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Ending the War in 2009

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Message Tom Hayden

Let me tell you what the supporters of endless occupation are worried about. A Washington think tank, the Center for a New American Security, whose board includes Madeline Albright, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon recently warned that

The transition from president bush is getting more and more problematic as the American people continue to lose confidence in the Iraq War and step up their pressure on candidates from both parties. If no bipartisan consensus is reached before the Democratic and Republican primaries, the next president will likely be elected principally on a “get out of Iraq” platform. The political space to do otherwise is shrinking by the day.”

Contrary to their worries, I thought: What a great prospect, that the American people through the democratic process can force the end of this war, can discredit the neo-conservatives agenda, can defeat the Bush-Cheney legacy, can rebuke hawkish mentality in both parties, and can drive the discussion of our future. I have written Ending the War in Iraq to hasten this possibility.

The conventional thinking that led us into quagmire is the same conventional thinking that says today that while it was a mistake to invade in 2003 it would be a bigger mistake to ever leave. These are not just White House flacks or Bush administration dead-enders, but friends we respect such as James Fallows has written -

I have come to this sobering conclusion. The United States can best train Iraqis, and therefore best help itself leave Iraq, only by making a long-term commitment to stay.

Too many are governed by the paradigm that we can never “stand down” until the Iraqis themselves “stand up”, that we have to fight the insurgency to create space for the Iraqi government to become stable enough to secure itself, and only then can we leave.

The truth being denied is that we have funded, equipped, and trained a Frankenstein monster, and now multiple frankensteins, and they are indeed standing up. In any other conflict, the Iraqi regime and security forces would be called a police state. Yet we remain in denial because the truth would undermine the war’s very rationale.. Even today, a prestigious military commission headed by General Jones reports that the Iraqi police force is hopelessly sectarian and should be scrapped. The media denial is evident in the coverage: the ninth paragraph on page 8 of the New York Times, the 25th paragraph on page 8 of the LA Times.

This is not new news. The Baker-Hamilton report last year said that the Iraqi police “routinely engage in sectarian violence, including the unnecessary detention, torture and targeted execution of Sunni Arab civilians.”

The illusion is that the sectarian militias are outside the Iraqi state and must be reined in, when the reality is that the biggest militias are inside the interior ministry, inside the army, police and secret prisons, particularly the Badr Brigade which belongs to SCIRI, the dominant party in the ruling coalition we put in power. Nineteen billion of our tax dollars have been spent on building the Iraqi security system.

It gets worse. As encouraged by Gen. Petraeus a few years ago, at least 190,000 American-made AK-47s and 370,000 small arms sent Iraq are unaccounted for, most of them without serial numbers. This mass distribution of weapons was deliberate, not accidental, according to the GAO and Special Inspector General.

The illusion is that we are preventing a sectarian civil war when the reality is that, in the best British tradition, we have been fomenting and feeding a civil war which will fragment, subdivide and eliminate the basis of Arab nationalism in Iraq.

The intellectual proponent of this division is Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations, an on-the-ground adviser to Gen. Petraeus. Biddle writes that the US should support both sides in the civil war. We should arm the Sunnis to gain leverage against the very Shi’a we put in power, and we should increase the Shi’a ability to create mass violence as an incentive for the Sunnis to compromise on their demand to end the occupation. This was written in Foreign Affairs magazine in 2006.

The much-touted Petreaus plan to further divide Iraq by helping Sunnis fight other Sunnis in Anbar and Diyala provinces is little more than Kit Carson’s plan to arm the Ute mercenaries against the Navajo over a century ago. I make the comparison because the Sunni fighters on the US payroll are even called the “Kit Carson Scouts.”

All this is against current law, the Leahy Amendment of 1997 which expressly forbids US military assistance to governments or security forces that are known to be human rights violators. Why is this provision being ignored? Is it like the claim that violence is going down in parts of Baghdad, because there are fewer people for the death squads to kill. Will a day come when there will be no more human rights violations because there will be no more Iraqis with human rights to violate?

Fortunately, a few members of Congress - Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey - and one liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, want to stop our taxes going for torture. Their HR 3134, just introduced, would require the end of all funding of the Iraqi army and police forces unless expressly approved by a vote of Congress. We need the media and groups like the clergy and the ACLU to pay attention to this developing issue. Americans may be uneasy about immediately cutting off funding for American troops in the field, but would be opposed to taxes going for secret torture chambers and ethnic cleansing.

There is a gaping hole in the major peace proposals from Baker-Hamilton to Feingold-Reid to Clinton and Obama. All the discussion is about withdrawing combat troops while leaving thousands of American troops as trainers and advisers to these feuding sectarian and dysfunctional Iraqi security forces. This is not a recipe for ending the war, but for turning it into a low-visibility, lower-casualty conflict like Afghanistan.

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After fifty years of activism, politics and writing, Tom Hayden still is a leading voice for ending the war in Iraq, erasing sweatshops, saving the environment, and reforming politics through greater citizen participation.

Currently he is writing and advocating for US exiting Afghanistan. (more...)
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