14.4.06

AD Report

This is from a friend of mine that occasionally publishes what she calls a Pamphlet:

The Bush Administration has never given a clear statement of what its goals are in Iraq. As American citizens, however, we can largely agree that what we would most like to see now is peace and stability in that country. Unfortunately, our military campaign in Iraq is not achieving that goal. On the contrary, the insurgents are increasingly taking the offensive, conducting large-scale attacks against Iraqi and American targets. 2005 polls indicate that Iraqi public support for the insurgents is increasing.

Our best bet for promoting peace in Iraq is to withdraw our troops immediately. We must not by fooled by President Bush when he tells us that peace will come if we just “stay the course.” What the President has done is akin to lining up his troops in Minnesota, ordering them to march westward, and telling them not to stop until they reach New York. People say that to support the troops we have to respect their mission. They’re marching so quickly and efficiently, carrying such heavy loads, and cleaning up the road as they march along. It is of utmost importance that they reach New York and, the President insists, to stop them now would be to tell them that all their effort and sacrifice had been wasted. They don’t deserve such disrespect.

(The rest in comments)

1 comment:

Wm said...

The problem here is obvious: the President has sent them in the wrong direction. No matter how bravely and skillfully they carry out his orders, they will never get to New York by marching westward. It may seem disrespectful to stop them now, but it is immeasurably more disrespectful to force them to continue a risky march that is only taking them further and further from their goal. And this is exactly what Bush is doing by insisting that they stay the course in Iraq.

If our goal is an end to the violent insurgency, our presence in Iraq is counterproductive. The actions that take out existing insurgents are the same actions that create more insurgents. Even leaving aside the extremely important issues of torture and prisoner abuse, our use of force in the form of house-to-house raids, sweeping arrests, and increasing use of airstrikes, as well as our continuing inability to restore basic services like water and electricity even to pre-invasion levels, are doing more to fuel strife than to quench it. We cannot blame our troops for their failure to pacify Iraq when their orders have been counterproductive to their task.

Many of the troops, like many of us at home, are reluctant to call their mission a failure. They’ve seen the old regime ousted, the new construction, and the hope and excitement of elections. They are acutely aware of the effort and sacrifice they’ve put into this war. But all of us, soldiers and civilians, owe it to our country and to the Iraqi people to take a long hard look at the situation and recognize that our military campaign is not advancing toward the goal of peace and stability in Iraq. We cannot ask our troops to continue to risk their lives in a country that increasingly wants us out. We can’t march westward to New York.

So we have to get out. But something still feels wrong. We can’t just pack up and leave the whole country in a shambles without a backward glance. We tore down the old regime, and we have a responsibility to the rebuilding process. When we bring the troops home, America’s work is not done. There are several steps we must take*:

1. Recognize that removing our troops will not undo their work. Saddam Hussein will not return to power, and the Iraqi constitution will remain in force; in fact, it will have a better chance of flourishing without the violence that surrounds the American military presence.

2. Commit to supporting an Iraqi-led reconstruction process. Currently the official budgetary cost of the war stands at $195 million per day, which does not include veterans’ benefits, the planning of the war, and other major expenses. For less than that, we could generously fund a UN-administered, Iraqi-led reconstruction of civilian infrastructure like utilities, schools, and hospitals. The American companies that currently hold the reconstruction contracts have proved unable to carry out their mandates, and it’s time to allow the Iraqi government to negotiate new contracts. The UN is not perfect, but it is the best available vehicle for multilateral action, and should face a calmer operating climate than US troops, whose reconstruction efforts have been undermined by the tension and violence surrounding their presence.

3. Support returning troops. This country has a responsibility to the soldiers it sent off to fight. We have to ensure that the VA is fully funded and able to provide returning troops with the material and psychological support they need to re-enter civilian life. Money that could have gone into more combat should be spent on veterans’ benefits, in addition to the reconstruction described above.
Meanwhile, those of us who have opposed this war have the responsibility to understand that, whatever we think of the war, the military, or the individual soldier’s decision to serve, the returning soldiers are human beings deserving of respect and dignity. We should welcome them back as neighbors and fellow-citizens, with respect for the fact that they have risked their lives and experienced things most of us will never share.

4. Encourage peace talks. Even when our troops have left, the US government will inevitably have an important voice with Iraq’s leaders. We should use our influence diplomatically to encourage the Iraqi government to negotiate with insurgent groups. The insurgents are not just a bunch of random terrorists. They represent a variety of groups with a variety of political aims, which they currently feel are best pursued through violence. The humane way to address their political concerns is through political channels; several insurgent groups have already expressed willingness to negotiate. Our departure should begin to defuse tensions, creating a climate more conducive to diplomacy.

5. Track accountability to the top. It is well-documented that Bush and members of his administration had been planning an invasion of Iraq since long before 9/11. When the opportunity arose, they disregarded the advice of their own top military officers and used deception and outright lies to convince the American people that Saddam Hussein posed a threat not just to his own people but to us as well (1). This is not simply a matter for the historical record. Almost three years remain in Bush’s term, and already we can hear him making similar accusations about Iran (they hate us, they harbor terrorists, they may soon have nuclear weapons) that he used to frighten us into war with Iraq. We must understand how we got into this war and consider the question of whether the Bush, Cheney, and their Administration are fit to lead us for the remainder of their term. I would be dishonest if I concealed my strong belief that Bush and Cheney should both be impeached.
Accountability doesn’t stop with the executive branch. The Constitution gives Congress sole power to declare war, and Congress voluntarily ceded that power to the President despite much publicly available evidence that he was not being honest about his intentions (2). In 2006, we must elect congressmembers who will be responsible, independent, and unafraid to exercise their Constitutionally appointed checks on Presidential power.

*Thanks to Peace In The Precincts of St. Paul, MN, from whose work these proposals crib heavily.

1. A document prepared for Rep. Henry Waxman’s office details 237 separate misleading statements on the Iraq threat by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice. http://democrats.reform.house.gov/
IraqOnTheRecord

2. The week of Colin Powell’s 2003 speech to the UN on Iraq’s WMD facilities, Newsweek ran a large piece pre-emptively debunking many of his claims and disputing the reliability of his sources.