William Rivers Pitt: Exiting Iraq
William Rivers Pitt: Exiting Iraq
Only Cowards Cancel Elections
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 14 March 2005
I pray you, speak not; he grows worse and worse;
Question enrages him: at once, good-night.
Stand not upon the order of your going,
But go at once.
- Lady Macbeth, Act III, Scene IV
Cindy Sheehan had a son. His name was Casey, and he served in the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Casey Sheehan's unit came under fire in Baghdad on April 4th, 2004, from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, and he was killed. He was 24 years old.
Cindy Sheehan co-founded the group Gold Star Families for Peace. She has heard much from the Bush administration about completing the mission in Iraq in order to honor those who have died there. "My family and my group are offended," she writes, "by hearing this administration say that our troops have to remain in Iraq and complete 'the mission' to honor our loved ones' sacrifices. First of all, no one can explain the mission to us and we don't want any more innocent blood spilled just because it is too late for our soldiers and our families."
Cindy Sheehan is not alone. A woman on the t r u t h o u t FYI blog writes, "My husband and I lost our son to a roadside bomb In Iraq. He was the gunner on an unarmored humvee in a 14 vehicle convoy out picking up supplies. Our family will simply never recover. Our lives forever changed. I wouldn't wish this pain on my worst enemy. But to think that his life was wasted for a lie is just not acceptable. Something good must come from all of this. I will never stop working to help bring home the National Guard, seeing that they get the help they need when they get home, and helping people realize the true cost of this immoral war."
"My nephew," writes another woman, "signed up as soon as he could after 9/11 because he (with 17 yr. old bravado) thought he could find those bad guys. He was sent to Afghanistan where the hunt for Osama was on. Then suddenly he was shipped into Baghdad where he was KIA on night patrol, hit by an IED while driving an unarmored Humvee. Iraq did not attack us. Saddam was not a threat. He was not connected to Bin Laden. But boy, Iraq sure is connected to terrorism now -- and who can really be surprised? Look what we've done and continue to do to their land and citizens. There was no good reason or way to start this war and there is no good way to get out of it, but we have to!"
"I am a disabled Vietnam War combat vet," writes a man on the blog, "and, as such, I would like to add my perspective to this debate. If we pulled out immediately there will be consequences for the Iraqi people but we have to trust that they will work it out. I was in the Vietnam War in 1967 & 1968 and I prayed every day that I was there that the people back home would demand an immediate pull out as that was the only way the Vietnamese would be able to shape their own destiny. We as a country have been actively trying to shape the World to fit our needs ever since the end of WW II (and probably before that) and the consequences of these meddlings have been so much death, destruction, and lifelong wounds to those who participated in these endeavors either as tools or as victims. Pull out now. We have helped (as only we can) the Iraqis enough."
Specialist E-4 Patrick Resta served as an Army medic in Iraq before returning home. He spoke last week at Brown University about what is happening in that country, and where the troops stand on 'completing the mission.' "One of the most important things veterans can do, like myself," he said, "is come out here and present a true picture of Iraq, because the American media isn't letting people have that true picture." Resta describes soldiers spending their own money to buy armor, traveling through hostile territory in unprotected vehicles, using sandbags to augment their meager protection. He further described an overwhelming belief among the rank-and-file troops that the time has come to get out. "There was a running joke that 'Iraq' stood for 'I really am quitting,' " he said.
There are 1,516 families who endure the pain described by Cindy Sheehan and the others. Tens of thousands of other families have endured and will continue to endure the trauma of a loved one who has been maimed in Iraq. For the living soldiers still in Iraq and those who have returned, there is the probability of mental and emotional damage from what they saw and did, the impact of which is impossible to quantify and which will be with them and us for years to come. 198,000 Iraqi families have been forced to absorb the death of a loved one, and there is no accounting for the untold thousands of families who have had a member maimed, battered, tortured or radicalized past all recall.
It is enough.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq was based upon lies about weapons of mass destruction, al Qaeda connections, and the fantasy that a people can be bombed and strafed into accepting a Western view of things, that democracy can be created at the point of the sword, that democracy was the point of this exercise in the first place. The occupation today is sustained by lies, both of omission by the news media and of the bare-face-hanging-out variety.
It is enough.
When the invasion and occupation of Iraq becomes an intellectual exercise, it is simple enough to put forth arguments for staying. One does not run into a china shop with a free-swinging baseball bat, smash everything in sight, and then scuttle out the door muttering, "Wasn't me." The potential for ethnic and religious civil war in Iraq is very real, as is the danger of an alliance between a newly-minted fundamentalist Iraqi government and the radicals in Iran on top of all that oil, as is the potential for Rwanda-style chaos in Iraq giving birth to a safe home base for international terrorism. These issues are real, and cannot be ignored.
Yet this is not an intellectual exercise. This is a flesh-and-bone reality, which Cindy Sheehan and the others can attest to with their words and the oceans of tears they have shed. For all the Bush administration prattle about democracy on the march and completing the mission, the fact is that democracy was never on the table and the mission has become a bloody and disorganized holding action that was never intended to reach a conclusion, but was intended to establish a permanent military presence in the region. The reality of the mess, in the minds of administration officials, justifies continued occupation.
A true plan for success in Iraq could involve the following:
* End the Houston-based contracting of work in Iraq and open the doors to Iraqi companies and workers. The believers in privatization here should practice what they preach and allow Iraqis to make money off the work and repairs needing to be done. As funds flow into the Iraqi economy, burgeoning and reconstituted private companies can take it upon themselves to make sure the lights work, the roads are paved, the water is running, and the trash is picked up. Once upon a time, Iraq was the most modern and industrialized nation in that region, filled with highly educated workers who know how to run a country. The Iraqi people must be allowed to run their country once again, and must be paid well for their work by Iraqi employers not beholden to profit margins in the United States.
* Arrange for the creation of a base of operations outside of Iraq where an Iraqi National Guard and police force can be trained to take over the security of their country. The old Christian canon states that whenever two or three people are gathered together to pray, Jesus is with them. In Iraq, whenever two or three people are gathered together to sign up for the army or the police, a suicide bomber is there with them to deal death. Establishing a place away from the violence where Iraqis can be prepared and armed for the work needed to gain control of the country will ultimately allow American forces to back away from policing the country, something that has been the chief aggravating factor among that populace. Doing this away from the violence will allow Iraqis to sign up for this work without fear of being blown sideways out a recruiting station.
* Until the infrastructure is repaired and security forces are assembled, steps must be taken to achieve stability without an American face on the action. Work in good faith with both the United Nations and the Arab League to assemble a large security force comprised of people from the region. Care must be taken to avoid any pitfalls regarding potential ethnic and religious friction between the Iraqi people and these Arab security forces, but this can be managed. Once Iraqi infrastructure is restored and a security and police force is in place, the Arab forces can begin a phased withdrawal. Meanwhile, American forces can be removed en masse.
* Practice what has been preached about bringing democracy to that nation. Democracy is not the installation of some bastardized Vichy government managed by remote control from Washington. The Iraqi people will never accept such a government, and the violence and chaos will never end. Provide security by way of the aforementioned steps and let the people decide how their country will be governed. The recent farce of an election did not achieve this; almost all of the candidates were anonymous because they feared assassination, and large swaths of the populace did not participate because they saw it as the sham it was. Let the government be formed as it will, and prepare for the diplomatic ramifications.
* A vital element to the process will be the establishment of a set timetable for withdrawal. Timetables are dangerous; if they are not met, rage is the inevitable result. Yet the changes required of our status in Iraq need date markers and deadlines to push the process along, and the Iraqi people need to know exactly when their country will be their own again.
These steps, properly fleshed out, could 'complete the mission' in a reality-based fashion. Other possible solutions have likewise been offered from a broad spectrum of involved parties. Unfortunately, we are not dealing with reality-based people in the Bush administration. We are dealing with people who denounce torture, terrorism and Syria while sending people to Syria to be tortured, despite the fact that Syria is known to support terrorism.
'Bizarro World' does not begin to encompass the kind of pretzel-logic we are dealing with here. So long as these Bush people are where they are, so long as there is political strength to be gained from perpetuating the war-party image they have concocted, and so long as there is one dime to be squeezed out of oil and military contracting by the companies that created and sustain this administration, we will never leave Iraq.
Unless, that is, they are not given any other choice. Before the invasion, millions of people took to the streets all across America and the world to try and stop this thing. After the invasion, a sense of despair filled those who opposed the war. In the two years since, that despair has deepened into a near state of surrender.
The time for despair is over. There are political, social and economic pressures that can be brought to bear against this administration and its war policies, so long as there are people willing to put their shoulders to the wheel, so long as people believe that they can achieve what seems today to be the impossible. This must happen, because it is enough.
This coming weekend, and specifically on March 19th, a global protest is planned to mark the two-year anniversary of 'Shock and Awe,' and to demand the U.S. withdraw from Iraq. Actions are taking place in cities and towns all across the country. Be a part of that, wherever you are. If there is no action planned near you, organize one yourself. Make your participation, and the participation of your friends and family, an absolute requirement. Make that day the point of a new beginning in this struggle. As a well-known doctor once said, you do have the power. Use it in the name of all you hold dear and all you hope for.
This year, we get
Pitt is the senior editor and lead writer for truthout.
He is a New York Times and international bestselling author
of two books - 'War
on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and
Greatest Sedition is Silence.'