Archive for Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Quick exit would be wrong move in Iraq

June 27, 2007


— It's easy to get very, very angry at the Bush administration when you are visiting the Iraqi capital.

The violence causing Iraqis such hideous pain and claiming more U.S. troops can be traced directly to the mistakes made by U.S. officials - before and after the invasion. You will hear this truth - often in harsher tones - from U.S. military commanders, top Iraqi officials, and ordinary Iraqis here.

Many Iraqis find it hard to believe the Americans could have made such a mess unless they secretly meant to destroy the country. Conversations echo the despair of Tamara Daghistani, a well-educated Iraqi from a prominent family who opposed Saddam Hussein before the invasion; now she helps Iraqi refugees fleeing the violence for Jordan.

"We got rid of Saddam for this?" she asks bitterly. "We are losing more good people than under Saddam."

But righteous anger at the Bush team doesn't answer the urgent question before us: What do we do now?

Ten days in Baghdad have impressed on me one basic principle Congress must grasp: We can't afford to leave a power vacuum in Iraq. What does this mean in practical terms?

It may be emotionally satisfying to say, "Let's get the hell out of Dodge" by swiftly withdrawing our troops since they can't seem to stabilize the situation. It may offer legislators political cover to call for timelines and funding cuts if Iraqi leaders don't meet U.S. benchmarks. It may make right-wing talk jocks feel righteous to tar war critics as traitors, while inanely calling for "victory" with no grasp of the disaster.

But none of these approaches helps Iraqis or us.

Iraq is on the verge of becoming a failed state, and we can't let that happen. We can't afford to leave as heedlessly as we came.

Iraq's security vacuum is largely the result of U.S. policy decisions. We foolishly disbanded, rather than revamped, the old Iraqi army; the new one we've created is still penetrated by militias that contribute to sectarian violence.

Iraq's paralyzed politics are also the result of a system U.S. officials promoted. We helped draft a constitution that created a weak prime minister; former U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad (now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations) backed the choice of the inadequate prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, rather than promote the candidacy of the far more competent Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

We also underestimated the impact of decades of oppression on Iraq's political climate. This has fostered gross corruption, violence and sectarian political parties.

What, then, to do now?

First, give the new U.S. military strategy a chance, as it aims to drive al-Qaida and hard-line Saddamists out of Baghdad and the suburbs around it. For the first time, the U.S. military is coordinating with Iraqi tribes, in recognition that it desperately needs the help of local fighters (it also should vet and upgrade Iraq security forces much faster than it is doing now).

This military strategy may or may not work, but it deserves a few months beyond September, the date when Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in Iraq, is supposed to report to Congress. Everyone knows - even without official timelines - that U.S. forces will be drawing down by 2008, both because of election-year politics and because the Army is overextended. Any drawdown will be far less risky if troops can curb al-Qaida before they begin to exit.

Second, be more realistic about setting benchmarks for Iraqi leaders. Right now, the Iraqi system barely functions, so benchmarks have little real meaning. Nor can political reconciliation occur between Shiites and Sunnis without competent leadership.

Some senior Iraqi officials are trying to make the system work better; we should give them more assistance. That may mean helping them change the prime minister.

Third, be more realistic about the need to keep a troop presence in Iraq for the medium term, provided this is done in coordination with the Iraqi government.

A total U.S. pullout before Iraq's stability improves would feed this trend and embolden radical Islamists throughout the region. Most Iraqis believe it would spark an even more vicious civil war and a more drastic refugee outflow. Humanitarian aid organizations, which strongly opposed the war, fear a hasty U.S. exit will worsen the refugee crisis.

It's well and good to vent against Bush's Iraq errors, but we shouldn't make the same mistake he did. He confused swift entry into Iraq with victory over the Baathists. We mustn't presume swift withdrawal will free us from the mess he made.

- Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer.


Steve Mechels 10 years, 7 months ago

It is not just the Bathists. There was a well established underground(s) in Iraq before we invaded. We are now seeing the struggle for supremacy between them. This is no longer our fight.

DaveR 10 years, 7 months ago

We convene the Security Council & Iraq's various neighbors ASAP, we work out some sort of multi-party solution & we get the hell out. We are a large part of the problem. We need to get us out of there. We need to get neutral forces in & us out.

Every year we've been there it's gotten worse. It might be a matter of misplaced pride, but I'll swallow pride to stop senseless killing any day.

Are we not already in talks at the UNSC? Are we not already deeply into talks with Iran & Turkey & Syria & Jordan & Saudi Arabia? No? Then what in hell are we waiting for!? A new president?

How cowardly!

Richard Heckler 10 years, 7 months ago

On radio this AM there is fear that because Bush has maintained his stay the course so long that in an effort to save republicans he may do something very stupid on a withdraw of troops, in such a fashion, that it will create further hell for all including our troops.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 7 months ago

Poll: Support for Iraq War at New Low A new poll shows support for the Iraq war has reached an all-time low of thirty-percent. According to CNN, nearly two-thirds of Americans favor an immediate withdrawal. More than half say U.S. action in Iraq is not morally justified.

GOP Senators Call for Change of Course on Iraq Meanwhile criticism of the war is growing within Republican ranks. On Tuesday, Senator George Voinovich called on President Bush to develop a plan for an eventual US withdrawal from Iraq, warning "we are running out of time." His comments come one day after Republican Senator Richard Lugar gave an un-announced speech on the Senate floor calling for the reduction of US troops in Iraq.

Republican Senator Richard Lugar: "In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved. Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term." Richard Lugar is the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 7 months ago

Government said to have lost control of Basra

By Kareem Zair Azzaman, June 27, 2007

As U.S. troops battle to retake Baghdad and surrounding areas, the government is reported to have lost its control of Basra where almost all of the countryââ /¢s oil exports originate.

The city, according to well-placed sources, is under the hegemony of militias who do not run its streets only but have imposed levies and taxes on oil output.

ââ ÅIt may be too late for Prime Minister Nouri al-Naliki to restore control of Basra,ââ  one source working for Iraqi intelligence said.

The sources, who all spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, point to the growing Iranian influence in Basra and most of southern Iraq.

The loss of Basra to Shiite militias is a blow to current U.S. military operations mainly directed against Sunni rebels and elements of al-Qaeda group in the country.

The four-month long operations in which tens of thousands of U.S. marines are involved have foundered due to tough resistance from various Iraqi groups particularly those linked to al-Qaeda.

British troops in Basra are almost powerless as their previous military tactics to retake control of the city have all but backfired.

Attacks on British troops have increased significantly recently. Roadside bombs target British armored convoys and their barracks come under frequent mortar attacks.

The sources said Basra was in the midst of ââ Åhuge chaosââ  with the political factions and their militias dividing the city into zones of influence.

Senior Iraqi officials, refusing to be named, said Maliki was concerned about latest developments in Basra and other southern cities.

The decline of government control in these areas comes as Iraqi and U.S. troops are engaged in fierce fighting with Sunni resistance and armed groups across the central part of the country.

The officials said Maliki intends to deploy two army battalions and a commando police force in the city to strengthen the provincial government there.

But according to intelligence reports it will take a much bigger force to take on the heavily armed militias in the city.

Control of border points is no longer under the control of government troops and so are the city ports through which a sizeable portion of the countryââ /¢s imports comes.

The Oil Ministryââ /¢s supervision and administration of oil fields, terminals and a major refinery is only symbolic with militias in actual control of Basraââ /¢s oil industry.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 7 months ago

The USA needs to give Iraq back to the people. We invaded their country and they are fighting for their land,families and resources. Not everywhere in the world needs to be like the USA. Stealing countries resources and killing people is not setting a good example of how the far greater majority of americans feel. We, like the greater majority of the world's citizens would like to put war,killing and invading other countries in a trash can and toss away.

It's the elected(?) leaders that are the problem.

Mkh 10 years, 7 months ago

"Quick exit would be wrong move in Iraq"

Who cares? We are Not Exiting Iraq, and certainly not quickly. We have built 14 permanent military bases and are currently installing a final plan to ensure that US Oil Companies will control Iraq's oil supply and production (read the Iraqi Hydrocarbon Law).

We are not leaving Iraq. End of story.

Mkh 10 years, 7 months ago

RT, since your actually on topic I'll respond.

The "permanent" military bases are designated as such because they are designed for long term occupation usage. There are many of examples of this around the world.

As far as the "oil conspiracy", get informed by something besides Fox and LJW and you'd probably understand a lot more.

As I said read the Iraqi Hydrocarbon Law

It's all right there infront of you.

Mkh 10 years, 7 months ago

What in God's great world are you talking about Ferd? I made no personal attacks and have engaged in No Conspiracy Theories! For crying out loud this is a Law being passed through Iraqi Parliament which gives foreign oil companies exclusive control over the Iraqi's oil production.

I just reporting the facts! You know, we report, you decide. Get a grip Ferd.

Mkh 10 years, 7 months ago

"And speaking of bases, we still have 75k troops and a half a dozen bases in Germany-for 60 years!"

Exactly RT, very good, that is one of the many examples I was talking about. I love how you Think you are arguing with me while proving my point.

Roadkill_Rob 10 years, 7 months ago

What oil conspiracy?

No WMDs and Halliburton has control over the oil fields. Are either of these points invalid? Can any of you neocons prove these points wrong? If so, please do. If not, then I don't see a conspiracy theory...I do see a couple of facts that point to corruption and greed, though. At best, it's one heckuva coincidence.

Roadkill_Rob 10 years, 7 months ago

RT wrote:

"It's only my opinion and maybe it's screwed up, but I realize this is too blatant for the rest of the world to stomach. But as far I'm concerned, screw the world too."

Um, yeah, this pretty much says it all. Well done, MKH! I've never seen RT's panties get into such a bunch.

ndmoderate 10 years, 7 months ago

I wonder what Bush and Cheney would think of this article? Or the Joint Chiefs of Staff? Would they dismiss the whole of the article out of hand because there is some criticism of Bush policies intertwined between (gasp!) ACTUAL cogent remarks about our current situation in Iraq?

What Would Sean Hannity Do?

ndmoderate 10 years, 7 months ago

Now that you mention it, greyheim...

Ferd IS Hannity! Hannity IS Ferd!

(oh, god...)

blessed3x 10 years, 7 months ago

"A new poll shows support for the Iraq war has reached an all-time low of thirty-percent. " -Merrill

So are you as mad about the overwhelming majority of American voices that are being ignored by our Congress and President regarding illegal immigration?

Didn't think so.

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