For the vast majority of Americans and Iraqis the only victory regarding the war in Iraq requires an immediate pullout of all foreign troops. While politicians and pundits have framed the debate over the war in terms of military victory versus cutting and running versus redeployment, we must make it clear to each other and the new Democratic leadership in Washington that Americans–soldier or civilian–and Iraqis are losing every second this disaster of a war continues, and the muddled debate over timetables is just delaying ending a policy that was a mistake from day one.
The war serves no purpose for most of us. There are no weapons of mass destruction and never were. There were no ties to Al Qaeda or plans to support a terrorist attack on Americans. The Iraqis want us to leave, most Americans want our soldiers out, even our “volunteer” soldiers are coming forward with their discontent in increasing numbers.
The Nation is reporting this week that hundreds of American soldiers have been signing onto an internet Appeal for Redress. As one of the signers–a U.S. Army Sergeant deployed with the 20th Infantry Regiment near Mosul–explained, “So far in three years we have succeeded in toppling a dictator and replacing him with puppets. Outlawing the old government and its standing army and replacing them with an unreliable and poorly trained crew of paycheck collectors. The well is so poisoned by what we have done here that nothing can fix it.”
Yet we continue to kill Iraqis, send our young people to die and spend billions on this war either because we’ve yet to reach some undefined “victory,” or as others argue, we can’t abandon Iraq to chaos and civil war. Both reasons to stay are hollow rationales for pure Western imperialism.
Last week Donald Rumsfeld left his position as Defense Secretary and during a farewell address said, “It may well be comforting to some to consider graceful exits from the agonies and, indeed, the ugliness of combat. But the enemy thinks differently.” As usual, “the enemy” was not easily defined. But Rumsfeld’s enemies are certainly different from the enemies of most Americans.
A victory for the Bush administration, most politicians in Washington, or the executives at Halliburton and Lockheed Martin is not the same as a victory for working-class American soldiers or the average American facing cuts to social services, difficulty affording health care and other problems that continue to mount as billions of our tax dollars go to war. For Washington and much of corporate America, the reasons are clear: Maintain dominance in the region, particularly because of the oil that exists there, and keep the war machine a strong, profitable and necessary part of what defines our foreign policy. This isn’t how they sell the war to Americans of course, because none of this benefits us, and most of us would never support such an endeavor.
Indeed most of us don’t support this war despite all the lies of the Bush administration and spin of the cable news cheerleaders. Demanding and getting an immediate pullout would be an incredible victory for democratic principles. Demanding and getting an immediate pullout from the new Democratic leadership, which is now content with calls from Bush and McCain for more troops in Iraq, would be a rare blow against U.S. imperialism.
Politicians from both political parties are trying their best to take the clear mandate of the November elections–widespread desire for an end to the Iraq war–and come up with a policy that will both silence opposition and bring about their narrow victory. They are committed to continuing war and occupation regardless of the sentiment of the American people. They must believe they know what is best for America; they believe the American people can’t be trusted with or don’t understand matters of foreign policy. And those who insist we must remain in Iraq to clean up the mess we caused apparently know better than the Iraqi people what they need, since large majorities of Iraqis want us out.
It is most Americans and the Iraqi people who pay while these politicians discuss “options,” “timetables,” and “redeployment.” Every day millions of Americans are spending part of their day working to fund this war on behalf of the handful of politicians, executives and shareholders who might actually benefit. Each day American soldiers and Iraqis are dying for the selfish interests of a few. Every day that it continues we all continue to lose. Victory for most; victory for all of us requires immediate withdrawal.
CARLOS VILLARREAL is the Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild of the San Francisco Bay Area. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org