Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Iraq war is so over -- there and here

While many of us in this United States were enjoying our turkey and trimmings, Iraqis were debating/celebrating/denouncing the new "status of forces agreement" (SOFA) with the United States that will set the rules under which the U.S. is in Iraq -- until we are not. The agreement replaces the U.N. mandate Bush has been running the war under since he coerced the international body into giving him a fig leaf after invading without any plausible legal pretext.

It took a lot of arm twisting to get the Iraqi parliament to pass the agreement and it still faces a referendum vote by the Iraqi people. My favorite source for news of what Iraqis are thinking, McClatchy's Iraqi reporters, conducted a range of "man in the street" interviews:

November 27, 2008:
A Pact to End U.S. Occupation
Today is a historic day. Our parliament approved a pact that will put an end of the foreign troops on the Iraqi land.


I feel good. We should get rid of the (United Nations mandate). We shouldn't be under that anymore. In fact, we should have a coalition with a real strong country. This is the
best thing we can have. I'm not satisfied with it but I have to accept that this is the best choice.

Ammar al Samurrai, 37, an unemployed man in Baghdad


I am with this agreement, especially that this agreement will block the way of those who call themselves a resistance to the occupiers because we will have this agreement and the troops won’t stay in Iraq. We’ll have the same situation as many Arab states do, as they have bases for the Americans.

Ghasan Mohammed, Dihok, 26


Signing the agreement is better than not signing it because it will free us and we’ll get rid of (the United Nations mandate), and it will let the American troops be out of Iraq. We’ll achieve the sovereignty, which was put away from Iraqis. This is a happy thing, even though it will have some negative things in this agreement, like the immunity for the American troops. If we have it, it will be better than if we don’t.

Bassim Mohammed Sharif, Najaf, 32

These people aren't exactly jumping for joy, but they are convinced they are seeing the beginning of the end of U.S. occupation. I have to say I enjoy contemplating the humiliation it must have been for the conquering Bushies to have to negotiate their way out of their self-inflicted quagmire.

So what's all this mean on the homefront? I stand by my belief that the SOFA is nice -- and won't mean much concretely in the long run. The antiwar group Code Pink has the right slogan -- for most people in the U.S., "THE WAR IS SO OVER!" The incoming administration has a host of real problems and will want to get out as quickly and unobtrusively as possible.

Of course our delusional apostles of empire will try to delay the inevitable. We have trashed the country, smashed not only its infrastructure but also whatever social cohesion it once had, so we are not likely to be happy with the result. Gary Kamiya, in Salon, hazards some predictions. He is not a Pollyanna.

In a best-case scenario, Iraq will end up a fairly unstable state more or less closely aligned with Iran, with unequal oil revenue distribution and aggrieved Sunni and Kurdish minorities, but at least still unified, not plagued by major sectarian violence and not a declared enemy of the U.S. In a worst-case scenario, the country would become a failed state, descend again into violence on the scale of the civil war of 2006-2007 or worse and be a haven for jihadists and an open sore in the Middle East.

President-elect Obama is under increasing pressure to abandon his pledge to remove most U.S. troops in 16 months. [So far, he hasn't backtracked.] ... If we stay in Iraq, we are essentially acting as a referee, mediating between clashing sides and, if necessary, attacking them in an attempt to control the outcome of the game. ...

The crucial test Obama will face in Iraq is what he does when violence inevitably flares. If he continues to withdraw U.S. troops, he will be heavily attacked by the establishment, including some of his own national security advisors, for "losing" Iraq. But if Obama keeps the U.S. troops in place, he will simply be giving radicals an incentive to keep attacking them and creating chaos in Iraq.

The peace movement needs to
  • celebrate the inevitability of U.S. departure (as Code Pink does),
  • encourage any willingness we can find among our rulers to cut their losses in the light of domestic penury,
  • urge reparations to Iraqis because to do so is just,
  • and, above all, combat the "he lost Iraq" meme we can count on the right to try to hang on Obama if he really pulls out.
It's odd to imagine having the back of a sitting President, but that's our best case scenario.

This is a more complex program than "Bush lied; people died" but some of us need to be able to agitate for a higher standard.
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