Published on Sunday, November 23, 2003 by the Toronto Sun
Mr. President, Oil Isn't Worth Dying For
by Eric Margolis
NEW YORK -- President George Bush should heed the wise old New York garment district maxim: "First loss, best loss."
Translated from New Yorkese, this means when you get into a bad deal, bail out fast. The longer you stay in and refuse to face reality, the more you will end up losing.
That, alas, is just what Bush is doing in Iraq. Better he had gone to the garment district for hard advice instead of the regal photo op in London thrown for him by Queen Elizabeth and her dysfunctional family.
In spite of the royal welcome in a nation that increasingly resembles a giant theme park for American tourists, many Britons were appalled by the visit. They greeted Bush and his preposterously bloated entourage, worthy of Kublai Khan, with about as much warmth as they did the Spanish Armada.
Tony Blair, Bush's de facto foreign minister, salaamed and scraped with unctuous zeal before the visiting Emperor of the West. But at least the Queen summoned up enough pride to refuse White House demands that heavily armed U.S. agents be granted full legal immunity to shoot down threatening Britons.
Back to losing. President Bush's crusades in Afghanistan and Iraq have turned into bloody, expensive messes. These neo-colonial misadventures may soon cost $2 billion U.S. weekly, plus the deaths and wounding of growing numbers of Americans, allies dragooned into service in Iraq and Iraqi civilians.
The so-called political process in both nations is a farce. Their U.S.-installed regimes are widely viewed as quislings. In Kabul, the U.S. at least has an amiable figurehead, Hamid Karzai. No suitable Iraqi yes-man has yet been found. But the White House, seeing its pre-election popularity dropping fast, is desperately seeking some way out of the Iraqi hornet's nest into which it so foolishly stuck its thick head.
Facade of power
Bush just announced - shades of Richard Nixon - that the Iraq war would be "Iraqized." A facade of political power will be handed over to an Iraqi government. But U.S. troops will stay on for years for "security." What happens if the "independent" Iraqi regime tells U.S. forces to leave? A speedy regime change, no doubt.
The Pentagon plans to build three major bases in Iraq from which to police the central Mideast and guard America's new imperial oil lifeline from Central Asia, down through Afghanistan, to the West.
Anyone who remembers Vietnam, which Iraq increasingly recalls, knows "Iraqization" won't work. Meanwhile, Iraq's Shia majority remains quiet only because it fears Saddam Hussein may return. Ironically, if the U.S. hunts down and murders Saddam, the Shia will rise up and demand an Islamic republic - just what the White House seeks to avoid.
Any free vote in Iraq will produce the same result. Maybe that's why Saddam has not yet been found. So take Bush's calls for Arab democracy with much salt. The only truly free vote held in the Arab world - most of which is controlled by the U.S. - brought to power in Algeria a moderate Islamic government. It was promptly overthrown by the army, with backing from the U.S. and France.
But Bush dares not withdraw American troops from Iraq so long as the elusive Saddam stays alive. Imagine a triumphant Saddam mooning Bush from "liberated" Baghdad. The Democrats would make falafel of the president.
Neo-conservatives insist the U.S. can't withdraw because of loss of face and prestige. Retreat will encourage terrorism, claim these sofa samurais.
Nonsense. America shrugged off retreat from Vietnam and Indochina. All good generals know when to fall back, and - unlike the neo-cons who engineered these stupid wars - always leave open a line of retreat. No one cared about Afghanistan when the Soviets killed 1.5 million of its people, nor about Iraq when it lost 500,000 soldiers fighting Iran, or 500,000 children due to the punitive U.S. blockade. Why care now?
"We just can't cut and run," said Bush in London, trying to sound Churchillian. Why not? The best way to get the U.S. out of this quagmire is to follow France's sage advice: bring in a UN-run government as a fig leaf, declare victory, and pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, chaos will ensue. But Iraq and Afghanistan are in chaos now, and terrorism, as we saw in Istanbul last week, still rages.
Get out now before the U.S. gets sucked ever deeper by "mission creep" into a decade-long morass in Mesopotamia. There's still time.
Yes, Saddam or his lieutenants and Arab radicals will crow, but Israel survived similar crowing when it wisely ended its disastrous colonial adventure in Lebanon.
Immediate retreat saves $100 billion-plus. Iraq and Afghanistan are not worth the lives of one more American or Canadian soldier, nor more wear on overstretched U.S. forces. Withdrawal will damp down raging anti-Americanism around the globe.
Time to end the megalomania, paranoia and crazy biblical geopolitics that drove the U.S. into these profitless conflicts.
Mr. President, be a real mensch and a true patriot by admitting you were wrong, and just get out.
P.S. It's cheaper to buy oil than to conquer it.
Copyright © 2003, CANOE, a division of Netgraphe Inc.