BY 1972 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE GEORGE McGOVERN
By Sherwood Ross
American and British troops in Iraq could be replaced over a phased, six-month period starting next January by a force of 15,000 men drawn from Arab or Muslim countries and paid for by the United States, former Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern proposes.
In a wide-ranging article appearing in the October issue of "Harper's" magazine, McGovern spelled out a comprehensive "blueprint" for the withdrawal of Coalition troops.
"Withdrawal will not be without financial costs, which are unavoidable and will have to be paid sooner or later," McGovern wrote, in an article co-authored with William Polk, founder-director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago. "But the decision to withdraw at least does not call for additional expenditures. On the contrary, it will effect massive savings."
Current U.S. expenditures in Iraq cost about $246-million per day, a rate that continues to climb, and will come to about $100.4-billion in fiscal 2006, the authors write, adding one estimate puts the cost of remaining in Iraq another four years at $1-trillion.
McGovern and Polk urged the creation of a "stabilization force" from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, to be selected at the determination of the Iraqi government. The authors estimate that a force of just 3,000 troops from five countries would be sufficient to keep the peace.
At a cost of $500 for maintaining one man per day, the overall cost to support a 15,000-man army would be $5.5-billion, "approximately three percent of what it would cost to continue the war, with American troops, for the next two years," the authors pointed out.
McGovern and Polk called for the "rapid withdrawal" of 25,000 armed "security" firm personnel and the phased withdrawal of the U.S. and British forces, said to number 120,000 and about 10,000 respectively.
They also called for putting a halt to work on U.S. military bases, the immediate release of all prisoners of war and closing of detention centers, payment of at least $25-billion to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure, voiding of all oil contracts entered into during the U.S. occupation, and reparations to Iraqi civilians for lives and property. They also asked for creation of an international body to be named to arrange compensation for Iraqis tortured by Anglo-American troops.
The Harper's article urged, again at U.S. expense, the rebuilding of damaged and destroyed hospitals and clinics and training their medical personnel, training a national police force, clearing the country of depleted uranium and land mines, and the rehabilitation of damaged historical sites. Personnel to clean up the ordnance could be recruited from among the "millions" of unemployed Iraqis, the authors said.
"We cannot prevent the reconstruction of an Iraqi army, but we should not, as we are currently doing, actually encourage this at a cost of billions to the American taxpayer," the authors write. "If at all possible, we should encourage Iraq to transfer what soldiers it has already recruited for its army into a national reconstruction corps modeled on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."
McGovern and Polk go on to say that nearly half of more than 100 U.S. military bases in Iraq have already been turned over to the Government but as many as 14 "enduring" bases are being built "and should be stood down rapidly" due to their expense and also as they "symbolize and personify a hated occupation" to a population only two percent of whom consider the Americans as "liberators." What's more, the Green Zone in Baghdad should be turned over to the Iraqi Government no later than the end of 2007.
The authors also call upon the U.S. "to dismantle and dispose of the miles of concrete blast walls and wire barriers erected around American installations." This could be accomplished for about $500-million and could employ many Iraqi workers.
Scrap Oil Contracts
"These contracts clearly should be renegotiated or thrown open to competitive international bids" as the Iraqis believe their oil has been sold at a discount to U.S. oil companies and that long-term "production-sharing agreements" have been highly favorable to the Americans and could cost Iraq as much as $194-billion in lost revenues.
"To most Iraqis, and indeed to many foreigners, the move to turn over Iraq's oil reserves to American and British companies surely confirms that the real purpose of the invasion was to secure, for American use and profit, Iraq's lightweight and inexpensively produced oil," McGovern and Polk asserted.
They said, "any funds misused or misappropriated" by U.S. officials from the sale of Iraqi petroleum "should be repaid" to the proper Iraqi authorities.
The authors compared their call to indemnify Iraqi war victims to the U.S. post-World War II "Marshall Plan," which redounded to America's benefit by energizing the European economy. They note the number of Iraqi dead have been put at between 30,000 and 100,000 killed "with many more wounded or incapacitated."
"Assuming the number of unjustified deaths to be 50,000, and the compensation per person to be $10,000, our outlay would run to only $500-million, or two days' cost of the war," the authors said. And estimating the number seriously wounded and incapacitated at 100,000, the total cost for their compensation would be $1-billion.
McGovern and Polk called for creation of a "respected international body" to process the claims of, and pay compensation to, Iraqis who have been tortured or suffered long-term imprisonment. More than 3,200 prisoners have been held for longer than a year and more than 700 for longer than two years, they note, "most of them without charge, a clear violation of the treasured American right of habeas corpus."
Finally, the authors urged the U.S. to find a way "to express our condolences for the large number of Iraqis incarcerated, tortured, incapacitated, or killed in recent years. ...A simple gesture of conciliation would go a long way toward shifting our relationship with Iraq from one of occupation to one of friendship."
The Harper's article, "The Way Out of War," is excerpted from the book "Out of Iraq", to be published next month by Simon & Schuster. Co-author McGovern, the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in 1972, was defeated by President Richard Nixon.
(Sherwood Ross is an American reporter and columnist. Reach him at email@example.com)