Just as President Bush claimed in the build-up to war that the U.S. was threatened by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and Saddam’s connection to Osama bin Laden and 9/11 terrorists – we are now being told a new falsehood – U.S. troops are in Iraq to stabilize the country. Even the slightest scratching of the reality surface shows the absurdity of this wartime propaganda.
Even Republicans are publicly piercing the veil of this deceit. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), a likely presidential candidate who received two purple hearts in Vietnam and at the outset of the war called for sending two to three times as many troops to Iraq as the President sent, described Iraq as "looking more and more like Vietnam" and this weekend went on to say: "We should start figuring out how we get out of there . . . I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur."
The daily bad news from Iraq demonstrates the truth in Senator Hagel’s comments – the situation is going from bad to worse. Science Daily reports 880 civilian deaths in January – not counting car bombs they say: "Civilian deaths in Baghdad in July were more than New York City had in all of 2004, and that’s excluding car bombings and suicide bombings."
Senator Hagel sees the facts and recognizes that the United States is a destabilizing force in Iraq – not a stabilizing force. How could it be any different? President Bush led the U.S. to war on false premises – as a result we invaded a country that was no threat to the United States or Iraq’s neighbors. Bush’s claims of a mushroom cloud over the United States sent by Saddam were absurd to anyone who even slightly looked at the facts. The claims of bringing stablilty to Iraq are just as absurd – a president who will say anything to keep our troops in harms way.
Not only did the U.S. invade on false pretenses, we then arrested civilians and ‘detained’ them – would not even call them what they were ‘prisoners’ – and then U.S. soldiers tortured them in Abu Ghraib and other detention centers. We know it happened – not only from Red Cross, DoD and human rights reports – we saw the photographs. Then, U.S. officials promised to hold those responsible accountable, no matter what their rank. Instead, the only people prosecuted were low-level soldiers carrying out a policy brought to Iraq from Gitmo. But, the Gitmo general who brought the torture policy to Iraq remains unprosecuted.
Three Senators – John McCain (AZ), John Warner (VA) and Lindsay Graham (SC) – are reportedly upsetting the White House with legislation that would expressly prohibit cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees in US custody. Vice President Cheney has tried to convince the three that the amendment undermines the President’s ability to fight terrorism. How is this consistent with Administration claims that torture is not part of U.S. policy?
And, we have not seen the worst of it. This August 30 a New York judge will hear oral argument on the release of many more photos and videos of torture. The only argument against release of the information is the DoD claim that the photos are so bad that they will result in riots in the Muslim world. Torturing civilians is no way to bring stability or win the hearts and minds of Iraqis.
And, then there is the killing of civilians. Yes, sadly, our soldiers have killed many civilians – estimates range from 20,000 to over 128,000 – there are regular reports of civilians being killed at checkpoints. Reuters reports that "Iraqis daily accuse American troops of opening fire on motorists, often killing them." Just last week, an Iraqi Major General Ali Hamadi responsible for border security claimed that U.S. troops shot at him in Baghdad. And, then there is the widespread indiscriminate bombing of Fallujah – a city the size of St. Louis. In addition to the bombings, there are reports of U.S. soldiers entering homes and killing women, children and the elderly as well as reports of the U.S. not allowing medical care into the city during the U.S. onslaught.
Even the high pressure process of forcing the development of a Constitution in Iraq is adding to instability. Sunni’s claim they have been cut out of the process. The draft being put forward is likely to include poison pills for the Sunni minority where much of the insurgent opposition comes from. This, after Sunni religious leaders urged their followers to participate in the constitutional process. Instead, they are being cut out of the process – a move likely to fuel the insurgency. Indeed, the high-pressure U.S. effort, Kurds claim, is causing further division between Sunni, Kurd and Shiite and seems to be leading to an Islamic Republic with very weak protections for women, free speech and free press. Is this the democracy the U.S. should be installing? Why?
The claim that we are bringing stability to Iraq does not pass the straight-face test.
The reality is that U.S. presence is adding to instability and ethnic conflict as well as providing a unifying value for the insurgents. U.S. presence is drawing mainstream Iraq into the insurgency and is, as CIA director Porter Goss testified and reports of the CIA and State Department have found turning Iraq into a training ground for terrorists.
How can the U.S. increase the chance of stability? By getting out of Iraq, as Senator Hagel recommended, as soon as practically and responsibly possible. The U.S. needs to make it clear, immediately, that we do not intend to stay in Iraq, will not be completing the fourteen permanent military bases under construction and begin conversations with Iraqis on how the U.S. can leave Iraq in a responsible way. A good start for this process is described by a petition for an Iraq peace process put forward by Peace Action.
The longer the U.S. stays in Iraq, the greater the likelihood of increased instability – just the opposite of the claims of the U.S. commander in chief.