The US occupation of Iraq is the cause of, not the solution to, the violence and the mounting deaths that followed the invasion. During the recent fighting led by Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, as in countless other battles inside Iraq, authorities in Washington have misread the military and political situation. The Bush Administration uses the fighting as justification for the continued presence of foreign military forces. Yet it is precisely the presence of foreign military forces that is a major cause of the instability. Ending the US occupation by bringing the troops home now is a first step toward ending Iraq’s nightmare.
Most Iraqis agree. In a poll this past June, 55 percent of Iraqis opposed the presence of US forces in Iraq. While Iraqis cheered the overthrow of the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, they didn’t sign up for a foreign military occupation as a replacement. Now it is time to let Iraqis themselves choose an alternative. Here are 10 compelling reasons the United States should get out of Iraq.
1) The Human Costs Keep Increasing
On September 7 the death toll of US soldiers reached 1,000. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged that the insurgency is likely to turn even more violent. While the American death toll made headlines across the United States, the mounting number of Iraqi deaths, at least ten times greater, gets scant attention. The US military refuses to monitor or even estimate the number of Iraqi civilian casualties. As Gen. Tommy Franks described the Pentagon’s approach earlier in Afghanistan, “We don’t do body counts.”
2) Iraqis Aren’t Better Off
While the removal of the dictator Saddam was a welcome development for many Iraqis, the streets of Baghdad and other cities remain dangerous war zones. Clean water, electricity and even gasoline in this oil-rich country are all in even shorter supply than during the dark years of economic sanctions. Women face new restrictions and new dangers. Democracy, freedom and human rights appear out of reach. And Iraq remains occupied by 160,000 foreign troops, with all of the indignity that military occupation brings.
3) The War Is Bankrupting America
This year’s federal budget deficit will reach a new record–$422 billion. The Bush Administration’s combination of massive spending on the war and tax cuts for the wealthy means less money for social spending. The Administration’s fiscal-year 2005 budget request proposes deep cuts in critical domestic programs. It also virtually freezes funding for domestic discretionary programs other than homeland security. Among the programs the Administration seeks to eliminate: grants for low-income schools and family literacy; Community Development Block Grants; Rural Housing and Economic Development; and Arts in Education grants.
4) Halliburton’s War Profiteering
The US government’s Iraq reconstruction process has cost both Iraqis and Americans. Instead of boosting Iraqi self-determination by granting contracts to experienced Iraqi businesses and working to lower the huge unemployment problem inside Iraq, the US government has favored US firms with strong political ties. Major contracts worth billions of dollars have been awarded with limited or no competition. American auditors and the media have documented numerous cases of fraud, waste and incompetence. The most egregious problems are attributed to Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former firm and the largest recipient of Iraq-related contracts.
5) The “International Coalition” Is Fleeing
The “coalition,” always more symbolically than militarily significant, is unraveling. While the impact is felt more at the political than military level, the Bush Administration’s claim that it is “leading an international coalition” in Iraq is increasingly indefensible. Eight nations have now left the coalition and many other countries have reduced their contingents. Singapore has left only thirty-three soldiers in Iraq out of 191, and Moldova’s forces have dwindled to twelve.
6) Recruitment for Al Qaeda Has Accelerated
The war against Iraq is leaving US citizens more vulnerable to terrorist attacks at home and abroad. According to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, the best-known and most authoritative source of information on global military capabilities and trends, the war in Iraq has accelerated recruitment for Al Qaeda and made the world less safe. It estimates worldwide Al Qaeda membership now at 18,000, with 1,000 active in Iraq. It states that the occupation has become the organization’s “potent global recruitment pretext,” has divided the United States and Britain from their allies and has weakened the war on terrorism.
7) The War Is Draining First Responders From Our Communities
Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 364,000 Reserve and National Guard troops have been called for military service. This spring alone, 35,000 new Guard troops were sent to Iraq. Their deployment puts a particularly heavy burden on their home communities, because many of them serve as “first responders,” including police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel. A poll conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum found that 44 percent of police forces across the nation have lost officers as a result of deployment to Iraq.
8) Torture at Abu Ghraib
The Bush Administration claimed that the liberation of Iraqis from the inhumane rule of a dictator was a good-enough reason for taking military action against that country. Now investigations of the US military’s torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib has stripped the United States of even that wobbly claim. The Bush Administration has tried to blame a “few bad apples” for the torture, but abuse has been widespread, with more than 300 allegations of abuse in Afghanistan, Iraq or Guantánamo. Many more may exist, in light of the fact that Army investigators revealed in early September at a Congressional hearing that as many as 100 detainees were hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross at the request of the CIA. This was part of a larger strategy by the government, described by Human Rights Watch as “decisions made by the Bush Administration to bend, ignore, or cast rules aside.”
9) Many Americans Oppose the War
Polls conducted in August 2004 by the CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup and the Pew Research Center showed a great divide in the country: 51 percent believe that “the situation in Iraq was not worth going to war over” and 52 percent disapprove of the way President Bush is handling the war. Almost 60 percent believe that President Bush does not “have a clear plan for bringing the situation in Iraq to a successful conclusion.”
10) No “Sovereignty” Has Been Transferred
The US occupation of Iraq officially ended on June 28, in a secret ceremony in Baghdad. Officially, the Americans handed “full sovereignty” to the Iraqi Interim Government. This was sovereignty in name, not in deed. Not only do 160,000 troops remain to control the streets, but the “100 Orders” of former CPA head Paul Bremer remain to control the economy. Although many thought the “end” of the occupation would also mean the end of the orders, on his last day in Iraq, Bremer simply transferred authority for the orders to the undemocratically appointed interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, who has longtime ties to the CIA.