America may be heading home from Iraq sooner than many of
us realize. For the implied message of the president's address at the Army War
College in Carlisle, Pa., is that America wants out of Iraq.
Rereading that speech, one finds in it little of Churchill's
"We-shall-fight-them-on-the-beaches" defiance. Rather, the president laid out
a five-step strategy to secure "freedom and independence, security and
prosperity for the Iraqi people" – and then depart.
The five steps? Besides helping to establish security, rebuild infrastructure
and increase international aid, they are to transfer sovereignty to a
U.N.-appointed interim government by June 30 and hold elections by Jan. 31 for
a national assembly. Says Bush, the interim government "will exercise full
sovereignty." But full sovereignty means control of foreign forces. It means
the authority to tell the U.S. military it cannot attack sanctuaries like
Najaf and Fallujah without Baghdad's approval. China, France and Russia want
that restriction written into the U.N. resolution Bush is seeking. And Tony
Blair has said that any government appointed by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, a
Sunni Arab, will have the power to restrict U.S. military operations.
Why might this mean the war may end sooner than imagined?
With a majority of Sunnis and Shiites now hostile to a continued U.S. military
presence, how many Sunni or Shiite leaders, either appointed or elected, will
defy the popular will and authorize American attacks on their co-religionists?
How many will publicly agree to permanent U.S. military bases inside their
Should the new interim government remain silent in the face of a U.S. attack,
say, on Fallujah, would it not be seen as a puppet government? Would not its
leaders risk the fate of Izzedine Saleem, leader of the Iraqi Governing
Council killed by car bomb at the gates of the Green Zone?
If the Iraqis tell us to stop initiating attacks, U.S. officers will have
three options. They can defy Baghdad and refuse to fight under rules of
engagement handed down by Iraqi politicians sympathetic to the enemy. They can
accept the orders from Baghdad, which would enrage and inflame the Army. Or we
can declare the U.S. military does not take commands from local rulers or U.N.
bureaucrats, withdraw and come home.
It is hard to believe President Bush or the U.S. military will allow any
U.N.-appointed Iraqi government to tell us when, where or how we must fight.
Hence, an early collision between Gen. Abizaid and the new U.N.-appointed
government seems inevitable.
And this summer and fall, as the election campaign heats up for the national
assembly, how many candidates will be willing to run on a "Stand by Uncle
Sam!" platform? Is it not more likely that, seeing how popular Sheik Moqtada
Al Sadr became by defying America and killing our troops, candidates will
appeal to voters by pledging to end the occupation and send the Americans
How will Americans react to Iraqi politicians, whose freedom is being
guaranteed by U.S. troops, campaigning openly for the ouster of those American
troops from the country?
At Carlisle, President Bush spoke of a swift transfer of power to Iraqi
officials and security forces. As was always inevitable in this war, the
president must now begin to rely on Iraqis themselves for the attainment of
his strategic goals. But when have Iraqi forces ever taken the initiative and
attacked the insurgents?
"Fallujah must cease to be a sanctuary for the enemy," said the president. But
when the Marines pulled out of Fallujah and we left it to Iraqis to deal with
the militias, the Baathists and foreign fighters, what took place was not a
fight, but fraternization.
President Bush has called Iraq the central front in the war on terror and his
"world democratic revolution." He is now wagering the success of both causes
on an Iraqi police and army that have yet to show any of the willingness to
fight exhibited by the insurgents in Fallujah or the militia of Al Sadr.
The neoconservative dream was to create a pro-American, free-market democracy
in Iraq to serve as a model and catalyst for Arab peoples and convert Iraq
into a base camp of American Empire, flanking Iran and Syria. It was to bring
to power an Iraqi DeGaulle named Ahmed Chalabi, who would recognize Israel,
build a Mosul-to-Haifa oil pipeline and become the Simon Bolivar of the Middle
That utopian vision has vanished. President Bush has rejoined the realist
camp. We are not going deeper in. We are on the way out.
© 2004 Creators
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