In an historic step, the besieged Iraqi parliament has taken a stand against the US occupation and for a rapid withdrawal of American troops. This is the perfect opportunity for a face-saving and orderly US withdrawal based on the request of a sovereign government. To reject the offer would paint the US as a naked imperialism without a fig leaf of legitimacy.
Some crucial details of the parliamentary call remain murky. First, 144 parliamentarians have signed a petition that has yet to be translated into legislation. Second, to the dismay of some in the peace movement, the timeline for withdrawal is unsettled but sure to be one year or even longer. In interviews with Iraqi parliamentarians last summer, the consensus favored two simultaneous timelines: one for withdrawal and another for "fixing the problems" caused by the occupation. That will not change. And third, under the Iraqi constitution it appears that any measure on this subject passed by a majority of those present and voting has the force of law.
Iraq therefore is on the brink of officially setting in motion the end of its occupation.
What is most puzzling is the blindness of the mainstream media, the White House and the military to these developments. As if the measure isn't very fit to print, the New York Times reported the petition on page A6 with no emphasis on its implications. Last December the Washington Post reported that the signature count had reached 131, but only in passing. Back in mid-2005 when the petition first surfaced with 82 signatures, it was reported only in Knight-Ridder. The Institute for Policy Studies later estimated that approximately 102 MPs had signed on.
But trees fall in the forest whether reported or not. The Iraqi people, aside from the secession-bent Kurds, have wanted the US out of their country for at least three years, in percentages ranging from two-thirds to 80 percent, with 61 percent claiming a right to national resistance through armed struggle. This news, never reported in headlines, is the underlying basis for the elected parliament's stance. In fact, the CIA warned that Iraq's first elections might produce a mandate for withdrawal, a warning characterized by the Times as "grim" news.
But the convergence between the US Congressional majority and the Iraqi parliamentary majority is grim only for the occupation. It is a moment when more Americans might learn what the Iraqis already know, that formal democracy becomes a sham when it conflicts with military and economic occupation. The war cannot long continue with such feeble public support in both countries. Even if a two-year deadline becomes official, a "decent interval" so to speak, it will accelerate the momentum towards ending the occupation on the ground.
Who will want to die ten days, or even ten months, before withdrawal is officially concluded?
What American parent will want their kid to risk death in Iraq now that their parliament wants us out?
If the Iraqis demand that we leave, what case is left for protecting them from themselves?
The peace movement, the Congress, and even the Baker-Hamilton group should seize on this news in pressing the case for withdrawal. Anyone who favors "staying the course" is overriding the democratic will of both the American and Iraqi people.
Tom Hayden is the author of Ending the War in Iraq [Akashic Books]. He has reported on Iraq's "peace parliamentarians" since 2005. He teaches at Pitzer College in Claremont, California.