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Time To Consider Iraq Withdrawal

After an invasion and occupation that promised them freedom, Iraqis have seen their security evaporate, their state smashed and their country fragment into a lawless archipelago ruled by militias, bandits and kidnappers.
Comment & analysis / Editorial comment

Time to consider Iraq withdrawal
Published: September 10 2004 03:00 | Last updated: September 10 2004 03:00

This week a macabre milestone was passed in Iraq. More than 1,000 American soldiers have now been killed since the US-led invasion of the country began nearly 18 months ago. The overwhelming majority lost their lives after President George W. Bush declared major combat operations over in his now infamous "Mission Accomplished" photo-opportunity in May last year.

In that time, an unknown number of mostly civilian Iraqis, certainly not less than 10,000 and possibly three times that number, have perished, and hundreds more are dying each week. After an invasion and occupation that promised them freedom, Iraqis have seen their security evaporate, their state smashed and their country fragment into a lawless archipelago ruled by militias, bandits and kidnappers.

The transitional political process, designed to lead to constituent assembly and general elections next year, has been undermined because the nervous US-dominated occupation authority has insisted on hand-picking various permutations of interim Iraqi governors, mostly exiles or expatriates with no standing among their people. Whatever Iraqis thought about the Americans on their way in - and it was never what these emigré politicians told Washington they would be thinking - an overwhelming majority now views US forces as occupiers rather than liberators and wants them out.

The aftermath of a war won so quickly has been so utterly bungled, moreover, that the US is down to the last vestiges of its always exiguous allied support, at the time when Iraq needs every bit of help it can get. The occupation has lost control of big swathes of the country. Having decided that all those who lived and worked in Iraq under Saddam Hussein bore some degree of collective guilt, Washington's viceroys purged the country's armed forces, civil service and institutions to a degree that broke the back of the state, marginalised internal political forces, sidelined many with the skills to rebuild Iraq's services and utilities and, of course, fuelled an insurgency US forces have yet to identify accurately, let alone get to grips with.

There are signs that US officials are beginning to "get it" - in the phrase Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, patronisingly used this week to characterise Iraqis' grasp of the security situation. But if they are increasingly aware that what they have created in Iraq is a disaster, they seem at a loss to know what to do about it.

The core question to be addressed is this: is the continuing presence of US military forces in Iraq part of the solution or part of the problem?

As occupying power, the US bears responsibility for Iraq under international law, and is duty-bound to try to leave it in better shape than it found it. But there is no sign of that happening.

The time has therefore come to consider whether a structured withdrawal of US and remaining allied troops, in tandem with a workable handover of security to Iraqi forces and a legitimate and inclusive political process, can chart a path out of the current chaos.

Faced with a withdrawal timetable, Iraqis who currently feel helpless will know that the opportunity to craft a better future lies in their hands.

Take security. Iraqi forces are being rebuilt to take over front-line tasks. This is slow work, but that is not the real problem. It is that those forces already trained cannot stand alongside a US military that daily rains thousands of tonnes of projectiles and high explosives on their compatriots. Each time there is a siege of Fallujah or Najaf, with the US using firepower that kills civilians by the hundred, these Iraqi forces melt away. Until eventual withdrawal, there would have to be a policy of military restraint, imposed above all on those US commanders who have operated without reference to their own superiors, let alone the notionally sovereign Iraqi government.

Politically, if next year's elections are to have any chance of reflecting the will of the Iraqi people, the process must be opened up. Last month's national conference or proto-assembly was monopolised by expatriate politicians aligned with the interim government of Iyad Allawi. The only way national coalitions can be woven from Iraq's religious and ethnic patchwork is by including the opposition to the occupation. That means negotiating with the insurgents, probably through religious leaders of the stature of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. It also means an amnesty, which should help Iraqi authorities acquire the legitimacy to crush jihadist and other hold-outs.

Ideally, the US would accompany withdrawal by stating it has no intention of establishing bases in Iraq, and instead wishes to facilitate regional security agreements. That would be more stabilising than the current policy of bullying neighbours such as Iran and Syria, whose borders with Iraq the US in any case cannot control.

None of this will be less than messy. But whether Mr Bush or John Kerry wins the upcoming election, the US will eventually have to do something like this. Chaos is a great risk, and occupiers through the ages have pointed to that risk as their reason for staying put. But chaos is already here, and the power that is in large part responsible for it must start preparing now to step aside and let the Iraqis try to emerge from it.

homepage: homepage: http://news.ft.com/cms/s/1a93c6de-02ca-11d9-a968-00000e2511c8.html
address: address: Financial Times

wow 12.Sep.2004 13:04

reader

the Financial Times ain't exactly a radical rag. and though this ain't a radical analysis, it's still significant that the mainstream press is talking like this.

What a joke. 12.Sep.2004 16:17

These are the people advising the masters of our universe.

> The time has therefore come to consider whether a structured withdrawal of
> US and remaining allied troops, in tandem with a workable handover of
> security to Iraqi forces and a legitimate and inclusive political process,
> can chart a path out of the current chaos.

Uh, and this is different from the original plan HOW?

And this is different from the current plan HOW?

The whole PROBLEM is that the occupying forces are not in a position to decide what's "workable," "legitimate," or "inclusive," or to follow any "path" they care to "chart."

This is not rocket science, Financial Times! The current "chaos" -- it's not really chaos, it's a complicated structure that you don't like -- is the result of 16 months of occupation. More occupation equals more "chaos," including more killing and dying by Americans and Brits. Ending the occupation equals more "chaos," but without more killing and dying by Americans and Brits. The U.S. and UK's choices are complicated, but choice number one is the same as it's always been: STAY IN NOW or GET OUT NOW. Period. This editorial argues for getting out, and then advocates staying in. And these are supposed to be the smartest, most responsible people in the fucking world.

Iraq withdrawal no 12.Sep.2004 17:48

American withdrawal YES

"After an invasion and occupation that promised them freedom, Iraqis have seen their security evaporate, their state smashed and their country fragment into a lawless archipelago ruled by militias, bandits and kidnappers."

Sounds like here. However I agree with the use of the word withdrawal, anytime the US stops killing people around the world it has the DTs.

... 13.Sep.2004 17:13

this thing here

american forces will not withdrawl until they can absolutely guarantee the security and safe operation of iraq's oil industry. everything else is just decoration, or is simply beside the point. until that day, there will be american forces in iraq.

furthermore, i would not be surprised, if bush wins the election, and if the insurgency continues apace, to hear the likes of kristol, wolfowitz, rumsfeld, cheney and maybe even bush argue, seemingly all of a sudden, that a sovereign democratic government in iraq is "entirely unneccessary" or "too grand a task", and therefore american forces will stay indefinitely in iraq, to act as permanent caretakers. "well, we tried..."

of course, the only thing that really concerns them in regards to caretaking, the only thing that produces a return on their investment, and the only thing in all of iraq that really matters to national security, in the most pragmatic sense imaginable (and regardless of the bush is just plain dumb or insane theory, or the finishing daddy's work to gain his respect theory, or israeli/likudnik theory for american invasion, or the "we'll send OUR sons and daughters to die for YOU, and spend $4,000,000,000 a month of OUR money for YOU, because we must really really really really want you to be free and democratic in iraq"), is iraq's oil industry.

given that there seems to be no effective, wideranging effort whatsoever in america to come up with alternatives to oil/petroleum (which is all the more sad because there more than likely are alternatives if we would get up off our ass and go to work on it), given the state of world oil supplies and prices, given what lies ahead with regards to china and the developing world's ever increasing hunger for oil, i simply cannot imagine american forces abandoning iraq and it's oil. the insurgents would destroy it, an iraqi civil war might leave it in ruins, whatever government is left in iraq (presumably a theocratic dictatorship or a re-run of a secular strongman like saddam) might nationalize it, or china (rather than western corporations) might cut deals with whatever government is left in iraq once the bush (or the kerry) admin. pulls out. all at the very same time that demand is rising, while supplies are diminishing.

this is just my opinion, but nothing that happened before the war began in iraq, that happened in iraq, is now happening in iraq, or will happen in iraq, makes any fucking sense at all without considering the importance of oil to the world's biggest, most addicted oil junkie. i can find no other explanation that makes any sense for the mess, for the cost in dollars, for the cost in lives, and for the lies that are used by the bush admin. on a constant basis to try and "explain" it.