[Marxism] WSJ op-ed: let Iraqis vote on withdrawal

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 30 05:52:05 MST 2006

Hi, Marvin - 

Nice commentary by you.

Walter, about to return to bed
for an hour or so...

-----Original Message-----
>From: Marvin Gandall <marvgandall at videotron.ca>
>Sent: Nov 30, 2006 7:48 AM
>To: Marxmail <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
>Subject: [Marxism] WSJ op-ed: let Iraqis vote on withdrawal
>Lawyer/novelist Scott Turow's suggestion in today's Wall Street Journal for
>an Iraqi plebiscite on the US occupation is something which mainstream
>Americans across the political spectrum would readily accept as consistent
>with their own political tradition and as offering the least humiliaiting
>way of exiting the country.  The politicians and their advisors won't  treat
>the proposal seriously, although it's  interesting the WSJ has seen fit to
>publish the Turow piece on its op-ed page.
>What's more surprising is that the Sadrists, the largest coherent political
>force in Iraq calling for a US withdrawal, haven't floated the idea of a
>popular referendum, if only as a powerful tool to rally domestic and
>international opinion. They or other anti-occupation Iraqi groups haven't
>done so to my knowledge at least.
>The outcome of a plebiscite, as Turow notes, wouldn't be much in doubt. The
>Washington Post reported two months ago that US State Department and other
>polls show "a strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to
>immediately withdraw from the country."
>BTW, only an imperialist mentality could come up with a peculiar notion like
>the Pottery Barn rule, again cited below: "If you break it, you own it."
>When you damage a car or a home or a country, you don't own it; you pay for
>When Should the U.S. Withdraw? Ask the Iraqis.
>By Scott Turow
>Wall Street Journal
>November 30, 2006; Page A16
>Now that we have a divided government, a new defense secretary and the Iraq
>Study Group prepared to issue its report, we appear ready to descend into a
>period of rancorous national debate about how long our troops should remain
>in Iraq. But before Americans go toe-to-toe with one another, I have a new
>idea. Why don't we ask the people of Iraq what they think?
>I'm not a foreign-policy wonk. I am merely one of millions of Americans who
>despairs over the news from Baghdad, and yearns to see this country as
>united as we were in the days after 9/11. The Americans who opposed the Iraq
>invasion -- like me -- and those who fully supported our military action now
>find themselves in accord on two fundamental points: First, the war has not
>gone well. Second, we are prisoners of an ethical dilemma of our own making,
>crystallized in the "Pottery Barn Rule" Colin Powell reportedly invoked to
>President Bush: You break it, you own it. Whatever the validity of our
>reasons for going into Iraq, we terminated not only a despotic government
>but a stable, civil society. It seems selfish and unjust for us simply to
>leave the country in chaos, and we will be required to spend billions
>repairing Iraq for years to come.
>But that does not resolve the question of our military presence, which is
>sharpened by the young Americans being killed and maimed there every day.
>Many foreign-policy experts believe that a large-scale American force on
>Iraqi soil aggravates ethnic rivalries by forcibly enhancing power
>differentials between those groups, thus robbing the current government of
>legitimacy in the eyes of many citizens. Others, including many of our
>generals, say that the 140,000 American troops stationed in the country are
>all that stand in the way of a full-scale civil war. But why attempt to
>resolve this as a debate among our dueling experts when we can ask the
>genuine authorities -- the Iraqi people? They are there. They know their
>country and their countrymen. And naturally, it is they who care most
>intensely about their future.
>So here's what I propose. Our government must urge Iraqi leaders to hold an
>immediate plebiscite on a single question: Should American forces remain in
>Iraq until a stable democratic order emerges, however long that takes, or
>should we instead withdraw in stages over a fixed period, say, the next 12
>I have a guess about which way the vote will go. Since opinion-sampling
>began a year after the invasion, one poll after another has found that an
>increasing majority of Iraqis would like us to pack our gear and leave. But
>who knows how accurate polling is in a society like Iraq, where so many
>citizens have reasons to be guarded about their views? And even if the
>results reflected opinions at the time, it's possible that an informed
>national discussion might change minds. Yet if the remaining rationale for
>our presence in Iraq hinges on our commitment to democracy there, what
>possible excuse can we have for not letting the Iraqis make the ultimate
>choice about our occupation? If a solid majority throughout the country
>wants us out, then we can leave knowing that we are not deserting a people
>eager for our presence.
>And if instead a majority of Iraqis prefer that we remain, we can revert to
>our own national debate about the kind of commitment we are willing to make,
>knowing we have an open invitation. I am not proposing that we give the
>people of Iraq veto power over how long Americans must fight and die on
>their behalf. We must fix goals for our inevitable departure. But even the
>Americans who believe we should depart tomorrow will have to reflect twice
>if the beleaguered citizens of Iraq, 150,000 of whom have already died
>according to their government, say the future presence of our troops will be
>helpful. And attacks on American soldiers will perhaps slacken if it becomes
>fact-established that we are invited guests, not an occupying army.
>The results of the vote would probably not be the same in the various ethnic
>regions of Iraq. In prior opinion polls, the Kurds have overwhelmingly
>favored the American presence that has freed them from the menacing hand of
>Iraq's central government. But a split verdict may suit our aims. American
>troops must continue to be stationed somewhere in the region to prevent
>active coercion by Iraq's neighbors, especially Syria and Iran, and to
>respond in case the direst predictions prove out and parts of Iraq become a
>lawless terrorist breeding ground, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. The
>emerging Kurdish canton might be the ideal place for our soldiers to wait
>out events, while removing themselves from the cross-fire in the rest of the
>After the blood and treasure America has expended in Iraq, all Americans
>should hope that a stable society emerges there, governed by people who are
>not actively hostile to American interests. That is an ever more distant
>dream at this stage. But the longer we remain in Iraq without considering
>the will of its people, the more certainly we imperil the dwindling hopes we
>have by breeding enduring resentments.
>Mr. Turow is author, most recently, of the novella "Limitations" (Picador,
>*    *    *
>Most Iraqis Favor Immediate U.S. Pullout, Polls Show
>Leaders' Views Out of Step With Public
>By Amit R. Paley
>Washington Post Staff Writer
>Wednesday, September 27, 2006; A22
>BAGHDAD, Sept. 26 -- A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military
>forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift
>departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence,
>according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.
>In Baghdad, for example, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they
>would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent
>of those asked favoring an immediate pullout, according to State Department
>polling results obtained by The Washington Post.
>Another new poll, scheduled to be released on Wednesday by the Program on
>International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, found that 71
>percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces
>to depart within a year. By large margins, though, Iraqis believed that the
>U.S. government would refuse the request, with 77 percent of those polled
>saying the United States intends keep permanent military bases in the
>The stark assessments, among the most negative attitudes toward U.S.-led
>forces since they invaded Iraq in 2003, contrast sharply with views
>expressed by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Last week at
>the United Nations, President Jalal Talabani said coalition troops should
>remain in the country until Iraqi security forces are "capable of putting an
>end to terrorism and maintaining stability and security."
>"Only then will it be possible to talk about a timetable for the withdrawal
>of the multinational forces from Iraq," he said.
>Recent polls show many Iraqis in nearly every part of the country disagree.
>"Majorities in all regions except Kurdish areas state that the
>Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) should withdraw immediately, adding that
>the MNF-I's departure would make them feel safer and decrease violence,"
>concludes the 20-page State Department report, titled "Iraq Civil War Fears
>Remain High in Sunni and Mixed Areas." The report was based on 1,870
>face-to-face interviews conducted from late June to early July.
>The Program on International Policy Attitudes poll, which was conducted over
>the first three days of September for WorldPublicOpinion.org, found that
>support among Sunni Muslims for a withdrawal of all U.S.-led forces within
>six months dropped to 57 percent in September from 83 percent in January.
>The director of another Iraqi polling firm, who spoke on condition of
>anonymity because he feared being killed, said public opinion surveys he
>conducted last month showed that 80 percent of Iraqis who were questioned
>favored an immediate withdrawal. Eight-five percent of Sunnis in that poll
>supported an immediate withdrawal, a number virtually unchanged in the past
>two years, except for the two months after the Samarra bombing, when the
>number fell to about 70 percent, the poll director said.
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