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The anti-war camp has been proved right on every point. Now we need a fast-track plan for a peaceful pullout
(Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, October 29, 2003)
It's easy to be smug. It's easy to see every new attack against the US or its allies in Iraq, including yesterday's bomb in Fallujah, as a tragedy, yes, but also a cruel vindication of the warning the anti-war camp gave again and again - but which would not be heard. It's tempting, as we watch the American (and British) effort in Iraq sinking into the bog, to clamber to the rooftops and shout with a full throat: "We told you so!" . . . Heaven knows events in "postwar" Iraq have given those of us who opposed the adventure every reason to feel self-satisfied. The anti-war camp has been proved right in almost every particular. . . . Now we know that the grounds on which the war was fought were false: Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction and Iraq had no link to al-Qaida (though it has now). We know that the warmakers' predictions for life after Saddam were just as spectacularly wrong. They thought the invading troops would, in the words of vice-president Dick Cheney, "be greeted as liberators", rather than as the target of daily attacks. They thought that, while the morally repugnant Ba'athist elite would disappear, a solid, middle-class, "Mesopotamian bureaucracy" would stay at their desks to run the country: instead the pen-pushers disappeared, leaving only chaos. And the US planners estimated the cost to the US of rebuilding Iraq would be a mere $1.7bn, as opposed to the $87bn now sought from Congress. . . . We know, too, that the Bush administration's arrogance in preparation for the war's aftermath was immense, its incompetence stunning. It shelved a long-range state department study, The Future of Iraq, because its conclusions did not fit the hawks' plans. . . . We know all this and cannot be blamed for wanting to wallow in self-righteousness. As Michael Moore might bellow: "We were right and they were wrong." That is true, but we cannot leave it there. We have to do better than that. We have to move on. . . . It's no good thinking, as some on the left have, that there could be merit in the US (especially) getting a bloody nose in Iraq. We have to think about who is administering the punch. Sometimes it will be young patriots, new to combat, who have signed up for armed resistance against a foreign occupier. This kind of indigenous insurgency is said to be growing, gaining grass roots support and, with it, the legitimacy of a popular movement. . . . we have to look at the likely consequences of this resistance. Strikes such as Monday's against the Red Cross will only deter other non-governmental agencies from coming to Iraq, and the only people to suffer from that will be Iraqis . . . Those who opposed the war need to start thinking ahead. Some activists are already doing just that, debating what needs to happen next. The instinctive slogan is to call for an immediate US and British withdrawal: Iraq for the Iraqis, now! That sounds appealing - not least to the twitchy wing of the Republican party, which has seen the latest polls and dreads the prospect of Bush going into next year's election as the body-bag candidate, the president who led US troops to their deaths in a Vietnam-style quagmire (a word which has now entered the US conversation, via Republican senator and Vietnam vet John McCain). . . . But it is no position for the anti-war camp. All it would mean is permission for London and Washington to have trashed Iraq - and then leave Iraqis to clear up the mess. No, occupiers have responsibilities: once they take over a country, it is up to them to make sure power and water work, schools and hospitals function. The Americans and Brits cannot just cut and run. . . . Rather they should work out a fast-track plan for a peaceful withdrawal, handing power over Iraq to Iraqis themselves. Such a plan should have two elements, both inspired by the recent experience of East Timor. The first, and most immediate, is to internationalise authority. In place of an American pro-consul, the country needs to come under a UN mandate. That would require a loss of face by Washington, letting the likes of France and Germany in on the action, but the alternative - young American soldiers remaining a shooting gallery for Iraqi fighters - is surely worse. Britain and the US should plan a gradual stepping back and eventual exit, to be replaced by UN-authorised forces. . . . Finally, a war whose golden purpose was said to be the delivery of democracy to Iraq should start with the basic building block of self-government: elections. Under outside auspices, a ballot of all Iraqis should be timetabled as soon as possible to choose the body that will draw up a constitution for the new Iraq. Transfer of sovereignty would not have to wait until the new government is in place: the handover from the UN to Iraqis could be a gradual process, starting right away.

posted by Lorenzo 5:56 PM

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