End the US Occupation of Iraq
by Ralph Nader
April 24, 2004

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Every day our exposed military remains in war-torn Iraq, we imperil U.S. security, drain our economy, ignore urgent domestic needs and prevent Iraqi democratic self-rule. We need to announce a withdrawal of our troops, not increase them.

Calls by the major presidential candidates to indefinitely "stay the course" spur the spiral of violence. A U.S. presence serves as a magnet for insurrection, kidnapping, terrorism and anarchy. Announcing a definite withdrawal and ending the U.S. corporate takeover of the Iraqi economy and oil will separate mainstream Iraqis from the insurgents and give the vast majority of people there a stake in replacing the occupation with independence.

Three steps to an announced withdrawal:

* Develop an appropriate peacekeeping force under United Nations auspices from neutral nations with such experience and from Islamic countries. This force should begin to promptly replace all U.S. troops and civilian contractors. Former general Wesley Clark described President Bush's foreign policy as cowboy unilateralism that goes against everything the U.S. is supposed to represent to the world. It is time for the U.S. to return to the family of nations. The U.S. will have to underwrite a portion of this less-expensive short-term force.

* Free and fair elections should be held as soon as possible under international supervision so democratic self-rule can be put in place in Iraq and allow Iraq to provide for its own security. Iraq is a country long controlled by a brutal dictator, devastated by economic sanctions and torn apart by war. Some autonomy for Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds makes a new government more workable. Iraq will sort out these issues more easily without the presence of a U.S. occupying force and the projected 14 U.S. military bases. Iraqis see them as installing a puppet government fronting for an indefinite military and oil-industry occupation.

* The U.S. and others should provide interim humanitarian aid to Iraq. Economic sanctions and war have caused tremendous damage to the people, their children and the Iraqi infrastructure. Until the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was a U.S. anti-communist ally who was also used to keep Iran at bay. During the 1980s under President Reagan and the first President Bush, U.S. corporations were licensed to export materials to Iraq for chemical and biological weapons. U.S. oil and other corporations should not profit from the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Control over Iraqi oil and other assets should be exercised by Iraqis.

Former general Clark said: "President Bush plays politics with national security. Cowboy talk. The administration is a threat to domestic liberty."

We need to free ourselves from the politics of fear and support a stable way out of the worsening Iraq quagmire.

Ralph Nader is running for President of the US as an Independent. He is America’s leading consumer advocate and founder of numerous public interest groups including Public Citizen. His latest book is Crashing the Party: How to Tell the Truth and Still Run for President (St. Martin’s Press, 2002). He can be reached through www.votenader.org.


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