Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Iraq: Leave Or Be Forced Out

By Gareth Porter

"While George W. Bush continues to use the rhetorical device of linking the occupation of Iraq with the war on terrorism, warning in his most recent press conference that “the terrorists would take control of Iraq” if the U.S. withdrew its forces. But for many politicians and pundits the argument that has kept them supporting the occupation is that withdrawing too soon would make sectarian violence even worse. This argument for continued occupation is not based on the real political-military situation in Iraq, and it is important to understand why.

It is not that the civil war won't get worse in Iraq; it now seems very likely that it will. But the United States is not militarily capable of preventing the worse war yet to come, and trying to do so would only start a new war between the United States and the Shiites who want the U.S. to leave. Since we cannot prevent sectarian violence, the only question is whether we leave before the inevitable confrontation with Shiites—a battle U.S. troops would certainly lose.

No, the withdrawal of U.S. forces will not result in an outbreak of sectarian violence leading to civil war. That’s already happening. Now, the only recourse for the United States is to pursue the course that the Bush administration has thus far resisted: dropping its threatening demeanor toward Iran and working with it and Iraq’s Arab neighbors to craft a settlement that would constrain the Shiite militia and prompt the kind of political and economic concessions to Sunni minority that could bring a Lebanon-style peace between the two communities. But to get the Sunnis on board, such a settlement would require that Bush agree to a timetable for withdrawal.

The argument that U.S. occupation is the only thing standing between Iraq and complete civil war and chaos argument is symptomatic of a broad refusal to face unpalatable realities that has distorted the national discourse on Iraq. In order to make the national decision to end the occupation, the pundits and politicians will have to face those realities squarely and start making them part of that discourse. Meanwhile, our troops are doing no good to anyone as sitting targets for both sides."

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