Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community
We Can't Do It Without You!  
     
Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives | Search
   
 
   Headlines  
 

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article
 
 
Heard on the Horizon: Calls to Get All U.S. Troops Out of Iraq
Published on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Heard on the Horizon: Calls to Get All U.S. Troops Out of Iraq
Anti-war voices joined by some in the establishment
by Edward Epstein
 

WASHINGTON -- The idea is still a relative whisper in the broader American political discussion, but more and more people are raising the idea of withdrawing the 138,000 U.S. forces from Iraq.


A U.S. withdrawal would be preferable to what we have now. The idea that more U.S. troops will improve the situation is wrong. The truth is the opposite.

Stephen Zunes
It's an idea that President Bush and his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, scorn. Kerry has even indicated he might send in more troops to stabilize Iraq. On Tuesday, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz -- one of the architects of the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein -- told the House Armed Services Committee that U.S. forces may have to stay in Iraq for years.

But as American casualties mount, with military deaths approaching 1,000 and with more than 5,100 wounded, analysts have begun talking about withdrawal as a viable option. The idea could become an issue in the presidential campaign, especially since independent candidate Ralph Nader embraces the notion.

"A U.S. withdrawal would be preferable to what we have now,'' University of San Francisco politics Professor Stephen Zunes said Tuesday in Washington, D.C. "The idea that more U.S. troops will improve the situation is wrong. The truth is the opposite.''

"The war was based on a lie,'' added Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. "We should get U.S. troops home as soon as possible.''

Zunes and Bennis are affiliated with the anti-war Foreign Policy in Focus think tank, which has long been critical of Bush's policy toward Iraq. But calls for a withdrawal have come in recent weeks from such mainstream voices of the Washington establishment as the Brookings Institution's James Steinberg and Michael O'Hanlon. They said Americans should be pulled out by late next year, after Iraqis vote on a new government and adopt a constitution. Longtime State Department official Morton Abramowitz has also proposed a phased withdrawal.

An anti-Iraq war umbrella organization, Win Without War, also backs a phased withdrawal, and has planned protests and vigils across the country this weekend to make its views heard.

A task force from the libertarian Cato Institute has called for withdrawal by next January, saying the occupation of Iraq has distracted from the fight against the al Qaeda terrorist network.

But so far, the withdrawal movement has gained little support in Congress, although some liberal Democrats have been pressing the White House to set a timetable for achieving goals in Iraq and bringing troops home. The prevailing view in Congress is that prematurely leaving Iraq would leave that country in chaos.

"This approach could result in Iraq descending into ethnic or religious squabbling, or both, and national and regional instability and the prospect that Iraq will become a terrorist haven,'' Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the Armed Services Committee's ranking Democrat, said at Tuesday's hearing with Wolfowitz.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, said, "I'm deeply concerned about a precipitous withdrawal of troops, for whatever reason, in the short term, if we don't achieve a political end state that is satisfactory to the American people.

"If we cut and run in the next few months, none of this will work for the long-term stability of the region and certainly not for the people in the United States,'' she said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who recently visited Iraq, said Bush and Kerry need to talk about the issue with the American people during the campaign.

"Regardless of who wins, the American public needs to be ready for the idea that there will be troops in Iraq at least to December of '05 in large numbers because internationally we cannot fail; domestically we cannot fail in Iraq,'' he said. "This is larger than the election.''

Many who are pushing for the United States to withdraw its troops say that while Iraqis may be grateful for Hussein's departure, they won't accept a foreign occupation and will never accept the legitimacy of Iraqi leaders associated with the occupation, such as those in the interim government that takes formal power next week.

In fact, withdrawal advocates contend, many of the attacks on U.S. soldiers and civilian contractors arise from nationalist feelings, rather than terrorism tied to Hussein's deposed Baath Party or al Qaeda or other groups.

"Declaring a timetable for withdrawal would eliminate most resistance,'' said Anas Shallal, an Iraqi American who was a founder of the Mesopotamia Cultural Society.

So far, Kerry -- who voted for the October 2002 resolution that authorized Bush to go to war in Iraq -- has called for creating a NATO mission to Iraq to further internationalize the forces there; appointing a United Nations high commissioner to oversee reconstruction; and the increased training of Iraqi security forces.

But the Democratic candidate has rejected calls for a withdrawal.

"It would be unthinkable now for us to retreat in disarray and leave behind an Iraq deep in strife and dominated by radicals,'' he said in a recent radio address.

But public opposition to the war continues to increase. A Washington Post/ABC News poll reported on Tuesday that 52 percent of those surveyed said the war is "not worth fighting." Seventy percent said the level of casualties is "unacceptable."

Support for the president's handling of Iraq policy dropped to 44 percent of those surveyed in the new poll, compared with 55 percent who disapproved.

If Nader proves a potent factor in the fall and public opinion continues to build for a withdrawal, Kerry could face pressure to change his position in order to keep his most liberal supporters.

Wolfowitz, who just returned from Iraq, told a House committee Tuesday that he was impressed with the incoming Iraqi caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who has plans to set up an Iraqi army and security forces that can handle more of the country's security burden.

Despite that, he conceded that U.S. forces may be in Iraq for a long time.

"Is it your testimony you think we might be there, then, a good number of years?'' Skelton asked.

"I think it's entirely possible,'' Wolfowitz said. "But what I think is also nearly certain is the more Iraqis step up -- and they will be doing so more and more each month -- the less and less we will have to do.''

© 2004 San Francisco Chronicle

###

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article

 
     
 
 

CommonDreams.org is an Internet-based progressive news and grassroots activism organization, founded in 1997.
We are a nonprofit, progressive, independent and nonpartisan organization.

Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives | Search

To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Copyrighted 1997-2011