Tuesday, July 05, 2005

What Is the Right Path in Iraq?

It's increasingly evident that the reasons the Bush administration gave us for going to war in Iraq were lies. The Downing Street Memo and other information reveal that Bush and his cohorts cooked up the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" excuse to go in and get rid of Saddam Hussein.

It's also evident that the U.S., as far back as the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration, were heavily involved in supporting Saddam Hussein, supplying him with the vaunted weapons of mass destruction in the first place--including the poison gas that wiped out a village of Kurdish citizens. Our smooth talking current secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was personally involved in that little transaction. In effect, U.S. policy over decades helped create the Saddam Hussein who became the monster he is.

So now what do we do? Many Democrats are calling for the U.S. to announce a specific withdrawal date. I don't know whether that's the right thing to do or not. Like it or not, we're in Iraq, we've blown the place to bits, and we've instigated an insurgent rebellion that threatens both our own troops and innumerable Iraqi civilians. To pull out without creating a peaceful civil environment could mean a bloodbath that rips that country apart and visits decades of death and destruction onto its innocent citizens. Maybe if we do a few other things first, we'll find it easier to extricate ourselves, sooner, rather than later.

One thing we need to do, right now, is to strip any profit motive from U.S. involvement in Iraq. Halliburton specifically is guilty of enormous profiteering; we need to crack down hard on their abuses, punish any illegal activity on their part, and impose penalties on any civil violations.

Reports from Iraq place the Iraqi unemployment rate as high as forty percent. We need to employ Iraqis in much greater numbers, and pay them equitably for their work. The U.S. authorities in Iraq are importing workers from places like India and paying them five times what Iraqis are being paid; U.S. contractors are being paid astronomical wages compared to Iraqis. Security concerns are cited as one reason we don't hire more Iraqis; but we have technology available that would help to protect workers from suicide attacks. We now have scanners that can electronically strip people down to their skivvies and reveal any hidden weapons; if we can afford to drop bombs on the Iraqi people's heads at a million dollars a pop, then we can afford to provide these scanners to work sites all over Iraq.

Some areas in Iraq have been cleaned up and rebuilt, but many others still have streets flooded with raw sewage and other debris; other locations are still without water and electrical power, while the billions of dollars allocated for the rebuilding process sit unspent. We need to cough up the cash now, to get the Iraqi people back to some reasonable quality of life.

We need to consider nationalizing Iraqi oil fields and hand the profits over to the Iraqi people, rather than having Western companies skimming off most of the profits. We also need to provide the gas they need for their cars so they don't have to spend six or eight hours in gas lines.

We need to stop building the eleven permanent military bases that belie the notion that, according to Bush, we don't want to be there any longer than we have to.

Finally, we need to hold the Bush administration's feet to the fire, and probe the truth in regard to the Downing Street Memo, any possible connection between Vice President Cheney and the no bid contracts handed to Halliburton, and a myriad of other inconsistences and lies on the part of the administration. If need be, we need to be prepared to run these jokers out of town on a rail, and put someone into office who, at the very least, will approach the Iraqi conflict with honorable intent
We do have a template for possible success in Iraq; not the Vietnam War, certainly, but our own American Civil War. Historians have called into question the real motives behind that war, claiming that it was not for the noble purpose of eliminating slavery, but for a host of economic and political reasons. And that may be true; the human reason the Civil War began may not have had idealism behind it. But the fact remains that the fortunes of the Union cause shifted once Abraham Lincoln dedicated himself to the moral necessity of freeing the slaves and acted on it in his Emancipation Proclamation; the Union began to win.

We may never know the real motives behind the Bush administration's rush to war; but I believe most of the American people genuinely have the best interests of the Iraqi people at heart. People can genuinely disagree with the U.S. invasion of Iraq and still see the necessity of protecting the Iraqis from those who would harm them. Most of us, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, want every Iraqi man, woman, and child to be safe, and free, and able to carve out their own destiny. We don't want to see any more deaths--of our own soldiers or of Iraqis.

We don't have control over the insurgents and their behavior, and we certainly don't approve of their murderous actions; but we'd rather see the insurgents experience a shift in their thinking and stop the suicide attacks than for us to be at war with them for the next decade. A different approach in Iraq may or may not quiet the insurgency; the situation is very complex, and fueled by a number of different splinter groups, all with their own agendas. But who knows? When all American actions in Iraq, both military and civilian, truly and fully represent our deepest and best wishes for the Iraqi people rather than self-serving, capitalistic profiteering, when we tap into the core of what the Iraqi people need, and put as top priority their own best interests, perhaps our fortunes in Iraq will shift.

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