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Friday, October 08, 2004


Withdraw the troops? An addition

Some have argued that withdrawing the troops would end with the Iraqis slaughtering each other. Huw Williams pointed out that this was a standard claim of pro-imperialists/colonialists throughout the past two centuries. But let us say that this claim is true. Whether or not the US and UK withdraw is then a question firstly of whether the troops bring more misery and death than would follow in the wake of their departure, and secondly of whether, under the troops or under withdrawal, we will see a stabilisation of Iraq and what form this will take.

On the first point, the troops bring death and misery both directly, by their own hands, and indirectly, by acting as a focal point of resentful violence from Iraqis. However, with Tony Blair declaring Iraq a ‘crucible in the War on Terror’ and with many members of the Bush administration arguing that the War in Iraq was necessary in order to fight terrorists outside American soil. As it seems that there was very little connection between Al-Qaeda and Iraq prior to the invasion, it is perfectly reasonable to argue that Iraqi lives are being sacrificed to protect what is probably a far smaller number of American lives. Iraq, I suggest, has been deliberately turned into a battlefield where terrorists can be engaged and killed without exposing Western civilians to any great danger. This places the ‘collateral damage’in Falluja and Samarra into a distasteful perspective.

The withdrawal of the troops would therefore remove both the direct and indirect misery and death visited upon the Iraqis. But would this not be replaced by terror and tyranny from the foreign fighters that are at the centre of attacks on US and UK troops? Huw Williams pointed out that Fulluja is a city the size of Cardiff, and it is difficult to imagine that it is the actions of a handful of foreign fighters, hated by Iraqis, that make these cities no-go-zones for occupation troops. This incredible idea is further refuted by the fact that many Iraqi men are armed, enabling them to prevent foreign fighters from hiding amongst them if they so chose. Of course, that statement presumes that the foreign fighters are the ones responsible for the attacks on the troops.

Talk using the term ‘foreign fighters’, or describing the situation as being; ‘foreign elements attempting to influence the future of Iraq’ always amuse me. Especially when the speaker is a US Army media liaison.

Some people argue that an Iraq without occupying troops would fragment into Kurd, Sunni and Shi’a nations, a process that would involve civil war and ethnic cleansing. The second argument for withdrawal is a question of stabilisation and the emergence of a new, free Iraq. Can we see the emergence of a free Iraq under occupation? Considering the ‘fragmentation and civil war’ point we must point out that Iraq was held together by Saddam by virtue of his repression. What strategy do John Negroponte and Iyad Allawi have in mind to keep Iraq a single nation? Looking at their records I would suggest repression. Has America once again swapped a ‘son of a bitch’ for ‘our son of a bitch’? If that is the case then I suggest the only moral position that can be taken by a supporter of the war is to support the resistance. Unless, of course, they follow a doctrine of American exceptionalism. This might be rational, if distasteful, for an American to hold, but as American exceptionalism is a threat to every non-(or is that un-)American on the planet I cannot cleave to it.

In short, Iraqis die now with occupation troops present, and will die with occupation troops gone. There is no end in sight to the occupation, the occupation seems to actively frustrate its stated goals, and as long as it exists the misery will continue. The presence of ‘foreign fighters’ in Iraq is encouraged by the presence of the occupation troops, and forces Iraqis into bed with groups of people whose ideologies we would hope to contain rather than spread. If the occupying forces left Iraq then the Iraqi people would be able to reject the ‘assistance’ of these ‘foreign fighters’. Given the US placemen currently in position, the only outcome that brings about a stabilised Iraq is one of repression. The only principled position to take against this is to oppose the path that America has in mind for Iraq, not decades later after the violence and terror has served its US purpose, as the American right argue is principled, but now, before and as it happens. And in a democracy that runs on sound-bites, where there is no access for dissenting voices to present complex views and detailed argument, the slogan may have to be ‘withdraw the troops’.

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