Monday, March 20, 2006

Three Years On

We didn't go to Portland's big Iraq protest on Sunday, but we had a front row seat. We found a cozy table at a restaurant on the route of the march, and settled in to watch. It took over an hour for all the marchers to file by. It was great to see that kind of turnout.

Of course, protesting the war is mostly a symbolic exercise, given the Busheviks' unlimited scorn for public opinion. There's absolutely nothing anybody outside the beltway can do to convince them to do anything differently. But then, efforts to censure or impeach the guy are basically just symbolic, too. Nothing's going to change, nothing's going to be different as a result, but sometimes it just has to be attempted anyway, just on the principle of the thing.

Realistically speaking, we're stuck with George and his cronies until January 2009, and we're stuck with his war for at least that long. I'm starting to think that their "exit strategy" is to try to leave the Iraq war on autopilot for the next few years, and dump it all in the next president's lap. That way (they may be hoping) somebody else gets to take all the blame for losing.

After all, according to Our Leaders, we've got three long years of remarkable progress in Iraq under our belts now, and things are just getting better and better every day. In fact, Uncle Dick still insists that his promises that we'd be greeted as liberators, and that the insurgents were on their last legs about a year ago, were "basically accurate and reflect reality".

However, even the beltway punditocracy is witnessing a few recriminations over Iraq. Of course this won't translate into doing anything differently next time around. When we start ramping up for a war in Iran, or Syria, or Venezuela, they'll set their skepticism aside again and go back to the same naive rah-rah-go-team reaction we saw with Iraq.

We can speculate all we like about why Bush & Co. really started this war, and why so much of the public backed him for so long. In the end I'm not sure we'll ever really know. And whether it was originally about oil, or WMDs, or "transforming" the middle east, or getting revenge for 9/11, or wallowing in WWII nostalgia, or bringing about the Rapture, the question facing us now is the same: Ok, so now what?

Yesterday the Oregonian ran what it presented as two opposing viewpoints on the war. One, from the neocon Max Boot, argued that the war isn't actually a big deal in terms of money spent or lives lost. The implication is that we can just stay the course indefinitely, do nothing different, and it'll all be ok. The other viewpoint, by retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, argues that the best strategy now would actually be to send more troops, and institute a draft if necessary. On top of those guest columns, the Oregonian's ever-reptilian David Reinhard chimes in with one of his usual hatchet jobs, attacking anyone who doesn't love the war or who won't pretend it's going great. I guess we're supposed to come away thinking that these three pieces represent the full spectrum of public opinion about the war. Or at least that subset of public opinion that the media considers "responsible". Somehow, to the media, "responsible" opinion always means "pro-war". Here's a blurb bashing the Oregonian for yesterday's odd editorial choices. And here's an interesting column arguing the case for an immediate withdrawal. I'm not sure I agree with the argument in its entirety, but it does make a convincing case that our continued presence in Iraq is not helping matters one bit.

I'm starting to think that partition is unavoidable, and the only way to mitigate the civil war is to do it sooner rather than later. It didn't have to be this way. It wasn't always inevitable, any more than the partition of Yugoslavia was inevitable in 1989. Perhaps it could've been prevented before the cycle of violence really got rolling, but it's too late for that now. Really I don't see why this is often considered a worst-case scenario. Iraq as it exists is a purely artificial entity, with borders drawn to suit the needs of 1920s colonialists. You can't simply draw lines on a map without any regard to the people who live there, and expect the inhabitants to automatically feel they all have something in common. Throughout the history of Iraq, it's been argued that a "strong hand" is required to hold the country together, be it a colonial power, king, military dictator, religious dictator, or something else. And if our experience there so far is any guide, that conventional wisdom may actually be true. If so, and the only workable alternatives are partition or dictatorship, splitting the country into thirds seems like the lesser of two evils, as ugly as it would be at the outset. That is, assuming that we have any right, or any power, to shape how events unfold in Iraq anymore, and I'm not convinced that we do, or ever really did.

Updated: Did I toldja so, or did I toldja so? Today (3/21), our Glorious Leader let it be known that we'll have troops in Iraq for at least another 3 years, so that it'll be the next president's mess to clean up -- and hopefully take all the blame for. And we already knew that the next president gets to inherit GWB's unsustainable budget deficits, too. Is this the Busheviks' new master plan? Steer us straight at an iceberg, hop overboard in a nice cushy lifeboat at the last minute, and let the rest of us figure out what to do next? Niiiice.


1 comment :

sevenpointman said...

The plan I am sending you has been approved by many prominent thinkers and
activists in the field. Which includes: Benjamin Ferencz, Chief Prosecutor
at the Nuremburg Trials, Tom Hayden, Matthew Rothschild, Anthony Arnove, Danny Schecter,
Tony Benn- Former Member of the British parliment ,Reggie Rivers,
Robert Jenkins, Andrew Bard Schmookler and others.
I formulated this plan in September 2004, based on a comprehensive
study of the issues. For my plan to be successful it must be implemented
with all seven points beginning to happen within a very short period of
I have run up against a wall of doubt about my plan due to it's
rational nature ,and due to it's adherence to placing the blame on the
invaders, and then trying to formulate a process of extrication which would
put all entities in this conflict face to face, to begin to finally solve
the dilemmas that exist.
If you read my plan you will see that it is guided by a reasonable
and practical compromise that could end this war and alleviate the
internecine civil violence that is confronting Iraq at this juncture in it's
I am making a plea for my plan to be put into action on a wide-scale.
I need you to circulate it and use all the persuasion you have to bring it
to the attention of those in power.
Just reading my plan and sending off an e-mail to me that you received
it will not be enough.

This war must end-we who oppose it can do this by using my plan.
We must fight the power and end the killing.

If you would like to view some comments and criticism about my plan
I direct you to my blog: sevenpointman

Thank you my dear friend,

Howard Roberts

A Seven-point plan for an Exit Strategy in Iraq

1) A timetable for the complete withdrawal of American and British forces
must be announced.
I envision the following procedure, but suitable fine-tuning can be
applied by all the people involved.

A) A ceasefire should be offered by the Occupying side to
representatives of both the Sunni insurgency and the Shiite community. These
representatives would be guaranteed safe passage, to any meetings. The
individual insurgency groups would designate who would attend.
At this meeting a written document declaring a one-month ceasefire,
witnessed by a United Nations authority, will be fashioned and eventually
signed. This document will be released in full, to all Iraqi newspapers, the
foreign press, and the Internet.
B) US and British command will make public its withdrawal, within
sixth-months of 80 % of their troops.

C) Every month, a team of United Nations observers will verify the
effectiveness of the ceasefire.
All incidences on both sides will be reported.

D) Combined representative armed forces of both the Occupying
nations and the insurgency organizations that agreed to the cease fire will
protect the Iraqi people from actions by terrorist cells.

E) Combined representative armed forces from both the Occupying
nations and the insurgency organizations will begin creating a new military
and police force. Those who served, without extenuating circumstances, in
the previous Iraqi military or police, will be given the first option to

F) After the second month of the ceasefire, and thereafter, in
increments of 10-20% ,a total of 80% will be withdrawn, to enclaves in Qatar
and Bahrain. The governments of these countries will work out a temporary
land-lease housing arrangement for these troops. During the time the troops
will be in these countries they will not stand down, and can be re-activated
in the theater, if the chain of the command still in Iraq, the newly
formed Iraqi military, the leaders of the insurgency, and two international
ombudsman (one from the Arab League, one from the United Nations), as a
majority, deem it necessary.

G) One-half of those troops in enclaves will leave three-months after they
arrive, for the United States or other locations, not including Iraq.

H) The other half of the troops in enclaves will leave after

I) The remaining 20 % of the Occupying troops will, during this six
month interval, be used as peace-keepers, and will work with all the
designated organizations, to aid in reconstruction and nation-building.

J) After four months they will be moved to enclaves in the above
mentioned countries.
They will remain, still active, for two month, until their return to
the States, Britain and the other involved nations.

2) At the beginning of this period the United States will file a letter with
the Secretary General of the Security Council of the United Nations, making
null and void all written and proscribed orders by the CPA, under R. Paul
Bremer. This will be announced and duly noted.

3) At the beginning of this period all contracts signed by foreign countries
will be considered in abeyance until a system of fair bidding, by both
Iraqi and foreign countries, will be implemented ,by an interim Productivity
and Investment Board, chosen from pertinent sectors of the Iraqi economy.
Local representatives of the 18 provinces of Iraq will put this board
together, in local elections.

4) At the beginning of this period, the United Nations will declare that
Iraq is a sovereign state again, and will be forming a Union of 18
autonomous regions. Each region will, with the help of international
experts, and local bureaucrats, do a census as a first step toward the
creation of a municipal government for all 18 provinces. After the census, a
voting roll will be completed. Any group that gets a list of 15% of the
names on this census will be able to nominate a slate of representatives.
When all the parties have chosen their slates, a period of one-month will be
allowed for campaigning.
Then in a popular election the group with the most votes will represent that
When the voters choose a slate, they will also be asked to choose five
individual members of any of the slates.
The individuals who have the five highest vote counts will represent a
National government.
This whole process, in every province, will be watched by international
observers as well as the local bureaucrats.

During this process of local elections, a central governing board, made up
of United Nations, election governing experts, insurgency organizations, US
and British peacekeepers, and Arab league representatives, will assume the
temporary duties of administering Baghdad, and the central duties of

When the ninety representatives are elected they will assume the legislative
duties of Iraq for two years.

Within three months the parties that have at least 15% of the
representatives will nominate candidates for President and Prime Minister.

A national wide election for these offices will be held within three months
from their nomination.

The President and the Vice President and the Prime Minister will choose
their cabinet, after the election.

5) All debts accrued by Iraq will be rescheduled to begin payment, on the
principal after one year, and on the interest after two years. If Iraq is
able to handle another loan during this period she should be given a grace
period of two years, from the taking of the loan, to comply with any
structural adjustments.

6) The United States and the United Kingdom shall pay Iraq reparations for
its invasion in the total of 120 billion dollars over a period of twenty
years for damages to its infrastructure. This money can be defrayed as
investment, if the return does not exceed 6.5 %.

7) During the beginning period Saddam Hussein and any other prisoners who
are deemed by a Council of Iraqi Judges, elected by the National
representative body, as having committed crimes will be put up for trial.
The trial of Saddam Hussein will be before seven judges, chosen from this
Council of Judges.
One judge, one jury, again chosen by this Council, will try all other
All defendants will have the right to present any evidence they want, and to
choose freely their own lawyers.