Column No. 87 By Steven Jonas MD, MPH  - December 1, 2005

A friend, a Democrat who is no progressive and was a strong supporter of the Iraq War wrote that he never thought he would be saying that he wants the U.S. out of Iraq now, but he is.  He pointed out that the decision to invade is history, and in his view no longer controlling.  He pointed out that given that the vast majority of the anti-US insurgents in Iraq are Iraqis, not foreigners, and that the bulk of the Iraqi people want us out, now, and that our continued presence there only continues to create terrorists, the US has no national interest in staying in Iraq. (This was written before the joint Iraqi request to the US for a planned withdrawal, presumably made with advance notice to the Busheviki, was made.)  If the Iraqis, absent Hussein, cannot rule their country, that is their problem not ours, he said.

It is wrong to expect the whole world to do things like we do, he said. The US needs to look at this strictly in term of power, and the longer we stay there, the more our power diminishes, in terms of men, materiel, money, international reputation, and the ability to get other nations to cooperate with us on so many fronts and issues.  And so, he said, we should back off, and bring our troops home, now.  (He did ignore the fact that it is our invasion. Directly, with no plan for follow-up, that has created the chaos and death that wrack Iraq now.)  He found Rep. Murtha’s voice a welcome one. Where are the Democratic heavyweights, he asked? He hopes that the Democrats can mount an effective opposition.  He sees leadership as the issue and leadership has been sorely lacking in the Democratic opposition, he said.

In light of what a former right-wing Democrat had to say, let’s look at some of the issues that progressive Democrats can use, now.  As readers of my column know, I have a somewhat different understanding of the history of what I call the War on Iraq.  In my view, it was the Georgite neocons who made sure that the War they had been advocating since the mid-1990s happened.  They considered their goals, not publicly stated of course, to be in the national interest then and they still do (see Cheney’s speeches, when he isn’t attacking the patriotism of 37-year veterans of the Marine Corps who fought in two wars, when he had “other priorities” that deterred him from fighting in even one).  These are the potentially massive Kurdish oil reserves, the permanent bases in the Iraqi western desert, “American hegemony,” and the power to legally loot and pillage the Iraqi economy.  But of course these goals are never mentioned.  What we have now, in the absence of WMD and any known link between al-Qaeda and Hussein except what appeared in “Vice’s” imagination and Bill Safire’s New York Times columns, is the goal to “bring Democracy to Iraq.”

We know that Bush’s concept of “democracy” does not include maintaining it here (see, for example, fixed elections, the destruction of Constitutional amendments IV, V, and VI, and the continual description of dissent as treason).  But he claims to want to establish it there (even though electoral democracy for the whole country would bring into power the most un-democratic, fundamentalist-Shiite concept of government.  Of course, that merging of church and state is precisely what the Georgites want to do here, so maybe Bush’s visions for Iraq and the US aren’t that far apart after all).  But whatever the case, so doing was not on the original agenda put before Congress and the American people by the Georgites.

And so we come to the resolution offered in the House of Representatives by John Murtha of Pennsylvania, certainly no leftie.  As in my proposed “Commitment I” for Democrats (see my column of last week) his resolution called for withdrawal from Iraq by a date certain.  Apparently, in addition to reading the polls, Rep. Murtha has been hearing from many of his friends and contacts at just below the highest levels of the military that this is an unwinnable operation for us and is just wasting American lives and draining the American treasury, to say nothing of the harms that it is doing to our military overall (to say nothing of the harm it is doing to people of Iraq), for no good reason.

For your information, here is the resolution that Rep. Murtha offered: “Be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, That: Section 1. The deployment of United States Forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date. Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines shall be deployed in the region. Section 3. The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.  The Republicans, with their usual foresight and candor, put the following resolution on the floor instead: “1 Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.”  Although their Privatized Ministry of Propaganda did their best to convince their listeners that this is what Rep. Murtha was offering (I heard that message myself on the Fox”News”Channel, 11/21/05), it of course was, and is, not.  And so we have a reasonable, solid, position to put forward, designed to achieve what about 65% of the polled American electorate wants (and now a broad coalition of Iraqi leaders wants it too): a planned withdrawal by a date certain, in the not-too-distant future.

As asked for by my friend, the Democratic leadership is beginning to rally, organize, behind this statement (see, for example, a letter put out by DNC Chair Howard Dean,  Sen. Reid and Rep. Pelosi may not be rushing to endorse this position, yet (as of the time of writing, 11/22/05, my 69th birthday!).  But on the other hand, I strongly doubt that Gov. Dean would have put out a statement like he did, if he had not received at least their tacit approval for so doing.

And so, how might we now proceed on the reasoning behind this position.  Very important, in my view, is that the “democratization of Iraq,” now Bush’s only publicly stated reason for our presence there, was never put on the table in the run-up to the invasion.  We must continue to push on the fact that Bush and his cronies lied our nation into this war.  They knew that the Niger uranium letter was a forgery and that the “aluminum tubes” were of a type that could not possibly be used in uranium centrifuges.  They knew that their single source for the "Iraq-al Qaeda connection” was a known fabricator.  They knew that the UN’s Hans Blix had found no WMD and was unlikely to.  They were sharing intelligence with him; he used what they gave him and it led to nothing.  That they knew that there were none is precisely why they rushed into the war before Blix could declare that his inspection was completed, and they presented the Security Council with a resolution they knew would be turned down by a majority.  They did not want to wait the extra month, nor did they actually want any UN involvement, given what their true agenda for the invasion was (see my column on this subject of March 16, 2004, “You Know Me Al: The Iraq War”).

This case, to me, is clear.  But for those opponents of the war who cannot believe that Bush consciously lied, that it was the “faulty intelligence” that was at fault, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.  Let's say that he wasn't lying.  In that case the stated original mission was indeed accomplished.  It turned out that there were no WMD.  There was no nuclear program.  There was no al Qaeda link.  If it were the WMD threat and dealing with an al Qaeda-Hussein link that were their true goals, Bush should have simply declared victory and left.  But because there are those true, but secret, Georgite goals, Bush cannot do that.  Now we get the new, post-invasion mission: bring democracy to Iraq.  Is that what we are spending thousands of American lives and wounds on?  Is that what we are spending billions of dollars on?  Is that why civil society in Iraq is gradually being destroyed and thousands of Iraqis killed?  Is that a mission that our nation should be involved in?  Is that a mission our nation, or even a Republican-dominated Congress could have supported when the war was started?

Rep. Murtha has given a big push to the rolling ball for Iraq withdrawal at the level of the US government that was started by members of the Black and Progressive caucuses in the House.  He has brought to it candor, credibility, tremendous publicity, and the toughness that goes with someone who worked with the United Steel Workers for decades trying to prevent the destruction of our formerly great domestic steel industry.  (Do we possibly have a union-Black alliance developing here?)  You don’t truck with Rep. Murtha.  No back-tracking and tears like those of the benighted Sen. Durbin (see my columns of July 14 and 21, 2005).  This is progressive Democratic leadership in the development stage.

“The strong make the tough decisions; the weak ‘stay the course.’ “This is something that the leadership in the Democratic Party can run with.  Let’s keep on encouraging them to do so.