Last week I read a front-page story in The New York Times reporting that U.S. guards employed by a private security company fired into a car carrying four Iraqi people in Baghdad. The driver and a woman in the front seat were killed, while another woman and a child in the back seat survived this unprovoked shooting.

Coming on the heels of the Sept. 16 episode where guards of Blackwater USA, a private security company (i.e. a privatized mercenary army) fired on innocent Iraqis, leaving 17 dead and 27 wounded, this latest incident is sure to raise to a higher pitch the public outcry in the United States as well as Iraq against these unconscionable atrocities and private security firms.

While the killers and their employers should be prosecuted to the maximum and while the privatized armies should be disbanded, these unprovoked attacks and resulting carnage should raise once again the need to end the occupation immediately.

The occupation is the problem

For in the last analysis, the occupation is the immediate problem. Everything else — unprovoked killings of innocent Iraqis, torture, sectarian civil war, the deaths of American men and women in the springtime of their lives, the mounting loss of the treasure of the Iraqi and American people — either follows in the train of or is greatly aggravated by the nearly five-year occupation of a dignified people and country.

Much like other imperial occupations in the previous century, the U.S. occupation is both a root and an immediate cause of the present civil strife in Iraq. Any hope of a democratic and nonsectarian Iraq and ending the bloodshed requires the full withdrawal of American troops and presence in Iraq and the region.

This won’t guarantee a positive outcome for Iraq, but it is a necessary condition for that possibility. As international relations theorist Stanley Hoffman wrote three years ago in the New York Review of Books, once an end to the occupation is announced and the troops begin to leave, a new political dynamic internally and externally will begin to take hold. Space will be created for a broad range of domestic, regional and international forces and institutions — and especially an empowered United Nations — to make available massive economic, social and technical resources to rebuild the devastated country as well as to pressure for the political reconciliation of competing forces and to stabilize a fragile state.

Participants in the region and elsewhere will seek advantage in this process to be sure (how could it be otherwise given Iraq’s size, location and oil resources?), but the idea promoted by Bush that its neighbors have an interest in Iraq descending into chaos is not only wrong, but also a smokescreen to establish facts on the ground for a long-term U.S. military and political presence in Iraq.

Presidential politicsAdditional coverage: PA Radio #45: Ending the Iraq War and the Struggle for the 2008 Elections

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Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a long-time writer living in New York. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.