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

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Thu Nov 30 05:48:41 MST 2006

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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