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
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
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
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
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. . . .
[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
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," consortiumnews.com, July 30, 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'," consortiumnews.com, 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," truthdig.com, September 6, 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]
[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.
[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]