The facts are so stark, even American military commanders are now speaking openly about an approaching climax for our bloody misadventure in Iraq. "To Stand or Fall in Baghdad," the New York Times headline declared this morning. A show-down is here, the generals acknowledge. There are no more back-up strategies.
Learned policy experts from all sides are now debating the various alternatives for an exit plan. Preferably with honor, they hope, but getting out is becoming unavoidable, regardless. They would like to dream up a some sort of fig leaf that gives cover to our failed warrior president. Not that he deserves one, but they want a plan will encourage Bush--finally--to accept reality.
Who is being left out of this momentous discussion? The Iraqi people, whom we were allegedly teaching how to become small-d democrats. Bush relentlessly touted "democracy" as his true goal. He cited the three Iraqi elections as proof that he was succeeding.
So let's have one more election in Iraq--a referendum where the Iraqi people get to decide whether America's armed forces withdraw and when.
This ingenious proposal comes from Harold Davis, an attorney in Douglas, Mass., whose letter to the editor appeared in Saturday's Boston Globe and spelled out the logic. "Let's put our Iraq withdrawal to a vote--an Iraqi vote," Davis declared.
His proposition is sincere, but also cleverly hoists Bush on his own bloated rhetoric. "If the principles hold true," Davis says, " shouldn't the Iraqi people hold the fate of their country in their hands?" His letter provided sample wording for the ballot initiative.
Voters in Iraq would be asked to choose one of the following options:
- I ask that all coalition forces be withdrawn within six months of the date of this referendum.
- I ask that all coalition forces be withdrawn within one year of the date of this referendum.
- I ask that the government of Iraq determine some time in the future when all coalition forces should be withdrawn."
That sounds reasonable enough, but recent polls suggest Iraqis (if they could get to the polls without being killed) would vote for immediate US withdrawal.
Will the dwindling ranks of war enthusiasts in Washington rally around Harold Davis's call for Iraqi self-determination? Or does the White House fear that a free election on war and peace would be pushing this democracy talk a bit too far?
© 2006 The Nation