Apr 28, 2008
On March 7, this year, the U.S. and Iraqi governments worked out a secret draft agreement authorizing the stationing of U.S. troops in Iraq. The agreement has only now come to light. Like all the other agreements, it pretended that U.S. troops are to be in Iraq on a “temporary” basis. But there are no time limits set in the agreement, no limits on the number of troops the U.S. can base in Iraq, no restrictions on their powers over Iraqi citizens.
In other words, the end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq is nowhere in sight.
Even if the scheduled troop “withdrawals” happen at the end of July, the military admits there will still be 140,000 troops in Iraq. When the “surge” started, there were 128,000 troops in Iraq. So we’re worse off than when the “surge” started.
Even General David Petraeus was forced to admit, “We haven’t turned any corners. We haven’t seen any lights at the end of the tunnel. The champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator. And the process, while fragile, is reversible.”
Bush, speaking after Petraeus appeared before Congress, said, “I’ve told him he will have all the time he needs.”
But “time” is exactly what the people of Iraq do not have. Over 4.5 million people have been driven from their homes. Two million have fled the country. The rest were driven into sectarian and ethnic enclaves, controlled by the various militias, which exert a mafia-like control over these areas. Baghdad has been divided into a series of refugee camps.
The Iraqi government, working with the U.S., had to admit that more civilians had been killed in March than at any time since last summer. Yet, Petraeus told Congress violence is on the decline. Apparently, he doesn’t count the deaths of Iraqi civilians as “violence.”
Violence on the decline? Tell that to the civilians ground up in the fighting in Basra or in Baghdad’s Sadr City. Tell that to people in ethnic and sectarian camps who can’t get out to go to market. Time has run out for them.
And “time” has run out for U.S. troops in and out of Iraq – the more than 4,000 who have already been killed in Iraq and the 10,000 or more veterans who killed themselves during this war. The 35,000 who suffered permanent injuries. The tens of thousands of them in the U.S. who can’t get a job. Those out in the streets, homeless. The hundreds of thousands who have psychiatric problems because of what they did, saw and had done to them – but can’t get an appointment at a veteran’s hospital.
McCain says he will follow the military’s recommendations. Clinton and Obama are trying to ride the population’s disgust for Bush and this war. But none will commit to ending the war as soon as they get in office. All three say they will extend the war in Afghanistan.
For people who want an end to this war, the worst thing would be to sit back and wait on the election – and that’s true even if one of the candidates promised to bring all U.S. troops out of Iraq as quickly as they could be put on ships and planes.
Waiting on the election means waiting until November, then until January 20, when the new president takes office, then waiting on all the bureaucratic maneuvering that goes on inside government, while watching the oil companies and big military contractors pour on the pressure to continue the war.
How many more lives will be lost by waiting, how much more money wasted that should be spent on constructing things here, not destroying things in Iraq?
We don’t have time to wait – not us, not the Iraqi people, not the U.S. troops.
Any of these three candidates could be forced to stop the war immediately – but only if the population doesn’t wait on them to do it, only if the population forces the issue, increasing its protests, reinforcing all those troops who have made it clear they aren’t ready to fight any more in Iraq.