George Bush’s State of the Union speech provided every single US resident that opposes the war in Iraq with a reason to take that opposition into the streets. His argument that ending the US military involvement in that nation would lead to extremists running the world is nothing new, but his insistence that this would create an environment that provided “an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources and an even greater determination to harm America” is certainly a step up in his rhetoric. According to MR. Bush and his advisers, the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq would spell the end of the world for all freedom-loving Americans and place them in a never-seen-before danger.
To put it as bluntly as possible and without obscenities, let me say HOGWASH! The withdrawal of US troops from Iraq would not spell the beginning of the end of the world as we know it. Nor would it mean the eventual rule of Osama bin Laden and his band of zealots. Instead, it would provide the Iraqi people of all political stripes an opportunity to take control of their nation. No longer would there be US troops staging military operations in their cities and villages. No longer would there be US military commanders and spies running a war to suit Washington’s ends while creating a climate that killed 34,000 Iraqis last year alone. No longer would there be Washington’s economic experts trying to force the IMF neoliberal economic formula down the throat of Iraq’s sickly economic system. no longer would there be sham elections that the people stand in line to proudly vote only to have their votes mean less than the votes for Al Gore did in the 2000 Florida presidential balloting.
Indeed, a US withdrawal might even spell the end of the ability of Salafist and Wahabbi networks in Iraq to maintain their battle against the United States. After all, it is to the benefit of these Islamist cells for the US troops to stay, since it is the presence of the US troops that fuels their sectarian war on everyone with whom they disagree. In fact, a US withdrawal would certainly increase the chances that the truly nationalist forces currently fighting in the resistance would be willing to engage in political battles more than military ones since their primary goal of making the invader and occupier leave would have been achieved.
If I were an Iraqi, I would be quite insulted by Mr. Bush’s speech. His supposition that there would be a “contagion of violence” if US troops were to leave because extremists from all sides would battle sounds a hell of a lot like he is calling most Iraqis extremists bent on battling until their country is destroyed. ignoring the obvious fact that there has been a contagion of violence in Iraq since the US/UK brought it there in March of 2003, Mr. Bush’s implication is a crude interpretation of the Orientalist fantasy that all Arabic people are violent and bloodthirsty. Of course, this fantasy was developed by European invaders who came intent on conquering Arab lands and took great pride in the spilling of Arab blood. Now, if someone invaded where you live, don’t you think you might take up arms against them, especially if they killed you women and children without remorse?
But this piece isn’t really about Mr. Bush. It’s about Congress. You know, the folks we in the United States elected in November to get us out of the war in Iraq. Well, they’re backsliding already. Mr. Bush’s little burst of the same old 911, terrorism, Al-Queda rhetoric the night of January 23rd might fog up their politician brains even more. Our job is to not let that happen. Our job is to make sure it doesn’t happen. Out job is to insist that those men and women in Congress end the war in Iraq immediately. Not in June. Not in August. Not in 2008 or later, but immediately.
The first big step in this process was the election. The next big step comes this Saturday, January 27th in Washington, DC, San Francisco and elsewhere. Those cities are hosting antiwar protests on that day with the demand Troops Out Now. If you weren’t planning on going to one of these protests, then you need to reconsider. Put aside your personal plans and get on a bus, a train, a plane or in a car and head to a protest. This is not a time to backslide for us as citizens against the war or for the legislators we elected to end the war. If we allow Messrs. Bush and Cheney to get away unchallenged with their escalation, then we will most likely see these men and their fellow extremists expand their war and destroy the freedoms we cherish.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is forthcoming from Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org