In denouncing the Russian seizure of Crimea in Brussels last week Obama contrasted the Russian invasion of the peninsula with the United States' own invasion of Iraq:
"Russia has pointed to America's decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. Now, it is true that the Iraq war was a subject of vigorous debate, not just around the world but in the United States, as well. I participated in that debate, and I opposed our military intervention there."Other commentators have pointed out the absurdity of claiming the American invasion was supposedly more defensible of the two given the differences in bloodshed they entailed. The Iraq War resulted in approximately 500,000 deaths whereas the Russian seizure of Crimea resulted in the deaths of one Ukrainian serviceman and one Crimean militiaman.
"But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future."
There is another aspect in which Obama's statement is perversely ridicilous. He highlights as the redeming property of the Iraq invasion precisely the notion that makes US imperialism today so aggressive and unpredictable. That is its rejection of realpolitik and an addiction to pointless and unprofitable war. When Obama says: "We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain," what he is communicating is that unlike the Russians the Americans did not wage a self-interested war. By invading Iraq the US was not seeking to advance own national interest.
But this is exactly what makes US militarism such a scourge. Whereas a traditional power may only wage war that will serve its real political ends the contemporary United States, which is detached from this thinking, may wage war under any number of completely arbitrary and bizarre rationales. US military action ends up being called for for reasons as sacandalous as to "be seen to be doing something", to "send a message", or simply because "[the Serbs] needed some bombing".