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No Way Bush Can Quit Iraq With "Honor"

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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 National Guard troops into the killing streets of Baghdad. There's even talk of reinstituting the despised draft.

Some 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." The "New Yorker" magazine reports it's an "open secret" in Washington Defense Secretary Rumsfeld would like to get out of Iraq.

Since Iraq is now a huge embarrassment to America, the question for those who started this war becomes how to withdraw while saving their "honor." Unfortunately for them, this is impossible. An aggressor nation, by definition, has no honor to redeem. Would Hitler have saved his "honor" if he had quit Poland in September, 1939, as France and England demanded? The answer is "No." Poland's blood was on Hitler's hands until the day he died. Americans today need to ask themselves, which is more important, saving Bush's face or 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 said last November, adding, "And that's not going to happen so long as I am president." Bush even chides his few Democratic critics saying they "have a responsibility to provide a credible alternative" to the fighting, meaning an alternative other than withdrawal, when there is none.

Bush expresses the "victory" mentality so typical of jingoistic leaders. For troops killed in their wars, and for their civilian victims, victory is meaningless. Twice in the last century, Germany turned Europe into a butcher shop in the name of wounded pride. Both "Kaiser Bill" and Hitler continued fighting until their armies collapsed from exhaustion.

As for the American people, two in three of them now believe the Iraq war is an error, most of them apparently not because it violates the UN Charter but because Bush doesn't know how to win it. Democrats in Congress accuse Defense Secretary Rumsfeld of mismanaging the war, just as if he headed a corporation having a bad year. Of course, the charge is quite true, just as Bush botched the rescue of hurricane-struck New Orleans. But it's beside the point.

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. He never does. Or to his congressional critics. In fact, the worse matters get in Iraq, the more Bush hypes his rhetoric.

Democratic Senator Russ Feingold urged Bush to stop using the phrase "Islamic fascists" in his speeches. 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 take down the 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 within a decade. 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!

America can no more quit Iraq with honor than it could quit Viet Nam with honor. When the means are wrong, no good end can result. In the name of saving human life, it is preferable to withdraw immediately rather than a year from now or five years from now.

The Bush Administration scorns the UN. It operates on the theory Americans are a master race entitled to police the globe while the UN and its member states are inferior entities. It has punished Iraq terribly for no credible reason. The U.S. will leave Iraq the same way it left Viet Nam, in a shambles, and without "honor." President Bush lost that the day he started a war of aggression based on the Big Lie that Iraq had WMD. The public must make him understand he must get out now. The sooner the restoration work starts, the better.
(Sherwood Ross is an American who writes on political and military subjects. Contact him at
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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)
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