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A Rice-Wolfowitz Exit Plan?

Is the End of the Iraq War/Occupation Near?

by RALPH NADER

The anti-war movement may finally find some concurrence inside part of the Bush administration.

On March 28, columnist Robert Novak, who has a long history of credible reporting and strong contacts in the Bush administration, reported in The Chicago Sun-Times that there is "determination in the Bush administration to begin irreversible withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq this year." Novak gives credit primarily to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who he says "is expected to support administration officials who want to leave even if what is left behind does not constitute perfection."

Novak reports that the national consensus and the preponderance of Republican opinion support withdrawal saying: "President Bush,s supporters believe it is time to go and leave the task of subduing the insurgents to Iraqis." Indeed, polls show a majority of Americans disapprove of Bush,s handling of the war and according to a recent Harris poll 59% want most of U.S. troops home within a year even if Iraq does not have a stable government.

What is driving the administration, in addition to public opinion, is the weight of more than 1,500 U.S. soldiers who have died and tens of thousands injured or sick in the Iraq War. According to Novak, the administration has concluded: "That is too heavy a price to continue paying for not letting Iraqis try to make the best of their country now that we have eliminated Saddam Hussein."

The article refers to Paul Wolfowitz who Novak describes as "a pragmatist who views an intrusive U.S. occupation in Iraq as a political benefit for the insurgency."

These concerns echo a statement publicly expressed by CIA Director Porter Goss who testified before the Senate in February that Iraq has become a training ground for terrorists saying: "These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups, and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries."

It seems many of President Bush’s top advisors and some Congressional Republicans are telling him the U.S. needs to get out of Iraq. If Novak is right, perhaps Bush and Cheney are finally listening. Perhaps.

However, a withdrawal can take many forms. The plan for withdrawal we put forward at DemocracyRising.US calls for a dual withdrawal of the U.S. military as well as U.S. corporate occupation.

The military withdrawal needs to include stopping construction on the 14 "enduring" military bases that are being built to provide the United States with a large military presence in the region. Withdrawal needs to mean that the U.S. military will leave the country.

And, a corporate withdrawal is also needed. The U.S. has tried to remake the Iraq economy so that U.S. corporate interests could take it over. Paul Bremer put in place rules that allowed for massive foreign ownership and domination of Iraqi businesses, low corporate tax rates, immunity protection from lawsuits and now allowing workers to form trade unions. The U.S. needs to give Iraq its economy back and let them determine their own future.

In the DemocracyRising.US withdrawal plan we urge continued humanitarian aid to Iraq to rebuild its infrastructure. The U.S. invasion of Iraq and the long-term US-led economic sanctions and embargoes of products critical to public health against Iraqi civilians resulted in tremendous damage to people, especially their children and the Iraqi infrastructure. During the Clinton administration economic sanctions brought ruin to the Iraqi economy and the loss of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. The current illegal war and occupation have devastated the country. Therefore, the US has a responsibility to the Iraqi people so Iraq can become a functioning nation again. However, we should not allow U.S. oil and other corporations to profit from the illegal invasion and occupation of their country. Control over Iraqi oil and other assets should be exercised by Iraqis.

There may be light at the end of the tunnel. The anti-war movement can have a larger impact soon. It is time for us to redouble our efforts to ensure a complete and responsible U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. We have the power to make this happen.

RALPH NADER is a consumer advocate, former presidential candidate and advocates an end to the war and occupation of Iraq. You can comment on this column by visiting the Nader blog at www.DemocracyRising.US.

Robert Novak, "Rice likely to back Iraq pullout," March 28, 2005, http://www.suntimes.com/output/novak/cst-edt-novak281.html