Necessary Vigilance for Iraq Withdrawal

Over the last week, rumors that the U.S. might delay the withdrawal of
combat forces from Iraq led to much confusion and concern. These rumors
are thankfully not true, and both the U.S. and Iraqi leaderships are
going ahead with the agreed upon plan.

There are two approaching
deadlines guiding the US withdrawal from Iraq. The first is August 31st
of this year, which is a self imposed deadline not included in the
bi-lateral security agreement. The august 31st 2010 deadline requires
all combat forces to be out of Iraq, bringing down the number of all
troops to less than 50K, and the number of contractors to less than 75K.
In addition, all combat operations must end and that will be officially
the last day of 'operation iraqi freedom'. The second deadline is
December 31 2011, which is the end game of the binding bilateral
Security Agreement that was signed between the two countries in late
2008. According to this deadline, all remaining troops and contractors
must leave the country bringing their number down to ZERO, and all bases
and military installations must be shut down and/or handed over to the
Iraqi governmnent.

These two deadlines did not appear out of the
blue; it took millions of Iraqis and Americans years of hard work to
push for this plan. On the Iraqi side, the parliament -- the only
elected entity in the Iraqi government -- managed to take out provisions
about permanent military bases from the Bush agreement. Iraqis
demonstrated in the streets for months and demanded that their
parliament stand up to the Iraqi government and Bush Administration, and
they ended up succeeding in changing these provisions. The new
agreement that was ratified by the Iraqi parliament prohibits any US
military bases or installations beyond 2011. On the American side,
millions of Americans demonstrated against the war and occupation, and
voted for Obama after he adopted a plan to withdraw all combat forces in
18 months and to withdraw all other forces in accordance to the
bilateral Security Agreement.

Here in the U.S., there are two
dangerous attitudes in dealing with the plans to end the occupation of
Iraq: on the one hand, there are those who think Obama will end the war,
and therefore they don't need to do anything about it. And on the other
hand, there are those who think the occupation will never end, and
therefor it's a lost cause that we can't do anything to change.

I
personally stand in the middle. I think the withdrawal plan is good
enough because it requires all U.S. armed forces and contractors to
leave by the end of next year, but at the same time I don't think we
have enough guarantees that it will become reality. Therefore, I believe
we need to do a lot of work to make sure Obama implements the plan as
promised.

It is very important to understand how we've managed
to reach to the the current plan, which is a good plan aimed at ending
the occupation completely. But what is more important is to understand
that this plan needs a lot of work until it becomes reality. We need to
activate both our grassroots oversight and the congressional oversight
to make sure the Obama Administration will abide by the plan and fulfill
its promises and obligations.

These 2 approaching deadlines are
recognized and supported by existing congressional language. Section
1227 of the defense authorization and section 9010 of the defense
appropriations, both for fy10, recognize and support the deadlines and
their guiding doctrines. This language provides some congressional
oversight, but more is needed. A number of national organizations in the
US, including Peace Action, are calling for more congressional
oversight and White House accountability. You can learn more about Peace
Action's campaigns here www.peace-action.org/iraqcampaign

This week's rumors are not the first timeGiving
into skepticism will take us to no where, and believing that Obama will
do our work for us is not the answer either. Let's all work together to
make sure that the plan for withdrawal becomes reality, and that this
tragic war with Iraq comes to an end.