<!-- Begin meta tags generated by ORblogs --> </meta name="keywords" content="progressive, liberal, politics, government, edit, language, grammar, accuracy, honesty, clarity, world, news, media" /> </> <!-- End meta tags generated by ORblogs -->> Editor at Large: Our presence in Iraq is the problem, not the solution

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Our presence in Iraq is the problem, not the solution

Iraq war journalist Nir Rosen says our presence in Iraq is what's causing the insurgency, and the insurgency would end if we left. Here's what else he says:

• "At some point - whether sooner or later - U.S. troops will leave Iraq. I have spent much of the occupation reporting from Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul, Fallujah, and elsewhere in the country, and I can tell you that a growing majority of Iraqis would like it to be sooner."

• "As the occupation wears on, more and more Iraqis chafe at its failure to provide stability or even electricity, and they have grown to hate the explosions, gunfire, and constant war, and also the daily annoyances: having to wait hours in traffic because the Americans have closed off half the city; having to sit in that traffic behind a U.S. military vehicle pointing its weapons at them; having to endure constant searches and arrests."

• "Would the withdrawal of U.S. troops ignite a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites? No. That civil war is already under way -in large part because of the American presence. The longer the United States stays, the more it fuels Sunni hostility toward Shiite "collaborators." Were America not in Iraq, Sunni leaders could negotiate and participate without fear that they themselves would be branded traitors and collaborators by their constituents."

• "But if American troops aren't in Baghdad, what's to stop the Sunnis from launching an assault and seizing control of the city? Sunni forces could not mount such an assault. The preponderance of power now lies with the majority Shiites and the Kurds, and the Sunnis know this. Sunni fighters wield only small arms and explosives, not Saddam's tanks and helicopters, and are very weak compared with the cohesive, better armed, and numerically superior Shiite and Kurdish militias."

• "Wouldn't a U.S. withdrawal embolden the insurgency? No. If the occupation were to end, so, too, would the insurgency. After all, what the resistance movement has been resisting is the occupation. Who would the insurgents fight if the enemy left? When I asked Sunni Arab fighters and the clerics who support them why they were fighting, they all gave me the same one-word answer: intiqaam - revenge. Revenge for the destruction of their homes, for the shame they felt when Americans forced them to the ground and stepped on them, for the killing of their friends and relatives by U.S. soldiers either in combat or during raids."

• "What about the goal of creating a secular democracy in Iraq that respects the rights of women and non-Muslims? Give it up. It's not going to happen. Apart from the Kurds, who revel in their secularism, Iraqis overwhelmingly seek a Muslim state."

• "Iraq is a destroyed and fissiparous country. Iranians and Saudis I've spoken to worry that it might be impossible to keep Iraq from disintegrating. But they agree that the best hope of avoiding this scenario is if the United States leaves; perhaps then Iraqi nationalism will keep at least the Arabs united. The sooner America withdraws and allows Iraqis to assume control of their own country, the better the chances that Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari won't face sahil. It may be decades before Iraq recovers from the current maelstrom. By then its borders may be different, its vaunted secularism a distant relic. But a continued U.S. occupation can only get in the way."

If all of this is true, then the arguments for remaining in Iraq are invalid. Which means the only real reason we have for staying in Iraq is the same reason we stayed in Vietnam for so long: to save face. But wouldn't we save more face by allowing Iraqis to assume control of their own country, and letting any chaos that resulted be their responsibility rather than ours?

(Excerpted from the article "If America Left Iraq," by Nir Rosen, The Atlantic Monthly.)

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