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Friday, September 23, 2005

What Would I Do about Iraq?

2:02 AM

On the eve of going to Washington D.C. to march to end the war in Iraq, I had to ask myself, "What do I really want to happen in Iraq? Is it better for us to pull out now, over a gradual time, or to wait until the war is won? What would I do if I were President? "

First of all I would totally end U.S. benefits from the occupation of Iraq. That is, U.S. construction contracts, ideas about making Iraq a free market, getting U.S. companies into Iraq (see this amazing article by Naomi Klein).

Second of all, I would create a PR campaign explaining to all Iraqis and the Middle East what the U.S. is doing: We are spending billions of dollars to help the Iraqis become democratic, free, and equal; we want to help make the world more peaceful; finally, we want to have better access to oil, if Iraq allows us this access. The fact is, that for this to work we would actually have to be doing things selflessly, for the benefit of Iraqis. We would also have to change U.S. policy around the world, and cut back on our consumerism and embrace equal rights for all people (including gay people) at home in order for it to be believable.

This would not be a propaganda campaign, but an honest campaign to let Iraqis know what we are doing.

Third of all, and most importantly, I would organize a huge, Iraq-wide poll of tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens asking what they want us to do. Do they want us to leave or not? If they want us to leave is there anything that we could do differently to make them change their minds?

The answer to this, so far, is pretty clear: In the latest poll of Iraqis, 57% said that they wanted the U.S. and Britain to leave Iraq "immediately, say in the next few months." 36% said they thought the U.S. and British forces should stay in Iraq for "a longer period of time."

When asked, "At the time of the invasion last spring, did you, personally think of the Coalition forces mostly as occupiers or mostly as liberators?" 43% answered "mostly as occupiers." 43% answerd "mostly as liberators."

When asked how they thought of us now, 71% of Iraqis thought of us "mostly as occupiers." 19% thought of us "mostly as liberators."

This was in April of 2004.

That is a clear vote for us to leave. This is what the Iraqi people wanted.

If this is still what the Iraqis wanted, in a current poll, and there was nothing we could do to change their minds, then my decision would be to leave Iraq immediately. Of course, if the other questions in the poll pointed to things we could do to make us liked, then I would see if I could do those things and perhaps re-poll in a few months.

If the people overwhelmingly wanted us to stay, I would stay until they wanted us to leave.

The fact is that I want what's best for Iraq. I am not against our war in Iraq because of the death toll on U.S. troops. I am against the war in Iraq because the death toll on U.S. troops is not helping Iraqis. If it were helping Iraqis then I would support continued involvement in helping Iraq, or any country, set up a democracy. I think democracy (and freedom of speech, press, religion, and equality of all people) is a good thing for any country. But again, setting it up has to help the people. If the people think you are not helping them, then you will have an insurgency.

I think it is important to note that I am not currently, personally willing to die for Iraq. I don't think that I would currently be willing to die for Iraq even if 100% of the Iraqis wanted us there. If U.S. soldiers are willing to die helping Iraqis (and it's actually helping) then I support them. I wonder if Bush is personally willing to die for Iraq.

If it were the case that a large majority of Iraqis wanted us to stay, then I would examine the other questions in the poll: how can we make the country better, what would you like our role to be, what kind of country would you like to have. I would then create a uniform voting system in Iraq. I would educate the people via radio, TV, and newspaper about voting. I would fund public campaigns to run for office, locally and then federally. I would then hold another election. I would inform the people about every move we were making and what it meant. I would have a transparent government. I would then see about reconstruction: I would give the newly elected Iraqi government money to rebuild.

The more important question is, what if an equal number of Iraqis wanted us to stay as to leave? This is a fairly likely outcome of a current poll. I do think that in order to justify our continued occupation of Iraq a significant majority of Iraqis must be actively supporting us. Thus, I think we would need to get out, or seriously change how we are operating there even if 50% of Iraqis supported our occupation (and 50% did not). If, in establishing a democracy, you can't get a majority of the people to support your efforts to establish the democracy, then they have spoken, democratically. To establish a democracy, the people must establish it themselves. I am not willing to have U.S. troops die to support a war that only half the population supports.

At this point, with the information I have at my disposal, I am going to Washington, D.C. because I think that we are doing more harm than good by staying in Iraq. If we want to simply set up a rough timeline, for at most two years, for when we think we will leave, and broadcast this to Iraqis and the rest of the Middle East, that would be acceptable to me. An undefined occupation is not a good thing. If we need to fudge the numbers a little bit at the end of the timeline to give us more time, then so be it. However at least we are working towards something. If Iran suddenly invades Iraq then we can certainly extend our occupation.

I feel we are like a bull in a china shop, sitting on the floor trying to repair the china. And all the while the proprietor is yelling, "Get out! Get out! Pay for it later, we can fix it ourselves!"

This is a trite analogy. I do think that if we were to leave there might well be civil war. The Iraqi government might well not be able to defeat insurgents. The government might well crumble. The people might then hold another election. They might also just have a new dictator. They might have a theocracy with a cleric. They might plead with us to return to help them. Iran might invade and take over.

Of course it might also decrease the insurgency and the people might decide to work together to create a nation, now that Saddam is gone. They might then kick out the terrorists. And of course we could re-invade if something horrible happened and the Iraqis asked for our help en masse.


about Iraq said...

Katrina is already at 200 billion and another is heading to New Orleans tonight. It started with special we did(not)vote on 51 billion from Congress. The contracts are already awarded. Like Iraq, you've got to be pal with the US to get the contracts, but that's Bush making sure we don't just give away money to other countries that are used to stealing it anyway.

Iraq is a mess. The British want to leave, Blair is using his former employees, envoys, to threaten. Saudi Arabia is complaining about stablility, and yes, even Syria is in there going after his Condi(if he is drunk, maybe we can get some out of the White House instead of the mansion this time).

Its not the best time to attack over Iraq, but, I guess that is what animals do.

2:53 PM  
Misha Cohen said...

Thanks for the post. Calling protestors animals because they are protesting a war in Iraq is pretty silly. This protest was planned months ago. This was before Katrina. I want my government out of Iraq. It's pretty humane to protest it.

I don't care if "Bush" goes down. I want to change our foreign policy. I am not hungry for blood. I am sick of it.

3:03 PM  
Misha Cohen said...

-- I have to say that it's not just the bloodshed I'm sick of (as there would be bloodshed after we left too) but it's our behavior.

3:07 PM  

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