July 8, 2007
The New York Times

The Road Home


It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.

Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.

At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq's government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.

While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs - after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush's plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.

The political leaders Washington has backed are incapable of putting national interests ahead of sectarian score settling. The security forces Washington has trained behave more like partisan militias. Additional military forces poured into the Baghdad region have failed to change anything.

Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation's alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.

A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago. Even in politically polarized Washington, positions on the war no longer divide entirely on party lines. When Congress returns this week, extricating American troops from the war should be at the top of its agenda.

That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America's allies must try to mitigate those outcomes - and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse. The nation needs a serious discussion, now, about how to accomplish a withdrawal and meet some of the big challenges that will arise. . . .


VIDEO: "Dick Cheney: Invading Baghdad Would Create Quagmire," American Enterprise Institute (, 1994

Enver Masud, "Iraq: Divide and Rule, 'Ethnic Cleansing Works'," The Wisdom Fund, October 10, 2006

Robert Fisk, "Bush's New Strategy - The March of Folly," Independent, January 11, 2007

Richard W. Behan, "George Bush's Land Mine," CounterPunch, March 30, 2007

Nir Rosen, "What Bremer Got Wrong in Iraq," Washington Post, May 16, 2007

William E. Odom, "Exit From Iraq Should Be Through Iran," YaleGlobal, May 29, 2007

Richard A. Oppel Jr., "Maliki Says His Forces Are Able to Secure Iraq," New York Times, July 15, 2007

Seumas Milne, "Insurgents form political front to plan for US pullout," Guardian, July 19, 2007

Marjorie Cohn, "Iraqis will be the Deciders,", July 20, 2007

Damien McElroy, "Iraqi leader tells Bush: Get Gen Petraeus out," Telegraph, July 28, 2007

[No need to wait until September. It's already obvious how George W. Bush and his still-influential supporters in Washington will sell an open-ended U.S. military occupation of Iraq - just the way they always have: the war finally has turned the corner and withdrawal now would betray the troops by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

At one time, the Iraq story line was how many schoolrooms had been painted or how well the government security forces were doing. Now there are new silver linings being detected that will justify a positive progress report in September - and the U.S. news media is again ready to play its credulous part.

President Bush signaled the happy-news judgment of his hand-picked commander, Gen. David Petraeus, in a round of confident public appearances over the past two weeks. With his effusive praise of "David," as Bush called the general at a White House news conference, the President acted like a smug student arriving for a test with the answers tucked in his pocket.

Another key element of the coming propaganda campaign was previewed on the op-ed page of the New York Times on July 30 as Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack of the Brookings Institution portrayed themselves as tough critics of the Bush administration who, after a visit to Iraq, now must face the facts: Bush's "surge" is working. . . .

"As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily 'victory' but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with," O'Hanlon and Pollack wrote in an article entitled "A War We Just Might Win."

Yet the authors - and the New York Times - failed to tell readers the full story about these supposed skeptics: far from grizzled peaceniks, O'Hanlon and Pollack have been longtime cheerleaders for a larger U.S. military occupying force in Iraq.

Indeed, Pollack, a former CIA analyst, was a leading advocate for invading Iraq in the first place. He published The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq in September 2002--Robert Parry, "The NYT's New Pro-War Propaganda,", July 30, 2007]

[The Op-Ed is an exercise in rank deceit from the start--"The really smart, serious, credible Iraq experts O'Hanlon and Pollack,", July 30, 2007]

Jeff Zeleny and Marc Santora, "Democrats Say Leaving Iraq May Take Years," New York Times, August 11, 2007

[The UN's return is so controversial that its staff association called on the UN secretary-general, Ban ki-Moon, on Tuesday to withdraw the 35 international employees who are still operating in Iraq and not to deploy any more.--Anne Penketh, "UN staff forced back into Iraq to provide 'fig-leaf cover' for US," Belfast Telegraph, August 11, 2007]

[To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. . . . Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks.--Buddhika Jayamaha et al, "The War as We Saw It," New York Times, August 19, 2007]

[Two-and-a-half years ago at another "turning point" in the Iraq War, columnists at the Washington Post and other leading American newspapers were ecstatic over how the Iraqi national election was finally fulfilling the neoconservative dream of remaking the Muslim world.--Robert Parry, "Iraq's Endless 'False Hopes',", September 1, 2007]

[We are occupying their homeland. We are violating their sovereignty. We are butchering, abusing and torturing their citizens. Our continued presence is an affront to the socioeconomic-political fabric that is (or was) Iraqi society. If someone occupied my hometown in the same manner Americans occupy Iraq, I'd be killing them any way I could. And I would be called a hero by my own people, not a terrorist.--Scott Ritter, " Reporting From Baghdad,", September 6, 2007]

"US surge has failed - Iraqi poll," BBC News, September 10, 2007

"Petraeus: I 'Don't Know' If Iraq War Makes U.S. Safer,", September 11, 2007

[Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services.--Joshua Partlow, "Top Iraqis Pull Back From Key U.S. Goal," Washington Post, October 8, 2007]

"Deadly month in Iraq dulls US claims of progress," Daily Star, November 2, 2007

[The declaration calls for the current U.N. mandate to be extended one year, then replaced at the end of 2008 by a bilateral pact governing the economic, political and security aspects of the relationship.--Peter Baker and Ann Scott Tyson, "Bush, Maliki Sign Pact on Iraq's Future: Mandate to Be Extended, But Troop Issue Unsettled," Washington Post, November 27, 2007]

[Monday's "declaration of principles" between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki indicates the US will maintain a "long-term" presence in Iraq and involve itself closely in the Iraqi oil trade, backsliding on rules made in this year's two largest defense laws.

. . . the US will likely retain about 50,000 troops in Iraq over the long term, according to Iraqi government officials.--Maya Schenwar, "Bush-Maliki Agreement Defies US Laws, Iraqi Parliament,", November 30, 2007]

Mona Mahmoud, Maggie O'Kane and Ian Black, "UK has left behind murder and chaos, says Basra police chief," Guardian, December 17, 2007

Karen DeYoung, "All Iraqi Groups Blame U.S. Invasion for Discord, Study Shows," Washington Post, December 19, 2007

[There followed a familiar story. The British occupation force was opposed by an Iraqi resistance - "terrorists", of course - and the British destroyed a town called Fallujah and demanded the surrender of a Shiite cleric and British intelligence in Baghdad claimed that "terrorists" were crossing the border from Syria, and Lloyd George - the Blair-Brown of his age - then stood up in the House of Commons and said that there would be "anarchy" in Iraq if British troops left.--Robert Fisk, "A historic day for Iraq - but not in the way the British want to believe," Independent, May 1, 2009]

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