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A Very Expensive Quagmire

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Mary Shaw     Permalink
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Last week, the White House sent Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Capitol Hill to lobby for increased funding to keep the killing going on in Iraq for another year. The updated price tag: over $190 billion. For one year. And for what? The situation in Iraq has been called a quagmire. I like to keep my facts straight. So, looking up the word "quagmire" at Dictionary.com, I find that the official meaning, per the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, is "a situation from which extrication is very difficult." Yes, Iraq is a quagmire indeed, on so many levels. A very expensive quagmire. The first level, and the most obvious one, thanks to the mainstream media, is the ongoing political stalemate in Washington over troop withdrawal. Bush wants to keep the war going through the remainder of his presidency and beyond. Let it be the next president's problem. No diplomacy, no compromise. Just some good ol' Texas-style ass whoopin'. Bring 'em on. Meantime, Congress won't stop funding Bush's war, so it's their war, too. The Democrats say they don't have enough votes, but that is not an excuse to stop trying. In fact, the entire Congress is shirking its mandate - a mandate that seemed so clear in the wake of the 2006 elections. A quagmire indeed. A very expensive quagmire. But what if Congress finally came to its senses and voted to end the war, or at least to cut off funding for anything other than a troop withdrawal? Here we face another side of the quagmire. If we pulled out now, what would become of civilian life in Iraq? It's bad enough today. We bombed that country to bits four and a half years ago, and we haven't bothered to rebuild it. A recent British survey estimates that the civilian death toll from this war and occupation may have topped 1.2 million. The Iraqis who have managed to survive still have no security and no drinkable water. Electricity and medical care are rare luxuries. Imagine living like that for four and a half years, and with no end in sight! This plight of Iraq's innocent civilians will not be magically resolved if we leave now. On the other hand, we have no reason to believe that it would improve if we stayed. Damned if we do, and damned if we don't. Either way, the Iraqi people will continue to suffer. And for no good reason (although Bush's oil company buddies and Cheney's war profiteers might disagree). A quagmire indeed. A very expensive quagmire. So what is the solution? I wish I knew. More importantly, I wish Washington knew. But, whatever the answer, it will not be simple. I suspect that our best chance lies in engaging international support for a post-occupation peacekeeping and rebuilding effort, perhaps spearheaded by the United Nations. We pull out, and an international peacekeeping force pulls in. But Bush will never allow it. And his arrogant version of foreign policy has squandered the good will of the rest of the world that was ours in the days and weeks following the 9/11 attacks. A quagmire indeed. A very expensive quagmire. I believe that our only hope right now is for Congress to grow up and stand up, cut off funding for the war, force a troop withdrawal, and thereby demonstrate to the world that America has woken up and might be worth helping. Bypass the lame duck in the Oval Office. Do what's right for Iraq, what's right for America, and what's right for the world. But I shall not hold my breath. -----


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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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