FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Getting Out of Iraq

by NORMAN SOLOMON

This week began with the New York Times noting that “all of Washington is consumed with debate over the direction of the war in Iraq.” The debate — long overdue — is a serious blow to the war makers in Washington, but the U.S. war effort will go on for years more unless the antiwar movement gains sufficient momentum to stop it.

A cliche goes that war is too important to be left to the generals. But a more relevant assessment is that peace is too vital to be left to pundits and members of Congress — people who have overwhelmingly dismissed the option of swiftly withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Last Thursday, a high-profile military booster in Congress suddenly shattered the conventional wisdom that immediate withdrawal is unthinkable. “The American public is way ahead of us,” Rep. John Murtha said in a statement concluding with capitalized words that shook the nation’s capitalized political elites: “Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME.”

Murtha’s statement has broken a spell. But the white magic of the USA’s militarism remains a massive obstacle to bringing home the U.S. troops who should never have been sent to Iraq in the first place.

There has been no outbreak of conscience in editorial offices or on Capitol Hill. Deadly forms of opportunism are still perennial in the journalistic and political climates that dominate official Washington. The center of opportunistic gravity may have shifted in a matter of days, but the most powerful voices in U.S. media and politics are still heavily weighted toward the view reiterated by President Bush on Sunday: “An immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq will only strengthen the terrorists’ hand in Iraq and in the broader war on terror.”

“Immediate withdrawal” may be a misnomer — Murtha, while calling for it, has urged complete removal of U.S. troops from Iraq within six months. But that’s much more forthright than the position taken by Sen. Russell Feingold, who last summer began to urge full withdrawal by the end of 2006 — a position that won a lot of praise from progressives at the time even though, in effect, it endorsed a continued U.S. war effort in Iraq for another 16 months. Feingold’s position for a pullout deadline now looks pro-war compared to what Murtha is advocating.

On Capitol Hill and among the punditocracy, the failure of the Bush administration to show military progress in Iraq has made the war politically vulnerable. But that line of critique leaves a somewhat clear field for the White House to keep claiming (however implausibly) that U.S. military forces and their Iraqi government allies are turning the corner and can look forward to Iraqization of the war. Today’s White House line is akin to the “light at the end of the tunnel” and Vietnamization talk 35 years ago.

If the Pentagon had been able to subdue the Iraqi population, few in Congress or on editorial pages would be denouncing the war. As in so many other respects, this is a way that the domestic U.S. political dynamics of the war on Iraq are similar to what unfolded during the Vietnam War. With the underpinnings of war prerogatives unchallenged, a predictable response is that the war must be fought more effectively.

That’s what the great journalist I. F. Stone was driving at when he wrote, a few years into the Vietnam War, in mid-February 1968: “It is time to stand back and look at where we are going. And to take a good look at ourselves. A first observation is that we can easily overestimate our national conscience. A major part of the protest against the war springs simply from the fact that we are losing it. If it were not for the heavy cost, politicians like the Kennedys [Robert and Edward] and organizations like ADA [the liberal Americans for Democratic Action] would still be as complacent about the war as they were a few years ago.”

In the United States, while the lies behind the Iraq war become evermore obvious and victory seems increasingly unreachable, much of the opposition to the war has focused on the death and suffering among U.S. soldiers. That emphasis has a sharp political edge at home, but it can also cut another way — defining the war as primarily deplorable because of what it is doing to Americans. One danger is that a process of withdrawing some U.S. troops could be accompanied by even more use of U.S. air power that terrorizes and kills with escalating bombardment (as happened in Vietnam for several years after President Nixon announced his “Guam Doctrine” of Vietnamization in mid-1969). An effective antiwar movement must challenge the jingo-narcissism that defines the war as a problem mainly to the extent that it harms Americans.

Countless pundits and politicians continue to decry the Bush administration’s failure to come up with an effective strategy in Iraq. But the war has not gone wrong. It was always wrong. And the basic problem with the current U.S. war effort is that it exists.

NORMAN SOLOMON is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

 

 

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

Weekend Edition
April 29-31, 2016
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
Alice Donovan
Cyberwarfare: Challenge of Tomorrow
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
April 28, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz Díaz
Puerto Rico: a Junta By Any Other Name
Alfredo Lopez
Where the Bern is Fizzling: Why Sanders Can’t Win the Support of People of Color
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail