Saturday, March 04, 2006

why are we still there?

(cross-posted at daily kos)

iraq: dateline, february 2006.

insurgents. jihadists. militias. suicide bombers. death squads.

at least 30,000 and up to 100,000 or even more dead; many tortured, executed. over 40,000 injured. perhaps 1,000 more each month.

in the midst of this abbatoir: a 20-something, over-extended guardsman from anytown u.s.a. who doesn't speak the language, doesn't look like the locals. her assigned task: "security". what can she secure? according to respected middle-east scholar juan cole, not much, not even her own safety:

"sunni arabs in iraq blamed us troops for not protecting sunni mosques and worshippers from violence. the us military ordered the us soldiers in baghdad to stay in their barracks and not to circulate if it could be helped. (later reports said some us patrols has been stepped up.) this situation underlines how useless the american ground forces are in iraq. they can't stop the guerrilla war and may be making it worst [sic]. last i knew, there were 10,000 us troops in anbar province with a population of 1.1 million. what could you do with that small force, when the vast majority of the people support the guerrillas? us troops would be useless if they hcad [sic] to fight in alleyways against sectarian rioters. if they tried to guard the sunni mosques, they'd have to shoot into shiite mobs, which would just raise the level of violence they face from shiites in the south."

it seems crystal clear that u.s. forces have been reduced to serving only one function in iraq: target practice. the majority of iraqis feel that attacks on u.s. troops are justified. with reconstruction effectively halted, and no further funds forthcoming, guess who bears the brunt of civilian frustration? as long as u.s. troops stay in iraq, they remain too convenient as scapegoats for everything there that continues to go wrong:

"on saturday, al-sadr's movement joined sunni clerics in agreeing to prohibit killing members of the two sects and banning attacks on each other's mosques. the clerics issued a statement blaming "the occupiers," meaning the americans and their coalition partners, for stirring up sectarian unrest." (AP)

having successfully alienated all the rival factions, the u.s. no longer can find any meaningful candidate to partner with. cooperation with the u.s. has become the literal kiss of death in iraq, delegitimizing and rendering impotent any iraqi that might still wish to help implement any american plan for recovery.

there have been many calls, out of feelings of both guilt and pride, to, in so many words, clean up the mess that iraq has become. such calls, even if somewhat narcissistic, might be lauded for their acceptance of our ultimate responsibility. others call for us not to allow iraq's oil infrastructure to become incapacitated or be altogether destroyed. such calls are compelling for their sobering practicality. still other calls demand that we keep the conflict from engulfing the entire region, for the sake of stability and security. but our guilt, pride, practicality, stability and security cannot be helped by staying in iraq if in fact our presence has no positive influence whatsoever.

withdrawal from iraq removes both a focus for much iraqi anger and an easy excuse for iraqi dysfunction. most importantly, withdrawal will save lives that can be saved. the time for withdrawal is long overdue.

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