As is the case with all opinions expressed on Irregular Times, what I'm saying here is my opinion alone. I encourage the other Irregular Times writers to disagree or critique what I'm saying below.
I just heard Congressman Jim Turner giving an interview on NPR. He ended by gravely reminding all Americans that whether or not we wanted to go to war, given that there were not any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, now that we are in Iraq, we must succeed there. By succeeding there, Representative Turner meant that America must succeed in making Iraq a stable country.
I hear this all the time from the Don't-Cut-And-Run Crowd, and for many months, I have been persuaded by their arguments. I've been an anti-war pacifist, but I figured that the worst thing of all would be to invade Iraq and then just leave it without restoring it to its former condition.
Listening to the earnest preaching of Jim Turner this morning, something clicked in my head, and I'm starting to think that I've been spun by the Republican war machine. Yes, I know - I feel dirty. I have failed to critically examine the stay-the-course argument.
Let me make up for lost time, then. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their foot soldiers like Jim Turner, - heck, even John Kerry - have been arguing that the American military needs to stay in Iraq in order to stabilize and rebuild Iraq. However, with the events of April in mind, the critical question in response must be this: Can the American military stabilize and rebuild Iraq?
Up until now, I never bothered to ask that question, but now that I am, I can see that it's becoming less and less plausible to claim that the American military is capable of doing anything but undermining the stability and prosperity of Iraq. A good portion of the American reconstruction of Iraq has been deconstructed this month. The good will of ordinary Iraqis toward the United States is withering away. Just yesterday, Americans blew the minaret off of a mosque in Fallujah - during the, um, cease fire. The crazy thing is that George W. Bush actually believes that this kind of thing will actually help create a pro-American, peaceful and democratic Iraq. I'm not buying any more. It's become clear to me this month that the American occupation of Iraq is doing more harm than good.
So what do we do then? Well, the first thing we do is not stay the course. However, I'm not suggesting that we simply cut and run. I propose that we run without cutting.
First, we need to request a general cease fire, and this time give the Iraqis a reason to pay attention, announcing across Iraq that we will begin a total withdrawal as soon as the level of violence significantly decreases. We should pull our troops out of Fallujah, and away from Najaf.
Second, we fire Paul Bremer and announce that his huge "embassy" to rule Iraq will be abandoned.
Next, we need to call in a conference of all interested parties: representatives of all powerful groups in Iraq (whether we like them or not), ambassadors from Iraq's neighbors, and a delegation from the United Nations. We give them two or three weeks to select Iraqis amend or replace the ruling council, and do not attempt to influence their decisions.
Then, we leave.
Only after we take our military out of Iraq can we participate in the rebuilding of Iraq. After withdrawing, let's pledge ten years of reparations for all the deaths and damage that we have caused in Iraq. Each year, we should send $87 billion to the Iraqi government, one third in cash and two-thirds in reconstruction grants managed by the United Nations.
The Jim Turners among you will now be protesting: But if the American military just leaves Iraq, then Iraq will descend into chaos!Reality check: Iraq has already descended into chaos because the American military is occupying it. So, we are faced with two alternatives:
Me, I choose Option 2. The Bush Administration and the American military have proved that they are unable to provide stability to Iraq. In fact, I don't think that Iraq can be stable until the American military leaves.
I also think that it's quite likely that the Iraqis will find some way to stabilize themselves in return for $870 billion dollars over the next ten years. Heck, we might even end up with a government made up of people that don't hate our guts (so long as we keep our distance).
What's the alternative? Keep blowing up homes and mosques, and killing Iraqis, until they really, really like us?
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