The report of the Iraq Study Group, if implemented, closes the door on the neo-conservative dreams which have been a nightmare for the people of Iraq and the United States. Since the Nov. 7 election, we have applauded the disappearance of Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton. The ISG report would bury their fantasies.
But the ISG equivocates on the alternative to prolonged war, speaking of "one last chance" to "succeed." The panel's proposed gradual pullback of 15 US combat brigades by early 2008 is a welcome alternative to presidential rhetoric about "staying the course." But there is no deadline attached to the recommendation. There is no recommendation that they all be brought home. The ISG envisions keeping at least 70,000 or more US troops in Iraq for the long-term. Does the ISG imagine that the Iraqi nationalist insurgency will fade away? Does the ISG imagine that a "new" Iraqi army with US trainers will succeed against a nationalist insurgency and militias? Will US trainers be successful where US ground troops failed? Or is this the revival of the "decent interval" doctrine that ended in the collapse of South Vietnam after the US withdrew? No one knows what may be between the lines of this report.
But on their face the ISG recommendations fail to reflect the desire of the American people, and the Iraqi people, for military withdrawal, as measured in polls. Sixty-two percent of all Americans favor withdrawing all our troops, either immediately or within one year. Eighty percent of all Iraqis feel the same way, even more strongly; sixty percent favor armed resistance against US troops.
A diplomatic offensive will succeed only if the US counter-insurgency, bombing and occupation is abandoned. Merely proposing to talk with Iran and Syria only postpones the question of whether US troops will be withdrawn. The American government should end its Cold War towards Iran and Syria and begin open-ended talks about solutions to regional problems, including the humanitarian crisis of cross-border refugees and a political settlement of the Palestinian crisis. But state-to-state diplomacy is no substitute for addressing directly the grievances of the nationalist resistance movement who have been fighting the occupation since 2003. Above all, they are demanding a timetable for withdrawal and support for a national reconciliation process.
The political goal of the ISG report appears to be a reduction of US casualties and maintenance of a low-visibility US occupation as another American national election looms in 2008. The danger is that many Americans will be lulled with the familiar and deceptive promise that "peace is at hand".
The peace movement should not trust peacemaking to the powerful. We should continue opposing this war as unjust and unwinnable until the last of our troops come home. We attribute the present ISG re-appraisal to the great mandate for peace created by American voters on November 7, and we vow to build barricades of voter resistance in every primary state against pro-war presidential candidates beginning this year.
Immediately, we call upon Democrats to heed the mandate for peace more than the recommendations of the ISG; hold oversight hearings on war profiteering and America's role in the fostering of deadly militias in Iraq; and vote against funding the war without a timetable or workable plan for withdrawal.
We intend to step up our local efforts against military recruiting to prevent the Pentagon from manipulating our youth into dying for a mistake. We intend to expand our coalition by emphasizing the disastrous budget results for education and health care from wasting $9 billion per month in Iraq. We intend to fight for democracy against domestic spying conducted against our movement. We will continue to oppose wars for oil.
Surely and steadily, we will build people power against the pillars of the policy until the war effort collapses.
The alternative to the ISG recommendations is to stop the unwinnable war now by the following measures:
1. Declare a US intention to withdraw by a date certain, in months rather than years.
2. Immediately end offensive operations against the Sunni resistance in al-Anbar province, and begin peace talks with such prominent Sunni leaders as Sheik Harith al-Dhari, the Muslim Scholars Association, and the parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq.
3. Immediately cancel plans for an urban offensive against the Shiite cleric Muktada al-Sadr, which would mean a massive bloodbath. Consistent with the plan to withdraw, disengage American forces immediately from the house-to-house war of attrition already occurring.
4. Support the 100-plus Iraqi parliamentarians, and thousands of civil society groups, who are demanding a withdrawal timetable.
5. If peace requires a change of regime in Iraq, so be it. A new transitional Iraqi government is far better than propping up unrepresentative puppets with bags of money, as openly advocated last month by Stephen Hadley and Donald Rumsfeld.
6. The proposed "special envoy" should be a peace envoy charged with conflict resolution, not a military solution.
Only an American commitment to withdraw will create an incentive for Iraq's thousands of insurgents to de-escalate the violence and turn to the tasks of reconstruction and reconciliation. According to all reports, America's presence is the cause of the violence, not its remedy. While there is no assurance that violence will end overnight if American troops withdraw, it is evident that there was no civil war before the American invasion and occupation of 2003. The longer the American occupation, the more Iraqis have turned against it. American withdrawal will remove the primary rationale, and sharply reduce the base, for continued armed resistance from al-Qaeda in Iraq as well.