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Sherwood Ross: Quitting Iraq With Honor Impossible

Quitting Iraq With "Honor" Impossible For Makers Of A War Of Aggression

By Sherwood Ross

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- All America, including much of its military, is talking about how to “get out” of Iraq, and the sooner the better, as the daily killings soar and the fighting becomes increasingly vicious. There’s no talk now of the Pentagon reducing its force below 120,000; just the opposite, the talk’s about sending more troops to the killing streets of Baghdad. There’s even talk of reinstituting the despised draft.

A few in Congress are castigating Bush for not having an “exit strategy.” Senators John Kerry and Russ Feingold, both Democrats, asked President Bush to quit Iraq by July 1, 2007. And Congressman Chris Shays, of Connecticut, broke Republican ranks to call for a withdrawal timetable. They’d like to extricate U.S. troops “with honor.”

Yet, this is impossible. An aggressor nation has no honor to redeem. Would Hitler have saved his “honor” if he had quit Poland in September, 1939, as France and England demanded? Of course not. Poland’s blood was on Hitler’s hands until the day he died. The issue today is not about saving America’s “honor” but of saving Iraqi lives and Iraq itself.

The Iraq bloodbath could drag on for years. President Bush, a man not influenced by opinion polls, is blunt: “Leaving prematurely will have terrible consequences for our own security and for the Iraqi people,” he told The Washington Times last November, adding, “And that’s not going to happen so long as I am president.”

Bush then went on to ask his Democratic opponents to perform a miracle, saying they “have a responsibility to provide a credible alternative” when, in Bush’s mind, only victory is “credible” and that's not possible.

Bush’s “victory” or “defeat” mentality typifies nationalist leaders. For troops killed in their wars, and for their civilian victims, there is only the triumph of the tomb. Twice in the last century, Europe’s great powers turned their continent into a butcher shop over national pride. And America remains in Iraq for much the same reason.

As for the American people, two in three of them now believe Iraq is an error, most of them apparently not because the war violates the UN Charter but because Bush doesn’t know how to win it. In the October issue of “The Atlantic," author Bing West argues the Pentagon adopted the wrong strategy after occupying Iraq:

“The Americans responded to the low-level attacks with vigorous sweeps and raids. This was the wrong approach because mobile armored offensives could not hope to neutralize the insurgent manpower pool of a million disaffected Sunni youths. The American divisions lacked a commander who would curb their instinct for decisive battle and lay out a counterinsurgency plan.”

Got that? The Pentagon is mismanaging the war, just as if it were a corporation having a bad year. Of course, that’s also quite true, just the way Bush botched the rescue of hurricane-struck New Orleans. But it’s beside the point. The same mismanagement tune is chirped by Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, the Democratic presidential front-runner.

Bush told the American Legion in San Diego last month “this war will be difficult; this war will be long” and he must be taken at his word. He means what he says. He paid no heed to the thousands of protesters in the streets. He never does. And he pays no heed to his congressional critics, Democrat or Republican.

Democratic Senator Russ Feingold urged Bush to stop using the phrase “Islamic fascists." It only inflames Arab public opinion, just as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s crack in his UN speech Wednesday that Bush is “the devil” inflamed some Bostonians who want to remove a big neon “CITGO” sign advertising Venezuelan oil.

Anyone with any knowledge of history knows today’s “Axis of Evil” will be tomorrow’s business buddies. Living proof is the “Axis” nations of 1941 --- Germany, Italy, and Japan – became Washington’s fast friends a decade later. As for Viet Nam’s Communists, why, in the very first week after they drove the U.S. out, “Business Week” reported American oil firms were feeling out Hanoi about offshore drilling rights!

Just as America could not quit Viet Nam with “honor,” it cannot quit Iraq and save “face.” When the means are wrong, no good end can result. In the name of saving life, it is preferable to withdraw immediately rather than a year from now or five years from now.

The U.S. military-industrial complex, which operates on the theory Americans are a master race destined to police the world and the UN and its other member states are superfluous, has terribly punished Iraq for no credible reason. The sooner the restoration work starts, the better.


(Sherwood Ross is an American playwright and columnist who writes on political and military subjects. Contact him at

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