Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Iraq Debate - Iraqis Back Murtha

A week is a long time in politics, they say. Ten days, then, can be a lifetime.

Ten days ago, the sycophant Right were full of how the Bush camp were "fighting back" and calling John Murtha and other critics of their "stay the course" non-plan for Iraq irresponsible, cowardly and treasonous.

This week, though, even Dastadly Dick Cheney,while still playing torturing Lord High Executioner to Bush's fumbling Mikado, had to tone down the rhetoric in the face of facts, admitting that debate was the "essence of democracy" and that John Murtha was "a good man, a Marine, a patriot."

Then, just to cap a week of bad news for Bush which included him proving to the world that he couldn't plan an exit strategy from a room or reporters, the Iraqis decided to back Murtha's plan!

The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.

The participants in Cairo agreed on ``calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation'' and end terror attacks.


AmericaBlog nails it with their analysis:

Basically, Iraq's leaders want us out, and they seem to have just endorsed Congressman Murtha's proposal for a timed withdrawal, a real beefing up of the Iraqi armed forces, and stronger protection at the borders. Even wilder, and something that's not in Murtha's proposal, Iraq's leaders now say it's not terrorism if you attack Americans. It's only terrorism if you attack Iraqi citizens or Iraqi "institutions."

There's really no other way to read this. They want us out and it's clear that we're not listening. They've likely told the Bush administration privately, and now they're going public. This is incredibly embarrassing for Bush. And it's very troubling for all of us. These guys are pretty much telling us to get out, please.


Of course, not only Bush is left looking out of step by this. Hilarity Clinton, hawk in Dem clothing, went on record yesterday as opposing an immediate pullout and:

suggested that the United States wait for Iraq's Dec. 15 elections for an indication about how soon the Iraqis can take over. "Until they vote for a government, I don't know that we will have adequate information about how prepared they are," she said. She blamed the problems facing the United States in Iraq on "poor decision-making by the administration," but added: "My view is we have to work together to fix these problems."

Oops. Obviously, the Iraqis disagree with her about the working together bit.

Joe Biden, too, went out of his way to show his concern for American interests was greater than his concern for Iraqi wishes:

"I still believe we can preserve our fundamental security interests in Iraq as we begin to redeploy our forces," Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware told the Council on Foreign Relations. "That will require the administration not to stay the course, but to change course, and to do it now."

Although Biden, with a lot of experience in foreign affairs, at least seems to see how the wind is blowing:

"Does anyone here support using American troops to fight a civil war against the Sunnis on behalf of the Kurds and Shiites?" he asked. "I don't and I doubt many Americans would. But if we fail to forge a political consensus soon, that is what our troops will be dragged into."

Biden called the United States' large military presence in Iraq "both necessary and increasingly counterproductive." "Right now, our troops are the only guarantor against chaos," he said, but the military presence "is also, increasingly, part of the problem."

"Two years ago, even one year ago, Iraqis were prepared to accept an even larger American presence if that's what it took to bring security and real improvements to their lives," he said. "Our failure to do just that has fueled growing Iraqi frustration. A liberation is increasingly felt as an occupation. And we risk creating a culture of dependency, especially among Iraqi security forces."


Paul Krugman goes the final logical step that Senator Biden seems unwilling to take:

defenders of our current policy have had to make a substantive argument: we can't leave Iraq now, because a civil war will break out after we're gone. One is tempted to say that they should have thought about that possibility back when they were cheerleading us into this war. But the real question is this: When, exactly, would be a good time to leave Iraq?

The fact is that we're not going to stay in Iraq until we achieve victory, whatever that means in this context. At most, we'll stay until the American military can take no more.

So the question isn't whether things will be ugly after American forces leave Iraq. They probably will. The question, instead, is whether it makes sense to keep the war going for another year or two, which is all the time we realistically have.

Pessimists think that Iraq will fall into chaos whenever we leave. If so, we're better off leaving sooner rather than later. As a Marine officer quoted by James Fallows in the current Atlantic Monthly puts it, "We can lose in Iraq and destroy our Army, or we can just lose."

And there's a good case to be made that our departure will actually improve matters. As Mr. Murtha pointed out in his speech, the insurgency derives much of its support from the perception that it's resisting a foreign occupier. Once we're gone, the odds are that Iraqis, who don't have a tradition of religious extremism, will turn on fanatical foreigners like Zarqawi.

The only way to justify staying in Iraq is to make the case that stretching the U.S. army to its breaking point will buy time for something good to happen. I don't think you can make that case convincingly. So Mr. Murtha is right: it's time to leave.


Exactly. And the Iraqis, who live with it every day, have seen this sooner than American leaders who put American self-interest before the interests of the people they placed in this position.

Maybe American leaders are right, in some sense, to do so - they weren't elected by Iraqis after all - but let's not pretend its for lofty morals and noble motives, shall we? Not when US and UK oil companies are getting set to skim up to $200 billion out of Iraq if an American-inspired plan to hand over development of its oil reserves to US and British multinationals comes into force next year. Not when its plainly obvious we've ensured the Iraqi military is good only for picking sides in a civil war, not national defense or insurgency fighting. Not when the excuses have worn too thin and the real enemy is stronger than ever.

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