A campaign is being launched this week by a host of groups including Progressive Democrats of America, Peace Action and others to demand an exit strategy from Iraq. A central part of these efforts is a new petition which lays out a way to get out of Iraq and will be presented to Congress in mid-September.
This comes at what could be a tipping point moment. The country is waking up to the truth that Bush's decisions have led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 1,800 Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, while making the US, the world and Iraq less secure. A majority of Americans now understand that we were deliberately misled into war; a majority recognize that the US made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq; and a majority believe that no matter how long US troops remain there, they will not be able to establish a stable, democratic government.
Cindy Sheehan's dignified and defiant stance in Crawford has highlighted the callousness of a President who lacks the compassion to grieve or mourn for those he sent into battle. As E.L. Doctorow wrote last year, "I fault this president for not knowing what death is...He does not feel a personal responsibility for the thousand dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be."
President Bush should meet with Sheehan. But, even more important, he should listen to the grieving mother, and to the growing number of military families and citizens who are demanding an end to the disastrous occupation of Iraq. Bush should also listen to those who will testify at informal Congressional hearings--now expected on the eve of the September 24 to 26 antiwar demonstrations--designed to explore possible exit strategies. It is anticipated that leading US academics, opposition politicians, civil society activists and Iraqi parliamentarians seeking an end to US occupation will testify.
And for those interested in an honorable and speedy exit strategy, please read, circulate and sign the petition published below. The petition is a response and challenge to the charge that peace and security advocates have no plan. The truth is that Secretary Rumsfeld has no exit strategy--only a "victory strategy." The truth is that the leadership of the Democratic Party has offered no alternative to Bush's policies beyond invading Falluja, adding more American troops, training more Iraqis and providing better body armor. All these policies are failing and will continue to fail. But there is another option: adopting a framework of conflict resolution as the alternative to permanent war and occupation.
Last August, we lived through the filth of the Swift Boat Veterans' mendacious attacks on John Kerry. One year later, America's attention is riveted by the moral protest emanating from Camp Crawford. What was once considered "marginal" is now at the center of our national conversation. Perhaps most significant, a large majority of people in this country agree with Sheehan that some or all US troops should be withdrawn from Iraq. If you're one of them, read the petition below and click here to add your name to this growing antiwar effort.
A Petition for an Iraqi Peace Process
"For Mr. Bush, questions about an exit strategy in Iraq have become especially delicate as a crowd of anti-war protestors has expanded at the edge of his ranch, rallying around Cindy Sheehan, the California woman whose son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004."
--New York Times, Aug. 12, 2005.
Like our friend Cindy Sheehan, we are tired of waiting for our troops to come home. We are tired of the bloodshed, tired of tax dollar waste, tired of torture cover-ups, tired of contractor scandals, tired of deceit and fabrication. We are tired of elected officials with profiles in compromise rather than courage.
It is dishonest to admit there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, only to invent new reasons for inflicting mass destruction on that country.
It is dishonorable to fix the facts around the policy.
It is unacceptable to admit that going to war was a mistake, only to claim that the mistake must be perpetuated.
Because we cannot wait for our government to lead, we shall become leaders in ending the war ourselves. We shall propose an exit strategy from Iraq and demand that our government listen and follow. Because we cannot wait for our government to plan for peace, we call on civil society to make our government pay attention.
There are simply no military solutions to this bloodshed. The American military presence, threatening to Iraqi nationalism, religion and culture, is the main cause of the violent response from Iraqis. US policies are pushing Iraq toward civil war, with our government funding and arming Shiites and Kurds against Sunnis. Nearly half of the Iraqi national assembly has called for the "departure of the occupation". The State Department's own internal surveys show that a majority of Iraqis feel less safe in the presence of the American occupying forces. Since the invasion and occupation, the status and safety of women in Iraq have declined precipitously.
Iraqis themselves are calling for the end of occupation. One million recently signed a petition demanding the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq. Initial peace talks among Iraqis are already underway. Our government is deaf to these Iraqi voices for peace.
It is time to shift from a military model to a conflict-resolution model aimed at a peace process and negotiated political settlement.
We propose the following principles as essential to ending the war in Iraq:
First, as a confidence-building measure, the US government must declare that it has no interest in permanent military bases or the control of Iraqi oil or other resources.
Second, as a further confidence-building measure, the U.S. government must set goals for ending the occupation and bringing all our troops home - in months, not years, beginning with an initial withdrawal of troops by the end of this year.
Third, the US government must request that the United Nations monitor the process of military disengagement and de-escalation, and organize a peaceful reconstruction effort. The US must accept its obligation to fairly compensate Iraqis for damages, assist Iraqi reconstruction, cease the imposition of privatization schemes, and end the dominance of US contractors in the bidding process.
Fourth, the US government should appoint a peace envoy independent of the occupation authorities to underscore its commitment to an entirely different mission, that of a peace process ending the occupation and returning our soldiers home.
Fifth, the peace envoy should encourage and cooperate in talks with Iraqi groups opposed to the occupation, including insurgents, to explore a political settlement. The settlement must include representation of opposition forces and parties, and power-sharing and the protection of women's rights as core principles of governance and economic and energy development. We believe such an initiative will reduce, though not eliminate, violence by lessening any rationale for Jihadist or sectarian conflict.
We send this message to all Americans in civil society, to our elected officials, and to the global peace movement. We demand that Congressional hearings begin to define an exit strategy now. We demand that members of Congress, reflecting the will of the people, adopt policy and budget initiatives that call for an exit strategy based on the above principles. We demand a peace envoy, peace talks with the opposition, reconstruction, the closure of US bases, and the safe return home of all US troops.