When we look at the women and men of the US armed forces, we see many young faces, idealistic, loyal to their country and fellow troops, our children, parents, siblings, co-workers, teachers, baseball coaches, auto mechanics, students. Unfortunately, that is not what many of the people of Iraq see.
Though the men and women in the US armed forces did not decide to invade Iraq, did not appoint the “Governed Council,” did not privatize Iraqi resources, and are only doing what they’ve been told will make the situation better, to a growing number of Iraqi people, those US faces in uniforms and tanks represent all they hate and fear.
Suppose some outside Enemy Forces decided they didn’t like our president, thought he might have weapons of mass destruction, would not hesitate to use them, and even had nations in mind that he would like to invade—a real threat to the stability of the world. Suppose then, those Enemy Forces invaded, arrested or killed US government officials, destroyed the US electrical grid and water supply, confiscated all US resources and businesses and handed control of US profit centers to their own people. Would we cooperate? If Enemy Forces deployed tanks down our streets, wrapped our neighborhoods with razor wire, blocked access to hospitals, and took all males over 10 in the dead of night and held them in detention centers or shot them, would we take them into our confidence?
What if they told us we could live in peace if and only if we cooperated with them, helped them arrest our neighbors and cousins who had resisted, and welcomed the new government that they would control?
Can you imagine the desperation, hatred, loathing that would be evoked by the very sight of the faces and uniforms of those Enemy Forces —walking our streets, controlling our country, and holding us in such a stranglehold that we had no way out?
Sad though it is to accept, after a year of occupation and a decade of sanctions, the faces of US and coalition troops, those faces of our family and friends, represent to many Iraqis domination, humiliation, the hated enemy. If conditioning can teach the hungry to salivate at the sound of a bell, what can 20,000 more US faces with more guns and more razor wire elicit from an already desperate people?
US troops—of any number—cannot now bring real calm and cooperation to Iraq, least of all with guns, when their very faces represent the core source of the Iraqi rage. The only way to true calm and a spirit of cooperation is elimination of the sources of Iraqi rage: US occupation forces, and what they stand for—a US puppet council, US profiteering, and a dictated constitution that “invites” permanent US military bases.
The only way to finish what we started—if the goal is democracy for Iraq—is to give up US control—all of it—and hand it over to an international team for transition to the Iraqi people. Bring home US troops now . . . unless control of Iraqi oil at any cost is the real goal.
Dr. Virginia Hoffman (email@example.com) is a Senior Lecturer at Loyola University Chicago and a licensed Couple and Family therapist.