Declare Victory and Leave
By Helen Thomas
The Boston Channel
Friday 03 December 2004
Administration claims killing leads to peace.
Back in the days of the Vietnam quagmire, the administrations of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon insisted that they couldn't remove our troops from Southeast Asia because there would be chaos, anarchy and a blood bath.
The result: Johnson and Nixon - who did not want to go down in history as having lost a war - stayed the course and kept us in the killing fields.
In the end, more than 58,000 Americans gave their lives, as did hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese. It was a painful, cruel lesson.
The same rationale is being invoked by a U.S. officialdom that insists we have to stay in Iraq to fight the resistance there. Even those opposed to the war now say we can't leave because a catastrophe would ensue if we were to depart.
Well, the slaughter in Iraq continues apace anyway. Our occupation only compounds the horror of it all.
We ferociously destroyed ancient Fallujah to clear it of the Iraqi resistance, as if there were a geographic center for the insurgency that knows no map coordinates.
Casualty figures continue to rise, but the administration that committed the United States to this senseless folly is content to let others pay the price. More than 1,200 Americans have died, thousands more have been wounded. Thousands of Iraqis - fighters and civilians - have been killed.
Now comes word that some 400,000 Iraqi children are undernourished and suffering stunting physical and mental problems. The Washington Post recently published a story about GIs in Iraq studying their college courses on their laptops in tents. I wonder if the children in Fallujah or Mosul or Ramadi go to school these days?
It's beyond the courage of the American leadership to admit it was wrong to invade a country under false pretenses and to stay there by force. But at some point, the U.S. leadership may have to 'fess up. This may come when, as veteran war correspondent Chris Hedges put it, "The reality of war is so revolting and horrifying that if we did see war it would be hard for us to wage it."
At a recent White House briefing, I asked press secretary Scott McClellan, "Why are we killing people in Iraq? What is the reason we are there, killing people?"
His answer: "The reason we are there is the same reason the international community is, is united in helping Iraq - the international community is helping Iraq move forward on a free and peaceful and democratic future."
"There are terrorists and other Saddam loyalists who continue to seek to derail that transition to democracy, but they will not prevail," he added. "And we are there to partner with the Iraqi people as they work to realize a better future, one that stands in stark contrast to the past of Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime."
McClellan did the best he could to create a facade of international support, which doesn't exist in the real world, for the U.S. occupation.
The United States did not invade Iraq out of some great humanitarian compassion to protect the Iraqi people, nor did the administration defend the invasion on those grounds early on. (Remember how Iraq was an imminent threat with weapons of mass destruction targeted to destroy us?) Nor did the Iraqis ask for us to save them from Saddam.
Sorry, McClellan can't rewrite history with his pitch that the international community is behind the United States in Iraq. The major European allies - except for Britain - have shied away from this misadventure. Ukraine's parliament voted 257-0 this week to pull the country's 1,600 troops out of Iraq. The vote was non-binding but symbolic of the reality that the Bush administration tries to ignore when it describes the "coalition" that occupies Iraq.
An election may be held in Iraq next month, with a predictable outcome. We will have saved Iraq for the Shiites, the country's majority Muslim sect that has been playing it cool.
To those who warn that it would be inhumane and wrong to leave Iraq soon, I ask: What's so humane about sticking around and killing again and again?