these combat troops in Iraq and send them to these other theaters. And they’re obviously fully backing Israel and its war against Hamas. And these battles have one thing in common that goes to the roots of American history: divide and conquer the native people against each other, have them kill each other, and keep the occupation secure, because you can’t shed that much American blood. They even call the Iraqi troops in Iraq that are being paid by the Americans the Kit Carson Scouts. Do you know who those people were? Kit Carson was the guy, big American hero, who contracted with the Ute Indians to fight the Navajo in the Southwest. We spent 90 years—the longest war in American history—90 years fighting Indians, and all the fighting was done by fighting tribe against tribe, with Americans supplying weapons, money, gunpowder, alcohol, blankets, you name it. This is the character of American history, and it’s something we should talk about. People kind of know about it. But you can’t understand what’s going on here unless you see it in this context of permanent counterinsurgency war.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.