The good news is that the Republicans lost.
The bad news is that the Democrats won.
The burning issue — US withdrawal from Iraq — remains as far from resolution as before.
A clear majority of Americans are opposed to the war and almost all of them would be very happy if the US military began the process of leaving Iraq tomorrow, if not today. The rest of the world would breathe a great sigh of relief and their long-running love affair with the storybook place called "America" could begin to come back to life.
A State Department poll conducted in Iraq this past summer dealt with the population’s attitude toward the American occupation. Apart from the Kurds — who assisted the US military before, during, and after the invasion and occupation, and don’t think of themselves as Iraqis — most people favored an immediate withdrawal, ranging from 56% to 80% depending on the area.
The State Department report added that majorities in all regions except Kurdish areas said that the departure of coalition forces would make them feel safer and decrease violence.
George W. is on record declaring that if the people of Iraq ask the United States to leave, the US will leave. He also has declared that the Iraqis are "not happy they’re occupied. I wouldn’t be happy if I were occupied either."
Yet, despite all this, and much more, the United States remains, with predictions from Pentagon officials that American forces will be in Iraq for years. Large US military bases are being constructed there; they’re not designed as temporary structures. Remember that 61 years after the end of World War II the United States still has major bases in Germany. Fifty-three years after the end of the Korean War the US has tens of thousands of troops in South Korea.
Washington insists that it can’t leave Iraq until it has completed training and arming a police force and army which will keep order. Not only does this inject thousands more armed men — often while in uniform — into the raging daily atrocities, it implies that the United States is concerned about the welfare and happiness of the Iraqi people, a proposition rendered bizarre by almost four years of inflicting upon those same people a thousand and one varieties of hell on earth, literally destroying their ancient and modern civilization. We are being asked to believe that the American military resists leaving because some terrible thing will befall their beloved Iraqi brethren. ("We bomb you because we care about you" … suitable to be inscribed on the side of a cruise missile.) Even as I write this, on November 14, I read: "An overnight US raid killed six people in mainly-Shia east Baghdad, sparking angry anti-US protests. Thirty died in a US raid on the Sunni stronghold of Ramadi, Iraqi officials said."
At the same time, the American occupation fuels hostility by the Sunnis toward Shiite "collaborators" with the occupation, and vice-versa. And each attack of course calls for retaliation. And the bodies pile up. If the Americans left, both sides could negotiate and participate in the reconstruction of Iraq without fear of being branded traitors. The Iraqi government would lose its quisling stigma. And Iraq’s security forces would no longer have the handicap of being seen to be working on behalf of foreign infidels against fellow Iraqis.
So why don’t the Yanquis just go home? Is all this not rather odd? Three thousand of their own dead, tens of thousands critically maimed. And still they stay. Why, they absolutely refuse to even offer a timetable for withdrawal. No exit plan. No nothing.
No, it’s not odd. It’s oil.
Oil was not the only motivation for the American invasion and occupation, but the other goals have already been achieved — eliminating Saddam Hussein for Israel’s sake, canceling the Iraqi use of the euro in place of the dollar for oil transactions, expansion of the empire in the middle east with new bases.
American oil companies have been busy under the occupation, and even before the US invasion, preparing for a major exploitation of Iraq’s huge oil reserves. Chevron, ExxonMobil and others are all set to go. Four years of preparation are coming to a head now. Iraq’s new national petroleum law — written in a place called Washington, DC — is about to be implemented. It will establish agreements with foreign oil companies, privatizing much of Iraq’s oil reserves under exceedingly lucrative terms. Security will be the only problem, protecting the oil companies’ investments in a lawless country. For that they need the American military close by.
WILLIAM BLUM is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.
He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com