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Thursday, August 28, 2003

Iraq: Stay in or get out?
A discussion has started on our local peace e-mail list about the relative merits of "fish or cut bait" with regards to Iraq: Send in more troops in an attempt to stabilize the situation, or get out ASAP. An article by Dr. Mohammed T. Al-Rasheed suggests:

It is useless harping on what should have been done. If we take the American claims and intentions at face value, we should try and find a solution that would satisfy all. The first thing to do is for America to drop the pretense that it is not an occupying power. By accepting the fact, it gives itself more public leeway in managing the affairs of the country.The Iraqis are not ready to rule themselves yet, for two reasons. The first is that they have lived under tyranny for so long that any viable alternative to Saddam is now residing in a mass grave. The second reason is that the country is divided internally into tiny puzzle pieces that need time and effort to gel together.

The Americans should fire the council of morons and hand over Ahmed Chalabi to their allies the Jordanians to serve out his jail term. This will give them credibility and get rid of a liability that is embarrassing them and angering the locals. They should put an American at the head of every vital ministry and start distributing contracts to American firms to build up the infrastructure of Iraq. They will be criticized for that, but if done properly, the results will speak for themselves. People in need of food and medication will appreciate the service more than the rhetoric.

They should divide Iraq into voting districts and announce a date for general elections. The elections will result in a temporary Parliament whose job is to draft a constitution. I guess this is already on the table, but America is eating with two hands. You can’t try to be “legitimate” and tackle the massive tasks ahead. Let us drop the pretense of the first and push ahead for the second.

I disagree. After conducting two brutal wars and enforcing murderous sanctions on Iraq, the US is the last country (except maybe North Korea) that should be running Iraq's affairs. That goes triple while Bush is in charge. This is Vietnam 1964. If we pull out, at worst a bloody civil war erupts, killing tens of thousands of people. If we stay, the brutal occupation continues, eventually killing many more while bankrupting the US. Sending more troops just means more will die, and will solidify the hatred against this country. There is no legitimate basis for believing that it will benefit Iraqis at all.

Also: "If we take the American claims and intentions at face value," as Al-Rasheed suggests, then we are idiots. Bush has no interest in democracy in Iraq, or in the US for that matter. It IS about oil and imperialism and controlling the world's resources. Putting more troops there just furthers these goals, not the fairy-tale of democracy and prosperity for Iraqis. Wolfowitz is probably foaming at the mouth (even more than usual) at the thought of Democrats calling for MORE troops to be sent to Iraq. Not only does it solidify US control over Iraqi oil, it also gives someone to share the blame with when the inevitable thousands of GI's die.

[Warning: Following paragraph based on unresearched speculation! Feel free to (gently) set me straight if I'm wrong!] I hear references to the Marshall plan and the reconstructions of Germany and Japan. But they were the aggressive, imperial nations. Okay, Great Britain, France, the US, the Soviet Union, and some of the other nations were more or less imperial as well, but in the immediate 1937-41 sense Germany and Japan were definitely the aggressors. They had attacked other countries and were eventually defeated. Any good treatment that they received was probably better than they expected. The more accurate comparison, instead of the Marshall plan, would be to any rebuilding of France or Poland that Nazi Germany may have done during WWII and how gratefully it was probably received. The hated conqueror will not be the one to successfully bring prosperity and democracy to Iraq.

We should get out gracefully if we can, but not the four-year Nixonian version. Four months, maybe, tops. Try to get help from the UN. The US has no right to be there--there is no legitimacy to the occupation at all. We may leave a mess behind, but staying will not make it any better, and will likely make it much worse.