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The Epiphany of an Iraq Withdrawal

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Message Ron Fullwood
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It's 'mission accomplished' all over again for the British in Iraq as the pull their troops out of Basra. Hailing their relinquishment of authority to the 'provincial Iraqi control' as a "significant achievement," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, in an interview Sunday with Sky News sought to distinguish their exit as a success, much like the U.S. declarations of victory as they eventually withdrew their own forces from several of the Iraqi regions they had occupied. Asked whether Britain would have been more successful in reigning-in what is an arguably more violent and unstable Basra than the one which existed under Saddam by deploying more troops like the Americans, and whether the withdrawal represented a 'defeat' for Britain in Iraq, Miliband held up the fact of their exit as some seemingly obvious measure of the success of their occupation of the Iraqi province.

"We have been able to draw down our forces because the Iraqi security force has been built up - point 1," Miliband said. "Point 2 - the rules for our draw down are exactly the same as those that are applied to the Americans in other provinces. And remember, just as we have handed over a security responsibility in four provinces, the Americans have done so in seven according to the same rules that apply," he argued.

Despite the increase in civilian killings in Basra over the Saddam era; despite the re-arming and rehabilitation of the Shiite militia death squads by the British, despite the emergence of an oppressive and dominating theocratic rule in the province which threatens the freedoms and civil liberties of Iraqi residents in ways much more pernicious than anything Saddam was responsible for there, British authorities are willing to move aside and let the sectarian chips fall where they may.

It's a tragic reality that Britain has, long ago, relinquished any chance of being some sort of 'honest broker' for democratic principles and democratic rule in Iraq by their own arrogant disregard of Iraq's sovereignty in their initial, manufactured invasion. To assert that their occupation of Basra was a success because Iraqis there have managed to organize and put in place some local military protectorate is nothing but a self-serving deception crafted for those who know and care little about the lives lost and disrupted as the cost for their reckless, imposed interference.

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For Britain's beleaguered and overdrawn military forces, the withdrawal itself is bound to be seen as progress over the open-ended commitment of their country folk their leaders have sacrificed for Bush and Blair's "line in the sand." But, it's also the apparent view of the fugitive 9-11 suspects, who've been gifted by Bush's invasion and occupation, with a safe haven and a propaganda platform for over six years, that the British withdrawal from Basra (and the dwindling of the British forces to just over 2,000 troops in Iraq) actually represents a victory for al-Qaeda.

This weekend, we were subjected to yet another taunt from Bush's enabled specter of terror from his protected perch somewhere in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Al Qaeda's assumed second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, in a web site video, said the British decision to "flee" represented the "increasing power of the mujahideen and the deteriorating condition of the Americans."

To some extent, Zawahri is correct. The decision by Bush and Blair to abandon the active 'hunt' for the 9-11 suspects in Afghanistan and invade Iraq as some intimidating demonstration of their collective military strength, and the administration strategy of characterizing Iraq as the "center" of their terror defense as they openly invited attacks on our soldiers there, has actually fueled and fostered even more individuals pledged to violent reprisals against Americans, our allies, and our interests.

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The ritual parroting of the fugitive 9-11 suspects' taunts and threats by the Bush administration and their British cohorts as they promoted their open-ended occupation, elevated the al-Qaeda thugs (and everyone who associated themselves with the al-Qaeda moniker) to an unearned and false position of virtual parity with the preeminence and authority of our respective nations. The perpetuated industry of militarism, employed by both al-Qaeda and their Western opponents alike, has also provided a means for the assumed leaders of this manufactured conflict to elevate their own contrived positions of power and influence over their subjects; over both the hapless resisters to their rule and the willing defenders.

Despite the inherent risks of any move by any of the players in the deadly Iraq deception to end their cynical folly, it is, without a doubt, the wisest choice for our aggravating forces to end their involvement. As Britain has just demonstrated - and as our own forces in Iraq have repeatedly demonstrated with their own retreat from provinces in Iraq they had so wantonly defended for so long with the lives of thousands of our nation's defenders - there will be no measure of 'success' or 'victory' from Bush's occupation to be found, no matter how long we stay or how many resistant Iraqis our soldiers manage to kill.

When we do leave Iraq, there will still be a taunting specter from the 9-11 era of attacks urging us to return to the destructive and senseless propelling of Iraqis and Americans at each other, to one day declare ourselves victorious and leave Iraq in the shambles our respective 'leaders' designed and orchestrated to the mindless destruction of the innocent; and to the devastation of the lives of those abroad who would actively resist Bush's and al-Qaeda's self-serving militarism.

As the fugitive 9-11 suspects propagandize their own 'victories' over the U.S., our leaders are just as free to declare their own successes and walk away; perhaps to turn to the original mandate to capture the 'perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks' which the original authorization from Congress, to use military force, was predicated on. The WaPost reported today that "some Pentagon officials are "urging" a faster drawdown of forces in Iraq than the administration wants, to accommodate commanders in Afghanistan who want additional forces to move against a "resurgent" Taliban.

After the loss of over 3800 American defenders in Iraq, and the loss of countless tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis to the deliberate unrest and chaos created by Bush's invasion, a re-declaration of 'mission accomplished' (followed by a hasty withdrawal) is the best result in Iraq that anyone can expect to come out of the colossal blunder. Fortunately, for the British, that moment of acceptance and resolve to move on has arrived for their leaders. For our own lame-duck commander-in-chief and for our own nation, that same resolved epiphany cannot arrive too soon.


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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price
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