Ending it

How to close out the Iraq war and occupation

Tom Hayden is an anti-war activist and former state senator

1. Stop funding a sectarian Baghdad regime based on lethal militias.

2. Support a transitional regime in Baghdad that will concur in a plan for U.S. military withdrawal. Set a deadline of six months to one year.

3. Begin a diplomatic offensive to assure regional and international attention to remaining security, reconstruction and reconciliation issues.

4. Make congressional funding contingent on adoption of such a plan.

Despite promises to the contrary, the United States has placed in power a sectarian coalition of Shi’as and Kurds who wield power through the Badr militia and the peshmerga. The coalition is carrying out ethnic cleansing in the name of security. Baghdad, once a mixed city of five million people, is dominated by a huge Shi’a majority. Fifty of 51 members of the Baghdad governing council are Shi’a. Sunnis have fled by the tens of thousands, or live in isolated and besieged enclaves. While all sides are employing abhorrent tactics, the Americans are the backbone of a majority-Shi’a regime whose police, commandos and security forces, infiltrated by the Badr brigades, routinely drag Sunnis from their homes, torture, and execute them, or detain large numbers in a network of secret prisons accountable only to the Interior Ministry. American officials who have trained and funded these forces now admit they are out of control. But these Frankensteins are an American responsibility.

These are the facts on the ground, in stark contradiction to the rhetorical promises of officials in Washington and Baghdad, not to mention the U.N.’s language authorizing the U.S.-U.K. occupation of Iraq.

Members of Congress can focus on and criticize this tragic outcome in public hearings during the next several months.

Congress can use its constitutional and budgetary powers to prevent the propping-up of this brutal sectarian regime.

All recent surveys indicate that majorities of both Sunni and Shi’a support the right of armed resistance against American forces. All surveys show that the vast majority of Iraqis want the United States to set a deadline for withdrawal. At least 131 members of the Iraqi parliament have petitioned for a withdrawal deadline. Instead of accepting the will of the people and the parliament, the United States continues to recognize, fund and militarily support a tiny sectarian clique in power. The White House national security adviser, in a leaked memorandum, has suggested reshaping the Baghdad regime by offering money to compliant Iraqi political factions.

Instead of propping-up a sectarian war regime, why not support a transitional peace regime reflecting the aspirations of most Iraqis?

This option has been considered and rejected for years. It is time that it be debated by the new Congress.

The New York Times; January 10, 2005: One possibility quietly discussed inside the administration is whether the new Iraqi government might ask the United States forces to begin to leave—what one senior state department official calls “the Philippine option,” a reference to when the Philippines asked American forces to pull out a decade ago. Few officials will talk publicly about that possibility.

Congress needs to make clear that further support for a sectarian regime that employs torture is unacceptable. That message will encourage the replacement of the present Shi’a-Kurdish coalition with a transitional one chosen by the Iraqi parliament for a period of two years, which would request and arrange an orderly withdrawal of American troops and call a regional and international conference to consider ways of filling any vacuum created by the U.S. departure. The transitional regime also would complete work on a reconciliation plan including amnesties, de-Baathification and the fair distribution of oil revenues. Cease-fires in place should be agreed by the multiple militias, limiting their functions to neighborhood security. The full demobilization of existing militias should be an aspiration, as it was in Northern Ireland, not a precondition to the process.

Regional and international diplomacy, with the new Iraqi government fully represented, should take up the questions of the need for international peacekeepers, stabilization agreements among the bordering countries, and renewal of reconstruction funding with an emphasis on Iraqi contractors and Iraqi jobs. The Baker-Hamilton report provides an initial road map for the diplomacy required.

The assumption of the diplomatic offensive should be that most parties in the region are desirous of a gradual and peaceful stabilizing of Iraq to prevent the refugee crisis and the war itself from spilling over their borders into a regional conflagration.

The United States should appoint a peace envoy (like George Mitchell in the case of Ireland) or support the appointment of an envoy from an international conference, to carry out the transition from a military model to one of conflict resolution.

As former CIA director John Deutch has explained, the United States needs to initiate diplomacy with Iran, in particular, since Iran is the only country capable of complicating the U.S. withdrawal.

Respecting the expressed wishes of the Iraqi people is the only option that the United States has not tried. Instead the U.S. military occupation is attempting to coerce Iraqis into supporting an occupation for as long as another decade. The disastrous and mistaken assumption of every plan put forward, from the White House to the Baker-Hamilton report, is that there is an Iraqi “state” and Iraqi military that must “stand up” before we will “stand down.”

The potential disaster is that under proposals like Baker-Hamilton, or that of the Center for American Progress, American troops will be left behind in training roles as our combat mission winds down. But those American trainers may be at extreme risk if they are left amid an Iraqi army or police force that is sectarian by unit, doesn’t show up for work, is disinclined to fight outside their neighborhoods, and is expected to defeat an insurgency that could not be overcome by 150,000 American troops.