Bring Them Home

It is increasingly clear that the invasion of Iraq was the worst military miscalculation in US history. It was based on specious connections with the 9/11 terrorists, an assumption that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction and, more importantly, it was based on a neoconservative theory that ousting Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq would show the Arabs who was boss and cause Western-friendly democracy to bloom throughout the Mideast.

The American public recognizes the whole thing stinks. It’s time that Democratic leaders face up to it as well.

George W. Bush recklessly ignored the warnings from Arab and Islamic leaders of the dangers of toppling Hussein’s regime. Bush wouldn’t listen to his own father, who stopped the US military drive to Baghdad after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 because he recognized that the chaos after the fall of Saddam could be worse than his brutal but secular regime. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s prediction that the Iraq war would create “a hundred bin Ladens” was, if anything, too optimistic.

The invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks on the US — and which, it turned out, had no weapons of mass destruction, as UN inspectors tried to tell US officials — was relatively easy. But the occupation has been disastrous, starting with the Bush administration’s decisions to allow mobs to sack everything except the Oil Ministry and oilfields.

Far from being met with flowers and candy, as then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had predicted, the continued occupation of Iraq by US troops four years later has undermined US moral authority, legitimized terrorism in the eyes of many Islamic fundamentalists, exposed the limits of US military power and pushed the US further into debt. And the deployment of National Guard and Reserve units in the Mideast has limited their use in natural disasters or protecting the border at home.

Making things worse (or better, from the neocon point of view) Republicans reduced taxes on the rich even as they approved the military adventure — and congressional Democrats went along for the ride. The Bush administration financed the tax cuts by dipping into the Social Security Trust Fund surplus. Then Bush and the GOP complained that the retirement program was running out of money and would have to be privatized.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in November showed only 27% of the public approved of the way Bush has handled the war while 68% disapproved. An ABC/Washington Post poll taken at the end of October showed that Americans by a 16-point margin trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle the war better. But the Democrats are still reluctant to confront Bush over his mishandling of the war.

On Nov. 26 Bush signed a “US-Iraq Declaration of Principles for Friendship and Cooperation” with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki which commits US troops to occupy Iraq for the foreseeable future. The pact commits the US “to support the Iraqi government in training, equipping, and arming the Iraqi Security Forces so they can provide security and stability to all Iraqis; support the Iraqi government in contributing to the international fight against terrorism by confronting terrorists such as al-Qaeda, its affiliates, other terrorist groups, as well as all other outlaw groups, such as criminal remnants of the former regime; and to provide security assurances to the Iraqi government to deter any external aggression and to ensure the integrity of Iraq’s territory.” Translating that bureaucratese, two unidentified senior Iraqi officials told the Associated Press the Iraqi government expects the US to keep about 50,000 troops in the country over the long term. CBS News reported that Maliki also agreed to favorable business terms for American companies, including oil companies that could achieve the long-awaited windfall if Iraq can achieve enough stability to exploit its oil reserves.

Just a few years ago critics of the invasion were ridiculed for suggesting that control of the oilfields was the real reason for the invasion of Iraq. Now gas costs upwards of $3 a gallon, oil companies are recording record profits and Democrats are still dithering about whether to appropriate more money for the occupation. The top Democratic presidential candidates won’t even commit to pulling troops out of Iraq. Why? It turns out that nearly 4,000 American servicemembers’ lives, 50,000 wounded and countless Iraqis killed and wounded and the $500 billion we’ve spent so far is just the down payment on possession of those oilfields.

The Bush administration and its apologists warn that if US troops are withdrawn, Iraq will be plunged into a bloodbath, but Basra recorded a dramatic drop in violence after British troops left that southern Iraq city. If we leave the rest of Iraq, a bloody civil war might follow, but Iraqis can settle their own affairs. As Ron Paul has said, “The people who say there will be a bloodbath are the ones who said it will be a cakewalk or it will be a slam dunk, and that it will be paid for by oil. Why believe them?”

Congress should not appropriate any more money for Iraq without a commitment for withdrawal. If no such commitment is forthcoming, and if Republicans use Senate rules to block appropriations that require withdrawal, let them be framed as the obstructionists. If House leaders are still loathe to pursue impeachment, they at least should present a resolution of no confidence in the president.

The Real Conservative

A reader asks “How could you call yourself Populist and not mention Ron Paul?” Well, in our opinion Rep. Paul, R-Texas, is not a populist (at least under our definition that a populist believes the government should protect working people and small businesses against corporations and monopolists). Paul is a libertarian who believes in a lot less government than we think is prudent, but we give the good doctor credit for being perhaps the only true conservative in the Republican race for president.

Paul believes government has no authority to take any action not specifically authorized by the Constitution. We agree with his opposition to the Iraq war, most foreign entanglements and most “free trade” agreements (which he calls “managed trade”). We agree with his support for civil liberties, as befits the 1988 Libertarian candidate for president (he got 432,000 votes). If we were voting in a Republican primary he probably would get our support, but that is more a reflection on the rest of the GOP field than approval of the balance of his political beliefs.

For example, Paul opposed the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law not because it was a corrupt giveaway to pharmaceutical corporations but because it was a vast expansion of a federal program. His health care proposal is to remove regulations, encourage competition, allow health savings accounts and present “real choices” for the uninsured, he says, but he would get the federal government out of health-care management. He proposes to abolish the income tax and the Internal Revenue Service, arguing that the federal government could do without the $1.1 trillion the income tax brings in. Paul has talked about eliminating foreign aid, agriculture subsidies and the federal departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Labor, Commerce and Health and Human Services, most of whose duties he thinks could be transferred to the states (which would just transfer that tax burden to the state level). Paul opposes US support for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He proposes to withdraw the US from the United Nations.

If you agree with Paul, good for you; we’re glad you’re reading our paper, but Democrat Dennis Kucinich matches most of the things we agree with Paul on, and Kucinich also agrees with us on the need for national health care and the need for a federal government that protects working people, small businesses and family farmers. And if it comes down to the top three candidates as we head into the caucus and primary season, John Edwards is the pragmatic progressive populist choice. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2007

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