On Native Ground
EARTH TO BUSH: FACE REALITY, END THE OCCUPATION
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The Bush White House has begun yet another public relations campaign to convince Americans that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is a just cause.
I subscribe to the philosophy put forth by Edwin Knoll, the late editor of The Progressive, who once said that "there is no such thing as a just war. Never was. Never will be."
There was nothing that justified the U.S. invasion of Iraq. There is nothing to justify the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq. Every day we stay in Iraq means more death and more destruction for no good reason.
The apologists for the Iraq invasion like to throw out the line that supposedly ends the argument: "Aren't the Iraqi people better off without Saddam Hussein in power?"
Depends on whom you ask. The thousands of Iraqi civilians that have been killed since March 2003 can't respond. Those who have lost their jobs and livelihoods since the invasion haven't many good things to say about liberation. Neither do the thousands of Iraqis who were locked up in Abu Ghraib under dubious pretenses who were raped and tortured by U.S. forces.
Then there are those who say that a civil war is sure to follow if U.S. troops withdraw; the power vacuum that will occur is sure to be filled by the most radical elements of the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
America's record of military occupation over the past century is decidedly mixed. Japan and German became prosperous democracies after World War II, but they are aberrations. Since the U.S. officially became an imperial power after the Spanish-American War in 1898, there has been a long list of nations where U.S. military occupation has brought neither democracy nor security. The Philippines, Haiti, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Panama are just a few examples that come to mind, and that's without even bringing Vietnam into the discussion.
The U.S. occupation of Iraq fits into this legacy. We don't know what kind of government will eventually be created in Iraq, but it's a safe bet that it will definitely not be a democracy.
But democracy never was the goal. The Bush administration has refused to tell Americans the real reasons for invading Iraq: having a permanent military presence in the heart of the Middle East that will allow U.S. forces to leave Saudi Arabia, have control over the Iraqi oil reserves, the privatization of the Iraqi economy and, most of all, send a message to other Arab nations that they, too, will be attacked if they fail to fall into line with U.S. policy.
All these goals were sought by the Bush administration long before the Sept. 11 attacks, but no one dared to talk openly about them. Instead, we were fed nonsense such as "weapons of mass destruction," "fighting terrorism" and "bringing democracy to Iraq."
Fareed Zakaria accurately summed up the cost of the Bush administration's war strategy in a piece he wrote for the May 17 issue of Newsweek.
"We have waged pre-emptive war unilaterally, spurned international cooperation, rejected United Nations participation, humiliated allies, discounted the need for local support in Iraq and incurred massive costs in blood and treasure," wrote Zakaria. "If the world is not to be trusted in these dangerous times, key agencies of the American government, like the State Department, are to be trusted even less. Congress is barely informed, even on issues which its 'advice and consent' are constitutionally mandated.
"Leave process aside: the results are plain. On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq - troop strength, international support, the credibility of exiles, de-Baathification, handling Ayatollah Ali Sistani - Washington's assumptions and policies have been wrong. By now, most have been reversed, often too late to have much effect. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw in the eyes of much of the world."
Again, there is nothing to justify the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. Despite all the talk of handing over authority to a sovereign Iraqi government on June 30, there are no plans to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, no plans to hand off to military authority to a multinational UN force and no plans to substantially reduce the amount of U.S. control in Iraqi affairs.
President George W. Bush is deluding himself if he believes the nation must stay the course. He and his administration must acknowledge what has become obvious for months now - it's time for to withdraw the U.S. troops and give full control of Iraq back to the Iraqis.
As U.S. forces withdraw, Iraq can be put under some form of UN trusteeship. The UN can put together an international peacekeeping force to maintain civic order. It can start the negotiation process with the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis for how they will share power. It can also start shipping in food and medicine as well as engineers and construction supplies. It can throw Haliburton and the rest of the war profiteers out and give the jobs to Iraqis so they can rebuild their own country and take control of their economic destiny.
We can't do anything about everything that has happened to put our nation into this mess. We can, however, do something to prevent it from getting worse. Without a real transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis - a transfer that involves an honest timetable to internationalize the political and economic rebuilding of Iraq that will keep U.S. involvement to a bare minimum - we can expect to see years of chaos and death in Iraq with American troops bogged down in a bloody and unwinnable colonial war.
It's time to end this nonsense. Bring our troops home. Now.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.