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.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail