On March 19, 2003, our television screens were filled with blinding flashes illuminating the night skies over Iraq as President George W. Bush launched his shock and awe invasion. To some viewers, and perhaps Bush’s advisers, it may have seemed like a video game war, with flares, explosions and superheroes swiftly vanquishing the (nonexistent) weapons-of-mass-destruction-wielding foe. The end result, after a quick victory, would be a conveniently compliant Iraq regime that would play ball with Washington and Big (U.S.) Oil.
Five years later, the human and political disaster is almost impossible to quantify.
Bush’s troop surge has rearranged the problems, rather than solving them. Suicide bombings and other attacks decreased for a while in heavily U.S.-patrolled Baghdad, but moved to other parts of the country. The U.S. turned to providing arms and cash to groups previously linked to armed attacks, setting them up to patrol neighborhoods, thereby creating new breeding grounds for conflict.
Pentagon statistics themselves show violence in Iraq is increasing. Last week, eight U.S. soldiers were killed in a single day, while the daily death toll for Iraqi civilians from bombings and other attacks, which had declined for a few months, is ticking upward.
A few days ago the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, resigned, reportedly pushed out because he disagreed with the surge and feels overall U.S. objectives are harmed by being bogged down in Iraq. Yet Bush is trying to rush a deal to lock in long-term U.S. military and corporate control of Iraq, without consent of Congress or Iraq’s Parliament.
We and others have long called for bringing our troops home. A year ago, the AFL-CIO said, “It is time to bring our military involvement in Iraq to an end,” and urged Congress to “insist on a timetable for disengagement.”
In 2006, former Sen. George McGovern and Middle East diplomat and scholar William Polk presented a thoughtful plan combining bringing troops home within six months, regional diplomacy, international peacekeeping and no-strings reconstruction aid for Iraq.
Other plans are out there. What’s needed is action. The Republicans continue to block moves by Congress in this direction. A decisive GOP defeat is needed in November to break that logjam and end the war.