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Taking Responsibility for Iraq

A theme regarding Iraq has emerged over many months: that the “responsibility” for Iraq’s future lies in the hands of Iraqis and their neighbors. As the Iraqis “stand up,” the U.S. will “stand down.” Iran and Syria must stop fomenting violence and help build New Iraq.

Sounds sensible, especially at first, especially when intoned by grave-sounding politicians. But what about the U.S.? Didn’t the U.S. cause the problem in the first place? And isn’t this all a bit like claiming (without evidence) that you feel your neighbor is a threat to you, and — against the opinions and wisdom of most of your other neighbors, and against the law — smashing your way into his house, killing his pregnant wife and son, and, after finding no evidence of a threat, staying and burning his electricity and eating his food? Then billing the man for the repairs, made by companies chosen at your behest? And chastising him for failing to make the house presentable for a party you’ve decided to throw for your friends ­ and calling him a “terrorist” when he tries to kick you out?

With new friends like the U.S., does New Iraq need enemies?

It must not be forgotten, as New Iraq falters, that what the U.S. invaded was a sovereign nation. That there was no legitimate reason to invade. As Ron Suskind shows in his book The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11, the Bush Administration operated under a rubric that if there was a at least a one percent chance that Iraq had WMD, then that chance would be treated as a certainty. A more irresponsible policy, given the stakes, given the predictions of the horrendous events that a war could unleash, could not be devised. That’s the charitable view ­ there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the Bush Administration simply defrauded us into the war.

Yet the president, his pom-pom boys, and his slippery apologists act as if this mess is the fault of the Iraqis, that somehow, since so many years have passed, the Iraqis should (like the mythic, good American), brush off the dust and blood and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. So now it’s OK for U.S. leaders to grow impatient with these people. After all, we’ve given them a shot at democracy.

Of course, that’s rubbish. New Iraq never had a chance after the U.S. cratered it into death and disorder. It’s now accepted wisdom that the U.S.’s disbanding of the Iraqi army was an idiotic move that fostered this chaos — the dangers were well-known but were ignored.

Now “The Decider” is outsourcing his decision-making to the (unelected, unaccountable) Iraq Study Group. This move is most likely not for new ideas, but political cover. The president has barked so loudly that he would “win” in Iraq, that now he must feel stuck; leaving would look like flip-flopping, and, apparently, changing one’s mind (in the face of reality) is for losers. But if the “realist” James Baker says it’s time for young George to pick up his toys and leave Iraq (three-plus years too late), the president might listen.

The Iraq Study Group also gives the Bush Administration cover to talk to Iraq’s neighbors Syria and Iran. The president has refused to speak to these countries because he doesn’t like what they’re doing. News flash: Syria and Iran are sovereign nations, and the U.S. is not a World Government. The refusal to acknowledge this fact, or to try to force these nations to change themselves into something that pleases the Bush Administration, is infantile. It’s time our leaders grew up.

And when they do, they’ll realize that the solution to Iraq is straightforward: The U.S. and its allies (accomplices) must pull out immediately. They must apologize to the Iraqi people, to Iraq’s neighbors (swarming with refugees), and to the world. The war was an outrageous violation of international law, and it was immoral. All U.S. and “coalition” businesses must decamp ­ no more no-bid, no-risk-of-loss contracts for Halliburton and other FOBs (Friends of Bush). Iraq’s economy must be returned to the Iraqi people. (The “coalition” signed a law in 2003 that opened Iraq to foreign investment (read: ownership).) The U.S. and its accomplices must fund the reconstruction, to be completed by whomever Iraqis choose to do it. The U.S. and its accomplices must also compensate Iraqis for the lives lost, the injuries caused, the lives interrupted and ruined.

There’s a straightforward way to describe this strategy. It’s called standing up and taking responsibility.

BRIAN J. FOLEY is a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law. For some of his past articles, visit www.brianjfoley.com He can be reached at brian_j_foley@yahoo.com