There's a very interesting debate going on right now at Informed Comment, where Juan Cole – one of the most important and indeed informed voices throughout the entire Iraqi debacle – has laid out his strong case against an immediate end to the U.S. occupation. Cole made many good points, well worth serious consideration. He has now gallantly posted a respectful but powerful rebuttal to his case, from Gilbert Achcar. The whole exchange is a good example of the kind of debate that should be taking place throughout the American power structure – not just in the blogosphere.
For what it's worth, my take on the withdrawal question is below. It's a column I wrote around Easter 2004, and I've seen nothing to make me change my stance since then.
No Direction Home: The Red Wheel of War Crime Keeps Rolling
As the red wheel of Operation Iraqi FUBAR continues to roll, spewing hundreds of corpses in its wake, it becomes clearer by the hour that there is only one way for America to end this stomach-churning nightmare it has created: get out.
That's it. The occupying armies – including Bush's 20,000 corporate mercenaries – should leave now. They should never have been sent in the first place on this ghoul's errand: a war of aggression, a mission of murder and plunder – the perversion of every enlightened value of the civilization that the Coalition's "Christian leaders" purport to defend….
Their chest-beating pronouncements about "staying the course" and "seeing it through" are just so much rag-chewing nonsense. The way to rectify a crime is not to keep doing it – or in John Kerry's ludicrous formulations, to keep doing it in some different, "better" way – but simply to stop doing it. The illegal invasion was a crime, the occupation is a crime, and if you would not be a criminal, you must stop committing crimes…
…The departing Americans should...give the $18 billion slush fund now earmarked for Bush's "reconstruction" bagmen to the Iraqi people, as reparations for the Coalition's war crime....The United States and Britain should also be prepared to take in the vast horde of refugees who will flee the hardline Islamic regime that will doubtless be created in the ruins Bush has made of the once-secular state.
As for the "leaders" who committed this crime, there is only one thing left for them to do now, only one way for them to serve the people they have betrayed so vilely and stupidly. All of them – Bush, Blair, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Geoff Hoon, Jack Straw, Richard Perle, the whole sick crew – should pick up a rifle and go to the front lines in Fallujah and Baghdad. Let them take the places of the young men and young women who signed up as soldiers to defend their country or make a better life for themselves – not to become pawns and killers for the Hitlerite ambitions of the bloodsoaked fools who threw them into this quagmire.
Yes, Hitlerite ambitions: dreams of global dominance, fetishes of militarism, fantasies of superiority, and the willingness to impose your self-serving vision of "universal truth" – in this case, the rapacious crony capitalism that Bush has officially named "the single sustainable model of national success" – at the barrel of a gun. That's what lies behind this madness.
As we've noted so often here before – and will ring the bell one more time – the conquest of Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism or liberation or WMD or national security or Arab democracy or Bush family revenge. It's been planned for years by Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and other Bush retainers, planned openly, and for one reason only: to give the United States direct military control of the Middle East in order to dominate global economic and political life for "the New American Century." This need was so great, said the group – openly, in September 2000 – that it "transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." It wouldn't have mattered if Saddam had found Jesus, or freed his people, or set himself on fire in Madison Square Garden: the Bushists were always going to invade and occupy Iraq – always, no matter what.
So they'll never embrace any sensible solution for getting out. The red wheel will just keep rolling on, spewing thousands more unnecessary deaths – until those rabid Easter Bunnies, Bush and Blair, finally FUBAR themselves into the inevitable, ignominious retreat.
The whole column can be found here.