To withdraw or not to withdraw

Following Congressman John Murtha’s call for a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq within six months, a debate has ensued in the U.S. among what is called the left (centrist Democrats), the right (big-government reactionary Republicans), and the center (those in between the two extremes). Of the prominent political figures, aside from Murtha, all agree that the U.S. must remain in Iraq, in some form, for years. The U.S. must continue to occupy Iraq, they say, for the betterment of the Iraqi people, and the security of the United States.

Of course, as an occupying power the U.S. has no right to determine in any way the future of Iraq, and has only responsibilities to carry out the demands of the occupied. To the extent that U.S. actions accord with this principle we can regard as credible media and government claims that U.S. goals in Iraq are noble and kindhearted (democracy, etc.), and vice versa. If U.S. actions ignore the demands of the people of Iraq, then U.S. goals have zero to do with democracy, etc., and are oriented toward achieving other ends.

Soon after Murtha’s speech, Sen. Joe Biden emerged as the main Democratic Iraq policy spokesman, and revealed a new withdrawal plan, which the Bush administration says is "remarkably similar" to its own. Under his plan, 20,000 to 40,000 U.S. troops would remain after a withdrawal in 2007 to "prevent jihadists from establishing a permanent base in Iraq."

This new plan sounds identical to the old plan: as soon as Iraqi forces can take over what are currently U.S. operations, the U.S. will withdraw many, but not all, of its troops. Both the Republicans and the Democrats would keep U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely, possibly permanently, and certainly for years to come.

A Seymour Hersh article published in the New Yorker Monday says, "A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President’s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower." This plan, in which U.S. ground attacks are replaced by "Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes," is the "most ambitious" of U.S. withdrawal plans, Hersh says. In other words, the Bush and Biden withdrawal plan is not a withdrawal plan at all, but a plan under which the U.S. will maintain control in Iraq, a sort of occupation continuation plan.

The editors of The Washington Post, like the Republican and Democratic Parties and 100 percent of the Liberal Media, have determined that "a premature American departure from Iraq would not end but greatly escalate what is now a low-grade civil war," and that "the United States will have to commit its own forces to the fight for years," because "The alternative is to risk a defeat that would be devastating to U.S. security."

This contrasts with the 1 percent of Iraqis who rank ethnic or religious tension, and therefore potential civil war, as the issue that most impacts their daily life, according to a poll conducted in November by the International Republican Institute, a U.S. government-funded NGO whose board of directors includes Sens. John McCain and Chuck Hagel. Iraqis’ rank their main concerns as security (31 percent), the lack of adequate housing (17 percent), high prices and low wages (11 percent), the occupation (10 percent), inadequate electricity (9 percent), and unemployment (7 percent).

And according to a nationwide British Ministry of Defense poll obtained by The Sunday Telegraph in October, which was virtually ignored by the U.S. media, Iraqis think the cause of their main concern, security, is the occupation. The Telegraph says that less than 1 percent of Iraqis believe the occupation has improved security, while 82 percent of Iraqis are "’strongly opposed’ to the presence of coalition troops," and 67 percent "feel less secure because of the occupation." Most importantly, 45 percent of Iraqis "believe attacks against British and American troops are justified."

If the polls are accurate, and it matters what Iraqis think, then the U.S. government and media claims that maintaining the occupation helps the occupied and improves U.S. security are 100 percent wrong. And since the International Republican Institute’s findings are consistent with its previous findings, these results are nothing new, and U.S. leaders have known Iraqi opinion all along.

The concern cannot be security for Americans, because almost half of Iraqis support killing the occupying forces. The U.S. concern cannot be democracy, because the U.S. has ignored Iraqi opinion for two and a half years.

In 2003, a 43 percent plurality of Iraqis said that the U.S. invaded primarily "to rob Iraq’s oil." Maybe so. But if it mattered what the people of Iraq think, today’s debates on the occupation, in which the Republican and Democratic Parties and the U.S. media share the same view, would be moot, as the occupying power would have left years ago.