Over the years, we’ve seen various “exit strategies” proposed for withdrawal from Iraq. The best proposal was made by a Baghdad man on his way to a demonstration just a few days after that city fell. A US reporter asked what should happen now. The man turned to the reporter and said, “Thank you for getting rid of Saddam. Now please leave our country.”
That advice was probably the best input that United States policy makers ever received (if they even noticed). It was freely offered and no one died in the process.
Why not give democracy a chance?
The Iraqis have a right to a direct vote on the options for U.S. troop withdrawal.
The ballot would be simple.
Should US troops leave Iraq? Yes No
If you answered Yes, how soon should they leave?
Immediately __ 6 months __ 12 months__ 18 months__
Iraqis have wanted the U.S. out of their country almost from day one. Various surveys show that a solid majority of citizens want coalition troops to leave within a year. In 2004, 86% of Iraqis wanted U.S. troops out — 41% immediately and 46% after a new government was established. At the start of 2006, 94% of all Iraqis supported their government setting a timeline for US withdrawal from immediate departure to a timed departure over two years. A few months later, even a poll by the US Department of State showed nearly 70% of citizens wanted US occupation to end.
Polls in 2007 and 2008 conducted by a variety of organizations demonstrate that a majority of Iraqis want foreign troops to leave.
Here’s why they’re upset. Over a million Iraqis have died in sectarian and other forms of violence kicked off by the US invasion. For the most part, this has been Iraqis killing other Iraqis, an outcome of the extensive civil strife that was predicted before the invasion.
In addition, the quality of life in Iraq is dreadful and the citizens do notice. Since 2007, large segments of the population describe a “declining quality/availability of (the) electricity supply, water, fuel, education, local government and medical care.” Harm to an immediate family member was reported by 17% of Iraqis.
But the Iraqis are no fools. They’ve lived with the darkest expressions of the Bush-Cheney White House since March 2003. Nearly 80% of all Iraqis believe that coalition troops won’t withdraw even if they’re asked.
Just a month after the citizens of the United States saw the neoconservatives and their dreams of empire leave power, a new plan was announced. Most US troops will be withdrawn by within 18 months. Thirty to fifty thousand will remain to help with security and the never-ending process of training Iraqi security forces.
Aren’t we missing a step?
Who asked the Iraqi people about the withdrawal schedule? As the self-proclaimed proponents for democracy and human rights, shouldn’t the United States inquire as to the will of the people before initiating any policy changes? Failing to do so means we’ve skipped a critical step. How democratic is that? It’s their country after all.
Did someone forget to raise those questions when the new plans were developed?
Relying on the ever-shifting positions of a very unpopular Iraqi government is useless in assessing the will of the Iraqi people. The only way to determine their will is through a national election. Should U.S. troops stay or go? If they should go, what is the preferred timeline?
Those who speak the language of empire might say that this modest proposal, democracy for Iraq, allows Iraqi citizens to determine US foreign policy.
The answer to that is simple. Right now US foreign policy trumps Iraqi domestic policy and democracy. Denying the vote to the Iraqis on this most vital matter denies their rights to self-determination and belies the role of the United States as a proponent of democracy.
A 2003 Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Iraq stated that:
“Iraqis remain a proud people. Gratitude over the removal of Saddam mixes with a strong strain of nationalism. Military occupation elicits complex reactions, and Iraqis, citing their long history of civilization, believe that they are capable of running their own affairs.” Committee on Foreign Relations, July 2003
That statement was made in 2003. It’s 2009.
Do we believe in the right of self-determination for the long-suffering people of Iraq? If so, at long last, let’s prove it by letting them chose their own fate.