Archive for August, 2005

Politics dictates withdrawal from Iraq

[Originally published in the Valley News.]

As the Iraqi insurgency has grown and U.S. casualties have risen, we have heard the president and his representatives say over and over again that we will stay in Iraq until the situation is stabilized and “democracy” is assured. In that light, Iraqi realities will dictate when this will happen, but we will hang in until the bitter end however long it takes. We will not be intimidated by “terrorists.”

How times change! We are now watching a White House that apparently has decided to withdraw American troops and the timetable has nothing to do with the objective conditions in Iraq. It has to do only with the election schedule in the United States.

In what appears to be a steady deterioration in the situation in Iraq, the Bush administration has done almost nothing to calm the concerns of the American

electorate on a wide variety of Iraq-related issues. To have done that would have been an implicit admission that it had made mistakes, something it is not inclined to do.  The civilian Pentagon leadership has been almost completely non-forthcoming on the issue of the training of Iraqi troops. We have no real idea how many have been “trained” or even what “trained” means. In short, we have nothing but the often-contradictory statements of the uniformed military and the administration on where this critical process stands.

The same is true of the size of the insurrection arrayed against us. How is it resupplied, who supports it and how do replacements arrive on the scene?  We are often told by the civilian leadership that we are getting the insurgency under control while military field commanders give a much different picture of where it stands, pointing to the increasing adaptability, creativity, cunning and effectiveness of their enemies.  No one in the administration is telling us why there have been such difficulties in the writing of the Iraqi constitution. There is a lot of good analysis in the media, but nothing from the administration. Is Iraq really on the brink of civil war? Are the Kurds ready to accept anything other than relative autonomy within the framework of a loose federation?  Will they prevail in their reported demands for hegemony over the oil wells in Kurdish Iraq? Are the Shia slowly radicalizing and turning against the British and the Americans? If so, why is that and how does that affect the chances of an American-friendly constitution? Or, is it true that the new Iraqi constitution will be based on the Koran and the Shariya? If that’s true, how does the administration see that as coming even remotely close to its original goals for Iraq? To what extent are the Syrians complicit in the Bathi-based insurrection and in the support of foreign fighters (the only real terrorists in Iraq)? Do we have enough troops on the ground adjacent to the Syrian border in Anbar Province to be able to pacify and eliminate this threat? Apparently we do not, but we never hear a word from the administration on this issue.

In short, according to the administration and despite the fact that this work is “hard,” everything is moving along in the right direction.  Interestingly enough, the only issue on which the administration has gone on record over and over again, has been on the absolute imperative that the Iraqis “stay on schedule” in the many areas where Iraqi efforts are Involved.

Coming up we have the imminent deadline for the completion of the constitution, an October referendum and a December election.  Whose schedule is this, anyway? It certainly isn’t the Iraqis’, since they could easily use a decade or more to sort through the intractable religious and ethnic problems that are part of the process of trying to bring their “country” together in political agreement.

Clearly, the schedule is ours and just as clearly, it is arranged, like all other important decisions in America, on the basis of the perceived internal political needs of the party in power. What we are watching here is the administration preparing the country for pulling out of Iraq. This pullout will not be on the basis of what is needed in Iraq, but on the basis of what is needed politically in America. The schedule is clearly geared to the midterm elections in November 2006.  What has happened to the administration’s resolve to stick it out until “democracy is assured”?

Equally clearly, the administration has read a growing American consensus that we must disengage from an Iraq war that more and more Americans (now 57 percent) believe has done nothing to protect us from terrorism. The administration will have to be able to show the electorate that we are well on the way to getting out whether we are really winning or not. It will pull us out so it will not be made additionally vulnerable in the elections by a continuation of the current status quo in Iraq. How cynical is that and how can that conceivably be seen as in the interest of “Iraqi democracy”? This administration has junked past claims of weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi support of terrorism; why not toss helping the Iraqis and “building democracy” onto the trash heap as well?

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