Iraq is a quagmire, steadily getting worse, as anyone who reads the newspaper knows. Attacks against U.S. forces, our allies, and Iraqis seen to be collaborating with us, are on the rise, alarmingly so. Thirty-five children were killed September 30 in car bomb attacks aimed at U.S. soldiers who were distributing candy at the dedication of a new sewage treatment plant. The sooner the U.S. government admits failure and plans for the withdrawal of our troops, the better for all involved.
Instead, the mainstream media is full of reports that the U.S. military, in coordination with hastily-recruited and trained Iraqi government troops expected to be on the front lines, will initiate an escalation of the war in Iraq by launching a major offensive in November, after the U.S. elections. (Last week's assault on Samarra was likely the first salvo in this offensive.) This is allegedly necessary to secure control over the "Sunni triangle", Sadr City in Baghdad and other areas of Iraq not under U.S. military or Iraqi government control in order to hold elections in January.
A military offensive that escalates the fighting in Iraq would be a disastrous bloodbath, pouring gasoline on a fire already raging out of control. All-out civil war in Iraq and further international condemnation of the U.S. could ensue.
The Bush-Allawi plan to train Iraqi troops to lead the offensive echoes President Nixon's attempt at "Vietnamization" of the Vietnam War over 30 years ago, and is likely to bring a similar result -dismal failure. Is it so hard to fathom that Iraqi troops are not eager to fight and kill other Iraqis?
Concerned voters in the U.S. need to make this planned escalation of the war the major issue of the presidential campaign. Americans opposed to the war must demand that President Bush and Senator Kerry renounce plans for a post-election military offensive that will deepen the already grave crisis in Iraq, abandon plans for an open-ended military occupation, and instead pledge to bring American troops home as soon as possible.
Contrary to what the deluded neo-conservatives running our foreign policy might say, this would not be a victory for the terrorists. It would be a victory for the people of Iraq, and for Americans. The alternative, an intensification of the war and an indefinite occupation, will result in the deaths of thousands more Iraqis and U.S. troops, and harm U.S. security, perhaps irreparably, by earning us new enemies every day.
After a firm announcement is made that U.S. troops are leaving on a definite, relatively short timetable, elections would likely proceed with a much higher degree of support in Iraq and internationally.
The U.S. must abandon plans for any direct or indirect control over Iraqi oil, for fourteen "enduring" military bases and a huge, imperial embassy/CIA station. We must provide serious reconstruction aid via Iraqi companies that put Iraqis to work, instead of fattening the bottom lines of Halliburton, Bechtel and other Administration-connected companies. Putting Iraqis to work would be the single best thing we could do to lessen the armed resistance. Finally, we need to support Iraqis and the UN or other international bodies in organizing elections.
None of this can happen without that first step, an announcement that we are leaving within a fixed, relatively short period of time, no longer than six months.
While John Kerry has not done himself proud with conflicting positions on Iraq, this is George W. Bush's quagmire. He must answer these questions: What will this escalation of the war cost in lives, dollars, and increased Iraqi resistance? Exactly how will this make Iraqis and Americans safer?
Should Bush lose the election, win under suspicious circumstances, or if the outcome of the election is unknown for a period of time as in 2000, it would be particularly illegitimate of him to approve a military offensive that would escalate the killing in Iraq.
John Kerry needs to denounce the planned military offensive, and if he wins the White House, call it off. If as president-elect he allows the military escalation to occur, it could be his Bay of Pigs, and harm his presidency just as John Kennedy's was by the foolish plan to invade Cuba he inherited from Dwight Eisenhower and didn't cancel despite his misgivings.
As long as we occupy their country, many Iraqis will resist. As Bush himself said, "No one likes being occupied." Our occupation is the problem, and continuing and intensifying it is not the solution.
Kevin Martin is the Executive Director of Peace Action, the nation's largest peace and disarmament organization with over 100,000 members across the country and chapters in 30 states. Peace Action is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.