“Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending…young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood. Every senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage – young men without legs or arms or genitals or faces or hopes. There are not very many of those blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out or national honor or courage. It does not take any courage…for a congressman or a senator or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying…because it is not our blood being shed.”
-- George McGovern, September 1970.
The question that stymies otherwise rationale beings is: What happens when we leave?
Unless we intend to remain in Iraq in perpetuity, it is the wrong question. We will leave Iraq not because we want to and not because we have given our word but because we must. We will leave Iraq when the cost has finally become too great to bear. It is as inevitable as the tides. Whether it is tomorrow or twelve years from now, we will leave and there will be an explosion of violence when we do.
The only unifying force in Iraq today is the occupation. It unites disparate groups, tribes, communities and sects that otherwise would have very little in common. Ironically, the longer we stay and the more we prop up a government that can never be representative of the Iraqi people (how can it be when collaboration with the occupier is prerequisite?), the greater the ensuing period of violence will be. We can build them an army and supply them with all the tools of oppression (technology, prisons, weaponry, intelligence, terror and death squads) but they will never shake the stain of collaboration and they will fall. It is as inevitable as the wind.
Observing the media over the last several years, we have learned that an “expert” can be found for every cause and every opinion. Cut out the demagogues, ideologues and party loyalists, however, and there would be no one left in the studio but the camera operator. There is not an objective military expert who, in his considered opinion, will claim that this war is winnable. There is not a legitimate political expert who, in her considered opinion, will testify that whatever government we install is sustainable.
If you find a military analyst who says we can still win the war, you can be sure he is on the take. No one has disgraced himself more in this endeavor than Generals Tommy Franks, John Abizaid, and Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez (the man ultimately responsible for Abu Ghraib). Having observed Colin Powell under similar circumstance, we understand the strict limitations of a military man but these individuals have crossed the line. They have become politicians or worse, servants to politicians, and have lost the respect of their soldiers.
A day after the vice president declared that the insurgency was in its “last throes,” the Secretary of Defense assured us that it might take ten or twelve years. Whom are they kidding? There might be someone in the White House who believes we can pull back, let the cities go to hell, and defend the oil fields from our strategic military strongholds but even that is pure fantasy. Not even Karl Rove can devise a political strategy for defending such a blatant theft of another nation’s resources and not a single ally in the vaunted coalition would stay the course.
In recent weeks, military commanders have conveniently tossed the ball into the political field of play. Knowing that a military victory is no longer in the equation, they ask us to hold out for a political solution. Little wonder that Paul Wolfowitz, the mastermind of this disastrous foreign policy, jumped ship to become president of the World Bank. He saw the writing on the wall. Anyone who believes that the government we impose, no matter how many elections we stage for embedded cameras, will last a day beyond our departure has been divorced from reality for a very long time.
The joke in Baghdad is that all the men in power (for they are all men) are never in Baghdad. They are in Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, and Saudi Arabia -- anywhere but Iraq.
Roughly one third of the Iraqi National Assembly recently signed a petition demanding a timetable for American withdrawal. Unfortunately, that democratically elected body is not authorized to take up the singularly most important issue in Iraq. They can collect a million signatures. They can file as many petitions as they like. The National Assembly cannot ask the Americans to leave.
Another recent development is equally revealing. According to Al Jazeera, the Iraqi Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi agreed to sign a military cooperation agreement with America’s avowed enemy and a charter member of the Axis of Evil: Iran. If we had any doubt that the situation is completely out of control, we need look no further than this. Our hand picked Minister of Defense would rather sign on with the Iranians than stake his claim with the occupation.
Unlike Senators Joe Biden and John McCain, I claim no expertise in foreign affairs but I do know this much: there are no political or military solutions to this mess and “quagmire” is a generous descriptor for what we find in Iraq today.
At the current stage of chaos and confusion, we could revive the draft (perhaps it is fortunate we did not elect Kerry!) and send 500,000 troops. We would still not win. We could litter the landscape, from Tehran to Damascus, with tactical nukes. We would still not win. We could hunker down for a hundred years. We would still not win and the cost of delivering Iraqi oil to the western world would not be worth the price.
There is only one objective left in this misbegotten venture and it is not worth the blood of a single man, woman or child: Saving face.
In Vietnam, the record is clear: Our president and his esteemed advisors knew that the war was unwinnable yet they allowed the war to claim tens of thousands more American lives and hundreds of thousands of Asian lives before they finally found an exit in the Paris Peace Accords (January 1973). Though the war would drag on for two more years (the last American soldiers to die for a lie did so in April 1975), that face-saving gesture lasted little more than half a minute when our forces were withdrawn. There was indeed an explosion of violence yet no one but the intellectually perverted would suggest that we ought to have stayed the course.
If we learned nothing from that experience, then all those American lives, whose names are immortalized on the Vietnam memorial wall, as well as the millions of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, really were lost in vain.
We have ripped apart a nation that never really existed, that was drawn in the sand by the British Empire and held together by the iron fist of an American supported dictator. If there were any good intentions supplanting our glutinous need for oil and arrogant desire for empire, they were sadly misinformed. If there was any chance of creating something better than what was before, we have failed.
We have eliminated all options but one: Timely withdrawal.
We are not the solution; we are the problem.
We must implore the international community to take charge of a disaster area on par with the recent Indian Ocean tsunami and the scourge of poverty and disease in Africa. Either way, leave or stay, it will cost us a great deal -- as well it should.
London, Madrid, Casa Blanca, Istanbul and Bali are all collateral damage to our arrogant dream of world domination. Let it end here and now.
Jack Random is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II (City Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by CounterPunch, the Albion Monitor, Buzzle, Dissident Voice and others. Visit his website: www.jackrandom.com.
“Iran and Iraq to Sign Military Deal.” Aljazeera.net. July 7, 2005. Reuters News Service.
“83 MPs Ask al-Jaafari to Put a Timetable for the Withdrawal of Foreign Troops” by Abdel-Washed Tohmeh. Al-Hayat. June 20, 2005. Reprinted by ZNet. .
“An Unwinnable War” by Paul Rogers. Open Democracy Ltd. April 21, 2005.
“Intelligence Brief: Iraq.” Power and Interest News Report. July 9, 2005.
Against the Beast: A Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire. Edited by John Nichols (Nation Books, 2004).
Other Articles by Jack Random
Madrid: Reflections on the War on Terror