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November 15, 2003

As amusing as it is

Daniel Radosh

As amusing as it is to see Bush running for re-election on a "bring the troops home" platform, there's something very frightening about all this, and I'm saying that as someone who would like to bring the troops home (my brother in law is out safely, btw, for those who recall my previous Balls of the Eagle posts. Paraphrasing a couple of bloggers I read yesterday but don't have time to properly re-find and link to right now (sorry), there's a difference between doing something carefully, with a plan for the future and from a position of strength (intellectual and moral), and doing the same thing haphazardly and under the gun (literal). There is nothing in the Bush plan for withdrawal that indicates any concern whatsoever for what happens to the people of Iraq once we're out. It looks like he's counting on the possibility that once Americans are no longer dying, voters at home won't give a shit about the mess we left for the people who live there.

It's true that worked with Afghanistan but that was a different war for most of us. We invaded Afghanistan to end a direct threat to the US, and while there was some lip-service to improving the lives of Afghan people (and the Taliban was worse than Saddam, so things are generally better there, though still lousy) not many of us actually had high hopes that our invasion would cause democracy to flourish. Iraq, however, was sold to many many people almost entirely on the merits of democracy, whisky, sexy. (It was sold to many more on the grounds of imminent (yes, imminent) threat, but those folks have since been told to retroactively embrace the other agenda). I think (I hope, for the sake of Iraqis as well as the 2004 elections) that Americans will not so easily wash their hands of the problem this time.

It's also distressing, though unsurprising, to see so little range of discussion: stay or go, with no attempt to define what either of those means. Naomi Klein has made an admirable effort to change that:

But the "Troops Out" debate overlooks an important fact. If every last soldier pulled out of the Gulf tomorrow and a sovereign government came to power, Iraq would still be occupied: by laws written in the interest of another country, by foreign corporations controlling its essential services, by 70 percent unemployment sparked by public sector layoffs.

Any movement serious about Iraqi self-determination must call not only for an end to Iraq's military occupation, but to its economic colonization as well. That means reversing the shock therapy reforms that US occupation chief Paul Bremer has fraudulently passed off as "reconstruction" and canceling all privatization contracts flowing from these reforms.

In fact, I think if the US abandoned its economic colonization program and let the UN handle transitional government and civil functions (I know, I know, the UN has a lousy track record at such things. America's is better?) then I think US troops could stay and handle security at a much lower risk.

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