A US helicopter made a rough landing along the Tigris River in metro Baghdad today, injuring one and fueling immediate speculation among locals that it was part of a US military operation. The US, which withdrew its military from the nation late last month, insists the helicopter landed because of technical problems and was working for the US Embassy, which operates a city-sized facility on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital.
It is hard to blame the Iraqis for not believing the US is actually gone, particularly with tens of thousands of armed contractors working for the State Department on the ground. Indeed, with bombings continuing and violence still on the rise, Iraq retains all the trappings of a nation at war.
If anything, the Maliki regime, backed by both the US and Iranian governments, has brought Iraq even closer to sectarian civil war since the US troops left, launching a massive political purge that has seen hundreds of his rivals, mostly Sunni Arabs, arrested as “terrorists.” Torture is routine, executions are on the rise, and 434 people have been killed in violence in the period of a little over a month since the US left.
Unfortunately, while the US managed to get its combat troops out of the nation before the blowup, the enormous State Department presence and the “private army” of contractors leaves the Obama Administration deeply insinuated in the affairs of Iraq, and likely to continue meddling as a matter of course.